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Crime Mystery – The Phantom Killer

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The twin cities of Texarkana, Texas, and Texarkana, Arkansas, have only had one reported case of serial murder, and it was a case that gripped the region in fear for several months in 1946.

The attacks came at night on the weekends, roughly every few weekends for that period; in total, five people were killed and three more injured. The case so captured the public imagination that thirty years later, it inspired the horror film The Town That Dreaded Sundown.Only the first victims, Mary Jeanne Larey and Jimmy Hollis, were able to give a description of their attacker—and it was more terrifying than it was helpful.

They described a six-foot-tall man with a plain white sack over his head, which had holes cut out for the eyes and mouth. It isn’t known whether or not the killer wore this mask during the other attacks; the only other survivor didn’t get a look. The killer used a .32 caliber pistol, nearly always killed three weeks apart, and always carried out his murders in the dead of night.

After one of the murders, Sheriff William Presley exclaimed to the press, “This killer is the luckiest person I have ever known. No one sees him, hears him in time, or can identify him in any way.” This led the press to dub him the Phantom Killer, and the killings themselves have become known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders. One suspect, Youell Swinney, was imprisoned as a repeat car theft offender in 1947 and released in 1973; he was never charged with the crimes. Though some in law enforcement and the press have speculated that the murders may have been the early work of the Zodiac Killer, this has never been proven in any way.

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