Love Murder and Revenge
in 1930s’ Kentucky
by Ann DAngelo
“With spellbinding storytelling, Ann DAngelo has recovered from the dust bin of Kentucky history one of the most fascinating — but forgotten — episodes of romance, murder, and revenge in a state known for all three.” Bill Cunningham, Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court
About the Book
Dark Highway: Love Murder and Revenge in 1930s’ Kentucky
On a cold November night in 1936, the body of beautiful LaGrange businesswoman Verna Garr Taylor is found in a ditch along a lonely highway in rural Kentucky. Verna has been shot through the heart, and her fiancé, former state lieutenant governor and brigadier general Henry Denhardt insists she committed suicide. But the evidence points to murder, and General Denhardt quickly becomes the target of investigators. The general’s sensational murder trial draws reporters from all over the country to the Henry County Courthouse in New Castle, Kentucky. News articles on the case are featured in the New York Times, the London Herald, Newsweek, Time, Life, and other national and international publications. When the April 1937 trial ends in a shocking hung jury, Kentuckians including Verna’s three grieving brothers—Jack, Roy, and Doc Garr—wait in grim anticipation for the general to be tried again in September.
During the summer following his trial, the general is never far from the headlines. In July, he is accused of murdering a second woman—Patricia Wilson. The wrongful death suit by Wilson’s family accuses Denhardt of assaulting and pushing her down an elevator shaft at the Seelbach hotel. The general claims he is innocent and files a countersuit. The Wilson lawsuit is still in the court system as the September trial date approaches for Denhardt’s second murder trial. As legal forces gather against him, the general swears he will never be tried again for Verna’s death. His attorneys—John Berry, Clark Otte, and Rodes Myers—work hard to convince him otherwise. They know that prosecutor H.B. Kinsolving is interviewing new witnesses and looking forward to a second opportunity to convict the general.
But General Denhardt was right all along when he said he would not be retried. The end of his murder case is not waiting for him in New Castle, but in the small town of Shelbyville. In Shelbyville, a full harvest moon, the Garr brothers, and the general’s fate will be waiting for him on Main Street in front of the old Armstrong Hotel.
About the Cover
The mysterious figure in the road
Look closely at the cover of Dark Highway and you will see a figure in the distance that appears to be walking on the road. The photograph was taken by professional photographer Vivian Knox-Thompson of Louisville on the evening of November 6, 2015. It is an excellent photograph of the highway where Verna died, but what makes it most amazing is that Vivian and I were alone except for an occasional passing car.
By coincidence, the calendar days of November, 2015 lined up exactly with those in 1936. Verna died on Friday, November 6, 1936, and Vivian took this photograph around dusk on Friday, November 6, 2015. Originally, it was intended as a picture of the highway for this website, but it turned out to be so much more. Vivian set up her camera equipment around 5:00 p.m. We were parked in what had once been George Baker’s driveway where the Denhardt car was parked on the night Verna died. Vivian shot fifty to one hundred photographs of the highway from all angles, pointing her camera in the direction that Verna would have walked seventy-nine years earlier. I watched for cars as Vivian snapped picture after picture. We worked quietly and alone. No curious drivers stopped to ask questions, and we completed the session just as the darkness of a November night closed in around us. I asked Vivian if she could darken the photographs so that newer buildings and overhead wires would not be present. When she did, a dark figure on the highway appeared in two or three of the photographs. Most amazing is that the location of the figure is the approximate place on the highway above where Verna’s body was found in the ditch.
There is no way to explain the photograph. Vivian has been a photographer for many years and has never had anything like this happen. I have always been skeptical of spirit pictures, and I can only say that until it happens to you without a reasonable explanation, you probably remain skeptical. But having been on the highway that evening, I know that it is possible. This much appreciated gift from a spirit has become the cover for Dark Highway: Love Murder and Revenge in 1930s’ Kentucky.
- William E. Ellis
- Bill Cunningham
Finally, the ill-fated encounter of Verna Garr Taylor and General Henry H. Denhardt has been approached by a tireless researcher. Did Denhardt murder Taylor? All the known evidence is studied and laid out for the reader. Although this incident happened over three-quarters of a century ago, the themes are as fresh as the morning’s newspaper. You will read Dark Highway with a sense of awe, and realize the truth in the adage, ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same.’ Prepare to read a book you won’t want to put down until you finish the last page.
With spellbinding storytelling, Ann DAngelo has recovered from the dust bin of Kentucky history one of the most fascinating — but forgotten — episodes of romance, murder, and revenge in a state known for all three.