Monday, April 25, 2011

Grapevine-- The Truth Remains at a Murky Depth

This Easter marked the 77th anniversary of the Grapevine killings-- another of the many uncertain Bonnie and Clyde events, where truth seems poised as if formed of mercurial lines. It's of course clear, that officers Wheeler and Murphy were viciously gunned down that Easter in 1934-- upon investigating what unbenownst to them was a suspicious car containing The Barrow Gang. However now close to 8 decades later, exactly who actually shot the 2 motorcycle police officers that day remains a mystery-- along with how many and which weapons were used.

Many who take the lawman's view within this history and without an element of pity, look to Grapevine as a vindication of sorts for Frank Hamer-- in supporting his statements made in justifying the killing of Bonnie Parker. However the statements of said eyewitness William Schieffer have been debated for decades, and with good cause-- as contradictory eyewitness accounts exist. Schieffer was never able to identify Bonnie Parker as the woman he saw that day-- and in fact, even though it was apparently more than obvious that Clyde Barrow and his accomplices were involved, the police in sorting through the accounts told that Easter Sunday-- oddly decided to charge Billie Mace and Floyd Hamilton for the crime. Billie and Floyd would ultimately be exonerated via ballistics evidence found within the Warren death car. Also-- even though Emma Parker seemed desperate to wish a clean pass be given to her daughter in telling of a Henry Methvin confession to both murders-- the number and types of shell casings reportedly found at the scene, don't appear to support the participation of just one killer. It seems more logical that both Clyde Barrow and Henry Methvin pulled the triggers that day, although many seem eager to eliminate Clyde as one of the shooters.

Yes this is yet another murky Bonnie & Clyde event, which to those who cannot forget the senseless murders of H. D. Murphy and E. B. Wheeler-- point to both the brutality of The Barrow Gang and the reality of the times in which they lived. For those who wish to portray Bonnie and Clyde as victims, Grapevine like their other killings-- can be fashioned as if an origami folding into justifiable homicides of self preservation. However for those who view Bonnie & Clyde as nothing more than cold blooded and perhaps psychopathic killers, Easter Sunday 1934 was just another day-- except for which these particular murders along with The Barrow Gang's other killings-- should never be forgotten.


A. Winston Woodward said...

Concerning a comment that based on the date of Easter being fluid year to year, that perhaps April 24th this year isn't actually the 77th anniversary of the Grapevine killings-- technically that's true. However as Easter is just as key to this story today as it was in 1934, in illustrating the contrast between the celebration of Easter as a Holy day and the brutality of these murders-- I tend to view Easter as the anniversary of Grapevine.

I suppose we could be so fine to think, that the date of April 1st will always be the indelible thought of that occurrence. But I'm not so sure that when many think of Grapevine-- they think of April 1st. I would rather expect one of the main thoughts to come to mind if not the 1st thought-- is Easter. So perhaps this is one of those iconic events in history-- where thoughts of a memorable day, can eclipse the actual date on which that day occurred??

Thanks to Cindy-- here's an interesting illustration of how Grapevine is viewed.,0,2496093.story

Within this article, the event of Grapevine is tied to Easter without a date. But when a tribute to the slain officers is mentioned, the date of April 1st is evoked. Also note the date of this Reuters article (April 21st)-- apparently meant to coincide with Easter. Perhaps it's most fair to say, that when it comes to Grapevine-- both thoughts can be considered right.

Thanks for an inspiring comment.

BarefootOkieGal said...

I believe that the reason these particular killings are remembered so well (and led to a stepped-up manhunt for B&C)was because of the horror of such senseless killings taking place on one of the most holy days in the Christian church. Certainly the media would have grabbed onto that aspect, and they certainly did.

The idea that Bonnie was involved in the killings came from one person, someone who was so far away from the killings that there is no way they could have heard Bonnie say, as she supposedly did, "Looka there - his head bounced just like a rubber ball!" This witnesses account was later mostly dismissed, but when the public heard those words supposedly uttered by Bonnie as she supposedly walked up to an already wounded man and fired those shots into him, they began to consider Bonnie to be a trigger-happy killer, just like Clyde. I definitely think this incident turned public opinion against Bonnie, and may have gone a long way to quiet the outrage folks might have felt about a woman being gunned down the way she was. The fact that it was more than likely Henry Methvyn who fired the fatal shots wasn't known until after Bonnie's death.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Without Grapevine, those who claim that Bonnie Parker was a vicious and callous murderer (as Frank Hamer implied she was)-- would have far less of a case in supporting that assertion. Bonnie was no doubt an accessory to many murders-- but it was Grapevine in particular, which altered the perception of her within the eyes of many. And it was the story as reported in the press, based on William Schieffer's eyewitness account-- which apparently caused that result.

Some who place all their chips with Mr. Schieffer's account of events that day, I feel expose a less than objective viewpoint in considering the realities of Grapevine. If you've ever stood or been in a car at that famous intersection, in looking up the hill at the crime scene-- you realize the Giggals had a pretty good vantage point from which to witness what they said they saw. I would love to know, the exact distance Mr. Schieffer was said to have been relative to the scene-- but I'm not sure that is known??

Also books written toward the obvious and devoted support of Frank Hamer, in my view-- have done a great disservice to this history, by portraying events such as Grapevine in ways that cannot be verified. Many would say that "I'm Frank Hamer" in particular, may be one of the most slanted and fictionalized accounts available-- concerning the history of Bonnie & Clyde.

But it's the stark reality, that facts cannot seemingly be found to sort out the truth of Grapevine (as with many other B&C events)-- that make this history both fascinating and somewhat maddening to contemplate. Some may feel, that since we don't know for sure what happened at Grapevine-- it's a safe bet to think Bonnie was a indeed a cold blooded killer.

But I myself wouldn't count on that bet-- based on the contradictory eyewitness accounts which exist. Also, in considering who the police initially and perhaps creatively charged with the Grapevine murders-- I think it's fair to ask, why the law seemingly hedged on Schieffer's version of events that day?? Perhaps it's because although Schieffer said he saw a woman standing over the bodies-- he was apparently too far away to have identified Bonnie Parker as being that woman. And if that's the case-- it also seems fair to ask, how Schieffer was able to hear specifics of any conversation held??

Here's something to try sometime-- try standing a couple to several hundred yards away from anyone's conversation in a parking lot. Then note what you hear-- even if they're speaking loudly.

Frances said...

Yes, the so called evidence against Bonnie was probably enhanced by the witness. The authorities also recreated their version of the murder site on video. I don't believe Frank Hamer's version but it's difficult to say that B&C were totally innocent. Henry probably started the shooting.

averagejoe said...

For Winston and all B&C sleuths: Didn't Clyde once assert in a letter to authorities that Raymond Hamilton and Mary O'Dare committed the Grapevine Killings while fleeing from "the West bank job"? Is there incontrovertible proof that it was Clyde and Methvin?

Jim from Atlanta said...

As an avid historian and after many hours of physically researching the Grapevine Killings, I have to agree with Winston. We may never know the truth about who shot who and when.
We do know that several weapons were employed by the assassins. Possibly two shotguns as the farmer alleged and a BAR 30.06 to punctuate the deceased officer while prone in the road.
Did Bonnie fire her infamous 16 gauge automatic sawed-off shot-gun? Its just as possible as not.
Did the farmer exaggerate what he saw? More than likely he did.
I served in Vietnam 1970-1972. I can tell you that after numerous fire-fights, there were always different versions of what happened. What is more important is the over-all picture.
The undeniable fact is that the two officers were killed because Bonnie, Clyde and Henry were predisposed to committ criminal acts, to include murder. It is hard to accept that two very attractive young people could be so cold hearted.
Obviously Bonnie knew that the end would be death for herself and Clyde.