365 Days of Texas True Crime
Back in 1953 Ector county saw three mysterious deaths in the month of April. On this day back in April 30th 1953, a man named Eugene Ralph Ray 27, of 811 ½ N Jefferson (I don’t know if they do it anymore but for sure in the 80’s and 90’s the addresses of victims and suspects were freely printed in the paper along with the story) died after collapsing on his lawn. He was will a lady friend he had picked up for what the papers called a “tour” of local taverns. Eugene picked up Jean Petty, 407 N. Graham, around 9:30 p.m. and then headed to a tavern where they met friends. From there they hit up a night club and then ended up at a restaurant for coffee. On the drive back to Eugene’s home his female companion made the observation that he seemed depressed and didn’t say anything to her on the ride there. Once at the home Eugene parked in front of his house and told his passenger to wait for him. After about 10 minutes he emerged and as he headed back to the vehicle he fell in the yard. Jean ran next door to seek the help of neighbors who came out and helped get Eugene into the house where it was observed that he was breathing rather hard. After a few minutes his breathing seemed to get easier and the neighbors, Carl Lewis and his wife took Miss Petty home. As good neighbors they made sure to check on Mr. Ray upon their return and discovered him not moving and seemingly not breathing, police were called. The “Moulin Rouge” theme was playing on the record player as the detective on the case arrived. According to Miss Petty, she and Eugene had been bar hopping (my words not hers) for about four hours before they wound up parked in front of Mr. Ray’s home where he would just a few short moments later take his last breathes. An autopsy was done by a Dr. Martha Madsen of Midland who came to the conclusion that Mr. Ray was poisoned. She said the poisoned was introduced to Mr. Rays body around 9:30 p.m., just about the same time he picked up his lady friend, Miss Jean Petty. Mr. Ray’s wife, yes he was married, might have been a likely suspect but she was in Amarillo at the time.
April 24th a woman named Florence Loraine Black was found dead at her home by her sister. An autopsy was ordered and the results showed that Mrs. Black died from strangulation, siting liquid and matter in her bronchial tubes after vomiting.
April 9th, three witnesses, J.W. Shafford, a 29 year old truck driver, Bob Prewitt, a 48 year old accountant (no he wasn’t a stripper) and a woman who owned the home, said that a man shot himself in the head with a .22 pistol inside the home they were roomers at, 1800 N. Alleghaney. The men and the woman who owned the home had conflicting stories about the incident that changed more than once during the course of the investigation. At some point Mrs. Roy Lane, the woman who owned the home, said she heard the men say “Let’s play Russian Roulette”, it is important to note that it was reported that Mrs. Lane was the one who brought the gun, for unknown reasons, into the living room where the men where in the first place. The Men said Paraffin tests on the man’s hands didn’t show any signs of nitrate and one of the three witnesses, 29 year old J.W. Shafford was taken to Austin to take a lie detector test. Constable Grady Maxwell on the afternoon of April 25th, showed up to arrest Shafford on a warrant for check fraud. Shafford asked if he could drive his own vehicle to the courthouse and the constable said yes. Maxwell drove a half of a bock and hid and watched the man packing a car owned by Mrs. Lane (owner of the house) with clothes and two .22 rifles. He was caught, arrested and transported to the courthouse and some days later was escorted to Austin to take a lie detector test in regards to the shooting and death of William Orvis Kay. I couldn’t find any information regarding the outcome of the lie detector test but I did find a short story on May 7th 1953, in the local crimes section of the paper regarding an Odessa man, J.W. Shafford, being fined $50 for stealing a .22 rifle from Mrs. Roy Lane, the owner of the home he was rooming at….