Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Murder of Jack Burris

A few months ago, I wrote on this blog about the Girl Scout murders that occurred in Mayes County, Oklahoma, in 1977, and I mentioned that the crime is officially considered an unsolved case, although many observers, including many law enforcement officials, felt sure that the man arrested and tried for the crime, convicted rapist Gene Leroy Hart, was guilty, even though he was acquitted. However, the Girl Scout case was not the first notorious unsolved murder case in Mayes County history.
On the evening of June 7, 1952, county prosecutor Henry Lawrence "Jack" Burris was working on an air conditioning unit in his back yard in the small town of Locust Grove, using the lights of his tractor to illuminate his work area, when an assailant came out of the dark and shot him dead with a .12 gauge shotgun blast to the face. Several theories emerged as to the motive for the crime and several suspects were identified, including a cousin of Burris's second wife, who supposedly held a personal grudge against the man. The most prevalent theory, however, was that Burris had been killed by someone with underworld connections because of Burris's vigorous prosecution of liquor law violations in what was then a dry state. In pursuing this theory, law officers made at least one arrest and announced that others were imminent.
However, no one ever came to trial in the case, and Burris's murder is considered one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in Oklahoma history.

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