Murder & Cover-Ups in Hot Springs
A Southern Town’s Sensational Untold Story from the Sixties
Thirteen-year-old Cathie Ward’s fatal fall from a horse in Hot Springs, Arkansas causes a groundswell of accusations. Frank Davis, the riding stables owner, claims it's an accident. The Sheriff’s deputies believe him, but not many others. Frank is an expert horseman and a known daredevil, who regularly jumps off a cliff atop his horse into a deep swimming hole on his ranch. And those who know him, believe catching a runaway horse would have been an easy feat for him. Seven months later, Frank commits a murder in cold blood, and the authorities begin a new investigation of Cathie’s suspicious death. What follows is a sensational true story that ends with a twist no one sees coming.
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. They hope their friend, a novice rider, is lost on a trail trying to find her way back to the stables. A search begins but sadly ends with a gruesome discovery. She’s dead and less than twenty-four hours, her funeral service and burial are held. Cathie’s 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," who once started killing, couldn’t stop.
Frank Davis marries five times and fathers five children with his last three wives. When his twenty-six-year-old, third wife tells him she’s pregnant, he responds, "Well that’s tough, my girlfriend’s pregnant and I’m going to divorce you and marry her!” He keeps his promise and the thirty nine year old marries a nineteen-year-old woman the very day his divorce is final. He can always get a woman to the altar but has a hard time keeping them . . . three of them flee his insane jealousy and disturbing behavior.
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.