Before there was the Cullen Davis case in 1976, before there was the Kristi Koslow case in 1992, there was the Mary Clark case.
The year was 1953: Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine; the new UNIVAC 1103 computer used something called “random access memory”; among Billboard no. 1 songs was “Rags to Riches”; the movie How to Marry a Millionaire premiered.
That song and that movie probably were not favorites of wealthy Fort Worth oilman William P. Clark. Not after he began to suspect that wife Mary—Mrs. Clark no. 3—had married him for his money.
And then William P. Clark was dead. Murdered. It was a murder case with long arms, stretching from the high-rollers of Fort Worth’s affluent West Side to the bottom-feeders of Jacksboro Highway’s neon underworld, from Fort Worth’s exclusive Park Hill enclave high on a prominence to the bottom of an abandoned well north of Saginaw.
This is the Westbrook house, situated on a hilltop at 2232 Winton Terrace West overlooking Forest Park. It was built in 1928 for $70,000 ($980,000 today) for Roy and Gladys Westbrook. Westbrook was an oilman with interests in Texas and New Mexico and an owner of the Fort Worth Cats. The house was designed in Tudor revival style by Joseph Pelich, who designed other grand homes in Park Hill but also Poly High School, the original Casa Manana, and Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. The Westbrook house grounds have a sunken garden, pool with two bathhouses, tennis court, grotto, servants quarters. The house has twenty-two rooms, including a hidden room called a “prohibition cabinet,” and a silver vault in the basement.
The Westbrooks were often mentioned in the society pages of local newspapers.
William P. Clark and his second wife, Irene, bought the Westbrook house in 1946. He and Irene divorced in 1950.
In 1951 Clark married Mary Waterstreet Tuerpe. (City directory listing is 1952.) But the marriage of William and Mary was short and unsweet. By the spring of 1953, Clark believed that Mary had “misrepresented” herself and lured him into marriage to get his money. In April he filed for divorce but on May 9 instead filed to have the marriage annulled.
(Note that Clark did not list an occupation in the city directory. Other William Clarks listed themselves as driver, carpenter, dentist, laborer, bus operator, firefighter, locomotive engineer, and so on, but this William Clark kept a low profile. Likewise, he was seldom mentioned in the society pages of the local newspapers.)
Thirteen days later on May 22 his body was discovered in his home, where he was living alone, estranged from Mrs. Clark. He had been shot to death on May 19. A justice of the peace ruled the death a suicide.
The Star-Telegram reported on May 26 that Clark left most of his estate—valued “in excess of $50,000” ($448,000 today) to four institutions. On June 10 the Star-Telegram reported just how much “in excess of $50,000”: Clark’s estate was valued at $750,000 ($7 million today). Clark left the mansion to his brother. He left estranged wife Mary $10 ($89.50 today).
The next day District Attorney Howard Fender said an autopsy showed that William P. Clark could not have committed suicide. ’Twas murder, Fender concluded. Clark was said to have been in the habit of carrying large sums of money but had only three pennies in his pockets when found dead. Two diamond rings were missing.
The first suspect in the murder of William P. Clark was a forty-four-year-old South Side woman who denied any role in the murder but refused to take a lie detector test. Clark’s attorney said Clark had been threatened in the days before his death and feared for his life. District Attorney Fender said Clark might have had as much as $15,000 on him when he was killed.
By the time the 1953 city directory went to press, the big house at 2232 Winton Terrace West, high on a prominence, was temporarily vacant.
Fast-forward to 1955. Now the house at 1452 West Jessamine Street also was temporarily vacant. Because Mary Clark of that address had just been jailed for the murder of her husband two years earlier. Her attorney complained that “police have had Mary Clark five times since this thing happened. They’ve had five chances to get a confession if she had anything to say.” Also arrested was underworld overachiever Tincy Eggleston and ex-convict Harry Huggins. Eggleston, forty-six and wearing only shorts, had been arrested in an apartment in the company of a twenty-one-year-old woman. Huggins earlier had told police that an “instigator” had promised Huggins, Eggleston, and a third man $10,000 and some jewelry to kill William P. Clark in a fake robbery. Huggins said that the instigator had given the three men a “map” of the Clark house. Huggins said that he, Eggleston, and the third man gained entry to the Clark house and that Eggleston killed Clark. Eggleston later went to the instigator to settle and was given $6,000 and two diamond rings. Police said Huggins had taken police to the Clark house and reenacted the crime to their satisfaction.
On April 8, 1955 Mrs. Clark, Henry Huggins, and Tincy Eggleston were charged in the murder. Also charged as the third man at the Clark house during the murder was Jacksboro Highway police character Cecil Green. Investigators claimed that Mrs. Clark had promised Eggleston $10,000 to kill her husband before he could write her out of his will. She was charged with being an accomplice to murder, which carried the same penalty as murder, the maximum penalty being death in the electric chair. Mrs. Clark denied knowing the other three suspects. Her attorney said Mary Clark played bridge “with some of the best women in this town.”
Suspect Harry Huggins said he had participated in the crime with the understanding that William P. Clark would be only robbed, not killed. He said he “spilled” his story to police because his conscience bothered him over the murder and because he had had a falling-out with his two partners in crime. Police Chief Cato Hightower said Huggins had been offered no reward or immunity from prosecution for his information.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Tincy Eggleston wanted to know more about that twenty-one-year-old blond who had been “in bed” at the apartment where her husband was arrested while wearing just shorts.
Mrs. Mary Clark had trouble adjusting to life in jail. And the district attorney indicated that he had evidence that showed that before she had married William P. Clark, Mary may have had eyes for more than the oilman.
And then the spirit of Jacksboro Highway began to act as executioner in the murder case of William P. Clark.
The first body to fall was that of defendant Cecil Green. On the night of May 2 he and defendant Tincy Eggleston, free on bail, had stopped at the closed By-Way Drive-In tavern in the 5600 block of Jacksboro Highway “to shoot the bull,” Tincy later said. Suddenly two or three armed assailants ambushed the two men, perforating Green’s Cadillac, hitting Green seven times. Green, mortally wounded, went to his grave clinging to the code of the criminal: When police asked him who had shot him, Green “merely smiled.”
Eggleston was only slightly injured by flying glass. Eggleston’s attorney said Tincy “got a look at the [ambushers] and said he had never seen them around here.”
When a Jacksboro Highway police character was murdered in the 1950s, the short list of suspects could get pretty long. Theories abounded in the Green-Eggleston ambush. Had co-defendant and police informant Harry Huggins called in professional assassins from out of town to kill his partners in crime? Had Eggleston been the sole target of the ambush because he had lured gamblers to the crooked gambling den of gangster Edell Evans, whose bloodstained Cadillac had been found, although Evans was still missing? Had Green and Eggleston been ambushed by Oklahoma gangsters because the two men had been encroaching on Oklahoma territory? Or had Green and Eggleston “pushed too hard against some people here in an attempt to raise money” to pay their legal fees in the Clark murder case? Green and Eggleston were said to have asked some local gamblers for loans. When the gamblers turned down Green and Eggleston, the Star-Telegram wrote, “there was tough talk back and forth.” Green and Eggleston threatened to harm the families of the gamblers who refused the loans. Push came to shove.
Come September it was Tincy’s turn. On August 25, 1955 the man who in May had survived a cross-fire ambush with barely a scratch (by using companion Cecil Green as a human shield, one underworld informant later claimed) had received a phone call at his modest home on the South Side from one of the gamblers he was extorting for a loan to pay for his legal bills in the Clark case. Tincy told his wife that he was going to the North Side to meet a man.
This time Tincy Eggleston did not have a human shield.
Eggleston’s blood-soaked car was found the next day. On September 1 Tincy Eggleston’s buckshot-riddled body was found in an abandoned well north of Saginaw.
“Mr. Eggleston lived his own life and died as he lived,” said the minister at Tincy’s funeral. As an indication of the anxiety in the city, as the hearse was carrying Eggleston’s body to Cleburne for burial, the driver noticed that “a green Pontiac similar to one that showed up at Tincy’s 1216 W. Beddell home on the day of his disappearance a week ago was trailing behind” the hearse. The hearse driver radioed his concern. Tarrant County Sheriff Harlan Wright, who had found the body of Tincy in the well, overtook the funeral procession on I-35 South.
The green Pontiac turned out to be carrying two mourners.
WBAP-TV news footage (no audio):
To recap, the score so far:
Oilman William P. Clark: murdered.
Defendant Cecil Green: murdered.
Defendant Tincy Eggleston: murdered.
And then there were two: defendants Mary Clark and Harry Huggins.
The trial of Mary Clark as an accomplice in the murder of her husband began in November 1955. Her attorneys claimed that defendant and police informant Huggins had changed his story and had admitted to them that Mrs. Clark had had nothing to do with the murder of her husband.
The jury believed Huggins’s admission. Mary Clark was acquitted.
And then there was one: In 1956 Harry Huggins, the remaining defendant in the murder of oilman William P. Clark, in return for his cooperation with authorities was given a “softened” five-year sentence.
The final score: three murders, one “softened” sentence.
Fast-forward four years. The 1960 city directory listed Mary W. Clark as the widow of William. And note her home address. The provisions of William P. Clark’s will notwithstanding, the Star-Telegram reported, attorneys for Mrs. Clark and her late husband agreed that she would receive half of Clark’s estate and would be allowed to live for the rest of her life in the house high upon a prominence.