Farmerville Law Officer Shot Monday Night

The Gazette
June 22, 1972

Speculation continues to persist following the murder of Farmerville Deputy Town Marshal Leroy Odom, Jr., but to date, no concrete evidence has arisen which points to any suspect or suspects responsible for the killing and the circumstances surrounding the murder  are still sketchy at this time.

Odom, 29, was found shot to death at the rear service area of the Farmerville Western Auto Store early Tuesday morning. A full-scale investigation is now underway, being handled by the Union Parish Sheriff’s Office assisted by the Farmerville Town Marshal’s Office and fingerprinted experts from Ouachita Parish.

Odom was found lying at the rear of the store at approximately 4:20 a.m. Tuesday by Farmerville Town Marshall, Ralph Strother and Parish Deputy Sheriff Bobby Tucker. Odom was the victim of a shotgun blast in the back of the head.

When the victim was found he was lying on top of a iron bar, and it was first thought he had been clubbed to death. But later autopsy revealed that a large number of pellets of shot had struck him in the head. Parish Coroner Dr. John G. Norris officially ruled that the shotgun blast was the cause of death.

Known facts involved in the case record that Odom, who was on night patrol, left the marshal’s office to go on his appointed rounds at 1:30 a.m. At 4 a.m., Town Marshall Ralph Strother, who was scheduled to replace Odom, founded the deputy’s car with the engine still running. He enlisted the aid of Tucker, and together they found Odom’s body.

A window bar had been torn from one of the store’s windows and the window itself had been pried open indicating Odom may have surprised burglars intent on entering the store. Apparently, no entrance was gained, as dust on the window-still was undisturbed. Store manager, Iro Baker, said that nothing was missing from the store.

A combination pry-bar-lug-wrench tool was found at the murder scene. Deputy Warren Seivers of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, who is a fingerprint expert, said no prints could be found on the tool.

Overhead lights at the rear of the store had been turned off sometime during the night. Deputies surmise this could be the one factor that attracted Odom to the scene. One of the lights had been flicked off by an attached string; the other light had been unscrewed. Investigation showed no fingerprints were found on the bulbs.

Deputy Odom had left his shotgun in his car while investigating behind the store. Also, his side arm was still strapped in its holster. These two facts have police baffled, as no plausible  answer can be derived as to why he would approach unarmed.

Shotgun wadding and burned powder found at the scene indicate the murderer was approximately 30-35 feet, from the deputy when he fired the fatal blast. The shot was fired in front of a line of fireworks booths being stored at the rear of the store.

A check of the area residents shows that Mrs. Gladys Bearden, who lives across the way from the rear of the store on the other side of Lafayette St., heard the early morning shot, but couldn’t pinpoint the exact time of the firing. No one else in the vicinity said they heard anything.

Sheriff’s deputies estimate the time of the shooting probably occurred between 1 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Funeral services for Odom were held Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the chapel of First National Funeral Home in Farmerville. The Revs. Clarence Powell and Leon Scott officiated and burial was in Liberty Cemetery under the direction of First National.

He was a graduate of Farmerville High School and had served in the U.S. Air Force for four years. He was the owner of Odom Shoe Shop.

He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Leroy Odom, Jr.; two sons, Jim Jolly and Clyde Jolly; his stepmother, Mrs. Christine Odom; three brothers, David Odom, Stephen Odom, and Mark Odom, all of Farmerville; three sisters, Mrs. Rita Jackson and Mrs. Sadie Craft, both of Shreveport and Miss Christie Odom of Farmerville.

He was the son of the late Mr. Leroy Odom, Sr. and Mrs. Marie Ernestine Odom.

Pallbearers were Dr. J. L. Murphy, Bobby Gray, Kenneth Gray, Carl Futch, Wayne Upshaw, and Wayne Gray.

Officials of the Town of Farmerville and the Union Parish Sheriff’s Department served as honorary pallbearers.

$2,000 Reward Offered In Deputy Slaying Case

Officials of the Town of Farmerville announced early Wednesday they are offering $1.000 reward to anyone furnishing information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or persons involved in the death of town deputy marshal Leroy Odom. Anyone having such information may contact Farmerville Marshal Ralph Strother or the Union Parish Sheriff’s office.

In addition to the reward by the town the Farmerville Jaycees, Wednesday were raising  another $1,000 from local merchants and businessmen to be used for the same purpose. Jaycee chairman Jerry Allen may be contacted if you would like to make a pledge for this reward.

Officials stated that experiences by other police departments in similar cases has been very good when a reward is offered for information. F.B.I. agents have been requested to investigate the case.

The Gazette
June 29, 1972

Three Charged In Deputy Slaying Here

An intense investigation launched by the Union Parish Sheriff’s office with invaluable assistance provided by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in northern Louisiana and in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, has resulted in the arrest of three Bernice men charged with the June 20 slaying of Farmerville Deputy Town Marshal Leroy Odom, Jr.

Sheriff Dennis Long confirmed the arrest of Cordell Hull, 27, George Allen Gafford, 29 and Jose Raiford, 19, all of Bernice. Hull and Gafford are presently being held in the Union Parish jail. Raiford is being lodged at the Lincoln Parish jail. All three men are charged with murder.

Deputy Odom was gunned down while on early-morning duty behind the Farmerville Western Auto Store. The shooting occurred sometime between the hours of 1-3 Tuesday morning. Odom’s body was found sprawled behind the store at 4:20 that same morning by Town Marshal Ralph Strother and Parish Deputy Bobby Tucker. Odom was shot from close range by one blast from a shotgun. A window at the rear of the store had been pried open, a bar which had been riveted in front of the window had been torn loose, overhead bulbs shedding light at the rear of the store had been unscrewed; all of this was the scene before the spot where Odom’s body lay.

There was little doubt that Odom had walked onto an attempted burglary working its way into progress, but outside of those few things that could be based on circumstantial evidence or just pure speculation, nothing was for certain. No clear-cut clues had been found, no witnesses were ready to testify, and there wasn’t even an inkling of who was responsible for Odom’s murder.

Parish Deputy Bill Littleton, having joined other deputies and Sheriff Long at the murder scene Tuesday morning who were looking for some clue that may have had a bearing on the case, found a high school class ring, plated gold, dated “1976”, and featuring the letter “N” as its signet. Little was made of the find, but it was decided to trace the ring back to it’s owner. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Sheriff Long cleared unforeseen red tape to enlist the aid of the FBI and, with additional help from local jeweler Russell Hollis, the origin of the ring was traced back to North Division High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

According to Sheriff Long, the FBI dispatched five men to find the owner of the ring. It was a girl’s ring which contained initials on the inside surface which presses against the flesh when worn. The girl was located, and according to Sheriff Long, when asked where her ring was she replied she gave it to Cordell Hull, her boyfriend.

A quick police check showed that Hull, whose mother lives in Milwaukee, had been in that city just weeks before the murder.

Word that the ring was given to Hull was relayed to local Sheriff authorities, who, in turn, pinpointed his residence in Bernice, and went to bring him in. Hull was arrested without incident late Friday evening. Sheriff Long said he (Hull) still refuses to talk and denies knowing anything about the ring.

The next day, Saturday, June 24, at approximately the same time Sheriff’s deputies and FBI officers arrested Hull’s two cohorts in Bernice. Officers had checked on Hull’s acquaintances and were trying to locate Gafford and Raiford at the time of their arrests. Sheriff Long said he felt the three were the only ones involved.

So, within a matter of five days following Odom’s murder, three suspects have been arrested and now await arraignment. What at first appeared to be a near-impossible crime to solve, now has three suspects with an increasingly long list of evidence stacked against them. Everything stems from the class right which could have been considered trivial and cast aside.

Although the three suspects have been charged with only murder, Sheriff Long said other charges, including burglary, attempted burglary, and possession of illegal weapons, may eventually be brought against the trio. There three suspects have been charged with a capitol offense and cannot be bonded.

Sheriff Long said he felt certain that by the end of the week several other burglaries which occurred over the past few months will have been cleared up as they are related to the suspects.

Reconstructing events on the night of the murder is difficult. Two of the three suspects have testifies to those events, but the testimony conflicts. Which of the three suspects is the trigger man is still unknown.

Allegedly, the suspects were in a 1964 white Ford Fairlane on the night of the murder. They parked their car a block from the Western Auto Store, according to unconfirmed reports, and approached the store on foot. Reports of a truck baked up to the rear of the store, which appeared in Monroe newspapers are unfounded. Sheriff Long dismissed it as a “false rumor.”

Allegedly, two of the suspects were involved in the actual physical act of burglary, while the third member stood watch. It was confirmed one suspect stood on the shoulders of another to unscrew the light bulbs. Whether or  not gloves were worn is unknown. Those events which followed are too cloudy to decipher.

Deputies have confiscated the suspects’ car and have given it a thorough search. The inside carpet was vacuumed, and the lint and dust sent to the FBI laboratory in New Orleans. Samples of mud and manure, scraped from the said of the car, were also sent to the FBI lab for match-up identification.

Two sawed-off shotguns and one pump-action shotgun, all 12 gauge, have been taken as evidence and sent to the FBI lab.

Assistant District Attorney, J. T. Spencer, said present plans call for the three suspects to be tried in October, following selection of new grand jury. The possibility of a special grand jury being called for then was not ruled out, however. One of the two prisoners presently being held at the Union Parish jail may soon be transferred to another parish jail, according to Spencer.


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