Murder for freedom: A daring 1938 escape from the Galveston County Jail

The Galveston County Jail, sometime in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of the Galveston and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas)

At about 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 1938, Galveston County Jail guard E.E. Goode climbed the stairs to the fourth floor “Iron House,” home to the jail’s federal prisoners. He unlocked the […]

The crime Galveston refused to forgive

Leo Lera (The Galveston Daily News)

Leo Lera’s second murder trial began 14 months after he shot Harry Phillips over a stool at Deppen’s bar early on Dec. 25, 1938. Perhaps confident of a acquittal the first time, Lera offered the only testimony in his own defense. The strategy backfired when the jury voted […]

Leo Lera: The scapegoat for ‘The Free State of Galveston’

Mike Calandra, left, and Leo Lera look through the bars of their Galveston County Jail cell shortly after their arrest. (The Galveston Daily News)

Galvestonians have always taken pride in their tolerance, especially during the years when they called their home “The Free State of Galveston.” For decades, the island’s well-known underworld dons flouted […]

Houston gangster wages epic legal fight over 1927 Texas City bank heist

Shiloh Scrivnor (The Galveston Daily News)

On Nov. 1, 1927, teller Chester Griffin was sitting at the counter of First National Bank in Texas City when two men walked in waving guns. One of the men ordered Griffin and bookkeeper Elizabeth Lege to stand against the back wall while the other ran into the […]

Suspicions of incest trigger deadly Galveston family feud

“New $2,000,000 Causeway, Galveston, Texas.” Card. 1930. Digital Commonwealth

Twelve-year-old Donald Sedgewick trotted down the steps of his grandfather’s house to get a piece of apple pie from a family friend who had stopped by during the early evening of Nov. 6, 1930. Just as he hit the sidewalk, a gray sedan rolled up […]

Single gunshot ends Prohibition-era Galveston romance

“View of gulf and boulevard at night from Hotel Galvez, Galveston, Texas.” Card. 1930. Digital Commonwealth

John W. Adams “worshipped the very ground that Marie Doherty walked on.” For her part, Marie said several times she “would rather die than give him up.”

The people packed into the 56th District courtroom on Nov. 14, […]

Stolen whiskey shipment leads to downtown gunfight in 1931

Bottles and barrels of whiskey confiscated during prohibition. (Library of Congress)

How many gunfights can be blamed on alcohol and bad blood? In most cases it only takes a few drinks too many to turn a good time into a murder investigation. But the shootout that sent downtown Galveston shoppers scrambling for cover in […]