The Redbud City: The mysterious disappearance of Ray Evans: Part I

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Chester Comer was questioned by OSBI operatives while dying in a hospital in Oklahoma City about the missing bodies of Ray Evans, his former wives, and the Simpson family.
RAY EVANS

SEARCH BEGINS FOR MISSING ATTORNEY

Death or compulsory service as a driver for a treacherous criminal picked up as a harmless hitchhiker was seen by officers on the night of Wednesday, November 20, 1935, as probable fate of Ray Evans.  The prominent city attorney, whose known actions terminated at 2:30 P.M. on November 19, when he left a rural filling station, eight miles north of Ada. He was accompanied by a man now believed to be either his murderer or his abductor.

Hoping desperately to bring to light some clue to the abrupt disappearance was not found in the day-long search conducted on the 20th. Sheriff Walter Mosier and a posse of 50 men from the Lions Club posted a reward of $250 for information that would lead to the finding of Evans. A substantial reward also was offered for a tip that might result in recovery of his tan-colored Ford V-8 sedan.

A group of 50 picked men, volunteers selected from the American Legion, Lions Club, and Masonic Lodge, were named to start from the courthouse at 7 P.M. in a renewal of the search through the region north of Ada, where Evans disappeared with his mysterious passenger.

Court Hayes, local aviator, who cooperated with the posse by scanning the timbered region from the air for miles on either side of the Ada highway, was out again the next day doing the same thing. However, most hopes were based on foot-to-foot search of every bit of cover in a wide radius about the entire area. Pontotoc County officers joined the hunt, with broadcasts from radio stations KGFF in Shawnee, and KADA at Ada.

While all the work was started again on Thursday, there were unfounded rumors circulating. A report that Evans’ car was found abandoned in Arkansas was refuted by the sheriff’s office, as was the rumor that three McAlester escaped convicts were suspected in an abduction plot that had Evans as the kidnap victim.

Descriptions of Evans provided all officers and newspapers helped in looking for their man. He was dressed in a blue suit, a dark gray hat, and black shoes. He wore rimless glasses. He was 40 years of age, five feet six inches tall, and weighed 160 pounds. His car carried an Oklahoma tag number of 230-960.

The robbery motive was given additional force by the fact that the attorney was known to have at least $20 on his person when he left Shawnee that afternoon.

The sheriff said Evans drove eastward out of Shawnee at 12:45 P.M. on Tuesday. Six miles east, he was seen by a witness, who said two or three people were with him. It was believed that all but one of the men, supposedly hitchhikers picked up by Evans near Shawnee, continued southward with Evans after he turned at Seminole.

He first stopped at a filling station at the north end of the McKeown bridge, across the South Canadian River, between Konawa and Ada. Evans inquired at the station about a family. Another man was said to be in the car with him.

Next, Evans stopped at the Sunset Filling Station about eight miles north of Ada. The attendant at the station said Evans came into the station and asked for someone. He was then directed to the Broadway Filling Station on the north side of Ada.

From the Sunset Filling Station, all clues vanished into thin air. Evans was reported as never showing up at the Sunset station. Officers were working on the theory that Evans was abducted by the hitchhiker to whom he had given a ride. Theory that Evans was deliberately kidnapped, was discarded after officers had checked his recent activities. He was making an investigation of evidence in a civil case, but it was not of a serious nature.

Because no word was heard from Evans, officers believed he was either being held captive, was knocked unconscious and left in a hidden spot, or murdered.

EVANS’ CAR FOUND ABANDONED

Mysterious disappearance of Ray Evans appeared near a solution on November 22, after his automobile and overcoat were discovered near Maysville in Garvin County by the sheriff. The car was abandoned that afternoon and the sheriff expected to make an arrest of the driver sometime during the night.

Witnesses who saw the man leave the car said it was not Evans. The driver said he was going into Purcell to get a wrecker to get him out of the ditch. The sheriff said they got an accurate description of the driver and believed they knew his identity. He and McClain County authorities at Purcell were scouring the countryside early Saturday morning to apprehend him as quickly as possible. The sheriff said neither the car, or overcoat bore any marks of violence. Witnesses who saw the man drive into the ditch became suspicious at his action.

The reward offered for information leading to the location of Evans was raised to $500 Friday the 22nd, after the Shawnee Lions Club and the American Legion had raised $250 more.

COMER ADMITS TO KILLINGS

Five missing persons, all feared slain, were sought throughout Oklahoma on the night of November 26, 1935, after McClain County Attorney E. Smith Heister announced a wounded suspect had confessed to him the deaths of three.

Chester Comer also confessed to Sheriff Walter Mosier he killed Ray Evans, while Mosier and his aides were questioning the wounded suspect.

Heister said the captive, Chester Comer, 25-year-old Oklahoma City man, mumbled to him after he was shot by a town marshal near Blanchard. “I did away with three … dumped their bodies in a pile under a pipe line near Ada,” Comer said.

Continued questioning of Comer was prevented when he sank into a coma shortly before 10 P.M. Doctors said they held little hope for his recovery. Fears expressed by Mrs. J.P. Childers, stepmother of Elizabeth Childers, Comer’s first wife, and by the father of his second wife, Lucille Stevens Comer, as their names were added to the list of missing persons. The three others, whom Heister said Comer admitted he “did away with,” were Ray Evans, L.A. Simpson, a Piedmont farmer, and his son, Warren. Heister said his confession came through pain-driven lips.

J.L. Stanley, a relative of Evans asked Comer, “where is Ray Evans?” Back came a mumbled reply, “Fittstown…., east of Fittstown …. in a creek … pipeline … ditch.”

The search would continue with full force trying to find Ray Evans’ body in the Ada area.

This story will continue in Part II next week. They appear in Volume Two of the six-volume series of the history of Shawnee, entitled “Redbud City,” (1930-1949). The first three volumes are available and can be purchased by going onto the Pottawatomie County Historical website, or by calling (405-275-8412). Volume Four, (1970-1989) is now with the printer and should be available for purchase in two or three weeks. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is scheduled for October of 2021. Volume Six, (2010-2022) is about 75 percent finished and should be ready in early 2022.)