Detective Martin Billnitzer
Houston Police Detective Martin Billnitzer’s family never believed he committed suicide at the police station in 1954. Even the most gullible observer would have been likely to question the ruling of suicide. He was shot twice in the heart and was believed to have been cooperating with Federal agents in the investigation of corruption within the highest echelons of the Houston Police Department.

Today when an officer is killed, the Department has a Family Assistance Unit available to guide the family through this difficult time. In 1954 no such unit existed. Some Billnitzer family members felt at the time that the Houston Police Department was more of a threat than a band of brothers. One relative described the funeral as “scary,” saying she believed the killer was a policeman and that he might be at the funeral. Martin's brother, Harold, was reported as having been afraid to go near the casket that day.

But that brother held a life-long hope that the report of Martin Billnitzer’s death would someday be investigated again and proven a murder. He remembered Martin telling him that another officer had suggested if Martin wanted it, he could live more luxuriously than most officers did at the time. In his memoir, published in 1976 or later, Harold wrote, “I pray that someone will come forward to clear Martin’s name before I die. I would like to be able to forgive him (the responsible person) so that God can forgive me.”

Harold’s son, Michael, took up the effort to clear his uncle’s name. He knew it was important to his father. Documents were gathered, including some from the Federal Government, in which agents referred to the Billnitzer death as a murder. A reporter for an internet news outlet wrote about the death, writing that Michael had sought out forensics experts around the country to review the previous autopsy and other reports. One, forensics psychologist Katherine Ramsland, agreed to look at the case. Some of her findings were surprising. According to her review, the reports made at the time indicated no fingerprints were found on the murder weapon; it was highly unlikely that Billnitzer could have accomplished shooting himself twice in the heart; and that The death-scene investigation appears, at the very least, to have involved tunnel vision: an assumption that Billnitzer had reason to commit suicide, so the death event is therefore a suicide.” 

Finally, believing he had gathered enough information to warrant another look at his uncle’s death, Michael Billnitzer wrote a letter in January of 2004 to Acting Houston Police Chief Joe L. Breshears. He requested that the investigation be re-opened and he forwarded the information he had gathered with the request. On March 3, less than two months later, he received a response. The letter read, in part, “…the Homicide Division conducted considerable research into the matter and learned that Detective Billnitzer’s death was thoroughly investigated at the time….. Our research in this matter uncovered no information that would contradict this finding or warrant reopening the case…” In fairness to the Department, maybe Michael Billnitzer’s request was a difficult one to accommodate. Reopening a fifty-year old case is sometimes impractical. 

Approaching the various memorial organizations that recognize officers who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty might have been more successful. We honor our officers who give their lives in the line of duty. We have memorial walls for their names. Families are honored at the State Capitol and survivors have formed groups to help family members cope with the tragic loss. But in the case of Martin Billnitzer, we may have left a comrade behind. Could a definitive conclusion be reached at this late date, sixty years after the fact? Probably not, but a part of me wants to believe that when an officer takes the oath, pins on the badge and straps on the gun, in a case like this, we should err on the side of the deceased officer.

A DEAD DETECTIVE – If the Walls Could Talk – Episode 8

Detective Billnitzer beside marijuana
plant. He was a top narcotics cop
Detective Martin Billnitzer lay dying on the floor of an office at the Houston Police Department. In the adjoining office, Detective George LaRue heard two gunshots and when he tried to open the door, believed it was locked. He left to get a key.

In the meantime, a secretary, also hearing the shots, ran into the office and opened the door, which was partially blocked by Billnitzer’s body, but not locked. Soon rumors were circulating that a man had been seen running from the office. Never substantiated, and dismissed as possibly being a janitor who ran after hearing the shots, those rumors became nothing more than anecdotal history. Billnitzer had been shot twice in the heart and had a serious gash to the head.

The Detective had met the day before with federal authorities who were investigating missing heroin from the Houston P.D. He had been involved with two other officers in the initial seizure of the dope. In his first interview, Billnitzer's account of how much dope was recovered conflicted with that of the other two officers. He returned later in the day to meet again with the agents and clarify the differing accounts. Some later speculated that he, as most narcotics detectives of the time did, retained small amounts of narcotics seizures to give to informants in payment for their services. This practice was not uncommon as late as the early 1970’s.

The day after meeting with the feds, he met with the Police Chief, who was sticking to the story that the amount of heroin seized was much less than the other two detectives claimed. Detective Billnitzer left that meeting and walked to his office. He was dead within minutes.

Chief Morrison told the news media that Billnitzer was not suspected of being involved in the missing heroin. George White, the chief investigator in the Federal investigation, confirmed that he was not a subject of the federal investigation. The Chief hinted that the detective might have failed to properly log some narcotics in the past, but said it was not so serious as to warrant a suicide.

Some officers had been concerned since the night of the seizure, when Captain Melton took the dope and told them not to make a report, that rank and file officers would be blamed for the missing heroin. They may have believed those comments by the Chief confirmed their suspicions that the high-ranking officers would be protected at their expense.

Federal Agent George White
There are differing accounts and opinions about whether Detective Billnitzer committed suicide. At the time of his death, Federal Agent George White told the media, “I think the man was murdered. If he killed himself, he is probably the first man who ever killed himself twice,” referring to the fact that Billnitzer was shot twice in the heart. Years later, White said, “I still think it was murder. It just is not possible for a man to shoot himself in the head or heart, stumble against a cabinet, causing a head injury, and after falling on the floor shoot himself in the heart. It could not be done.” Unfortunately for the Billnitzer family, federal authorities had no jurisdiction to investigate the death; that responsibility fell to the local police.

Detective W.C. Pool
Detective W.C. Pool, the officer who reported the missing heroin to federal authorities commented, when referring to Billnitzer’s death, “I don’t believe for a second that he committed suicide. There is a lot that hasn’t come out. I don’t know if it ever will.”

The minister who conducted the funeral service said, “If Bill committed suicide, it was not the Bill we knew.”

 But others, not directly involved, although familiar with the investigation, had a different opinion. A friend of well-respected Lieutenant F.C. Crittenden, who was on the department at the time, told me that Crittenden expressed to him that, “I will go to my grave convinced that Billnitzer’s death was suicide.”

It has also been related to me that an investigator who was assigned to review the case fifty years after the death has strong feelings that the case was properly classified a suicide. An attempt to contact that investigator by e-mail was unsuccessful.

It’s been just over sixty years since Martin A. Billnitzer’s death. It is unlikely that there will ever be a definitive decision about whether he was murdered or committed suicide for those who refuse to accept the results of the investigation by the Police Department. Next week’s story will be about information the family learned through open records requests to the federal government. If there is any chance that Billnitzer was murdered because he refused to go along with a cover-up by others, it is tragic that his name is not included on the various Memorial Walls that honor police officers killed in the line of duty.

Homicide in Black & White is my latest novel and the first in the Tanner and Thibodaux Action, Adventure Crime series. If you enjoy fiction, you’ll enjoy this story about a retired Houston cop and his friend, a retired Delta Force soldier, who team up to solve a murder.


Detective Billnitzer (2nd from right)
In the Forward to retired Houston Police Lieutenant Nelson Zoch’s book, Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City, retired Police Chief Harry Caldwell wrote “Houston Police Officers vow to never forget the ultimate sacrifices made by their fellow men and women in blue in the 166 year history of the mighty law enforcement organization known as the Houston Police Department.” But in the death of Detective Martin A. Billnitzer on June 3, 1954, was a line-of-duty death falsely or mistakenly ruled a suicide?

(1954) On that June day, Detective Billnitzer had just completed a meeting with Houston Police Chief L.D. Morrison, Sr., regarding his interview by federal agents. The subject of the interview was heroin missing from the H.P.D. As he left the Chief's office, Billnitzer told reporters waiting in the hallway that he would return in a few minutes to answer questions. Moments later, two gunshots rang out in the halls of 61 Riesner Street, the home of the Houston Police Department.

Martin Billnitzer lay dead in his office with two bullet wounds in his heart and a nasty gash to his head, blood oozing onto the floor around him. With whirlwind speed, the death was ruled a suicide by the Police Chief and a Justice of the Peace, acting as coroner.

In future blog stories, we'll examine the details of his death, but today we'll get to know more about Detective Martin Billnitzer, the man. Born in 1909, he was just forty-five years old the day that life abandoned him on the floor of an office in the police station. He had been a police officer for twelve years, having joined the Department in 1942.

Martin & Marie
Born in Cave Creek, Texas, a community north of Gatesville in central Texas, his family soon moved to Jourdanton, Texas. There Martin played baseball, enjoying the role of pitcher on his team. As an adult, he married Marie and they moved to Houston. They had no children.

On the 1940 census, Martin was listed as a salesman for Home Electric Refrigerators. Family member say that he managed a business in Houston just prior to joining the police department. Others reported that his wife Marie was a school teacher, though that was not reported on the same census.

Martin at H.P.D
There are at least three somewhat contradictory records of Martin's educational achievements. In an article published in 2005 in the World News Daily, written by H.P. Albarelli, Jr., he is reported to have had a 'college education' at the time he joined the Houston P.D. The article noted that this was unusual for police applicants at the time. Some family members recalled that he had attended Draughon's Business School. But the 1940 census records indicate that he had a seventh grade education. These stories are not necessarily in conflict. After the census, he may have attended the business school and it may have been referred to by those who knew him as a 'college education.'

The Billnitzers were active in their community, particularly the Lutheran Church they attended in Houston. They were involved in helping with the Youth Choir, and the night of his death, Martin and Marie had scheduled a backyard party at their home for the members of that Choir.

I interviewed W.M. "Bill" Elkin, retired detective and current Executive Director of the Houston Police Retired Officers Association as part of my research on this story. Bill joined HPD shortly after this story broke in 1954 and recalls only vague details. He does remember, however, that his father, Joe. B. Elkin, who was also a Houston officer and retired in 1969, knew Martin Billnitzer. He recalls conversations with his Dad about the narcotics investigation and death of Billnitzer. Joe told his son that he questioned how Billnittzer died. He said that Martin Billnitzer just wasn't the kind of guy who would commit suicide.

In 2004, family members of Detective Billnitzer made a request to the Houston Police Chief that the death of their brother and uncle be re-examined. Through the Federal Freedom of Information Act, they had found documents from the 1950's investigation by Federal investigators that referred to Billnitzer's death as a murder, not a suicide. As you might expect concerning a case that happened fifty years prior to the request, the Chief declined to re-open the case.

Next week I write about Detective Billnitzer's death, some of the unusual reports about a man running from the office where he was shot, and forensics speculation all these years after his death.

In the interim, please consider purchasing one or more of my novels, available on this website, at, or wherever good books are sold.

COULDN’T TELL THE CROOKS FROM THE COPS –If The Walls Could Talk –Episode 6

Captain Foy Melton
(June 1954) A month earlier the media and Houston Police Chief L.D. Morrison learned that the federal government had sent agents to Houston to investigate allegations of missing heroin from the police department. The officers who recovered the dope and the dealer who bought it back told the feds there was about $75,000 worth of heroin, nearly ¾ of a million in today’s dollars.

City Attorney Will Sears
Detective Sidney Smith
But the Chief, City Attorney Will Sears and Captain Foy Melton said it was not more than $2,000 worth. Chief Morrison admitted that a single detective, acting alone, sold some of the dope back on the streets. But that detective, Sidney Smith, didn't work in the Vice Division and Morrison didn't explain how Smith obtained the dope that was supposedly in Assistant Chief Seber’s office. It smelled like a cover-up and it was! Eventually the top cops would turn over more dope to the feds, but not all of it.

On Thursday, June 3rd Detective Martin Billnitzer was found shot to death in an office at the police station. He had two bullets in his heart and a nasty gash on his head. Chief Morrison, the City Attorney, and a local justice of the peace declared it to be a suicide. Many others, including the officers who worked with him, the federal investigators, and his family believed that he had been murdered. The following Saturday, Morrison issued an order to all police officers that they were prohibited from talking to anyone, including federal agents, about the heroin or death of Detective Billnitzer. He declared he would answer all questions.

Detective Sidney Smith was fired and charged with selling heroin. He was eventually convicted and sent to prison. When interviewed in prison by federal investigators, he said that Detective Billnitzer was murdered and that the pistol used had been stolen from a store and used to kill the detective. Houston Police records indicated it was Billnitzer's personal weapon.

Dr. Julius McBride
Captain Foy Melton and a local doctor, Julius McBride, were indicted on June 25th. The doctor was indicted for supplying Chief Morrison with codeine for purposes other than medical use. He was eventually sentenced to thirty months in federal prison. Morrison was not charged, but testimony in the trial indicated that he was addicted to codeine. He resigned as Chief of Police, but remained on the Department.

Captain Melton was tried twice on the federal charges. First in Corpus Christi, then in Brownsville, juries could not reach a verdict. L.D. Morrison testified on his behalf. Melton appealed his suspension to the civil service commission and was promptly returned to duty.

Melton was charged a few years later with tampering with a witness and bribery on an unrelated case. He was found innocent of those charges, but his firing was upheld by the Houston Civil Service Commission. Melton appealed that decision and eventually the Texas Supreme Court reversed the decision and he was authorized to return to work as a Houston police officer. He opted instead to retire and began receiving his $187.42 per month pension. He was soon hired by District Attorney Frank Briscoe as an investigator.

On February 2, 1967, Melton pulled into the parking lot of the Harris County Courthouse and shot himself while sitting in his car.  He left two notes which were found in his pocket. A .45 caliber automatic pistol lay on the seat beside his body. 

On one note was written “Medical Examiner: When you finish, call Heights.” This apparently referred to the Heights Funeral Home in Houston. The second note said “Homicide: Let R.O. Biggs have this .45 automatic. God Bless You All. Foy D. Melton.” Melton had succeeded where others had failed. He had finally been removed from serving as a law enforcement officer.

My new novel, HOMICIDE IN BLACK & WHITE, is now available on this site or at Amazon.

A POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS – If the Walls Could Talk – Episode 4

Chief L.D. Morrison, Sr.

(1954) The Feds were in Houston investigating local police for selling heroin to dope dealers. Detective M.A. Billnitzer, shot twice in the heart at the police station, was dead. The Police Chief, L.D. Morrison, Sr., by his own admission in testimony, didn’t hear of the seizure of a large amount of heroin that occurred in August of 1953 until June of 1954, although he ordinarily was told of any narcotics seizure. The police department was much smaller in 1953 and illegal narcotics trade was becoming a major police problem. But Morrison apparently didn’t learn of the dope deal until the Federal investigation was about to become public.
Martin Billnitzer

After the death of Detective Billnitzer, Morrison relieved Captain Melton of duty and fired Detective Sidney Smith. He seems to have discounted any scandal beyond the actions of Smith. He later testified on behalf of Melton who was tried twice but not convicted. I’ll have more on Melton in later episodes.

In addition to the corruption that was taking place in his police department, Chief Morrison must have been uneasy when the Feds started snooping around for another reason. He had back problems and had found a doctor, Julius McBride, who supplied him with codeine which the doctor recorded as going to a patient who had cancer. When McBride was indicted, the charge said that he supplied the dope to the Chief for “non-medicinal” purposes. Medical experts from Baylor University testified in McBride’s trial that Morrison was caught up in the grip of the drug habit and well on his way to becoming an “addict” from frequent administration of codeine.

61 Reisner
Chief Morrison resigned as Chief when the narcotics scandal became public. His reputation within the police department seems to have survived the scandal, including his improper use of codeine. The current Houston Police Academy building is named in his honor. In the book, HOUSTON BLUE, authors Tom Kennedy and Michael P. Roth write that “Morrison is known as the father of HPD academic training...” That honor was accrued prior to his being appointed police chief and when he initiated the first academy class. His son, L.D. Morrison, Jr., later became a Houston officer and retired as a Captain in the Homicide Division.

Next week’s episode will tell more about Officer W.C. Pool, Federal Agent George White, and an interesting note about another officer who testified before the federal grand jury, J.O. Brannon. Stay tuned and check out my novels in paperback or as Kindle e-books.

THE MYTH OF THE BLUE CODE OF SILENCE – If the Walls Could Talk – Episode 5

W.C. Pool
(1954) A large haul of heroin had been recovered. The three officers who brought it in were told by Captain Foy Melton that he was taking possession of the dope because it was part of a much larger narcotics investigation. The officers became suspicious that there was no such investigation and that the heroin seizure was not reported. They decided to tell fellow officer W.C. Pool about the case.

There’s a belief among those critical of law enforcement that a Blue Code of Silence exists among officers, meaning that there is an unwritten rule that officers will not report on another officer’s errors, misconduct, or crimes. While this may be true regarding errors and minor misconduct, there is abundant evidence that officers often come forward to report the criminal acts of fellow law enforcement officers.

Joe Clark
Such was the case regarding the missing dope. At least two Houston officers reported their suspicions to the Harris County D.A. W.C. Pool was first. The D.A. told him to forget about the dope and if he couldn’t forget, he should look for another job. Soon after, Captain Joe Clark also took the case to the D.A. Clark reported that dope dealer Earl Voice told him officers were selling the heroin they had confiscated previously. The D.A. said there was not enough evidence and did nothing. Later, when questioned by reporters as to why he went to the D.A. instead of his superiors in the Department, Clark said he thought his superiors might have been involved in the criminal activity, all the way to the Chief.

George White
But Officer Pool refused to take the advice given him by the D.A. Instead he contacted a federal agent he was acquainted with in Houston. It wasn’t long before an investigation began, headed by Federal Bureau of Narcotics supervisor George White. He came with solid credentials. He had been the chief investigator for the Kefaufer Committee on Crime in America. White did not initially inform Houston’s police chief of the investigation. He was to become a controversial figure in the matter, after Police Chief Morrison and City Attorney Will Sears demanded of the Feds that he be removed from the investigation. In addition to other complaints, they alleged that he was responsible for Billnitzer's death because he "browbeat" him during questioning. White called the charges ridiculous and stayed on the case, suggesting that the pressure was getting to Morrison.

J.O. Brannon
Soon officers were being subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury which was meeting in Galveston. One of the officers who testified was J.O. Brannon, who had been in the Vice Squad previously. I’ve found little about Brannon’s involvement, but interestingly, not long after testifying, his car was vandalized while he was working. The convertible top was slashed, a tire was cut, three windows were shattered, and sugar was poured in the gas tank. When asked by the media about the incident, Brannon would only say that he had been working on something special in the Houston underworld and that he believed it was a warning to lay off.

Though I've found no evidence that ties this incident to Brannon's testimony, the newspaper story about his car being vandalized garnered the attention of news outlets throughout Texas and was published as an AP story in several other cities. This might indicate that reporters knew what was behind the vandalism, but couldn't get confirmation to put it in print. 

I've interviewed officers who knew J.O. Brannon. Some recall talk of him having been blackballed by fellow officers at one time during his career. It is quite possible that he too gave testimony against the crooked cops.

This string of stories began because of the shooting death of Officer M.A. Billnitzer.  Next week's story is about Sidney Smith, the only officer involved in the scandal to go to jail, and Captain Foy Melton. He was fired,charged with taking the heroin, taken to trial twice, not convicted, and got his job back. Melton was later fired on another corruption charge, but remained in law enforcement until his death by suicide several years later. I will conclude this series with two or three stories about Officer Billnitzer, who may have been killed in the line-of-duty when he decided to talk to the Feds.

Please check out my novels, available for sale on this website. 

DOPE DEALERS & COPS - If The Walls Could Talk - Episode 3

Sidney Smith
(1953) The dope dealer's name was Earl Voice. His girlfriend’s sister called police when she saw someone bury two jars of heroin in her backyard in the darkness of night. Let's presume that it was Earl’s dope.

Eight months later, after being arrested, Voice asked to speak to Captain Joe Clark, who was in charge of the Vice Division. Clark said in an interview that he had no idea why the dope dealer asked for him. But the story Earl Voice told was intriguing. 

A Burglary Detective by the name of Sidney Smith approached Voice about a week after the heroin was recovered from the backyard. He proposed selling the dope back to Voice and the two made a deal. Soon, the heroin made its way back onto the streets of Houston. Voice later said, "everything I got, I got from the police station.”

Sidney Smith and Captain Melton were indicted and Smith was sent to prison, but apparently not for his dealings with Earl Voice. He had other dealers whom he was doing business with. Later, Smith would be interviewed in prison by an investigator from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, He had interesting comments to make about the death of Detective Billnitzer.

Before the arrests of Melton and Smith, Officers Conley and Bennett, who recovered the dope, began to worry that they were being set up to take the fall if it was discovered the heroin was missing from the police department. They heard nothing of the "important investigation" Captain Melton told them about when he took the heroin. In an effort to protect themselves from false allegations, they confided in a fellow officer, William C. Pool, about what had occurred the night they brought the heroin to the police station.

Officer Pool was concerned when he learned that Captain Melton had taken the heroin and later that Detective Smith was selling it to the dope dealer, Earl Voice. He decided to take his suspicion of missing dope to the district attorney. The reception he received was less than enthusiastic. According to press reports of an interview with Pool, he was told “It wasn’t enough to go before the grand jury.” He also reported that Assistant District Attorney Ben Morris told him, “Forget about the whole thing. If you can’t forget about it, you’d better quit the police department.”

Officer Pool decided if the local authorities refused to take action, he’d seek help from the feds. He turned to a Houston Federal Customs agent by the name of Al Scharff and told him the story.

Chief Morrison
Pool’s actions would cause a federal investigation to be initiated. When Chief Morrison learned of the federal investigation, he may have had concerns beyond that of the missing heroin. He had a personal issue with the use of prescription drugs that might be discovered by the inquiry. It would be embarrassing at best and criminal at worst.

Next week, the dilemma for Chief Morrison as the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics begins. Don’t forget to check out my latest novel, Homicide in Black & White, elsewhere on this site. 


Next week I'll resume my series of stories about the death of Houston Police Detective M.A. Billnitzer and the possibility that he was murdered in his office. I began writing these stories to give readers a glimpse of my writing style. There have been more than sixty-five stories and 20,000 visits to the site. I don’t blatantly advertise my books, but I encourage readers who enjoy my writing to consider purchasing them. The one exception is when I release a new book as I am today.

Homicide in Black & White is the first novel in my new Tanner & Thibodaux Action and Adventure Crime Series. It is available today on my website and at bookstores. The Kindle version is also available by following this link,
As an added incentive for you to check it out, my short-story from the book, The Park Place Rangers, titled, The Naked Green Man & Other Colorful Stories, can be obtained FREE on Amazon today through Friday.

Milo Tanner and Calvin Thibodaux are the protagonists in this series. Tanner, a retired Houston police officer, moved to the small Texas town of Success to get away from all the things he’d seen working as a homicide detective. But he met retired Army Delta Force soldier Calvin Thibodaux whose niece had been murdered in the quiet town Tanner wanted to call home. The two men team up to make sure that justice is served, rules be damned!

Here’s a short excerpt from the book. I hope you enjoy it and that you check out Homicide in Black & White as well as my other novels.
Jack Sadosky was not new at dealing with political issues in Fulshear County. He had been the District Attorney for 18 years. During that time, he had faced a wide array of decisions involving prominent citizens and political figures. At times he had become extremely innovative in finding reasons not to prosecute certain cases; those who pulled the strings in Fulshear County had shown their appreciation by returning him to office at each election.
He was so good at walking that line that he also had a reputation as being beyond reproach in his duties as district attorney. That reputation came largely as a result of his ability to re-direct the blame when he chose not to pursue a case. Someone else, past sheriffs, a state agency, or, in some cases, even the victim, was cast in the role of preventing Jack Sadosky from pursuing justice. As a result he had preserved his law and order reputation.
When Sheriff Jackson sat in the chair across from his desk, Sadosky knew they would be talking about the murder of Danielle Parker. It was the only matter being discussed throughout the county. Though rumors had already surfaced regarding Hunter Hansen’s possible involvement, unsolved murders made people uncomfortable until someone was in jail.

Next week - I'll resume the series If the Walls Could Talk.


J.T. Conley (left) & E.H. Bennett
The call came in on the night of August 11, 1953. Vivian Timms, who made the call, lived at 3306 Bacchus in Houston, Texas. Her home was about five miles north of the new Houston Police Department building at 61 Riesner Street. Billed as the most modern police facility in the South, it had opened three years earlier in 1950.

Officers J.T. Conley and E.H. Bennett were assigned to the call. Some reports indicate that M.A. Billnitzer, a narcotics detective, accompanied them. However, it seems more likely that Conley and Bennett made the call, discovered a large amount of narcotics, and called for a narcotics unit to meet them there.

In any event, Vivian Timms told the officers that she saw two men come into her backyard, dig a hole, and bury a garbage can in the hole. Once they left, she dug up the garbage can and found that it contained two jars filled with a white powder. Now, Vivian Timms was no stranger to narcotics. Vivian’s sister was dating a man known in Houston as the Kingfish of drug pushers. His name was Earl Voice and he would play a major role in the police scandal that unfolded.

But let's get back to the call. Billnitzer, Conley and Bennett, after interviewing Ms. Timms, took the narcotics back to the police station where they inventoried it and opened some of the packets for testing. Their field test indicated that the substance was heroin. They knew that the street value of their discovery was many thousands of dollars. The confiscation of such a large amount of dope was likely to have major implications in the drug culture on the streets.

At some point while they were inventorying the dope and completing reports on the call, Captain Foy ‘Junior’ Melton strolled into the room where they were working. As reported in T. Lindsey Baker’s book Gangster Tour of Texas, J.T. Conley later recalled, Melton came in and asked where we got the stuff. Then the captain left for a few minutes after informing the three officers that he would secure the drugs and emphatically stating that only he and the three of them knew about the “haul.” Melton wanted them to stay quiet about the discovery because otherwise it might blow an important investigation. After thirty minutes, the Captain returned, telling Conley that he had put the stuff in the chief’s safe.

And that’s how the intrigue began! It would last nearly a year, but that night, neither Conley, Bennett, nor Billnitzer could have imagined that in just a few months one of them would be dead, the Police Chief would resign, others would be accused of corruption, and federal agents would be investigating. All these events would occur simply because someone buried heroin in Vivian Timms backyard.

Next week I’ll use my Monday blog story to introduce readers to my latest novel Homicide in Black & White. But the following week, when I have more documents, I will resume with the next episode of IF THE WALLS COULD TALK – A Houston Police Scandal. Episode 3 will introduce readers to the drug dealer who may have bought his own dope twice and a cop who refused to ignore corruption in the Houston P.D.

NOTE TO READERS: Some details are missing from the documents I source. I have taken the liberty of making a few assumptions telling the story. In those instances, I attempt to identify the information as such.

IF THE WALLS COULD TALK – A Houston Police Scandal

Old Police Headquarters, 61 Riesner Street
In 1967, after joining the Houston Police Department, I heard stories of a narcotics scandal that occurred several years earlier. Those who talked about it usually related that a Captain had been involved and a detective had died of gunshot wounds on the third floor of the old headquarters at 61 Riesner Street. His death was ruled a suicide, but most seemed to presume, often with a nod and a wink, that he had been shot by someone else. I never learned the details and regret that I didn’t ask more questions. Most of the officers involved were still on the department then. I’m not aware of any who are living now. If only those walls could talk at the old police headquarters, I'm sure there are some things many of us wouldn’t want to hear. But might they tell us of the murder of a hero who has been judged a suicide victim for more than fifty years?

Fast forward to a recent trip I took to Galveston with my wife. We strolled along The Strand shopping and exploring. In one shop, I found a book titled Gangster Tour of Texas written by T. Lindsay Baker. As I thumbed through the book I found a chapter with the heading The Houston Police Dope Scandal: Selling Heroin Back to the Dealers. I couldn’t resist! Sale made! Even at the thirty-four dollar price tag.

After reading that story and completing some initial research I recognized several of the officers involved. Most were “old heads” when I first met them. I decided to dedicate a few of my blog stories to events surrounding the scandal.

The following summarizes some of the details I’ll explore here in the weeks to come. Heroin was taken in as evidence, but went missing. A police chief, L.D. Morrison, resigned as an indirect result of the scandal. Assistant Chief George Seber kept some of the suspected stolen heroin in his office. Officers J.T. Conley and E.H. Bennett were caught up in the scandal simply because they answered a call where the dope was recovered. Detective Martin Albert Billnitzer was not suspected of being involved, but allegedly committed suicide after talking to federal investigators about the missing heroin. He supposedly shot himself in the heart...twice! Captain Foy Melton was charged and tried twice on charges related to the missing heroin, but was not convicted. A few years later he too was reported to have committed suicide. Officer William C. Pool learned of the scandal from his two friends, Conley and Bennett. He reported the wrongdoing to the District Attorney and the Feds. Detective Sidney Smith was the only officer to go to jail.

Fifty years after his death, the family of Officer Billnitzer asked the Houston Police Department to reopen the investigation. In part, their request was made because of documents they had discovered in Federal Government archives through freedom of information requests.

It's a fascinating story. If the family is correct, was Detective Martin Albert Billnitzer killed in the line of duty? And, if he was, should his name be on the City, State, and National Memorial Walls. I’ll explore the possibility in one of the Monday blogs.

If any of my Houston readers have information, old news articles, or photos about these events, feel free to e-mail the information to me at

Next week I’ll start with the story of officers recovering the heroin from the back yard of the sister of a well-known drug dealer.  Don't forget to sign up to receive e-mail notification of my new stories. Look above on the right, just below my photo.

Juanita Dale Slusher, aka CANDY BARR

This has been the most read story I have posted here. An average of three people read it every day, so here's Candy Barr's encore appearance! 

She was sentenced to 15 years in Texas for possession of four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana.  But, the severity of the punishment, even in Texas, is not what makes her an interesting subject for my blog stories. Consider these tidbits from her life.

Born in the small town of Edna, Texas and ran away from home at the age of either 13 or 14
Identified as the “first porn star” for her role in the 1951 underground pornographic movie “Smart Alec”
At the age of 14, married a “safe-cracker” in Dallas
Mobster Mickey Cohen’s girlfriend and mentioned in his autobiography

A friend of Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald

Charged with shooting her second husband four times; charges were dropped

In 1957 performed on the legitimate stage of the Dallas Little Theater

With Mickey Cohen, attended the Saints and Sinners testimonial for Milton Berle in 1959

Taught Joan Collins how to dance as a stripper for the movie Seven Thieves (1960)

Texas Monthly magazine, in 1984, listed her as one of history’s “perfect Texans”, where she was among the good company of fellow Texan, Lady Bird Johnson

She wrote a book of poems while in prison

A book of her life is available on Amazon

This is a remarkable set of life experiences for a girl who could have ended up just another statistic, as many other 14 year old runaways have. Instead, she went on to make a name for herself as an exotic dancer, a movie consultant, a government witness against a mobster, and one of Texas’ “Perfect Texans”. She was known as “Candy Barr”, a stage name given her by Barney Weinstein, a Dallas strip club owner.  He tagged her with the stage name while she was working at his club, because of the still under-aged girl’s love of Snickers candy bars.  

In interviews after becoming (in)famous, she said that shortly after arriving in Dallas, she was drugged and forced to participate in the 1951 pornographic movie, Smart Alec; a claim that may be true.  In any event, it gave her notoriety when the 1976 book, Dirty Movies: An Illustrated History of the Stag Film, called the movie "the single most popular film of the genre". Although never shown in theaters, the movie was a hit at the popular bachelor party and smoker circuit of the period. She stayed in Dallas, surviving as a stripper and prostitute.

Shortly after her only legitimate theater appearance (1957) in Dallas, playing the part of Rita Marlowe in Dallas Little Theater's production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter  she was arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana.  It is speculated that the arrest and harsh sentence for the marijuana possession were the result of indignation by Dallas’ society wives after she received publicity when charges were dropped against her for shooting her then husband. The indignation probably also resulted when some learned of their husbands' familiarity with her in a professional capacity, either as a stripper or a prostitute. In any event, the Dallas Vice Squad searched her apartment and found the marijuana. Some believed the warrant was blank and that the dope was a planted by a friend and police snitch shortly before the police arrived.
As the case wound its way through the appeal process, she may have benefited from the notoriety of Texas’ tough new drug laws.  She was soon performing as a stripper in Las Vegas for $2000 a week. That’s also about the time she began dating mobster Mickey Cohen. (She later testified for the government in Cohen’s tax evasion trial.)

Candy Barr was hired by 20th Century Fox studios as a consultant on the movie, Seven Thieves, in which Joan Collins played a stripper.  She taught Collins how to perform for the role.  Collins said, "She taught me more about sensuality than I had learned in all my years under contract,"

In 1959, with all her appeals exhausted on the marijuana conviction, she reported to the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas to serve her prison sentence.  She was released after three years, during which time she wrote a book of poems titled A Gentle Mind...Confused, a copy of which was available at Amazon on the day of this writing for $637.50. Later pardoned by Texas Governor John Connally, she appeared to have no clue as to why he did so, when she was asked about the pardon.
When Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby, the feds knocked on her door again.  She was a friend of Ruby’s whom she met while a stripper in Dallas.  She never worked for him at his clubs, but the two were friends for years.  When she moved back to Edna, Texas upon her release from prison, Ruby gave her two dachshund breeding dogs to help her in an attempt to make a living by becoming a dog breeder. Although rumored to know much more than she ever revealed about Oswald’s murder, she always denied it.

A life filled with many twists and turns, ups and downs, successes and failures. That was Juanita Slusher’s story.  One of the most interesting subjects I’ve researched for this blog. When interviewed by Texas Monthly at the age of 66, she responded to a question about the porno movie and life as a prostitute with,

“I was a poor girl with no education. I thought I could save my money to go to college someday, but sometimes things just don’t work out like you’d planned.”

She died at the age of 70 in Victoria, Texas from pneumonia.
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Star Telegram headlines 80 years ago
The headline for a story written by Bud Kennedy in the Fort Worth Star Telegram April, 2014 is headlined  Easter of Tears. Kennedy begins his article with "That bloody Easter is eighty years past now and almost nobody talks about the two law officers killed on Dove Road. Maybe Doris Brown Edwards was right. We've forgotten her husband, state patrol officer Ed Wheeler of Fort Worth and rookie partner, H.D. Murphy, shot dead 12 days short of his wedding."

There have been at least eleven movies made about the criminals who killed those two Texas State Troopers, but most people don’t have a clue of the Troopers' names. Even worse, there were a total of nine law enforcement officers killed by the gang as they traveled through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. It is doubtful most readers can name even one of those men who gave their lives. Eighty years after Wheeler and Murphy were killed on Easter morning, here are the names of the other seven murdered officers. 

Deputy Eugene Clyde Moore, Atoka County, Oklahoma, Deputy Malcolm Davis, Tarrant County, Texas, Detective Harry L. McGinnis, Joplin, Missouri, Constable John Wesley Harryman, Newton County, Missouri, Marshal Henry D. Humphrey, Alma, Arkansas, Major Joe Crowson, Texas Department of Corrections, Constable William Calvin Campbell, Commerce, Oklahoma.

H.D. Murphy
But back to Ed Wheeler and H.D. Murphy who stopped that Easter morning to help an apparently stranded motorist on what is now Texas Highway 114, in the Dallas area. They were ambushed and murdered without even pulling their weapons.   It was Murphy’s first day out of training as a motorcycle officer. He remains the youngest Texas DPS officer to have lost his life in the line of duty.Their lives and those of their wife and fiancĂ©e are more worthy subjects of movies than that of their murderers.

A recent article in the Tyler Morning Telegraph by Faith Harper noted that H.D. Murphy and Maree Tullis were high school sweethearts who graduated from Alto (Texas) High School. He was accepted into the Texas Department of Public Safety and the two planned to marry and move to Fort Worth. On Easter morning, April 1, 1934, he met his death at the hands of the infamous criminals. Maree Tullis wore her white wedding dress to his funeral. She never married and died in 1978.

Ed Wheeler
Ed Wheeler had been married for two years. That Easter morning his wife, Doris, became a widow at the age of 23. There were no benefits for families of officers killed in the line of duty, but she landed a job with the State Department of Transportation. Later she did some undercover work with the Texas Rangers. She was sworn in as a Ranger and would enter gambling establishments throughout the state to witness the gaming before other officers would enter and close the places down.

She met Ed Wheeler when he stopped her for having a tail light burned out. She said in an interview years later that her car’s lights were just fine. Ed had stopped her to introduce himself and to get her name. It worked! Doris died in 2007, outspoken in her belief that the murderers should never have been glorified in movies.

History is often kinder to the bad guys than to the good. This is one of those cases. Maybe someday a movie producer will decide to tell the story of the heroes instead of the vicious and destructive lives of Bonnie and Clyde and their gang.