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West Texas’ Bible-thumping swindler, part 2 | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

Editor’s Note: Jack Becker is the editor of Caprock Chronicles and Librarian Emeritus, Texas Tech University. He can be reached at jack.becker@ttu.edu. Today’s article about Billie Sol Estes is the second of a two-part series by frequent contributor Chuck Lanehart, Lubbock attorney and award-winning Western history writer.

Seven men connected to Billie Sol Estes probes died. U.S. Department of Agriculture Investigator Henry Marshall — found bludgeoned with carbon monoxide in his blood and five rifle wounds to his chest — died of suicide, Robertson County, Texas, officials ruled. After an exhumation, the cause of death was changed to homicide, but the murder was never solved. Billie Sol’s accountant and five others involved in the case were killed under suspiciouscircumstances.

The scandal rocked Washington, as chronicles of Billie Sol’s escapades filled newspapers and magazines. The story inspired books and at least two popular songs, as comedians and conspiracy theorists thrived on the juicy details. On May 25, 1962, the swindler’s dimpled, smiling face graced the cover of Time Magazine, its all-time best-selling issue to that date.

Time magazine cover featuring Billie Sol Estes, May 25, 1962

The New York Times portrayed him as a combination predator and modernday Robin Hood. “Billie Sol Estes is a product of the limitless plains of West Texas and the limitless spirit of the American frontier. And though it is many years since there was ‘no law west of the Pecos,’ some of the old frontier freedoms remain — the right of a man to dream of new worlds, for instance, and to set about finding them the quickest way he can.”

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