CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 9, 2007 — Alan Terry Wright never forgot a promise he made to his mother before she died. Sept. 1 this year will mark the fruition of that promise, when Southeast Missouri State University releases Wright’s book Murder on Rouse Hill.
Based upon the true story of the 1915 slaying of Jasper Jacob “Jap” Francis near the tiny Ozark railroad town of Stoutland, Mo., this docudrama, as Wright has named it, brings together a gripping combination of history, research and fiction.
Wright is an investment banker and general partner of Edward JonesᾰManchester office, an international financial services firm based in St. Louis, Mo. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Business Administration and a fervent student of U.S. and Missouri history. He has been actively engaged in researching and writing Murder on Rouse Hill since 2000, when his mother, Ruby Allee Wright, encouraged him to take on the project. Not only was she a former resident of Stoutland, but her other connection to the story of Jap Francis’s murder is an eerie set of encounters that book ended her life and the novel itself.
The tale of murder relates how, around noon, Nov. 22, 1915, everyone in Stoutland, Mo., who could walk or ride rushed to view the mortal remains of Jasper Jacob “Jap” Francis, one of the area’s leading citizens. Hidden in a brush pile on nearby Rouse Hill, the victim’s body displayed the marks of a vicious killer. Yet six years later, a dozen lawyers, four doctors, 100 witnesses, four jury trials, a Missouri Supreme Court decision and the only eyewitnessᾰa Missouri fox-trotter horse named “Sam”ᾰhad not resolved the brutal murder. Nearly lynched by townsfolk and convicted in his first trial of murder with a sentence of life in prison, the accused killer Charlie Blackburn received a shocking reprieve.
Wright’s recent interviews with the accused killer’s family, the opinion of a renowned medical examiner and the report of a handwriting expert shed important new light on this nearly forgotten case. Wright’s skillful weaving of the story line with gently humorous vignettes of rural living sets this book apart from typical “true crime” stories. His love for the history and lore of Missouri helps craft a tale that rings with authenticity. Alan Terry Wright’s suspenseful tale of greed, fraud, political influence and cold-blooded murder will keep you riveted.