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Clay Coppedge

Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

Double-Crossed, Double Murder

by Clay Coppedge

Nobody knew much about Lewis Cernoch, a thirty-eight-year old farm hand who lived by himself in a dirty, rundown shack near the Hoxie community outside of Granger and worked for local farmers as a handyman. He was from Minnesota, a veteran of World War I, and had lived in Granger for eighteen years.

The first time most people in Granger knew Cernoch even existed was when he appeared in Justice John Nunn's courtroom on Nov. 10, 1933 to face charges of abusive language in the presence of a woman and disorderly conduct. The charges stemmed from a row at the home of Frank Simcock, where Cernoch had shown up to collect a thirty-seven dollar debt. Simcock had since died and the family refused to pay. Cernoch's outrage and subsequent outburst was such that he ended up in court. The jury found him guilty and fined Cernoch, acting as his own attorney, fifteen dollars plus costs for a grand total of twenty eight dollars and five cents.

When Cernoch informed the court he had no money, Nunn ordered Precinct 2 Constable Sam Moore to hustle Cernoch off to jail. On second thought, Cernoch said he might be able to raise the money after all. Justice Nunn gave him until that night to come up with the cash. The next time anyone in Granger saw him was when he showed up at Nunn's office on February 15, 1934 in the company of Constable Moore and Henry Lindsey, the town marshal.

Justice Nunn chided Cernoch for "playing a trick on us." When Cernoch said he didn't have any more money that day than he did the first time he was in court, Nunn instructed Moore to haul Cernoch to the jail. This time he meant it. The two left the courtroom, located at the rear of the First National Bank building, on their way to jail. Marshal Lindsey and Constable Moore either failed to look for Cernoch's pistol when they took him into custody or they didn't find it. But he had one.

A moment after the two lawmen left with Cernoch, Nunn heard two gunshots. A couple of heartbeats later, Cernoch was in the room with his Luger at the ready. Nunn later testified that he ran to get behind a couch but assistant district attorney M.B. Colbert was already hiding there. "Cernoch came in the door and shot three times in our direction," Nunn said. "One bullet hit me in the leg."

Moore, crouched behind a desk, raised up and fired his pistol at Cernoch but missed. The left-handed Moore, wounded in that shoulder, was shooting with his right hand. Cernoch returned fire, hitting Moore several times. Moore would die a short while later at a Taylor hospital.

Cernoch tucked the gun in his belt, near the belt buckle, and stepped out on the street. He proceeded to a confectionary operated John Kubala, a member of the jury that had convicted him on the abusive language case. Cernoch's immediate plan involved shooting Kubala and any other jurors he could find, but when told that Kubala wasn't at the confectionary Cernoch calmly returned to the scene of the crime.

The gunfire had attracted the attention of everybody in town, including a fourteen-year old boy named Dan Martinets, who was riding his bicycle two blocks away when he heard the series of gunshots. A man came running down the street, yelling, "They're shooting everybody!" Martinets wanted to see, or he thought he did. He half-rode and half-drug his bike to the scene of the action at the rear of the Justice of the Peace's office. There he saw Lindsey lying dead on the running board of a car. And there also was Louis Cernoch, leaning against a telephone pole, reloading his Luger and lighting a pipe with trembling hands.

Another fourteen-year old boy, "Maxey" Goff, son of Granger night watchman Charles Goff, sneaked up behind Cernoch as the killer exchanged conversation with what was by now a mob. Goff had with him a window counter weight, a hefty little item that he slammed into the back of Cernoch's head. Cernoch collapsed and dropped to the pavement along with his pipe and the now-reloaded Luger. A local dentist confiscated the gun while a number of townspeople, none of them too happy about what had just happened to two of their local law enforcement officers, hustled Cernoch off to jail.

"You shouldn't have done that," one of the citizens told Cernoch. He replied, "They double-crossed me and they were going to put me in jail for not having any money."

Sheriff Louis Lowe and Deputy Barney McLaughlin took Cernoch into custody a little before 6 p.m. and hauled him to the jail in Georgetown. Cernoch told the sheriff, "I'm glad I did it."-

Martinets watched as Lindsey's body was loaded into a wicker basket from the funeral home's hearse. "There was more trauma in that than you can imagine," Martinets said in 2004, when he was eighty-three years old. "It's hard to walk away from something like that and not be changed by it."

Martinets recalled that Simcock, whose thirty-seven dollar unpaid debt first exposed Cernoch's volatile nature, was a miserly sort with a cement floor in the barn for his cows but a dirt floor for his family. He put off paying Cernoch for months, long enough for him to die with the debt unresolved. Cernoch said he shot the men because "they intended to put me in jail because I could not pay the fine" and insisted that he was the victim here, that he had been double-crossed.

Meanwhile, funeral services for Lindsey attracted what the Austin paper termed "one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Granger." Lindsey was a long-time peace officer in Granger, having served as a deputy sheriff and constable before taking over as city marshal. He left behind a widow. Moore's funeral the day after Lindsey's brought together another large crowd. Moore, survived by a wife and two children, had previously served as a Williamson County Commissioner. County and precinct officers from all over Central Texas attended the funerals.

At the same time, Cernoch was in the Georgetown jail, telling anyone who asked that his "only desire was to kill officers."

Cernoch went on trial a month after the murder. Defense attorney W.C. Wofford let the state present its story of the killings "almost without controversy," the Austin paper reported. "He sought to soften the story by drawing out each witness on whether he thought Cernoch was a sane, normal man. Much to his surprise and discomfiture, most of them thought him normal."

Wofford wanted to present a plea for insanity, but Cernoch refused to discuss the case in any detail or divulge much about his past, including the names of family members or others who might have testified on his behalf. He did mention his service during World War I. "I killed men by the hundreds in the war," he told his lawyer. "What difference does it make if I kill a couple more?"

The jury convicted Cernoch on all counts and sentenced him to die by electrocution at the Huntsville state prison. Cernoch and four other men escaped from the Georgetown jail on January 20, 1935. Three of the escapees, including Cernoch, were recaptured that same day. Sheriff Lowe found Cernoch at San Gabriel Park, smoking his pipe and heading in the general direction of Granger. He didn't resist re-arrest.

Governor James V. Allred granted Cernoch a temporary reprieve in June, but the double-crossed, double murderer was put to death in Huntsville on July 12, 1934. Newspapers reported that Cernoch simply smoked his pipe and waited for his time to run out.


Not long after he took over as the Granger police chief in 2014, now former Granger chief "Bob" Shelton noticed an old black and white photograph hanging on a back wall. A metal label on the frame read: "Henry J. Lindsey, Served 16 Years as Granger City Marshal, Killed February 15, 1934." Shelton couldn't find anyone in city government who knew why or how this thing had happened. He dug deeper, reached out to a researcher and pieced together the story.

On September 12, 2015, eighty-one years after the murders, Granger dedicated a plaque. on the east side of the Granger National Bank, where Nunn's courtroom was in 1934, noting simply that marshal Henry Lindsey and constable Sam Moore were killed near that spot "in the line of duty defending the citizens of Granger." Once again, law enforcement officers from across the state joined with the citizens of Granger to pay their respects.

Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" July 9, 2021 column

About Granger, Texas

  • Granger Through The Years by Clay Coppedge
    Dan Martinets used to walk along the railroad tracks running through the heart of his hometown, Granger, and dream of getting on one of those trains and never coming back.

    That was in the 1920s, when both Granger and Martinets were young and in their prime. Now Granger would seem to be yet another small town with a great future behind it and Martinets has passed on; he died two days before Christmas last year... more

  • Granger, Texas

  • Granger Chronicles According to Dan Martinets:

  • The Tailor and the Hideaway Bride
  • The Double Murder in Granger, 1934
  • "Rip" Torn and "Sissy" Spacek Cousins from Granger
  • Polly want a Galleta?

  • Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

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  • Cooking the Books 5-16-21
  • It Was That Kind of Railroad 4-17-21
  • The Bettina Experiment 3-17-21
  • The Midnight Ride of Bob Slaughter 2-22-21

    See more »

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