On January 10, 1969 Dallas County Sheriff's Deputies Al Maddox and E.R. "Buddy" Walthers went to room thirteen of the Eastern Hills motel on Samuel Blvd in Dallas to investigate a suspicious person call. Maddox received the call that morning from Mary Deweese who was the desk clerk at the motel. He had been to the motel previously asking about James Walter Cherry. But didn't know who to expect the suspicious person they would encounter might be. Mary Deweese didn't refer to Cherry by name and only told Maddox that one of the people he asked about was checked in to the motel. Cherry's name in particular didn't come to mind for Maddox because he had been to the Eastern Hills several times searching for other people as well as Cherry.
Cherry and Twyna Blankenship checked into the Eastern Hills about 7 A.M. Then they left for a while. By the time they returned, Mary Deweese had gotten to work. When she saw Cherry return to the motel with Twyna whom she described as a "peroxide blond", they were let out of a black sedan by another couple and went into room thirteen. Mary checked the registration card. She remembered Cherry had registered at the motel before. The couple was registered as Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Hendricks. These were the names of Twyna Blankenship's parents. Mary remembered Cherry had used another name when he checked into the motel in the past. She was suspicious and remembered that Deputy Al Maddox had been around asking about Cherry the previous week. So she called the Sheriff's department to report it.
Maddox took the call from Mary Deweese and told her he would come check it out.
As Maddox was leaving the office to go to the Eastern Hills, he ran into Buddy Walthers. Walthers asked him where he was going and when he told him, Walthers said he would go too. Maddox stopped by the radio room to inform them where they would be and they left.
Twyna Blankenship had been running with Cherry for about two weeks
but she was married to a drug dealer named Elvis Ray Blankenship whom she had been separated from for a while. Ray Blankenship was selling drugs Cherry got from a doctor in Oklahoma. Before hooking up with Cherry Twyna had been with another drug dealer and user named Carl Ray Thacker.
It is a part of the culture among drug users and dealers in Dallas to use motels to do their business. They make calls, set meetings and operate from the motel room. Then they move to another motel to keep moving. The Eastern Hills was an occasional base of drug users, dealers, and prostitutes as was the near by Tampico Motel where Twyna and Cherry had also stayed. Cherry had a burning drug addiction and was shooting just about anything he could get his hands on. He stayed in several motels in Dallas under false names off and on since escaping from the Putman Work Farm of the Georgia prison system eight months earlier on May 29, 1968. He had been serving a life sentence for robbery.
Maddox and Walthers pulled their unmarked county car into the parking lot and parked in front of room thirteen. They checked with Mary Deweese at the office and she described Cherry while Walthers made notes in his notebook, describing the unnamed suspect as six feet five inches. Like the woman he was with, his hair had been dyed blond with peroxide but dark roots were showing as his hair had grown out to some extent since the color change. On the way to the room, Maddox stopped at the car instinctively and got a shotgun though it was not a standard procedure while checking someone out unless there was some reason to expect extreme danger. He put it back in the car when Walthers told him to saying, "They are going to think we are Keystone Cops." Maddox complied. Walthers was the senior sergeant. They went to the door with only their handguns in their holsters. Walthers pulled out his badge to identify himself and knocked on the door.
Cherry thought it was the motel's housekeeping staff coming to clean the room. He answered the door wearing only underwear and was bleeding from the neck having just shot up some dope. He had to shoot into his neck because the veins in his arms were collapsed from repeated intravenous drug use. After identifying themselves, Walthers put his badge and I.D. back in his pocket and the Deputies entered the room and closed the door behind them.
There were two beds to their right as they entered the room. They stood at the foot of the right bed where Twyna was laying naked having been awakened by their arrival. Cherry backed between the two beds standing over his clothes, which were on the floor.
Walthers recognized Twyna Blankenship and spoke to her calling her "Tony".(4) Walthers was involved in the arrest of her husband Ray. He asked her if he got twenty-three years. Twyna answered back that it was three years. Ray Blankenship was not in jail at this time.
Maddox asked Cherry for some identification. Cherry handed him a driver license identifying himself as Eldon Wildman and asked if he could put his clothes on. Then Maddox told him he wouldn't need his clothes unless they were going to take him downtown.(1) Maddox was suspicious of Cherry because he did not resemble the picture on the driver license though the height seemed about right. When Cherry answered the door, Maddox noticed his dyed hair and the blood on his neck and had a feeling they might have a problem. Walthers said, "Aw, hell Al, let him put his pants on". Walthers attention strayed to Twyna still lying naked in the bed as Cherry reached down to pick up his clothes.
Cherry had a five shot .38 caliber blue steel Rossi pistol with a two inch barrel, serial number 43964 laying beneath his clothes. The gun was imported into the United States by Dave's Pawnshop in Dallas who was a distributor. The gun was then sold to Cal's Pawnshop in Wichita, Kansas. Records show it was purchased there on September 12, 1968 by a white male, six foot five inches tall, who gave the name Rudolph Kurzenburger, DOB 4-13-24. He gave his address as 400 Peachtree, N.E., Wichita, Kansas. James Walter Cherry's date of birth was 4-13-26.
Cherry came up with the pistol and pointed it at the deputies but did not fire. Walthers was standing partway between Maddox and Cherry and calmly said, "Grab a hold of it Al". Maddox unsnapped his pistol when Cherry raised up. Then Maddox pulled his pistol in his right hand. With his left hand, he reached around Walthers and grabbed Cherry's pistol.
Cherry began struggling to keep his gun. The Deputies both grabbed him. Maddox was still gripping his own pistol in his right hand as the scuffle spilled over onto the bed on top of Twyna. Walthers had pulled his gun as well. As Cherry and Walthers rolled over her and into the room's front window curtains, she bolted from the bed and ran into the bathroom. As the three men fought, all of them with guns in their hands, bullets were being fired from each gun. Cherry rolled onto his back and Maddox had a clear shot to shoot him in the head but couldn't bring himself to do it. Maddox pointed his gun at Cherry as he lay back with his leg drawn up to his chest. Maddox fired and the bullet went through Cherry's thigh and into his chest. Cherry kicked Maddox with a front thrust kick that threw him over the unused bed and into the windowsill causing him to hit his head on the back wall. Cherry fired at Maddox, the bullet narrowly missed his head and lodged in the wall beneath the windowsill.
Cherry's gun went off three more times as he fought with Walthers until he dropped it and it fell on the bed. The action happened so fast that neither Maddox nor Walthers counted the shots being fired from Cherry's pistol. Added to the confusion was the sound of Maddox and Walther's guns going off. During the scuffle Maddox was shot in the foot and ankle. One shot probably coming from his own gun and one coming from Cherry's gun. Maddox was out of bullets in his gun. He crawled to the foot of the bed near the door where Walthers, who regained his feet stood. Maddox managed to get up on his good foot.
There was a momentary pause in the fight before Cherry picked up his pistol. It had one bullet remaining. Walthers lunged for the gun as Cherry fired his last shot striking Walthers in the chest. Then Twyna, who had now put on a light blue nightgown came charging from the bathroom screaming at Maddox and struck him in the head with a beer bottle knocking him back to the floor. Then she grabbed a lamp and began beating him with it as he lay on the floor. Walthers was lying on the floor at the foot of the bed and Maddox heard him make two soft but labored exhaling sounds and go silent. Walthers died there on the floor.
Cherry told Twyna to get in the car. She started not to run with him fearing what would happen next. She hadn't shot anyone. She might be better off just waiting for the police to come and give herself up. With Walthers lying dead on the floor and Maddox seriously injured, Cherry told her "You are in it as much as I am now, you might as well come with me".
Maddox gun was now empty and he was severely wounded but still managed to put up a fight as Twyna and Cherry tried to get the motel room door open to get out. Maddox was laying near the door and pushed it closed three or four times as they tried to leave. Maddox was clinging to Cherry's leg. He told Twyna, "Get this strong son of a bitch off me".(2)
Cherry finally got the door opened and ran to the new 1969 Chevrolet Impala that he rented from Hertz Rent-A-Car in Houston using the stolen credit card of Eldon Wildman.
As Cherry ran around the car he saw another man coming from the motel office shooting at him. The shots missed but hit the car. Twyna followed close behind. They abandoned their possessions in the room with the only thought now of getting away. Maddox said he grabbed Walthers cigarette lighter and crawled to the back of the car and opened the gas cap and lit the lighter to throw in the tank to blow the car up. He said he couldn't let them get away and would have sacrificed his own life to stop them if he could. The lighter went out before he dropped it in the gas tank. Apparently, he had run out of bad luck for that day.
Paul Lewis and George Manning were brothers in law and were the owners and managers of the Eastern Hills. They watched as the deputies came to the office to speak to Mary Deweese and as they went to the room. They both heard the gunshots and saw the window curtains being jostled from the outside as the fight raged inside. Another witness to the events outside room thirteen was Sterling Davis who was a friend of Paul Lewis. He was with them when the deputies came to the office.
George Manning told Sheriff's Department investigators that approximately five minutes passed between the deputies entering the room and the sound of the first series of gunshots. Then there was a pause and he saw the window curtains moving and a pane of the window was shattered. He told investigators he knew a struggle was going on. He and Paul Lewis armed themselves.
Manning had a two shot .38 Special Derringer and Lewis had a 5 shot Smith & Wesson .38 revolver. When Manning heard another series of shots. He ran behind the motel to cover the back in case anyone tried to escape out the back window of the room. He stood there for about thirty seconds when he heard five more shots which he said sounded like they came from outside the room in the front of the motel.
Paul Lewis was watching the front of the motel as the door opened and Cherry struggled to get away while Maddox was clinging to his leg. He finally got loose and headed for the car. Lewis said he could see Maddox lying in the doorway and said Maddox yelled "Help us, man, help us. Get the s.o.b."
Lewis watched as Cherry bolted out the door toward the car and shot at him five times hitting the right door but missing Cherry while Twyna stood back against the wall of the outside of the motel room still wearing only the nightgown. After Lewis fired all his bullets Twyna ran and got in the car. Lewis returned to the office and reloaded his weapon but Cherry and Twyna had already gone, traveling east on Samuel Blvd before he got back.
George Manning ran back to the front of the building in time to see the getaway car and described it as a blue 1969 Chevrolet and Cherry was driving. Maddox disputes this and claims that Twyna was driving.".(5) He made it back to the sidewalk out side room thirteen and waited for help to arrive. He struggled to get the license plate number from the car. He remembered the plate number incorrectly as Texas LNK 439.
They drove east on Samuel Blvd to Lawnview Rd and turned right. Two miles away at 3319 Gill Street lived another woman Cherry had run with named Martha Rhodes. Martha and her son lived there with her grand mother, Mrs. Ollie Chennault. By the time Cherry and Twyna arrived at Martha's house four minutes later, he was beginning to feel the effects of Maddox's bullet. They pulled into the driveway and honked the horn.
By this time, the first Dallas Police car had arrived on the scene at the Eastern Hills Motel in response to the call for help by Mary Deweese who also witnessed the events out side the room.
Martha Rhodes, her grandmother and her six year old son James were in the house on Gill Street as well as her estranged husband Wallace Ray Rhodes. Wallace Rhodes was recently paroled from prison and had come to visit his son.
Wallace was using the telephone when Martha; hearing a car's horn honking outside opened the door to see a new blue four door Chevrolet Impala parked in her driveway and a barely clad Twyna Blankenship standing in her yard. Twyna pointed to Cherry still in the car and said "He's been shot, can he come in and clean up and change clothes?"
Martha asked, "Oh, My God, what happened?" Cherry said, "I had a beef with the man." Martha took that to mean "cops". He said, "They shot me and I shot them." Martha assisted Twyna and got him out of the car. They walked him into the bathroom and helped him lay out on the floor.
Wallace Rhodes didn't know Cherry or why he had come there but it was obvious Martha knew him. Wallace Rhodes was angry but didn't say anything and kept his son in the living room so he wouldn't see what was going on while Martha and Twyna cleaned and bandaged Cherry's wounds.
After a few minutes he left his son in the living room with Martha's grand mother and went to see what was happening. When he looked in the bathroom he saw Cherry lying on the floor in a pool of blood wearing only underwear bleeding from bullet holes in his chest and leg. Martha tore a green and white striped towel and gave it to Twyna to clean Cherry up. After Twyna cleaned the wound Martha put three cotton balls over the wounds and cut the bandages which Cherry put on the wounds himself. They made a tourniquet out of the remaining piece of the towel and tied it around Cherry's thigh above the gunshot wound. Wallace Rhodes pulled Martha aside and said he didn't think Cherry was going to live.
Martha told Cherry and Twyna they were too hot and they would have to go. She didn't want her son involved in any trouble or to cause any problems with her husband because they were trying to work things out. Cherry gave her the shell casings from his pistol and asked her to get rid of them. Twyna asked Martha if she had a dress she could have and Martha found her one.
As they were leaving, Cherry told Wallace, " You have a sweet girl, you all should get back together and raise that baby right." Cherry left some bloody clothes and part of the green and white towel at the house with blood on it and a pair of black shorts. Twyna arranged some things in the back seat of the car and Cherry laid down in the back. Cherry mentioned going to Durant Oklahoma to see the doctor who had been giving him prescriptions to get the drugs he was reselling. But they did not say where they were going when they left.
After they were gone, Martha buried the shell casings near a post in her back yard.
Twyna drove around with Cherry laying in the back seat for a while before deciding to go to the home of an ex boy friend named Carl Ray Thacker. Thacker lived at 9419 Laneyvale Street on the east side of the Pleasant Grove area in south east Dallas. While enroute to Thacker's house they heard on the radio that one of the Deputies Cherry shot had died of his gunshot wound.
Meanwhile, Deputy Pat Boyd and his partner were returning from Rusk Texas when they noticed Deputy J.R. Fleming pass them at a high rate of speed. Boyd contacted station five, which was the call sign of the Dallas Sheriff's radio dispatcher to see what was going on. They were informed of the shooting and proceeded directly to the Eastern Hills Motel. When they arrived, they found Maddox laying in the doorway of room thirteen.
They helped put Maddox on the stretcher and Boyd went inside the room. He found Walthers lying face down with his head just under the first bed. He ordered the ambulance attendants to get Walthers off the floor.
Boyd could see there had been a struggle as the room was in disarray and he wrote in his supplementary investigation report, it seemed obvious the suspect had pushed Walthers into the window. He found a great deal of narcotics and paraphernalia. He wrote there was evidence of "recently cooking hard stuff". He also found several whiskey, syringes, pills and ammunition. He found laundry receipts that indicated the female suspects name was Blankenship. He also found the driver license of Eldon Wildman that Cherry tried to pass off on Maddox.
Deputy Fleming arrived the same time as Boyd and his partner, Officer Reece. Maddox gave Fleming his notebook with the notes he had taken before the fight with Cherry in the room. He asked Fleming to contact his wife and his doctor. Maddox and Walthers were taken to Parkland Hospital in the same ambulance. Fleming advised station five they were enroute to Parkland.
Eddie Ray Walthers arrived at Parkland Hospital at 12:10 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 12:15 p.m. by Dr. Weinberg. He died from a bullet through the left ventricle of the heart.
Al Maddox received two bullets in the left foot. One bullet creased his hand. He had lacerations on his head. He was transferred to room 370 at Methodist Hospital. One bullet still in Maddox ankle was removed and turned over to Lt. Alexander at 2:20 P.M. by Deputy Allan Sweat. Maddox still carries part of the jacket of that bullet in his foot.
An APB was put out on forty year old Eldon Dwayne Wildman of 3648 Haynie Street in Dallas. He worked at a Lincoln Mercury used car dealership in Irving Texas, a suburb west of Dallas.
Squad 25 with Deputies D.A. Fuller and W.E. Jones were dispatched to the car dealership in Irving to watch for a blue 1969 Chevrolet with five bullet holes in the right door. Suspects were a white male, six foot two inches, two hundred pounds, thought to be Eldon Dwayne Wildman and a white female.
With Cherry still laying in the back seat, Twyna pulled the Impala into the driveway on Laneyvale where Carl Ray Thacker lived with his parents. She went to the door to ask for him. Thacker's mother told her Carl Ray was not there but would return soon. Twyna asked if it would be OK for her to wait for him on the porch.
One of the most intensive manhunts in the history of Dallas County was put into effect in the search for the fugitives. L.J. "Boots" Hinton was a member of the Dallas County Sheriff's Posse. He was the son of Ted Hinton, the famous Dallas County Deputy Sheriff who participated in the ambush and killing of the notorious outlaws "Bonnie & Clyde" in 1934. "Boots" Hinton's territory was western Dallas County, including the City of Irving. He checked the parking lots and records of motels on Highway 183 to see if he could uncover any leads. He was intimately familiar with the motels and the area, he was the owner and operator of the Hinton Motor Lodge on Highway 183. Across the highway from where Texas Stadium stands to day.
After some investigation, Hinton called station five to report that a suspicious acting couple had stayed in room 102 of the Holiday Inn on Highway 183 at Loop 12 in Irving for six days. They registered as Mr. and Mrs. Beard from Birmingham Alabama. The couple drew the attention of the motel staff by refusing to let the cleaning crews enter the room to make beds and clean up. They left the motel the previous night or early morning taking with them a Magnavox color television. Hinton reported they were driving a blue "68" Chevrolet bearing the license plate number Texas PNK 839.
The description of the fugitives and the name of Eldon Wildman as the key suspect were broadcast on the radio and television during the manhunt. Eldon Wildman heard his name being broadcast as the suspect. He called the Dallas Police Department. He told the sergeant he lost his billfold and credit cards about three months prior. He said he had reported this to the police at that time. After he called the police to report this, two Dallas County Deputy Sheriff's went to his job site on Irving Blvd in Irving at the Eagle, Lincoln Mercury Used Car dealership at 1316 E. Irving Blvd. Wildman told the deputies the same thing he told the Dallas Police and they left. Later two more Sheriff's Deputies came to the dealership and took Wildman to the Dallas County Sheriff's office to give a written statement. Wildman said he noticed his wallet was missing in the first couple of weeks in October 1968.
When Carl Ray Thacker returned to his home around 2:30 P.M. he found a blue Chevrolet Impala parked in the drive way and his ex girlfriend Twyna Blankenship sitting in the front seat. He walked up to the car and saw Cherry laying in the back seat. Twyna told Carl Ray that she and Cherry were in bad trouble, that they had been at they Eastern Hills Motel and two deputies ran in on them and that Cherry had killed one of them.
Cherry was injured but he could talk. He was in great pain and couldn't get out of the car. Cherry said he had a friend who was going to help him get out of town after dark. They needed Carl Ray's help because the Impala was out of gas. They were also holding a large quantity of drugs in the car. It is not clear who, but either Twyna or Carl Ray changed the license plate on the Impala, replacing the Texas tag PNK 839 with an Arkansas plate from another car which Cherry had rented but not returned using Eldon Wildman's credit card.
After about a half hour, Thacker told Cherry it would be best if he stayed in the car while he took Twyna to ditch the drugs at a location she could find again later along the road and go get a can of gas. Twyna pulled the Impala further up into the driveway beside the house so it would be less visible. Cherry stayed in the car while Carl Ray and Twyna got in his 1966 white Ford to leave.
By now, the Sheriff's Department had determined that Twyna Blankenship was the woman accomplice they were looking for. Deputies Oxford, Brock and Lewis were searching for known associates and addresses of Twyna Blankenship.
They checked Carl Ray Thatcher's house at 9419 Laneyvale and saw the blue 1969 Impala parked in the driveway now bearing Arkansas plates AEW- 801. Also parked on the street in front of the house was a white 1966 Ford bearing Texas plates KRL 493. They parked down the street from the house where they could observe and Deputy Oxford called for backup. They were then joined by another patrol car on the 9300 block of Laneyvale Rd.
Deputies C.F. Beddingfield and W.L. Acker were patrolling the neighborhood of the Eastern Hills Motel looking for the suspects. They decided to check out the possibility that the fugitives might have sought help from friends or associates in the area instead of leaving by way of Highway 67 which ran behind the Eastern Hills Motel to the south. Anticipating that they might have traveled the back roads of Mesquite or the Pleasant Grove area, they made their way over to the intersection of Lake June and St. Augustine Roads. At that location they made contact with squad 30 which were Deputies Oxford, Alvis Brock and Lewis. Deputy Oxford advised them the suspects were in the area and that they had a stake out set up on them. He asked them to cover the intersection of Laneyvale and Woodvale east of the house, which they did.
Deputies Wiseman and Jess Hays heard Oxford call for backup and went to St. Augustine and Laneyvale west of the house and began observing the cars and house at 9419 Laneyvale. Wiseman saw the blue Chevrolet they had been looking for was in the driveway but the plates had been changed to Arkansas AEW-801. He also noticed the white 1966 Ford parked in front of the house. As they watched, they saw someone come out of the house and move the Chevrolet farther up into the driveway.
When the car was moved forward Oxford and Brock drove around the block to Paramount Street to see if anyone was trying to drive through the back. It was a precautionary move but there was no way anyone could have driven through the back because the alley was too narrow and grown up with weeds for a car to drive through. Wiseman and Hays pulled their car into the position that Oxford and Brock left when they drove around the block.
At about 3:00 P.M. Wiseman saw a man and a woman come out of the house and get into the white Ford. The Ford traveled west on Laneyvale toward Woodvale where Beddingfield and Acker waited. Wiseman radioed Beddingfield that the white Ford was coming their way. Beddingfield radioed Oxford to ask if he wanted the car stopped. By this time Oxford and Brock had circled the block and joined Beddinfield and Acker in stopping Carl Ray Thacker and Twyna Blankenship.
Sgt. C.H. McCommas had also joined the back up team and taken a position one block north on Paramount Street to cover any escape attempt from the rear of the house. He heard Beddingfield radio that he was going to stop the white Ford. He followed Brock around the corner to the intersection of Laneyvale and Woodvale. The Deputies arrested Twyna and Carl Ray Thacker. After speaking with Thacker, Oxford confirmed that they had just left the house at 9419 Laneyvale.
Thacker told Oxford the girl with him was Twyna Blankenship and that he was not involved in the shooting. He told him the man they were looking for was James Walter Cherry. He said Cherry was in the back floorboard of the Chevrolet. He said Cherry was hurt and that he had a loaded gun and "he would kill you". Brock searched Thacker and found seventy-two fifty Mg. Demerol tablets and thirty six tablets of thirty mg Codine and a Plastipak syringe in a black sock in his right front pocket. J.L. Oxford placed Thacker under arrest for violation of the state narcotics act. Leaving Thacker with Oxford and Twyna Blankenship in the custody of Beddingfield and Acker, Brock got in the car with McCommas and they drove toward Thacker's house.
Wiseman radioed Beddingfield who told him that Twyna Blankenship and Carl Ray Thacker were in the white Ford they had stopped. Beddingfield warned Wiseman that James Walter Cherry was in the back seat of the blue Chevrolet parked at the house and that he had a pistol. Wiseman and Hays moved in and arrived at the car the same time Brock and McCommas did.
Brock and McCommas moved in from the west as Wiseman and Hays came in from the east. Brock had a shotgun and stopped just at the rear of the Impala behind a tree. McCommas was at the rear bumper on the drivers side.
Wiseman ran up to the right of McCommas with a machine gun. Hays ran up to the right side of the car near the hedge and ordered Cherry to get out of the car.
As people who lived in the neighborhood watched from their yards and porches, Cherry raised up in the seat with both hands up and fingers spread. He didn't attempt to use his gun. He climbed out of the car. Brock stepped up and hit Cherry in the back of the head with the butt of his shotgun knocking him to the ground and handcuffed him.
Cherry was placed in McCommas' blue Plymouth squad car and taken to Parkland Hospital. A.D. McCurley and H.A. Bockemehl rode in the back seat with Cherry.
The Chevrolet Impala was impounded and stored in the basement parking area of the George Allen Courts Building.
Cherry was convicted of murder with malice and sentenced to die in the electric chair. His sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as it was being applied. He died in the Coffield Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections in Huntsville Texas in 1981 when he had a heart attack.
Twyna Blankenship pled guilty to murder without malice and attempted murder and was sentence to prison. She was pardoned in 1986.