The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky
Sunday, 9 February 1936

4 Held In Lee County, 3 Are Caught In Owen

Beattyville, Ky., Feb. 8

The four convicts who escaped from the State Reformatory at Frankfort early yesterday were captured ten miles east of here late this afternoon at the home of Henry Coomer, 22, one of the fugitives.  The others were James C. Morris, 28, Anchorage;  Dexter Anderson, 23, Breathitt County, and Clarence Crawford, 26, Fayette County.

"Coomer's neighbors told on them."  Sheriff Charles Blount reported tonight, after he had served the prisoners supper at a reestaurant here and had placed them in the county jail.  Two special guards, Deputy Sheriff Dewey Lovelace and Former Deputy Sheriff Link Moore were ordered to remain at the jail all night.

Threaten to Give Battle

Locating the prisoners was "easy,"  according to the Sheriff, but persuading them to surrender took "anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half."  Through Coomer's mother, a woman in her 60's, and his father, more than 70, the fugitives had sent word repeatedly to the Sheriff:  "We won't give up;  we'll give battle;  we'll die before we give up."

With Sheriff Blount when he went to the Coomer home were Moore and Lovelace and Deputy Sheriff Herman Price.  Assigning each of his three helpers to a separate side of the square five room mountain home, Sheriff Blount approached the house from the back.

He was armed with a shotgun and a revolver, and Coomer's mother saw him through a window.

Mother Asks Son Be Spared

"Lord have mercy:  there they come;  we'll have trouble," she sobbed,m hurrying out and running toward the Sheriff.  In response to her pleas that her son not be harmed, the Sheriff sent her back to the house with instructions to "tell them to come out and give up to us right - we're here to stay, and we're here to get them."

Messages were taken to the fugitives by Coomer's father, Dave Coomer;  Coomer's two brothers, Elijah and Walker;  his sister May, and sister-in-law, Mrs. Walker Coomer, as well as this mother before the first prisoner surrendered.

Crawford was the first.  Walking out the front door with his hands raised, he shouted to one of the deputies about forty feet away that he had decided "there's no point in getting killed;  I don't want to get killed, and I don't want to kill anybody."

Coomer Second to Give Up

Crawford's surrender came after the Sheriff and his men had been there almost an hour.  About fifteen minutes after Crawford came out, Coomer gave up, cursing and greeting the Sheriff, an acquaintance, with: "I guess you want me to stick my hands up."  His hands were at his sides.

"It's immaterial to me whether they're up or down," Sheriff Blount answered, directing Coomer to Crawford and then handcuffing Coomer and Crawford together.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, the other two came out together, Morris with the remark, "We might just as well be dead as give up."  Anderson sneered, but said nothing.

After Morris and Anderson were handcuffed together, Sheriff Blount searched the house and grounds.  The only weapons he found were a shotgun and rifle under a bed.  Satisfied that the guns belonged to Coomer's father, he left them there.

Walk Half-Mile to Motor

The muddy lane made it advisable for the Sheriff's automobile to be left more than a mile from the Coomer home, which is a mile and a half north of the Beattyville-Jackson Road and is accessible only over the lane.

After walking with the prisoners about half a mile toward the Sheriff's car, the Sheriff was guided by young Coomer to a barn on property of Price Butler.  There a new sedan was found, which the fugitives admitted they had stolen and had placed there last night after it stuck in mud.

In the car were a dozen shells, six described by Sheriff Blount as tear-gas shells and the remainder as shortgun shells.

With two prisoners and two captors in the stolen car, and the rest of the group in the Sheriff's car, the men rode here in silence.  The only comment from a prisoner which the Sheriff recalled was a remark about being hungry.  The fugitives preferred not to answer questions, Sheriff Blount said.

Sheriff Blount, who has been a peace officer in Lee County seventeen years, described the captures as "mostly talking."  His assistants' firearms included two rifles and three revolvers.  Before becoming Sheriff two years ago, he served as a city policeman in Beattyville thirteen years, and before that was a deputy sheriff two years.

When taken into custody, the fugitives were wearing gray trousers funished by the reformatory.  In addition, they had jackets and sweaters, the source of which the Sheriff was not told.

By telephone, Sheriff Blount notified the reformatory's warden, Elmer Deatherage, that "I'll be up to Frankfort with them tomorrow."
 

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