Friday, October 15, 2010

Murder in Lynchburg, Virginia 1973

It happened in early spring, the actual murder occuring just inside the brick walls of what was then Randolph-Macon Woman's College. Cynthia Hellman, the daughter of the Hellman Mayonnaise millionaire was found dead with her face up against a steam pipe outside the science building. Many years ago I wrote a partial write-up of the events pieced from court documents. It's not perfect writing, folks, as it was many years ago, but it depicts the events from that evening. Interestingly enough, Douglas Wilder, later elected first African American governor of Virginia, was a defense attorney in this case.

Stan stood on his front porch and stared into space. Nothing had worked out the way he planned. His wife and kids were in New Jersey, and he was here. The job at the Post Office hadn’t worked out. He had kept the job at Vaughan’s Chevrolet longer. But, after all, he had been a Machinist in the Air Force. Even when he tried to go back to school, they had discriminated against him. He knew he deserved better grades than they had given him.

Now, standing on the porch, he knew it wasn’t his fault. It was all of those narrow-minded small-town middle-class Southern Baptist bigots that had caused everything. He needed a way to get his vengeance. Even his own family didn’t understand him. They had signed involuntary committal papers twice, sending him away to Central State for evaluation. Thank God the professionals realized the truth: he wasn’t crazy.

No one spent enough time to try to get to know him. His religion was all he had. That, and the little voice that had begun to come to him at dusk. “Go, ahead. Do it. Show her. Show them. You owe it to yourself.” The time would come soon. He could feel it. . .
He had known it the minute he saw her. There was another one of the bitches! Stan saw the girl with long auburn curls, clad simply in her red and black shirt, slacks, and clogs, enter the 7-11. They were always on his street - laughing - running around in sheets - going to the Dahlia for their stupid initiations. They were always making fun of him, telling him not to go into the Cellar or some redneck would beat him up! He was 6’ 4”, a sturdy 198 pounds - a lean, mean fighting machine! He had nicknamed himself “Big Stan,” and sooner or later he’d enter the Dahlia and show those assholes just who they were dealing with.

But first he had to stop the pointing fingers, the laughs, the stuck-up,rich Randy-Mac bitches. He had tried once up at old Ruffner School. Another blond-haired wench was trying to do her duty by helping out the “poor little black kids.” She didn’t know anything about his people. She didn’t know anything about his street. Why couldn’t they all stay away? If that damn Dahlia wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be infringing on his territory.

The Dahlia didn’t even encourage men of his color to come in anymore the way he used to when he was 18. And the new owner was catering to the college kids, setting up a band downstairs every Wednesday night, Wonderful Wednesday for the Randy-Mac girls, and also on weekends.

Well, he had spotted the little red-headed high-and-mighty, and this one was going to pay!

Standaly decided the best way to follow her was to go behind the 7-11, walk down Cleveland Avenue, and wait for her next to the Lexington Apartments. She wouldn’t make it past Randee’s Restaurant! Then he would show her how strong he was--prove to her that he couldn’t be laughed at! The rest of them would leave him and Bedford Avenue alone. He would see to it.

Poised at the top of Elmwood Avenue, Standaly looked up at the tower of St. John’s Church. Cars were milling around this Sunday evening, but no one really noticed him. He felt secure, as he blended with the twilight. But the bitch stood out like a neon light with her long auburn hair. He saw her round the corner from Bedford Avenue and approach his hiding place....

Cynthia walked slowly around the corner of Bedford. The air was slightly cool and clean, the promise of spring on its breath. The day had been beautiful, and she really didn’t mind walking all the way down to the 7-11. King’s Grocery Store always closed early on Sunday evenings, so if she wanted some munchies, she had to walk. All was very quiet, except for a few strains of organ music from the church down the block. All of the stores were closed on the Avenue on Sundays. After all, she was in the middle of the Bible Belt! It seemed like another planet compared to her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Out of the corner of her eye Cynthia saw a large fleeting shadow. She increased her step, but the clogs were cumbersome for fast walking--or running. She knew someone was watching her, but where? As she crossed to the parking lot next to Pearson’s Drug, she saw a black man cross from the bushes. She was sure she was being followed.

Cynthia tried to run, but the shoes wouldn’t let her. She slipped them off and tucked them under her arm, trying to hold onto her bag in the other hand. He was gaining on her. She began to sprint in her stocking-feet. Maybe the barber was in his shop around the corner. The campus was so close! Surely she could make it.

Charlie walked through the fragrant early evening dew around the corner of East Hall and started down the path to construction site for the new Physical Education Building. The air was humid, but cooling down after another record-breaking day of Lynchburg weather. Charlie took his job with the Pinkerton Agency very seriously. Sometimes it was fun. All of the college students had adopted him. He was the campus Teddy Bear, kind of chubby, but still very competent. They called all of the guards Pinkies, but he was different. Of course, he stretched the rules for some of them, helping them back into the dorms after closing hours, holding them up as they weaved back from the Pines after an evening of over-imbibing an yet another UVa fraternity party. He’d waited for more than one student while she puked her brains out, and then guided her back to the entrance of her dorm.

Tonight was a typical quiet Sunday evening. Most of the girls had returned from their roll down the road to the University of Virginia or to Washington & Lee. His walkie-talkie went off, paging him that there was a reported scream from down in the general vacinity of Martin Science Building. Charlie turned around and retraced his steps from behind East and crossed between the overhead trolley that held East and Main together.

As he walked down the hill next to the well-manicured lawn of front campus, he heard nothing but a still calm, and he felt the enveloping heavy fog which enshrouded the overhead lights, causing an aurora of color above.
The warm spring day became eerie night.

As he approached Martin, he felt an inexplanatory shiver shoot up his spine. He had never been afraid of exploring this campus before. How silly! He walked in front of the building, circling its right border into the naturally wooded area next to the school’s brick wall which bordered Norfolk Avenue.

The air began to fall heavier around his shoulders. He felt like a dead weight, an unwelcome demon, had settled upon him. Still no noises confronted him as made his way behind the science building. He thought he saw a figure across the wall. But the wall was too high to view the facing street.

Charlie continued on toward the pride and joy of Martin, the botanical section complete with a cross-section of flora and fauna inside its protective greenhouse. Still there were no signs of trouble. He stepped next to the greenhouse, just avoiding a small foot, partially obscured by the greenery. The body was small, stockings obliterated at the toes, almost flapping on the ankles. And the leg showed signs of beatings, bruises and mud up the slightly hiked pants leg.

Charlie ran to her head, and grabbed for a pulse. Could he save her? Was she okay? He prepared to undertake CPR, grabbed her head, pulled her toward him. Her head--her face--were next to the steam pipe from the greenhouse. She--didn’t have a face! Charlie fell to his knees and wept.


  1. Nice post, Bobbye. There's a book there.

  2. Your details are somewhat mother witness the confrontation on Rivermont Ave between the man and that woman Cynthia. It is too flowery of a description for a horrible event. You need to get your facts straight.

  3. You should reach out to Stan's family who still live in Lynchburg. His brother, Dawson lives in Bedford, VA and still speaks with and visits Stan regularly. I believe they are the only (2) left.

  4. Uh...I don't know how you got your facts so wrong, but Cindy Hellman was not related in any shape, form or fashion to the inventor of Hellmann's mayo. The two names aren't even spelled the same. I knew Cindy and her sister Cathy in HS in Houston. Just go onto the Hellmann website and it will tell you it was invented by some guy from Germany in 1905 in NYC. Shame on your poor research.

  5. Uh...I don't know how you got your facts so wrong, but Cindy Hellman was not related in any shape, form or fashion to the inventor of Hellmann's mayo. The two names aren't even spelled the same. I knew Cindy and her sister Cathy in HS in Houston. Just go onto the Hellmann website and it will tell you it was invented by some guy from Germany in 1905 in NYC. Shame on your poor research.

  6. I just found these old posts on the website. I was a student on campus when this happened. The murder took place around dusk, which would have been about 7 in the evening. All of the students were warned to stay in the dorms around 8 and we didn't get an all clear until after 10. The Pinkerton guard who found her was named Charlie. I researched this whole thing at the police department many years after, was allowed back in the records room, saw the police photos, read the papers and the transcripts of the trial. As for Cynthia being the heiress to the Hellman fortune, all of my friends on campus said that she was. But that is the only thing that is hearsay in this account. The rest was in the police files or reported out the trial.