Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bonnie and Clyde: Romeo and Juliet in a Getaway Car

The End

"Once again we'll stroll in the mountains
Through that rose-covered valley we knew
When the moon comes over the mountain
I'm alone with my memory of you."
When the Moon comes over the Mountain

H. E. Johnson, H. M. Woods

It was a season of "lasts." On May 6, Bonnie and Clyde met with their families for what would be the last time on a rural road near Dallas. Solemnity weighted the air. Everyone felt it. And none avoided it, especially Bonnie who alluded to a forthcoming death. When her mother asked Bonnie not to talk about death, Bonnie hugged her and, according to The Lives and Times of Bonnie and Clyde, replied, "Now Mama, don't get upset...It's coming. You know it. I know it...Mama, when they kill us, don't ever say anything ugly about Clyde." She then handed her a poem she had written, which she called simply, The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. This poem, which her mother had printed in the newspapers, is a remarkable piece of self-realization from a woman whose understanding of herself, her world and her times provides the reader with the realization that, despite its coarseness, it was written by a very insightful woman (see text of poem in next chapter).

Henry Methvin
Henry Methvin

Hamer, in the meantime, had learned of the couple's meeting with their folks in Dallas. He put two and two together and, again, guessed correctly. He presumed that they were probably en route next to visit with Methvin's father, Iverson, who lived in Acadia, Louisiana, in the northern part of the state near Shreveport. Which is exactly where the outlaw trio headed.

Ever since the massacre in Grapevine, in which he killed the motorcycle trooper, Henry Methvin was skittish. He had known from that moment on that he had gotten into something way over his head. And he had heard the "death talk" during the Barrow- Parker reunion; had seen the sullen faces; had read Bonnie's poem which spoke of death. Henry Methvin was not presupposed to the idea of accepting what Bonnie called "the wages of sin". Simply, Henry wanted to live.

By the time they arrived in Shreveport, Methvin was a bundle of nerves. Holing up at Iverson's out-of-the-way cabin off Sailes Road, Henry confessed his fears to his father. While Bonnie and Clyde slept in an adjoining room, he rued his association with them. He wished, he told Iverson, that he could wake up and find himself pardoned of all his crimes and start life anew. This gave Iverson an idea.

When Hamer, Hinton and the other troopers paused in Shreveport on May 19, they felt that the end was near. Hamer contacted Chief of Police Tom Bryan to inform him of their plans for an ambush, but in turn received startling news. Mr. Methvin had paid Bryan a visit offering a deal: Bonnie and Clyde for a reduced sentence for his son. Hamer asked to see Iverson Methvin immediately.

Sometime during the day of May 22, final preparations were made for an ambush. The plan that resulted was devilishly simple. Bonnie and Clyde, Methvin confessed, were staying at his cabin. During the day they tended to make early visits to town in nearby Sailes. The Sailes Road was dense with woodland, moss hanging low over the road. The road was narrow and there were plenty of places a posse could wait concealed.

"But, how do we know your son won't be with them?" asked Hamer. That problem, Hamer learned, had already been conveniently worked out by fate. A day earlier Bonnie, Clyde and Henry Methvin had driven to Shreveport for hamburgers; while Methvin went in to order, a police squad had pulled alongside the Barrow car in a parking lot. Clyde, apprehensive with its appearance, calmly pulled away, intending to circle the neighborhood and come back for Methvin later. But, Henry, having noticed what had occurred, left without his order and went into hiding. The couple returned to Iverson's cabin alone, assuring the father that his son would reappear eventually.

Details were worked out. Iverson, a logger by trade, owned a beat-up Model A truck that he occasionally used to haul pulp lumber to Sailes. Clyde often poked fun at the truck, so would recognize it on sight. If Clyde were to spot that truck stalled, say, on Sailes Road, would he not stop to investigate? A handshake and a promise of leniency for Henry Methvin ended the dialogue.

The spot that the agents chose for the ambush that next morning, May 23, 1934, was atop one of the many low rolling hills that the road traversed. "Moss-covered trees grew so close to the road at this point that we were hidden from view but we could see anyone approaching for almost a half-mile on the road from either direction," writes Ted Hinton. Old Man Methvin's beater had been parked alongside a small ditch that ran along the north side of the road; the sharpshooters kneeled across the way directly from it. Iverson himself waited among the posse, biting his fingernails. Joining the posse were County Sheriff Henderson Jordan and Bienville Parish Deputy Prentis Oakley.

Left to right) top row: Ted Hinton, P.M. Oakley, and B.M. Gault, bottom row: Bob Alcorn, Henderson Jordan, and Frank Hamer (CORBIS)
Left to right) top row: Ted Hinton, P.M.
Oakley, and B.M. Gault, bottom row: Bob
Alcorn, Henderson Jordan, and Frank
Hamer (CORBIS)

Clyde and Bonnie had gone to town at daybreak and unless this day differed from the others, would be passing this point on their way back to the Methvin cabin around 9 a.m. Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn, who knew Barrow and Parker by sight, were posted nearest the road to avoid gunning down the wrong party. At fifteen minutes past nine Bob Alcorn pointed to a beige '34 Ford approaching from over the nearest hill. As it sped towards them, it seemed to slow down, its driver's eyes on the abandoned truck. The current license plate on the car was an Arkansas one, 15-368.

"This is him," Hinton side-mouthed, and lifted his Browning automatic to his shoulder, the silhouette of Clyde Barrow's head square in its sight. Each of the other officers was equipped with like weapons, loaded with five full rounds. They watched Clyde's form bending forward, scanning the truck, then twisting sideways to look for its owner among the trees. Body movement bespoke curiosity. Beside him sat Bonnie; wearing a dress of red, her favorite color. Hinton heard Hamer, beside him, clear his throat.

The bullet-riddled car of Bonnie and Clyde (AP)
The bullet-riddled car of Bonnie and Clyde
(AP)

But, Hamer chose not to call out a warning not to Bonnie and Clyde, who always escaped when given even the slightest advantage. There would be no advantage here. Instead in a voice audible only to those around him, void of drama, void of malice, Hamer ordered, "Shoot!

"In the book, Ambush, Hinton tells the rest: "...Bonnie screams, and I fire and everyone fires...My BAR spits out twenty shots in an instant, and a drumbeat of shells knifes through the steel body of the car, and glass is shattering. For a fleeting instant, the car seems to melt and hang in a kind of eerie and animated suspension, trying to move forward, spitting gravel at the wheels, but unable to break through the shield of withering gunfire...My ears are ringing, there is a spinning and reeling in my head from the cannonade of bullets and the clank of steel-jacketed metal tearing steel...." And when the firing subsided..."Clyde is slumped forward , the back of his head a mat of blood...I scramble over the hood of the car and throw open the door on Bonnie's side. The impression will linger with me from this instant I see her falling out of the opened door, a beautiful and petite young girl...and I smell a light perfume against the burned-cordite smell of gunpowder..."

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