If you have any information to help solve these murders contact the Pulaski County Sheriffs department 573-774-6196

 

The Soto Club Murders

A compilation of Articles written By Gary Carmack on this subject of interest. 

Fort Leonard Wood, Devils Elbow, and Pulaski County, Missouri 1968

Dino Hurd Picture and Newspaper Article

Victim Pictures and Newspaper Article

 

   This is part one of a story about the ghastly murder of three young men. The story is dedicated in memory of three fine men…who died way too young, and their families.

   It was very creepy! The scene reminded me of those Saturday afternoon movies, scary matinees us kids would walk to the old downtown Waynesville Theater and watch when I was a boy. I was riding to church with my grandmother and some friends through Devils Elbow. It was getting dark, twilight…and those steep hills along the roadside seemed so mammoth, dark and foreboding to a young boy. In those days the friendly rays of light usually seen from a home were pretty scarce.

   I heard the man driving say to my grandmother, “right over there” as he pointed, “they made those boys lie face down in the dirt—then shot them in the back of the head.”

   This is going to sound strange to some readers, although I suspect others will know precisely what I mean. I have always had this capability to feel how someone must feel when in great fear. I think this may be why I became a good paramedic in later years. No credit to me, I believe it is a gift from God.

    Anyway, I could feel the terror as I looked at the grass and dirt road. Terrible visions appeared in my young mind, of the horror these poor boys must have felt in those last moments lying in the grass and dirt, face down. I had this dark awful feeling, causing me nausea. It didn’t help that I kind of knew one of the boys. Bobby Tryan, though somewhat older than me, I had seen him around town a few times, and his sister lived just down the road from me.

    Wayne Eugene Gilbert, Harold Joe Presley, and Bobby Dean Tryan worked at the Soto Service Club on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Wayne Gilbert was 32 years old at the time. He had been employed at the Soto Club for 11 years. Mr. Gilbert was the night manager and was known for being very dependable and quite meticulous. The day manager came in to work early on the morning of October 19, 1968 and discovered that the back door was unlocked and the safe had been left open. He immediately sensed something was very wrong. This just didn’t seem like the very dependable and careful night manager.

   Military police officers and Criminal Investigators (CID) were called to the scene as a robbery was suspected. There was a roll of coins out back on the ground. The situation became even grimmer with what they found next. Bobby Tryan’s black 1960 Chevrolet was still there.  Bobby Tryan was just 20 years-old. He drove his black 1960 Chevy to work and 18 year-old Harold Presley would usually ride with him, or sometimes Mr. Gilbert. The car was sitting there as he had parked it the night before. Gilbert usually drove a maroon 1964 Ford – it was missing.

    The manager called the men’s families and discovered they had never made it home. The, what at first seemed to be a simple robbery, now took a much more sinister turn—where were the three young men from the night shift?

    The Missouri Highway Patrol and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s departments were then called and advised that the Soto Club had been robbed and three employees were missing, or at least had not made it home that night. A military Aircraft was sent up to search the military reservation and the other surrounding area for Gilbert’s missing car. The Federal Bureau of Investigation took jurisdiction because the crime happened on federal land. Federal agents came in from Springfield and Joplin to investigate the case.

    Later that morning a man and his family were going to a farm near Devil’s Elbow to go squirrel hunting and work on the farm. They turned off of Highway 66 onto the narrow dirt road that took off from the highway. They found three men lying face down beside the road. The man reported that the men appeared shot in the back of the head and there was no doubt they all three were dead. They left and went to Del Hookers store in Devil’s Elbow and called the sheriff’s office. The man waited until the first deputy, Leroy Tucker, of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s office arrived and he showed the officer where the bodies were located. The deputy and heard about the Soto Club being robbed and that the night shift employees were missing, it was apparent to him by the men’s uniforms that they were the missing employees. The deputy at that time notified the sheriff, highway patrol, CID of the discovery. He also requested the coroner to respond to the scene.

 

This photograph is a scene photo taken on the morning of October 19, 1968 before the bodies were removed.

  

This is part two of a four part story about the 1968 Soto Club murders. Part one concluded last week when a man traveling to his father’s farm found three bodies on a small dirt road off of highway 66. Three young men were missing from the Soto Service Club on Fort Leonard Wood following a robbery. Deputy Leroy Tucker arrived on the scene and called for the sheriff, other law enforcement agencies…and the coroner.

 

   On the morning of October 19, 1968, Pulaski County Coroner, Charles Moss arrived at the death scene at about 11:15 AM. Coroner Moss and law officers did a scene investigation and the coroner ordered the bodies to be taken to the Fort Leonard Wood Army hospital for autopsies by the Army pathologist.

   Dr. Isadora Mihalskis was the pathologist at the United States Army, General Leonard Wood Army Hospital. Dr. Mihalskis performed post mortem examinations on the three boys on October 19, 1968. The pathologist found that all three died of gunshot wounds to the head. The doctor recorded three entry wounds to the left side of the head of Wayne Gilbert. Bobby Tryan was shot twice in the head and once in his hand. Harold Presley had two gunshot wounds to the head. There was a little confusion as a wound was found in Harold Presley’s forearm and some investigators probably thought he was shot three times, but the pathologist explained to the police how one bullet exited the head and entered the boy’s forearm.

   Investigators canvassed the area, but there were few residents in those days in the remote area. No one noticed any cars traveling along the dirt road. A couple of farmers thought they might have heard sounds like gunshots around 11:30 PM or midnight, but discounted it as hunters or cars backfiring.

   Meanwhile, investigator’s found out that the loss from the safe was $3,636.00 and that $1,000.00 of the stolen money was in quarters. This finding (the large amount of quarters) becomes very important later during the investigation.

   The investigators contacted the cashier on duty that fateful night. Miss (name withheld for privacy) was only 18 years old. The cashier explained to the investigators that the club closes at 10:00 PM. She had finished her work and left work at about 11:15 PM that night. She reported that as she was leaving Mr. Gilbert was doing paperwork, Tryan was mopping, and Presley was buffing the floors. She told investigators that it was quiet outside as she left. She saw a soldier in a telephone booth and a red car some distance from the club, but nothing unusual. Other than the murderer(s), this young woman may have been the last person on this earth to see the boys alive.

   State Trooper Jim Hudson started his shift at 8:00AM. Later in the morning he was in Buckhorn and received a call to respond to the death scene. The trooper reported as arriving on the scene at about 11:15AM. He reported the scene as being four-tenths of a mile east of the junction of U.S. 66 and Route B on a county road that the locals refer to as the Goad Mountain Road. Trooper Hudson reported no weapons at the scene ever found, and none found since. There were bullets, bullet fragments, and spent shell cases found.  Apparently these were found to be of .32 and .38 caliber.

   At this time I would like to take pause and explain to the readers why the continuous reference to these young men as “boys.” First, most of the police and others involved in the investigation were older than the murdered men, therefore commonly referred to the men as boys. This is kind of a common practice, actually showing affection in rural Missouri. “Those boys” one might affectionately call young men. My grandmother (who is 89 years-old) will frequently, when telling stories of her youth, affectionately refer to younger men as “boys.”

   Secondly, (I want to be very careful how I describe this as some family of these boys live here and I do not want to cause any disrespect), but I have viewed in great detail a large death scene photograph of the three boys. The faces…the faces of the men are so young and innocent… amidst such horror…causing quite a contrast. I look at the photographs and try to understand the horrible tragedy, the evil of man who would do this act; and then the heartbreak these families must have endured. The faces are so young, so innocent looking and peaceful; yet so heartrending….

   Next , the suspects.

  

 

   The Soto Club Murders Part III, 1968

 

   This is part three of a four part story about the October 18, 1968 Soto Service Club Murders. This story is mostly of local sources and the writer’s personal knowledge. The True Detective Magazine printed a story in 1975 by Steve Hamilton. This writer has read Mr. Hamilton’s story for reference on a few issues, but the majority of this story is of local accounts and research. As years have gone by people are willing to talk more, but it is noted the fear remains….

   Thank you for the many comments and encouragement. Many local as well as people from other states have contacted me with information, most requesting anonymity, understandably.

    I am telling this story for the dead boys…because they can’t.

 

   The most dangerous man to ever set foot in Pulaski County--might very well describe Harry Dino Hurd. I remember when I was a young teenager his name was spoken very cautiously…with nervous glances around to see who was listening. I’m not sure of the birthplace of Hurd, but he apparently attended school in Ohio. Hurd later moved to Pulaski County, Missouri around 1962.

   People reported to the investigators of the Soto Club case some information that placed Dino (Hurd commonly went by Dino) in the spotlight. Dino previously worked at the Soto club and was discharged. Perhaps he harbored bad feelings for 32 year-old Wayne Gilbert, the night manager. Gilbert had a reputation of being very dependable, a good manager who made sure the work was done, but by all accounts he was well-liked by the staff. Apparently, he had some problems with Dino not performing his work. Whatever the history between the two men, Dino became a primary suspect in the Soto Club murders.

   A local man, Mr. McClain, was working at the Ramada Inn on October 19, 1968. McClain noticed a 1964 Maroon Ford in the parking lot. Mr. McClain knew Wayne Gilbert and believed the car in the parking lot was his. He had heard about the robbery and the missing men so he called the police. The police verified the car as Gilbert’s, they did a search and obtained fingerprints. The prints were lifted and sent to the lab for analysis.

   To add to the suspicion Dino’s brother Chester Hurd was reported to have used a large amount of quarters to purchase items around town. As the readers may recall $1000.00 of the money stolen out of the Soto Club safe was in quarters.

   According to local sources the investigators must have been getting too close. Wayne Gilbert’s mother started receiving very frightening phone calls. She was threatened and warned not to pursue further investigations and to leave it alone. The terrifying calls continued and Mrs. Gilbert received protection from local deputies. She believed that Hurd or someone he knew was threatening her. She was horror struck!

   The investigators worked hard to solve the murder; however they came upon a brick wall…an alibi by the wife of Dino Hurd. When investigators talked to Mrs. Hurd she claimed that Dino was home with her that night watching TV, therefore could not have committed the crimes.  

   The case came to a standstill and grew cold. The lab found a fingerprint belonging to Dino Hurd in Gilbert’s car; nevertheless, Dino had a solid alibi with his wife’s corroboration of his story that he was at home with her on that October night.

   Dino Hurd wouldn’t stay out of the news or investigator’s sights for long though. The early 1970’s arrived with a flurry of bombings and murder in our normally peaceful Ozark hills with Dino Hurd right in the midst of the violence.

   On September 2, 1972 at 6:35 P.M. deputy sheriff Jessie Cole received a call to respond to a shooting at Pat’s Cafe located on highway Y, about two miles north of St. Robert. Upon arrival deputy Cole found two bodies in the floor of the cafe. The two dead men were identified as Robert H. Glanton and M.C. Curtis. Both were armed, Glanton had an S&W Model 10 .38 in his waistband and Curtis had an S&W .357 Highway Patrol Model in his. Officer Cole found .45 caliber shell casings laying about the scene of the murdered men.

   The coroner took the bodies to the Pulaski County Memorial Hospital where Dr. Harvey E. Nickels, Physician and Surgeon performed autopsies and found the men died of a heavy caliber gun.

   On September 5, 1972 Coroner Chuck Moss questioned Mrs. Patricia Stump (the owner of Pat’s Cafe) during a coroner’s inquest. Moss asked Mrs. Stump about the men having dinner in her cafe that night and if she had seen the shooting. She said she was in the kitchen and heard 5 or 6 shots. Coroner Moss asked her if she could identify the other men who had arrived late and had dinner with Glanton and Curtis. She said no. Moss then reminded her of possible penalties for withholding information while under oath. According to reports Mrs. Stump had previously told officers Jessie Cole, Noel Martin and Jess Jeters that one of the men who had fled from the scene after the shooting was referred to as the “Hurd boy.” Certainly out of fear of death, Mrs. Stump didn’t want to talk about Hurd any longer.

   With the bombings and the brutal murders of the two men in Pat’s Cafe the federal government opened an investigation into the crime and violence around Fort Leonard Wood. As a result of this investigation the government decided to take another look at the Soto Club case. Dino’s brother Chester was supposed to testify about Dino’s involvement in the Soto Club case and Dino’s ex-wife had changed her story about Dino being home with her on the night of the Soto Club murders. She now said that he wasn’t home until well after daylight that following morning. Even so, the government couldn’t make the case when Chester Hurd took the stand and said he lied about Dino’s involvement in the Soto Club robbery.

    On May 2, 1974 the jury found Dino Hurd guilty of the Soto Club robbery and sentenced him to life in prison. Hurd had also received a life sentence in January 1973 for the murder of Robert H. Glanton and M.C. Curtis. Glanton and Curtis were known as gangsters and carried guns. But, Wayne Eugene Gilbert, Bobby Dean Tryan and Harold Joe Presley were good young men…living life…working, then were murdered for no reason, except for crossing paths with a cold-blooded killer on that fateful night….

   Next : An unexpected special treat for the readers, an interview of Harold Joe Presley’s mother.

  

Soto Club Murders Part IV

 

   The woods and hills of Pulaski County hide many mysteries and murders--some known to man—others cloaked in the forgotten mist of time. Time hasn’t diminished the love, or the desire for justice of one family and mother. You can see it in her face when she says his name. The love of a mother for her son has not dimmed, even after the nearly 40 years since her son, Harold Joe (Little Joe) Presley, at the very young age of 17 was taken from her—by a cold-blooded Murderer!

   Little Joe, as his mother, Mrs. Loretta Sheek fondly calls him, was always small. She remembers him as a child playing and being small enough to run under the dining room table.

   Mrs. Sheek describes her son as very quiet and very dependable, even at a young age. “If he told you he would be somewhere at a certain time, he was there,” she said.  He intended to join the Marines, then after serving his country he wanted to become a police officer. He liked to hunt and she pondered why he didn’t get away in the woods that night. She thought the night shift employees might have been taught to “not resist” if robbed. Perhaps he just refused to leave his friends, we will never know for sure.

   “Little Joe was always his own person and would do what he thought was right, and wouldn’t do what he thought was wrong, no matter the pressure on him,” said Mrs. Sheek. That is why she knew without a doubt the police were wrong; when they at first thought that Little Joe and co-workers might have had something to do with the robbery. She knew he would never do that!

    On that night in October 1968, Mrs. Sheek received a call from Mrs. Gilbert to see if Little Joe had made it home. Little Joe was good friends with the night manager, Wayne Gilbert, and Wayne would often give him a ride home after work. Mrs. Sheek said she was going to pick him up that night, but he told her Wayne would bring him home.

    Mrs. Sheek thought she heard him come in and go to bed, as did her neighbor. She looked in his room…his bed was empty…she would never see her son alive again.

   With moistening eyes she told of a new car Little Joe never got to drive. As  any 17 year-old boy would be he was excited about the new car and badly wanted to drive it, but his job was important to him so he went to work deciding he would drive the car later that weekend…he didn’t want to be late—but, her son never got to drive the new car.

   Mrs. Sheek was never threatened as Mrs. Gilbert had been, but she acknowledged how afraid the citizens were of Harry Dean (Dino) Hurd. As time went by suspects Dino Hurd, Chester Hurd (Dino’s brother), and Major Becton were not brought to justice.  Mrs. Sheek and Wayne Gilbert’s family tried desperately to get petitions put in stores and other places of business to petition officials to bring the suspects to trial; but most people were too afraid to allow the petitions in their store or business…or to even sign them.

   This very eloquent and pleasant woman has forgiven the murderers—as in the Bible God teaches us to forgive. However, justice continues to escape this strong yet gentle woman, for her young son’s murder. To date, no person has ever been tried for these horrible cold-blooded murders.

   Dino Hurd was found guilty by a jury in May of 1974, of the October 18, 1968, armed robbery of the Soto Service Club at Fort Leonard Wood. He received a life sentence; however the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Hurd should have been sentenced under a federal penal statute that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

   Hurd was also convicted in January 1973 in the shooting deaths of two Waynesville men in Pat’s Cafe. Apparently, that conviction was reversed by a Missouri Court of Appeals. At the time of this writing it remains unclear to this writer how much time Hurd actually served, or if Hurd is still alive. One thing is for certain, he was never tried for the three murders. The Criminal Justice System failed these three young men, and their loving families.  

   Mrs. Sheek would very much like to place three crosses on the site where the three boys were murdered. Hopefully we can help this mother accomplish this memorial for her son and the other boys.

 

 

 

 

A favorite poem, dedicated to Loretta Sheek: Mother—Harold Joe (Little Joe) Presley.  

 

          Footsteps of Angels

 

     When the hours of Day are numbered,

       And the voices of the night

     Wake the better soul, that slumbered,

       To a holy, calm delight;

 

     Ere the evening lamps are lighted,

       And, like phantoms grim and tall,

     Shadows from the fitful firelight

       Dance upon the parlor wall;

 

     Then the forms of the departed

       Enter at the open door;

     The beloved, the true-hearted,

       Come to visit me once more;

 

     He, the young and strong, who cherished

       Noble longings for the strife,

     By the roadside fell and perished,

       Weary with the march of life!

 

     They, the holy ones and weakly,

       Who the cross of suffering bore,

     Folded their pale hands so meekly,

       Spake with us on earth no more!

 

     And with them the Being Beauteous,

       Who unto my youth was given,

     More than all things else to love me,

       And is now a saint in heaven.

 

     With a slow and noiseless footstep

       Comes that messenger divine,

     Takes the vacant chair beside me,

       Lays her gentle hand in mine.

 

     And she sits and gazes at me

       With those deep and tender eyes,

     Like the stars, so still and saint-like,

       Looking downward from the skies.

 

     Uttered not, yet comprehended,

       Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,

     Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,

       Breathing from her lips of air.

 

     Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,

       All my fears are laid aside,

     If I but remember only

       Such as these have lived and died!

 

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow