TX TX - Virginia Carpenter, 21, Denton, 1948

Discussion in 'Pre-1960's Missing' started by reportertype, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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    I couldn't find much via Google but did locate the story linked below; though I remember the Denton newspaper covering the search for remains and a larger overview piece -- online archives only go back a year, unfortunately.

    Here's a summary of the case, which I've always found fascinating because I attended the same school.

    Virginia was 21 and returning to Texas Woman's University -- back then called Texas State College for Women -- when she disappeared June 1, 1948. (for summer school) She arrived by train in Denton and reportedly took a taxi to the school's campus. There, according to what the taxi driver told police, she got into a yellow convertible with two men. She has not been seen since.

    The story can be found here and it includes photo.

    http://www.lmtonline.com/news/archive/070898/pagea4.pdf

    Nothing ever came of the search. If I remember correctly, the taxi driver was ruled out and investigators believed his story. I think he also said she appeared to know the men.
     
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  3. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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  4. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    I am a sucker for really cold cases, such as Ruth Baumgardner, a college student in Ohio who vanished in 1937, so this thread really caught my attention.

    I suppose Virginia knew the two men in the convertible, because it would seem unlikely she'd get into a car with two unknown men. A yellow convertible sounds like a pretty recognizable vehicle, so it shouldn't have been that hard to track down.

    I'll do a search on NewspaperArchives.com and see if I can find any more info about this.

    I recently moved to Pittsburgh from Dallas, and have friends in Denton. I'll see if any of them would be willing to go to the library and look at the microfilmed newspaper archives for information about Virginia's disappearance.
     
  5. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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    Marilyn,

    That would be cool. I know the Record-Chronicle and Morning News each had a series of articles in 1998 when investigators began digging at the dam.

    I know Denton's cops reporter, Donna Fielder, did a rather lengthy overview piece on Virginia and that would be good to have. I can't remember the exact date it ran, but it seems like it ran after the disppearance of another woman, Kelli Cox, who vanished in the summer of 97 in broad daylight by the police department. So it could have been 97 or 98.

    I used to work there, so I'll send out an e-mail and see if I can get a copy of the overview piece.
     
  6. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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    This is a longer story about Virginia with more info. I cut the references to the other missing girl. Anyway, I contacted the newspaper directly to get a copy of the story and it was OK'd. There's no place to link it to, as it's in their old archives.

    It's very interesting; I'd forgotten the bit about Texarkana's Phantom and Lash Larue.

    Published in the Denton Record-Chronicle, Aug. 3, 1997:

    By Donna Fielder
    Staff Writer
    Virginia Carpenter vanished in Denton on June 1, 1948.
    ``When I read about this case, I immediately thought of Virginia,'' said retired Texas Ranger Lewis Rigler, who worked the case on and off most of his career. ``It never has left my mind, though I have been retired for 30 years.''
    Miss Carpenter, 21, was all dressed up for a train ride in a striped chambray dress, a white hat and and red platform shoes and bag when she left Texarkana. She got off the train six hours later in Denton and took a taxi to the campus of what is now Texas Woman's University. She stepped out of the cab in front of Brackenridge Hall at the Texas State College for Women a little after 9 p.m. that Tuesday almost half a century ago. Miss Carpenter was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. She had long brown hair. Miss Carpenter's eyes were brown.
    She gave the cab driver the ticket for her trunk and a dollar to fetch it the next day from the train station. She walked over to talk to two young men she appeared to know. ``Well, hi. What are you doing here?'' she asked them. The cab driver drove away.
    And Virginia Carpenter melted into history … never heard from again.
    ``The campus was chaotic,'' said Betty Igo Duncan, former Denton County home demonstration agent. As Miss Igo, she arrived at school that same day from her home in Hooks, about 12 miles from Miss Carpenter's home in Texarkana.
    Their mothers knew each other.
    ``When we found out she was missing, we were scared for ourselves and scared of what may have happened to her,'' Mrs. Duncan remembers. ``They were building Hubbard Hall and it was a big hole in the ground, and they poured concrete the next day. Some said her body was under the concrete.''
    It was three days before she was discovered missing. Miss Carpenter's boyfriend called her mother, saying he couldn't find her. She was supposed to enroll as a junior. She never did. She was supposed to live in Room 200 of Brackenridge Hall on the old Dormitory Row. The spot now is occupied by the Student Union at TWU.
    The cab driver delivered her trunk the next morning. It sat on the porch
    for days.
    In 1948, police questioned Miss Carpenter's boyfriend for 12 hours the first time around and interviewed him more than a dozen times after that. He also passed a polygraph test.
    Mr. Rigler searched the cab driver, looking for scratches or bruises. The Texas Ranger grilled the cabby, Jack Zachary, numerous times. He was 45, with little education and a reputation for physical abuse.
    According to yellowing reports in the still-open Denton police files, Mr. Zachary was a ``bootlegger, part-time mechanic and automobile trader'' who beat his wife and kids.
    ``The boyfriend was a wonderful suspect,'' Mr. Rigler said in a telephone interview Friday. ``But not nearly as wonderful as the cab driver. I took him up to Austin for a polygraph. I don't put much stock in them. But the operator gave him seven tests, and he believed Zachary was telling the truth.
    ``I sort of liked the old boy,'' the Ranger said. ``He always cooperated with me.''
    The cab driver ``whipped'' a private investigator whom Mr. Rigler said was harassing him hoping to collect a reward that rose to $2,000. The Texas Ranger testified for the cabby in his assault trial, and he was acquitted.
    Nevertheless, in August 1951, three years after the girl's disappearance, officers dug up the cab driver's back yard. They found the bones of a dog but nothing to tie him to the girl's disappearance.
    And in 1957, his wife, who was married to someone else by then, told Midland police she had lied when she said he was home that night by 10. Actually, according to the police files, she said he had come in at 2 or 3 a.m. the next morning.
    And each year on June 1, when the Denton Record-Chronicle rehashed the unsolved case, Mr. Zachary traveled from Midland to Denton and bought a paper, his wife told the officers.
    He became nervous, uneasy, and she believed he had something to do with the girl's disappearance. He was never charged.
    Lash Larue, a Grade B western star of the '40s and '50s, became a prime suspect for a time. On June 26, 1948, a tip came from Jackson, Miss. A clerk in the Heidelburg Hotel there said he had seen a man who was working in a theater register June 6 with Miss Carpenter. The man was back, the clerk reported.
    Denton officers rushed by train to Jackson. They showed the clerk her photo. Yes, that was the woman, he confirmed. So the officers went up to the room, pounded on the door and announced that the occupant was under arrest.
    Mr. Larue ``threw a fit,'' according to their report when they returned. He swore that it was his wife who had been with him. The wife confirmed it, and her mother confirmed her confirmation. The officers returned to Denton with the case still unsolved.
    The coeds at TSCW were terrified that summer and fall. They kept looking for a yellow convertible that police first thought was involved in the disappearance. Later, the convertible was eliminated from the investigation.
    ``When we would swim in Lake Dallas, we would wonder if her body was in there, too. Some thought she had been sold into white slavery, though we weren't exactly sure what that was,'' Mrs. Duncan said.
    In his report a year after the disappearance to Ranger Capt. M.T. ``Lone Wolf'' Gonzaullas, Mr. Rigler said it was possible she was alive and simply didn't want to be found. She was a little fickle, he reported, and had lots of boyfriends but didn't go too far with petting.
    Another theory could never be proven. The year before her disappearance, five Texarkana teens were murdered by a person who has never been identified. The press dubbed him the ``Phantom Killer.'' Miss Carpenter and her family were friends with three of the five victims.
    Did she know something someone didn't want revealed? Did the Phantom Killer follow her to Denton? Those cases, like hers, were never solved.
    When TWU dug up the campus in the '60s, rumors surfaced that it was a search for Miss Carpenter's body.
    ``They were just putting in drainage,'' the Ranger recalls with a laugh.
    Two Denton police detectives reopened the case in 1970. They weren't talking, but former Officer J.N. Pruett told the Wise County Messenger newspaper that they had a suspect they would arrest if they could just find the body.
    The fat, old file contains nothing of that investigation. Not supplements. Not reports. The only thing in the file from that era is the crackly newspaper with its front page story and the
    report of a polygraph examiner who said the boyfriend told the truth.
    Rumors surfaced at that time that the officers suspected a prominent Denton man who had been a college student when she disappeared. They remain unsubstantiated.
    ``There's nothing in the file to indicate that,'' said Denton Police Capt. Paul Abbott. ``This file is still open, but it's not active. No one actually is assigned to it, but we haven't closed
    it, either.''
    Mr. Rigler empathizes with the detectives who are working the frustrating case with almost no clues to follow.
    ``You start out, and you get good press, and there are a lot of leads from it. One day, for good reason, the press has got to stop. The leads dry up. At first, the family is real helpful. Then, they get frustrated and there's nobody to take it out on but the police. They finally said we weren't doing enough.
    ``I always hoped someday she'd call and say `Mr. Rigler, this is Virginia Carpenter. I just wanted you to know I'm all right,'' the 83-year-old Ranger said.
    ``By God, I'd like that to happen before I die.''
     
  7. docwho3

    docwho3 New Member

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    Very interesting.
     
  8. docwho3

    docwho3 New Member

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  9. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    I found some articles from Dallas in '57 that have things a little different in regard to the cab driver, Edgar Zachary. In July of '57, 49 year-old Zachary was arrested and charged with the attempted rape of of a Grand Prairie woman. She reported that he had bound her hands and feet and then hit her in the head with a pistol. The article stated he was being held on the assault charges and was being interviewed again about Virginia. He was given a polygraph, which according to the tester showed inconsistencies and variations in his reactions.

    The attack on the woman bears similarities to the the "informant"s story from 1998 in the first post about what happened to Virginia.
     
  10. docwho3

    docwho3 New Member

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    Good catch.

     
  11. LButler

    LButler New Member

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    I'm a little confused, maybe someone can help me out. the cabby lived in Midland (got that from the quote of his wife saying that he traveled from Midland to Denton each year on the anniversary to get a newspaper...). Virginia was from Texarkana. Midland is to the west of Denton and Texarkana is to the east of Denton. Where was this cabby working from? Was there a move in there somewhere?
     
  12. Marilynilpa

    Marilynilpa New Member

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    My guess is that he moved to Midland from Denton at some point. It would be interesting to find out where he lived and when he lived there. In 1951, the police dug up his back yard to see if Virginia was buried there. I'm assuming this was in/near Denton. In 1957, he was charged with raping a Grand Prairie woman. I don't know if this happened in Grand Prairie (which is between Dallas and Fort Worth), or if it happened elsewhere. Also, in 1957 his former wife told Midland police she'd lied about when he got home on the night Virginia vanished. So by 1957, it appears they were living in Midland.
     
  13. LButler

    LButler New Member

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    Wonder if they've ever considered that this cabby could be the Phantom Killer as well. Sounds like he everywhere (not just living, but driving around the state). I wonder about his height and voice (is it deep like the Phantom?). He sounds creepy enough and bad enough to be capable of about anything.
     
  14. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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    Was Jack just his nickname then? I didn't know his real name was Edgar.
     
  15. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    The articles list his full name as Edgar Ray Zachary (no mention of the nickname "Jack"). It is definitely the same guy, as the articles detail he is the taxi driver who picked Virginia up (he is the last person to ever see her).
    I have a feeling she never made it more than five miles from the station....
     
  16. Richard

    Richard Active Member

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    There are two listings for Edgar Zachary in the Social Security Death Index. Note that both have the same date of birth and date of death, but that there are two different Social Security Numbers and two different "last place of residence" listed.

    Key:
    Name Date of Birth Death Last Residence
    Last Benefit SSN State of Issue

    EDGAR ZACHARY 23 Feb 1908 Apr 1984 75074 (Plano, Collin, TX)
    (none specified) 453-10-9665 Texas

    EDGAR ZACHARY 23 Feb 1908 Apr 1984 75833 (Centerville, Leon, TX)
    (none specified) 456-22-8812 Texas
     
  17. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    The age is correct for the Zachary in question, as he was 49 in mid-'57.
     
  18. Richard

    Richard Active Member

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    60 years ago...

    The last post to this thread was over two years ago. I thought that I would bump it up as this year marks the 60th anniversary of Virginia Carpenter's disappearance. Perhaps there will be some news articles about it.


    -------------------
    Virginia Carpenter
    Missing since June 1, 1948 from Denton, Denton County, Texas
    Classification: Endangered Missing

    Vital Statistics

    Date Of Birth: about 1927
    Age at Time of Disappearance: 21 years old
    Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'3"; 120 lbs.
    Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Long brown hair; brown eyes.
    Clothing: She was wearing a striped chambray dress, a white hat and red platform shoes and bag.

    Circumstances of Disappearance


    Carpenter was last seen in Denton, Texas on June 1, 1948.

    She left her home in Texarkana, Texas and took a train to Denton. She got off the train in Denton and took a taxi to the campus of what is now Texas Woman's University. She stepped out of the cab in front of Brackenridge Hall at the Texas State College for Women a little after 9 p.m. She gave the cab driver the ticket for her trunk and a dollar to fetch it the next day from the train station. She walked over to talk to two young men she appeared to know. ``Well, hi. What are you doing here?'' she asked them. The cab driver drove away.

    The cab driver delivered her trunk the next morning. It sat on the porch for days. In 1948, police questioned Miss Carpenter's boyfriend for 12 hours the first time around and interviewed him more than a dozen times after that. He also passed a polygraph test. Police searched the cab driver, looking for scratches or bruises. They grilled the cabby numerous times. He was 45, with little education and a reputation for physical abuse. According to reports in the still-open Denton police files, the cabby was a ``bootlegger, part-time mechanic and automobile trader'' who beat his wife and kids.

    And in 1957, his wife, who was married to someone else by then, told Midland police she had lied when she said he was home that night by 10. Actually, according to the police files, she said he had come in at 2 or 3 a.m. the next morning. And each year on June 1, when the Denton Record-Chronicle rehashed the unsolved case, he traveled from Midland to Denton and bought a paper, his wife told the officers. He became nervous, uneasy, and she believed he had something to do with the girl's disappearance. He was never charged.

    The year before her disappearance, five Texarkana teens were murdered by a person who has never been identified. The press dubbed him the ``Phantom Killer.'' Miss Carpenter and her family were friends with three of the five victims.

    In May of 1998, police were given a tip by a man in his 70s who claimed to know who killed Ms. Carpenter and where she was buried. Police said the informant was close to some of the people who were allegedly involved in Ms. Carpenter’s disappearance. The sheriff said the two suspects in the murder are now dead.

    Investigators
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

    Denton County Sheriff's Office
    940-349-1600

    Source Information:

    Laredo Morning Times
    Denton Record-Chronicle - 8/3/97
    The Doe Network: Case File 1880DFTX

    LINK:

    http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1880dftx.html
     
  19. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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  20. reportertype

    reportertype Dogs are awesome!

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    Just bumping.

    Did a quick search but didn't see any newer info on Virginia. This is one I can't forget.
     
  21. mrsfauller

    mrsfauller New Member

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