Did he kill her, too? An Alabama-related mystery, Part 4

BY MOLLIE S. WATERS

The Greenville Standard

 

In 1960, Larry Lord Motherwell was sentenced to prison for killing Pearl Putney.

During the investigation of Putney’s disappearance, the police tracked Motherwell’s moves, and they discovered he had duped many women and had pulled off lies and cons across the country.

They also made a gruesome discovery in connection to his daughter, Heather Robin Motherwell, his only child with Sarah McClurkin Motherwell from Wilcox County, Alabama.

According to the book “Chronicle of a Crime: The Larry Lord Motherwell Story” by Eleanor Dabrohua, sister-in-law to the slain Pearl Putney, Heather may have been another victim of Motherwell’s.

Heather was born on May 16, 1953. After her birth, her parents and doctors realized the child had Down’s syndrome, though during that time children born with the condition were called “Mongolian” because of the shape of their eyes.

Heather was placed in a home that took care of children with conditions like hers, a common practice at that time.

Yet, when investigating Pearl’s disappearance in 1958, the police could not find Heather or the home.

The detectives eventually reached out to Sarah’s family in Alabama. Their names had been listed in papers connected to Sarah’s drowning.

Although locating Heather would in no way help with the investigation with Pearl’s disappearance, the police were curious as to what had become of the little girl.

Sarah’s aunt and uncle responded to the police’s inquiries.

“A. R. Taylor and his wife, Hattie, had reported that Heather had been placed in a home operated by a Mrs. Ella Hinkson in Takoma Park, Maryland, just across the District of Columbia line from Washington,” states Eleanor Dabrohua in her book about Motherwell.

The home had closed in Washington, but it reopened in Takoma Park, Md.

The detectives found the lady in charge of the home, Mrs. Ella Hinkson, and interviewed her about Heather, who had been removed from Hinkson’s care on June 19, 1954 by Motherwell.

Motherwell took Heather under the pretense that he was going to move her to a facility in Tallahassee, Fla., where he said his parents lived because he was traveling on secret missions for the government. All of these details were lies.

When Motherwell contacted Hinkson, she told him that Heather was outgrowing her clothing, so he instructed her to purchase new items for the child. Those items included a new dress, bootees, and a bonnet.

Upon his arrival to collect Heather, Mrs. Hinkson also gave Motherwell diapers, formula, talcum powder, bottles, a hairbrush, and extra clothes.

“Mrs. Hinkson said she instructed the father as to the child’s formula and told him that he must be watchful after Heather’s feeding time,” the book states. “If left alone, Mrs. Hinkson said she explained, the helpless infant might regurgitate, choke on her food, swallow her tongue, and strangle.”

Motherwell acknowledged the instructions, then left with the child. Hinkson never heard from them again.

After this discovery, police investigated where Motherwell was living at the time, which was Fredrick, Md. There, they made inquiries about Motherwell.

They interviewed a former tenant in the same apartment where Motherwell had lived in Frederick, and that tenant recalled Motherwell telling about how his combat dog from the Korean War, a war Motherwell had never served in, had died.

At the time, Motherwell worked at a local construction company, and to his fellow co-workers, he often bragged about knowing an estate owner and renowned local citizen named E. Dwight McCain.

The police interviewed McCain about Motherwell, and he related to them a similar story about Motherwell’s dog.

McCain knew Motherwell from church, but the two formally met for the first time when Motherwell came to McCain’s home to ask for a favor.

“’Mr. Motherwell said he knew I loved animals and that I had a pet cemetery on my place,’ McCain said. ‘He told me his beloved dog had died and that he was looking for a suitable place to bury it.’”

McCain gave Motherwell permission to bury the dog, and he watched from a distance as Motherwell carried a wooden box from his car and buried it in the cemetery.

According to McCain, “Motherwell had stood for a long time with head bared at the graveside, presumably praying. Then he drove away. He had returned a number of times, sometimes with a woman, to visit the grave.

“McCain remembered the date of the burial. It had been June 20, 1954—the day after Motherwell had taken his helpless daughter from the Hinkson home.”

Police quickly obtained permission to dig up the grave, and inside it, they found Heather’s remains along with all of the items Mrs. Hinkson had sent with the child.

A warrant was quickly issued for Motherwell’s arrest.

When he was found in Las Vegas, he waived extradition rights and was returned to Maryland to face what he had done.

The only problem for investigators was that they could not determine how Heather had died.

“The skull and bones bore no evidence of such a thing as a bullet wound or a crushing blow,” states the book. “If the death had been homicidal, the possibilities could include poisoning, suffocation, strangulation, or a wound that left no mark on the bones.”

While charges were pressed, the grand jury refused to indict Motherwell on Heather’s death, which he claimed was accidental. He said he had fed her, then taken a bath, and when he returned, she had choked to death. He said he buried her the way he did because he panicked.

He walked away a free man.

Yet, during his murder trial for Pearl Puntey’s death, more of his deviousness about Heather and Sarah was discovered.

Motherwell had contacted Arthur and Hattie Taylor, Sarah’s aunt and uncle, in Alabama shortly after he had taken Heather out of the home in Maryland. He told them he needed $300 to place the child in a home in Tallahassee. They gave him the money, but even as they did so, Heather was already buried in the pet cemetery.

Also, it was revealed that only eleven days after Sarah’s accidental drowning, Motherwell was already trying to pass another woman off as his wife.

“The accused murderer,” states the book, “now almost cringing, admitted that, as a presumably mourning, eleven-day widower, he already had formed a liaison with another woman.”

Larry Lord Motherwell died from a heart attack in prison in 1966. He presumably never talked to anyone about his deeds while incarcerated.

He always denied any wrongdoing in both Sarah’s and Heather’s deaths.

The question posited for this series was “Did he kill her, too?”

Regrettably, that question cannot be answered, though several members of Sarah McClurkin’s family have sent material to “The Greenville Standard” that indicates the family never thought Sarah’s death was anything other than a homicide.

Considering his long history of lies, his cons, and Pearl’s murder on his hands, Motherwell could very easily have killed both his wife and child, and if he did, he got away with murder.

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