Murder in the Court: Mystery by Bull CreekTenfold More Wicked
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- 29 Mar 2021
In 1935 William and Lena Pierson are living a wonderful life; he is an associate judge on the Texas Supreme Court, a career politician. She is a beloved homemaker and mother to their three children: Bill, Alice and Howard. One night in April, Howard (their youngest child) rushes into a local hospital with an arm wound—he’s been shot by robbers in rural Austin, by a creek. His parents are dead. The local police are panicked.
Written, researched, and hosted by Kate Winkler Dawson/producers Jason Wehling and Laura Sobel/sound designer Eric Friend/composer Curtis Heath/web designer Ilsa Brink
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This is exactly right. Hi, I'm Cara Klencke, and I'm Lisa Trager, and we are comedians as we used super fans and the hosts of That's Messed Up and Saorview podcast on the Exactly Right Network, every Tuesday will take you through an iconic episode of Law & Order Special Victims Unit and do a deep dove into the true crime it's based on. We also interview actors from the episodes. So far we've talked to Diane Neal, a.k.a. Casey Novak, Margaret Cho, Dan Florek, a.k.a. Captain Cragen, Wyclef Jean and so many more listeners subscribe to That's Messed Up and ASV podcast every Tuesday on Apple podcast Ditcher or Wherever You Pop.
John, John. I'm Melinda Jericho. I'm Daniel Henderson, and we are the hosts of I Saw What You Did, a podcast on the Exactly Right Network about the fun of watching movies. Each Tuesday, we pick a different theme. Then we pick two films that best showcase it. It's like having a friend who still owns a VCR handpick your movies. You'll definitely build your movie knowledge and find new things to watch.
So if you love movies are sick of falling asleep to the same sitcom every night, or just want to stop fighting with your family every time we try to find something new to watch, tune into. I saw what you did and be sure to subscribe on Apple podcast Stitcher or wherever you like to listen. This story contains adult content and language, listener discretion is advised. We're jumping right into this story. One of my most favorite stories, because it's in my home state of Texas, I live in Austin and teach at the University of Texas.
Local author Gary Laverne is going to help me set the scene. It's April 24th, 1935, in Austin, Texas. It's early evening and there's a 21 year old man named Howard Pearson who runs into a hospital in the middle of the night clutching his arm.
It was called the Seaton Infirmary at the time. And he reported to the nurses in the emergency room there that he had been robbed and that his parents had been murdered.
And Howard's also been hurt.
Howard shows up at a hospital with a bullet wound in his arm and they immediately called the police. And that's when the investigation in. And this is so unusual because it happened in a really isolated part of Austin, a wooded area right on the river. There were no streetlights, no one around, just starlight and moonlight. And the police were alarmed.
So immediately people descended upon that area because he did tell them where the bodies were and where this robbery happened.
Even the governor and members of the legislature, they they descended upon that area and separated themselves into groups and were searching.
That's unbelievable. I can't imagine that would actually happen today, but it's because one of the victims was very important.
It was a memorable story. You don't have an associate justice being murdered very often. And the governor showing up at the scene to help direct law enforcement efforts, something like that, made national news. Gary and I both love a good Texas story, especially one like this, with all sorts of twists and turns. And it's an unusual one, a case that involves a murder victim who just happened to be one of the most powerful men in the state.
The story had everything except sex. You had family problems.
You had mental illness, you had violence. You have domestic violence.
You have all of the politics, Texas politics, which has always been way off the rails even in the 1930s or especially in the 1930s.
The politicians might have disagreed while they were debating each other inside the Capitol building, but in these woods they came together because of the mysterious murder of the man and his wife.
Here you have the legislature adjourned so that they could go out in those woods and help look for Judge Pearson. Now, when's the last time you heard of have you ever heard of a story like that?
I'm Kate Winkler Dawson, I'm a true crime historian and author of American Sherlock and Death in the Air. And this is our third season of tenfold more wicked. I call it murder in the court.
In this podcast, we've traveled from Gilded Age, New York to 1820 Scotland, and now we've landed in 1935 in Austin, Texas. And I'm so glad I did because this one really resonated with me. It's more convoluted and more twisted than the stories in our first two seasons.
That's because this time will meet a different kind of killer, a murderer that you might end up feeling sorry for or he might disgust you.
Not all killers are easy to define, and you may not believe that what ultimately happened to him was justice. This is the story of a fractured family and why three of them ended up dead.
Howard Pearson was exhausted that early evening, his left forearm was throbbing, his light colored suit had splashes of blood across it. Nurses checked on him often to tend to his injuries. He was in tremendous pain, but Howard seemed to be only able to focus on one thing.
His parents, they had been married for almost 25 years and now they were dead. They had to be there was no way they could have survived such a brutal attack. He sat quietly processing at all. Howard glanced at the door as detectives introduced themselves. They were slightly panicked because, as I said before, these were not typical homicide victims. The victims were Associate Judge William Pearson and his wife, Leanna.
Will Pearson was one of three judges on the Texas Supreme Court, an incredibly important figure in Texas law.
The 61 year old held one of the most powerful positions in the state, he had sworn in a governor at the time, James, already, and now that same governor was wandering around in the twilight, deep in the woods, searching for his friend.
I wanted to learn more about who Will Pierson was.
So I got in touch with Gary Laverne. He says that the judge was very influential at the start of a progressive movement in Texas in the 1930s. I think Judge Pearson could be best defined as the first full generation of reactionary Democrats in Texas to follow the old generations that were largely Confederate by most accounts for his time. I think he was largely considered a moderate. But remember, for his time, that's a pretty big caveat to add to that.
Remember that the civil war ended in 1865, just 70 years earlier, there was a huge shift in state politics and Judge Pearson, the lifelong Democrat, was definitely in the right city even back then.
You know, Austin had that reputation of being progressive and liberal and very much unlike the rest of Texas.
We'll talk about the judge's career in politics in a bit. We'll Pearson, the man, reflected his public image on the bench in his personal life. He was stoic, fair, a hard worker and a committed family man.
He was a very quiet man, very dignified man. He was very much what a lot of us would think of when we think of the concept of a Southern gentleman. He was the traditional father who had a stay at home wife and mother.
The judge was a Baptist and a mason, along with being a member of several other civic organizations. The Pearsons attended Sunday services regularly at the University Baptist Church, a few blocks from their home near the University of Texas.
William Llena had three children, Bill, Alice and Howard in that order. By 1935, Bill and Alice had left home, both had gone to college and were happily independent. Bill was in Seattle and Alice was in Kansas, but they tried to visit regularly for holidays.
His oldest son, Bill, and his daughter Alice were very, very well read and very, very well educated. The kids made their parents very proud. The judge had high standards, as you would expect. He wanted his children to be high achievers. But the youngest, 21 year old Howard, was still deciding on his path in life. Still weighing his options for now. He was living with his parents on campus, a prime location then and now.
He had a home right off of the Utah campus where the top floor of his house was something of a boarding house for women students. It was very much in demand, you know, because, I mean, what a safer place. Can you put your daughter and trust your daughter than the home of an associate justice of the Supreme Court? We thought we thought at that. We thought at that point, yeah.
Will Pearson had an enviable life. Three kids, a lovely wife, a healthy income and a prestigious job, a job where he excelled. Just a few years earlier, he had defeated several challenging opponents in his reelection bid.
But now it seemed his luck may have run out with the judge and his wife still missing, many feared the worst.
Searchers walked through the woods while the couple lay alone in the dark.
It seemed like the entire city of 60000 people was searching for Will and Lena in the backwoods of Austin. So this would have been completely thrown over from all of this.
That's why I was saying my stepfather, Jack Lefèvre and I are standing on the edge of Bull Creek in North Austin, less than a mile from my home. This is where the judge and his wife were murdered. It now hosts my favorite barbecue restaurant.
If you look at the pictures going to the ladies room and such, they have pictures of what it actually looked like.
I think in 1935, it was very different down here. If you go behind the restaurant, the wilderness right across the creek is where. Yeah, it is. Yeah.
So that was totally wilderness. So the water was still here.
This is Bull Creek. There were males all along Bull Creek because back then it was really wild and there weren't any dams to slow the water down or anything. So they had a good flow of water and so they had males.
Those mills were built by Native Americans and there were still some buildings left in 1935. At the time, the area wasn't just overgrown, it was extremely isolated. There were no real trails. And it was the perfect place for fishing camps filled with rough men hoping to catch some bass and drink some whiskey.
Michael Barnes is a newspaper journalist and local historian. He describes the people who would have lived here during that time.
This area was known for its cedar choppers. So they were our version of hillbillies that lived out there in that rough country and lived off the land. Hunted game, grew little patches of corn. There were moonshiners as well.
Luckily for them, prohibition had just ended two years earlier in 1933. So they were free to drink as much as they wanted and to live in isolation. The police generally left them alone. There were no neighbors, just some nearby ranchers who stayed to themselves.
It was just a wooded area back then with a few farmhouses and no paved roads to speak of except for what is today 20 to 22.
So, you know, they were very primitive camps. You know, they didn't have electricity or anything like that. You know, coal, oil lanterns probably are, you know, not maybe candles, but, you know, people got up early and went to bed early.
So this would have been a dangerous area at night for just about anyone, especially for city dwellers like the Pearsons, the people who lived here. Those cedar choppers were very protective of their territory. Locals began to wonder, might there be dangerous killers on the loose in rural Austin? The disappearance of a Supreme Court judge and his wife was a huge story, one bound to attract an incredible amount of media attention, and police would be forced to launch an investigation amid public scrutiny, a daunting task for investigators who weren't used to so much attention.
Members of the Austin Police Department knew the implications of this missing person case would go far beyond the city limit. They need a backup.
Tales of the Texas Rangers, starring Joel McCrea as Ranger Jake Pierson, another iconic reenactment of a case transcribed from the files of the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers were notorious, almost mythic, I'm a native Texan and I grew up hearing all about them, like the clip from the 1952 radio show The Tales of the Texas Rangers.
Their tales were chronicled on TV shows and programs during much of the 20th century.
They've been framed as heroes on horseback. Experts at tracking criminals and bringing them back to face justice. But sometimes the criminals would be returned dead. And the controversial legacy of the Texas Rangers is still being scrutinized today because of their long history of racially charged violence starting in the 1980s. In fact, there have been calls recently to change the name of the department. But in the 1930s, the Texas Rangers were a resource to small towns that were struggling to keep up with the high crime rate sparked by the Great Depression.
Fred Burton is a counterterrorism expert with a resume about a mile long, but to simplify it, he's an expert on cracking tough cases as both a local detective and a federal agent. Burton says that the Texas Rangers were reliable investigators for police in Austin in the 1930s. They evolved from a frontier regiment that basically was engaged in the Indian wars, you know, throughout the state of Texas and long into Mexico as well. What they started to evolve into is an organization that then can render a little higher level assistance.
But when the Rangers arrived at Bull Creek, they recognized the consequences of a sloppy investigation and they wanted to help. And this was exactly the kind of case they wanted.
There's an extraordinary amount of pressure whenever you have a high profile case, because it's unlike, and I'm sad to say, normal crime where you would perhaps love to get the same kind of oversight and due diligence. But whenever you have a high profile case, it literally empties headquarters building.
The Austin police and the Texas Rangers worked in tandem conducting a grid search, then just a few hours after Howard Pearson had walked into the hospital and reported the attack on his parents. The search for will and llena was suddenly over. Investigators surveyed the crime scene. It was brutal, 57 year old Lena Pearson was a modest housewife, a woman committed to caring for her husband and children. But now she was lying in the dirt, shot in the right temple at close range.
There was a 38 caliber bullet in the right side of her neck and another in her right thigh. It looked as if she had been trying to run away from the robbers. Her glasses were on the ground and she was lying about eight feet in front of where the family car had left its tire track. One of the robbers apparently shot her and then ran her over, which just seemed so cruel if anyone was an innocent victim here. It was Lena Pearson.
Judge Pearson's corpse lay just six feet away from the body of his wife. He had similar wounds. There was a bullet through his right shoulder and his left hand, as if he had been covering the shoulder when he was shot. A self-defense wound. But the kill shot was the one through his right temple at close range. Investigators searched both bodies and in the judge's pocket, they found two unstamped bloody letters. The Rangers canvass the area for evidence and interviewed folks who had been within several miles of the woods.
Anyone who would actually talk with them, there weren't very many people in rural Austin who would offer information to the police.
There were a few houses in the area that heard gunshots. But remember, this is a heavily wooded area and hearing gunshots in an area like that wasn't particularly uncommon. And it's in the middle of the night.
It's not something that arouse suspicion. By now, the local newspapers had alerted Austinite about highwaymen roaming the hills of the city, and Austin wasn't a big city at that time.
Howard Pearson would be the best source of information for investigators. The police knew they had to depend on him for vital details, but they'd have to wait because he was now in the operating room. Dr. Joe Wootten hovered over the patient in the operating room. He was a family friend of the Pearsons, someone who Howard had requested specifically for the surgery. Howard was sedated now so Dr. Wootten could remove the bullet from his forearm. As police waited in the recovery room, they discussed how to interview their main witness.
There were few forensic sources in the 1930s, so investigators depended more on witnesses than physical evidence. They needed Howard's help to find the killers. Dr. Wootten finished the procedure and Howard returned to his bed, woozy but still able to talk. Investigators began slowly asking Howard about his parents. They wanted to know all about the robbers that had attacked them. They were trained to be suspicious, to probe, but they also wanted to be sensitive as they approached the young man who had just lost the two most important people in his life.
Give us as much detail as possible, the police insisted. Howard explained why he and his parents had driven to Battle Creek, one of the things that he and his father did enjoy together was they were kind of into anthropology and archeology and so forth.
Howard told his father and his mother that he had discovered in that wooded area a stone that was probably used by Indians, American Indians as a grist mill stone.
Apparently, his mother, Lina, had lived near a Native American grist mill when she was a child, and she was really fond of it. So she was very excited by Howard's discovery.
His father appeared to be very interested. So they got in Howard's car. They drove from the judge's house. It was the last drive Will and Lena Pearson would ever take. In the hospital, newspaper reporters gathered waiting for details from police. Back then, the Austin American Statesman was the main local newspaper, and it still is.
Local residents considered the statesman to be a reliable news source. The paper wasn't known for the type of outlandish yellow journalism that infested the doorsteps of many Americans in the 1930s. But even the statesman's reporters love the irony of this particular story. A Texas Supreme Court judge and his lovely wife found dead, gunned down in a rural fishing village. The judge had just complained the week before about the increasing number of cases that he had to deal with involving violence and murder.
The increase in state and local crime concerned him. He was worried about Texans because the Great Depression had caused so much unrest between high unemployment and the rise of organized crime. The Pearsons murders were covered in the national newspapers, including The New York Times, one of its many headlines about the case read judge and wife slain by bandits in Texas. Son of a person wounded in highway battle, says two hold up men shot his parents.
Investigators began to expand the list of suspects, there were several possibilities, an influential controversial judge would be a potential target for anyone involved in one of their cases.
But to understand why someone would have killed the persons, the police needed to learn more about the judge's life. They assumed that Lena Pearson was unfortunately collateral damage, just a witness that needed to be eliminated. There seemed to be nothing in her background to suggest that she was the target. And so the Texas Rangers, the Austin Police Department, and just about everyone in the city looked to young Howard Pierson for answers.
But if you think you know where this story is heading, don't get too settled just yet, the judge and his politics and his personal life seemed really clear to me after spending just a few months researching the story. It took some time for me to find out the truth. And it turns out that the lives of Will and Lena Pearson were a bit more complicated and investigators in 1935 were about to find out why. You know, at the beginning of an episode of Law and Order for You, there's that little message that comes on the screen and says the following story is fictional and does not depict an actual person or event.
We don't believe you. Hi, I'm Cara Klank. And I'm Lisa Trager.
And we are comedians as super fans and the hosts of That's Messed Up NSV podcast on the Exactly Right Network. Every Tuesday we chat about a classic episode of SVO and break down the true crime the episode is based on. We also interview an actor from the episode. So far we've talked to Diane Neal, a.k.a. Casey Novak, Margaret Cho, Dan Florek, a.k.a. Captain Cragen and Wyclef Jean and so many more. And this podcast is for S.V. Watchers and non watchers alike.
So whether you're caught up on all four hundred and eighty six episodes or you're just a true crime fan with no idea who Olivia Benson is, you're going to love it. Listen and subscribe to That's Messed Up NSV podcast every Tuesday on Apple podcast Stitcher or wherever you pod. And don't forget to follow the show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Dun dun. Ideally to Jericho, I'm Daniel Henderson, and we are the hosts of I Saw What You Did, a new podcast on the Exactly Right Network about the fun of watching movies.
Each Tuesday, we pick a different theme, like the L.A. rebellion. Is it good or was I horny? I wish you were never born. Prank phone calls and the brothers Wayans a critical assessment of esthetic. Then we pick two films that best showcase it. It's like having your friend who still owns a VCR, handpick movies. He'll definitely build your movie knowledge and fill your streaming cues.
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I've been trying to get in touch with you and you've made it extremely difficult. I've texted. I've emailed, I've driven by your house multiple times. Your yard looks beautiful. I've been wanting to tell you about my podcast. It's called I Said No Gifts. And it has one rule, no gifts. Unfortunately, every one of my guests disobeys me, meaning we end up having to discuss the gift they brought. I've received gifts from all kinds of people, people like Emma Thompson Zuway, Aimee Mann, Chris Fleming, Casey Wilson, Sasheer Zamata, Joel Combustor and more.
The list truly goes on and on. Now, I'm not going to tell you any of them brought me. I said I would tell you some of my guests. And in exchange, you swore that you would listen to the podcast. I've upheld my end of the bargain. Now I trust you to do your part. Please don't let me down. I'm not in the mood. Subscribe to I said no gifts now on Stitcher, Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you like to listen.
That's none of my business and make sure to follow. I said no gifts on Instagram and Twitter. I love you very much. Back in 1935, the Texas Supreme Court and its judges were particularly revered, David Sheppard is a retired defense attorney, a law school instructor and a longtime Austin resident. He says Supreme Court judges belonged in their own class within legal circles, within the legal community.
And again, I think within the community as a whole, to be a Supreme Court justice is kind of a very special deal. It's almost it's not above politics, obviously, since our elected, but it's kind of viewed that way by the public. If you're on the Supreme Court, you're just kind of a paragon of virtue and wisdom.
Will Pearson have been a successful attorney, a state congressman and a district judge? Pearson made several key decisions in some cases involving Texas breweries, and those decisions had impressed state leaders. In 1921, the governor of Texas appointed him to the state Supreme Court. It was a huge accomplishment for the quiet, humble 50 year old who was raised in a rural north Texas town.
But in 1932, Pearson had to fight for his seat on the court during a reelection campaign, and it wouldn't be easy because he was facing several strong competitors.
The judge was incredibly worried.
So Pearson leaned on his children for support. In fact, he asked Bill to temporarily move back from Seattle to help him with his campaign, his eldest child was so smart and so capable.
In 1932, the judge wrote this to Bill Wellstone. The general election will be here soon and we will forget the strenuous campaign. However, it will leave some very, very pleasant memories. Among them will be your generous and valuable efforts and also Howard's and my association with you and Howard. And he seemed to depend on Howard to Gary Laverne's says that the judge was grateful for his close knit family, including his wife.
People didn't talk about her as much as they did the judge, but when they did, she was considered basically a good, warm, loving wife and mother, assumed she was a Christian woman.
I mean, anyone in politics back then, that would have been a must. Great person is an attorney in Arlington, Texas, not far from Dallas. He had heard this story when he was a boy, of course, for Gray. This isn't just a tragic story. It's family history, stories that have been passed down for generations.
Gray's father was Howard's cousin. So what do you know?
What does anybody know about? I regret that. I don't know anything about Leanna. Isn't that sad?
I can't explain it, just that I've never been told anything about LeAnn.
I just discovered a bit more about her. Leanna Pierson was a college graduate from the University of Texas. She was also a gifted painter. And she passed that love of creativity down to her daughter, Alice Will. Pierson had actually moved his family to Europe for about a year in 1927. The judge insisted on the trip because Lena wanted to immerse herself in the city's artwork in museums. It was an incredible adventure for the family of five.
Bill was a bit older and more independent, so he was able to travel on his own.
The family had watched American pilot Charles Lindbergh land in Paris.
It was an international event because he successfully completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight, and the Pearsons had even enrolled 12 year old Howard in a French school for the year.
An incredible opportunity for a young American. But now, in 1935, both parents missed their two eldest children very much, and the judge in particular was open with Bill in their exchange of letters.
I thought this was pretty unusual for a stoic judge in the 1930s. Person wrote, Bill, I think of you not only twice a day regularly, but every time I do certain things I think of you.
I often think of you in connection with a car. And every week when I changed my cuff buttons to another shirt, I always think of my big boy. We get good letters from our dear daughter.
We should like very well to see her with much. Love your father. And there were holiday letters that were equally as loving, we missed you very much during the holidays, we often remarked that if we had you and Alice and her little bunch, we would be perfectly happy. We hope it will not be too long off.
Christmas, of course, was quiet with us, but we had a very pleasant time.
This is the first time Grace actually read this set of letters.
It comes across as a pretty caring, nice man, which I believe that he was.
I'm curious, what did you hear about Howard growing up?
He was very smart, very logical, but missed common sense and normal social cues. Awkward is a word that comes up a lot during discussions about Howard, and that likely cause some stress for a very public couple like the Pearsons. They were a family that was constantly invited to social events in Austin. They were high profile and really respected. Gary Laverne's says that everyone seemed to say the same thing.
Howard just wasn't right. Howard was not right. And that was the parlance of the time. And today we're a lot more sensitive and about things like that. But that's how he was described.
You told me the story about the kindness and the patience of the judge when Howard was little. Can you tell me that now?
When Howard was a young boy, his father was rising in the judicial family. And when he was sworn in, it was, of course, a big celebration, something like an inauguration.
This was in 1921. So Howard was six years old and Howard was a little boy.
And his dad, the judge, tried to lift him so that Howard could see better the festivities that were going on.
And Howard's reaction was one of almost violence. He didn't want to be lifted. He didn't want to be touched. It was enough of a scene to attract attention. The judge, his reaction apparently wasn't all that surprised. I mean, apparently, Howard was like that.
So while it shocked a lot of people who didn't know the family and who didn't know Howard, it didn't shock his immediate family. So the judge seemed very patient with their youngest child, but as Howard grew older, the Pearsons grew more frustrated and the judge wrote to Bill about one of the major issues involving Howard and his enrollment at the University of Texas here in Austin. Howard seems to be getting along all right in the university, though his grades are not up to what he expected.
He says that there is more difference between the freshman and sophomore work than there was between the high school and freshman work. Of course, he is working hard and we're getting along all right. And he hopes to raise his grades. But Howard didn't seem to be improving his grades at all. No matter how much the judge and Lina encouraged him, it didn't seem to make a difference.
He had academic problems. Something went wrong, whether it's grades or his just not his being undependable.
And the judge began to think that perhaps Howard needed a change, a big change.
It was something that they felt they couldn't control. To the extent that an investment in Howard's education was not a good investment internally, Judge Pearson was struggling. He was having severe health complications. He suffered from intestinal issues that prevented him from listening to cases and issuing opinions for weeks at a time, even months at a time. And that's a problem for a state Supreme Court judge hoping to hold on to his seat.
He would occasionally recover like he told Bill a year before his murder. Life is more tolerable to me now. I am getting to where I can really enjoy some things again. But his recovery would never last. And he was having money issues in part because his reelection fell right in the middle of the Great Depression. Walter Bunger is a professor of Texas history at Rice University. He says the depression caused a chain reaction for everyone in the state. The big difference on the economy between then and now was the overwhelming dominance of the cotton industry.
We think of Texas as a place of oil and cattle, but the reality of Texas in the 20s and 30s was that it was one of the major cotton producers in the entire world and the price of cotton collapsed.
There were now more soup kitchens and bread lines, and in cities like Houston and Dallas, shantytowns full of homemade shacks called Hoovervilles had popped up.
They were built by Texans who had lost their homes.
Farms were hit hard to even if they didn't grow cotton, and many of them were already drowning in debt to begin with. The state encouraged Texans to grow their own food. You can imagine why Judge Pearson had been struggling to raise money. Great. Pearson says he was clearly funding his own campaign. And that's tough.
Well, of course, it was the Depression. And if he'd run for office statewide, typically people who run for office where they intend to or not end up spending their own part of their own money to get elected. Those elections are expensive. And Will Pearson had more challenges to face. Reelection campaigns were tough enough, but now the judge had to defend his record to a host of competitors. He was widely respected by his colleagues on the court, but in the newspapers he was often lampooned for being ineffective on the bench.
An editorial in the influential El Paso Times called for voters to reject Pierson, even though he was a man with high character, it read. Cases have hung fire in the Supreme Court of Texas from three to six years. Cases of pressing importance. The court is clogged with litigation. Judge Pearson, owing to ill health, has been physically unable to help remedy this distressing situation. The editors discovered that Judge Pearson had written only 11 opinions in the past three years while he was on the court.
By contrast, the other two Supreme Court judges had issued almost triple that amount. The newspaper's editors concluded. This is no fault of Judge Pearsons. He is simply a sick man unable to carry the load of his office. This news obviously distressed the judge. Pearson was a career politician with more than 40 years of experience. Defense attorney David Sheppard says it's difficult for judges to balance an endless amount of cases as well as work to be reelected. And sometimes their morals are compromised.
These guys and these women, these are these judges are politicians. They have to get reelected. They quite clearly will alter their opinions, in my opinion, to to kind of make sure they get reelected. There's no evidence that the judge was illegally influenced, but he did try to sway some of his peers to help someone in his family.
But more on that later. None of that mattered. Now, Will and Lena Pearson were dead. Investigators needed answers. It was time to press young Howard about what exactly happened the night before Howard describe for police how two robbers had climbed out of the brush and stopped their dark sedan along the path.
The men pointed a pair of pistols at them and ordered them out of the car. The Pearsons all stepped out. Hands up. The strangers searched them. They took Will and Howard's wallets. They also grabbed Lena's handbag and the judge's expensive watch. Howard was scared. His father mouthed off to the bigger of the two robbers. He saw the judge struggling with one of them.
He was so physically weak that Howard knew it wouldn't end well.
And then he heard the pistol go off several times, Howard jumped on the smaller robber, hoping to save his parents. The man was too strong.
Howard grabbed his own firearm. It began to throb. Howard panicked and ran. But then the robbers yelled and ran off into the wilderness. Howard turned and looked at his parents, both lying on the ground, bleeding from their heads. He thought about dragging them inside the car and driving them to the hospital. But his wound made it impossible to lift them.
Howard left his parents behind and went straight to Seton Infirmary. The sheriff asked Howard if he could make a return trip to Battle Creek. They needed his help and Howard agreed to give it.
With his forearm in a sling, he slid out of the car, he walked along the trail until he stood near where the bodies of his parents had fallen that night, he wondered aloud if one of the robbers had a grievance against the church.
The sheriff reminded Howard that he himself had said that the trip was a spur of the moment thing. How exactly would the robbers know where the judge would be?
They drove him to the morgue where his parents were. Their bodies were still covered in blood. Howard stroked his mother's wet, matted hair and her forehead. The sheriff asked Howard to look over at his father, but Howard refused, he stammered, It's just too awful. Now, the police needed a description of the robbers, but that could be difficult because Howard was traumatized. It was dusk and it all happened so quickly.
But Gary Laverne's says that Howard was prepared with a lengthy answer when they started talking to Howard about the details of what he saw. There were a lot of things that were just immediately suspicious. No one was that Howard gave an extraordinarily detailed description of the two people he claimed killed his parents down to the eye colors and the hair color. And one was curly hair and the other one was straight. Yeah, but isn't that the perfect witness? Don't you want details?
If your parents are being murdered like that, are you going to take the time to study, you know, who's doing it while the while the bullets are flying? I think their reaction was he's making this up.
Something clearly didn't add up. That revelation probably won't surprise you, but remember that I mentioned that there will be several twists and turns over the next five episodes. Get ready. This is a season that digs into the why such a heinous crime was committed.
And I'm fairly certain that the reason isn't what you think.
This season on tenfold more wicked, what it sounds like is a failed suicide attempt, that just doesn't sound like something that would happen is an accident. The money could have been sort of the catalyst, the trigger, and yet you had all this deep seated animosity, but man, you sure don't get any indication of that animosity.
The question is, at what point is delusion profound enough for you to be forgiven for murder?
If you love historical true crime, please check out my books, American Sherlock and Death in the Air. They're available anywhere you buy books.
This has been an exactly right and ten fold more media production producers Jason Whaling and Laura Sobell, sound designer. Eric Friend, composer. Curtis Heath artwork. Nick Todger, executive producers Georgia Howard Stark, Karen Kilgariff and Danielle Cramer. Clips in this episode are from the radio series Tales of the Texas Rangers from the episode titled Three Victims. Letters in this episode come from William Pearson's collection at the Texas Supreme Court archives. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at tenfold more wicked and on Twitter at tenfold more.
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