Texas Special Investigators, “Hod” Roberson and Dave Allison

On April 1, 1923, special investigators of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Roberson and Allison had come to Seminole, Texas to testify for the Gaines County grand jury in a cattle theft case the following week. It was April Fool’s Day, of course, but it was also Easter Sunday.

H. L. “Hod” Roberson had come to Seminole with his wife Martha from their home in Midland. Allison had been living in Roswell, New Mexico and had come from there. His wife Lena had not accompanied him on this trip. The investigators were staying in the Gaines Hotel along with several other individuals who were there in connection with the upcoming grand jury proceedings. After dinner, some of the guests had retired to their rooms, but Allison and Roberson remained with several others. Two individuals later identified as Milt Good and Tom Ross entered the lobby armed with a shotgun and pistols and began firing at the two investigators. Ross and Good were both suspects in cattle theft incidents and were to be considered in the grand jury proceedings. Roberson and Allison were supposed to testify in connection with their cases.

Both Allison and Roberson died from the initial attack. Martha Roberson rushed down to the lobby after hearing the gunshots. She went to her husband and seeing he was mortally wounded, retrieved a backup weapon from his body, ran to the door of the hotel and fired it toward the fleeing suspects. Accounts indicate that she hit the belt buckle of one and wounded the other in the arm and side as they fled.

Good and Ross are said to have first gone to a ranch outside Seminole where they called the local sheriff named Britton and turned themselves in. When the court convened, Good and Ross were indicted for murder and ordered to stand trial. The first trials were held in Lubbock, Texas that following summer with Ross’s taking two weeks and Good’s one week. Each suspect was to be tried separately for each murder, with the trials for Allison’s murder coming first. The prosecution and defense presented the case of each side, including prosecutors producing eyewitness testimonies against the defendants, defense claims that the victims had made motions as if to draw their weapons and that the victims had previously threatened the defendants. Ross was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. Good’s trial followed with his conviction and sentencing to twenty-six years in prison.

The trials for Roberson’s murder were to be held in Abilene, Texas. Both defendants were again convicted and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison to be added to the Allison sentences rather than served concurrently.

Both defendants were sent to Huntsville to begin serving their sentences but escaped on November 25, 1925 along with two other inmates. Ross was not recaptured, and never again served time in prison, but Good was caught in Oklahoma fairly soon after his escape and was returned to prison. Two years later in 1927 he made an unsuccessful escape attempt. He served in prison for several years until he was granted a pardon by Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in 1934 to take effect in 1935, after her term expired.

Good was later convicted of felony theft of oilfield equipment and served another short sentence in the 1940s. He died in 1960 in a freak accident while in Cotulla, Texas in which he was crushed against a fence by his own vehicle as he was trying to open a gate. In 1929, Ross reportedly killed himself rather than be captured in connection with a murder in Montana where he was living.

Sources include newspaper accounts and “From Guns to Gavels” by Bill Neal.

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