Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  

JIM: The 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) - II

(Part 2 of 3) - Mr. Coffey's dilemma in wilds of Southern Marion County. - showdown at Howard's Cafe in Louisville - incarceration and trial of Gladys Burdette - and much more. JIM writes of the aftermath of his bewildering experience north of Finley: After walking some three miles "through rough country," Mr. Coffey arrived at Finley where he found the couple had stopped and bought four gallons of gasoline. From there, he "called Columbia and told his partner, David Heskamp, of his plight and a machine was sent for him immediately."Click on headline for complete complete Part 2 of 3 installment.

Next earlier installment: The 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events)

By JIM (c)

According to Mr. Coffey, Burdette & Violette took back roads and creek beds from Coburg to the point they put him out of the car. Before releasing him, they took his money, a fountain pen, a watch, and "other valuables." Curiously, they returned the watch upon his request for them to do so.

By the time Mr. Coffey had regained his freedom somewhat in the middle of nowhere, darkness had arrived, and with it, sharply cooler temperatures. Dressed for the warmth of the afternoon, he had left his place of business wearing a only short sleeved shirt on his upper body. When Lewis made mention of this, Violette handed over his own overcoat before he and Miss Burdette lit out in the new Chevy for parts then unknown. It later came to light they spent the night nearby, then drove to Nashville before reversing direction and motoring to Louisville.

After walking some three miles "through rough country," Mr. Coffey arrived at Finley where he found the couple had stopped and bought four gallons of gasoline. From there, he "called Columbia and told his partner, David Heskamp, of his plight and a machine was sent for him immediately."

Authorities were notified as soon as possible but when the News went to press almost five full days later, no trace of the auto snatchers had come to light. However, stated the paper, "The officers think that perhaps they are connected with a gang engaged in stealing cars and having them repainted and marketed."

The above events unfolded on the afternoon and night of Thursday, March 15. On Sunday evening, March 25, Detective Sergeants Harry Jones and Alonzo Barmore quietly arrested Gladys Burdette -- later described in the News as "a slender, dark haired girl of nice appearance" -- at Howard's Cafe, 819 South Third Street, Louisville. She and Violette had been living in Louisville as husband and wife under the assumed names of Mr. and Mrs. Walker Vance. She was at the cafe awaiting the return of Violette and a companion, John Holland Marie (erroneously spelled "Murray" in some reports), Sr., a Tennessee native in his early thirties who lived near Louisville. Violette and Marie had left Miss Burdette at the cafe while they "went out to get some money."

After her incarceration, Miss Burdette admitted her complicity in the auto theft and assault of Mr. Coffey. On Monday morning, March 26, Louisville detectives notified Columbia authorities of same, and "Deputies Alfred Harper, Martin Rowe, David Heskamp and Evan Akin immediately left for Louisville and returned [to Columbia] with the girl that night."

Miss Burdette appeared before Judge W.G. Sheppherd on Tuesday afternoon, March 27. She declined the assistance of a lawyer but requested and was granted postponement of her examining trial. Judge Sheppherd set bond at $2,000 ($500 for assault and battery and the balance for grand larceny) and set the trial date as Saturday morning, March 31. In addition to asking for the delay, Miss Burdette, who "seemed very cheerful and laughed out loud several times," also laughingly asked Mr. Coffey, who was present for the proceedings, "How is your head?"

Columbia attorney Ralph Hurt was appointed to defend Miss Burdette. He managed to get the assault charge dropped but she still was held on the $1,500 grand larceny charge pending action of the Adair County grand jury. That august body returned a true bill, and her trial, held in early summer, drew but a single terse sentence in the July 11 News:

"Miss Gladys Burdette was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary for aiding John Violett in the stealing of a car from the Columbia Motor Company last spring."

However, after "clemency was recommended by 100 Columbia citizens and a number of officials," Governor Rudy Laffoon pardoned Miss Burdette. The Courier-Journal reported those requesting the pardon included the prosecuting witness; that is, Mr. Coffey. Including her one-night stay in the Louisville bastille following arrest and the jail time in Columbia pending trial, she served almost exactly eleven months. Gladys regained her freedom on February 26, 1935, two days past her twenty-second birthday.

But wait, you say. What does all this have to do with the tabloid-style "shot-'em-dead" headline mentioned in the opening paragraph of this article? Therein lies the rest of the story.

To be continued.

(c) 2018 Jim

Note: The story of the 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) is posted in three parts:

This story was posted on 2018-03-18 06:26:53
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.


Quick Links to Popular Features

Looking for a story or picture?
Try our Photo Archive or our Stories Archive for all the information that's appeared on


Contact us: Columbia Magazine and are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270.403.0017

Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.