July 4, 2010

Jim Huffman
Beeville, TX

Following is my story:

It all started back in 1973 when my parents Margee (Huffman) Moody & Burl Moody sold our home and 120 acre farm located east of Marlow in Stephens County to a man and his wife named Claude & Katherine Dennis. He seemed like your normal hard working blue collar man trying to support his family and working to improve his family's life. My parents sold the property with owner financing that required a down payment and future annual payments. Unfortunately, at the end of the first year they were unable to come up with the next annual payment, and the Dennis' agreed to relinquish the property in a voluntary foreclosure returning the property to my parents. This would have been in December of 1974. Being a rural property my parents did not want to leave it vacant or unattended. My step father - Burl Moody was a concrete contractor in the Oklahoma City area, and had a man working for him by the name of John Witt. During the winter, concrete business can be relatively slow. It was agreed that John Witt and his wife (or common law wife) Mary Littral would move into our farm and take care of the place.

My two brothers, Jerry & David Huffman (ages 16 & 13) at the time would go down to the farm after school on Friday's and spend the weekend hunting. The weekend of January 31, 1975 was no different. About 4:00 p.m. that Friday afternoon, my brothers arrived at the farm and did not see any one, nor did they see John or Mary's Mach 1 Mustang. My little brother David entered the front screened porch to knock on the door, as he did he saw two bodies laying in the living room. They went to a neighbor's house down the road and contacted the Stephen County Sheriff's Department. My brothers called home and we headed from Moore to our farm about 20 miles south of Lindsay. When we arrived there must have been a dozen Sherriff's cars and ambulances.

The bodies of John & Mary had already been removed as my parents and I entered our former home. The walls of the room were covered with pellets from the shotgun blasts and the carpet was saturated with blood. Apparently John and Mary had gone to the local Foster Post Office around 10:00 a.m. that morning. Mary entered the house first followed closely by John. An intruder was in the house and apparently became startled as they entered. Mary was shot in the chest with a single blast from a shotgun, John appeared to have just entered the room and shut the door as he was hit with the second blast of the shotgun. Mary lay just forward of him, as his body slumped against the shut door. In addition to the single shotgun blast, each was shot behind the ear with a small caliber hand gun. Mary's head and face were beaten beyond recognition. Her teeth could be seen scattered throughout the living room.

At the time, neither the local law enforcement officials nor our family had any idea who could have done something as savage and gruesome as the scene in our home. It was nearly a week before the Sheriff's office advised that they had a suspect. John & Mary's Mach 1 Mustang was located in the Durant/Caddo area in the yard of Claude Eugene Dennis, only known to us as the man that had purchased our farm and was unable to make the payments. He was arrested without incident and taken to the Stephens County jail where he would be held for nearly a year leading up to his trial. My step father - Burl Moody testified at the trial about his involvement with Claude Dennis, that a double barrel 16 gauge shotgun used in the murder of John & Mary was one that he owned and had left with the property. The trial resulted in conviction of two counts of First Degree Manslaughter and Dennis was given 50 years at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma.

We thought at the time this was the end of this terrible tragedy until my parents received a call from the OSBI early morning in April of 1978 saying that Claude Dennis and another prisoner had escaped the prison. Knowing that McAlester is only two hours from Moore and Dennis had already been convicted of murdering three people (Arthur Lake - shot while operating a bull dozer while en route hitch hiking to Stephens County), my family feared that he had nothing to loose by killing my parents who had foreclosed on the farm. For over 6 weeks we all lived in fear that he would be at my parents front door to finish a mission of death that he had started in January 1975.

My wife Jo & I were in a restaurant in Oklahoma City on Friday, May 26, 1978 when there was a news bulletin of a horrific shooting involving the two prison escapees that had eluded law enforcement agencies throughout Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama for weeks. The end result was that the two were killed in the shootout - unfortunately three of Oklahoma's finest were killed in the line of duty. Our family was planning to go to cabin on Lake Texoma that Memorial weekend. However, in light of everything that had taken place that Friday morning, we decided to stay home for the holiday weekend and count our blessings.

You are very familiar with the details following the escape of Claude Eugene Dennis and Michael Lancaster from the Oklahoma State Prison and their escapades over the course of the next several weeks. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the slain Oklahoma State Troopers, and families of the victims of these senseless killings. I often wonder did this single incident involving my family and foreclosure of our farm provide the catalyst for this path of destruction? My wife and I live in South Texas (Beeville) and still have family living in the Oklahoma City area. I have operations in Durant, OK and visit that facility quarterly.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my family's story and our crossing paths with one of the most notorious killers - Claude Eugene Dennis. You are welcome to share my story and on your website.

Return to Personal Accounts