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Grady's men grilled swarthy ethnic types and former WPA workers who might have a grudge against Riley Drain, checking alibis. Police departments across the Front Range rousted vagrants, known perverts, immigrants and suspicious characters of all kinds. The manhunt stretched all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming — where, eleven days after the Drain murder, Sheriff George Carroll decided to question a bedraggled young man who'd been found by Union Pacific bulls that afternoon wandering around the railyards.

The man's name was Joe Arridy. He was 21 years old, 5' 5", 125 pounds, with a dark complexion — a description not unlike that of the man seen assaulting women near the Drain home, although Arridy's heritage was Mediterranean, not Mexican. But what caught Carroll's attention was that the kid said he'd come by train from Pueblo.

A former cowboy and newspaper publisher, Carroll was a bluff, confident lawman with a reputation for breaking big cases — and courting the publicity that went with them. He'd helped to track down Ma Barker and several members of her gang after the murder of one of his deputies. In 1933, he'd cracked the kidnapping of Claude K. Boettcher II, heir of a wealthy Denver family, locating a South Dakota hideout and springing Boettcher unharmed. As the Arridy case would prove, he still had a few headlines left in him.

It took Carroll only a few moments of conversation with Arridy to realize that he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. His speech was slow, his words short and simple. But he seemed willing to talk. Carroll would later tell reporters that he asked the man if he liked girls. Arridy said he liked them fine.

"If you like girls so well, why do you hurt them?" Carroll asked.

According to Carroll, Arridy replied, "I didn't mean to."

Carroll questioned Arridy for almost eight hours over the next two days. He would later testify — from memory, since there were no notes, much less any witnesses, for most of the interrogation — that Arridy had volunteered, in his halting way, a harrowing story about the night Dorothy Drain died. He'd spied on the girls from the bushes outside, seen their parents leaving and snuck inside. He'd hit them in the head, taken his clothes off, assaulted Dorothy, dressed and left.

Certain elements of the story made no sense. At first he talked about hitting them with a club, then changed it to a hatchet. He was unable to say where he got the hatchet. But Carroll insisted that Arridy provided details about the Drain house — the arrangement of the rooms, the color of furniture and the walls in the girls' bedroom — that only someone who had been there would know. He arrested Arridy and called Chief Grady to tell him he had a "nut" who couldn't read or write but seemed to know all about the Drain case.

"He's either crazy or a mighty good actor," Carroll added.

This wasn't the welcome news Carroll expected it to be. As the sheriff soon discovered, Grady already had a suspect named Frank Aguilar who looked awfully good for the Drain job. Aguilar had caught detectives' notice by showing up at Dorothy's funeral in overalls and going twice through the line of mourners at the casket. He'd also approached Riley Drain and tried to hand him a fistful of nickels to "help the family."

The officers arrested him. They learned that Aguilar had worked for Drain on WPA projects and had been discharged by him. He had seen the girls at work sites. At his house police found news clippings about sex slayings around the country and pictures of nude women. In a bucket, under some rags, was a hatchet head with distinctive nicks in it that seemed to match up with the wounds inflicted on Dorothy Drain.

Aguilar insisted he was innocent. His aged mother said that he was home that night. But the evidence suggested otherwise. Even some fingernail scrapings taken from Aguilar contained blue chenille fibers consistent with the bedspread in the girls' bedroom.

Still, Sheriff Carroll had found in Joe Arridy another promising suspect. And this one was dying to confess.

Chief Grady, District Attorney French Taylor and other investigators headed to Cheyenne. Taylor brought the hatchet head recovered from Aguilar's house. Asked if he recognized the hatchet, Arridy said that it belonged to someone named Frank. The story had shifted overnight; now Arridy was claiming that he'd committed the crime with Frank, that it was Frank who'd hit the girls with the hatchet. He offered little other useful information, and Taylor told reporters that the suspect seemed to be hung over "from use of marijuana or something similar."

Grady had to adjust his notions of ax murderers on the spot. He'd been pursuing one fiend. Now it seemed he had two. "It is indeed a rare occurrence when two sexually perverted maniacs join forces outside an institution, and even a rarer occurrence when they combine to commit a sexual crime," he wrote in an article for Official Detective. "The Drain murder undoubtedly will find a place in medical history as one of the most unique crimes of the ages."

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24 comments
dudleysharp
dudleysharp

Alan:


You write: "Like Ricky Ray Rector, the lobotomized Arkansas killer who told his executioners that he was saving a slice of pecan pie in his cell "for later," "


A few years back I called Arkansas doc about this. They had no idea what I was talking about.


I suggest it never happened.

The_Yeti_Knows
The_Yeti_Knows

Nothing like glaring injustice and blatant State sanctioned murder of a convenient scapegoat to remind us of how ludicrous the past can be.

Too bad that future generations will tell some similar stories of how backward we've become, tolerating hatred daily, allowing for freedom of speech and expression at the expense of dignity... protecting our outdated right to bear arms at the expense of countless victims of senseless coldblooded( theatre) murder.. Yes... we've come a long way... precisely an inch... coincidentally the length of my friend pikeman's acorn.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

I would like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with your real name/town. If that's okay, let me know at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

strangerthan_thou
strangerthan_thou

i've been following this story. it's so sad. i'm glad that i don't live in that time, since i also have mental handicaps that would be easy to exploit. good to put this story to rest, especially with the advances we've had in mental health and services in colorado in the past few years. we should always remember our past before we forge forward into the future. 

Mission Supports
Mission Supports

As noted in this must-read article, Texas executed Marvin Wilson, an inmate with an IQ of 61, just last month. The verbal descriptions of "moron" or even "diseased germ plasma" may not be as prevalent today, but the indifferent attitude toward those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities still certainly exists. Thank you Alan Prenergast for exposing this historic injustice toward a segment of our population who need the support of our community more now than ever.

RevBF
RevBF

Awesome story! Sometimes it's interesting to dig up these accounts about the judicial system and notice that it's very rarely changed over the course of hundreds of years. With the new social media platforms - we ourselves are also very much involved in modern day witch hunts. The innocent until proven guilty via popular opinion is far too relevant. Why defend someone who's so unpopular if you're trying to push your own career and agenda? The ideals are very much prevalent still...unfortunately. God bless America... 

aljohn
aljohn

Hopefully this will happen to our own local "imbecile" Corey Donahue AKA Donkey Hotay.

 

Zing!!!

dleonetti
dleonetti

Great Job Alan! Wish you could have got the Frank Aguilar fire in there; we just couldnt track it down. It was a train wreck on all sides, but beautifully written.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I most definitely see where you are going w/ this & I couldn't agree more !!!

I don't care if they compile a million charges , what's RIGHT is RIGHT !!!!

Evita Chase
Evita Chase

I wonder if this is where Stephen King found his inspiration for The Green Mile?

teddiroberts1313
teddiroberts1313

should have said, There is no better man than Robert Perske, and Joe Arridy.

teddiroberts1313
teddiroberts1313

It was such an honor to be involved with Joe's story.  There is no better man then Joe Perske

 

 

teddiroberts1313
teddiroberts1313

It was such an honor to be involved in Joe's story,  He should have never died, the injustice back then was so bad... But thanks to Gov. Ritter, he gave us all an education about the truth. 

 

Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

He was innocent. Didnt deserve to die.

ghadaway
ghadaway

This story is about my uncle Joe. He was my mother's brother. I never knew about this until after she died this past May, she never talked about her family.

alanprend
alanprend

 @dleonetti Thanks Daniel. I did just recently locate a clip dealing with the fire, some months after Aguilar's execution. His widow not only refused to take his body but abandoned his children. But that's a story for another day...

dleonetti
dleonetti

 @ghadaway

 Cant wait till we meet up in Pueblo, I am trying to finalize a date and time to have breakfast and then motor up to see Joe in Canon City.

alanprend
alanprend

 @ghadaway Thanks for commenting. Did your mother ever mention her other brother, George, who apparently also suffered as a result of this case? I would be very interested in knowing what happened to him.

charenton_
charenton_

@GavotteAndBowel really good! I'm weirdly fascinated by true crime tales.

 
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