Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Martinsville Seven

Investigation

Martinsville, VA police patch
Martinsville, VA police patch

Within minutes, the Martinsville police arrived. Mrs. Floyd related the assault to officers and brought them back to the scene where articles of her clothing and her handbag were found. At that time, the officers decided to take Mrs. Floyd for medical attention. She got into the back of the police car and started over to the Martinsville General Hospital located on the other side of town. As they passed by a paint shop, not far from where the attack took place, police noticed two black men walking quickly down the street. Mrs. Floyd noticed them too. It was Booker T. Millner and Frank Hairston Jr. She told police they were two of her attackers. Martinsville Police Sgt. Murray Barrow then took the men into custody.

When the victim was brought over to the hospital, Dr. J.A. Ravenel, a local physician who had practiced in Martinsville for many years, was called in to examine her. At about 9:30 p.m., he arrived at the hospital and met Mrs. Floyd for the first time in the emergency room. "There was some swelling of her lower lip," Dr. Ravenel later told the court. "There were multiple scratches and abrasions of the elbows, both forearms, the knees, lower legs and thighs. There was one long mark on her left thigh which to me had been made by a fingernail. There were a few scratches on the back of her neck, the back of her right chest and both buttocks." Further examination revealed evidence of recent sexual activity. Dr. Ravenel also found dirt and twigs in her pubic hair and made notations of Mrs. Floyd's extreme emotional condition.

In the meantime, police quickly located Charley Martin, the eleven-year-old boy who had accompanied Mrs. Floyd to try to find Ruth Pettie's house. He told police that he knew one of the men who grabbed Mrs. Floyd. He said he knew the man as "Booker T." Chief of Police H. W. Stulz ordered every man in the department to duty in an effort to locate the attackers. "Every available city, county and state officer in the vicinity was called into the case," the Martinsville Bulletin reported the next day, "and the officers worked all night Saturday and most of Sunday to effect the arrests."

At the police station, Millner and Hairston denied knowing about the assault at first. But investigators told them they had been identified. Within the hour, both suspects confessed and also named the other men involved in the attack. Immediately the word went out to the department to pick up the additional suspects. Soon, James Hairston, John Taylor, Howard Hairston and DeSales Grayson were located and brought to the Martinsville station.

State Police Sgt, James H. Barnes interviewed James Hairston at 4:20 a.m. Though Miranda warnings were not in effect in 1949, most police recognized that suspects had to be advised in some way of their constitutional rights. Barnes advised Hairston that he did not have to speak and if he did, anything he said would be used against him. "I told him that some of the other boys who had been picked up had made a statement telling us what their part in the case had been," Barnes said later in court, "I asked him if he wanted to tell the truth about it. He right off started to give us a statement." Hairston wrote out a confession in which he named the other six men and described the attack on Mrs. Floyd.

When Taylor was interviewed by Barnes, he said that he was at Grayson's house earlier when he heard that "some boys had a woman up on the ridge." He said that he, Grayson and James Hairston went to see what was going on. When he arrived at the spot where Mrs. Floyd was being assaulted, he saw that "Joe Henry Hampton was on the woman when we got there. I told the other boys that that was a Christian woman and it would cause us some trouble...that if she was a drunk we might get by with it but I could tell by the way she talked that she was a good woman." Though Taylor expressed concern about Mrs. Floyd, he also assaulted her. "I went to her too," he told police. "I was the last one to get it from her."

By late Monday morning, all seven men who had participated in the attack on Ruby Floyd were in custody and supplied police with written, signed confessions.

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