The photo below was sent in by Vicki Cheatham in January of 2007 with the request
that we share what we knew of the burned-out shell of a house near Jolly,
Texas. It was an easy question to answer since we knew nothing. Forward to
October of 2007 – when a sharing reader from Midlothian
sent a link which had the entire story. The link was to an article, which had
appeared in the October, 2004 issue of the Wichitan, the newspaper for Midwestern
State University in Wichita Falls. It was from that article that the following
facts were gleaned (See also corrections
from Chief Deputy of Clay County):|
silhouette of the Keith Brother’s house stands off Highway 287, between Wichita
Falls and Henrietta.
Vicki Cheatham, January 2007
a Saturday night in mid-July, of 1975, brothers Jim and Keneth Keith (61 and 70,
respectively) were preparing for bed. Jim had never married, and Kenneth was divorced.
Both men raised Hereford cattle, as their father had done before them. Neither
man had any heirs and lived alone in their ranch house which was described by
the Wichita Falls Record News as “sumptuous.”|
It’s not known if
it was an assumption of wealth or the size of the house that caused rumors to
circulate about a fortune in rare coins and guns. Whatever the reason, at least
two men entered the house that summer night looking for treasure and were determined
to have it.
Kenneth heard voices coming from his brother’s room, and,
as he approached, heard a gunshot. He found his brother in a pool of his own blood,
shot in the back. The killer then tied Kenneth Keith to a chair, releasing him
briefly to open a safe and then retied him.
A second man appeared and
after cutting the phone line and ransacking the house, they left about 3:00 a.m.
Kenneth managed to free himself and drove to the Jolly
truck stop where he phoned police.
The headlines on July 14th shouted:
“Clay County Rancher Murdered” but at that time there was little information.
years later reporter Judith McGinnis wrote a follow-up story for the paper which
was, by then, the Times Record News. The later article had more facts and
named names. There were four men indicted (Clyde Theron Burns, William Leon Pinson
Burns, Alton Woodruff Fanchier, and Lonnie Dale Lloyd.
Burns was identified as the triggerman. The severity of the crime demanded a special
prosecutor for the case. According to the court records, the men had planned the
theft of a coin collection which had been featured or advertised in a coin magazine.
The sad irony was that, while there actually had been a collection,
Kenneth Keith had donated it to a museum the previous year.
Keith had moved in to a neighbor’s house after burying Jim and the brothers' former
home sat vacant. But in February of 1976, when Clyde Burns was arrested, the house
was torched. It was almost certainly arson, but there was never a formal investigation.
The three others were given 20 years for their guilty plea. Evidence was
produced that confirmed that “Pinson” Burns had shot through a window screen and
killed Jim Keith as he attempted to run.
A Clay County jury took six
minutes to deliberate – just enough time to sit down and vote. Pinson Burns was
sent to Kansas’s Leavenworth Penitentiary – for what everyone had thought was
a life sentence.
But ten years later, after being released for “poor
health,” Pinson Burns moved to New Mexico. He was apprehended on charges unrelated
to the Jolly murder and sent to Huntsville
where he died in 1983.
He outlived Kenneth Keith by six years.
As with many abandoned houses or ruins, stories spring up about ghosts,
and ghostly happenings. When a particularly red sun sets on the horizon, it
can appear that the Keith Brothers home is again on fire, but as for a haunting,
it’s just local youth claiming a story that they can “own.”
11 , 2007 Column
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
In Cold Blood: Clay County, Texas 1975
There are/were several mistakes
in the article you posted on the Kieth Brothers. Clyde Burns was arrested after
he broke back into the Kieth Home to steal the antique Clock collection and set
fire to the house.
Penson Burns was sent to Levenworth on a federal charge
and was released by a federal Judge and was fighting extradition to Texas to serve
his Life Sentance at Huntsville. He did not move to New Mexico, he went there
to attend a funeral and was picked up by the local Sheriff who happen to know
that he was wanted in Clay County, Texas. Sheriff Jake Bogard personally went
to New Mexico and transported Burns to Huntsville on the Murder Conviction.
the time I was Chief Deputy of Clay County.
- Dexter Parnell, August 06,