The Redbud City: The mysterious disappearance of Ray Evans, part 2
This is Part II of the story about the abduction, murder, and recovery of Ray Evans, popular Shawnee attorney who mysteriously disappeared on November 19, 1935, after traveling to Ada on attorney business. Later, his murderer, Chester Comer, was caught and admitted to the killing of Evans but was injured and died before revealing the location of Evans’ body. The story continues.
Comer was shot and captured near Blanchard by Oscar Morgan, the town marshal. Morgan received a bullet in his right arm during a pistol duel with the fugitive. At the time of his capture, Comer was in a car belonging to L.A. Simpson. Evans’ briefcase was inside. The search of Boggy Creek near Fittstown began after County Attorney Tom Wyatt called the sheriff’s office from Blanchard and told Undersheriff Roy Wellman that Comer had answered “yes” when Wyatt asked if there were bodies in a creek east of Fittstown, an oil village.
Some officers said clothing worn by Comer was similar in appearance to some of that worn by Evans when he disappeared. Comer drove Evans’ car into the ditch and a search for him was started. He was traced to Oklahoma City, where the trail was lost on Saturday, November 24.
Morgan said he and another officer were talking about the disappearance of the Simpsons, when a man from Chickasha advised them that he saw a car of the description of the Simpson automobile parked south of Blanchard. The marshal and officers went to the scene and the capture followed.
In Comer’s pocket was found a card on which was written in pencil, “If I am killed in this car, I have nothing to regret, for I’d rather be dead than a public slave.”
Comer’s parents visited him at the hospital. “Yes, it’s my boy,” said Mrs. Comer. “I’m sure he is my son.”
Morgan, who was treated at the hospital for his wound, described the capture and pistol duel near Blanchard. “I got in a car and went down there. I jumped him up and chased him about three miles. He drove his car into a bank and stopped. I got out of the car and went over to his auto. He was scrunched down in the seat. I reached for my gun and he shot at me through the window. He got me in the arm.
“I shot back at him twice, but I couldn’t see him very well, so I walked around in front of the car and shot through the windshield. I hit him between the eyes with the first shot. He was shooting at me all the time. I had to break the glass to get him out. He had himself locked in the car.”
COMER DIES AND SEARCH CONTINUES
The lips of Chester Comer, wounded gunman hitchhiker, were sealed at 11:13 P.M., Wednesday, November 27, 1935, in an Oklahoma City hospital forever when he died from pneumonia contracted after he had been shot by a Blanchard marshal on November 25.
Activity was directed entirely toward searching for the bodies of Ray Evans, Shawnee attorney, and two missing Piedmont residents. Comer grew weaker steadily after pneumonia set in late Wednesday and was placed on oxygen to prolong his life. Officers failed to get additional information from him after he had mumbled a partial confession, which led them to fear for the lives of five missing Oklahoma people. They also suspected him as the “suspect” in an Illinois case of four missing tourist during the previous summer.
A large party of Shawnee citizens met at headquarters near Ada and near Blanchard on Thursday morning, November 28, to search for the bodies. Sheriff Walter Mosier reported that the most likely clue turned up by the large group of National Guardsmen, Boy Scouts, CCC workers, and citizens under his supervision, was from a farmer. He lived five miles south of the Sunset Filling Station and saw the car pass by his place twice with two men in the auto. He said the car headed toward Big Sandy Creek.
Authorities in Purcell suggested that there was strong evidence that the bodies of Evans and the Simpsons were in that area. There were rumors on Thursday afternoon that Evans’ body was found near Purcell, but they proved to be unfounded. No light was thrown on the disappearances of Elizabeth Childers Comer and Lucille Stevens Comer, first and second wives of the suspect.
FARMER LOCATES THE BODY OF EVANS
Positive identification of a nude body found in a weed bed three and one-half miles north of Lindsay on Wednesday morning, December 11, 1935, was that of Ray Evans. The identification was made by a group of local physicians and dentists in an autopsy. Plans were already being made for the funeral on the afternoon of the 12th.
Due to the state of decomposition of the body, which was evidently lain in the small grass covered valley since the night of November 19, was impossible to identify by sight. First reports were of one wound in the head and a later report said there were three wounds. Making the autopsy were Dr. Horton Hughes, Dr. George S. Baxter, Dr. F.E. Carson, and Dr. Hal White. Dr. J.A. Wells and Dr. Roy Melugin were the dentists.
A large crowd gathered outside the Gaskill Undertaking Company building on Wednesday night, soon after the body arrived from Lindsay. They were all waiting for confirmation that it was Evans’ body. No one except authorities were admitted into the building.
Services were held on Thursday at the First Baptist Church, where Evans was a deacon. The services were led by Pastor Chesterfield Turner, with assistance from several other ministers. Burial was at Fairview Cemetery, with Ross Johnston, Paul Johnston, Fred Pratt, Crouch Pratt, Paul Loy, and H.B. Taliferro as pall bearers.
The body was discovered by two farmers, W.R. Massey and C.N. Hopkins, both of Lindsay. They were each driving cotton wagons along the lonely and seldom traveled country road. “I saw two dogs out in the grass about 90 feet from the road on the east side,” said Massey. “They seemed attracted to something. I got down and went over there, and there was the body.”
The presence of blood stains between the body and the road led officers to believe Comer had stopped the Evans car, forced Evans to march to within a short distance of where the body was discovered, ordered him to remove his clothing, shot him once and then dragged his body into the waist high grass.
The search continued for the other bodies that were still missing. The body of his first wife, Elizabeth Childers Comer, found riddled with bullets in Wyandotte County, KS, over a year earlier.
Evans was an attorney by profession and a trustee of OBU, a director of the Chamber of Commerce, and served overseas during the World War as a first lieutenant. He was also a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the American Legion, Lions Club, and Knights Templar.
He graduated from law school at the University of Oklahoma in 1920. He was a member of the Kappa Sigma social fraternity, and of the Phi Delta Phi honorary law fraternity. He was survived by his wife and daughter of the home on Dewey Street. He also had a brother, Claude Evans, of Los Angeles.
Memorial services were so large that many of the attendees were turned away because of the large crowd. Many were forced to hear the broadcast of the services on KGFF.
This is Part II of the brutal death and recovery of Ray Evans, beloved Shawnee attorney. Part I appeared last week in the News-Star. These stories, along with many others 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). The availability of Volume Four, (1970-1989) is imminent. 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.)