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For the majority of Americans, the summer of 1969 was a time filled with both fear and anxiety.  The war in Vietnam raged on unabated while the country bitterly grew divided over its conduct; the Manson Family committed a series of brutal murders in the Los Angles area, thus ending the “peace and love” aspect of the hippie movement; and the massacre of civilians at the South Vietnamese village of My Lai by American soldiers caused citizens to question the honor of our country’s military.   Memphians also had further reason for fear during the summer of 1969, as of a series of gruesome murders occurred which had the Memphis Police Department stumped and gun stores doing record business.  

Memphis had lost its civic innocent on April 4, 1968, with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on the second-floor balcony of the Loraine Motel.  While the ensuing civil unrest was troubling, it did not reach the intensity of that in other cities.  Memphis was for the most part, still a peaceful southern city.  Children rode their bikes at night; adults stood in their yards and talked to neighbors.  Doors were always open and in typical southern fashion, nobody was a stranger. 

 That idyllic situation would soon change with the arrival in Memphis of a 23 year-old, lanky, blonde haired man named George Howard Putt. 






George Howard Putt: 


George Howard “Buster” Putt had spent most of his adolescent life in juvenile correctional facilities throughout the south on various charges ranging from kidnapping to rape.  In March 1946, he was born at the Charity Hospital of Louisiana in downtown New Orleans to a pair of drifters named Clifford and Leola Putt. He spent most of his childhood moving around the southeast until his parents finally were both sentenced to prison. He was then sent to live with his grand-parents in North Carolina before eventually being remanded to the Richmond Home for Boys after an incident with an air rifle.

During Putt’s residence in Richmond, he attempted to rape two teenage girls and as a result was sentenced by the state to a state psychiatric care institute.  He soon escaped custody until the 16 year old Putt was arrested in Texas, where he was once again institutionalized in a mental care facility.  While there, a staff psychiatrist described him as "a psychopath capable of committing almost any crimes."

Upon reaching his 21st birthday, Putt was released from incarceration in Texas and soon moved to the North Mississippi area.  There he met 18 year old Mary Ruth Bulimore, a 1967 graduate of Coldwater High School.  The former 4H club member was a native of the small Mississippi Delta town of Sarah and worked as a waitress at the Blue & White Café in Tunica.


Coincidently, Bulimore was pregnant with the child of Putt’s brother Clifford.  The couple moved to Tupelo, Mississippi and soon found employment.  The child would be born in Memphis during 1968 and named George Howard Putt, Jr.

On May 5, 1969, Putt was arrested by the Jackson Mississippi Police Department and charged with burglary, for which he received a six month sentence.  Putt escaped from detention and arrived in Memphis in 1969 along with his wife.  The two rented a furnished room in a 58 year-old, one-story bungalow located at 642 Bethel in the Greenlaw District.  Putt drifted from various jobs and was fired from his job as a gas station attendant for stealing $30.  





August 14, 1969: Roy and Bernalyn Dumas


The afternoon of August 14, 1969, was typical of the hot, humid Memphis summer. World War II veterans Roy and Bernalyn Dumas were quietly relaxing inside their midtown apartment at 1133 South Cooper in the Hermitage Apartment Complex.  The Dumas family lived on the first floor of the relatively new, two-story brick complex.  The outside temperature was in the mid-nineties and the two were trying their best to beat the oppressive Memphis heat. Bernalyn had just arrived home from work and was too tired to change out of her nursing uniform.  The couple had plans for the night and were anxiously awaiting the evening.  However, only a few miles away, a 23 year-old gas station attendant named George Howard Putt was on the verge of making the transformation from petty criminal to brutal, serial killer. 

The Dumas family’s first floor apartment was located directly adjacent to the busy Southern Railroad tracks in the middle-income, Cooper-Young neighborhood.  The Hermitage Apartment complex was relatively new, having just opened in 1965.  Previously, the Dumas’ had lived for 17 years at 2096 Labelle Street in South Memphis before moving when their son left home to attend Ole Miss. 

Roy Kenner Dumas truly epitomized the term “War Hero”.  The 58 year old self-employed accountant was born in rural Bald Knob, Arkansas and worked as manager at a restaurant located at 271 Poplar Avenue in Memphis before the war.  During World War II, Dumas served for three years in the Army and attained the rank of Sergeant. During combat, he received an almost fatal abdominal wound and as a result, was reduced to a weight of only 100 pounds.  For his combat gallantry, Dumas was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Presidential Citation.

Bernalyn Dumas, 46, was employed as a nursing supervisor at Baptist Hospital on Union Avenue. At the time, Baptist Hospital in Memphis was one of the largest privately-owned hospitals in the country.  Before the war, she attended nursing school and served as a nurse during World War II.  Dumas served in the Army and attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.  In March 1948, she gave birth to the couple’s only child, Michael Eugene Dumas.   

Later that night, Roy and Bernalyn planned to join their son 22 year-old son, Michael and his wife Tanya, for dinner and a birthday celebration for the younger Mrs. Dumas.  The young couple had only been married for a few months and had planned to met Roy and Bernalyn at the restaurant. 

Unfortunately, during the afternoon, a lanky, tattooed blond named George Howard Putt gained entrance into the apartment and tied the couple-up.  Putt would later state to Memphis Police Department detectives "The only reason I went in there was for money. I never met Mr. and Mrs. Dumas and I knew nothing about them."  The robbery then turned into a savage blood-bath as Putt began torturing his helpless victims.

Roy Dumas was forced into the guest bedroom by Putt, who then bound the victim’s ankles and wrists together with suspenders.  The killer then proceeded to choke Roy to death with a gray sock. In the adjacent bedroom, Bernalyn was tied to the bed posts and strangled with one of her nursing uniform stockings.  Putt then proceeded to mutilate her vagina and anus with a pair of surgical scissors.  He then took a nearby lamp and positioned it so an eerie light was cast on the dead, mutilated body of Mrs. Dumas.

Putt left the apartment unnoticed by neighbors with Bernalyn’s purse.  He would later state to his wife "When I left their apartment, I felt pretty sure somebody would find them before they died."

After anxiously waiting the arrival of his parents at the birthday celebration, Michael went to the apartment.   He discovered his mother’s dead, severely traumatized mutilated body tied to the bed posts. She was still dressed in her now-bloody Baptist Hospital nursing uniform.  In an adjacent bedroom, officers from the Memphis Police Department found the dead body of Roy bound and gagged. 

Frank Holloman, then fire and police director, said the double murder was "the most atrocious and revolting crime he had seen in years."  Police officers found no sign of forced entry and the killer had left next to nothing in the way of evidence.  Due to the nature of the crime, Memphis Police officials even speculated that there might be a connection to the recent murder in Los Angeles of actress Sharon Tate. 

Mississippi State Prison escapee George Howard Putt had made his first two kills.  The 23 year old would calmly watch coverage of the Dumas murder with his wife on the local television news. 






August 25, 1969:  Leila Witt Jackson


Alton, Illinois native Leila Jackson was a kind hearted 80 year old widow that ran a four-unit apartment house in the heart of the Memphis Medical Center at 21 North Somerville. Jackson and her husband, Optometrist Charles Jackson had purchased the house in September 1945 for their family.   

Charles died in July 1956 and the house was converted into four apartments along with living quarters for Mrs. Jackson, located in the back of the dwelling.  Her units stayed occupied with both medical students and professionals from the nearby hospitals and the University of Tennessee Medical School. 

The elderly landlord was extra cautious in light of the unsolved Dumas murders.  A few days after learning of the murders, she ironically stated to a friend that no one would want to rob her, because she never kept any money in the house. Jackson was a safety-minded lady and kept her doors locked tightly at night even before the Dumas murders. 

About a week before the crime, Putt walked from his job at the Hudson Oil station on South Bellevue to Jackson’s apartment house on North Somerville.  He asked Jackson if he could rent an apartment from her. The distance was only a few blocks and whether Putt was staking out a victim and was somehow scared away is only a guess.   

Unfortunately for Jackson, Putt returned to her apartment house on August 25.  He entered through the front door and tied the 80 year-old up on her bed before strangling her with a stocking.  Putt then went to the kitchen and found a butcher knife to use in his demented body mutilation.  He made numerous slices to Jackson’s groin, ripping away pieces of bloody flesh with each cut.  Before leaving the victim’s bedroom, Putt placed a reading lamp over the body to cast an eerie light of death over the now lifeless body.   

When relatives were unable to contact Jackson on the telephone, one of her grandsons was sent to find out what was wrong.  He walked through the open front door and eventually ended up in the bedroom, where he made the horrible discovery.  The grandson found Jackson’s bloody, mutilated body on her bed with the butcher knife lying beside her on a nightstand.

When Memphis Police Department Homicide Bureau Chief Robert Cochran walked into the bedroom where Jackson laid, the first thing he noticed was the ghastly glare of the reading lamp on Jackson’s body.  It immediately brought to mind the same scene in Bernalyn Dumas’ bedroom from two weeks earlier.  "When I saw that lamp, I was the loneliest bastard that ever lived," Cochran would admit later. "I knew it was the same one."

Detectives recognized the similarities between the two crime scenes and summarized that a serial killer was at large. The city, only a year removed from the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, was again gripped with fear.

Later that evening, Putt watched the news with his wife at their house on Bethel. "Remember that old lady I tried to rent the room from over near the Terrace Hotel?" excitedly stated Putt after watching the story on his recent murder. "That Mrs. Jackson? Remember her? Somebody killed her just like that Dumas couple!"

Putt then when on to correctly state “There must be some kind of really bad nut loose in this town."







August 29, 1969:  Glenda Sue Harden


A beautiful, sunny Memphis Friday afternoon greeted 21 year-old Glenda Sue Harden as she left work at 5:00 pm.  She had recently became engaged to a young man from Ripley, Tennessee and was ready to enjoy the weekend.  Harden was employed as a typist for the Jackson Life Insurance Company, located in the Falls Building at 22 Front Street.  She lived with her family in a three bedroom house in the Wells Station neighborhood at 1256 Holliday.  Glenda was a 1965 graduate of Kingsbury High School, majoring in Spanish and Commercial Arts, while minoring in History. 

Harden walked down Court Street and crossed Riverside Drive to locate her 1965 Ford Mustang.  That morning she had parked her car on the cobblestone lot that once served as Memphis’ riverfront landing.  That afternoon, George Howard Putt had also parked his 1964 Chevrolet Impala on the historic cobblestones and waited for his next victim. 

Putt approached Harden after she had entered her car and was preparing to leave.  He forced his way into her car, then put a knife to her throat and made her crawl into the passenger-side floorboard.  Putt drove Harden to Riverside Park, where he bound her hands behind her back with her panty hose.  He then brutally murdered Harden by stabbing her 14 times in the head, neck, chest and back.  Putt then drove her car back to the cobblestone parking lot next to the river.  The killer emptied Harden’s purse and drove off in his own car.

The next morning, Memphis Police officers located Harden’s Mustang parked on the cobblestones at the foot of Monroe Avenue.  Later in the day, officers would locate Harden’s lifeless body in Riverside Park.  Memphis Police and Fire Director Frank Holloman stated to the news media "We are faced with a cunning sex killer."    A $20,000 reward was offered for information on the murders as police conducted the largest manhunt in the city’s history.







September 11, 1969:  Mary Christine Pickens


Christine Pickens had just arrived at her midtown apartment after ending her work day at noon.  She worked as a receptionist at a dental office in the Sterick Building and had Thursday afternoons off.  Pickens lived on the second floor of the three story LaBlanche Building, located at 41 North Bellevue.  She was ready to enjoy her afternoon off.  It was her 59th birthday. 

As Christine Pickens planned out the rest of her day off, George Howard Putt parked his Chevrolet in the lot adjacent to the Medical Arts Building at 1177 Madison Avenue.  He was now only a few hundred yards from his next victim.


“I was getting ready to go to work,” stated Emma Grosse, a nurse that lived in the same apartment building as the victim, “It was 1:05 pm.  I was fixing a sandwich and I heard my neighbor scream ‘Murder! Murder! No don’t! Don’t kill me! Don’t do it!’ I went running down the stairs to catch him.  He was at Christine’s door.  He showed me the knife. I was just afraid.”

Pickens pleas for help also caught the attention of neighbor Wayne Armstrong, who retrieved his pistol and began firing at Putt on the apartment complex parking lot.  Putt fled the apartment complex and with the aid of a parked Dodge truck, that enabled him to scale a six-foot barb-wired topped fence.  The killer then ran down North Bellevue and made a turn to the west on Madison Avenue.  He then jumped over the Madison overpass onto the unfinished portion of I-240 and continued running south.

Putt ran south on the unfinished expressway until he turned east near Linden Avenue.  Putt was fleeing with an ice pick and one on of Pickens’ stockings but he left the two imbedded in the wall of an apartment at 217 Pasadena Place.  The gunshots of Armstrong had drawn the attention of police and soon officers swarmed the area.   Police Officers Glenn Noblin and Phil Scruggs caught a blood soiled Putt at an apartment complex driveway on Linden Avenue, thus ending one of the most horrific chapters in Memphis history.  Pickens would later die from the 20 stab wounds she received at the hands of George Howard Putt.  She would become the fifth victim.

After his arrest, George Howard Putt told reporters, “I’d do it all again.”



Putt received a 497 year sentence from Shelby County Criminal Court Judge William H. Williams, which ends July 19, 2431.  Putt is serving his sentence at Turney Center in Only, TN.  His next parole hearing is scheduled for July 2017.






Alton Illinois, City Directory – 1906

United States Federal Census - 1930

Memphis, Tennessee City Directory. R.L. Polk Publishers - 1931

Charity Hospital of Louisiana at New Orleans Annual Report for the Year Ended June 30, 1946 (Louis G. Reicke, Vice President Board of Administrators)

Shelby County Certificate of Death – Charles Reagan Jackson (July 11, 1956)

Memphis, Tennessee City Directory. R.L. Polk Publishers - 1960

1964 Panther – Coldwater High School – Coldwater, Mississippi

1965 Talon – Kingsbury High School – Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County Register of Deeds: Book 6134, Page 432.  Trust Deed, January 14, 1967

Shelby County Register of Deeds: Book 6245, Page 117.  July 13, 1967. Court Street Property Warranty Deed.

Shelby County Register of Deeds: Instrument #F24067 – 21 North Somerville. – July 14, 1967

Shelby County Court Clerk Marriage License – June 4, 1969

“Account, Wife Found Murdered” – Associated Press – August 15, 1969

“Memphis Police Arrest Escapee For 5 Murders “ - Associated Press – September 10, 1969