The Saga of the Outlaws Glen Hunsucker & Ed “Perchmouth” Stanton

In a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, circa September or October 1933, Howard was discussing the tenacity of Texas Rangers tracking down outlaws and murderers when he touched on the subject of a couple of bad actors who killed several Texas peace officers.

When Glen Hunsucker, nineteen year old bandit, and ten times as desperate as “Machine Gun” Kelly ever thought of being, was shot down in a fight in Lincoln County, New Mexico, (Billy the Kid’s old stamping ground) not many weeks ago, in which fight a New Mexican officer was also killed, the papers mentioned that he was a Texan. Which was true; what most papers did not mention was the fact that the Lincoln County officers who killed him and captured his companion, Perch-mouth Stanton, were also Texans. Reynolds, who tore Hunsucker’s guts out with a charge of buckshot, was from this very county — Callahan. And McCamant, who aided Reynolds in capturing Stanton, was from an adjoining county.

The saga of Ed “Perchmouth” Stanton and Glen Hunsucker began in the early hours of Howard’s 27th birthday, January 22, 1933, when gunshots rang out in the small Texas Panhandle town of Tulia. When the smoke cleared, Swisher County Sheriff John C. Moseley lay mortally wounded. Sheriff Moseley, who was widely known and highly respected throughout the county, had served two terms as sheriff and had just been re-elected for a third term over a field of four opponents. He lived in the Kress community for a number of years where he farmed and he was also in the contracting business in Tulia.

Events had begun the day before twelve miles north of Tulia in the town of Happy. Three individuals, two men and a woman, aroused the suspicions of Bob Gazzaway, owner of a tourist camp where the trio was staying, by demanding their car be “locked up” while they were there.

Shortly before midnight Swisher County Deputy Sheriff F.O. Goen saw them “prowling” in the vicinity of a filling station. When the suspicious trio saw the deputy they sped south in the direction of Tulia, Deputy Goen telephoned Sheriff Moseley to warn him they were heading his way.

Sheriff Moseley dressed hastily and left his home without telling his wife, who had been awakened by the telephone, the details of the call. Moseley had decided to detain the car’s occupants for questioning. Within a few minutes she heard two cars come racing down the street with Moseley blowing his siren. Running to the window, she saw the cars speed past, her husband hot on the tail of the fleeing vehicle and firing three times, apparently at the tires.

Three blocks away Sheriff Moseley sped past the escaping automobile on a sharp curve and cut in front of the trio as their car pulled into the filling station at the turn of the road. The Sheriff had the drop on the cornered trio and ordered the bandits to turn their car around and drive back to the jail three blocks up the main street. Moseley, in attempting to turn his own car around while keeping the trio covered, let his rear wheels drop off into a ditch at the roadside.

It is believed the jolt caused him to lose his drop on the bandits and gave them the opportunity to open fire. Somehow Sheriff Moseley lost his grip on his pistol and it dropped to the floorboard when the car slipped into the ditch. That was the turning point and a one sided battle from then on until one of the bandits shot the sheriff through the head. Two of the suspects, after firing a number of times from their car, got out after seeing Moseley was empty-handed and walked up to the car, shooting through the front window. The fatal bullet passed through Moseley’s hand, the officer apparently raising up it up to protect his face as the murderer advanced and aimed through the glass. The outlaw Stanton was the trigger-man.

Meanwhile back at the Moseley home, while she could not see all that was transpiring down the street, Mrs. Moseley did hear the gunshots that resulted in her husband’s death.

After killing the sheriff, the shooters entered the filling station on a nearby corner. They forced the attendant to service their car and threatened to kill him if he tried to sound an alarm. One of the men took $25.00 from the till and tore the telephone from the wall, while another stood guard outside.

The killers made their getaway, fleeing west after taking a pistol and a rifle from the sheriff’s bullet riddled car. Witnesses were unable to read the license plate because it was smeared with either mud or paint.

In the wake of Moseley’s murder, authorities didn’t know it, but the individuals who killed the Sheriff in cold blood were associated with a group of thugs that were marauding throughout west Texas and eastern New Mexico during the early 1930s. Before all the criminals involved were either captured or killed, four officers of the law would be murdered and several others seriously injured.

Five days after Sheriff Moseley was brutally gunned down in Tulia, Wise County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Brown Jr. was shot and killed in Rhome. A barber by trade, Deputy Brown also served his area of Wise County as a law enforcement officer.

On Friday January 27, 1933, Brown received word from the sheriff’s office dispatcher in Decatur that a vehicle containing four people had been seen stealing an oil drum. The theft occurred in the Alvord area and the perpetrators were likely headed in the direction of Rhome.

Deputy Brown spotted a vehicle matching the description as it came through Rhome on Hwy 2. He ordered the vehicle to stop and when the driver complied, Brown stepped up onto the running board and instructed the driver to pull up to his barber shop. Brown escorted the four subjects, three men and a woman, into the barber shop without searching them and seated three of them on the waiting bench and the other on a large breadbox. Walter C. Looney, a grocery store employee who had seen the arrest, walked up to the barber shop to see what was going on.

The deputy picked up the phone and dialed the sheriff’s department — at that moment the unidentified man seated on the breadbox pulled a pistol from his rear pocket. He aimed the gun at Brown and advised him that he would be going with them. Brown balked at the demand and pushed the suspect back through the doorway, causing him to lose his balance. As the man fell, he fired six shots from his pistol, striking Brown in the neck. That unidentified man and murderer of Deputy Brown was Glen Hunsucker, who somehow managed to escape on foot from the scene.

When the gunfire started, Looney ran around the building to his brother-in-law’s shop where he retrieved a shotgun. Returning to the scene, he saw the killer’s companion uncover a machine gun in the car. However, Looney’s shotgun was not loaded, so he stepped back from view. Three of the suspects fled from the scene, driving south on Hwy 2. The nearby citizens ran to the barbershop where they found Joe Brown collapsed and dying in a chair.

On January 29, Ida Hunsucker, mother of Glen, Faye Pennington, of Dallas, and E.C. Hawthorne from Memphis were taken into custody near Childress. Pennington, 16, was described as Glen Hunsucker’s “Sweetheart.”

Ida, who owned a tourist camp in Quitaque, was apparently en-route there when detained. The three suspects were driven to Decatur. On January 30, a charge of murder was filed against the 38 year old Ida Hunsucker in Wise County. Accessory to murder was filed against Pennington and Hawthorne. Ida was then taken to the Dallas County jail where she was questioned by Dallas County Sheriff Richard A. “Smoot” Schmid and Texas Ranger Bert Whisnand. Ida admitted to the pair that her son Glen was the one who had shot Deputy Joe Brown. The two lawmen then asked Ida to write a plea for her son to turn himself that could be published in the newspaper – she promptly refused, saying she rather see him dead than captured.

Meanwhile the driver of the car, Doyle Meeks had turned himself in to Wise County Sheriff Tom Faith. Upon questioning Meeks, the lawman learned he was a former employee of the tourist camp and had gone back to Quitaque for a visit. Meeks said that at about 3:00 a.m. on the Friday that Brown was killed, he was awakened by Mrs. Hunsucker who said she needed him to come and drive her and two men. He was driving when the men spotted the oil drum and asked him to stop. Meeks also indicated the men may have been the ones who shot and killed Sheriff John Moseley in Tulia.

In the meantime, posses of lawmen continued to search for two men, now identified as Hunsucker and Stanton, suspected of murdering two Texas peace officers. The pair was believed to be hiding somewhere in the heavily wooded country around Lake Dallas, located southeast of Denton. After interrogations of Mrs. Hunsucker, Meeks and other informants, Wise County Attorney Jennings Brown announced that charges of murder had been filed against Glen Hunsucker and Ed “Perchmouth” Stanton.

Just as an aside, all the really good “bad guy” nicknames must have been taken when it came for Stanton to be assigned one – “Perchmouth” does not exactly instill fear in one’s heart.

Jury selection began on July 5 in Decatur for the trial of Mrs. Hunsucker, accused killer of Wise County Deputy Joe Brown. Presiding Judge J.E. Carter overruled a defense motion for postponement on the grounds that the defendant had been unable to communicate with her lawyer. Ida denied any involvement in the killing. Further, she claimed she had no pistol and did not know how to shoot one. Witnesses testified they saw Mrs. Hunsucker come out of the barber shop after the shooting with a pistol in her hand.

Witness Dr. Russell of Rhome said Deputy Brown was killed with bullets fired from a .45 caliber pistol. He said the officer’s pistol was still tucked in the waistband of his trousers when he examined the body. On July 6 the jury retired to determine the fate of Ida Hunsucker.

A short time later the jury returned with a guilty verdict and they sentenced her to two years in jail. Several months before, Mrs. Hunsucker had been given a three year suspended sentence for receiving stolen goods. As a result of her new conviction, she was ordered to serve those three years. Ironically, she received more time for receiving the stolen property than for the murder of a peace officer. Although lawmen had followed up on several leads, her son Glen and Perchmouth were still at large.

During this time Briscoe County Sheriff Jake Honea noted that Perchmouth’s brother, who had been living in Silverton, was no longer there. After a brief investigation, he learned that Stanton might have taken up a homestead in Lincoln County, New Mexico, near a place called Ramon.

Sheriff Honea contacted Lincoln County Sheriff Alexander S. McCamant to see if he might do some checking. Sheriff McCamant was born in Texas. He may have been from Graford in Hood County, which is not adjacent to Callahan County, as Howard asserted in his letter to Lovecraft. However, Hubert T. Reynolds, McCamant’s deputy and son-in-law, was originally from the northwestern part of Callahan County.  Also, while Hunsucker was living with his mother in Quitaque when he set out on his short life of crime, he was actually born and raised in Oklahoma, and thus not a native Texan – Howard would have been pleased to hear this.

McCamant learned that a man by the name of Will Stanton had taken over a dry-land homestead near Tipton’s Well, between Ramon and Corona. The locals reported that suspicious men seemed to come and go around the Stanton place, and no one knew who they were.

A vigilant McCamant had the place watched and became convinced that it was most likely a hide-out for some shady characters. He took a posse and paid a visit to the place on Saturday, July 15. All they found was a woman who claimed that she didn’t know where Will Stanton might be found, and she didn’t know anything about Perchmouth or Hunsucker.

The officers returned the next day and asked Will Stanton if he had seen his brother – he replied he had not. When the lawmen searched the area, they discovered a set of tire tracks that had not been there the previous day. This was a key clue since Will Stanton did not own a car.

The tracks led to the west, toward Corona. Sheriff McCamant, his chief deputy, Tom Jones, and posse men Jack Davidson and Hubert Reynolds followed dirt roads and trails for more than 20 miles. In some places, the car’s tracks were easy to see. In other places they had been obscured by other traffic.

Finally, fresh tracks led into an open meadow surrounded by low hills and the car’s path through the tall grass was clearly visible. The terrain offered the killers an ideal place to launch an ambush.

When McCamant, Jones, Davidson and Reynolds entered the meadow near Corona on July 16, 1933, Davidson caught sight of someone crouching down in the grass and yelled for Jones to watch out. A sudden barrage of shots rang out and resulted in Deputy Jones being hit and instantly killed by a bullet to the head.

Hunsucker emerged from his hiding place and began advancing on the remaining officers, firing a rifle rapidly as he came, walking into a volley of withering gunfire from the lawmen until he fell, dead, riddled with bullets. When the gunfire ceased, the remaining officers moved forward to the area where they had last seen Stanton hiding. But during the shootout he had disappeared, leaving behind his car which was out of gas.

Accounts of Hunsucker’s death do not refer to his “guts being torn out with a charge of buckshot” as Howard recounts in his letter to Lovecraft, but suffices to say Hunsucker looked like a piece of Swiss cheese after he confronted Reynolds, McCamant and the rest of the posse members.

Reynolds took the bodies of Deputy Jones and killer Hunsucker to Carrizozo, the county seat, while McCamant and Davidson stayed in the meadow overnight. The next day, a posse of approximately 100 men took part in the search for Stanton. It was reported that a small dog aided in the capture of the widely sought after bandit and killer.

Stanton had concealed himself under a pile of grass and was lying in a dry lake bed. He had a little dog that kept playing in the area where he was hiding, which attracted the attention of the posse. Beneath the grass they found the fugitive. When Stanton was taken into custody, he was armed with a Winchester rifle and a .45 caliber automatic pistol. He did not resist arrest and was quickly extradited back to Texas. Glen Hunsucker was buried in a pauper’s grave at Carrizozo, New Mexico on Wednesday, July 19, 1933.

Stanton was housed in the Lubbock County Jail for safekeeping as emotions over the death of the Swisher County sheriff were still running high in Tulia, the location of the trial.

On Tuesday September 12, 1933, the trial of Ed “Perchmouth” Stanton, accused murderer of Sheriff John C. Moseley finally got under way in the Swisher County courthouse. Two days had been spent on jury selection as the attorneys had to go through the entire 108 members of the jury pool to empanel a jury.  It literally went down to the wire when the 108th man was selected juror number twelve.

Stanton’s attorney was E.A. Watson of Crosbyton. He presented Stanton as 47 years old and unmarried. He said the accused murderer had no definite place of residence but had formerly lived with his family in Stonewall County. He further stated that Stanton had two brothers, Jim, who was a farmer near Crosbyton and John who farmed near Earth in Lamb County.

Swisher County went all out to assemble a first class team of prosecutors. District Attorney Meade F. Griffin was the lead attorney, assisted in the prosecution by Swisher County Attorney J.H. O’Neall and attorney Dennis Zimmerman. District Judge Charles Clemens presided over the trial.

One of the witnesses called to the stand was D.T. Layton who lived at the corner where the murder occurred. On that night he had gotten up to tend to a sick child been and saw the shooting from his upstairs window. Layton testified that he saw two men shooting at the car in the ditch. He could not identify the men because it was dark.

Doyle Meeks of Hedley, who was arrested at Rhome following the slaying of Deputy Sheriff Joe Brown, swore under oath that both men told him about the Moseley killing. Meeks said that while he and the two men, accompanied by Hunsucker’s mother, were fleeing to Dallas, Stanton tossed a rifle, which stolen from Moseley’s car, into a lake near Wichita Falls. Deputy F.O. Goen of Happy testified that he had recovered the rifle and identified it as Moseley’s.

Reynolds identified a gun taken from Stanton. The same gun was identified by S.T. Boggin, Quitaque postmaster, as having been stolen when the post office was robbed on January 3. He said the numbers of the .45 caliber pistol were on record in Washington.

L.G. McDonald, chief deputy under Moseley, said the sheriff was slain with a .45 caliber United States Army automatic. He said that most of the ammunition used was manufactured in 1917 or 1918.

The courtroom was filled beyond capacity each day and the bailiff expressed concern that the balcony might collapse under the weight. On the day the verdict was expected, an estimated five hundred people jammed the courthouse hallways. It took the jury just three hours to return their verdict; “Guilty of murder to be punished by death.”

Stanton’s attorney quickly appealed the verdict and during the appeals process, Stanton was again incarcerated in the Lubbock County Jail. On March 7, 1934, the Texas State Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the death sentence. Stanton’s motion for a rehearing was overruled by the appeals court on May 23 – he had lost his last appeal. He now waited for a date to be set for his appointment with “Old Sparky.”

Not wanting to keep that appointment, Stanton escaped from the Lubbock County jail the morning of June 24, 1934 with three other inmates: Andrew H. Nelson, William E. “Bill” Doupe and J. B. Stephens. That morning the four men were crowded together in one cell when Chief Deputy Sheriff Bedford Carpenter, with several jail trustees, was preparing to feed the inmates.

The quartet had pried and cut a strip of iron from the doorway of their cell, had cut or broken the strip into five pieces and forced open the door to the runaround and then to the foyer. The inmates, armed with the pieces of metal, crouched in a space about two feet wide and four feet long, lying in wait for the chief deputy sheriff.

Sensing danger, Carpenter pulled his pistol but was quickly overpowered by the four convicts. His gun was wrenched from his grip as he was beaten about the face. They then took the deputy to the elevator and descended to the lobby of the jail. Standing in the lobby was 18 year old Campbell Elkins, assistant to the Justice of the Peace, and Walter S. Posey, who was there to visit his brother who, ironically, was not in the jail that morning. The escapees took Elkins and Posey hostage, fleeing in Elkin’s car. The captives were released unharmed near Big Spring that night.

Several posses were formed in both Lubbock and Tulia after word was received that Stanton had been seen near Artesia, New Mexico by a rancher who knew the fugitive personally. After receiving a tip, Sheriff G. R. “Boots” Fletcher of Colfax County, New Mexico, arrested Stanton for the last time near Therma on August 23.

Texas authorities didn’t give Stanton a chance to escape again. Less than five weeks later, on September 28, 1934 Stanton was strapped into the large electric chair at Huntsville, nicknamed “Old Sparky,” and executed. Stanton’s only regret, he said, was that he wouldn’t be able to participate in the prison rodeo a week later.

Depending on your perspective, he is either riding in that great rodeo in the sky or slowing roasting on spit down below.

Portions of this post reprinted with permission from the author: Lana Payne Barnett