Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Phantom Killer: Texarkana Moonlight Murders


Fascination is the word that explains the feeling I encountered while researching the Phantom Moonlight Murders in 1946 Texarkana. It didn't take me long into my delving to realize that this is a story about much more than a ghastly series of crimes. It is, all done and said, the story of people — those who died and those who lived to fight back. In all the chaos and turbulence, and withstanding all the error, Texarkana endured.

It is a rough and tumble town, is and always has been; a down-to-earth, work-hard-and-be-happy town. Its made its mistakes and its had its bad times, and unlike many other cities, it doesn't pretend everything has always been roses. Because it prides itself and places its experiences in perspective as a set of learning tools, the Texarkana Gazette produced a wonderful 50-year-retrospective of the Phantom murders in 1996. To the point and credible, it relates the snowballing terror that the Phantom created, the blunders made in pursuing him and the courage faced up by so many who sought his demise.

To the people at the Gazette, I owe so much gratitude for sharing with me this commemorative issue. In particular, I would like to thank Greg Bischof and Judy Robinson of the newspaper who, at the outset, ledme in the right direction.

Staff writers, whose articles provided me with much information, include (in alphabetical order): Greg Bischof, Lyn Blackmon, Melody Brumble, Rodney Burgess, Christy Busby, Robert Davis, John Fooks, Tisha Gilbert, Jim Harris, Carmen Jones, Kevin McPherson, Russell McDermott and Les Minor.

As well, reminiscences by J.Q. Mahaffey, who was executive editor of the Gazette in 1946, and Jerry L. Atkins, who knew Betty Jo Booker personally, helped me to add much human insight into my story.f

Certainly not to be overlooked is Wayne Beck, who has written and designed a very informative website dedicated to the murders entitled, "The Phantom Killer Texarkana". He has been very generous with his information, with his graphics, and with his time, and I highly recommend his site ( to anyone wanting to know more about this period in Texarkana history.


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