Waco is no stranger to grotesque side of life
Compiled from newspaper accounts and books
1916 Lynching of Jesse Washington
At sundown on May 8, 1916, Lucy Fryer, the wife of a well-known cotton farmer, was found beaten to death in the doorway of her house. Shortly after, police took her husband’s 17-year-old African-American farmhand, Jesse Washington, into custody.
When he was taken to trial on May 15, the judge asked Washington for a plea, to which the teen simply replied “yes.” When his defense attorney asked him if he had committed the crime, he replied “that’s what I had done” and quietly apologized. The court took this as a guilty plea and sentenced him to death.
Just minutes after his fate was announced, Washington was forced outside by a furious mob, predominantly made up of whites, chained up and dragged through town to the front of City Hall.
On the way downtown, he was stripped, stabbed and beaten.
When they finally arrived, a bloody and semiconcious Washington was doused with oil, tied up and hanged from a tree over a pile of burning wood. For the next few hours, he was raised and lowered into the fire, unsuccessfully attempting to climb up the chain.
According to newspapers, throughout the term of torture, spectators castrated Washington and cut off his fingers to keep as souvenirs even removing the fingernails to hand out to other people in the crowd.
Several hours into the lynching, Washington’s body, which was nothing more than a torso, was placed into a bag and dragged through the town before being put on display in Robinson.
1982 Lake Waco Murders
A little more than 30 years ago on the shores of Lake Waco, the bodies of three teenagers, Raylene Rice, 17, Jill Montgomery, 17, and Kenneth Franks, 18, were found by fisherman, brutally stabbed and mangled.
On July 13, 1982, Franks’ body was found propped up against a tree with sunglasses over his eyes, while the women were found tied up with their throats slashed. Truman Simmons, one of the first police officers on the Speegleville Park scene, along with other detectives investigated the case for eight weeks before it was mark as “suspended” because of a lack of credible leads. Just days later, Muneer Mohammad Deeb, the owner of a local gas station who was known to have a confrontational relationship with Franks, was arrested after having told two young women that he had committed the murders. Deeb was arrested and given a polygraph test, which he passed, spurring his release.
After unraveling a web of lies, murder-for-hire and drugs, Deeb was arrested again nearly a year later along with three accomplices. The gas station owner took out a life insurance policy on one of his employees who bore a striking resemblance to Montgomery.
Police hypothesized that Deeb hired David Wayne Spence, Anthony Melendez and Gilbert Melendez to murder the employee but killed Montgomery instead and killed Rice and Franks because they were witnesses. Spence was executed in 1997. Deeb was initially sentenced to death, acquitted and later died of cancer. Gilbert Melendez was sentenced to two life terms and later died in prison. Anthony Melendez is still serving out his prison sentence while subsequently fighting to obtain new DNA evidence to exonerate him. All four men were eventually convicted of the crimes.
2003 Patrick Dennehy Murder
A hungry dog and an abandoned car were telltale signs that something was awry in the world of Baylor junior forwards Carlton Dotson and Patrick Dennehy.
In the summer of 2003, the pair purchased guns amid concerns for their safety after threats by fellow teammates. Just days later, Dennehy’s family reported him missing and his roommate returned home to find that his dog had not been fed in a while.
On June 25, just six days after the report was filed, Dennehy’s Chevy Tahoe was found in Virginia with no license plates.
According to an affidavit filed to obtain a search warrant for Dennehy’s computer, an informant told police that Dotson, who was now back home in Maryland, told his cousin that he had shot and killed his friend during an argument while they were firing their guns outside of town.
On July 21, Dotson was charged with the murder of Dennehy and taken into custody in Maryland while awaiting extradition to Texas.
The search for Dennehy’s body finally ended just four days later when police found his decomposing body in a gravel pit southeast of Waco.
The preliminary report ruled that Dennehy’s death was a homicide and the autopsy confirmed that it was casued by multiple gunshot wounds to the head. In post-arrest interviews, Dotson claimed that he had been hearing voices and suffering from hallucinations.
In October 2004, he was deemed incompetent to stand trial and sent to the state mental hospital for evaluation where psychiatrists determined he appeared to be suffering from psychosis.
Doctors did note that his accounts of hallucinations and voices were “suspect.”
Dotson returned to jail in 2005 after it was determined that he was able to stand trial. Just five days before his trial was set to begin, the former basketball star pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2021.