The summer heat sizzles in Dallas with temperatures that regularly exceed 100°. As the season drones on the heat drains your energy and feels as though it is baking through to your brain. By August tempers flare and it seems that summer will never end. Back in 1959 there would have not been a Central Air-conditioning system in the apartment rented by Marie Hunter and her husband James Robert Hunter at 1812 St. Louis Street.
This was the backdrop for the events of August 2nd, 1959 when Marie was murdered in her residence by a man she had been drinking with throughout the hot afternoon. It was a Sunday and she was unemployed, so had nowhere to be. The Sunday School room which overlooked the back side of her property had already emptied and the temperature quickly climbed to sweltering 97° by late afternoon. This is far from the hottest day of the year, but after three months of temperatures over 90° it might as well have crossed into the triple digits. Hot and irritated they had gotten into a drunken fight and he stabbed her in the abdomen with a curved foot-long butcher knife, which cut her Celiac Artery in half and she bled to death as massive amounts of blood poured into her abdomen. The Celiac Artery provides oxygenated blood to the Liver and Spleen. She was already dead by the time the police officer V. C. Campbell arrived on the scene, but she was officially pronounced Dead on Arrival at Parkland Hospital at 6:15. By this point, he had already been booked for her murder. She was subsequently buried in the Dallas City Cemetery which serves as her final resting place.
The Dallas Morning News listed her name as Marine Heranda Hunter and says that the assailant readily confessed to the murder and even waited around as the police were flagged down by neighbors. He was taken into custody and charged with Murder. There is no mention in the newspaper article of where the husband was during this altercation or who the man she had been drinking with all afternoon. The Death Certificate is mostly empty, but James did serve as the witness. Sadly, he didn’t seem to know much about her when completing the death certificate.
Perplexed by this story and wanting answers to these questions I turned to the Police Report. After exchanging several messages, I received a 6-page document which gave far more detail about the altercation. The story lays out as follows:
Deloris Blanton a young girl of only 16 was the first to see the commotion. She lived next door to the Hunters at 1816 St. Louis with her father, H. L. Blanton. She saw them on the back porch as Marie held a small knife to the man’s neck and pull down on it. She ran to her father and exclaimed, “Father, that woman just cut that man’s throat!”
H. L. Blanton then flagged down officer Vernon C. Campbell, Jr #1229, who was passing by on his motorcycle, and told him that he saw four other men go upstairs to that Apt. but that he had not seen any of them leave. R. L. had also called the police and at this time squad car #52 arrived, which was being worked by officers R. J. Cook #1352 and J. B. Chapman #1221.
Entering the apartment, they found Marie lying on bed with a red half-slip and a blouse. Marie was partially covered by a sheet and the suspect was sitting on another bed in the same room. The weapon was lying on the kitchen table, next to a scarf covered in blood. The suspect tells the officers that he wiped handle of knife off with it. There was a bath towel lying on chest of drawers with that he tried to stop bleeding with.
The officers arrested him for Murder and called an ambulance to transport Marie to Parkland Hospital where she was pronounced Dead on Arrival. The suspect was finally identified as James Robert Hunter and mentions that he is her Common Law Husband. How that detail escaped the person writing the news article is unknown. What happened next is also unclear. James never appears in the newspaper again and does not seem to have a death certificate. The police report lists several alias names for Marie, but none of them provided sufficient evidence to know where she came from or when she was born.
Without additional information, the story of their lives ends here. But the area in which they lived has its own story that continues to present day. With Dallas’ rapid growth this neighborhood, like many others, has transformed into something almost completely new. Marie lived next door to a Church and Sunday School, The Jewish Community Center was around the corner as was City Park. At some point City Park was cut down in size from its original shape which went almost to Marie’s back Door. It forms what today is known officially as Dallas Heritage Village, but most residents will recall it as Old City Park.
The resizing allowed for the creation of the I-30 “Canyon” through the south side of Downtown Dallas, but cutoff the neighborhoods from each other with places like the Ervington Hotel & Apartments built in 1926 (1202 S. Ervay) being lost forever and The Ambassador Hotel & Apartments (1312 S. Ervay) which still stands near the now booming South Side area founded on the bones of the old Sears Building on Lamar St.
Today the I-30 Canyon is on the move again and it once again being redeveloped to meet the ever-expanding city population. It has often been referred to by locals as the Spaghetti Bowl and this plan aims to finally straighten those noodles out. St. Louis is visible on this map just above the crossover for Ervay Street.
This renaissance is adjacent to Old city Park which has been turned from a sleepy corner of forgotten Dallas, back into a beautiful addition to our cities history.
1812 St. Louis was spared from becoming part off the Freeway’s service road, only to be demolished to make way for warehouses attached to the Modern-Day Farmer’s Market. It’s address isn’t well known but provides a vital link to the residents of the city.