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Gone but never forgotten

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Distant relatives of victim mark 100th anniversary of Cleveland murder

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Linda McNeil, Aspyn McNeil, and Christi Fitch at the newly cleaned-up gravesite of Annie McShan. Photo by James Hefley
  • Article Image Alt Text
    The gravesite of Annie McShan before being cleaned up over the weekend by volunteers. Photo by James Hefley

In 2013, former Municipal Court Judge Bob Steely got to work clearing brush on his vast property. The grueling task eventually led to the discovery of a gravestone. The young woman who had been laid to rest there was named Annie McShan.

McShan was the daughter of John Matthew Burkett and Barbara C. Harper. She and her twin sister Fannie were born on Feb. 23, 1901.

In 1922, McShan’s body was discovered at her home, which was located near what is now known as Pin Oak Road in Cleveland, in a state of advanced decomposition. Her two young children, a 7-month

Her two young children, a 7-monthold and a two-year-old boy, were found alive but in a state of malnourishment and infested with insect bites. The bites were so prevalent that they had caused the children’s tiny bodies to swell.

McShan had been bludgeoned to death beyond recognition by someone using a blunt object. She was later identified as the wife of Jerry McShan, from whom she had been separated for some time prior to the murder.

At the time, residents, along with various news outlets, repeatedly described the crime as the most devastating and horrendous event that Liberty County had ever seen.

Despite the fact that the crime occurred 100 years ago, sisters Linda McNeil and Christi Fitch, distant relatives of McShan, have made it a mission to keep the story alive. The two often bring the story, along with the myriad of mysterious facts surrounding it, to local residents and members of historical societies.

McNeil discovered the story while researching her family history on She was immediately enthralled.

“Though we were only related by marriage, Annie deserved justice for what happened to her,” said McNeil, who jokingly added that she and Fitch have become so familiar with the story and the characters involved that they often speak of them as if they know them personally.

After initially arresting a first suspect in the case, an article in the Wichita Daily News, dated June 25, 1922, informed readers that two more suspects had been arrested in connection with McShan’s untimely death.

Among those arrested was a 60-year-old Cleveland farmer named J. H. Bloodworth. He was later cleared of any involvement.

Brothers Tinker and Sam Boyd were the other two suspects arrested for their potential involvement in the case. Sam had been McShan’s lover. He was later acquitted and cleared of any and all involvement in the case following the testimonies of many individuals who had overheard Tinker Boyd making threatening remarks in regard to McShan, as she was living on his property at the time of the murder.

Tinker had also been seen in the vicinity of McShan’s home around the time of the murder by several witnesses. Even Sam himself claimed that he had observed what looked to be an altercation between Tinker and McShan through a window as he was attempting to visit her and her children.

Despite multiple attempts made by Tinker to dispute these witnesses and fabricate stories to support his claims of innocence, suspicion remained as many of his tales were easily discredited after more witnesses were questioned.

The San Antonio Express reported that Tinker Boyd had been found guilty in the murder of McShan. The jury deliberated a mere 20 minutes before sentencing him to 30 years behind bars.

Despite the sentencing, he never served the entirety of his sentence. Following a mass pardon, he was released, along with 7,000 other prisoners. He only served one year and 10 months of the original 30-year sentence.

In a strange turn of events, in June of 1947, only two days short of the 25th anniversary of McShan’s murder at Tinker Boyd’s hands, a log fell off a log truck, fracturing his skull and leaving him bludgeoned to death in nearly the exact manner that he had killed Annie McShan.

Upon discovery, McShan’s headstone read “Gone but never forgotten,” and McNeil and Fitch still strive to ensure she is not forgotten.

The sisters, along with McNeil’s granddaughter Aspyn, visited the gravesite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of young Annie McShan’s death.

“It’s so serene there. It really is. It’s wonderful,” said McNeil, who is currently working to produce a novelization of the story and the vast array of details and historical information she discovered throughout her mission to learn McShan’s story. “There’s so much more to it, and the story needs to be told.”

Though the gravesite is not open to the public, for further information on the Annie McShan case and its history, e-mail Linda McNeil at