Murder On The Llano Estacado

By Marlowe J. Churchill
Regular price $20.00

In this haunting account, Marlowe J. Churchill investigates the secrets of a family tragedy from nearly 100 years ago. This mystery has haunted Churchill’s mother and was rarely discussed. Almost 100 years ago, the Hassell family suffered a major loss after the brutal murder of Susan Hassell and eight of her children, murdered by her new husband, George. The tragedy became a focus of people nationwide, outraging the people of Farwell where the violent crime was committed. This heartbreak caused serious emotional damage and is a fascinating story about the Texas justice system of 100 years ago.

About the Author

Marlowe J. Churchill is a retired newspaper journalist residing in Southern California with his wife. Being a father and grandfather, he is the author of many other works. During his writing career, Churchill has covered thousands of news events and has traveled worldwide on assignments.

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Published: 2023
Page Count: 258

Customer Reviews

Based on 4 reviews
Dan Bernstein
Murder On The Llano Estacado

Young Marlowe Churchill didn’t believe his mother’s “tall tales.” She regaled him with stories of ranching in the rugged West and riding a horse like a jockey. But these accounts didn’t square with the woman he watched clamber onto a picnic table when a curious horse interrupted lunch and nudged her for a treat. And he certainly couldn’t bring himself to swallow the vague outlines of a story that seemed to haunt this unreliable narrator: a 1926 massacre of nine family members, including his great Aunt Susan.
But Churchill, who grew up to become a newspaper reporter (full disclosure: we were colleagues at the Riverside Press-Enterprise), could not bring himself to dismiss the story, even after his mother died. Was it just another tall tale or a gruesome, repressed family secret? After he retired from newspapering, Churchill embarked on a decades-long investigation that eventually led him to Farwell, Texas, a farming town near the New Mexico border.
“Murder on the Llano Estacado” is a gumshoe investigation by a veteran journalist. It is a vivid portrait of a tight-knit community where everyone knew each other, did business with each other, helped and cared for each other and had no idea that one of their own would become known as a “family annihilator.” It is a first-person account of Churchill’s quest for answers to a century-old mass murder whose victims may have been his own relatives.
Churchill’s narrative is amply supplemented by newspaper clippings, interviews and trial transcripts. The research is so meticulous that Churchill is able to fill the story’s inevitable gaps with plausible speculation.
The chapters that contain actual transcripts of the murder trial of George Hassell, husband of Churchill’s great Aunt Susan, are quite long. I found myself wondering if some of the testimony could have been summarized, not printed verbatim. Then wham! A horrifying passage jumps out within a context that only magnifies the atrocities committed by Mr. Hassell.
As much as this is a true (grisly) crime story with details that are likely to be unkind to the strongest stomachs, what makes this book rise above the genre is Churchill himself. He never knew the Farwell victims. Besides his great aunt, he likely never even knew they existed. But as he digs deeper and deeper into this story - a sensational crime at the time and even now – Churchill reveals his own feelings. The dead, infants on up, were not just a family. They were his family. When he visits the Farwell cemetery and tries to read the time-worn names on the 1920s headstone, paid for by the citizens of Farwell, Churchill’s tears practically dot the page. It is at moments like these when we fully understand why young Marlowe’s mother was as cryptic, and perhaps as protective, as she was.

Tiffany Shaughnessy

This book showcases brilliantly how a tragic family secret unfolds in a court house drama. It leaves you wanting more answers and leads you to wonder how those innocent lives would have unfolded if not for this one psychopath!

Sandi Crawford
Fascinating and Heartbreaking

An incredible piecing together of a horrible tragedy from nearly a hundred years ago. So interesting to read the story as researched by a family member all these years later. A monster wiped out an entire family, and the story from start to finish was riveting. From the confession to the court proceedings back in those times, I was engrossed from start to finish. It stays with you!

Kathleen Hammond
Murder on the Liano Estacado

This book is a heartbreaking story about tragic events that wiped out a large family in Texas. The author, Marlowe Churchill, has been able to capture the events in a heartfelt account of the murders of his Great Aunt Susan. It is a masterpiece!!