By Chris Bunton
Leslie “Mad Dog” Irvin terrified the Evansville, Indiana, and Henderson, Kentucky communities in the 1950’s.
It all began on December 2, 1954 when the body of Mary Holland was found at the Bellemeade Liquor Store stuffed behind a toilet. She was the owner, and she had been killed execution style. Three dimes were found at the scene.
The next victim, Wesley Kerr; was found on December 23, 1954 in the bathroom of a Standard Oil Station, on the corner of U.S. 41 and East Franklin Street. He was killed in the same manner, and again three dimes were found, placed near the body.
I had traveled to Evansville to research this killer, and found that most of the sites were no longer in existence; or had changed so much as to be unverifiable. The following picture is a photograph of the corner of U.S. 41 and Franklin. The area looks different than it would have looked back in the day. Franklin is now a dead end street, cut off by a built up U.S. 41. But it’s possible that the road connected to the U.S. Highway and that the building in the picture was the Standard Oil Station.
The third victim was Wilhelmina Sailer, a house wife living in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. She was killed in her kitchen, in the same manner. It was March 21, 1955.
The final victims were killed on March 28, 1955. Goebel Duncan, Raymond Duncan, and Maple Elizabeth Duncan, were all shot on the Duncan farm in Henderson, Kentucky. They were all killed in the same manner as the previous victims. Goebel, and Raymond were found along a country road nearby.
Mamie Duncan, Goebel’s wife was also shot but survived. She was made permanently blind by the attack. Elizabeth, the 2 year old daughter of Maple Duncan was unharmed.
The killer, Leslie Irvin was born on April 2, 1924; in Evansville, Indiana. He seemed to live there his whole life, and was well liked by the community; despite the fact that he had a criminal record, even having gone AWOL from the Army. It was a shock to them when the killer that was terrifying the area turned out to be Leslie.
He was captured when a group of boys spotted his vehicle at the Duncan murder site, and turned it in to the police. The car matched a car seen at previous murder scenes.
His trial became a media circus with the newspapers were there every day. One of the writers labeled Irvin as a mad dog, when he saw the accused being led in to court by a dog chain around his neck.
In the midst of this circus, Irvin escaped from the Gibson County jail by making a set of fake keys. He was re-captured in San Francisco, after a couple of weeks while trying to pawn stolen items.
During his trial, there was great concern whether he would receive a fair trial, because of all the media attention. His defense attorneys tried to get the venue changed and succeeded the first time, but failed in further attempts.
He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
His attorneys appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, because the state of Indiana had a law that a change of venue could only happen once. The argument was that a person’s fair trial should not be dictated by a state law preventing one. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction. This set precedence for future criminal trials, in regards to media coverage and prejudice toward defendants.
Irvin was re-tried and found guilty on June 13, 1962, and sentenced to life in prison.
He died in prison on Nov. 9, 1983, of lung cancer.
Further Reading and Sources:
(The Yard: Crime Blog requests that if you are a Writer, Podcaster or Blogger, that you would give us credit for the the work we have done, and the information you have gotten from us. Here’s is a link to help with that. You can copy and paste the phrase and link into your blog post or just announce it to your listeners or viewers. Thank you.)
“We would like to give a Special thanks to The Yard: Crime Blog.”
Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer, Poet, and Blogger from Southern Illinois.