Durant (Okla.) Daily Democrat, Friday, May 12, 1978

Escapees Are Sought in Death Of Texas Man

Murder warrants were issued by the Grayson county sheriff's office today, naming triple killer Claude Eugene Dennis and fellow prison escapee Michael Lancaster as suspects in the Wednesday night slaying of Denison store clerk Bobby Spencer, 29.

The two eluded a dragnet of Texas and Oklahoma officers throughout the day Wednesday in what developed into a major string of crimes.

It was Spencer's widow, allegedly kidnapped by the pair, who made the identification of the two men from photographs after she escaped from them Wednesday afternoon. Until then, authorities had no idea who or how many people they were looking for.

Took Hostage
As pieced together, after Spencer was killed Wednesday night , the pair left with the 22-year-old Mrs. Spencer as their prisoner. They spent the night and part of Thursday morning driving around in a stolen pickup truck.

They abandoned it near the US 69-75 Red River bridge, intending to float down the river on two rubber rafts taken during the robbery 12 hours earlier of the Rogers Sport center, a mile south of Denison dam.

Mrs. Spencer escaped about 1 p.m., forcing the escapees to change their plans. They made their way downstream, jumped a teenager, tied him up, and stole a 12-year-old blue Chevrolet.

They surfaced again shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday at a farm home near Mill Creek, 15 miles northwest of Tishomingo. Mrs. Judy Clemmons told officers she answered a knock at her door. When she wouldn't let the men in, they pulled a gun on her. She screamed, slammed the door, and they drove away.

Car is Found
After daylight this morning the stolen Chevrolet was found parked behind a barn off a county road near Roff, south of Ada. Roff is about 12 miles from Mill Creek.

They're now believed to be using a blue and white 1978 Ford Explorer pickup, stolen from a farm home near Roff.

An air and ground search was concentrated in that area this morning.

Dennis was serving a 10 years to life sentence for second degree murder from Bryan county, and two 50-year sentences for manslaughter from Stephens county when he and Lancaster escaped from McAlester prison April 23. Lancaster was doing 25 years for armed robbery.

Dennis had appealed his Bryan county conviction, for the shooting of bulldozer operator Arthur Lake, to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The court dismissed the case several days ago, following a policy that escapees forfeit their right of appeal.

They're believed armed with a shotgun, at least one rifle, and a pistol. Dennis and Lancaster were described as "extremely dangerous."

Mrs. Spencer said during the Wednesday night robbery a man she later identified as Lancaster led her out of the store. She told Grayson county officers her husband was taken to the rear of the building by Dennis.

She said as she and Lancaster were leaving she heard a shot, but was told her husband had not been hurt.

The Spencers were married two years ago at Atlanta, Ga., while he was serving in the Navy. They had moved to Denison only a few weeks ago, and were living in a house behind Spencer's parents' home.

Took Two Rafts
Mrs. Spencer said they took two rubber life rafts when they left the store. They put them and Mrs. Spencer, chained so she couldn't escape, in the back of a pickup truck.

The truck had been stolen last week in Hemphil, Tex., a resort community near Toledo Bend reservoir, on the Texas-Louisiana border south of Shreveport.

"We aren't sure," sheriff Driscoll said, "but it's entirely possible there is another homicide that hasn't been discovered yet. The owner of the pickup, a Mr. Dowdy, has been missing since last Friday from his home in Texas."

Mrs. Spencer identified the truck after it was located by officers parked near the Red river bridge south of Colbert.

"They took Mrs. Spencer and drove around quite a while after the robbery," Driscoll said. "Then they parked near the river and put the rafts in the water."

He said river water was low and the rafts ran aground.

Made Camp
"They went ashore, got sleeping bags and made camp for the might." He said Mrs. Spencer was assaulted at the camp.

After she slipped away she walked and hitchhiked into Denison and told officers where the men were. They were gone by the time officers returned to the scene. The river was back up from water going through the Denison dam generators, and a helicopter made low passes up and down the river on the chance they were trying to get away on the rafts.

Nearly 60 officers were involved in the afternoon search, including Oklahoma state crime bureau agents and Texas Rangers as well as county officers and highway patrolmen from the two states and Corps of Engineers Rangers.

Tracking dogs were brought from the McLeod Honor farm north of Boswell but weren't used.

About 4 p.m. a report came into Denison police that a car had been stolen on the old toll bridge northeast of the city. A 15-year-old boy was abducted, tied up with electrical cord, and a "dirty blue" 1966 Chevrolet stolen. The youth called police after freeing himself. He also identified pictures of Dennis and Lancaster.

Eludes Deputy
A Grayson county deputy sheriff met the car - or one similar to it - after dark. The stolen auto was northbound on SH 75A between Denison and the dam, but had disappeared by the time the officer turned around and began pursuit.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol had a roadblock at the north end of the dam, but the fugitives apparently had turned off before getting that far.

At 8:20 p.m. Wednesday, Mrs. Clemmons called officers from Mill Creek to report men with a gun had been at her house.

A Johnston county deputy sheriff, about an hour and a half later, chased a car matching the description she gave, but lost it in a rainstorm. The suspects apparently ditched it later and took another from a home nearby.

The truck, owned by Hershel Williams, has Oklahoma license 749-953