Bitty Martin, author

Murder & Cover-Ups in Hot Springs:

The 1966 True Story that Frightened a Southern Town

Hot Springs, AR, USA

©2019 by Bitty Martin, Author. Proudly created with

Murder & Cover-Ups in Hot Springs

A True Story that’s Never Been Told

The shocking true story of a teenaged girl’s 1966 death at a horse ranch that throws suspicion on the owner and turns a Southern town against him.


Cathie Ward’s 7th grade pic . . . her last school photo!

In June 1966, Cathie Ward and a few of her thirteen-year-old girlfriends go horseback riding at Black Snake Ranch on the outskirts of town and when it’s time to return home, Cathie can’t be found. Her friends know she’s a novice rider and think she's lost on a trail trying to find her way back to the stables. A search begins but sadly ends with a gruesome discovery. Less than twenty-four hours, Cathie's funeral service is held and her junior high school friends are traumatized, not understanding how their friend could be alive one day and dead the next. They will spend a lifetime, wondering what actually happened to her; and Hot Springs will continue to fear the man described as "evil personified” in this true story that ends with a twist no one sees coming.


Frank Davis, the owner of Black Snake Ranch, marries five times and fathers five children with three wives. He can always get them to the altar but has a hard time keeping them ~  three escape his insane jealousy and cruel behavior. When his twenty-six-year old third wife tells him she’s pregnant (with their second child), he tells her, “Well that’s tough, I’m divorcing you and marrying my pregnant girlfriend!” The thirty-nine-year old keeps his word and marries his nineteen-year-old bride the very day the divorce is final.


Bitty Martin & childhood friend, Leslie Tracy Swinford, take Cathie Ward’s 1966 skateboard on a 2018 visit to her Murfreesboro, Arkansas grave.

After reading the most books in my Jones School 3rd grade class, I participated each year in the summer reading programs at our Hot Springs, Arkansas library and haven’t stopped reading since. I’m deeply indebted to my mother, Dorothy Martin, and 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Dugan, for instilling in me the love of books. That’s the basis of any writer’s credentials, like playing peewee ball for a Major League baseball player. 

Completing my “college books” and earning a BSBA with a major in marketing, I joined the Little Rock media community as an Account Executive with Arkansas Times, KATV-Channel 7/ABC affiliate, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Later, I returned to college to become a registered nurse then traveled America for almost 2 decades as an operating room nurse from NYC to LA; and everywhere I went, Cathie Ward accompanied me in my childhood memories. But it wasn't until 2014 when an eerie event gave me the cue to reinvestigate her death and the frightening chain of events that have been told like folk tales around Hot Springs since 1966.