Maybe this is a love story. It might be a story of obsession or perhaps it's even a story of possession. I'm not sure I'll ever know for sure because Dorothy has been stalking me for almost seventy one years now Someone once said that behind every successful man there is a woman supporting and encouraging him possibly even inspiring him. Then some smart alex said that behind every successful man there was a woman, screaming, bitching, scratching and kicking. Sometimes I feel that is a better description of the effect Dorothy has had on my life. Dorothy is an enigma; Dorothy is only eighteen years old and I'm seventy-four. Next year I'll be seventy-five years old and Dorothy will still be eighteen. To enhance the paradox let me tell you that Dorothy was my baby-sitter.
From the Aransas Pass Progress Volume XXII Dated Wednesday, August 5, 1931: Miss Dorothy Doris Symons, 18 year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Francis H. Symons, living on South Commercial street, who had been missing from her home since last Thursday night, was found just before sundown Saturday evening buried in mud, sea moss and shell in a bar pit on the east side of the sea wall channel, about 400 yards south of the Aransas Harbor Terminal railway tracks. When the body was discovered it was clad in a yellow and black bathing suit, and everything indicated that the body had been in the water more than forty hours.
The body was discovered by H. B. Threlkeld, a camper, who with his wife and small child, Ruby Faye Colebank, were walking along the edge of the water in search of firewood. Threlkeld noticed a hand sticking out of the sea moss and mud and upon examination found it to be the hand of a girl. he immediately notified the authorities. An examination of the location of the body indicated that whoever had committed the crime had carried the body over the seawall and placed it in the edge of the water on the other side of the small dirt breakwater east of the channel and on the edge of Redfish bay. It must have been carried there, as there is no tidal flow in that part of Redfish bay where the body was discovered.
Miss Symons, on account of the condition of the body was buried Sunday from the family home. No autopsy was held, and no official inquest was held until today at 1 p.m. the same being held in the city hall of Aransas Pass before judge Carl Utterback
When Miss Symons did not return home Friday her parents became alarmed, and Sheriff Frank Hunt and deputies were notified of the missing girl.
After the body was found by Mr. Threlkeld, Sheriff Hunt immediately placed under arrest Newton Yarberry, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alex Yarberry, long and respected residents of Aransas Pass, as being guilty of the crime, and immediately transferred him to the county jail in Sinton. Young Yarberry, who is 23 years old, was keeping company with Miss Dorothy for the past two years, and officials naturally assumed that he might have something to do with the crime, but all the evidence was wholly circumstantial, as brought out at the examining trail in Sinton Tuesday before Justice of the Peace A. J. Custer.
At the conclusion of the examining trial Newton Yarberry was released under $3,500 bond, which was promptly furnished. Counsel for the defense, at the opening of the examining trial offered a motion to remand the examining trial to the jurisdiction of Justice Carl Utterback in Aransas Pass, and state statures were offered in support of the contention of the defense attorneys. Quoting the statutes Judge M. C. Nelson, leading attorney for the defense, read that where an arrest was made without warrant that it was mandatory, on a charge of murder, for the examining trial to be held before the nearest magistrate or Justice of the Peace. This motion was overruled by Justice of the Peace Custer.
1931 was one of the years of the Great Depression which began in 1929. It was called the "Crash". My parents, Roy and Jewell Strain had moved to "The Coast" from Hamilton and Comanche Counties in Central Texas several years before. They both came from families that owned large farms. The problem is in the dispersing of these large farms to the various heirs. My Grandfather, Jimmy Strain had more than ten children from two wives.
When it came time to divide the estate there wasn't much to divide.. European custom holds with the eldest son inheriting all and this system worked for centuries. The younger sons went into commerce, joined the Army or Navy or became Priests or Pastors; their daughters married well or became school teachers or nuns.
The system being used in Central Texas in the l920s seemed to indicate that the estate was passed on to the son who couldn't make a living anywhere else. And so my father found himself in 1929 working for Snyder Motor Company in Aransas Pass, Texas. He had spent the two previous years learning that farming in South Texas was not at all like farming in Central Texas and had two years of "gone bust" to prove it.
Dad had a mechanical flair, worked in the oil patch for a while, even designed some equipment parts to increase drilling efficiency, but liking the feel of white shirts and ties decided to become an automobile salesman and began to sell Durant automobiles in Aransas Pass. He would laughingly tell you that he made a living during the Great Depression with three words in Spanish, "Quiere compre carro?"
When Mr. Durant found a home with Buick Motor Co. as President and CEO and quit making Durants, Dad shifted to Snyder Motor Company and selling Chevrolets. My uncle Chalmers Livsey owned a Durant for years he purchased in the English language.
When the banks closed, Snyder Motor Company was caught without operating cash and Dad saved the day with money of his own left over from the farming disasters. Being a Central Texas farm boy, he kept his money in a sugar bowl in the kitchen cabinet instead of in the bank. That gave Bill Snyder 60 days of grace until he could reestablish a cash flow and I'm sure it guaranteed Dad a job with the Snyders for life.
In 1931, most of the people in the country were unemployed. There was very little cash flow. Everyday in Aransas Pass hobos would knock on the back door asking for a meal. My mother always had a bowl of beans and a glass of tea for them to enjoy while sitting on the back porch. Some of the hobos would pull weeds in the yard for a while to pay something for their meal. Some would state that they could not eat this kind of food and leave the untouched plate on the porch. There weren't many of these though.
There were families living out in the sand hills in sand dugouts. The dugout would be about the size of a small bedroom. The mother and father would sleep down in the dug out part. Posts would be placed across the top of the dugout and branches and leaves placed over the posts to make a "balcony" like place for the kids to sleep. Some dugouts had two or three feet high wooden walls on two or three sides and all had a canvas tent or tarp strung over to keep out rain and heavy dew.
I remember we visited a family several times that lived in a dugout; I have no idea why we visited them. Maybe my mother was trying to get them to come to church. We were one of the rich families in Aransas Pass.
Dad worked only about a week for the WPA after a long dry spell of no car sales and went back to selling cars because idleness didn't appeal to him. WPA paid a dollar a day to "lean on a shovel" some people said. Dad would go several months with no income at all and then sell two cars in one week and we would be rich again.
My mother was a seamstress or as her sign said a "Dressmaker" and she could sculpt a dress to fit any figure no matter how unique for $2 or $3. This paid the bills between automobile sales. One of the luxuries I remember from being rich was that everyday at about 2 PM mother would give me l5 cents and I would go to the store and buy three soda pops, usually a Coca Cola for whoever was working for my mother, a Dr. Pepper for mother and an Orange Crush for me.
The Yarberrys were rich because Mr. Yarberry worked for Humble Oil Company; Mr. Bigelow was rich because he owned a grocery store (Billie Bob Bigelow was at one time my girlfriend but we didn't get along too well. At parties after playing spin the bottle, when we would go off and hide, she wouldn't pay off with the number of kisses she owed). Capt. Brumley, father of C. J. and Flavella, was rich because he was a harbor pilot.
Some of the women who worked for my mother were Alwanna Inse, Eva Kelley, whose husband was Riley Kelley, a Coast Guardsman, Mabel Williams, my mother's younger sister and of course Dorothy Symons.
Dorothy did mostly housework and baby-sitting. It is amazing that I still have memories of Dorothy because I wasn't quite four years old when she was killed. I remember liking her because she was pretty and small which made her not as threatening as some of the larger women who worked for my mother. I also liked her because she laughed a lot. I think my mother felt this might be her only fault.
My dad laughed a lot but not much around the house. My mother was a very serious person who felt that too much laughter must be a work of the Devil. I'm sure Dorothy was clever enough not to laugh too much when mother was around.
Dorothy was a great tease which wasn't much fun. It really upset me. She knew how to draw faces but she would always draw them without chins like the "Andy Gumps" in the funny papers. She would be drawing for me and I would watch the pencil go over the oval that made the top of the head, then down to about eye level and move out to make the nose then back in to make the mouth and then...."NO! NO! DOROTHY...IT HAS TO HAVE A CHIN! ...IT HAS TO HAVE A CHIN!" and Dorothy would laugh and go back up and put a chin on the face. I can remember crying because she didn't draw the chin on.
Dorothy would comfort me and tell me she just forgot and she would try to remember from now on. I wonder if Dorothy teased Newton. Sometimes I remember that my dad had to deliver cars to customers and if he did this by himself he had no way to get back in from the country or back to Aransas Pass from Rockport or wherever the customer lived. Dorothy would sometimes go with him and drive a car for him to drive back. I remember hearing my mother tell him that people were apt to talk if he were out in a car with a young single girl.
For this reason I got to go along on several of those trips. I liked going in the car and I liked it especially when Dorothy was there. The only bad thing was that dad wouldn't let me ride with Dorothy when they were repossessing a car and driving two cars back to Aransas Pass. I thought it would have been really great to be in a car all by myself with Dorothy.
Corpus Christi Caller, Monday Morning, August 3, 1931: Body of Slain Aransas Pass Girl Found in Channel. Barber Held in Slaying of Doris Symons. Body Found in Grave of Mud and Seaweed at Edge of Channel. Inquest is Held. Girl Left Home Thursday Evening To Go to Choir Practice.
Dorothy Doris Symons, 18, missing from her home in Aransas Pass since Thursday night, was found just before sundown Saturday in a grave of mud and seaweed at the edge of the channel east of Aransas Pass.
Newton Yarberry of Aransas Pass, last seen with the girl, was charged with murder before A. J. Custer, Justice of the Peace, and lodged in jail in Sinton. His examining trial will be held Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock. An inquest showed the girl had met death by strangulation probably while in swimming.
When the body was recovered it was clad in a yellow and black bathing suit and showed evidence of having been in the water for more than 40 hours. The body was discovered by H. E. Threlkeld, a camper, who with his wife and a small child, Hubbie Fay Colebank, were walking along the edge of the channel in seach of firewood. Threlkeld noticed a hand sticking out of the mud and upon examination found it to be that of a girl.
He immediately notified the authorities. An examination of the spot showed that whoever committed the crime had carried the body over the seawall, placed it in the edge of the water and crawled back over the wall.
Miss Symons left her home Thursday evening in the company of a Mrs. Dolan to attend choir practice. After the rehearsal, she and Mrs. Dolan went to the home of a Mrs. Fowler where Mrs. Dolan left the girl it is reported. While there Miss Symons told Mrs. Fowler that she had a date to meet a youth downtown and go swimming, but not to say anything about it according to officers.
Miss Symons left her watch, tam, stockings and purse at the Fowler's saying that she would return by 10 or 10:30 o'clock. When she did not return a search was made with no results. Miss Symons' dress, shoes and underclothing had not been found at a late hour Sunday night. Authorities believe that the girl and her companion dressed for bathing near the seawall, where they could easily plunge into the water.
Yarberry, who is 24, is said to be a barber by profession. Funeral services for Miss Symons were held Sunday afternoon. Miss Symons' father is employed by the Humble Oil and Refining Company.
There was a lot of talk about the murder of Dorothy Symons. I know that from the time her body was found until several years later when the last trial was held it was a conversation explored in all the homes of Aransas Pass. I seem to remember adults discussing the possibility of Dorothy being pregnant but I think in 1931 you couldn't even use that word in the newspapers. Certainly not on the radio.
We continued to live in Aransas Pass until I was in the fourth grade at which time we moved to Sinton about thirty miles to the north and then just as I was ready to enter Junior High School we moved to Corpus Christi, Texas where my dad first went to work for a pipeline company and then changed jobs to sell cars for Gulf Chevrolet Company on Water Street in Corpus Christi.
That was before the T-Heads were built and Water Street was actually on the water. From High School I joined the U. S. Merchant Marine in 1944. During the two years that I sailed on merchant ships and the two years I spent in the Army Air Force I didn't think very much about Dorothy. There was a war going on and we were all very busy. During that time I remember picking up a True Detective type magazine and reading about the Dorothy Symons murder case. This was when I was on a leave from the Air Force and I remember thinking after reading the article "This was a waste of time...I knew all of that already."
Several times over the years I found myself being drawn to the memories of the "Dorothy Symons Murder Case." I remember being attracted to several small brunette women. One was actually named Dorothy. I painted a nude picture of her and when my wife saw the painting she asked, "Did Dorothy come to see you while I was gone?" I was later drawn to the California "Black Dahlia Murder" which had elements of our Dorothy in it.
The compulsion to investigate Dorothy's murder became stronger as I came nearer to retirement from my job as Investigator for the Southwest Texas State University Police Department. After reading the book The Dead Girl, I painted a watercolor which I thought of by the same name. When my son put it on my website he renamed it Alma Perdida but the feeling is the same. The Dead Girl and any number of other stories, pictures and paintings that I have collected now make me realize what a strong influence Dorothy's murder had on me.
After my retirement I began the job or researching Dorothy's murder and ran immediately into a blank wall. The San Patricio County Clerk adamantly refused to look for the trial transcript. My oldest son, Michael and I planned a research trip to cover the areas of the Rio Grande Valley where he spent his public school years and then on to Aransas Pass where we found a gold mine of information with the good people at the Aransas Pass Progress. After we returned with numerous machine copies of Aransas Pass Progress articles I felt like I had been fulfilled. I even think I felt Dorothy smile.
Corpus Christi Caller, Tuesday Morning, August 4, 1931: Hearing Will Be at Sinton This Morning. Aransas Pass Youth Is Charged in Slaying of Young Girl. Refuses To Talk. Young Man, However, Does Assert His Innocence in Murder Case.
Newton Yarberry, 22 year old Aransas Pass youth charged with the slaying of Dorothy Doris Symons, 18, pretty Aransas Pass choir singer, maintained his innocence as he sat calmly in the county jail at Sinton Monday night awaiting trial Tuesday morning.. Yarberry who is reported to have been a friend of Miss Symons for approximately two years refused to make a statement saying he knew no more the he had read in the papers.
Muddy footprints on the beach were regarded as valuable clues yesterday by officers in reconstructing the story of the slaying. Frank Hunt, sheriff of San Patricio county, measured and pictured the bare prints for comparison with those of Newton Yarberry. He said there was a similarity.
Sheriff Hunt believed the girl was strangled to death while held under water. This theory was supported by the discovery of water in her lungs and marks on her throat. The slayer was then believed to have swum across the channel with the body, climbed over the breakwater and hid it in the seaweed and mud in the shallow waters of the bay where it was found.
One set of tracks led to the grave and returned indicating the body had been carried. The body was clad in a yellow and black bathing suit. Miss Symons' clothes have not been found at a late hour last night. Her mother said yesterday morning that she believed her daughter left home with her bathing suit under her dress, as both she and her husband objected to Dorothy going swimming at night.
Rocky Harkey, county attorney of San Patricio county, will conduct the case in the preliminary hearing this morning. The examining trial will be held before A. H. Custer, justice of the peace.
Residents of Aransas Pass showed great interest in the case, as both the boy and girl were much respected and popular in that community. Yarberry has been employed at Central Power and Light company in its ice department. The Yarberry family have been residents of Aransas Pass for approximately 18 years, and are well known.
Miss Symons was born in Indiana, but came to Texas with her parents 10 years ago. Since living in Aransas Pass she has been active in church work and took her first communion at St. Mary's church in May, it was said. The funeral was held Sunday.
After the murder at some point Dorothy's mother became mentally ill. My parents would have said she was just "not right" after Dorothy's death. She was committed to the State Hospital in San Antonio. Dorothy had two younger brothers who came to live with our family after their mother was sent to San Antonio.
David was the older of the two. he looked like Dorothy; he was small, brunette and very active. I remember David saying "When I grow up I'm going to kill that Newton Yarberry because of what he did to my sister".
The younger brother, Joe, never said much; Joe was about my age and David a little older. David didn't stay with us long. His father came one day and took him away to live with him. I imagine that David was a real handful for a serious woman like my mother. I believe Joe lived with us for about a year. I enjoyed having a brother.
After I retired I tried to find Joe and David on the internet with no luck whatever. David would have been ripe for the military about 1943 and a year or so later Joe probably did a hitch somewhere. The draft did go on for years after World War II, unlike after World War I. My dad was called up to go in 1918 but after the Armistice was notified not to report. That would have been welcome news to many in 1945.
After I retired I sat down and wrote everything I could remember about Dorothy and the murder. I was amazed at how much I remembered and equally amazed at how much error was in my memory.
The sand hills around Aransas Pass are a child's paradise. We used to dig out areas using the scooped up sand for walls to build forts. Sometimes we could even find enough wood to put a wooden wall on top of the sand wall. Then we would have wars with rubber guns sawed out of one by fours and triggered with a clothespin. The bullets were rubber bands cut from old inner tubes.
At a later age the boat channel became very important especially to male children of the community. You graduated from "little boy" to "big boy" when you could swim the boat channel to the spoil bank and then swim back again. I remember returning from the spoil bank huffing and puffing from a long stretch of fast "dog-paddling". But I had made it! And at recess the next day it would be talked about on the playground. I was now a big guy.
This happened four or five years after Dorothy was killed but I can't remember ever thinking that where I was doing my Rites of Passage was almost exactly where Dorothy was killed.
After school several days a week I would grab my rod and reel and tackle box and head for the boat channel which was about a four block walk and then a climb over the seawall. I always caught fish. Three speckled trout and a redfish would be a typical catch.. I could either bring them home for my mother to cook (I had to clean them) or I could sell them at the channel market. Once they weighed my fish and I got 35 cents for the whole batch. I was rich. Again I can't remember ever thinking about Dorothy while at the boat channel. Maybe it was mental repression that permitted me to totally enjoy the channel without remembering the horror.
The horror was understandable because we had horror movies to teach us what horror was. Sometimes I think only Mrs. Symons really had things in proper perspective. If we had really appreciated the utter horror of the waste of a beautiful, talented, happy young girl we might have all been in San Antonio State Hospital.
My memory right after my retirement had a grandfather and two granddaughters finding the body. I remember it was reported they saw the hand and rushed to pick it up because they though it was a large seashell. I remembered a medical examiner finding a pregnancy. I also remembered that Dorothy's name was Simons and that she had swam the channel with her killer and was killed on the spoil bank and that her body was weighted down with cement slag. I also remembered the boyfriend as being Kenneth Yarbrough. Otherwise I remembered it pretty much as it seems to have happened.
Even the newspapers got it wrong occasionally. Dorothy was actually Dorothy Dorcus Symons and Mr. Symons was her stepfather; Her name was actually Johnson. David and Joe were her half brothers. I seem to remember some speculation that Mr. Symons might have killed his stepdaughter because he was the one who caused her to be pregnant.
My own father was questioned and for a day or so was considered a suspect because someone remembered him coming into a cafe late at night with wet and sandy clothing on. He had been floundering with two friends who provided the much needed alibi.
Corpus Christi Caller, Wednesday Morning, August 5, 1931: Bond for Yarberry Fixed at $3,500 in Slaying of Girl. Preliminary Hearing Held For Suspect. Sheriff Hunt Last Witness To Testify at Hearing In Sinton. Mother Testifies. Mrs. Yarberry Offers Testimony as Proof of Alibi for Son.
Bond for Newton Yarberry, 22, charged with murder in connection with the slaying of Miss Dorothy Symons, 18, Aransas Pass choir singer, was fixed at $3,500 in his examining trial held Tuesday at Sinton before A. J. Custer, justice of the peace. Yarberry made bond and was released at 9:30 last night. The hearing closed shortly after 5 o'clock at the conclusion of the testimony of F. S. Hunt, sheriff.
The girl's body clad in a yellow and black bathing suit, was found late Saturday afternoon in a grave of seaweed and mud at the edge of the bay near Aransas Pass. Miss Symons left her home Thursday night to attend choir practice at St. Mary's Church.
The defense injected a new element into the hearing late yesterday when Attorney M. C. Nelson spoke of a mystery car which slid to a stop at the Sidney Fowler home at 3 AM; Friday. Sheriff Hunt started an investigation of the unknown car as soon after the hearing as possible, and reported at l0 o'clock last night that it was a "rumor".
During the day Mrs.. A. L. Dolan told of taking Miss Symons first to choir practice and then to the home of Mrs. Sidney Fowler, from where the girl allegedly departed to attend an engagement with Yarberry.
Nelson asked Sheriff S. F. Hunt if he had investigated to determine who drove the mystery car to Fowler's home. Hunt said he had not heard of the incident, but would launch an investigation.
Sheriff Hunt who was the last witness to testify, said Yarberry told him last Saturday he believed Miss Symons became angered at her mother and had run away. Hunt said Yarberry told him he believed she could be found at Sour Lake, Texas, or in Indiana. Earlier in the hearing F. J. Symons, the girl's stepfather said he believed her father lived in Indiana.
Hunt said the girl's right arm was bruised, and the throat bloodshot. he said she had been bleeding from the nose, and that there was blood on her chest which had run from her nose to her throat and breast. He said decomposition has set in. Hunt testified that the girl's body was not found in Nueces county but within a few feet of the line in San Patricio county. He said he pulled the girl's body ashore and rushed back to town and arrested Yarberry. He said he had no warrant.
J. D. Perkins testified he saw the girl go into the post office at 9 p.m. and in two or three minutes return to join a man across the street who looked like Yarberry. He said he did not positively identify the man. When asked if the man might not have been Tom Conner, Perkins replied in the affirmative but maintained the man looked more like Yarberry.
Tom Conner testified he escorted the Symons girl from the Fowler home to the Jackson hotel approximately a mile away. He said the girl asked him to leave her for fear Newton Yarberry would see them and be angry. He said that was about 8:30 p.m. He said he had no idea why she made such a remark.
F. J. Symons, Dorothy Symons' step-father told of the girl leaving home Thursday night for choir practice and to spend the night with Mrs. Fowler. He said when he returned home late Friday he learned his wife and instituted a search for the girl.
J. H. Kell, night watchman at Aransas Pass, testified he saw "Dorothy Symons and Newton Yarberry standing near the post office Thursday night between 9 and 10 o'clock talking. Mrs.. Sidney Fowler related how the girl had come to her house Thursday night, and announced that she was going to stay all night, and that she was going downtown to meet Yarberry, with whom she had a date to go swimming. Mrs. Fowler said that Dorothy made her promise she would not tell her mother because she didn't want her to go, and Dorothy asked her not to mention it to Mrs. Fowler's mother or anyone for fear they might tell her mother.
Mrs. Fowler said shortly after Dorothy had entered the house, someone called "is anybody home" and Dorothy asked "Who is that?" I told her it was Tom (Conner) and she said I will have him walk back to town with me. She said not to lock her out because Newton would bring her back that night. Mrs. Fowler said that that was the last time she saw Dorothy. Mrs. Fowler said that she knew of Dorothy and Newton going together.
F. H. Symons said that he was the girl's step-father and that the girl's real name was Johnson, that he had never adopted her. He said he believed her father was alive, but was not sure. He stated in his testimony that he did not suspect Yarberry at first but that he suspected him now. Symons was unable to speak of the girl's death he was so overcome with grief. Symons said that Yarberry seemed to think the girl had run off, and said he talked about her getting letters from her father and that she might be found in Sour Lake. He said he was not with the girl Thursday night. Newton said he last saw the girl that afternoon., Symons testified. The girl's father said that the girl had never gone out with Tom Conner, and that he and Mrs. Symons had not told Conner that night when he called to see them that Dorothy was at Mrs. Fowler's home.
Testimony offered as proof of an alibi for her son was given by Mrs. Hattie Yarberry, first witness to take the stand. Mrs. Yarberry testified she last saw Dorothy at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, when the girl came to the Yarberry home. The mother said her son took Dorothy home early that evening and returned to his own home for supper at 7:30 p.m. After supper, Mrs. Yarberry said, Newton went out and was gone until 9 or 9:30 p.m. when he returned and went to bed. Friday morning, she related, he breakfasted at 8 a.m. and afterward went to town. She said when she asked him where he went the night before, he replied that he went to see Dorothy and she wasn't at home, adding that he "would like to know where Dorothy was." The mother appeared calm as she testified, but talked with some hesitancy as though it was difficult for her to speak of the matter. She was the only witness heard during the morning and court recessed until afternoon.
A. Yarberry's testimony was practically the same as that of his wife. Yarberry waived his right to make a statement, saying he had no comment to offer. He appeared calm. The mother said she and Newton had lived in Aransas Pass 18 years and had known Dorothy two years. A motion by the defense attorneys for continuance of the case, offered soon after court opened was overruled, as was another motion asking that the hearing be transferred to "Aransas Pass before Justice Carl Utterback.
At some time during the 1950s I ran into another detective magazine that carried the story of Dorothy's murder and again the subject was simply a rewriting of the newspaper stories. Over the years I know I collected between twenty and thirty photographs, paintings or articles about young brunette women who met untimely deaths. I think my compulsion was camouflaged by the fact that I was working as a police investigator and rationalized that I was interested in the crime solution aspects of the material.
One unusual painting (print actually) was of a young woman caught up in a flood and caught in tree roots washed up along a river bank. About a year before my retirement I became consciously aware that I was very interested in Dorothy. When I read the book entitled The Dead Girl it finally dawned on me that all this interest was directed toward Dorothy's death.
Having spent about twelve years doing police composite drawings, I was interested in doing art work that would make a communication about specific crimes on a communicative level that had nothing to do with identification or crime solution. The Dead Girl so impressed me as a psychological study of the murdered girl and her murderous boyfriend that I wanted to try for an illustrative style that would have the same emotional impact. At that point I began to do the drawing for what became Alma Perdida which was a pen and ink drawing done at work and later water colored at home. I finally finished the painting after I retired. The picture is not a great success.
At the same time the idea of painting the Aransas Pass boat channel Where Dorothy Died came to mind and I began to make thumb-nail sketches of compositions. After I finished that watercolor which is watercolor without ink line and about 15"x 20" I had prints made and sent one to my son Michael who was in the process of constructing of website for me. The website is www.billstrain.com if you have a few hours to spare.
Michael suggested we take a few days off and retrace our steps through the Rio Grande Valley and then on to the Aransas Pass Progress and as I said before, this was the point at which after seventy one years I saw and remembered Dorothy's face again, remembered that her name was spelled Symons and realized I had been looking for Yarbroughs not Yarberrys on the internet. That was like turning on a light.
After we returned from the trip, Michael spent a lot of time researching the Corpus Christi Caller and Times for coverage they might have had and again found a treasure chest of material. He even found mention of my dad's testimony.
This testimony caused a major upheaval in our home. But that's another story. Some of the people I would love to contact and ask about their memory of Dorothy are of course Joe and David Symons, Ikie Paschur, Durwood Wilson, Joyce Davenport and Chunky Summerall.
It just seems such a tragedy that you can do an internet search and find absolutely nothing about Dorothy. I don't even know where Dorothy is buried or if she even has a headstone. I wonder if there are any pictures of her in the old school annuals, but again who would come to look at them. In a very few more years there will not be a person alive who remembers Dorothy and that seems a little sad considering that she was only given eighteen years to experience life.
I remember a character we called "Crazy Kate" who chased kids. Crazy Kate lived on the Aransas Pass waterfront and like the people who found Dorothy just camped, gathered firewood, cooked, fished and survived. A bombastic personality put her in confrontation with almost everyone with whom she came in contact. Crazy Kate must have been in her late sixties when I was doing my childhood commercial fishing on the boat channel (circa 1935) and I can remember looking down at my cork trying to make myself look very small as Kate walked by only a few feet from where I sat. I hoped Kate wasn't in one of her bad moods. Sweet relief, she went on by. I guess I just thought that God could have given the short straw to Kate instead of to Dorothy.
My daughter is in special crimes with the state police and I tried to get her to run a complete criminal history on Newton Yarberry. It seemed to me that what he did after the trials would determine his guilt or innocence. The guilty will usually "distance" themselves from their crime. There can be geographical distancing like moving to California or there can simply be environmental distancing like changing friends, jobs and lifestyles. Michael and I discussed the possibility that if Newton killed Dorothy, got away with it and felt good about it he might even do the same thing again. We wondered at the possibility of Aransas Pass having a budding serial killer on its hands.
With the probability that Newton went into the service during the second world war it seemed possible that he may have had opportunities to kill other girls around the bases where he was stationed. Daughter Lisa would not run the complete criminal history; after all the state does have some rules you know. She was not impressed with the possibility of solving cold case murders from the 1940s. One day while surfing the net I found a death notice for Newton Yarberry and believe it or not he died in 1979 and is buried in Aransas Pass, Texas.
Corpus Christi Caller, Thursday Morning, August 6, 1931: Second Arrest is Made in Slaying of Dorothy Symons. Tom Conner Is Placed in Sinton Jail. Aransas Pass Carpenter Taken Into Custody Wednesday. Was With Girl. Complaint Against Conner is Signed by Alex Yarberry. The Dorothy Symons beach slaying mystery of Aransas Pass became more involved late yesterday when Tommy Conner, Aransas Pass carpenter, who admitted at a preliminary hearing for Newton Yarberry at Sinton Tuesday that he was with the girl the night she disappeared, was charged with murder and placed under arrest. The murder complaint was made by Alex Yarberry, father of Newton Yarberry, also charged in connection with the girl's death.
Newton Yarberry was released on bond of $3,500 Tuesday night. Investigators said the murder complaint followed the discovery of a new angle in the case. Escorted Girl. The Symons girl left her home at Aransas Pass Thursday night to go first to choir practice and then to the home of Mrs. Sidney Fowler to spend the night, according to the testimony at Yarberry's arraignment. Conner testified he escorted the girl from the Fowler home to the Jackson hotel approximately a mile away and left her there when she feared Yarberry would see them together and become angered.
The girl's body, clad in a bathing suit, was found Saturday night, dumped into a grave strewn with seaweed near the breakwater. Meanwhile, Coroner Carl W. Utterbach held at the close of a formal inquest that the Symons girl met her death sometime between July 30 and August 2 at an undetermined place and by unnatural causes and by a person or persons unknown.
Conner is Calm. At the inquest C. E. Henry, Aransas Pass engineer, and W. E. Tedford, hardware dealer and banker, each testified that the body was found in Nueces county. The body was 300 feet inside of Nueces county, but Utterbach said his court took jurisdiction under the law providing that one county has jurisdiction 400 yards inside of another county.
Speaking from his jail cell in Sinton last night to a representative of The Caller-Times, Conner said he could prove his whereabouts from 8:30 p.m. last Thursday night until Friday morning. Conner seemed possessed by cool indifference. He was placed in San Patricio county jail at Sinton about 4p.m. yesterday by Deputy Sheriff Jean Barber and Constable George Reader, who served the warrant for his arrest that was issued from Mr. Utterbach's court. Conner said he accompanied the Symons girl to town last Thursday night.
Ben D. Lee, Nueces county sheriff, said that although the inquest indicated that the body was found in Nueces County, this county would not interfere in San Patricio county's plans to prosecute the case. Sheriff Frank S. Hunt of San Patricio county said he had no evidence against Conner.
"Mystery Car" Mrs. Sidney Fowler from whose home Conner had escorted the Symons girl last Thursday night, expressed surprise late yesterday when advised that Conner had been arrested. She denied knowledge of the "mystery car." W. C. Gayle, district attorney of Beeville, said the arrest of Conner appeared to be a move on the part of the defense. Rocky Harkey, San Patricio county attorney, said he had not been consulted and he did not think there was any evidence against Conner. F. J. Symons, stepfather of the slain girl, said when informed of Conner's arrest by the Caller-Times last night that he would not make a statement. George Reader, constable at Aransas Pass, said that Conner made no statement en route to the jail. He also said that Sheriff Frank Hunt had the unqualified support of his office in the investigations. he said he did not know who the complaint alleged Conner murdered, that he merely served the warrant of arrest, which stated only "murder"."
Alex Yarberry, who signed the complaint, could not be reached for a statement. A "mystery man" who strangled and attempted to criminally attack women in a number of South Texas towns in June was believed by Corpus Christi officers last night to be the murderer of Dorothy Symons. Officers recalled they were requested to keep a sharp lookout for a man who attacked women in El Campo, Yoakum, Beeville and Victoria. Mrs. Eva Kelly, with whom Conner lives, it was brought out at the witness stand at Sinton Tuesday, refused to talk when informed that Conner was being held in jail. She said she had told Sheriff Hunt all she knew and would not tell anyone else.
Corpus Christi Caller, Friday Morning, August 7, 1931: Attorneys for Tom Conner Seek His Release on Bond. Habeas corpus proceedings to secure the release of Tom Conner, who was arrested at Aransas Pass Wednesday on a charge of murder in connection with the death of Dorothy Dorcus Symons, 18 year old choir singer whose body was found near Aransas Pass Saturday night, were filed Thursday afternoon. The action was filed by attorneys for Conner against F. S. Hunt, sheriff of San Patricio county. It was understood last night that 23 witnesses have been summoned for the defense. W. B. Moses of Sinton is the attorney for Conner. The hearing will be held this morning at 10 o'clock before Judge T. M. Cox in the Sinton district court room. The examining trial, which had been set for the same hour before Justice of the Peace Carl Utterbach at Aransas Pass, has been postponed indefinitely according to word received here last night. Captain Mace of the Texas Rangers and Ranger Bob Smith of Falfurrias were reported to be in Aransas Pass last night, supposedly in connection with the Symons murder. Aransas Pass citizens have posted a $100 reward for the arrest and conviction of the guilty person. Charges of murder previously had been filed against Newton Yarberry, also of Aransas Pass who was released under $3,500 bond following his examining trial at Sinton Tuesday. The body of Miss Symons, popular young Aransas Pass woman, was found in a shallow grave near the Aransas Pass breakwater Saturday night. She had disappeared Thursday night after leaving home to attend choir practice at St. Mary's church.
Corpus Christi Caller, Saturday Morning, August 8, 1931: Grand Jury Meets To Probe Slaying of Girl. The special grand jury impaneled Friday afternoon at Sinton to investigate the case of Dorothy Simmons, Port Aransas choir singer mysteriously slain near the Aransas Pass breakwater, had heard the testimony of six witnesses at a late hour Friday night. Those testifying were Mrs. Sidney Fowler, at whose home Miss Symons had stopped on the night that she was last seen alive; Mr. And Mrs. Alex Yarberry, Mrs. F. H. Symons, mother of the slain girl; Mrs. A. L. Dolan, J. H. Kell and J. D. Perkins. Judge T. M. Cox instructed the grand jurors to investigate the case thoroughly and to give no other matter consideration. Jurors were: Foreman, M. H. McCammon, Sinton, farmer; L. T. Ayers, Aransas Pass banker; K. H. Butler, Odem, merchant; M. A. East, Gregory, bookkeeper; J. H. Owen, Odem, farmer; C. C. Carroll, Portland, farmer; A. C. Fritcher, St. Paul, farmer; W. A. Dunn, Sinton, merchant; T. O. Hall, Sinton, farmer; Edwin Tutt, Taft, banker; E. H. Jackson, Sinton, farmer; E. M. Boykin, Taft, farmer. County Attorney Rocky Harkey of San Patricio county stated that he thought the grand jury would summon 14 witnesses in the course of its investigations, and that it would probably be several days before the jury returned a bill. Captain Mace and Bo Smith of the Texas Rangers were called to Aransas Pass Friday to collaborate with Sheriff Hunt and other authorities in clearing up the mystery of the pretty girl's death. Hearing of a habeas corpus petition filed by Tom Conner, who has been charged with murder in connection with Miss Symon's death, was dismissed Friday at the motion of state attorneys. It was said that Conner was to be given an examining trial immediately. Anticipating the scheduled hearing a large crowd filled the Sinton court room Friday morning. Among the spectators were Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Symons, mother and stepfather of the girl. Mrs. Symons was dressed in black was visibly affected as she entered the court room. Alex Yarberry, father of Newton Yarberry, and who swore to the murder complaint charging Conner, was also present. Young Yarberry is at liberty under a $3,500. bond. W. B. Moss, attorney for Conner who filed the habeas corpus petition, appeared ready for the hearing and seemed confident of success in his effort to free Conner under bond. Twenty-three witness for the defense had been summoned, it was said.
Corpus Christi Caller, Monday Morning, August 10, 1931: Investigation Into Death of Girl Continues. Frank Hunt, sheriff of San Patricio county, and members of the Texas Ranger force Sunday were still working in an effort to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18 year old Aransas pass choir singer, whose body was found on the beach near that place eight days ago. In the meantime the special San Patricio county grand jury, which was convened Friday afternoon took a day of rest Sunday and is expected to resume its labors today. Capt. Albert Mace of the Texas Rangers went to his home in Falfurrias Saturday night, but returned to Aransas Pass last night, passing through here. His two men remained in Aransas Pass over the week-end working with Sheriff Hunt. Newton Yarberry, first to be accused of murder in connection with the case, remained on bond. Tom Conner, second to be charged in connection, remained in jail and had not asked for bond. His examining trial has not yet been set.
When I think of Aransas Pass, Texas, I think in images. Images of a small fishing village filled with strong, gnarled, hard working people like Luna Mae Duckworth who worked as bookkeeper for Snyder Motor Company. She married Herbert Pogue who, I think, started out working as a mechanic for Snyder Motor Company and then opened his own shop and filling station on the Sinton highway.
Luna Mae was a person with a constant smile on her face and a ready laugh; she was a frequent visitor in our home. Herbert was a self-made man who at middle age still slept in a pointed sleeping cap and a nightgown fully equipped with a "let down" rumble seat. He had two bird dogs that at times it was my job to feed. They were allowed two cans of dog food every day and no more. Herbert said they would grow lazy and not hunt if you fed them more than that.
I remember Mrs. Couch whose husband was another salesman at Snyder Motor Company; she had a son named Peter. Pete Couch was not a tender person and not always a pleasant person either. His uncle owned the movie theatre in Ingleside and he would invite me to go with him to spend the day at his uncle's house. Naturally I thought that meant spending the day sitting in the theatre watching movies. But after a few trips to Ingleside without being able to go in the movie, I quit going. I think the rule came from Peter himself, not from his uncle. Peter just had a mean streak every now and then.
My mother said he was spoiled. When Peter was ugly his mother would chase him to punish him, but he would run from her and she was never able to catch him. She would run after him through her home, through other people's homes or through stores shouting, "PETER...COME HERE PETER....NOW PETER...YOU STOP THIS MOMENT .. PETER COME HERE.
My mother was a staunch member of the Aransas Pass church of Christ and it was an abomination to her to hear Mrs. Couch running around in public shouting a word that everyone knew made subliminal reference to the male genitalia.
I remember Brother Crenshaw who was an elder in the church of Christ. Church of Christ is incorrect as a name; it had to be church of Christ (with a little "c") because that was not a formal name, it was a condition. After all, the church of Christ was a restoration not a reformation like the denominations. The church of Christ was the true church restored from the original early church of Paul, Peter, James and John and had nothing to do with the imposters that sprang up out of the idolatrous Catholic Church.
At the Aransas Pass church of Christ communion was served every Sunday, just like it said in the Bible and the wine was really WINE. Brother Crenshaw said that if Christ had intended us to drink grape juice for communion he would have commanded us to and that the Welch family were money-changers in the Temple as far as he was concerned. I remember one Sunday when a little old lady came to visit our church. When communion was passed along the pews she dutifully followed everyone else and took a little pinch of the crackers as they came by. When the wine cups came by, she took one, drank it and said, "Oh MY! that was good" and immediately took another and another. We had neglected to ask her if she were a member and explain that only members were allowed communion; we would not knowingly have anyone eat and drink damnation unto their souls.
I think God might have been laughing too hard to cook up any immediate damnation anyway. But I digress. More about the church of Christ later. Dorothy, of course, as you've noticed already was one of those Catholics.
Bill Snyder was evidently an outstanding businessman. He kept a business alive during the Great Depression and then again during World War II when the factories quit making cars. He was good to his business family. My dad only left because he was lured away to Sinton by Harold Curlee's father who owned Curlee Motor Company. The farms were bigger and better, making the sales quicker and easier in the Sinton area.
Mrs. Snyder and Bill Snyder had a young son who was called "Bill Junior'. Bill Junior was also pronounced "spoiled" by my mother and to prove it she told the story of Bill Junior in the bathroom squeezing out all the toothpaste onto the tile wall. When Mrs. Snyder started to give him a paddling, Bill Junior said, "But Mummy, I was only writing 'I love you' on the wall." Naturally Mrs. Snyder's heart melted and she took Bill Junior into her arms and held him close to her where she could not see the sly grin on his face.
Mrs. Snyder liked to shop. When Mrs. Snyder shopped, she liked to have friends along with her. She drove her own "demonstrator" Chevrolet which was of course always in mint running condition and she would fill the car with Snyder Motor Company wives for the drive to Corpus Christi where the ladies would invade F. W. Woolworth, J. C. Penny Co. and of course the Neiman-Marcus of the Coastal Bend, Lichtenstein's. My mother was always a backseat passenger on those trips and came to have a grave moral problem because of them and her rigid church of Christ code of living.
One of the ladies on each trip would reach quietly between the two front seats where Mrs. Snyder's purse was sitting on the floor and take out numerous bills and then slip them into her own purse. In private this lady told my mother that it didn't matter because Mrs. Snyder had more money than she needed anyway. My mother would come back from Corpus Christi ashen faced feeling that she might be in a condition of first degree felony-grade sin for not reporting the theft from Mrs. Snyder's purse.
After worrying for a long time over this matter she finally disposed of it by shifting the responsibility of telling the Snyders to my father who was officially a Baptist and therefore not in a state of grace anyway. Baptists tend to leave things well enough alone, and that's just what my dad did. Yes, I know the lady's name; no, my lips are forever sealed.
From our front porch on Commercial Street you could see Dorothy's house, the Davenport's house and all the way down Commercial Street almost to the red light. We had, at one time, lived behind a 25' storefront on Commercial Street just a couple of doors North of the grocery store. My mother at that time did her dressmaking in that store and she also sold both White and Singer sewing machines there. There was one of each displayed in the front windows. No investment required. The two companies were more than glad to put their machines on consignment. There was a depression on; they couldn't sell them anyway.
Also across the street in the other direction you could see the Blankmeier home, Ruth was principal of the Tex-Mex school between Gregory and Taft; you could also see the Coach Henry home and behind our house you could see Mrs. Jordan's home. Mrs. Jordan was very big woman with an explosion of laughter just waiting to burst out of her; her personality was much like that of Luna Mae Duckworth. Next Door to Mrs. Jordan was the Conn Brown estate which covered almost a whole block. Maybe it was the Conn estate...whatever. His was a fun place to play but you had to be careful; he was known to take the buckshot out of .410 shells and put in rice to help the neighborhood kids achieve a heightened sense of property rights.
If Mark Twain had been a shrimp boat captain instead of a riverboat captain, Aransas Pass would be forever deeply engraved into American literature.
The drugstores in Aransas Pass at that time were Kirtley's and DuBose. My mother traded at both depending on the specials. It was her Christian belief that if Kirtley's was selling Ivory soap for 4 cents a bar and Mr. DuBose was selling it for 5 cents then Mr. Dubose was cheating the people by l penny a bar and therefore it would be a sin to pay the 5 cents and encourage theft.
Mr. Kirtley had a son who was called "Son". Son,seemingly, was given to Mr. Kirtley, by G-d, so he would not become too arrogant. One day I was walking downtown and saw Mr. Kirtley drag Son out of the drugstore by his ear. Son had spat upon the drugstore window and Mr. Kirtley had Son in one hand and a clean rag in the other. The ear belonged to Mr. Kirtley until the drugstore window was clean again.
Along the channel where I sold my fish were small businesses which hired people to peel shrimp. You were paid something like a nickel a pail. It was possible to make almost a dollar a day if you really worked fast. I never peeled shrimp. I always took my chances with the rod and reel. I believe there was a Rice family that owned a shrimp processing plant where shrimp were steamed on a conveyer belt. They would permit businessmen to come in and stand by the conveyer and eat as many shrimp as they wanted.
In a depressed economy, the shrimp were so cheap that their loss was minimal. I never was invited to this experience. My dad and Mr. DuBose were regulars.
Patty Perkins was a beautiful little girl and was my sweetheart in kindergarten. She was wonderful; she would let me kiss her. One time I kissed her while she was sitting in a swing at kindergarten and Chunky went and told his mother, the teacher, on me. Mrs. Summerall just smiled. Patty was the only girl who ever "came over to play"; she actually would come over to my house and play all morning or afternoon or invite me to her house to play. The only time you saw the other girls was at school and at parties; somewhere in the old collection of Aransas Pass Progress newspapers is a small social notice revealing Master Billy Ray Strain celebrated his fourth birthday with a party...the guests were listed...the menu was itemized and the party favors described. What a joy to live in a small town. I wonder at what point the joy of small town living ended for Dorothy.
Corpus Christi Caller, Wednesday Morning, August 12, 1931: Yarberry Is Indicted in Girl's Death. No Bill Returned Against Tom Conner, Also Held in Slaying. Hearing Is Held. Bond for Conner Is Set At $500 at Examining Trial. Newton Yarberry, 24, was in jail without bond last night after his indictment by the grand jury on a charge of murder for the slaying of Miss Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18, a choir singer. The grand jury failed to return an indictment against Tom Conner, 30 year old carpenter, who also was charged with murder in connection with the girl's death. Conner was given an examining trial before justice of the peace Carl Utterback Tuesday afternoon and was bound over to the grand jury on a $500 bond. Yarberry's attorney filed habeas corpus proceedings in court at Sinton yesterday. The hearing will be held Thursday morning at 10 o'clock. The preliminary trial was merely a matter of formality, and lasted about 30 minutes. Conner waived the right to make any statement to the court. Rocky Harkey, state attorney, said that the state had no further evidence to offer now, and if there was no one present who had any evidence to present, that matter would be left to judge Utterback. Judge Utterback immediately set the bond for $500 and bound Conner over to the grand jury. W. B. Moss, defense attorney, said that he would ask for a writ of habeas corpus. Conner and Yarberry were charged with murder shortly after discovery of Miss Symons' body in a shallow grave near the Aransas Pass channel. She had been missing since July 30. Rangers called to Aransas Pass last week to aid local officers in their investigation were still working on the case last night. Frank Hunt, sheriff, said at a late hour last night that there were no new developments.
Corpus Christi Caller, Friday Morning, August 14, 1931: Bond Is Set For Yarberry. Conner Freed in Girl's Death at Hearing in Sinton. Bond for Newton Yarberry, indicted for murder by the San Patricio county grand jury in connection with the strange death of Dorothy Symons, whose body was found in a grave of mud and seaweed at Aransas Pass July 30, was set at $20, 000 at Thursday evening at a habeas corpus hearing before Judge T. M. Cox in Sinton. Yarberry was indicted Monday and placed in jail Tuesday morning. Following the adjournment of court defense counsel is reported to have said he did not believe Yarberry would be able to make the $20, 000 bond. J. S. Shelton, Aransas Pass restaurant proprietor, was indicted by the grand jury Thursday morning on a charge of perjury in connection with testimony he gave relative to the investigation into the death of Mrs. Symons. His bond was set at $l,000 Thursday afternoon which he made last night. Shelton is alleged to have told conflicting stories concerning the whereabouts of Newton Yarberry. The counsel for the defense sought Thursday afternoon to bring out evidence that Sheriff Hunt had not made a thorough investigation into the facts surrounding the case. Hunt was asked if he hadn't been dishonest in making a proper investigation. He answered no. C. M. Nelson, defense attorney, in questioning Hunt, asked him if he did not think a car was alleged to have gone toward the Fowler home was not significant, and Hunt answered he did not. Hunt testified that he had no evidence against Tom Conner, that he had investigated the matter thoroughly and had his fingerprints sent to the bureau at Washington. Inquiries had previously come from Oklahoma City asking if Conner had not been a suspect in a robbery. Hunt was also asked if Conner had not told him that he had been arrested in Newkirk, Oklahoma, in 1922, for forgery. Hunt answered "No sir." Hunt testified that Yarberry's body showed scratches about the right side of the neck and on his back just near the shoulder blades and in the small of the back. he also said Yarberry's feet had been cut with shells and had thorns in them. J. H. Kell, a night watchman at Aransas Pass, had previously testified that on the night of Thursday he had seen Yarberry in the Blue Willow Cafe, and that he noticed he wiped his neck from time to time and that he had scratches just below the jaw on the right side. Kell said that on Thursday night at 2:15 he had seen Yarberry in the cafe and that later he was still there. He said Yarberry was sitting on a stool with his head on the counter, and that that was his position when he first saw him. "I started to joke with him," Kell said, "but stopped as he looked like he had been drunk. I figured he was sleeping it off. he seemed to be restless and took his hankerchief and wiped his neck and face. His collar was loose. While I was sitting there Yarberry got up and looked out of the door, and then came back and sat down." Kell said that when he made his rounds at 20 minutes to 4o'clock Yarberry was still there. Evidence brought out that there was a fire the night that Miss Symons disappeared. Mrs. D. L. Appleman testified that she heard a car drive in the direction of the Fowler residence which is the place from which Miss Symons is alleged to have gone on the fatal night to meet Newton Yarberry, at about 3 o'clock Friday morning. She could not say whether the car stopped or not. She also said that her husband had been floundering on Thursday night and that he reported he had passed a car without head lights on the channel, and that there was a man in the car, and a woman standing beside it holding a pan which seemed to contain clothes. The hearing lasted approximately six hours. Tom Conner, who was held for investigation in connection with the case was released from custody Thursday morning on a writ of habeas corpus. Attorneys said they had no evidence to implicate him.
Corpus Christi Caller, Sunday Morning, August 16, 1931: Texas Rangers Ordered To Return to Aransas Pass. Action Taken After Sterling Gets Telegram. Justice of the Peace Claims He Was Assaulted by Deputy Sheriff. "Told to Resign". Utterback Asserts he Was Ordered to "Get Out of the County". Keyed to an intense pitch ever since Dorothy Doris Symons, 18 year old choir singer was found dead on the beach August 1, clad in a bathing suit, Aransas Pass was to have Texas Rangers withdrawn Friday by an order from Adjutant General Bill Sterling, returned last night. Press dispatches from Austin were received here to the effect that the rangers were en route to Aransas Pass, and they were expected there last night. Carl Utterback, justice of the peace at Aransas Pass, Saturday telegraphed Governor Ross S. Sterling that he was assaulted by a San Patricio county deputy sheriff Friday night and ordered to leave the county, according to an Associated press dispatch received here. Utterback, the dispatch read, wired the governor that he was told to "go before commissioners' court, resign and get out of the county." "Please advise me how long before I must comply with this order," Utterback asked the governor, the dispatch said. Return of the rangers was requested, it was learned here, by two city councilmen, after officers are reported to have called on Utterback Friday night. Press dispatches said Hunt and his deputies upbraided Utterback for ordering an autopsy of the dead girl's body. "They abused me terribly," the 70 year old justice is quoted as saying, "and wanted to know what I meant by doing a thing like that." The trouble is said to have started while Ranger Captain A. R. Mace was investigating the killing for which Newton Yarberry, 23, is held in San Patricio county jail in default of $20, 000 bond. Mace discovered, it was said that no thorough autopsy had been held to determine how the girl met her death. It was supposed she had been choked but this was not official. Mace asked Utterback who held the inquest, to order an autopsy. Mr. Dunne ordered the disinterment to cease and had the grave refilled. He later discovered, after Captain Mace had gone to Austin, that in preparing the body for burial, all stomach contents and other vital organs necessary for the autopsy had been destroyed by the undertaker in charge of the funeral. This was done due to the condition of the body and to make burial possible, it was declared. Mr. Dunne, after the conference with the undertaker Friday evening, then went to Aransas Pass and reported this fact to Utterback, who rescinded the order. Suddenly it was rumored over Aransas Pass that the girl's body had been stolen. People hurried to the grave and discovered it had been disturbed. Friction between officers of San Patricio county in the investigation of the death of the choir singer had been reported, press dispatches are quoted as saying. Sheriff Hunt said Saturday that Carl Utterback, justice of the peace, was not assaulted, but that a minor dispute arose over the contemplated exhuming of Miss Symons' body. Sheriff Hunt said Deputy Sheriff Bill Willis had merely told Utterback that he believed an apology was due the girl's family and others for the way he acted. Captain Mace and some of his men were in Austin to subpoena witnesses for the house investigation of J. B. Price, district judge of Bastrop. He together with Rangers Bob Smith and Ed Riggs left San Patricio county Friday. In discussing Utterback's telegram to Governor Sterling, Pat Dougherty, secretary to the governor, replied that the governor had no authority in the matter could not "advise" Utterback as to when to "resign and leave the county." When the body was first found, Newton Yarberry was placed in the San Patricio county jail by Sheriff Hunt, on a murder charge. The charges were filed with J. A. Custer, justice of the peace at Sinton and the examining trial was held August 4. Yarberry was ordered held to await action of the grand jury on bond of $3, 500. In the meantime, plans were made for the inquest to be held before Mr. Utterback. The inquest was held Wednesday afternoon, August 5, and his verdict was that the girl came to her death by foul means at a place and by a person or persons unknown. While the inquest was taking place a witness, O. Hadley (Slim) McCabe was found. He admitted he had been late in getting back to his work on Harbor Island on the night of July 30, when Miss Symons was last seen. McCabe told interested persons that he was in the bus, attempting to sleep and wait until the first bus went to Harbor Island the next morning. A Mexican woman heard a man say "There d--n you, I guess you'll tell something else on me," but this turned out to be a negro brawl. Sally Kate Ralls, one of the chief witnesses in the case, cannot be interviewed because of illness. This girl, who is said to have been a good friend of the Symons girl, is said to have loaned the yellow and black bathing suit to Miss Symons. This suit was on the body when it was found. Miss Ralls has been at the George Pierce home in Aransas Pass, but Saturday was to be moved to her father's home.
Corpus Christi Caller, Monday Morning, August 17, 1931: Texas Rangers leave Aransas Pass Sunday. Texas Rangers Heard and Sadler left Aransas Pass Sunday afternoon after having investigated alleged intimidation of Carl Utterback, justice of the peace, by S. F. Hunt and his deputies Friday night. The rangers arrived in Aransas Pass Saturday night and stayed there until Sunday afternoon. It was not known whether they returned to Falfurrias or were called to Austin in connection with the contemplated calling of martial law today by Governor R. S. Sterling. Rangers had been there earlier, investigating the death of Dorothy Dorcas Symons, 18 year old choir singer. Newton Yarberry, who was indicted last Monday for the murder in connection with the death of the girl, is still in jail at Sinton in default of $20, 000 bond.
I don't specifically remember that a trial was going on. I'm not sure I even knew what a trial was. It must have been at this stage of the events that I remember so much talk about the Dorothy Symons murder. I have a reoccurring dream: I'm walking West on the street that goes by the side of Snyder Motor Company. I look to the left, my back is toward the Port Aransas causeway entrance, and I see the long narrow wooden ramp that was used to drive cars up to the second floor where the repair shop was.
That's right the shop was on the second floor at Snyder Motor Company. At what I remember to have been a blinker light I turn left and a girl joins me and we walk together. I have a feeling of discomfort and fear that I will be seen. We walk together until we are just past Tate the Tailor's shop and the girl leaves me to join someone in the cafe across the street. I feel relief.
I realize now that this is the area in which Newton was seen with Dorothy on the night she was killed. I wonder where Ikie Paschur (maybe Pasur) is now. Ikie was the son of a Greek immigrant a fisherman who owned a boat in the Aransas Pass boat channel. For a number of years Ikie was my best friend. The Pasurs lived two blocks East of our house. In the foyer of their home there was one picture on the walls; a small engraving of the Titanic poised at the classic forty-five degree angle just before slipping to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Makes you wonder if perhaps salt water is bad for your health. Ikie's dad brought with him the Mediterranean fishing skills of his ancestors when he moved to the Coastal Bend of Texas. Ikie told me of one of his jobs when he went with his Dad. He would swim underwater until he saw a very large jewfish resting on the bottom sand. Because they are very slow and sluggish he would swim down with a strong line attached to a large hook. Ikie would insert the hook into the jewfish's mouth, pull a signal on the line and then get out of the way. I've seen videos of a jewfish inhaling a whole man, holding him in his mouth for a second or two and then spitting him out.
Most of my friends wanted to come over to my house to play. But with Ikie it was more fun to go to his house. His mother always had so much good stuff to eat and his sisters were polite and nice and didn't try to make you feel stupid.
Jimmy Twing was several years older than me and lived next door for a number of years. I knew Jimmy as Jimmy Childress and he lived with his grandmother. Jimmy had a great talent with tools. The first time I met Jimmy I went over to say hello and he showed me his ship collection. He would take a two by four pine board, saw it off straight in the back and pointed in the front, then he would use different size two by four blocks to make superstructure and finally wooden spools were attached as smoke stacks to the superstructure to make a really impressive ship. Some of his ships were three feet long. I admired them so much that Jimmy gave me one. I couldn't believe my good fortune. Over a period of time Jimmy gave me five or six of his ships. There was always a screw-eye on the bow where a string could be attached and the ship could be pulled along the sidewalk. They had toy ships in the stores but they had wheels on them. I knew ships didn't have wheels and that really bothered me. Even if they did pull easier, it just didn't look right. Jimmy's ships were much better.
Jimmy was about half again larger than I was and when we wrestled, quite often Jimmy would let me win. I would beg him to tell me the truth..."did I really win?"..."did I really win?" Jimmy would very seriously state that I had won fair and square. I remembered this about two years ago when I met Dorothy Dillon whose Uncle George Corlin had let a young Lyndon Johnson win from time to time when they wrestled in Johnson City.
Jimmy went on to Texas A&M and became a builder of ports and harbors. I always wondered about him because his age made him prime for World War II. Years later when we were both middle-aged we worked together on a Boy Scout Finance Drive in Corpus Christi.
Jimmy also liked my watercolors; he and his son own several of them. Recently I tried to pump Jimmy for information on the Dorothy Symons murder. Jimmy had a fresh accurate recollection of the murder and the trials. The main information I wanted from Jimmy was what kind of girl was Dorothy and what kind of guy was Newton. Jimmy was very firm in his opinion that Dorothy was very nice girl who was liked by everyone and that Newton was a "nice guy" or maybe seemed like a "nice guy." Jimmy added, "I liked him." That didn't add any dimension to the serial killer theory I was working on, but Jimmy was rigid in his opinion and I don't think Jimmy is the kind of person who does the "Pollyanna" thing of..."if you can't say something nice, then just don't....etc....etc." I asked Jimmy directly if he thought Newton Yarberry killed Dorothy and Jimmy said he didn't know and added, "he never was convicted of it."
During the search for information I became almost as interested in Newton as I was in Dorothy....well almost. Leo Hudgins was my partner at the Blanco County Sheriff's Office in Johnson City for over a year. Leo was a police officer in Aransas Pass in the 1950s. Leo had one daughter that was married at the time he was living in Aransas Pass. He learned that his daughter had been murdered by her husband. Leo got his gun and quietly began to walk from the house to his car with the full intention of finding his son-in-law and killing him. Leo says that when he had almost reached the car, he heard a voice say, "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord." Leo turned around and went back into the house to continue his grieving. When talking about this one day, Leo looked at me and asked, "Why did he have to KILL her, Bill?".....and, of course, I didn't know.
Leo became an ordained Christian minister while retaining his position as police officer. During the year that I rode "shotgun" in his patrol car he was not only president but also chaplain of the Blanco County Chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Club. Leo would sometimes be called back to the jail to pray with a prisoner who wanted to "accept Jesus as his personal Savior."
Leo and I had long theological "discussions"; Leo's theology was about 20 degrees to the right of The Primitive Baptist Church. Why, indeed, did he have to kill her? "Why did he have to kill you, Dorothy?....were you pregnant? was he afraid of his parents and what they would do if they found out he was bringing home a wife for them to support? Were you jealous, Newton, because you saw Dorothy walking with another man? Or did you have some deep genetic flaw and kill her just to see what it felt like? And of course there's the eternal question....Newton, are you innocent?
Durwood Wilson was my age and we were good friends. We both worked for an Aransas Pass businessman who owned property on the highway and needed some cheap labor to clear the mesquite brush from his property. Durwood and I lived with that businessman and his wife during the summer and worked on his land for about 50 cents per week plus room and board and all the soda-pop we could drink, which was considerable. Durwood's mother was named Pearl and she also lived with the businessman and his wife and often worked with my mother because she could sew really well.
Durwood's father was Chester Wilson who was a veteran of the Army Air Corps mission in the Philippine Islands. He had many pictures of himself standing beside pursuit bi-planes. Somewhere in his travels Chester had developed a classic case of chronic alcoholism. Most of the time he was gone, looking for work, on a drunk and for short periods of time on a job. He evidently was a very good mechanic.
The cycle would begin when Chester would come home in a manic state with a new job, declare that he had quit drinking forever, spend a lot of time posing with a cold Dr. Pepper saying what a great drink it was and how nobody could find a greater drink than that. Three to seven days later he would come home stumbling staggering drunk, having spent his whole first paycheck and lost his job.
On one such occasion, Pearl and Durwood were still living with the businessman, so when Chester came "home" it was to the businessman's house. The businessman gathered Chester into his car and drove him out on the long wide flat beach between Aransas Pass and Rockport and claimed that he put him out of the car and left him there to sober up.
Allegedly when the businessman went to pick him up the next morning he had fallen into a sand dune with his face in the sand and suffocated. I've tried to work out the scenario several times and it seems to me almost impossible to fall with your face so deep into the sand that you can't breathe. The sand on that beach is not soft like the sand on Padre Island. At the funeral I heard the businessman tell the other men attending that it was the best thing that could have happened to the widow.
His demeanor brought on "Methinks he protests too much"
thoughts for me. I will always believe that the businessman took Chester to the
beach, held his face in the sand until he stopped breathing and then came home
to wait for an appropriate hour to discover the "accident." But hey! I'm a cop .. what can I tell you? After the year 2000 I was surfing google on the net and found an isolated list of obituaries from the late l930s and early l940s. By sheer accident I ran into the obituary for Chester Wilson; cause of death was listed as suffocation.
I think what I'm trying to establish here is that Aransas Pass was a small tough little town. The Great Depression was a ten year tough time to live and it was not Dorothy's lot to make it through. Of all the trials in San Patricio county, I don't know of another one that was as fragmented and unpredictable as the trial of Newton Yarberry.
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