Saturday, March 26, 2022

Triple Murder at Grandin

   About 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 1973, Robert Kitterman walked into the Bank of Grandin (MO), where he was president, and told Ralph Stanley, the bank's bookkeeper, that he had dynamite wired to his chest and not to turn on any lights or electric switches or make any phone calls because they might trigger an explosion. Kitterman explained that his wife and daughter were being held for ransom by kidnappers and that the villains had rigged the dynamite to his chest. Stanley did not see any dynamite, but he noticed that Kitterman's shirt seemed tighter than usual. He could tell that something was likely under the shirt, and he could also tell that Kitterman was nervous.
   Stanley helped Kitterman gather up over $10,000 and place it in a money satchel. As Kitterman was leaving the bank with the ransom money, he met L. W. Kingen, superintendent of the nearby Elsinore Schools, and told him the same thing he'd told Stanley--that his wife and daughter were being held by extortionists. After Kingen and others alerted authorities, lawmen tried to intercept Kitterman before he once again made contact with the kidnappers but to no avail.
   About 2;30 p.m., just over an hour after Kitterman had walked into the bank, his car and his 17-year-old daughter's car were both spotted in a secluded area near an abandoned farm a few miles south of Grandin just across the county line in northern Ripley County. Nearby were the dead bodies of Kitterman; his wife, Bertha; and the 17-year-old daughter, Roberta. All three bodies were bound, and each had been shot once in the head at close range with a small-caliber weapon. Although Kitterman's body was rigged with wire, no dynamite was found. And investigators doubted the idea that Kitterman had been rigged with dynamite so that it could be set off remotely via a radio signal, but that was apparently what Kitterman had believed. A bullet believed to have passed through the daughter's body, a couple of spent cartridges, and a tire track were the only forensic clues found at the scene. The only other clue to the identity of the murderers was the fact that, while at the bank, Kitterman had referred to the abductors as "they," leading lawmen to believe that there was more than one perpetrator. Investigators theorized that the abduction happened at the Kitterman home just a mile or so south of Grandin when both Kitterman and his daughter, a high school senior, came home for lunch. The villains then likely drove the family or forced the family to drive to the scene where they were later found dead, and the wife and daughter were held captive there while Kitterman was sent into town to get the cash.


   A breakthrough in the investigation came a couple of days later when police received an anonymous phone call from a man who said he'd seen 33-year-old ex-con Dallas Ray Delay set off a small explosive device in a Popular Bluff garage a few days before the Grandin crime and brag that he was going to use it to rob a bank. Additional investigation further incriminated Delay, who was already wanted on a couple of other warrants, and it revealed his sidekicks to be 21-year-old Lloyd Dwaine Cowin and 22-year-old Jerry Rector. The suspects, all three of whom lived in the Van Buren area, were arrested in Poplar Bluff on Friday the 19th, two days after the crime.
   Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, all three defendants obtained changes of venue from Ripley County after they were bound over for trial. Delay pleaded guilty in Cole County in April 1973 and received three consecutive life sentences. Rector pleaded guilty in Jefferson County in late June and received three concurrent life terms. Cowin initially pleaded not guilty in Greene County Court but changed his plea to guilty in September and was sentenced to three concurrent life terms. All three perpetrators were also later either found guilty of or pleaded guilty to federal charges.

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