November 3rd, 1948. Robert Taylor started his day like every other during the school year. He got up early in the morning and started up his school bus. Robert was one of the drivers for the local school near Arcadia in 1948. It was a quiet Wednesday morning, he picked up the kids, one by one and then headed toward the school. As they approached a bridge near Arcadia, Oklahoma, Robert saw the most peculiar thing. What looked like a large white piece of clothing was stuck in the rough timber on the side of the bridge. As he drove over he slowed down to investigate further but decided against it with all of the kids on the bus and he proceeded to drop them off at the school.
At the school, Robert spotted another driver, V.C. Dowell. Mr. Dowell had also just dropped off kids for school and was wrapping up for the day. Robert decided to hell him about what he saw at the bridge. Curious, they both decided to drive down together and check what was at the bridge.
They both got into their school busses and drove down to the bridge. They both pulled up to the bridge at the same time. They got out and walked over and leaned over the side. Down below they could see a white robe and below that, was the body of a man, it was quite obvious he was dead.
Both Robert and Dowell went to the nearby police station to report what they found. Those Officers quickly acted by calling in the Chief Criminal Deputy Sheriff T. M. Field.
It wasn’t long before Deputy Field and his men were on the scene. One of the first things Deputy Field noted were the tire tracks that were on the dirt embankment. He confirmed that neither of the bus drivers had pulled over at this spot. It was curious because the tracks led right up to the edge of the bridge, as if the killer just pulled up, backed in and dumped the body right out of the back of a car.
Deputy Field then moved to the body. It was a man, in his early to mid forties, it was hard to pinpoint the age due to the massive trauma that was on the side of his face. It was obvious that he had been shot several times in the side of the head. The Medical Examiner believed right away that the body had only been dead for a few hours. In its current state, the medical examiner guessed around 1am that morning was the time of death.
Deputy Field checked the dead man’s pockets, his wallet was missing. This opened up the possibility of it being a robbery, or someone trying to derail an investigation by delaying the identification of the deceased. The front pockets contain a small coin purse with about two dollars in change inside. It was then, Deputy Field noticed a shirt picket that appeared to be bulging a little. He reached inside and he found a small pocketbook. It was in fact, a small address book. Inside were the names, numbers and addresses of those the deceased knew. Also inside this address book was a receipt of car repairs made just the day before, with the name and address of a garage. The address was in Joplin Missouri.
Officers had their hands full with this case. News of the murder was national news within hours of the discovery of the body. The news of this murder ended up working in favor of Deputy Field had quickly formed a plan of action on finding out who the dead man was.
Authorities in Joplin Missouri were sent over to the Elect Service Co. it was the service garage that was on the ticket. Employees there confirmed that they did the repairs and they actually remembered the name of the man. His name was Carl Beach. They stated that he was driving a 1938 Buick Coach and that he wasn’t alone. They gave a description of Carl who was in his forties, Traveling with him were two young men. They thought they were older teenagers and they didn’t have their names. What they did know was that Carl had picked the two up as hitchhikers during his travels. Judging by the descriptions, Carl was the man who was murdered.
All of this information was relayed to the Oklahoma police.
Now, this is actually great police work here. In mere hours we have an idea of what happened to some degree. We know that Carl Beach was traveling through Missouri and Oklahoma, somewhere he picked up two hitchhikers, now he’s dead. The next people that the police want to speak to are the two hitchhikers, they are their main suspects at this point.
While the police in Missouri were investigating the garage, In Oklahoma Deputy Field has moved on to the address book. First off he took down the names and addresses of the people in the book. He notes the family members and that many of the addresses are centered in New York. It wasn’t long before he received the name from the other detectives that the victim was Carl Beach. Deputy Field then checked the address book and the victim had listed his own address in the book. He lived in a town called Corfu in New York.
They called the Authorities in Corfu and were surprised to get a clearer picture of the case very quickly. A Corfu Justice of the Peace personally knew the victim. He stated that Carl had purchased the 1938 Buick to travel to see his Mother in Arizona. Carl was slightly crippled, he had to use a motor scooter due to his physical condition.
Knowing that the two hitchhikers could be anywhere at this point, they issue out a six state manhunt. They gave a description of the car, its license plate numbers and information on the two hitchhikers who they knew at this point from the interview with the garage was that one was around 5 foot 8 and 150 points, the other was a few inches taller and a little heavier. They both had dark hair.
If they stayed driving from the moment of the murder, there was really no telling where they were at this point. It was their hope that they had not made it far, but they knew that someone smart would move far far away after committing a murder like this.
The Police in Oklahoma City were active in this case as well. As one one of the closer cities near where this murder happened, it was likely that the killer or killers had made their way through Oklahoma City after the murder. They decided to check parking lots for the car in the off chance that they might have stopped for the night. Although they did a thorough search, they did not find the car.
Patrol Officers all across the state and in each neighboring state were given a description of the car and the two men who were thought to be driving it. The information that they were hitchhikers was included. It was the next day that information that brought them their first big break in the case.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol near Cleveland, Oklahoma found a man who was hitchhiking toward Tulsa. When questioned, the hitchhiker stated that he was meeting a companion in Tulsa later that night. Not taking any chances, the Highway Patrol Officers decided to arrest the Hitchhiker to further question him.
The Highway Patrol took the Hitchhiker to the station in Pawnee, Oklahoma and began to question him all night. He denied all accusations that he had anything to do with the murder. On the night of the murder he was at home and was able to produce a credible alibi. They let him go the next day, it was obvious that he didn’t have anything to do with the murder, just had the unfortunate coincidence of hitchhiking during this manhunt.
The next day, a parking lot attendant in Dallas Texas was having a hard time was having a very hard day. He watched over a parking lot for a prominent hotel in Dallas. That day they had painters working on the fire escape of the building. It was being repainted red, the old paint had faded quite a bit. One of the guests at the hotel had noticed red lint spattered on their car. The painters were being careless and they had dripped paint all over the cars below. Trying to see what kind of damage they were looking at, the attendant checked over the cars on the lot. Several had red pint dripped on them. It was the. He noticed one near the back of the lot that had some paint on it as well. Be walked over and realized that it was not paint that he was looking at, it was dried blood. The interior of the car was sprayed with blood and the drivers side window was broken with obvious bullet holes.
The attendant quickly walked over to the corset street where he knew two patrolmen were typically sitting in their car. He explained to the officers what he found and they drove over to take a look.
The officers knew that whatever they had, someone died in this car recently. They decided that the best course of action was to wait and see who owned the car. They parked nearby and staked out the car. It wasn’t too long when two young men were spotted walking to the car. They were holding several store boxes and began loading them into the vehicle. The officers quickly approached and arrested the two men without incident.
It wasn’t until the officers got the two men to the station when they figured out what they may have. The car was a 1938 Buick, it had dry blood and the two men who were arrested fit the description of the two hitchhikers. They separated the two men into interview rooms and began to work on them. Their names were Harry Raskin who was 18 at the time and Max Klettke, At first they tried to tell a story where they were just passing through town and had nothing to do with the murder, that story quickly fell apart.
Max was the first of the two to break. He told them that he killed Carl Beach. They asked for the entire confession and he told the entire story.
Max and Harry were trying to get to southern Texas to get jobs they believed were there. So in Michigan, they rented a car and decided to drive across the country. They have a little money and believed they could make it. However, they didn’t have nearly enough money and they ran out of money and gas around Fort Wayne Indiana. Still wanting to make it to Texas, they ditched their rental car and decided to hitchhike to a major city in hopes to find someone willing to take them in the right direction. It was just outside Indianapolis where they were picked up by Carl.
At first, they didn’t have any issues. But as the night went they found out that Carl liked to dine at the road side dinners and he was being stinger with his money. Max and Harry would ask for some money or some food and Carl would always say no, he was just giving them a ride and he didn’t have enough to pay for everyone. This became quite the issue because for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, Carl would make sure to stop somewhere and deny helping the two boys out.
It was as they got into Oklahoma, they decided they were going to rob Carl. Both Max and Harry believed that Carl was holding out on them and that they were going to teach him a lesson. This escalated when they pulled into Arcadia late that night, they pulled over for Gas. They again asked Carl for some money for food and this time he was very short with Max, he told him no and to not ask again.
When they were on the road again, they were headed back towards the highway and on an empty street. Fuming from the conversation earlier, Max who was in the back seat pulled out a pistol and fired a shot, intended to kill Carl. He missed. Before he fired again, Carl asked in shock what was that noise. Those were his last words. Max fired four more times and stuck Carl in the back of his head.
They rolled to a stop and they decided to roll Carl up in the white robe and then stuffed him in the back of the car. Max started to drive the car and headed back to the highway, before they got there, they saw the bridge and decided to dump the body there. To make it easy they backed the car right up to the edge and opened the back door. Then all they had to do was let him roll out and he fell into the ravine.
When they went through Carl’s belongings they found a sizable amount of money. They decided to stay in a nice Hotel in Oklahoma City and then got out of town quickly when the news broke about the discovery of the body. When they got to Dallas they decided to stop for the day and go shopping, not knowing that act would be their downfall.
The two men were brought back to Oklahoma to face justice for their crimes.
In December of 1948, Max who was the confessed shooter was the first to go on trial. Believing that if he pled guilty he would be given the death sentence, He decided to try his luck with the jury and see if they would be sympathetic to his case. In an effort to show his human side, he took the stand and tried to explain his actions. It didn’t go well for him, the prosecution was able to get him to admit planning the murder without remorse.
Max was convicted and was given the death penalty.
Harry’s trial was almost immediately after Max’s. After hearing the outcome, he decided to plead guilty. The Judge sentenced him to life in Prison.
Almost two years to the date of the trial, Max was scheduled to die. His attorney tried to get his sentence lowered to life in prison, but hit roadblocks at every point. On Jan. 4th 1951, Max wrote a letter to the warden, telling him that his life was hard but he was thankful he was able to meet someone like him. He wished his father was more like him. He also thanked his aunts who were kind to him even after the murder.
That night he walked into the death chamber, prayed with the priest and was electrocuted until he was dead.
I couldn’t find out the fate of Harry. His prison record is pretty bare of information and there wasn’t any news on him after the trial.