Chronicle of crime includes murder, mystery and mayhem

jhewlett@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Detective Don Duckworth examined the car where the body of Transylvania student Betty Gail Brown, 19, was found strangled in Lexington in 1961.

LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER STAFF FI — Lexington Herald-Leader Staff fi

There have been enough notorious crimes, especially murders, in Central Kentucky to keep Hollywood movie producers busy for decades.

You probably know about Steve Nunn, a former state lawmaker and the son of former Kentucky Gov. Louie Nunn, pleading guilty during the summer to gunning down his former fiancée, Amanda Ross, in Lexington in 2009.

But you might not have heard of these notorious Lexington crimes:

Marion Miley, 27, an internationally known golfer, and her mother were fatally wounded when burglars broke into Lexington Country Club, where they lived, in 1941. Three men were convicted.

Transylvania College student Betty Gail Brown, 19, was found strangled with her bra in a car in 1961. The case has never been solved.

■ For 30 years, Scott County residents knew Barbara Ann Hackman Taylor only as "Tent Girl," the name she was given after her body was discovered wrapped in a tentlike canvas in the northern part of the county. Her true identity remained a mystery from May 1968, when her body was found, until spring 1998, when Internet communication and DNA testing, which essentially did not exist in 1968, helped identify her. Hackman Taylor, a Lexington resident, had gone missing in late 1967, when she was 24. Police said she might have been killed by her husband, Earl, who died in 1987.

The Rev. John K. Barnes, an Episcopal priest; his daughter Francine, 18; and son, John, 14, were shot to death at their Lexington home by two escaped prisoners in 1973. The escapees, Wilmer Elvis Scott and William Sloan, also were charged with murdering three men at a Falmouth motel the next day.

Michael Turpin, 22, of Lexington, was stabbed to death in 1986. Authorities said his wife of less than six months, Elizabeth Zehnder Turpin, was the mastermind, and the motive was $60,000 in life insurance. Turpin, Karen Brown and Keith Bouchard received life sentences. The story was chronicled in the 1994 true-crime book Fatal Seduction by Rena Vicini.

Carlos Kearns, 73; his wife, Virginia Kearns, 45; Trudy Harrell, 59; Theodore Sweet, 53; and Roger Keene, 47, were shot, stabbed, run over with a vehicle and/or burned at various Lexington locations in 1986 by LaFonda Fay Foster and Tina Marie Hickey Powell, who were on a cocaine and alcohol binge. The slayings, said to be Lexington's largest multiple murders, led to life sentences for Foster and Powell. The rampage inspired the 1997 indie film 100 Proof.

Mary Marrs Swinebroad Cawein was murdered at her Lexington home in July 1965. She was the daughter of internationally known auctioneer George Swinebroad and the wife of Dr. Madison Cawein III, a nationally known hematologist and grandson of a former Kentucky poet laureate.

Marrs Cawein, 39, was found dead the morning after she and her husband had attended a Fourth of July party at Lexington's Idle Hour Country Club. An autopsy showed she died of carbolic acid poisoning. It also showed she had been injected in both thighs with an unknown substance shortly before she died, and that she had unusual amounts of alcohol in her blood, liver and kidneys. Then-Fayette County Coroner Chester Hager said he thought Marrs Cawein was drugged and fed carbolic acid in a mixed drink.

A grand jury heard testimony from at least 14 witnesses, including Madison Cawein III and Dr. Emma J. Lappat, also a hematologist and his associate at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center.

The grand jury returned no indictments. The case remains unsolved.

(Madison Cawein III, who died of cancer in 1985, and Lappat had helped develop a treatment for Parkinson's disease and did groundbreaking research on sickle-cell anemia, cloning and cancer. Cawein solved the longtime mystery of the "blue people" of Troublesome Creek in Eastern Kentucky, finding that their blue-colored skin was caused by a genetic blood disorder, according to a book about unsolved murders in Lexington by Betty Boles Ellison, Justice Delayed, Justice Denied.)

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

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