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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Lisa Livingston-Martin has written 'Missouri's Wicked Route 66'

  • Jack the Ripper on Route 66?

    It’s a possibility, according to Lisa Livingston-Martin, Webb City, Mo., author of the recently released book “Missouri’s Wicked Route 66.”

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  • Jack the Ripper on Route 66?
    It’s a possibility, according to Lisa Livingston-Martin, Webb City, Mo., author of the recently released book “Missouri’s Wicked Route 66.”
    And there’s do doubt whatsoever that Route 66, also known as the “Mother Road,” was a main route for the likes of outlaws like Jesse James and later gangsters such as Bonnie and Clyde.
    Livingston-Martin, an attorney, has been interested in history and the paranormal for many years and is a co-team leader in the Paranormal Science Lab, a research lab that focuses on paranormal research at historic locations. She is also the author of “Civil War Ghosts of Southwest Missouri” and “Haunted Joplin.”
    “This book shows the dark side of Route 66, not just the side of carefree adventures and kitchy motels,” Livingston-Martin said in a telephone interview. “I worked on this research about six months, and also used some information I already had in my files.”
    Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were in Joplin in 1933, staying at a garage apartment at 3347 Oak Ridge Drive in the south end of town.
    “Joplin was a good location for those on the run as it was just a few miles from both the Kansas and Oklahoma state lines,” the author said. “Law enforcement stopped at the state line in those days.”
    In a brief shoot-out with Joplin police, Newton County constable John Wesley Harriman and Joplin detective Harry McGinnis were mortally wounded.
    Then there’s the blood-chilling story of Billy Cook, who was raised in Joplin and is now buried in Peace Church Cemetery in western Jasper County.
    “He was the first spree killer in America, one of the first to be studied as a psychopath, and the movie ‘The Hitchhiker’ was based on him,” Livingston-Martin said. “He’s the reason why your mother told you never to pick up a hitchhiker.”
    She said that Cook’s father killed his mother when the boy was only 5.
    “After that, he was put into foster care, where he was apparently sexually assaulted,” she said.
    Cook was at the Missouri State Penitentiary from the age of 17 to 21. Released in 1950, he hitchhiked to California, then in late December drifted to Texas, got hold of a .32-caliber revolver and began a 22-day crime spree. He killed motorist Carl Moser, who had given him a ride, Mrs. Moser, their three children and the family dog, in Texas, then drove the blood-soaked car to Joplin, and dumped the bodies down an abandoned mine shaft outside town.
    He also killed another motorist, Robert Dewey, in the California desert. Cook was executed Dec. 12, 1952, at San Quentin Prison for Dewey’s murder.
    Livingston-Martin cheated a bit by including the Steffleback bordello in her book because it’s located in Galena, about two miles from the Missouri state line, but the story is so compelling she decided to use  it.
    Page 2 of 2 - A woman named Nancy Steffleback ran a brothel out of a house at the corner of Main Street in Galena in the late 1800s. Houses of ill repute weren’t unusual in those days, but in most of the other establishments, the customers left the premises alive.
    That was often not the case at the Steffleback house.
    “They’re suspected of killing up to 50 people there,” Livingston-Martin said. “There were up to 30,000 miners in the Galena area, and most of them were transient.”
    The killers dumped the bodies down mine shafts, of which there were also many in the area.
    “When the authorities did find remains, they usually thought these were people who got drunk and fell down the shaft,” Livingston-Martin said. “The injuries the victims sustained were also consistent with what they would have gotten by falling down a mine shaft.”
    However, the authorities did finally figure out what was going on.
    “Four people in the family were convicted in one case, and two received life sentences,” the author said. “The other two had shorter sentences.”
    The Jack the Ripper suspect connected with Route 66 was Francis Tumblety, a quack doctor originally from Canada who later lived in New York City, Philadelphia and, finally, St. Louis. He was convicted of manslaughter after the death of a patient.
    “He had a loathing of women in general and prostitutes in particular,” Livingston-Martin said. “He also had a collection of women’s uteruses, and was in the Whitechapel area of  London at the time the Ripper murders were committed.”
    He was arrested by London police in November 1888 on charges of “gross indecency,” a term often used for engaging  in homosexual activity. In a 1913 letter, Tumblety was mentioned as a Ripper suspect by former Detective Chief Inspector John George Littlechild of the Metropolitan Police Service.
    “Tumblety was one of the few suspects who had access, ability, etc.,” Livingston-Martin said.
    However, the Ripper killings were never solved, and Jack’s true identity may never be known.
    “Missouri’s Wicked Route 66” is available at Joplin bookstores and online.
    The author has moved on to other projects, and is seriously considering crossing the state line again.
    “My new projects include a novel and I want to do a non-fiction book focusing on southeast Kansas,” Livingston-Martin said.
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