1936 was not so kind to a young 19-year-old NYU student Helen Clevenger. She had traveled to the mountains with her uncle, William Clevenger. He was a 54-year-old bachelor who taught agriculture and food science at NC State. This road trip with her uncle was her first foray into adulthood for the honor student.
At around 10:30 pm on the night of July 15th, Helen retired to her room, room 224, after having dinner with her uncle and some friends. There was a severe storm that night, so it was no surprise that the gunshot that took the young woman’s life was written off like a thunderclap. The following morning, at around 7:30 am, William walked down the hall and knocked on his niece’s door. When there was no answer, he tested the door and it opened easily. He walked inside to find her crumpled on the floor in her green striped pajamas. Her clothes were stained with blood and she had been badly beaten.
The cops were quickly called and an investigation was soon underway. The mystery of who murdered this young woman gripped the nation. Even the state of New York flew in detectives to help in the investigation. Who could have possibly killed this innocent young woman? And why? The need for an answer could have led to an innocent man being charged and executed for the crime.
Helen’s body was a grisly sight to behold. Her ultimate cause of death was the close-range gunshot wound to the chest by a .32 caliber gun. But the killer hadn’t stopped there. They had beaten her as well. At first, the jagged marks that had been left behind were believed to be caused by a can opener. It wasn’t until later, once they had the murder weapon, that they realized it was caused by an odd projection from the butt of the gun.
The guests at the hotel were questioned, and several suspects were detained, Mr. Clevenger was one of them. They also detained the house detective, Mr. Gaddy. The police interrogated 60 hotel staffers, but they turned their focus on two of the young black bellhops, Joe Urey and LD Roddy. They both swore they were innocent, and the investigation soon came to a standstill. A bellboy on duty had said that he had seen a mysterious man creeping about the lobby who stood around 5'9" and weighed about 160 pounds. He said the man then fled the lobby and into the hotel manager’s office before racing out the…