— Back in 1960, two sisters in their 60s lived quietly on a 1,100-acre ranch
about nine miles north of Groveton. The sisters, Lily and Hattie Bauer, seemed
to treasure the big spread, mostly for the quiet and privacy.
ran 70 head of cattle on the property, a flock of chickens and a garden. Their
nearest neighbor was three miles away and the pair only occasionally had
visitors. They were self-sufficient, but their nephew Marvin Bauer, 30, lived
in a separate house on the ranch with his wife, Rosa, and teenage stepson.
told Trinity County Sheriff Lynn Evans he found the bodies of his two aunts on
Dec. 27, 1960 after returning from Houston, where he spent Christmas with his
drove to the Trinity County Jail and found Deputy Lloyd Pruitt as he was
leaving the courthouse the afternoon of Dec. 27, 1960, according to reports
published in the Bryan Daily Eagle.
Lloyd, there’s something awful happened out at the place,” Pruitt said on the
Pruitt went to the ranch, he found Lily Bauer lying on her back on the front
porch wearing pajamas with a jacket and leather moccasins. Hattie was in bed in
day after the bodies were found, Marvin gave a statement to Trinity County
Attorney Albert Hutson III and it was witnessed by Evans
gathering evidence, Evans believed Marvin Bauer killed the two women. The man’s
defense team told jurors that Lily Bauer had been diagnosed with
manic-depression and had frequent angry outbursts. The defense’s theory was
that Lily killed her sister and then committed suicide.
that first survey of the crime scene, the deputy found a full cup of coffee on
the kitchen table, as well as an empty one on the arm of the sofa in the living
room. A turkey had been left to thaw on the kitchen drainboard.
box of young turkeys was beside an unlit heater. Some of them were dead.
dogs were also in the house.
appeared as if the women had been killed before their holiday meal was
Lufkin Pathologist Dr. Jack Pruitt told the jury that he examined
the two bodies at a funeral home in Groveton under court order.
Dr. Pruitt found a burn on Lily Bauer’s left palm.
The pathologist was questioned closely regarding his finding that
the gun was one-fourth to one-half inch away from her body when the shot was
fired. The written report made at the time described it as a contact wound. He
also believed they had died sometime on Dec. 25.
Paraffin tests of Miss Lily’s hands showed no nitrate burns from
firing a gun, but admitted the imprints were in poor condition when he received
them from Trinity County authorities.
murder weapon was a 20-gauge shotgun that belonged to Marvin Bauer.
firearms expert testified that no usable fingerprints were found on the gun.
B. Eaves, a highway patrolman on leave to serve with the U.S. Army at Fort
Riley, Kansas, identified a 20-gauge shotgun as the murder weapon.
said he and Deputy Sheriff Freeman Brown of Groveton took the gun from the
scene and had it examined at the Houston Police Department crime lab.
attorney Charles Tessmer pointed out that fingerprints had not been collected
from the gun before it was removed.
Marvin Bauer spent the night with his aunts Christmas Eve,
reportedly because he became ill that evening and went to bed at their house
early in the evening.
The aunts gave him two cartons of cigarettes as a gift, then
everyone went to bed.
He planned to leave for Houston at 4 a.m. Christmas Day. Lily offered to make the
defendant breakfast, but he declined.
In a second statement given to investigators, Bauer said he had
been outside feeding, but it was still dark when he went back into his aunts’
He called out to Aunt Lily, who he could see sitting by the
fire. Lily came to the door and opened
the wooden door. When she unhooked the screen, Marvin opened it with his left
He held the shotgun in his right hand and he laid the barrel of
the gun across his left arm and pulled the trigger, the statement said.
Rosa Bauer testified that Marvin stayed home to feed the cows, and
that it was her idea to visit her family for Christmas. She said he behaved
normally during the Houston trip.
By the time the case came to trial, Rosa was also pregnant.
She also spoke about the night of Marvin’s arrest. A story that
was echoed by Percy Foreman who also took the stand.
Foreman said he had known the defendant since he was 18 months
old, and knew the defendant’s father well.
He learned about the impending arrest while at the Houston Police
station about 1 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 31, 1960.
He called the defendant’s mother’s house before noon and made
arrangements to meet Bauer downtown.
Bauer was arrested while en route to the meeting with Foreman.
Bauer’s wife called and told Foreman of the arrest.
Foreman said he placed numerous phone calls looking for Bauer from
the time he met Mrs. Bauer until after midnight.
He called Texas Ranger headquarters at least six times and said
the person who answered denied any knowledge of Bauer.
Marvin Bauer was arrested on a Houston street at 5 p.m. Dec. 31,
1960. He was questioned in the Texas Rangers’ Houston office and then taken to
Groveton to his aunts’ home.
During questioning that followed, he signed a second statement
admitting the crimes at 4 a.m. New Year’s Day.
that he feared for his life if he didn’t confess after his arrest New Year’s
Eve. He claimed that Evans and the Rangers “talked rough” to him.
was going to confess to these killings or he was going to arrest my wife and
boy (his stepson Roy Kaase). He had as good a case against them,” Bauer told
Ranger Harvey Phillips of Woodville.
told jurors he could see the large pool of dried blood on the floor from where
he was seated at the house, and that she drowned in her own blood, as a result
of my shooting.
A hearing on the admissibility of that second statement included
testimony from Texas Rangers Ed Gooding, Mark Jones and Hollis Sullivan,
Trinity County Deputy Sheriff Freeman Brown, Houston Post Reporter Gayle
McNutt, and Joe Thorpe, a criminal investigator with the Harris County
The officers said Marvin Bauer was not mishandled during the 11
hours they detained him.
They said he was offered food, but refused. He was allowed to
smoke as much as he wished.
Evans said Bauer did not ask to call a lawyer, but that he would
have allowed him to make the call.
believed he had a secret weapon to help him escape a murder conviction —
legendary defense attorney Percy Foreman.
after the murder, both Percy and Zemmie Foreman signed on to defend Marvin.
They had known their client since he was 18 months old. Later it was reported
that a distant relative of the Foreman brothers had been questioned as a
not clear when Zemmie Foreman moved on to other cases, but Percy’s departure
drew plenty of press, and a rebuke from the judge. He resigned just two days
before the trial was set to begin.
don’t consider an attorney like that worthy of being held in contempt,” said
Judge John M. Barron. “Any attorney who abandons his client … and withdraws —
runs out on him, if you please — is not worthy of appearing in any court in
this State. Marvin Bauer ought to be glad also that a man like that withdrew
from his case.”
before jury selection was to begin, the defense asked for a continuance since
they had not had time to interview some witnesses due to Foreman’s departure
just before trial.
defense also objected to R.C. Musselwhite’s participation as a special
prosecutor, since he also advised an attorney representing members of the
defendant’s family who have filed a civil lawsuit against the defendant.
had been hired by John Bauer to be represent him in a civil lawsuit against
Ann Fogarty of Houston, a legal secretary who had helped the sisters prepare
their wills, testified that each sister left her share of the ranch to Bauer,
with the exception of the house they lived in and the acre of land it stood on.
survivor of the two sisters would continue living in the house, but it would go
to Bauer when both had died.
Two of the strongest defense witnesses were a woman who had lived
with Lily Bauer for 15 or 16 years, and a Houston neurosurgeon who treated Lily
for over a year for “an obvious depression” in 1938 and 1939.
Mrs. John Allen Martin said Lily claimed she was 27 when she
rented a room in Marvin’s Houston Home in 1938. After Lily’s death, Martin learned
that she was actually 10 to 15 years older than that.
Miss Lily’s mother had told Martin not to allow Lily to use gas
About a week after she moved in, Martin opened the door to the
room and found it filled with gas.
Lily claimed she had tried to turn on the stove because she was
Martin found Lily crying on a side porch shortly after she moved
into the home.
Martin suggested Lily see a doctor, but she did not know why she
The woman testified that Lily ‘had a nervous breakdown’ while at
her home and was away for several months.
She added that Lily had a ‘very bad temper’.
“I liked her, but I kept out of her way,” Martin said.
Dr. Greenwood described Lily’s illness as a form of
manic-depression, adding that he had only seen her in the depression phase of
The doctor said that Lily wasn’t released from his care, but
rather didn’t come back for further treatment.
During cross-examination, Greenwood said patients have a 50-50
chance of recurrent “attacks” of the illness.
Louise C. Bauer, 75, the sister of the two dead women, was called
but refused to answer one of Musselwhite’s questions and gave “peppery” answers
to others, the Eagle reported.
Louise said she did not get along with her sister, Lily.
“I was scared of her,” she said. “Lily had a terrible temper.”
Louise also testified that Lily shot “many a chicken hawk with the
Two of Marvin’s first cousins, Calvin and Roger, testified about
Marvin’s good character, and Aunt Lily’s quick temper.
Roger Bauer testified that he stayed with the aunts for three or
four weeks while painting their house at the Thousand Pines Ranch, and they did
not speak to each other the entire time.
Roger Bauer said he had been questioned by Ranger Harvey Phillips,
who “talked a little rough now and then” during questioning.
Other witnesses testified that Roger was in Houston on the night
of Dec. 24, 1960 and the following morning
the defense suggested that an unknown third party killed the two women and
Bauer’s confession was obtained under duress.
Jurors also heard from the plant manager of the Fort Bend
Telephone company, who brought microfilm records of incoming and outgoing calls
for Dec. 25, 1960.
Those records showed a call from the defendant’s mother to the
Highway Patrol in Houston at 4 a.m. that day.
A collect call from a “Morgan” Bauer in Trinity was also placed to
Mrs. Bessie Bauer in Katy.
Records show the call was made at 5:40 a.m.
A Trinity telephone operator also testified that the call was
placed from a toll booth in front of the phone company’s Trinity office.
Mrs. Bauer, the defendant’s mother said her son appeared normal
when he arrived at her home about 8:30 a.m. Christmas Day.
When Musselwhite questioned why she kept the telephone tickets
from that day, she said she had every telephone ticket for about two years at
case finally went to the jury at 9:45 p.m. Tuesday March 20, after nine days of
hearing evidence. At 2:40 p.m. the next day, they returned a guilty verdict.
Marvin Bauer was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1972. He died Aug. 14, 2000 in Austin.