Thursday, April 1, 2010

Was Grapevine the Turning Point??

The photo here-- shows the spot of the Grapevine murders. This is the modern day turnoff from TX Hwy 114 where the dual killings occurred-- near the crest of the hill on the far side of the road. April 1st, marks 76 years since the Grapevine murders, which many feel turned the tide of public opinion against Clyde & Bonnie-- and thus spelled the beginning of the end for the outlaws. By that juncture in 1934, not only was a determined posse on their heels-- due to the embarrassment to law enforcement from the Eastham breakout, but due to Grapevine-- the murders of a young H.D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler seemed to shock the senses of the populous, once perhaps more than evenly split in favor of Barrow. The effects of the Grapevine killings seemed swift, as law enforcement is said to have been galvanized by the deaths of such young officers. Wheeler had been on the force for just 4 years-- and for Murphy, although he had seen weights and measures duty-- April 1st, 1934 was his very 1st day on motorcycle patrol. The photo

B&C legend has it that Clyde had tried a number of times via Joe Palmer, to set up Ray Hamilton for death-- based on a falling out Clyde had with Ray, over a bad split of the Lancaster Bank monies. Although Clyde had been unsuccessful previously, on this particular Easter Sunday-- his plan had a chance to work. Clyde, Bonnie, Henry Methvin and Joe Palmer arrived at about 10:30 AM and parked just off Texas Highway 114. The 5th passenger in the Barrow car that day, was Bonnie's rabbit Sonny Boy-- whom she planned to give to her mother Emma.

Meanwhile for their Easter morning, Ray Hamilton and Mary O'Dare had just released Mrs. Cam Gunter and her child-- after having kidnapped them the night before, soon after Mary had wrecked the car she and Ray were traveling in. After releasing Mrs. Gunter, Ray had stolen a new Ford sedan-- which ironically was virtually identical to the Barrow Gang car, right down to the yellow wheels. By then, Ray and Mary were headed from Houston to Dallas, unaware of the fate that might await them. Clyde had sent Joe Palmer to Dallas to alert the family concerning where to meet them. That left Clyde, Bonnie, Henry and Sonny Boy in the car parked about 100 yards off the main road.

The rest of the story as they say is history. About 3:30 PM Motorcycle Officers Wheeler, Murphy and Polk Ivy approached while on patrol. While Ivy went on ahead, Wheeler and Murphy turned off the road to investigate a black car they spotted in the distance. Most believe in mistaking Clyde's instructions, Henry Methvin open fire killing Wheeler. Murphy in hurriedly trying to load his shotgun which he carried unloaded-- was then felled by Clyde. One of the more interesting aspects of this story to me, is the sheer firepower apparently levied by Clyde and Henry-- in killing these 2 officers. News accounts from the time, list the spent shell casings found as including-- (3) 16 gauge shotgun shells, (5) .45 caliber auto shells, (3) 12 gauge shotgun shells and (1) rifle shell (thought to be from a BAR).

However next to the slain officers, the greatest immediate impact of the Grapevine incident-- may have been to Bonnie Parker. A report from a witness named William Schieffer, who lived several hundred yards away-- had Bonnie standing over the body of Officer Murphy and finishing him off, by rolling him over and firing into his chest. However Mr. and Mrs. Fred Giggal, who were following Wheeler and Murphy when they turned off-- then had heard shots and doubled back-- claimed they saw the taller of 2 men fire shots into a body on the ground. Never the less for Bonnie, it was too late. Once the newspapers got a hold of the Grapevine story-- Bonnie had been labeled a cold blooded killer.

Now whether Grapevine was the turning point, and beginning of the end for Bonnie and Clyde is debatable. Many believe it was Eastham which spelled the end for Barrow and his paramour. My take is-- that because Eastham had caused a physical posse to be sent out against them, which would claim their lives-- that Eastham was indeed the beginning of the end. But if that's true, then the outrage that was Grapevine-- sealed the deal.


Jim from Atlanta said...

Your articles shows: News accounts from the time, list the spent shell casings found as including-- (3) 16 gauge shotgun shells, (5) .45 caliber auto shells, (3) 12 gauge shotgun shells and (1) rifle shell (thought to be from a BAR).

I need your help--What is the source of the news account? I have enlisted the Dallas Historical Society to asist me in the curious 16 gauge shells--Bonnie owned a 20 gauge sawed off auto shotgun--Clyde used a 12 gauge.
Your friend, Jim

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Jim--

I'll do my best to find the news info for you. What are you using for a source, concerning Bonnie owning a 20 gauge and Clyde using a 12 gauge instead of 16 gauge??

I believe the inventory as stated by Hamer as found at the Ambush scene, and published just 1 year later in Texas Rangers is correct-- and the I'm Frank Hamer account is wrong. Many have criticized numerous accounts within I'm Frank Hamer-- but those who salute Hamer as a lawman having done no wrong, often quote this book as being gospel. I as many, don't see it quite that way.

Alan Olson's your man at the DHS. Tell him please, I recommended him to you.

Jim from Atlanta said...

Hey Winston, the source on weapons in the death car is:

It lists the weapons that were found in the B&C Warren car--it shows that Bonnie owned a Remington 20 gauge auto sawed-off shotgun--however, there is not musch difference between a 16 and 20 gauge--sometimes shells were manufactured without a headstamp of the gauge--Remington made model 1811 in 12, 16, and 20 gauge auto's--B&C called the weapons whipit guns.

A. Winston Woodward said...


With all respect to my friend Frank Ballinger's site or mine for that matter-- information disseminated on modern Internet sites, is not always source material. For example the source material for the Warren car weapons inventory, would be say Henderson Jordan's records from the Bienville Parish Sheriff's Dept-- or the '35 book Texas Rangers, which lists the inventory as known at a time closest to the ambush-- based on Hamer's own accounting.

An example of source material found on this website-- would be the verbatim documentation of Billie Parker Moon's manuscript-- of which I own (with strong assurity)-- Billie's copy. Some info from Billie's manuscript has been paraphrased here and there, but I believe no complete record had been revealed previously until revealed here.

It's the "source" material for Clyde's 16 gauge that matters. I'm not sure why you're fighting so hard not to believe in the 16 gauge gun??

Jim from Atlanta said...

Hey Winston, it's a balmy 55 degrees today in George-ahh.

Who shot who at Grapevine?

Different accounts of eyewitnesses, hearsay from family members, and confession from Methvin are all puzzling.

My point is this: If two different types of shotgun shells were found on the Grapevine scene, that would suggest two shooters--Methvin claimed he used a BAR--then we are left wondering who used a 12 gauge and who used the 16 gauge. Then the .45 shells are puzzling.

My expert assumption is that Bonnie fired the 16 gauge and Clyde fired the 12 gauge--this would support Schieffer's account of the shooting, eh?

Original source is always best--Hamer's biography is obviously wrong on the inventory, it shows only a 20 guage and 10 gauge (Hamer, 233)--the pictures of the weapons in Texas Hideout show: a 10 gauge Winchester; 12 gauge Remingtom 1811 barrel sawed off; unknown gauge Remington 1811 barrel and butt sawed off--under the picture, it gives the illusion that the smaller Remington is a 20 gauge. It is possible that the unknown is a 16 gauge shotgun. Pictures are an original source.

An original photo of the weapons stacked behind the death car clearly shows two Remington shotguns--I look forward to speaking with Alan Olson at DHS.
Thank you, Jim

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Jim--

If you have the coroner's report on Wheeler and Murphy, please provide a copy to me via scan and e-mail. Perhaps the details found within that report, would provide a useful addition to the news accounts-- which noted the shell casings found. The papers also noted the cigar with small teeth marks-- which if true?? proves nothing. Bonnie borrowing the cigar as a gag for the '33 pics, stuck as an idea-- but likely had no truth in supplanting her preference for Camels. We already know Bonnie was at Grapevine-- plus, it's hard to kill someone with a cigar.

Those more sympathetic to the lawmen's position within this history, might always feel family member's accounts to be hearsay. But be careful what you wish for. Insider family accounts, have often been based on info provided by the outlaws themselves. As such, no matter what's thought of B&C family knowledge-- that info would likely be available no where else. B&C family accounts, have also provided insightful resource material for decades regarding this history.

I'll say it here, as I've said it before. There's seemingly not enough evidence from Grapevine, to accuse Bonnie Parker of murder. And as there are no verifiable instances, in support of Bonnie Parker having shot anyone-- I feel it's a hard case to make to label Bonnie Parker a murderer. An accessory to murder-- most certainly. A murderer herself, I don't believe so-- not without proof.

Plus even though the papers had branded Bonnie Parker a killer based on their feeding frenzy over Grapevine-- the local authorities in their ultimate wisdom, based on evidence at the Grapevine scene including William Schieffer's account-- charged Billie Parker Mace and Floyd Hamilton with the murders. With members of The Barrow Gang seemingly such easy targets for the deaths of Officers Wheeler and Murphy-- I'd be curious to know what others think about the mistaken identities of those charged, and the reliability of the Schieffer account vs the Giggal account??

Jim from Atlanta said...

Hey Winston,

I firmly believe that Clyde owned a 16 gauge shotgun--it's obvious there was a melee to divide the "spoils of war" at Gibsland and the shotgun was not inventoried like many of the weapons. And yes, I am familiar with the Davis slaying in Dallas as reported by WD Jones regarding the use of a whipit 16 gauge used by Clyde.

I'll let you know what turns up--thank you--JIm

Stashefsky said...


I'm a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. I am involved with a group called the Historical and Theatrical Trial Society. We put on a trial of a real or fictional defendant that should have occurred but never did.

This year we are going to put Bonnie Parker on trial for murder, and, alternatively, as an accomplice to murder for her involvement in the grapevine murders.

I was hoping you might be able to direct me to some good resources and possibly give me some good suggestions on how to proceed with such a trial--such as what evidence would be important, what's wouldn't be, what's ambiguous about the facts, what would be a good document or exhibit to use, and what witnesses to use.

I have done some preliminary research on the incident, but am having difficulty finding more in-depth secondary resources.

As per primary sources, I have a couple contemporary newspaper reports and an FBI internal memorandum written a day after the shooting.

It would be most ideal if we could find a police report of some kind--either from the FBI or the TX State Police.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Jim from Atlanta said...

Dear Andy,

You have a great difficulty ahead of you. In B&C time, evidence was rarely preserved and eye-witness accounts vary greatly. Winston and I have tried our best to find evidence that would directly link Bonnie to having fired a weapon. There is one account at Joplin hideout from an officer who claimed Bonnie fired at him with a BAR. I personally believe that when you participate in a felony and a death occurs, then you are repsonsible for murder.

Grapevine murder is murky at best. Newspaper accounts are not a reliable source of information. I doubt you will gain much info from the Texas Public Safety Department either. Seems to be a sensitive subject to them.

I have attempted to find autopsy reports but failed. Look to funeral homes for information seems to be a dead end. Pardon the pun.

A. Winston Woodward said...

There are eye-witness accounts of Bonnie having fired a weapon at law enforcement during Bonnie & Clyde's reign of terror-- but no evidence of her ever hitting anyone. Besides the Joplin account, when interviewed-- W.D. Jones had Bonnie firing from the car at the Lily McBride house. Also Joe Gunn witnessed Bonnie firing at officers along with Raymond Hamilton at Reeds Spring, MO.

Daniel Woodson said...

I just watched a movie made recently in which they show only Bonnie and Clyde riding together when they shot the two officers in Grapevine, Texas, but the account here says that there were four people in the car. Which is accurate and why would there be such a discrepancy in the two versions? It aired on a cable channel on December 9, 2013.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Daniel-- Within the car that fateful Easter Sunday, were Bonnie, Clyde, Henry Methvin and Joe Palmer. Palmer left the others, and apparently worked his way back to the Barrow filling station prior to the motorcycle officers coming upon the remaining 3. The gang was positioned at that Grapevine location lying in wait for Ray Hamilton-- whom Clyde wanted to kill for betraying him during a money count. Dislike had been growing between Clyde and Ray, who wanted to rob more banks instead of smaller less productive venues and likely wanted to branch out on his own. The money count incident, where he wanted a cut for his girl Mary O'Dare-- seemingly pushed things over the edge. Clyde and Ray had met to attempt a reconciliation, but apparently that meeting didn't go well.

However, Bonnie, Clyde and Henry had no way of knowing Ray had been delayed while leaving Houston-- and wouldn't arrive for a rendezvous as apparently planned. Instead, the motorcycle officers on patrol and there were 3 (one recon officer rode ahead)-- came upon the trio instead. To believe Clyde, Henry mistook Clyde's intent to capture the officers-- but rather began firing instead.

Why is there a discrepancy within the TV movie?? Because little effort was expended by those responsible for the movie in learning the truth-- and little caring employed for the benefit of all who watched it.