Written by Gene Barron
Mahlon H. Farrar (1871-1930) remembered a man who lived in the Bernice area named Paul Roberts as being a paid assassin. Paul was born in 1867 in Ward 1 of Union Parish to Judge William R. and Antoinette Roberts. In the 1880 and 1900 census he was living with his sister, Hettie, and her husband, Tillman Thomas Elliott (1847-1887), who lived just west of Rockett’s Bridge near Shiloh on land known as the Clyde C. Colvin Place today.
Paul seems to have been in trouble with the law for most of his adult life. At some point he was convicted of a willful shooting in Union Parish and served a sentence in prison. He applied for the restoration of his citizenship after his release from prison and on June 23, 1909 it was restored.
Over the years Paul had gained the reputation as an enforcer or a man who could be hired to exact punishment for a price. Connie Farrar remembered his father, James Delle Farrar (1888-1969), saying that Paul Roberts was the meanest man he ever knew. He related that once Paul rode up and down the street of Junction City, Arkansas on his horse dragging a black man with a rope around his neck until he was dead.
William Allen Grafton (1896-1996) recalled the killing of Jim Wiley Green by Paul Roberts during a poker game, in an empty house about a block east of the railroad: “There was reported at the time and stated at the subsequent trial in Farmerville, which I attended a part of, that those present at the game and witnessed the shooting of Jim Wiley Green by Paul Roberts included Everett Riodon, Bill Thaxton, and Joe Nicklas. Roberts was found not guilty as he shot in self defense.”
On March 23, 1904, Paul married Addell, the widow of Columbus M. Gray (1857-1903), who lived just north of the Elliott farm. Paul is said to have distrusted Addell and thought she was trying to poison him. Before he would eat anything she cooked he’d feed a portion to his dog to see if it was safe. It was reported that once his wife served him and a friend some cake and Paul let the cat in and had it test the cake before he’d eat it. As the cat got deathly sick, they didn’t eat the cake.
Paul and Walter Mullins had been close friends since childhood. At the time Mullins lived in Ruston, Louisiana and later in Junction City, Arkansas. Mullins had become successful and owned a club in Junction City, Kansas. Anthony King owned a restaurant in Alta Vista, a little town a few miles from Junction City. Years before, King had been on the police force in Junction City and had run-ins with Mullins in the course of police work. At some point King gave Mullins a beating. Mullins was vindictive and wrote his friend Paul Roberts a letter explaining that he was in trouble and needed his help.
Roberts told his wife that Mullins was in trouble, and he was going to help him. He traveled to Junction City, Kansas and was seen in Mullins’ company. Shortly thereafter, Roberts used Mullins’ horse and buggy to drive to Alta Vista and resented himself to King as an agent of the government wanting to buy mules. Later he worked in the quarries as he gathered information on King.
On that faithful day, Roberts went to King’s restaurant and shot him in the chest through the screen door with a load of buckshot. When King was found shot to death in his restaurant, Roberts, who was a stranger in Alta Vista, was questioned as a suspect. Failing to give a satisfactory account of his whereabouts on the night of the murder, he was jailed without bail and charged with the murder. Mullins came to Roberts’ aid and hired the best legal minds that were available. After several months he was released due to lack of evidence, only to be immediately rearrested and charged with being an accomplice to the killing. The newspaper described Roberts as a “drug fiend” in their report of the homicide.
A detective came to Union Parish to investigate Roberts’ record. Upon his return to Kansas he was accompanied by Robert’ wife, Adell. (She and Roberts had been together less than a year.) She gave testimony damaging to the defense and implicating Mullins. It was said that her testimony was the cause of the long drawn out investigation held prior to the final trial in which Roberts was convicted. Over twenty witnesses were called in an effort to disprove her testimony.
A few days before the final trial, King’s sister came to Louisiana to accompany Adell to Alta Vista where she was to appear as a witness for the state. After her arrival, she repudiated all of her former testimony and went to the aid of her husband.
What is said to have been Roberts’ undoing was that he admitted into his confidence two men, in an effort to prove an alibi. They agreed to testify that they were with Roberts elsewhere when the fatal shot was fired that killed King. Turns out these men were in the employ of the state.
Roberts was being held in jail just below where the jury deliberated his case and found him guilty of murder on the evening of May 16, 1913. The verdict was to be delivered to Roberts the next morning.
When they went to his ceil to render the verdict, they found Roberts dead. He had taken poison. It is unclear who had given him the poison but some say his sisters, Hattie Elliott and Allie Hammons, from Louisiana visited him during his last days and slipped the poison to him. Others think Adel smuggled it to him. Also unclear is why he decided to take the poison before he was told of his guilty verdict unless he over heard the jury when they reached the verdict in the room above his cell. The body of Roberts was held in Kansas for a few days to determine the true cause of his death. No results were made public.
On May 20 the body of Roberts arrived in Bernice accompanied by his sister and other relatives. The body was taken to the home of his deceased father. The next morning at 10 AM funeral services were held with Reverend W. O. Bennett of Jennings in charge.
Walter Mullins was charged and tried for conspiracy to commit murder in May 1913. While awaiting trial Mullins was released on $15,000 bond.
At his trial Fred Pickering testified that Mullins offered him a trip to California and plenty of spending money if he would kill King. The evidence was overwhelming and Mullins was found guilty by the jury. He was sentenced to life in prison. After nearly two years of appeals, the state supreme court upheld the conviction on April 10, 1915.
On April 11, while Mullins was still out on bond and before officers could pick him up after the conviction was upheld, he committed suicide between Junction City and Fort Riley, Kansas. Walter O. Mullins was buried in HighlandCemetery in Junction City, Gary County, Kansas.
In 1940 his wife, the former Genie P. Jordan died and was buried beside him. Their children Orran Walter and Irene Winifred are buried beside them. In the census, Orran’s name was listed as Walter O. Mullins, Jr.
Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.