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Friday, 17 January 2014

The Crawford Disappearance


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Arkansas was a hotbed for mob activity in the first half of the 20th century. Al Capone was a frequent visitor to the state in the 1920s, spending ample time in Hot Springs to bet on horse races at Oaklawn and relax in some of the many bathhouses that lined Central Avenue. Naturally, a state this friendly to mobsters was bound to have a fair amount of shady business deals. That’s where Maud Crawford came in.
A well-known public figure in Camden and a pioneer for women in Arkansas, Crawford worked as a court stenographer before she decided to take the bar exam. Having had no formal legal classes, she aced the exam and eventually became an expert in abstract and title law. At the time of her disappearance, she was even assisting Sen. John McClellan with a congressional investigation into supposed mob ties with organized labor. Crawford’s last known whereabouts place her at home.
Her husband, Clyde, returned to their house to find her car still in the driveway, the TV on, and money in her purse. Their supposed guard dog wasn’t even fazed. The police began searching for her the next morning, but found few clues as to what could have caused her disappearance. Her body was never recovered.
In the mid-1980s, a series of articles in The Arkansas Gazette alleged that her disappearance involved Arkansas State Police Commissioner Mike Berg. Crawford was looking into a potentially illegal transfer of assets between Berg and some of his family members. Only days before disappearing, she had confronted him face-to-face about the issue. According to the articles, Odis A. Henley, the officer originally assigned to the case, reported to his superiors that all the evidence he uncovered implicated Berg as her killer. This contradicted official statements from the Ouachita Sheriff’s department that they had yet to turn up any clues in her disappearance.
His findings did little to sway the rest of the force, Henry recounted, and he was reportedly told by his superiors that “there’s too much money involved” before being reassigned. Adding to the intrigue, all of his files on Crawford disappeared after a short trip away from the office. Legally declared dead by Ouachita County in 1969, Crawford’s death was found to be the result of “foul play perpetrated by person or persons unknown.”

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