The Marguerite Favar – J.C. Crowell Murder – Part III

The final installment of the Favar Crowell murder. 

Both suspects claimed they were in New Orleans on the 21st. This would later prove to not be true. Flannigan had a criminal record and had been through the system in several states. His intelligence and education gave him poise and the ability to remain calm and assured under the stress of Interrogation. Fields followed Flannigan’s lead repeating what Flannigan said during questioning. Flannigan was obviously advising Fields on what to say and at the same time sizing up the case police had by the questions they were asking. Flannigan was a smooth talking con man and an experienced white collar criminal. Flannigan knew how to handle Police interrogations. Dealing with him was frustrating and difficult for Detectives.  

Photographs of fingerprints left at the scene of the murder were sent off to be compared to the fingerprints of Fields and Flannigan. Detective Hurst and Klinck returned to Memphis and began checking information obtained at Cape Girardeau.  

Cape Girardeau Chief of Police Higlin and Detective Casey, found the new evidence connecting Fields and Flannigan to the double homicide when the two were arrested. Officers found another letter from Fields’ wife, a bill of sale with what looked like a blood stain, more stained clothing and a railroad mileage book believed to be connected to Crowell. Other evidence was obtained that was not made public. This new evidence was strong enough to move Chief of Police Roper to swear out warrants for the arrest of Fields and Flannigan for murder pending completion of the investigation in Missouri.  

Chief Roper felt that the Missouri authorities would relinquish custody of the two to the State of Tennessee due to the more serious charge of murder if the evidence was strong enough. The evidence was being evaluated while Memphis Detectives awaited the result of the fingerprint analysis and the still open status of their whereabouts on Sept 21st, the day of the murders.  

On November 2nd, the possible owner of the mileage book, a Mr. A.O. Locke, initially believed to be Crowell’s brother-in-law, was contacted and told police he had not lost a mileage book and did not use them. Mr. Locke was a traveling salesman and had to be located. Fields denied he had a mileage book, but one was taken from him on the day of his arrest made out to a Mr. A.O. Locke. Mr. Lock’s wife told Detectives her husband had not said anything to her about losing a mileage book recently. She believed he may have lost one two or three years ago.  

Fields denied having the book and said if one was in his effects, it was placed there after he was arrested. The circumstances surrounding the book were still being looked at by detectives. However the possibility of it being tied to the Benham Flats murders was fading.  

Flannigan’s suit had blood stains on the right sleeve near his elbow. He had an injury to the elbow that he said he said he received while getting off a train. He told Officers that wound was responsible for the blood stains on his suit. Both men continued to stick with the story of being in New Orleans on the 21st and denied everything else.  

On November 5th, a letter was received from the New Orleans Police Department regarding the presence and movements of Flannigan and Fields in New Orleans around the time of the murders. New Orleans Police Department investigators found information that Fields and Flannigan left New Orleans on Sept 18th and returned on the 28th or 29th. Nothing can be found of them having been in New Orleans between the 18th and the 28th of September.  

In a statement to the press on November 6th, Chief Roper provided the following information: 

“Every effort to verify their alibi to the effect that they were in New Orleans on the date of the murders in Memphis has been disproved. No trace of them can be found in that city at the time they say they were there, but, every bit of evidence so far goes to show that they were not there”. 

“On the other hand, we have witnesses here in Memphis who will swear positively that they saw Fields in Memphis on Sept 21st, the day of the murder was discovered. This point has been clearly established”. 

“Notwithstanding these facts, we are still unable to connect the men directly with the tragedy. Flannigan has admitted he had some clothing cleaned at Sam Harris shop on Beale Avenue on Sept 23rd, and also on Sept 26th. Still the burden of proof is on us to show that the blood was that of the unfortunate victims of the tragedy. We have nothing so far that would shift the burden of the proof on the suspected men, but we have hopes that we may be able in a few days to close up the link between the bloody clothes in Sam Harris’ pressing shop on Beale Avenue and the Benham Flats on Poplar  Avenue where the crime was committed”. 

“Flannigan is a shrewd man, one of the shrewdest in the country. He admits just what he thinks we can prove on him, and is careful not to go beyond that. He admits that he was in Memphis Sept 23rd to 26th, but says he was not here Sept 20th or 21st , having reached here from New Orleans Sept 23rd or two days after the murder”. 

Nothing bearing on this case can be adduced from his secretive movements and caution while in Memphis. He is under half a dozen indictments for forgery in Memphis, and was, of course, aware that the entire police department of this city, together with the O’Haver Detective Agency and the Pinkerton National Detective Agency were searching the entire country for him”. 

“His manner of leaving the city cannot be construed into actions of guilt so far as the murder is concerned. Only the day before his departure he worked off a forged check to the O.K. Houck Piano Company for $100 and naturally would suspect a fresh start on his trail which had been covered up for some weeks”. 

“If robbery was one of the motives of the murder, and the perpetrators got any money of consequence, I hardly think Flannigan would have invited the Police to pick up his trail by shoving a bad check right on the heels of a murder with which he had any connection. Still, there is no accounting for the criminal bias. The passing of the check and the and the cleaning of the bloody clothing may have been a part of his plan to avert suspicion, as it is hardly probable that a sane man, guilty of such a crime, would take such a chance”. 

Detectives Klink, Hurst and Surrency were still working the case closely. They were disappointed on November 5th once again in a letter regarding the fingerprint photos.  

The Little Rock Police Department had a fingerprint system and agreed to do the analysis of the bloody fingerprints on the tray of the trunk from the murder scene. They examined the tray and advised Memphis investigators that the prints were too dim to be analyzed. This was another disappointment to detectives working this case and Chief Roper. Detectives were in hopes of comparing the prints on the try to those of Fields and Flannigan.  

The two suspects in Missouri still looked like they might be involved, but the circumstantial evidence they put together so far was evaporating quickly. 

Detectives continued to look for clues as to who the murderer might be. It was becoming a frustrating case to solve. So far each step they took forward struck a dead end. 

Detective Klinck was sent to New Orleans on the 9th looking for any evidence that might tie Fields and Flannigan to the murders. He returned on the 11th. No information was passed on to the press about the results from the trip. Detectives were keeping the information out of the press for the time being.  

It was never reported in the Memphis press, but Miss Favar was paid $1200 in gold certificates by the organization from California for a performance there. It was in denominations of $100’s, $50’s, and $20’s. New Orleans Police turned up information that money of that type had shown up in New Orleans. This is the money she was seen with near the date of the murders. It was believed this money was taken in the robbery-homicide.  

Information was received that Larkin J. Flannigan was seen in a card game in New Orleans with Fields looking on. Detective Klinck went there to see if the information was related to the Favar-Crowell homicide.  

The result of the information investigated in New Orleans by Detective Klinck was never given to the press.  

Captain O’Haver had some information on Flannigan in New York. His agency had been tracking him in an attempt to locate him. O’Haver wrote to his Pinkerton operatives in New York requesting they investigate Flannigan’s actions there.  

On the 24th, O’Haver received a reply. The information he received from his co-workers in New York, basically eliminated Flannigan as a suspect in the double murders.  

Between the 17th of September and the 20th, Flannigan had passed bad checks under a fictitious name at two hotels in New York . The last location was the Claridge Hotel on the 19th. Flannigan left that hotel on the morning of Sept 20th. He also wrote a fourth bad check for $100 at a business firm before he left New York. It would have been impossible for him to reach Memphis on the night of the 20th or the morning of the 21st. The new information cleared Flannigan of participation in the murders. 

At this point, the evidence in the case against Flannigan and Fields did not add up to enough for an indictment. Detectives took it to the grand jury anyway, but did not receive a true bill.  

As The Favar-Crowell homicide investigation entered its third month, new evidence was just not there. Detectives had followed up on all information, traveling from Missouri to New Orleans with no strong evidence to show for it. Every lead ran into a dead end or just withered away to nothing. Detectives kept the case open, but it began to slip into the background as they moved on to other cases.  

On January 5, 1916, Larkin J. Flannigan went on trial in Cape Girardeau, Missouri for forgery and other charges. He and Waddell Fields decided to be tried separately. Flannigan was facing indictment in other jurisdictions for similar charges including Shelby County, Tennessee. Missouri authorities had him in custody and had a good case against him giving them the first opportunity to try him.  

 Flannigan decided to be his own attorney. Like all con men, he had a large ego and a lot of confidence in his ability to influence people to his way of thinking. Those qualities don’t always work well in a court of law though. Larkin J. Flannigan was found guilty on all charges.  

The Jackson County Missouri newspapers wrote that he gave such a moving but desperate closing argument to the jury that several were moved to tears. But it bought him little mercy as his conviction earned him a seven year sentence in state prison. 

Waddell Fields began his trial on January 7th.  Fields had a lawyer and many witnesses were called. The jury also found him guilty and sentenced him to five years in state prison. The jury was out for only 15 minutes. 

Waddell Fields was probably in New Orleans at the time of the double murder. His whereabouts was never verified, but Fields was not a violent criminal. In fact, he was just beginning to learn the skill of the con and forger. Fields’ wife and children lived in a downstairs apartment at Benham Flats. There is little chance he would have been involved in setting a fire in an upstairs apartment creating a serious threat to his family sleeping downstairs   

Memphis detectives were unable to accumulate enough evidence to extradite or charge Flannigan or Fields. The Missouri authorities had a good case against them and it was possible new evidence might come out during their trials. All the evidence Memphis Detectives had was sent to the Missouri authorities involved in their trial.  

It was not an ideal situation but it was clear that they had a good case and would likely convict both men. If convicted, they would be serving prison sentences for some time to come and should Memphis authorities find any strong evidence, they would be able to bring them back to Memphis. If they were free, they could easily disappear. It was a tradeoff for the time being.  

On February 9, 1916, Mrs. Margaret Bradley was granted a divorce from Fred L. Bradley on grounds of desertion. Mrs. Bradley didn’t mention another woman in her testimony, but her attorney introduced a letter signed by Fred addressed to Miss Marguerite Favar.  

The salutation in the letter began “My own darling angel wife”. The letter was found in Miss. Favar’s papers during the homicide investigation.  

On March 18, 1916, the body of Marguerite Favar was exhumed from the Elmwood Cemetery grave her remains had occupied for several months. Her body was held in the Thompson Brothers Morgue for 12 days after her death and transferred to a vault before her burial. Los Angeles public administrator Frank Bryson requested the disinterment that was handled by Thompson Brothers Mortuary.  

A piece of property Miss Favar owned in Los Angeles was sold and the funds made available to ship her remains to Los Angeles. She is to be reinterred next to her mother in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Her body was unaccompanied on the trip.  

On March 23, 1916, a memorial service was held at the graveside of Marguerite Favar in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery at Los Angeles CA. A small group of friends gathered at her gravesite as her coffin was lowered into the ground. Reverend Dr. James A. Francis officiated. Earle C. Houck, a blind singer, sang at Miss Favar’s graveside as he had years before at her Mother’s Funeral. Marguerite Favar was finally laid to rest with her friends gathered around her after months of turmoil. She lies next to her Mother. 

The Dainty Dancer lived a full life in the short few years she was given.  

Fred Bradley disappeared from public view after his divorce. I could not find any information on him after his wife divorced him in March, 1916.  

A case was never made against Larkin Flannigan and Waddell Fields. They served their time and were released. Fields disappeared from public view. Larkin Flannigan raised a family and lived until 1988. He passed away at the age of 104. 

The Faver-Crowell Murders were never solved. It was referred to many times over the years. It is one of the most famous unsolved cases in Memphis History. The “Law Abiding Citizen,” who wrote to both Newspapers saying she was a witness to the murders, was never identified. 

 The Benham Flats Apartment where the murders happened was later rented to another tenant. The Favar- Crowell murders were not the first to happen in apartment G. On an earlier date a man’s wife found him there with another woman and shot him to death. The names and details of the murder and the people involved are left out of this story. 

I have my own theory as to how the murders happened. I will give it to those of you who are still reading this and you can decide for yourself.  

This homicide was a very difficult one to work on. The detectives who worked the case had very little to go on and none of their leads worked out. I don’t fault them in any way. Except with the handling of the crime scene.  

Forensics were no way near as sophisticated then as they are now, but still, they should have ran everybody out of the room immediately on their arrival including the fire department if they were finished.  

The door should have been locked and nobody allowed in except detectives investigating the case. That was not done and I have to fault Captain Glisson for that. As soon as he arrived he should have made sure that was done. The firefighters were always blamed for destroying the evidence, but they were not at fault as the detectives involved. They failed to take control of their crime scene. 

This is how I believe the crime progressed. First of all, I believe it to be a robbery. Miss Favar apparently made no secret of having the large amount of money with her and wore the 7 diamond rings everywhere she went, including to bed. It was well known and there is always a person with larceny on his mind watching. It is something you have to assume and handle valuables, especially cash, on a low key basis. This factor played a large part in the crime.  

This is my version of the events surrounding the murders at Benham Flats Apartment G. 

There was one question that could never be answered that might have helped the investigators. That question was, why did Crowell let the chauffeur Porter go after the exhibition at the 19th Century Club? Obviously, Miss Favar had some type of complaint towards him. She probably never discussed it with anybody else. It was lost information. I don’t necessarily believe he was involved in the robbery and murder, but he might have mentioned to another person the money Miss Favar had in her possession and the jewelry she always wore. Something made her suspicious or displeased with him.  

The next part has to do with the unlocked back door. Miss Favar was sure she locked it before they left. I believe she did lock it. Locks of the day were easily defeated. Our modern locks can be easily opened and they are much more sophisticated. (If you don’t believe that check out the Youtube videos showing people opening modern deadbolts in less than 20 seconds, It’ll make your night). I believe the robber quietly entered the apartment by defeating the lock on the back door some time during the night while they were at the dancing exhibition. He probably looked around and not finding the money or the rings and decided to return after they were home. Somewhere along the way he decided he would have to incapacitate both victims in order to get the rings. Believing them to be her most valuable jewels due to the fact that he knew she never took them off, also to protect his identity. He left just as quietly but did not lock the back door. 

At this point, a question came up about the time they arrived home from the dancing exhibition. The only witness was Miss Carrie Benham, daughter of the owner of Benham Flats. She accompanied Miss Favar to the front door of the apartment.  

Miss Benham gave the time as 12:30 to 12: 45 am at the latest in her testimony at the Coroner’s  inquest. I believe this to be the correct time of their arrival home. The newspapers speculated that they had just arrived home before the suspect came into the apartment. That question arose due to the time of morning that noises were heard in the apartment and smoke was seen at the windows. I believe both victims were in bed by 12:45, sleeping away the last hours of their lives. 

There was speculation as to why the suspect would wait until 6:10 in the morning to commit the robbery. I believe it could have happened two ways. One was that he was an amateur burglar and he might have needed to get his nerve up to do what he planned. My other theory is he fell asleep waiting for them to arrive home and woke up late. The second theory is the one I lean towards.  

This suspect, in all appearances, was an amateur. Breaking into the apartment on a weekday less than an hour before daylight with the city in the process of waking up, was extremely bad judgment. Truth is, he probably didn’t have a clear plan. I believe he lived nearby and approached the scene on foot. Lighting in the area was probably not very good and a person could easily avoid lighted areas. I believe his intention was to incapacitate the victims, take the rings and whatever else he could and get out quickly, leaving by the back door.  

The question of where the suspect got the hammer now comes into play. There are several possible ways this happened. The hammer was originally supposed to be in Crowell’s car in the parking lot at Benham Flats. The chauffeur Porter was emphatic that the hammer was not in the vehicle during the time he drove it. I tend to believe him.  

A young male neighbor, who lived in the house on the east side of the apartments, claimed to have seen Porter using Crowell’s hammer. Porter had worked on Crowell’s car in the Benham Flats parking lot on the 17th. When questioned about this, Porter said he used his personal tools and never saw Crowell’s hammer. 

The young male described the hammer in detail to Detectives and identified it when it was shown to him. Somehow it seems to me this young man knew a little too much about that hammer. More on this later. His age was never printed in the papers. 

Another scenario was that Bradley might have brought the hammer in during the day on Sunday before he left that evening. He possibly used it to help Miss Favar with something in the apartment. It may have been there all along. It is also possible that the suspect lived close by and passed through the area often. If he was a burglar he may also have been a car prowler and knew the hammer was there. Car doors  in those days did not lock like those of today.  

A lot of different scenarios existed. Take your pick. One thing is true: the hammer was used to end the life of Miss Favar and James Crowell. No question about that. How the suspect came by it will never be known. 

 Next the suspect would have had to climb the stairway to the back door of apartment G. He needed to be very quiet so that he would not awaken either of the intended victims. Once he gained entry to the apartment, he had to quickly incapacitate the victims. Favar and Crowell were in the bedroom. Favar was on the near side of the bed and Crowell on the other side. He would have quickly entered the bedroom and struck Favar first, She was apparently lying face down as the two blows that struck her were at the base of her skull. The blows drove her hair and curlers into her skull. Immediately after striking her he struck Crowell several blows to his head.  

There was no hesitation in the assault on the victims. There is little doubt the suspects intention was to kill them as they slept. Once he removed the rings from Favar’s fingers he poured wood alcohol in a closet and around the victims as they lay in bed. He then set fire to the closet and the bed.  

I believe he then walked into the living room intending to leave but probably saw her purse and trunk and decided he had time to look through them quickly. While he was in the process of breaking the lock and rummaging through the trunk, Crowell came into the room having been aroused by the fire.  

Crowell was badly injured and he left blood smeared on the wall as he supported himself while moving around the bed. The suspect was surprised by Crowell and they struggled. Crowell was probably so badly injured that he couldn’t have put up much of a fight. At some point Crowell more than likely was knocked to his hands and knees. The suspect still had the hammer and he began hitting Crowell in the head with it.  

Soon Crowell was probably face down on the floor with the suspect on his right side and behind him continuously hitting him. The coroner stated that Crowell was struck 18 times with two of the blows fracturing his skull. Most of the injuries from the hammer were on the right side and the back of Crowell’s head.  

This is where the Mrs. Buford in the apartment below was awakened and heard the noise of something hitting the floor. She described the noise as “somebody playing football with a wooden ball”. That sound would have been made by Crowell’s head hitting the floor after being struck by the hammer, the suspect missing and hitting the floor, and the hammer bouncing off Crowell’s head and hitting the floor. All three would probably account for the noise she heard.  

Finally Crowell became unconscious and the suspect went into the kitchen and retrieved a knife. He then rolled Crowell over and cut his throat almost to his spinal cord. Bradley made three carving knives for Miss Favar in the machine shop in Greenwood. One was missing. According to Bradley it was extremely sharp. 

By this time the fire was probably increasing along with the smoke. The suspect needed to get out of the apartment. It was about 5 or 10 till seven and the sun was coming up. Mrs Buford downstairs said she heard footsteps up to the time she heard the Fire Department arrive (06:55}. The suspect would have been covered in blood. Head wounds create geysers of blood and the hammer blows would have spattered it on him and everything around the area.  

This is another area where the story appears to take a turn. Crowell’s clothing was lying neatly on a table near the trunk. On his tie was a diamond stick pin that was not taken. Newspapers used this to proclaim it to have been a personal attack from a former lover. The rationale was, he only took jewels belonging to Miss Favar. I don’t believe that is the case.  

This robber was a bumbling, stumbling amateur. Why else would he have set fire to the apartment before he finished robbing it? He simply overlooked the pin in the confusion caused by Crowell getting out of bed and coming after him. I believe his rummaging through the trunk was an afterthought. He left blood stains on the trunk and its contents, so it was after his fight with Crowell.  

He was running out of time. The growing intensity of the fire and smoke caused him to leave before he was ready. It was a poorly planned and executed crime.  

The suspect would have left by the back door. Before leaving he apparently threw the hammer into the burning bedroom and left with the knife he used on Crowell. Somehow he managed to go down the stairs and across the parking lot without being seen.  

It is possible the arrival of the fire equipment with bells clanging, sirens wailing and engines roaring created enough of a distraction to allow him to escape. There was speculation the suspect might have lived in one of the apartments.  

Soon Detectives arrived and the investigation began. Cases like this one are very difficult to solve. Most homicides are committed by somebody the victim knows. Detectives always begin there. They work their way through the information surrounding the crime with as much attention to detail that is possible. In a mystery homicide like this, the information they need often dies with the victims or it is a complete stranger with no relationship with the victims at all. Those are the ones that often go unsolved.  

For the detectives, it left an open door they could not seem to close. For the rest of their careers, they probably kept it in the back of their minds. They would wait with an open mind for the tip or the confession, or something that might lead them to closure and justice for the victims. Often officers will work their entire careers and the cases they remember are always the ones they couldn’t solve. You could ask them about these cases 20 years after they retired and they could still give you every detail of it like they were just working it the day before. It is about dedication and a burning desire to find the truth.  

Whoever committed these brutal murders took it to their grave. We will never know who murdered the Dainty Dancer and her married lover. At some point, the news articles stopped, interest faded and the city and its people moved on.  

1 thought on “The Marguerite Favar – J.C. Crowell Murder – Part III

Leave a Reply