Sunday, September 11, 2011

Iola's Darkest Days: The Murders of Betty Cantrell and Sally Hutton

by Susan Gonzalez

On October 2, 1969, students were enjoying an Iola Junior High football game, and nobody could foresee the horror that was about to befall one of their own. Nobody expects tragedy to happen in a small town and definitely not twice within a week. This particular week started off with tragedy and would end with more tragedy than anyone in the town could have imagined. A couple days before on September 30, 1969, Betty Cantrell reported to work around 2:00 am. She was opening the diner, getting ready for the morning to start. The last time Cantrell was seen alive was at 4:30 am at the Dine-Out CafĂ© when a police officer drove by the diner. Nobody else was scheduled to report to work until 5:00 am. At 5:00 am, co-workers found the lights in the diner shutoff and Cantrell’s car missing. Her car was found that morning at the south end of First Street, near the creek. There was no sign of Mrs. Cantrell, so the search for her continued. On October 2, 1969, while the police were still searching for Mrs. Cantrell, Sally Hutton, a 14-year-old girl, was like any normal teenager who loved to hang out with friends and support her school football team. A friend recalls seeing Sally there that night, but there was no talk of what was going on after the game. Sally was not hanging out with anyone in particular that night. The friend was not able to recall anything strange or out of the ordinary. After the game was over, sometime between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm, two witnesses saw Sally leave the football game with a young man in his car. The witnesses were not able to give the name of the man, but they were able to provide a vague description of him and the vehicle he was driving. The two individuals saw the car drive away into the night, not knowing that it would be the very last time they would see Sally Hutton alive. There is a lot of speculation about what went on after Sally left the football game, but nobody really knows for sure. The only thing certain is that Sally did not return home the next morning and that is when her family began to worry. They contacted all of her friends, but nobody had seen her since the football game. Shortly after noon on Friday, October 3, the body of Sally Ann Hutton was found in a ditch a mile north of the Allen County Country Club. The body was 100 yards east at the intersection of 2000th Street and North Dakota Road on an old dirt road, reputed to be a “lovers’ lane.” No attempt had been made to hide her body which was visible to any passerby. Sally was severely beaten in the face and head with a tire iron or similar object. She also had a broken leg and an injury to her back. It looked as though Sally may have been run over by a car. Something was not right about where Sally’s body was found. There was very little blood at the site. It appeared that Sally may have been murdered in another spot and then thrown into the ditch later. The autopsy confirmed that the amount of blood lost during the murder was not consistent with the amount of blood in the ditch where she was found. It did not appear that Sally had been sexually attacked and her clothes were still in place. The autopsy was able to show that Sally’s death was a result of severe blows to her face and head. The autopsy also showed that Sally suffered additional injuries that may have been caused from being run over by a car. It was confirmed during the autopsy that Sally had not had sexual intercourse prior to her death. On the evening of October 3, 1969, around 5:00 pm, the body of Betty Cantrell was found. Joe Maloney, who lived on the south end of the Kentucky Street Bridge, saw the body floating in Elm creek and called police. Her body had been floating in the creek a couple days. Cantrell, a 28-year-old mother of two, had been beaten in the back of the head, possibly by a rock that was discovered by the creek covered in blood. The autopsy concluded that Mrs. Cantrell was killed by being drowned in Elm Creek. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation found no connection between the Betty Cantrell and Sally Hutton murders. Although the murders occurred days apart and make people wonder, a confession in the Cantrell case appears to put such speculation to rest. The police brought in a man named Shoemaker who was seen in the area where Cantrell’s body had been found. He confessed to the crime, but his confession got thrown out because he was drunk at the time he confessed. Sally Hutton’s unsolved murder will haunt those who knew Sally or have heard about her murder. People will always wonder what actually happened that fateful night and who committed the crime? People will continue to thumb through old newspapers and yearbooks trying to find pieces to this unsolved murder that has everyone puzzled. Many may sit and look at old yearbooks and wonder if the person who killed Sally is staring right back at them. There has been a lot of speculation about the murder of Sally Hutton. Sitting around, everyone has a theory on who committed the murder. Could it have been an individual whose family was wealthy, one of the town bad boys, or someone close to Sally? Why would someone murder Sally? Did Sally hang out with the wrong crowd, was she a little promiscuous and things got out of control or was it a stranger who she ran into late that night? Those questions run through the minds of those who have heard about Sally’s murder and the stories that have been spread around town over the years. Without answers, all people have is speculation. After all the speculation, people then sit around wondering if in fact any of the stories are true and what really happened to Sally Hutton. Maybe one day we will know the truth, but for now we are left with speculation. It has been over 40 years since Sally Ann Hutton was murdered, but the investigation is still ongoing. Sally’s family wants justice, and no matter how long it takes, they will continue to search for the truth. Someone out there knows what happened that fateful night. Others may have what seem inconsequential recollections. Any information may shed light on the case and help bring justice for Sally and her family. If you know anything regarding the murder of Sally Ann Hutton, please contact the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 785-296-8200.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mother Clings to Memories of Murdered Son While his Killer Continues to Escape Justice

by Paul Fecteau

This article originally appeared in the February 4, 2009, issue of tmiWeekly.

Mattie Anderson makes fried chicken on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her family--including her mother, Willia Mae, and her brother, former Topeka Mayor James McClinton--would be satisfied with the turkey and dressing which she also serves, but they know why the chicken is included: it is for Damon, her eldest son. Fried chicken was his favorite dish, and he always asked Mattie and his aunt Bobbie Jean to make it for him on holidays. Mattie and Bobbie Jean keep up the tradition despite the sad fact that this latest holidayseason marked the family’s ninth without
Damon. He was gunned down in front of his home on Valentine’s Day, 2000, and his murderer remains at large.

A Topeka native, Damon Anderson graduated from Highland Park High School and attended Highland Community College. He was star baseball player. Although he appeared imposing and would not let himself be pushed around, he was known around town for his good humor and kindness. He was only twenty-five years old and full of plans for the future. He had a five-year-old daughter.

On Valentine’s Day, 2000, Damon worked at his job with Great Plains Locating Services and in the evening drove his work truck home to the house in the 900 block of S.E. 11th where he
was staying with his Aunt Bobbie Jean. Her three children shared a room with a window facing the street, and one of them, who was only eight at the time, recalls cousin Damon looking in on them that night. Damon told them to be sure and get to bed on time because it was a school night. Damon then left in his work truck, headed to Sonic to pick up some dinner.

Future mayor, then city councilman, James McClinton was home that evening. He glanced out a window and was surprised to see his nephew Damon’s truck outside, but before he could make it to the door, Damon drove away. Damon did not usually drop by his uncle’s house unless he had something important to discuss. To this day, McClinton wonders if Damon knew he was in danger and had come to ask for his help, only to change his mind.

Damon returned to the house on 11th Street, and tragedy unfolded.

His eight-year-old cousin heard Damon’s truck pull into the drive. Moments later, a car playing loud music drove up followed by another car. The cousin looked out the window and saw a small yellow car in the street and in the drive Damon talking to three men. The cousin did not think much of it and looked away from the window. He then heard Damon exclaim, “Come on, Man,”
in a frantically dismayed voice. Before the cousin could look out the window again, a burst of gunfire ripped through the night.

When Damon had walked away from the men, one of them had opened fire. Several bullets missed, striking the house, but one hit Damon in the back of the head. Damon collapsed on the front porch. Police and an ambulance responded at about 10:00 p.m. Damon was rushed to Stormont-Veil where he died.

Years have passed, but Mattie and Willia Mae Anderson continue to grieve for Damon, grief made worse by the likelihood that his killer remains in their community. “I wonder,” Mattie says, “if I’ve stood near him.”

The rumor persists that the identity of the murderer remains widely known in Topeka but that no one will come forward due to fear of possible retribution.

A variety of theories also circulate regarding the reason behind the slaying. Many of these stories tie the killing to the drug trade, but the Andersons maintain that Damon had no involvement whatsoever in illegal drugs, and they chalk up such suggestions to the kind of stereotyping that causes the media and even the authorities to write off all black-on-black crime as due to drugs.

The Andersons do think it possible that a fi ght Damon was in two weeks before had something to do with his murder. The altercation took place at a local barber shop, and Damon got the
better of it. What spurred Damon and an unknown man to violence remains unknown.

Perhaps someone who knows or who has other information will have the courage to come forward. Mattie, Willa Mae, and the rest of the family cling to hope that a break in the case will
come, and they continue to cling to their memories of Damon.

If you can in any way shed light on who killed Damon Anderson, please contact the detectives at the Topeka Police Department at 368-9400.

UPDATE: January 9, 2014: Monroe Lockhart III is charged with Damon Anderson's murder, see