knew much about Lewis Cernoch, a thirty-eight-year old farm hand who
lived by himself in a dirty, rundown shack near the Hoxie community
outside of Granger
and worked for local farmers as a handyman. He was from Minnesota,
a veteran of World War I,
and had lived in Granger
for eighteen years.
The first time most people in Granger
knew Cernoch even existed was when he appeared in Justice John Nunn's
courtroom on Nov. 10, 1933 to face charges of abusive language in
the presence of a woman and disorderly conduct. The charges stemmed
from a row at the home of Frank Simcock, where Cernoch had shown up
to collect a thirty-seven dollar debt. Simcock had since died and
the family refused to pay. Cernoch's outrage and subsequent outburst
was such that he ended up in court. The jury found him guilty and
fined Cernoch, acting as his own attorney, fifteen dollars plus costs
for a grand total of twenty eight dollars and five cents.
When Cernoch informed the court he had no money, Nunn ordered Precinct
2 Constable Sam Moore to hustle Cernoch off to jail. On second thought,
Cernoch said he might be able to raise the money after all. Justice
Nunn gave him until that night to come up with the cash. The next
time anyone in Granger
saw him was when he showed up at Nunn's office on February 15, 1934
in the company of Constable Moore and Henry Lindsey, the town marshal.
Justice Nunn chided Cernoch for "playing a trick on us." When Cernoch
said he didn't have any more money that day than he did the first
time he was in court, Nunn instructed Moore to haul Cernoch to the
jail. This time he meant it. The two left the courtroom, located at
the rear of the First National Bank building, on their way to jail.
Marshal Lindsey and Constable Moore either failed to look for Cernoch's
pistol when they took him into custody or they didn't find it. But
he had one.
A moment after the two lawmen left with Cernoch, Nunn heard two gunshots.
A couple of heartbeats later, Cernoch was in the room with his Luger
at the ready. Nunn later testified that he ran to get behind a couch
but assistant district attorney M.B. Colbert was already hiding there.
"Cernoch came in the door and shot three times in our direction,"
Nunn said. "One bullet hit me in the leg."
Moore, crouched behind a desk, raised up and fired his pistol at Cernoch
but missed. The left-handed Moore, wounded in that shoulder, was shooting
with his right hand. Cernoch returned fire, hitting Moore several
times. Moore would die a short while later at a Taylor
Cernoch tucked the gun in his belt, near the belt buckle, and stepped
out on the street. He proceeded to a confectionary operated John Kubala,
a member of the jury that had convicted him on the abusive language
case. Cernoch's immediate plan involved shooting Kubala and any other
jurors he could find, but when told that Kubala wasn't at the confectionary
Cernoch calmly returned to the scene of the crime.
gunfire had attracted the attention of everybody in town, including
a fourteen-year old boy named Dan
Martinets, who was riding his bicycle two blocks away when he
heard the series of gunshots. A man came running down the street,
yelling, "They're shooting everybody!" Martinets wanted to see, or
he thought he did. He half-rode and half-drug his bike to the scene
of the action at the rear of the Justice of the Peace's office. There
he saw Lindsey lying dead on the running board of a car. And there
also was Louis Cernoch, leaning against a telephone pole, reloading
his Luger and lighting a pipe with trembling hands.
Another fourteen-year old boy, "Maxey" Goff, son of Granger night
watchman Charles Goff, sneaked up behind Cernoch as the killer exchanged
conversation with what was by now a mob. Goff had with him a window
counter weight, a hefty little item that he slammed into the back
of Cernoch's head. Cernoch collapsed and dropped to the pavement along
with his pipe and the now-reloaded Luger. A local dentist confiscated
the gun while a number of townspeople, none of them too happy about
what had just happened to two of their local law enforcement officers,
hustled Cernoch off to jail.
"You shouldn't have done that," one of the citizens told Cernoch.
He replied, "They double-crossed me and they were going to put me
in jail for not having any money."
Sheriff Louis Lowe and Deputy Barney McLaughlin took Cernoch into
custody a little before 6 p.m. and hauled him to the jail in Georgetown.
Cernoch told the sheriff, "I'm glad I did it."-
watched as Lindsey's body was loaded into a wicker basket from the
funeral home's hearse. "There was more trauma in that than you can
said in 2004, when he was eighty-three years old. "It's hard to walk
away from something like that and not be changed by it."
recalled that Simcock, whose thirty-seven dollar unpaid debt first
exposed Cernoch's volatile nature, was a miserly sort with a cement
floor in the barn for his cows but a dirt floor for his family. He
put off paying Cernoch for months, long enough for him to die with
the debt unresolved. Cernoch said he shot the men because "they intended
to put me in jail because I could not pay the fine" and insisted that
he was the victim here, that he had been double-crossed.
Meanwhile, funeral services for Lindsey attracted what the Austin
paper termed "one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Granger."
Lindsey was a long-time peace officer in Granger, having served as
a deputy sheriff and constable before taking over as city marshal.
He left behind a widow. Moore's funeral the day after Lindsey's brought
together another large crowd. Moore, survived by a wife and two children,
had previously served as a Williamson County Commissioner. County
and precinct officers from all over Central
Texas attended the funerals.
At the same time, Cernoch was in the Georgetown
jail, telling anyone who asked that his "only desire was to kill officers."
Cernoch went on trial a month after the murder. Defense attorney W.C.
Wofford let the state present its story of the killings "almost without
controversy," the Austin paper reported. "He sought to soften the
story by drawing out each witness on whether he thought Cernoch was
a sane, normal man. Much to his surprise and discomfiture, most of
them thought him normal."
Wofford wanted to present a plea for insanity, but Cernoch refused
to discuss the case in any detail or divulge much about his past,
including the names of family members or others who might have testified
on his behalf. He did mention his service during World
War I. "I killed men by the hundreds in the war," he told his
lawyer. "What difference does it make if I kill a couple more?"
The jury convicted Cernoch on all counts and sentenced him to die
by electrocution at the Huntsville
state prison. Cernoch and four other men escaped from the Georgetown
jail on January 20, 1935. Three of the escapees, including Cernoch,
were recaptured that same day. Sheriff Lowe found Cernoch at San Gabriel
Park, smoking his pipe and heading in the general direction of Granger.
He didn't resist re-arrest.
Governor James V. Allred granted Cernoch a temporary reprieve in June,
but the double-crossed, double murderer was put to death in Huntsville
on July 12, 1934. Newspapers reported that Cernoch simply smoked his
pipe and waited for his time to run out.
long after he took over as the Granger
police chief in 2014, now former Granger
chief "Bob" Shelton noticed an old black and white photograph hanging
on a back wall. A metal label on the frame read: "Henry J. Lindsey,
Served 16 Years as Granger City Marshal, Killed February 15, 1934."
Shelton couldn't find anyone in city government who knew why or
how this thing had happened. He dug deeper, reached out to a researcher
and pieced together the story.
On September 12, 2015, eighty-one years after the murders, Granger
dedicated a plaque. on the east side of the Granger National Bank,
where Nunn's courtroom was in 1934, noting simply that marshal Henry
Lindsey and constable Sam Moore were killed near that spot "in the
line of duty defending the citizens of Granger." Once again, law enforcement
officers from across the state joined with the citizens of Granger
to pay their respects.
Through The Years by Clay Coppedge
Dan Martinets used to walk along the railroad tracks running through
the heart of his hometown, Granger, and dream of getting on one
of those trains and never coming back.
That was in the 1920s, when both Granger and Martinets were young
and in their prime. Now Granger would seem to be yet another small
town with a great future behind it and Martinets has passed on;
he died two days before Christmas last year... more