James Holmes 0000-00-00 00:00:00
State of Texas v. Frank Hardy and the Bonnie and Clyde Murders The afternoon of May 21, 1934, 20-year-old Robert Kelly was manning a small service station in Minden, when a young couple pulled into the station in a late model sedan and asked for 10 gallons of gas. As Kelly recalls it, the man was friendly and courteous. He even offered him a tip. Kelly was not even alarmed by the shotgun and other firearms openly displayed in the backseat. Two days and 125 miles later, officers surprised Kelly’s young customers in Bienville Parish, La., and ended their lives of crime with a hail of bullets. Without knowing it, Robert Kelly had sold Bonnie and Clyde their last tank of gas. Two years earlier, on Christmas Day, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow had ended their first year of crime by stealing the car of Temple resident Doyle Johnson, and then killing him when he tried to stop them. The account of Johnson’s murder is told in the pleadings, minutes, and other filings found in the case of State of Texas v. Frank Hardy and preserved by the Bell County District Court Clerk. According to those records, Johnson was napping after Christmas dinner with his family when Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, and a young accomplice named William Daniel “W.D.” Jones came looking for a car to steal. While Parker waited in their own car, Barrow and Jones broke into Johnson’s 1932 Roadster parked on the street in front of his home. When Mrs. Johnson shouted for them to stop, her husband ran to the car, jumped on the running board, and struggled with Barrow, who shot Johnson and fled the scene in the stolen vehicle. Six months later, Mrs. Johnson picked Barrow and Frank Hardy, another accomplice of Barrow’s, out of a photo lineup and identified them as her husband’s killers. A week later, a Bell County grand jury indicted Hardy for capital murder. District Attorney Henry Taylor, Sr. tried the case that ran from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18 in 1933, urging jurors to send Hardy to the electric chair. According to a pleading contained in the file, Taylor closed his argument by pointing at Hardy and shouting, “Remember this, Frank Hardy. You are a handsome man who the God of nature wrote those striking lines … into your features so unforgettably, that that face is impressed indelibly upon the eyes of those who stood before you when you shot down in cold blood a brother-in-law, a husband, and a father!” For his part, Hardy called a parade of witnesses, all of whom swore that he was in Waco the entire day of the murder. After a full day of deliberation, the jury deadlocked. The minutes reflect that on Nov. 19, 1933, the judge declared a mistrial and sent Hardy back to jail. That December, before the state could rouse itself for a retrial, fortune smiled on Hardy for one of the few times in his life when authorities in Dallas notified Bell County officials that they had arrested Jones, who claimed to have been present when Barrow shot Doyle Johnson. According to Jones, Hardy had nothing to do with the murder. When officials brought Jones to Temple, he took them to the scene of the crime and retraced the route of escape. Within days, the court released Hardy on a $1,000 bond. In one of the final pages of the records preserved, Taylor moves the court to dismiss the case against Hardy conceding that in light of Jones’ confession a second trial would be a “useless expenditure of county and state funds.” Undoubtedly, he also realized that all of the state’s witnesses had positively identified the wrong man. Hardy died of a heart attack in Waco in 1967 at the age of 58. Robert Kelly is still living at age 97 in Henderson. By James Holmes
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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