The Oklahoma City Times, Monday, May 29, 1978

Texans Find Final Victim Of Escapees

HEMPHILL, Texas (AP) - While one of two Oklahoma "thrill killers" was being buried and three state troopers who died with them were being eulogized Sunday, a group of Texans found the last of eight people believed to have died in a month-long carnage that stretched from Texas and Oklahoma to Alabama and back again.

The body of James Dowdy, 57, was discovered at a garbage dump near this Southeast Texas community about 3:30 p.m. late Sunday night. Dr. Jack Pruitt, a Lufkin pathologist, said he identified the decomposed remains as Dowdy from clothing and dental work.

The former railroad worker, who retired in the lakeside community of Beechwood about 22 miles south of here, left his home about 2 p.m. May 5 to take some trash to a nearby dump. He never returned.

Beechwood Constable Tommy Ladner said he and several friends and neighbors had been searching for Dowdy since he vanished. Ladner said Dowdy's pickup was found abandoned near Durant May 11, prompting authorities to fear he had been kidnapped or murdered by escaped convicts Claude Dennis and Michael Lancaster.

"It's him, all right," Ladner said of Dowdy's body, found beneath a pile of paper at the garbage dump.

"All the times we searched down there, why I must have walked within 10 feet of him and never seen him."

Dr. Pruitt said Dowdy appeared to have been hit in the back of the head by a shotgun blast. He said there was indication he had been dragged to where his body was found.

Police believe Dowdy was probably Claude Dennis and Michael Lancaster's second victim. They escaped from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester April 23. It wasn't long before police could track their movements by the number of dead.

On April 29, David Bobo, Garland, Texas, was shot to death; Mithal Mathew, Garland, was killed May2, and Bobby Spencer, Denison, Texas, died May 10. The body of Stacie Beavers, Cuba, Ala., was found May 23 with her throat slashed.

It was then Alabama authorities gave Dennis and Lancaster the macabre nickname "thrill killers." However, police have no witnesses to confirm that the pair was responsible for the deaths of Dowdy, Bobo and Mrs. Beavers.

The manhunt ended at 11 a.m. last Friday when the pair was cut down by state troopers during the second of two vicious gunfights in Caddo. Three troopers also died and a fourth was wounded.

Relatives buried Dennis Sunday afternoon in Bristow. Prison officials said late last week Lancaster would be buried in McAlester if his body wasn't claimed.