The Dastardly Past: the Tangled Web of “Keggy” Jones.
On Monday, August 31, 1931, in Houston, shots rang out in an upscale apartment building in Montrose, one of the prosperous new developments southwest of downtown. An alarmed tenant reported the noise to C. C. Bell, the building’s owner. He called the police. When Bell let the officers into the apartment, they found the “Anvil Chorus” blaring on the radio and the apartment’s occupants dead from multiple bullet wounds.
The victims were Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Jones, a young couple who had been married about five years. Chester Jones, 35, was a rising oil executive with the firm of Martin, Drake, & Jones. Jane Stackhouse Martin Jones, 25, was the daughter of Chester’s business partner, a respected oil and cattleman named W. F. Martin. Chester was slumped in a chair in his pajamas, with a shot to the head, four to the chest, and one in the hip. Jane, daringly dressed in pajamas as well, had been shot four times and had also been beaten. Under her sprawled body they found a floor scarred by several more bullet holes.
The police concluded that there was more than one intruder: they found two sets of footprints outside the apartment’s back door and two different kinds of bullets in the apartment. As to suspects, they were baffled. But not for long. As detectives dug deeper into the case, they latched onto the end of a thread that at their touch, began to unravel a convoluted web of criminal activity.
Chester Jones, nicknamed “Keggy,” was not the promising businessman he appeared to be—news that stunned his senior partners W. F. Martin and Ed J. Drake. Whether Jane Jones knew of her husband’s hidden life is a matter of conjecture; she certainly found out about it. Through his fingerprints, police determined that Jones was actually a career felon with a number of aliases, who had served three terms in the state penitentiary and still moved in a wide circle of unsavory characters. As the police rounded up some of Jones’ associates and persuaded them to talk, more of the story of the “Bayou Gangsters” as one journalist called them came out.
Chester “Keggy” Jones, along with his brother, Jack, had been involved in the armed robbery of the Union Planters National Bank in Memphis in May. Those actually arrested for the crime were Herbert Scales, “a socially prominent young Dallas sportsman and clubman,” Ralph Arnold, and John “The Greek” Cherris. Cherris was released from jail on a $7500 bail posted by Keggy, but Keggy and Cherris argued over the division of the Memphis loot. Violently as it turned out, because Keggy, Jack Jones, and another crook named Barney McGanagel killed Cherris and dumped him in the Brazos River near East Columbia, Texas.
Within hours of the murder of her husband, Lola Cherris enlisted the aid of seasoned gangsters Del McCabe and Shiloh Scrivnor to do away with Keggy Jones. At the end of September McCabe’s wife in St. Louis gave police the whole story from a hospital bed. She was laid up with a broken leg that she sustained in a car accident that had killed Lola Cherris. McCabe and Scrivnor entered the apartment to kill Jones, making him sit in a chair and firing point blank, as the powder burns on his clothing proved. Jane had tried to fight off the killers but they beat her back, shot her, and fled. Lola Cherris drove the getaway car. McCabe and Scrivnor were now on the run.
By October 10th, authorities caught up with McCabe and Scrivnor in Des Moines, Iowa. They had booked into a downtown hotel posing as machine-gun salesmen (seriously?). As police approached his hotel room McCabe engaged them in a gun fight and was killed. Scrivnor turned up at the hotel a few hours later, was arrested, and brought back to Texas to stand trial along with Jack Jones and Barry McGanegal. And so the mystery of who killed the affluent young oilman and his wife was resolved.
As a postscript to the story, the apartment building where the bloodbath occurred was torn down. According to the city of Houston web site, Mr. C. C. Bell eventually donated the land on which it stood to the city to be made into a park. Bell Park, with its statue of Christopher Columbus, still exists on Montrose Blvd., just a few blocks away from Houston’s Museum District.