The Official Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas
Ranger History - From the Case Files of The Texas Rangers

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Over the past 50 years, the Texas Rangers have investigated thousands of crimes from murder to kidnapping to political corruption. They have served as peace keepers during strikes and riots, apprehended fugitives, and protected governors. The cases depicted in this exhibit are examples of the variety of crimes the Rangers investigate.

 

Texarkana Phantom Killer

Between February 22 and May 3, 1946, a serial killer preyed on the residents of Texarkana, killing five people and assaulting three others. Three young couples were attacked while parking at lover's lane near Spring Lake Park. The fourth couple was attacked in their farm home ten mile northeast of Texarkana in Arkansas. Although the first couple survived the attack, they could not identify the masked assailant. Since evidence was routinely obliterated by morbid curiosity seekers, leaving police few leads, the media dubbed the perpetrator the "Phantom Killer." With a killer on the loose, fearful residents stayed home after dark, and businesses with normal evening hours closed down at sundown.


Photograph of tire track found at murder scene.
MS24 Phantom Killer Collection, Texas Ranger Research Center. ©1999
Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

 

Example of a Tire Track Plaster Case
Courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety
Field Crime Laboratory
Waco, Texas.



After the third attack, Captain M. T. Gonzaullas of Texas Ranger Company B took charge of the investigation. In addition to local law enforcement, six other Rangers from Company B, four Texas Department of Public Safety crime technicians, and eight Highway Patrolmen assisted in the investigation. In an attempt to capture the killer, routine patrols were established and officers spent long hours sitting in the back seats of automobiles at lover's lane as decoys.

Some officials had suspicions about the killer's identity, but there was never enough evidence to make an arrest. Despite the best efforts of the Rangers and local authorities, the "Phantom Killer" case remains unsolved.

Gambling


Gambling, which was rampant during Prohibition, continued throughout the next thirty years. As they had in the oil boom towns, Rangers regularly raided illegal gambling establishments, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. A major problem for the Rangers was the necessity of catching gambling in the act. Most gambling was done in backroom casinos of restaurants and dinner clubs. Employees were trained in hiding the equipment quickly in case of raids. In the more sophisticated casinos, the equipment was hidden in the walls. Security was tight and only select people were allowed entry.

 

Texas Ranger destroying a Black Jack table
at the Reno Club, Victoria, TX.
©1999 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

Success for the Rangers often came when they or other authorities infiltrated clubs under a false identity. Some of the more notable raids occurred at Top O' The Hill in Arlington, Hi-Lite Club in Sherman, and the Balinese Room in Galveston. Galveston was a particular hot spot for gambling because of the involvement of local organized crime. Rangers rotated service in Galveston for one or two week shifts from the mid-1950s until 1960. Although the gambling problem did not disappear completely, the Rangers helped to greatly diminish it.

 

Lone Star Steel Strike

At midnight on October 16, 1968, twenty-five hundred members of the United Steelworkers of America walked out of the Lone Star Steel plant, beginning a vicious strike over employee benefits and working conditions, which lasted 210 days. The plant, located six miles south of Dangerfield in East Texas, was founded during the 1940s as part of the war effort. By 1968, the plant manufactured shell casings for the government during the Vietnam War. The Rangers previously worked a strike over employee grievances at the plant in 1957.


Private residence bombed during the Lone Star Steel Strike.
No one was home at the time of the attack. MS29 Glenn Elliott Collection, Texas Ranger Research Center.
©1999 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.


Although almost every Ranger worked the Lone Star strike at one time or another, only Bob Mitchell and Glenn Elliott worked the strike from beginning to end. Ranger duties included guarding plant entrances, investigating crimes associated with the strike, and keeping the peace. The strike was characterized by shootings, bombings, intimidation, beatings, stabbings, killing of pets, and murder. Even two Rangers posing as plant workers were shot at by disgruntled strikers. Caught between labor and management, many Rangers compared working the strike to being in the middle of a war.

 

Rusk State Hospital

At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 16, 1955, eighty-one inmates of the Maximum Security Unit of the Rusk State Hospital took over Wards 6 and &, attacked three trustees and two attendants, and took the unit physician, the assistant supervisor, and the hospital superintendent hostage. Ben Riley, spokesman for the inmates, articulated their demands for better counseling, organized exercise periods, an end to inmate beatings, and that all inmates have the same rights enjoyed by the white inmates regarding meals, bathing, and freedom of movement.

DPS Director Col. Homer Garrison personally dispatched Texas Ranger Captain Bob Crowder of Company B to the scene. Upon arriving Crowder quickly assessed the situation and agreed to Riley's demand to talk with a representative of the state. Crowder warned Riley that he would enter the compound armed with his .45s since he was unwilling to become their next hostage. During the next twenty minutes, Crowder reasoned with the inmates and assured them that they would get a fair hearing concerning their grievances. He then ordered them to release their hostages and surrender their weapons. Riley and the other inmates dropped their assorted weapons in a pile near the Rangers, bringing a dangerous situation to a peaceful resolution.

Siege at Huntsville

At 1:00 p.m. on July 24, 1974, inmates Fred Carrasco, Rudolfo Dominguez, and Ignacio Cuevas took over the education and library facility at Huntsville "Walls" Unit. Although the initial hostage count was seventy inmates and eleven citizens, Carrasco soon traded hostages for handcuffs and a television, reducing the hostage count to eleven civilians and four inmates. For the next ten days, Jim Estelle, Director of the Texas Department of Corrections, negotiated with Carrasco. Rangers and other law enforcement officers were called in to assist TDC officials.

One of three helmets demanded by Fred Carrasco
from the Walls Unit Prison shops. The steel helmets weighed more than 25 lbs. ©1999 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

On Friday, August 2, Carrasco released a hostage to inform officials of his escape plans. The inmates constructed a movable shield of chalk boards, peg board, and library books to get them safely from the library to the waiting armored car. The next day, Texas Ranger Captains Pete Rogers and G. W. Burks led the attempt to intercept Carrasco's "Trojan horse." When the vehicle stalled while turning a corner on the entrance ramp, the assault team demanded surrender, then turned fire hoses on the escape vehicle. Inmates opened fire which was answered by the assault team. When the gunfire ceased, Carrasco lay dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, Dominguez was killed resisting surrender, and Cuevas was taken into custody uninjured. Two hostages were killed and one critically wounded.

On August 26, 1999, the 25th anniversary of the siege, the renovated educational facility was renamed and dedicated in honor of the two hostages who lost their lives in the siege.

Houston Family Kidnapping

On the night of October 13, 1971, Euless, Texas Police Sgt. Bill Harvell stopped Huron Ted Walters on a routine traffic stop. When Walters pulled a gun on the officer, Harvell opened fire. Walters sped away and Harvell gave chase. After abandoning his car, Walters disappeared into a pasture, taking a sawed off shotgun and two boxes of ammunition with him. The ten-hour manhunt that followed was unsuccessful.

At about 7:30 a.m., October 14, Hoyt Houston of Bedford, Texas, went out to his garage where he was confronted by Walters, who had been sleeping in a boat. Walters took Houston, his wife, and their five year-old daughter hostage, but the Houston's oldest daughter escaped to get help. Keeping the Bedford police at bay, Walters forced the family into their car, directing Mrs. Houston to drive while he kept his loaded shot gun aimed at her husband. Police were able to stop the car with a roadblock in Southlake, Texas, near Grapevine.

While police attempted to negotiate the safe release of the Houston family, Company B Texas Ranger Tom Arnold took aim through the scope of his rifle. When Arnold noticed Walter's attention waiver momentarily as police on either side of the car distracted him, Arnold fired his rifle, instantly killing Walters. With his vision obscured by the shattering of the rear window of the car, Arnold immediately dropped his rifle, ran to the car, and fired three more rounds into Walter's body through the rear side window. The Houston family exited the car upon hearing the first shot fired. They escaped unhurt.

Kara-Leigh Whitehead Kidnapping

On January 14, 1987, Denise Johnson, maid for the Whitehead family, was kidnapped in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, northeast of Austin. Eight days later at 4:30 a.m., the Whiteheads received a call saying their two-year-old daughter Kara-Leigh had been kidnapped. The kidnapper, later identified as Brent Albery Beeler, a 23 year-old parolee from Houston, demanded a car and $30,000 in $20 bills. Texas Rangers and FBI agents were quickly called in to assist the local authorities. Phone lines were tapped, surveillance teams posted, and arrangements made for the ransom drop.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., Mr. Whitehead received instructions to bring the car and money to the house across the street. Rangers Stan Guffey and John Aycock removed the back seat of the car and hid on the floor to prevent the kidnapper from escaping with the child. Upon entering the car, Beeler moved the briefcase of money to the back seat at which time he noticed the Rangers. According to protocol, Guffey identified himself before firing, giving Beeler time to fire at the Ranger. In the ensuing gunfight, Beeler fatally shot Guffey in the head. Ranger Aycock pulled Kara-Leigh to safety behind him as he fired at Beeler, who was killed as he tried to escape.

The body of Denise Johnson was later found in the boathouse behind the residence in which Beeler had been hiding. A tragic footnote to the case -- the Whitehead family was killed in plane crash in 1992.

 

Sgt. Stanley Guffey
Co "F", Texas Rangers
©2010 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.

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The Official Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas