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Murder Spree In Comanche County, Texas

As I’ve said before, Comanche, Texas just couldn’t get past being a rough, rough frontier town. This fact was never more clear than it was in the summer of 1880. (I can’t guarantee my spelling of surnames.)

On June 21, 1880, John Hibarger was plowing his field on Resley’s Creek when he was shot and killed by two men. There were several witnesses to the murder, but they were too far away to recognize the men. All they knew was that one of the murderers was a tall man with a heavy beard and the other was a clean-shaven young man. No one knew of a cause for the attack.

The murder was soon reported to Sheriff Cunningham who took a couple of men with him and went to the scene of the crime. Near where Mr. Hibarger was murdered, the sheriff picked up the trail of the murderers, and the chase began. The men trailed the murderers for over 200 miles before giving up the chase.

One day after Hibarger was shot, on the twenty-second of July, a Mr. McKey did not return to his home on Indian Creek after spending the day working the field of a Mr. Smart. Apparently, shortly after he left Smart’s place, gunshots were heard in the direction taken by Mr. McKey; however, no one considered this a threat until later….when Mr. McKey never made it home.

For the next several days, neighbors searched for McKey but when they found no evidence of him, they assumed he had deserted his family and left this part of the country.

A week or so later, a body was seen floating in the Leon River, just a few miles from where McKey disappeared. Upon closer inspection, it was found that the body was that of McKey and he had been violently murdered. In addition to two gun shot wounds, his throat had been cut and at least part of his teeth knocked out.

In a strange twist to the brutal story, Mrs. McKey signed an affidavit, claiming that she was raped a few days prior to her husband’s murder. According to Mrs. McKey, the rape happened while her husband was away from home and she named the two neighbors whom she claimed committed the atrocity.

It was believed that Mr. McKey was killed by the rapists in order to keep him from coming after the neighbors himself.

Within a week, the town of Comanche took up a collection of money for Mrs. McKey who had suffered more than anyone should have to suffer.

In February of 1881, the case was called as the “State vs. Mack and Jas. O’Dell. Murder. Defendants severed, and Jas.O’Dell placed on trial.”—Chief, February 26, 1881

After deliberating for four days, the jury was hopelessly hung. Mack’s case was held over until the next court convened. (It is worth noting that this same court session sentenced Shade Waldon to two years in Huntsville for stealing a side of bacon from Clayte Carnes.)

It was thought that the evidence against Mack O’Dell would not be enough to get a conviction and I have no evidence to the contrary. In fact, I don’t believe it ever came to trial.

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About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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