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Who Was Thurman Martin Really? The Tomato Patch Murder III Katie's Version

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"...And if you were late he'd cuss you and beat you when you got home. And then I had to come home, change into old clothes, and fix a humongous dinner, and then after dinner was fixed, you couldn't eat until he got ready, and if it was cold whenever he got ready to eat, you got cussed out and beat for that. And when dinner was over nothin' was ever to his likin'. You'd either get it throwed off the table or throwed at you, or anything." Katie Crowder

Words come to me in flurries of shimmering minor tones of somber remembrance. I received an email recently, from a source I'm not at liberty to reveal, that gives me four more incidents of abuse from the sundry criminal annals of Thurman Martin, the notorious granddaddy of Billy Crowder, who had to shoot this evil old geezer while he slumbered, back on May 18, 1997.

The vital new information (acquired by email) of Thurman Martin's flagrant abuses against his immediate family (in the 1970s), put enough fire under me (and got me off my fat fanny so as), to act as an enabler in dusting off my old Tomato Patch Murder Files once again.

tomato patch murder logo

I'm getting stuck in some thick Georgian mud here, but I think you see what I'm driving at. Contained within this hefty file folder, recently retrieved from my Public Storage unit, is a pristine, typed court transcript of Katie Crowder on the witness stand, when she was questioned by Billy's defense attorney, Hal Peel. Court TV had filmed the trial, branded 'The Horse and Buggy Trial,' by Dan Browden in his prologue spiel.


These particular loops, which I taped on my VCR back in January of 1999, are of Katie's testimony on 7/15/1998. It doesn't get any more graphic in terms of the abuse Katie suffers (as recalled in her testimony) from the tongue and hands of her deviant granddaddy.

Katie's demeanor (on the fragile VHS tape) is as serious as one person's can get. Her hair has a sandy brown color and is pulled back in a ponytail. Katie is slightly pudgy from this 1998 taping and is highly emotional while recalling what Thurman did to her (and to Billy or to her grandmother).

Indeed, on several occasions while shocking words describing chilly events spill out of her mouth in rapid succession, Hal Peel had to hand her a Kleenex tissue to dry up her eyes when copious tears spontaneously welled up in them. Let me just say right up front, that Katie was found guilty of 'hindering the apprehension of a criminal' (this would be Billy Crowder and John Stanton, I suppose) and was given six years probation for what she'd done.

tomato patch frontyard

This is a fancy way of saying Katie helped to cover up the crime. Apparently, she wiped the walls clean of her granddaddy's blood. Whether she helped to bury Thurman in the yard (see the photo) and plant tomatoes on the fresh red dirt, is not something I'm quite clear on yet. Now I will throw out a few bits and pieces of some particular recollections Katie had, but I'll holdout on giving you too big of a portion, since I hope to write a short book on this entire story. How did Thurman Martin go about stalking Katie (and why did he do it) when she would visit her stepfather in Brunswick, Ga.?

Katie's daily schedule is described on page 4 of my carefully typed out transcript. Katie would have to hop out of bed every day and cook a humongous breakfast for a very hungry Thurman. Then she had to run to school, living in fear of the monster all day, until she'd have to race home and fix a huge dinner for this big jerk, who often started on the bottle, and probably got stinkin' drunk every night for the rest of his days, up to the time when the Crowders had to kill him.

tomato patch thurman martin

These atrocities went on for six years and it's a wonder Katie managed to survive this insanity (the relentless beatings and verbal abuse of a vipers' tongue). You're a brave and strong person, Katie (if you ever read my piece), and I hope to interview you sometime. It could even be an email interview, if it's too painful to do one in person or by phone.

I'm sure you need to forget it all, but people want to know your story and want to know everything about Thurman's past and why he turned out the way he did. Was he a member of the KKK ever? If he was, people will want to know. Plenty of people may be hesitant in speaking out on this sensitive issue, but it should be made known, if it's true.

I sure don't know that it is, but Thurman Martin seems to fit the mold of such a backwards person, unless I've seen too many movies, such as Mississippi Burning. *(Better get out of here before he gets me. I'm scared of the ghost of TM myself. I know he's dead, but he cast such a long shadow of fear and intimidation, before he departed the corporeal realms, that his evil spirit just doesn't seem to want to go away nowadays.) As if putting it in parenthesis will hide it from a scrutinizing public eye!

John Kays identifies timeless remnants from our past that will endure, or be admired by future generations. Read more stories by John Kays.

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