Murder & Cover-ups in a 1960s Southern Town
"A chilling true story with dizzying twists and turns and an ending no one saw coming."
Cathie Ward’s 7th grade pic, her last school photo!
Thirteen-year-old Cathie Ward was just breaking through a childhood wrought with loss and fear when summer break arrived after the 7th grade. She was blossoming into a teenage beauty, chased by several junior high boys but caught by only one, the quarterback. Her dysfunctional family life and outsider feelings were all but erased by her girlfriends, who admired her beauty and kindness. Everything was falling into place on Friday, June 24, 1966 as she left to go horseback riding with some school friends; but, she had a secret and later, so did someone else.
Forty-two-year-old Frank Davis, the owner of Blacksnake Ranch on the outskirts of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was his own boss since he was six years old in the dusty Texas panhandle. As the only child of hardworking parents, he ricocheted between his father’s stern ways and mother’s doting love which he carried into his marital relationships. By June 24, 1966, he was married to his fourth wife, a twenty year old who would soon have a secret that topped his.
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.