Saturday, April 9, 2011

1934 Murder of Cocoa's Ethel Allen

Since violent crime is still somewhat unsual in Brevard County we can only imagine just how shocking a brutal murder would have been to the community in 1934. Unfortunately this is precisely what happened when the badly mutilated and burned body of nineteen year old Cocoa resident Ethel Allen was found on the shore of the Indian River between Rockledge and Eau Gallie on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 1934. The story of Ethel Allen contiunes to fascinate locals and has been keept alive in part due to the claim that her ghost haunts Ashley's Restaurant in Rockledge.

The facts are that on the 21st a man driving north along the river noticed buzzards circling overhead and landing on the ground, and when he went to investigate the source he discovered a badly decomposed and mutilated body. The identity was established later that day by Mrs. Gerald Finney of Cocoa, with whom the girl had boarded. Identification was made by a tattoo on her right thigh and by a ring that the girl wore. When found the body of Miss Allen bore marks of extreme violence. Her throat had been cut, wounds were found in the forehead and base of the skull, the right side of the face had been crushed and the upper teeth and part of the jaw bone were missing. One leg was almost gone and the murderer had attempted to dispose of the body by burning and throwing it into the river.

The investigation the ensued determined that Ethel had last been seen on Sunday when she stopped by a local packing house to say goodbye to a friend, saying that she was going to Wacuchula, FL to visit her mother and that her friend Bill was going to take her. Before that she had been at the City Point Inn with a man named William "Billy" Wilson who she had introduced to several of her friends. On the day that Ethel's body was found Mr. Wilson backed his car up to his rented house on Barton Ave. in Rockledge, loaded his things into it and left the area. Although locals remembered that his car had Pennsylvania tags, Brevard Sheriff Roy Roberts was notified that 300 people with the same name has taken licenses for automobiles in Pennsylvania and the number on the tag was not noticed by any person in the vicinity. Radio broadcasts were made and a reward was offered for his apprehension but he was never seen again. Ethel was laid to rest in the Georgiana Cemetery in Merritt Island and since Mr. Wilson was the only suspect the case went cold and was never solved. To view Ethel's final resting place check out her Find A Grave entry by Mrs. Jean Dutrizac-Reep http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31023274

Ethel's murder continues to fascinate local residents and theories abound as to what people think "really" happened and who did it. Since there was no arrest or trial the only first hand accounts that exist were published in the Cocoa Tribune and the Melbourne Times newspapers. If you want to know more about this fascinating story these papers and are available for viewing at the Central Brevard Library and Reference Center in Cocoa.