A Century of Murder, Mayhem, and Fraud in Jacksonville

November 10, 2014 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Do you really know your next door neighbor? Over the last century, Jacksonville has been the home of several interesting characters and residents who operated on the other side of the law. Here's a few from Jacksonville's notorious past.

5. John J. Mendenhall

Image courtesy of Jax Psycho Geo at http://jaxpsychogeo.com/all-over-town/murder-in-jacksonville/

John Mendenhall was known as the Pinellas County citrus king. In 1914, Mendenhall feel in love with a young lady who attempted to exploit a large sum of money from him. Mendenhall responded by shooting the young woman and her mother to death in July 1915. He attempted to kill the chauffeur carrying them too but he successfully fled. Mendenhall was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

In prison, Mendenhall became a model prisoner and was put in charge of construction. In 1923, Jacksonville physician Ralph Greene, designed the electric chair while Cook's Cabinet Shop on Newnan Street fashioned it.  In 1924, Mendenhall installed it at the Florida State Prison in Raiford.

60 and stricken with cancer, Mendenhall was pardoned in July 1930 after being incarcerated for 15 years. Finally free, Mendenhall moved to Jacksonville, working construction and shipyard jobs to support himself. Living in an Adams Street rooming house, he befriended Mary Rae Anderson and her Laura Matilda Green. In 1934, both ladies were found beaten to death. Mendenhall declared his innocence, claiming he was home playing rummy when they were murdered. However, his fingerprints were found on a knife, hammer, and his blood on a sheet. He also had scratches on his hands and wrists.

However, Mendenhall claimed he had done handyman work for the ladies, which is why his prints were on the knife and hammer. The scratches and blood came from him saving the senile mother from attempting to run into the St. Johns River.

Mendenhall's second murder trial lasted several days. Finally, the jury deliberated and John J. Mendenhall was found not guilty!

Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times.

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