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Episode 94 The Crime Tourist Slayings

Lester Brocklehurst, Jr was a Sunday school teacher who grew bored of his life. In 1937 he and his girlfriend hit the road on a multi state crime spree that ended with dozens of armed robberies and three murders

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Al Capone, “Lucky” Luciano, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd….and Bonnie and Clyde. They’re some of the most recognizable gangsters and outlaws of the 1920s and 30s. Their crimes and crime sprees are well documented and their stories have been fictionalized for film and told from unique perspectives in countless books.

Then there’s Lester and Bernice.

Lester Brocklehurst, Jr and Bernice Felton
Photo: Ft Worth Telegram-Star 1937

If you’ve never heard of Lester Brocklehurst Jr or Bernice Felton, you’re not alone. Their story’s buried pretty deep in the annals of 1930s crime. 

But it’s quite a story because Lester was a Bible-toting guy who met and fell in love with Bernice. In 1937 the pair set out on what would become a six week multi state crime spree.

By the time the pair realized they could be tried, convicted and sentenced to life, their love story fell apart. Bernice claimed she was forced to travel with Lester because she was pregnant with his child and helpless to do anything about the crimes he committed.

Lester claimed Bernice encouraged him to murder and steal from innocent victims because she wanted money for the baby and loved the thrill of being on the run.

Hear the whole story in the new episode of Southern Mysteries.

“The only thing that brought me down to this was a slight love affair with a girl. I don’t want her to get the chair, but she is just as guilty as I.”

Lester Brocklehurst, Jr’s final words
Captured in NY! Bernice and Lester pictured with state troopers
Photo: San Antonio Light, May 1937

Episode Sources

Officers of Four States Hunt Pair. Anniston Star. May 9, 1937

Holdup Killer Caught in N.Y. Abilene Morning News. May 14, 1937

Three States Attempt to Get Brocklehurst. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. May 14, 1937

Killer Gives Own Story of Crime Career. The Sacramento Bee. May 14, 1937

Sanity Question Stirs Anger of Accused Slayer. The Daily Oklahoman. May 27, 1937

Brockelhurst, Ordered to Die, Falls in Faint. The Richmond Times Dispatch. June 26, 1937

Killer’s Companion Freed of Murder. The Richmond Times Dispatch. June 26, 1937

Bernice Felton Is Indicted by U.S. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. September 25, 1937

Brocklehurst Fights for Life As Child Is Born. Kenosha News. December 17, 1937

Girl Begins Time for Crime Tour. The Wichita Eagle. May 29, 1939

What’s Behind the Man Behind the Thumb? The News Tribune. July 30, 1939

Gangsters, Mobsters & Outlaws of the 20th Century. Legends of America. February 2020

Gangsters During the Depression. American Experience PBS. 

Bernice Felton, Half of a Serial Killer Couple – Illinois, 1937. Unknown Gender History. January 2, 2021

Episode Music

Ossuary 1 The Beginning, Dark Times, Despair and Triumph, Ambient by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source: http://incompetech.com; No 2 Remembering Her – Esther Abrami Licensed under Creative Commons. Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.