I spent my first half-hour there wandering the grounds just past the main entrance in search of five members of the Johnson Agrue family, buried there in 1941. I found them side-by-side near the top of the hill. A casual cemetery visitor might pass by these small markers and never imagine the horrific, senseless death that had befallen each grave’s occupant.
Thirty-three-year-old Virginius “Dink” Carter is one of the worst of the deplorable monsters featured in my book. He never could say exactly why he hitchhiked to his in-laws’ farm on Laughery Creek, six miles south of Aurora, on that Friday morning in May of 1941, and then, one by one, killed his wife’s parents, her brothers, and her niece, shooting each of them execution style.
Nor could he explain why he returned to the crime scene the next day and attempted to blend in with the shocked onlookers, who were anxious for answers. His indifference to the catastrophic deaths of his relatives attracted the attention of the local sheriff, who started quietly asking people in the crowd about Carter’s whereabouts the day before.
Three of the Agrues’ neighbors reported seeing Carter near the farm around the time of the shootings, and that was all the sheriff needed to hear. He immediately took Carter to jail, grilled him relentlessly, and broke him 48 hours later. Carter made a full confession and was later tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.
After I’d paid my respects to the Agrues and little Mary, I strolled down the hill, not at all certain where and how I would find Virginius “Dink” Carter’s grave among the scores of tombstones in all directions. But, oddly enough, after I crossed the main driveway, I walked directly to it. The stone that protruded through the thick, green grass bearing his amusingly misspelled name (Virginous) was, like his nickname, dinky. Even at that, in my opinion, it was too good for him. •