Crime and murder stories can be fascinating and intriguing but the shocking memories such events leave behind are with the victims' families forever. They endure loss, shock, and often the public airing of their grief. They deal with police, investigators, reporters...and writers who keep coming back many years after the crimes were committed.
This summer I've been researching the local (Litchfield-Troy-Edwardsville-Mitchell, IL) angle of a vicious, senseless crime spree across the country in 1961. The story of two GIs in their late teens gone AWOL and gone murder-crazy made the national news and kept making it as their story unfolded. The very brief version: Ronald York and George Latham went AWOL in Texas in May 1961 and headed into Louisiana, beginning a two-week orgy of crime that took them east to Florida and then west across the country. They killed seven people, stealing their vehicles and money. Two of their victims were here in the Metro East. Their names were Eugene “Gene” Reed and Martin Drenovac.
Various family members of these two men – Reed and Drenovac – have communicated with me via phone, email, and/or Facebook, and some met with me in person. I've been searching for their stories and elusive photos. The events of June 8, 1961, left their mark all those years ago – a tattered photograph carried since then, a family photo album said to have been thrown away – perhaps in hopes of taking some memories with it, a story of a loaded shotgun at the ready. Sometimes I feel as if I'm intruding. Other times I'm validated by the reassurance that I'm telling the stories of their loved ones.
I've written a two-part article on the Reed and Drenovac murders for Show Me Route 66, the quarterly magazine of the Route 66 Association of Missouri. Part One was included in the Summer issue, and Part Two will be in the Fall issue. I hope you'll consider joining the association and getting this slick, information- and photo-packed magazine. Back issues are usually available as well. Here's the link: Route 66 Association of Missouri
Get your membership and magazine. Read the stories. I like the thought of more people knowing about Gene Reed and Martin Drenovac.