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 Café 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.


Anonymous said...

What about the guy in the car that people saw her leave the game with? You said that there were descriptions of each... I take it that they either never figured out who that was or they cleared the guy and it happened after he left her. I heard a rumor that they were interested in Yorky Smith after he committed those other murders in 1982.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up near Iola, I am shocked I had never heard about this, prior to reading about it today.

Unknown said...

I grew up in Iola and I, too, had never heard of these murders. This is my take, which is based just on the information in this article:

The two witnesses were likely mistaken
In Iola, like any small town, everyone knows everyone else. So it's odd to me that the two witnesses who saw Sally enter a vehicle with a young man (unsub) did not know the man or recognize the vehicle. To me, this indicates that: (1) the unsub was not from the area (possible but unlikely); (2) the two witnesses withheld information (highly unlikely); or (3) the witnesses wrongly identified Sally as the individual entering the vehicle (the most likely as eyewitness testimony can be highly suspect).

As to the comment about Yorkie Smith, I would think that the witnesses would have identified the unsub as a black male. Iola is not very diverse, and this would have been notable in 1960's Iola.

Why "lover's lane?”
The fact that Sally was unceremoniously dumped in an area that was known as “lover's lane,” could indicate a number of things. First, the unsub likely knew the area, as it was a remote location. But it was not too remote as to call into question the unsub’s whereabouts (“where have you been all night?”).

The unsub likely knew it was "lover's lane" (i.e. quiet place to be alone and dispose of a body). A perfect location to quickly dump a body without being seen.

Sally’s body being dumped in a ditch indicates that the crime wasn’t planned. If you are going to plan a murder, it’s likely that you’ll have a plan to hide the body. The lack of a body makes it difficult, but not impossible, to prove a crime.

The article indicates that Sally was not murdered at “lover’s lane.” This calls into question the idea that it was a lover's spat (i.e. unsub takes Sally to “lover’s lane,” she says no, and he flips out). But the spat could have occurred elsewhere, and it was simply a convenient location to quickly dump the body.

No sexual assault
There was no evidence of a sexual assault, but she was bludgeoned, which makes me question the unsub’s motive. The unsub took a deadly weapon and swung it at Sally (maybe even with her watching him) a number of times. There’s a lot of focused anger there (it could indicate a sadistic serial killer, but those are rare).

Could it be an accidental crime by a stranger?
As an aside, one scenario could be that Sally was killed by a drunk driver (or any other accidental death), who then attempted to dispose of the body. But this is called into question by the fact that Sally’s injuries appeared to be more than just a car accident.

Sally likely knew the murderer
Even ignoring the above analysis, statistics suggest that it is highly likely that Sally was murdered by someone she knew: a family member or friend.

Could it be solved?
If the unsub is from Iola, there is likely someone in Iola that knows what happened. Rarely are people able to keep a secret (alcohol opens the mouth). So, even if the unsub has died, someone might still be alive to tell the tale.

Anonymous said...

It's mentioned in the Iola Register archives and both were buried in Highland Cemetery. You can find their tombstones on

Anonymous said...

Why can't they do DNA testing as DNA has come very far these days they may be able to find a relative of the murderer that could lead to who the murder was.

Tinkering79 said...

There has been numerous murders and cold cases in allen county. Yorky was cleared of this i have done years of research on these two

Chris boeken said...

Has anybody considered charles ray hatcher. I believe he was in allen co jail at this app date. He did confess to numerous murders before his death in 1984.

iwoks98 said...

You asked about DNA testing & possibly finding a relative of the murderer. Well, to answer that, to compare DNA to a potential killer or sibling of the killer, they would have to have DNA to test. Why not do like I did & post a 50 year memorial post in Sally's memory on their social media. It's a long shot, but maybe the killer or someone who knows who the killer was, will be willing to talk.

iwoks98 said...

To unknown who posted on Feb. 24, 2019. It wasn't Charles Ray Hatcher as he was sitting in jail at that time in CA for beating & sexually assaulting a young boy.

Antonio Eugene Morris said...

I am deeply saddened by the tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Also. He was a one friend of somebody close to me for me, if he would've told anybody, it'd have been them

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Lisalp said...

Some of the evidence has been “lost”. Sally was my Aunt. The police at the time didn’t care about finding her killer &/Or we’re covering for someone

Lisalp said...

Thank you I wish I could see your post. Sally was my aunt

Anonymous said...

Evidence was found in an apartment not long ago (KBI). Maybe the murders were connected. Two murders only a few days apart is a big thing in a small town. Lots of speculation occurred, lots of rumors, but bottom line 2 people lost their lives. How sad.