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The 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events)

"Just a few weeks short of his 33rd birthday, Mr. Coffey had been part owner (along with David Heskamp and others) of the Columbia Motor Company for three years and was then the managing partner of the operation. He was also an active member of the Columbia Baptist Church and served as Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop," JIM writes in this first of three installments, more thrilling already than any "Saturday serial" at the old Rialto Theatre, and for many, the first time this strange event has been re-told.
Click on headline for complete installment

By JIM (c)

(Part 1 of 3.)

A screamer headline atop page one of the Monday, March 26, 1934 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal proclaimed to the world at large, "Bandit Slain, Aid[e] Shot in Holdup."

But, you ask, what does a fatal shooting in Louisville have to do with bucolic Columbia? Plenty, gentle reader, a gracious plenty.

In early 1934, had the Adair County News published a list of Columbia's model citizens, surely Lewis Coffey would have been considered a first among equals.



Just a few weeks short of his 33rd birthday, Mr. Coffey had been part owner (along with David Heskamp and others) of the Columbia Motor Company for three years and was then the managing partner of the operation. He was also an active member of the Columbia Baptist Church and served as Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop.

Such was the life, then, of young Mr. Coffey on that fateful Ides of March eighty-four years ago when John Austin Violette (often spelled Violett or Violet), early 30s, and Gladys E. Burdette, three weeks past her 21st birthday, a young couple with Marion County, Ky., roots, sashayed into Columbia Motor Co. and asked to see a certain make and model used car. Mr. Coffey told them he didn't have that particular vehicle in stock but showed them and offered to demo a new (1934) Chevy. The twosome demurred at the time but stated they might return later in the day, and made an unremarkable exit.

Around four o'clock that afternoon the duo returned, looked at the earlier proffered automobile, and asked how much trade-in Mr. Coffey would allow on their car, allegedly parked at the Adair County stockyards. (In mid-1927, the Columbia Stock Yard Co. had bought of Mrs. Mary Biggs a parcel of land "just outside city limits on the Campbellsville Pike" and opened the enterprise in late August.) After a bit, the three left the premises, ostensibly for the dual purpose of giving the couple an opportunity to test drive the vehicle and Mr. Coffey the opportunity to examine their car and make a trade-in offer.

With Miss Burdette at the wheel, Mr. Coffey in the front passenger seat, and Mr. Violette in the rear seat of the Chevy, the trio left the dealership on Greensburg Street, two blocks from the square, almost certainly made a partial loop around the stately old courthouse, and took off north on Campbellsville Street toward the stockyards. It was at this point that things went sideways. Stated the local newspaper,

"When they reached the stockyards she drove straight out the Campbellsville Road without stopping. The man stuck a gun in Mr. Coffey's side, reaching between the seats and told him to be quiet, and that if he would no harm would come to him.

"Coffey reached for the horn button and held his hand on it in an attempt to attract attention of people at the stockyards. When the horn began to blow the bandit struck him in the back of the head and stunned him. He then reached over and held Mr. Coffey's head under the dash board and held it there until the car left the main road and driven into some woods near Coburg.

"The thieves then made their captive, who was still in a dazed condition, lie face down on the floor in the rear where he remained until he was released near Finley. . .on the Marion-Taylor line," close to 30 miles nearly due north of Columbia.

To be continued.

(c) 2018 Jim.


Note: The story of the 1934 abduction of Lewis Coffey (and subsequent events) is posted in three parts:


This story was posted on 2018-03-11 04:34:06
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