‘The Phantom Killer,” is credited with attacking eight people within 10 weeks, five of whom were killed and three were wounded. The attacks occurred on weekends between Feb. 22, 1946 and May 3, 1946.
The first attack appeared to be straight out of an urban legend. A young couple, Jimmy Hollis and Mary Jeanne Larey, parked in lovers lane late at night after seeing a movie when a strange man, with holes cut out of a white cloth sheet, appeared at the side of Hollis’ side door. Hollis, believing it was a prank, told the man he had the wrong person, but the man only replied back, “I don’t want to kill you, fellow, so do what I say.”
He instructed the couple to exit the car and for Hollis to take off his trousers. Afterwards the attacker struck Hollis in the head two times with a pistol and then Larey. Larey fell to the ground, but was then told to run. When Larey spotted an empty car off the side of the road, the attacker confronted her again and questioned why she was running. When she explained to him why, he called her a liar and knocked her down to the ground where he assaulted her.
Afterwards, she fled the scene and managed to call the police after waking up the residents of a distance home. When Hollis awakened, he flagged down a passing car where they dropped him off near a funeral home and called the police. Both Hollis and Larey gave conflicting reports about the attacker and led the police to believe they knew the identity of the man.
The second attack occurred on March 24, 1946, to Richard L. Griffen and Polly Ann Moore. The couple were found dead in Griffen’s sedan early that morning by a passing vehicle. The car was spotted parked in lovers lane where Griffen and Moore were both found dead in the front and back seats. Both had been shot in the back of the head outside the car, then placed back inside the car by the murderer.
Betty Jo Booker and Paul Martin were last seen late at night on Saturday, April 13, 1946. The pair weren’t found until Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Martin was found first by his parents on the northern edge of North Park Road, where he was shot four times. Booker’s body was discovered nearly two miles away from Martin’s body, behind a tree. She was also shot twice, once in the head and again in the chest.
The Phantom Killer’s last attacks occurred on May 3, 1946. Virgil and Katie Starks were in their house when the murderer shot and killed Virgil through a window. When Katie tried to call 911, the attacker shot her in the right cheek and she fell to the ground. Luckily, she was not dead and managed to run upstairs to grab their pistol, but was soon blinded by her own blood. As the killer was trying to come in through the kitchen window, Katie panicked and ran out the front door and to a neighbors house, A.V Prater. When Prater opened the door, Starks gasped out “Virgil is dead” then collapsed onto the ground. Afterwards, Prater shot his rifle to alert their other neighbor, Elmer Taylor, and the three of them and Prater’s family then drove to the nearest hospital where Starks received treatment. Katie Starks survived the attack with only a bullet wound in her right cheek and massive blood loss.
Although the murderer was never identified, Youell Swinney, who was arrested for car thefts, was speculated by the police to be the Phantom Killer. Even though there was no hard evidence against him, Swinney was sentenced to life in prison for auto thefts and other crimes.
The little town of Texarkana wasn’t so little anymore after multiple books being written about them and a movie called ‘The Town that Dreaded Sundown’.