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MUSEUM MUSINGS: Thanks, Sheriff, for the hospitality, but I have to be going

Written by David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times on October 22, 2020

To Elmer W. Sexton’s way of thinking, just because he was breaking out of jail, there was no reason to be impolite or uncivil about the whole thing.

In August 1956, Sexton, 45, found himself in the Maries County Jail in Vienna, Missouri. The Harrison native and his wife, 41, had been arrested for forging a check for $28.50. The couple was being held for trial.

According to an account given by Maries County Sheriff, W.C. “Bill” Parker, on the night of Aug. 7, the Sextons pried a bar out of the cell they were occupying as man and wife. They then used bedsheets to lower themselves to the courthouse yard.

Sexton, though, proved to be a thoughtful escapee. He left a letter for Parker explaining the couple’s actions.

The folks at the Maries County Jail had treated them “real well,” Sexton wrote, but “incarceration began to pall after three weeks.”

Sexton went on to tell Parker that the couple could have escaped anytime, but “I hate to leave you like this.” He thanked the sheriff for treating his wife and him like human beings, and he wished Parker luck in the upcoming election.

Parker was an easygoing man who had an Andy-of-Mayberry attitude toward his job. He owned an old pistol, but rarely carried it. He was well liked, and people listened when he spoke. Parker said he enjoyed Sexton’s two-page “good-bye forever” letter, but he still wanted the prisoners back to face the forgery charges.