Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Legend of Rabbit Martin Part 3

For Part 1 CLICK HERE  For Part 2 CLICK HERE

This is Part 3 of the Legend of Rabbit Martin series. Starting with the article from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Thursday December 31, 1970 by Mike Stater.  Gives the names of all those involved and a timeline. The newspaper was kept by my family because one of the top stories for 1970 also included the death of my former father-in-law in a train derailment.

Sensational $300,000 Clyborne Theft Is Area Top Story

"The Clyborne case begun with the robbery on Jan. 5 and continued throughout the year with various arrests, the trials of the six persons arrested in connection with the theft and the sensational September escape of "Rabbit" Martin and five others from the Mercer County jail following Martin's conviction.

The robbery took place while Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Clyborne, wealthy coal operators, were dining out. Their Liberty Street home was burglarized of $300,000 cash, all in crisp, new $100 bills, a portable television and a .38 caliber pistol.

Clyborne said he was unaware the money was being kept in the house but his wife admitted to keeping it and said she had saved the cash from "liquefied dividends" of coal properties of which she was a stockholder.

On Feb. 10, the first arrests were made in connection with the heist. Roy Dwight Perdue, a 54 year old former Bluefield jewelry and watch repair store operator, and his 45 year old companion Betty Louise Powell, were arrested at the Powell woman's home on Highland Ave.  Perdue was held for grand jury action on charges of receiving stolen funds, specifically $65,000 in the robbery. The Powell women was freed on $1,000 bond.

The third and fourth arrests were made of Feb. 28. Rufus Raymond Hampton, 30, of Bluefield, and Mary Ann Byrd of Bluefield, VA were arrested in Tazewell County, Va.  and the pair was transferred to a Washington County, Va., jail where they remained until the trials began.

W. T. (Bill) Christian, 50, owner of the Bluefield Seat Cover Center, was the fifth person arrested in the case. He was charged with receiving stolen goods, $5,000, a TV, some jewelry and a pistol, and was released on $50,000 bond.

William "Rabbit" Martin was the sixth suspect arrested on March 2. The 41 year old Bluefielder surrendered at the state police headquarters in Princeton after he said he learned he was being sought. On March 11, Martin and Christian were held for the April term of the grand jury. Martin was charged with breaking and entering and Hampton and the Byrd woman were charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Martin's bond, originally $100,000, was reduced to $35,000 on March 17.

Martin went on trial May 19. The jury failed to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. During his trial, Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney David Knight maintained that there was another person involved in the theft, Ira Mathena, who had died prior to the trial.

Martin, Hampton and Mathena were charged with the actual robbery. Hampton who admitted to the robbery, was the key witness for the prosecution, and Martin's family, who swore he was home on the night of the theft, were the key defense witnesses. Martin's trial was rescheduled for August.

None of the money has been recovered. On May 24, Ira Mathena's body was ordered exhumed because officials believed some of the stolen money might have been in his grave. It wasn't.

Martin was convicted in his second trial in August. Hampton was again the key witness but the prosecution added strength to his testimony with four other witnesses who supported Hampton. Hampton, in the first trial, was accused of having a reputation of not telling the truth.

On Sept. 9 Hampton was sentenced to one to 25 years after he declared his guilt in the case. The Bird woman, who also declared her guilt, was referred to the probation officers.

The next day, Perdue was convicted and on Sept. 18 Martin was sentenced to life imprisonment as a habitual criminal. Perdue was later sentenced one to 10 years.

Martin, along with five others, escaped from the Mercer County jail on September 19. Others with him were Ronald Williams, Eugene Cole, Michael Kade, Otis Vest and Clayton Carraway. All were captured within a week except Martin, who eluded police until October 10 when he was captured in Parkersburg and taken to the state penitentiary at Moundsville.

The jailbreak prompted Mercer County Sheriff Wintfrey Shrewsbury to set up new rules at the jail to tighten jail security. An investigation of the jailbreak was conducted and that probe was culminated on Oct. 8 when nine persons were indicted in connection with the break. Martin and Cole were indicted on felony charges of using force and violence. Others indicted were Jacob Handy, Dewey Baskin, Roy Hall and Anita Howard.

Handy was sentenced to one to 10 years on charges of smuggling Martin a gun in the jail break and the Howard woman, who married Handy the day prior to the sentencing, was sentenced to 1-10 after she pleaded guilty to falsely testifying in Martin's second trial.

A mistrial was also declared in Christian's case on Nov. 21, He'll be tried again Jan. 15. " Christian would die shortly after that so I'm not sure if he was convicted or not.

This was the reporting for the top stories of 1970 when this all began. One of the things to note was how many business owners were involved this. Many were in the fencing game and actually competed with one another. The money the law confiscated from these people were from other scams and robberies not the Clyborne robbery. In Rabbit Martin's world, at that time so many were was I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine.

I wish I had Rabbit Martin's journals he wrote while in the jail. I remember some notes were his anger over the testimony. When I asked him who were the people that helped in his escape. He said they were people who very good friends and knew the true story. He regretted they had to pay for it.

One of the journals related to how he was treated after his captured. Jailer's were so afraid of him they would scoot his tray to him by pushing it with a broom. He was in solitary a LONG time.

Did He or Did He Not Do It?

Now I heard the story I'm about to relate from two people...Rabbit Martin and his second wife Martha Hampton Martin.

As I related before, I met Rabbit Martin through my ex husband. Several years after his release from prison, we spent time with Rabbit and Martha as couples for a time. Martha and I actually went to see the Chippendale dancers together. Rabbit Martin gave each of us $100 in one dollar bills to make sure we had a good time. AND WE DID!!

My ex husband had asked Rabbit Martin to be his best man at our wedding but he couldn't because he and Martha were getting married the same day as we were.  And we didn't have a dual ceremony.

Rabbit Martin kept alluding to he was set up and the Hampton's did it. It was a betrayal that he didn't like to think about. They were once very close. But it was Martha that told me how. Her ex husband was Robert "Bob" Hampton. They owned a couple of produce markets in Bluefield.  Martha told me that Rufus Raymond Hampton was kin to her ex husband and was hired to finger Rabbit Martin in the robbery because she was having an affair with him at the time of the Clyborne robbery.

She also told me that Rabbit was gaining larger jobs and fencing jobs eating into other's profits. He was trusted more, was efficient and careful about what he did, so a couple of other interested parties went in on this scheme to set Rabbit Martin up. She never said exactly who but declared she knew them all and all their dirty little secrets.

Rabbit Martin in his interview with Barbara Hawkins, said, "A lot of people didn't tell the truth and some who knew the truth wouldn't speak up...some witnesses changed their testimony from the first trial to the second one...I was fighting one person's testimony. They had no material evidence against me, just the testimony of one man....When it came down to it in court, it was a matter of who was the best liar...who told the best lies to the jury."

Rabbit Martin never ratted out the system he worked under. He never said anywhere in his testimony about the other jobs he did nor did he ever bring that into play for his defense.  When you look at the records he tried to prove his innocence by relying on facts.  Those boxes he left at the house were also full of letters and cases not his own. He became a jail house lawyer to get himself out of jail and in the process helped other prisoners.

One of the ways he was trying to prove his innocence was trying to verify his alibi and taking apart the testimony of witnesses.  A friend of Raymond Hampton's had testified that Rabbit Martin had picked up Raymond Hampton the day of the robbery. Rabbit maintained he and Raymond Hampton had been together but it was the day before the robbery not the day of.  He tried to prove it.

In his role as taxi driver, Martin said he and Hampton had driven a soldier from Bluefield to Ft. Meade, Md. , on the day before the Clyborne robbery. Rabbit said the soldier paid him by check. When he attempted to contact the serviceman to testify in the trial, he was out of the country. Later, the man was killed. So the next step was to attempt to trace the check, which he said was cashed at the Flat Top National bank.  They didn't have any records there.  So he contacted the branch bank of where it was from on the military base and they refused to give him any information.  He said after the trip to Ft. Meade he returned home. Spent the day at home and went to a local bar for a short time on the day of the robbery but no one believed the witnesses that saw him at the bar, nor did they believe his family's testimony.

When he had exhausted all of the avenues he could, he found a way to appeal a former conviction from 1949 that was part of his habitual criminal record that sent him to prison for life. According to him he got the charges back to court on appeal and they had to reverse the charges and release him in this trial because all the witnesses had already died.  Thus reversing his habitual criminal record His attorney Edwin Wiley got him released on appeal. His motivation was his prison admittance slip that he carried even when I met him. It said "Discharge date: Via death".  He was determined not to die in prison for something he did not do.

During the trials, representatives from the Clyborne's insurance company were there the entire time. He said from time to time in prison, he would have letters and visits from the insurance company still trying to find the money which was never found.  He told me as he told them, he thought that money never existed in the first place. He said the insurance folks always balked at that and accused him of lying about it.

He wasn't going to tell the insurance company how he knew this or how the scheme worked. To do so would expose him to other criminal charges of other events with that same insurance company and that was not going to happen.  If the money did really exist, he said he thought it was probably part of the scam like so many he had been part of before. (For how that worked you have to read Part 2)

My ex husband painted a car for Rabbit Martin at our house. My ex used to work for a body shop. It was beautiful when he finished it.

Rabbit Martin went out and purchased a custom made license tag for this car. In West Virginia you only have one license plate on the back of the car. The front one could have whatever you wanted painted on it. He had it painted with "$300,000 Rabbit" on it. He said he didn't want the insurance company and those following him who thought he still had that money to bother anyone else.

Moundsville Prison Stories

His time in prison was just as exciting as his time outside. He said he had a hard time of it for about the first year and was in many fights with other prisoners. Rabbit said he settled down after a time, did his work and studied law books to pass the time, trying to find a legal way out.

One of the stories I remember vividly was when he said he became a trustee of the prison. He was a truck driver and as a trustee he would go pick up a load of coal to be delivered to the prison. He would also sometimes deliver coal to a guard or two. For those trips he was rewarded ....they took him to a brothel. He described this one brothel that had a chalkboard at the door listing the prices of all the services. I  was sitting in a bar with my ex, Rabbit and Martha when he described this. Martha laughed and said, "I don't care about the prices...what was total on all ya got?" He actually turned red a bit embarrassed and I never saw him embarrassed again.

Moundsville Prison conditions were notoriously awful. In March 1973, a prison riot broke out in which Governor Arch Moore and his assistant Norman Yost actually went to the prison to negotiate the release of five guards from the prisoners. The person negotiating on behalf of the prisoners.......Rabbit Martin. Thus that picture in his box I saw of him meeting with the Governor Arch Moore shaking his hand surrounded by prisoners with state police guns trained on them.

The riot lasted 24 hours and resulted in one death of an inmate...killed by the inmates as a snitch Rabbit Martin said. Rabbit Martin said he was not involved at first but it started to get ugly and some of the inmates encouraged him to participate. His name was never mentioned in the news articles but he told me he and several others took care of the guards to ensure they were not going to get hurt and the guards trusted him.

The prisoners first had 7 demands when they took over the prison.

1. Investigation of all the circumstances in the death of Guard Quilliams the previous year.  Rabbit Martin said they had the wrong person charged.

2. Ten cells in basement be removed. They had been used for solitary confinement. It was damp and months down there the prisoners would die of health problems like pneumonia.

3. Rules and regulations for prisoners, and rules and regulations for guards, be all written, and enforced with "equal justice to all men".

4. Whenever a newsman visits a prison, and wants to talk to a prisoner, and prisoner wants to talk to him, should be allowed.

5. Have inmate representative on prison "police court".

6. Seek to get WV Penitentiary accredited by American Corrections Association.

7. Indicted inmates should be provided an attorney.

Then they came back with 15 more.

1. Was Amnesty of those involved in present disturbance.

2. To resolve issue of guard ignoring convicts claim they are sick: provide a box and forms convicts may put into it, with the doctor only one having a key.

3. Meals brought in for maximum security section, to be served on a table.

4. Remove screen around area designed to protect convicts who think their lives are threatened. (New remodel plan includes a section for "vulnerables" and when that is ready, screen will go up.)

5. Unaccounted for

6. Clean sheets, and clean clothes for the exercised men.

7. Permit inmates to carry any amount of cash. (at present they are limited to $1 in cash plus any amount of prison scrip good at official prison store)

8. Profits from prison store go into inmate's fund. Lately this was used to buy a color TV. Now, they want this fund to be used instead for benefit of individuals with problems. "It's their money, they say where it goes," said Yost.

9. Governor to appoint an independent committee to look into the problems in prison; and any prisoner's mail to such committee not to be censored.

10. Guards carrying firearms not to be permitted to associate with general prison population.

11. Maximum security prisoners to be permitted to attend Sunday church services in the walls.

12. Families of convicts, to be able to inquire at any time about health and welfare of such convict, and get in touch with him. (The governor set up a toll free line to Charleston so that his office could check up on where that prisoner was.)

13. A person requested by a convict to represent or counsel him, shall be permitted to see said convict.

14. Visiting rights not to be cancelled because of the uprising.

There was one more not recorded. All were agreed to by the governor but two..amnesty for those involved and the increase in the money carried.

Another smaller riot broke back out, when they tried to remove the body of the prisoner killed in the riots but was quickly quelled.

After he was released there many times he was followed. Once he asked to borrow our car and my ex without thinking about it just gave him the keys. Then all the sudden my ex sprinted out the door before Rabbit could leave so he could take out a gun that was in the glove compartment. Felons are not to have guns in their possession.

Right after Rabbit Martin left, a black sedan that had been parked down the street followed him. When he returned with the car and picked up his own, there was the same black sedan following him again. He called it, "his shadow". Who ever was following him would disappear from time to time and then show back up. He was always careful not to do anything to be put back in prison.

He divorced his first wife and married Martha.

Martha and Rabbit Martin didn't exactly have a good marriage. Not that I'm one to talk or pass judgement but they fought a lot. Martha was always getting into trouble especially when she drank and she drank a lot. She was tough as nails.  She could drive a tractor-trailer before they were "cushy-poo" automatics and fight you like a man. He tried to guard her from her self and she was hard to guard. He called her the "wild cat" and once described her as the "only wild cat" he never wanted to take on.

One early morning my ex answered the phone a voice said, "COME GET ME!"  He didn't recognize the voice and said, "Well first, who in the hell is this?" The voice said loud enough I could hear it, "It's Rabbit Martin, now Come GET ME!"  My ex, said, "Well now I know who it is, where the hell am I suppose to come get you?" He said, "Come to the house, Martha has gotten drunk and lost the damn car."

Martha had been out the night before drinking heavily while he was working and did not know what happened to the car. She said she hitchhiked home and thought it was in a ditch. She had no idea where all she had been.  So for 3 hours my ex and Rabbit Martin drove around looking for their car.  They were driving down 460 and happened to notice a tow truck way up on a hill in a very steep driveway...and there was the car.  She had somehow driven up this really long uphill driveway and in trying to turn around ran over into the yard backed against a tree. She had spun the tires to shreds off the car and didn't remember it.

Every time we would meet there would be stories of another incident and another and another concerning Martha. Time marches on and I went back to school, work, kids. Didn't see much of them. Once he stopped by the house and he was then driving his own semi truck. Said he was working on buying more to start his own company. He came by to pick up my ex to ride with him that day.

I remember that day well. Rabbit Martin had just went by the dentist to pick up a partial they had made to replace his front teeth and didn't have time to have it adjusted. He put them on there at the house and they stuck out like Bug's Bunny's front teeth, making him look like a real Rabbit. We all busted out laughing. He just took them off and stuck them back in his shirt pocket. He later had them adjusted to look like normal teeth.

My ex when he got back from that ride, said he'd never ride with Rabbit Martin again. " When he drives he doesn't use the brakes...he uses the horn!" I think he did finally get a few trucks and start his own small company. He worked hard for many years all the time.  In the article with Barbara Hawkins he mentions it and that he lost it all when he and Martha were divorcing. She died before the divorce was final and he was left with bills and alone.

After my ex and I divorced I really lost all contact. My brother worked with him from time to time. I did run into him once and that's how I found out where his personal papers went. I understand in the end he found love again and remarried.  I'm glad because he definitely deserved it.

Barbara Hawkins interviewed the former prosecutor and Rabbit Martin's attorney in her article and really it's a good description of Rabbit Martin.

 "I think he did it." We just don't know what he did with the money." said the former prosecutor. (David Knight)
There are a lot of theories, but it was never found." Knight said Martin was a "tough character" and his hearings were "wild and woolly" like you read about in the old days. "There was one time when he fought with four troopers in the hallway, knocked out the glass in a door going into the room, and had to be handcuffed to a railing before we could start the hearing," Knight said.

Martin's defense attorney, Robert E. Holroyd, has a vivid memory of that incident also.
"Martin was always fighting with the police. That time, when Martin had pulled away from the troopers, I went over to him to tell him to calm down because he wasn't helping his case by carrying on like that. He turned around toward me and somehow he got hold of my necktie. About the time he grabbed it, the troopers came after him again, and there I was on the TV news with Rabbit Martin hanging his own lawyer by his own necktie..."

Dent said that was the only time he ever saw Martin be violent. "He threw a fit," said the magistrate.  Dent said Martin - who prided himself on being a hell raiser - usually got into a fight every time he was brought to court for a hearing."

(There was a journal entry that explained this behavior. Rabbit Martin thought the charges were trumped up and they were railroading him. His thinking was he was not going to make it easy on them to try him for this crime, he didn't do.)

"Oddly enough, all three men say they like Rabbit Martin. Holroyd said, "He could be rough when he wanted to be, but basically it was a defense mechanism to deal with his environment in the underworld.  I always thought underneath all that tough guy stuff was a gentle person. He was personable--- everybody liked him."

Holroyd said he learned during the months they spent preparing for the trial that Martin "had a lot of friends, people who wanted to come to his assistance ---there were a lot of little people out there who loved him. He became sort of a cult hero to one class of people because they saw him as the man who had taken on a coal baron and got his money. "  Holroyd also described him as "extremely intelligent"' He's the type of man with the proper upbringing and the chance for an education, could have made a place for himself in the business world. "

William T. "Rabbit the Legend" Martin died October 7, 2013 at the age of 84. His kind of world is over but the Legend does live on for those of us who remember him.

Thus is my tale of the Legend of Rabbit Martin.  It's just story of a very remarkable person I along with many others have been blessed to cross paths with and know in this old world.

A Chronology of events in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph article

Jan. 5, 1970 - The home of millionaire coal baron C.A. Clyborne, located on Liberty Street in South Bluefield, is robbed of $300,000 in $100 bills between 5:30 and 7:15 PM while Mr. and Mrs. Clyborne were out of the house. Two sets of tracks were found in the snow outside the house. Entry was made by jimmying the back door of the one story house with a crowbar or similar tool. Bluefield Police Chief A. L. Dodson said it was the largest theft ever recorded in the two Bluefields.
The money was taken from a bedroom closet that had two locks (which were broken). The money was in a grey steel strong box. Clyborne told police the money was accumulated by his wife, Queenie, from "liquidated dividends" and he was unaware it was kept in the house. He said he could "not have slept at night" if he had known it was there.
Also take were a small portable television, a .38 caliber revolver, a strong box containing the money, a pillowcase apparently used to carry the strong box and some jewelry, according to the report filed by Officer K. Pruett.
Det. Jim Dent and Sgt. H. R. Tabor dusted for fingerprints. Some fabric marking indicated gloves were worn.

Jan. 6, 1970 - Prosecuting Attorney David Knight, responding to a call for assistance by the Bluefield Police Department, sent Trooper Perry and Elwood (Shorty) Simons of the Mercer County Sheriff's Department.
The BPD report said officers obtained information that indicated 11 checks in various amounts from $812 to $20,000 had been issued to Queenie Clyborne between Jan.17, 1967, and Sept. 29, 1969. The report said, "A check with the First National Bank showed that all of these checks had been cashed and paid in new $100 bills."
The police report said a confidential informant said she saw a car parked in the vicinity occupied by a man she observed smoking a cigarette. She said after a while she saw a "tall heavy man" come out of Whitethorn Street carrying what she believed was a pillowcase with laundry in it. He went to the car and put the pillow case in the back seat and got in the front seat. She said she thought the car was a 1964 Red Pontiac similar to one a girlfriend owned.
Several leads were being checked including a report that a man and his girlfriend had used $100 bills in purchases in Bluefield and left town in a car they had bought that morning for five $100 bills and some smaller bills. The police report was signed J. Dent

Jan. 7, 1970 - C.A. Clyborne posted a $10,000 reward.

Feb. 1, 1970- A Bluefield police report indicated that on about Jan.15 a man living in Tampa, Fla. , who had frequented the Bluefield area, received a letter from Bluefield. The names were not included in the report, which said there was a clipping with the letter about the $300,000 robbery. The report said a suggestion was made in the letter that a contact would be made about the stolen money. The informant expressed interest in a reward.
The report said Warden and Perry contacted the informant and he and his wife were flown to Bluefield. Officers checked the number listed in the letter and learned it was a telephone booth in Brushfork. It was staked out. At 3 minutes until 9 p.m. a black and white Cadillac pulled up and parked right by the door to the phone booth. At 9 p.m. the phone rang and the driver, who was alone, answered the phone. Agent Warden and Sgt. Tabor listened over the phone while the informant talked with the person on the other end."
According to the police report filed by Dent, the informant identified the caller, who was quoted as saying he had $65,000 of the stolen money and wanted the informant to fence it for him at the race tracks in Tampa. The report quoted the man as saying he did not pull the job but that he knew who did. He mentioned that the money had been split three ways. (NOTE: that's only $195,000 if divided equally)  He offered the informant $15,000 to fence the money for him.." the two parties agreed to recontact each other after the man in the Cadillac said he had a girlfriend write the letter for him. He gave a telephone number of a Bluefield woman's house.
The same report noted at about 12:20 PM on the afternoon of Jan. 17, William T. "Rabbit" Martin was observed by Sgt. Tabor and Officer Dent in the alley of 708 Highland Ave. Martin and the subject involved in the report were in Martin's car.

Feb. 11, 1970- Newspaper reports indicated that Ray Dwight Perdue, 54, was arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods. Bond was set at $50,000 for Perdue. None of the cash was recovered.

Feb. 12, 1970- The Daily Telegraph later reported Perdue said he "knows nothing about the theft."

Feb.14, 1970 - Warrants were issued for Raymond R. Hampton and Mary Bird Hampton. Police reports indicated that Perdue had implicated Hampton.

Feb. 18, 1970 - Perdue represented by Princeton lawyer James Satterfield, was held for the April Grand Jury in a preliminary hearing on charges of receiving stolen goods amounting to $65,000. Testimony revealed that Perdue was arrested after a Tampa resident said he received a letter about $65,000 to be laundered at the Tampa race track.

Feb. 26, 1970 - Raymond Rufus Hampton, 37, of Bluefield Va. and Mary Byrd, 30, were arrested in Virginia, charged with interstate Transportation of Stolen Property. No money was recovered.

Feb. 27, 1970 - Police reports indicated Hampton said he wanted to make a statement. He was quoted in the police report as telling officers that he and Rabbit Martin and Ira Mathena had "executed the burglary of the Clyborne home...he and Martin had forced their way into the house through the rear door leading to the patio...he told about taking the gun, jewelry and money box but said they didn't know at the time exactly what was in the box. He said on the way out he picked up the portable TV. He said he waited near the house with the TV while Martin took the pillow case containing the other articles to the car. He said Martin and Mathena picked him up.
The police report said Hampton named another Bluefield man as a go-between to launder the money and said he received $3,000 from Martin and that man after he turned his cut, $65,000 back over to Martin so it could be exchanged for "safe" money. He said he went to Alexandria and Martin met him there and gave him $2,000 more.
Hampton also was quoted in the report as claiming Martin had contracted someone to kill him.

Feb. 26, 1970 - W. T. (Bill) Christian, 50, became the fifth person arrested. He was charged with receiving stolen goods and was freed on a $50,000 bond. He was represented by Joe Sanders, Jr. and denied the charge. No money was ever recovered.

March 1, 1970 - William Thurman "Rabbit" Martin Jr., 41, of Harry Street, Bluefield, was arrested on breaking and entering charges. Accompanied by the lawyer he had employed, Robert E. Holroyd of Princeton, Martin surrendered to authorities at the State Police Barracks in Princeton after learning when he returned from a trip out of town that police had a warrant for his arrest.
The Daily telegraph reported a "brief struggle" occurred when the newspaper's photographer  attempted to photograph Martin as he was taken from the State Police offices. Bond was set at $100,000. No money was recovered.

March 3, 1970 - Judge Howard Jarrett reduced bond to $50,000 for Martin after Holroyd made the request, saying most murder bonds were only $5,000 to $10,000. After bond was reduced, Holroyd complained it was still too high for his client to raise the money. However, Martin was released on bond a few days later. (Courtesy of the Little people)

March 10, 1970- Martin and Christian were bound over to the Grand Jury in a preliminary hearing. The main witness for the state was Hampton, who turned state's witness.
Prior to the hearing, Martin had a skirmish with officials when a photographer attempted to take his picture. He tried to smash the camera, hit the state trooper and broke out a window in the door to the hearing room. He was handcuffed to a wooden rail throughout the hearing as a result of the fight. During the hearing Hampton said, Martin, "put a price on my head", so he agreed to testify. He said he and Martin took jewelry, a gun , a television set and the money in a locked closet. He said they were "real surprised" to find the money and it wasn't counted until they got to the car. He said they went to Christian's home and gave him the merchandise and $5,000. Hampton said the money was divided and he got $65,000 but he gave it back to Martin several days later. He said Martin was going to get it "changed" into "old" money. He said Christian was going to get it changed in Ohio. He said he actually received $3,000 which he spent. He said he later received $2,000 from Martin in Alexandria, VA. which he also spent.

March 11, 1970 - A newspaper report connected Ira Mathena to the case, reporting a witness said Martin and Mathena had "cased" the Clyborne home prior to the robbery. Mathena died of a heart attack before any criminal action was taken against him. (In a recent interview, Knight and Holroyd confirmed that Mathena's body was exhumed during the summer of 1970 as a result of reports that he was murdered, but there were no indications of foul play.)

April 9, 1970-  The grand jury indicted Martin and Hampton for burglary, Perdue and Christian for receiving stolen property and Byrd for accessory after the fact.

May 18, 1970 - Martin's trial begins with Hampton as a key witness for the state. Queenie Clyborne told the jury "every penny was mine" and said she had been collecting the money for 27 years to be used for retirement.
In opening statements, Prosecuting Attorney David W. Knight told the jury Mathena drove the get-away car and the burglary was committed by Martin and Hampton. Holroyd said Martin was "innocent" and he had an alibi - he was at home with his family and worked on a car with his father -in - law during the time of the robbery.

May 21, 1970- Martin's wife, Maze, and two teenage step daughters, testified he was at home eating supper at 6:30 p.m.

May 23, 1970 - The trial ended in a hung jury after the jury deadlocked at the end of six hours of deliberation.

Summer of 1970 - Hampton entered a guilty plea to burglary and was sentenced to 1-15 years and Mary Bird Hampton was placed on probation.

August 8, 1970 - Martin's second trial started.

Aug. 14, 1970 - The jury returned with a guilty verdict five hours after starting deliberations, Knight informed Judge Jarrett he would file "information" that Martin had four prior convictions which would qualify him for a life sentence under the Habitual Offender's act.

Aug. 17, 1970- Bluefield Police Department declared the case against William T. Martin, Jr. closed.

Aug. 25, 1970 - Holroyd appealed Martin's conviction but Judge Jarrett rejected the motion.

Sept. 9, 1970 - Perdue was convicted by a jury for receiving stolen property.

Sept. 17, 1970 - Martin was sentenced to life in prison.

Sept. 18, 1970 - Just 13 hours after he had been sentenced, Martin jumped a jailer in Mercer County Jail and escaped. He had a pistol. Five other prisoners went with him, leaving Princeton in a jailer's automobile. No one was injured.

Sept. 19, 1970 - The get away car was found in Bluefield, Va.

Sept. 20, 1970 - One of the escapees, Michael Kade, surrendered to authorities near Montcalm.

Sept. 21, 1970 - Police suspect that Martin is in Bluefield. Another escapee, Eugene Cole, is captured in New Castle County, Del.

Sept. 22, 1970 - The escapee who helped Martin over come the jailer, Ronald Williams, was captured going the wrong way on a one-way street in Hagerstown, Md.  (An update on Williams indicates he was serving a life sentence in Moundsville in the 1980s for the murder of a Beckley police officer when he escaped.  He was accused of killing a West Virginia State trooper and an Arizona resident while on the run and is still incarcerated in Moundsville.) The fourth escapee, Clayton Caraway was also captured.

Sept. 22, 1970 - Jacob Handy of Bluefield was arrested on charges that he provided the gun that Martin used in the escape.

Sept. 22, 1970 - Perdue was convicted by a jury for Receiving Stolen Property in connection with the Clyborne robbery and sentenced to 1-10 years in prison.

Sept. 23, 1970 - Prosecutor Knight said police are "hot on the trail" of Martin.

Sept. 25, 1970 - The Daily Telegraph reported the newspaper had received information on Martin, Williams and Cole spent their first night of freedom in Pocahontas, Va. area. The following day the newspaper reported they had also been in Bluefield.

Sept. 28, 1970 - Sheriff Wintfrey (Wimpy) Shrewsbury instituted new rules at the jail to tighten security.

Sept. 30, 1970 - The Daily Telegraph reported that Martin was in Washington, D.C. two days after the escape.

Oct. 7, 1970 - Martin was captured in Parkersburg, 3 weeks, 5 hours after he escaped. Commitment papers were prepared for his admittance into the prison in Moundsville and he was taken there instead of being returned to Princeton. Parkersburg police said Martin broke into a school in their area and they were watching him. They apprehended him as he started to leave the city. They did not know who they had when they captured him after a foot chase when he wrecked his car.

Aug. 8, 1971 - Judge F. Morton Wagner decreed that Bill Christian could not be tried again on a charge of receiving stolen property due to a mistrial declared in January of that year and hung jury in November 1970.

An undated card attached to the Bluefield Police Department record book. Raymond R. Hampton is back in the medium security prison at Huttonsville after being shot while being an escapee from that institution. About $10,000 of the $300,000 has been accounted for, but the remainder has never been recovered. Rabbit Martin is now serving a life sentence at the state penitentiary in Moundsville.

December 1972 - Princeton attorney William J. Akers served as special judge and re sentenced Martin on a Supreme Court order, it was later learned that age 28, Akers was too young - by two years - to serve in the capacity as judge.
1976 - a 27 year old guilty plea entered by Rabbit Martin who is serving a life sentence in Moundsville, was reversed in U.S. District Court and the life sentence may be reversed. Judge Dennis Knapp revered the 1948 plea to interstate transportation of a stolen car because "it was made without his full understanding of the consequences". The State Supreme Court later nullified the life sentence. Martin's lawyer was Edwin Wiley of Princeton.

Oct. 8, 1976 - Martin was re sentenced after his life sentence was reversed and Judge Howard Jarrett sentenced him to 20 years in the penitentiary - 15 years for the Clyborne burglary and 5 years on "information" of a prior felony, an armed robbery in Raleigh County.

Nov. 23, 1977 - Martin filed a new appeal. He said he was not furnished a full trial transcript within the statutory time limit for an appeal. (Through the years, Martin had numerous local lawyers represent him in appeal cases ---Jerry Cameron, Billy Burkett, Phil Lilly, Mike Gibson and Edwin Wiley, who at the time of the article, Mercer County Law Master. "They were all fine fellows...I still remember them all, Martin said later.)

May 10, 1978 - The State Supreme Court reversed the Oct. 8, 1976, sentencing and ordered re sentencing of Martin. the Court said Martin should have been given credit for time previously served as well as pre-trial and post-trial time.

Aug. 31, 1978 - Wiley won freedom for Martin on the appeal. Wiley said the basis of the appeal was that the plea Martin gave nearly 20 years earlier did not meet the standards of Federal Court and did not even comply with Common Law. Martin was released from prison.

Jan. 5, 1995 - Rabbit Martin, now a retired Bluefield resident, contacted the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. "It's been 25 years. I though you would have a story". he said to the reporter. Martin apparently was the only person who remembered the anniversary of the incident that went down in Bluefield's history. "


I finally wrote about your story old friend. RIP

Sources: Bluefield Daily Telegraph, December 31, 1970 author Mike Stater
               Bluefield Daily Telegraph, July 22, 1995 author Barbara Hawkins