The Death of Lester E. Cantrell

Man Held In Fatal Stabbing In Parking Lot At Hospital

    An Anderson man, Lester E. Cantrell, 44, of 429 Horseshoe Bend, was fatally stabbed in the parking lot at Anderson Memorial Hospital shortly before dawn Sunday morning in what had all the appearances of being the bloody termination [of a] triangular romance.
    Auston Dacus Vinson, 38, who allegedly wielded the deadly weapon, is being held at the Anderson County Jail.
    HIS WIFE, Mrs. Dorothy Vinson, 35, central figure in the tragedy, leaped from the car also occupied Sunday morning by Cantrell, ran to the hospital emergency room to ask that officers be called.
    A police car arrived within a few minutes, but by that time, Cantrell had been mortally wounded although he was still alive.
    A charge that police were slow in getting the wounded man out of the station wagon and into the emergency room was denied by Ptl. Billy Newton.
    A NURSE at the scene told The Daily Mail she estimated Cantrell lay bleeding 10 minutes in his station wagon while police stood by and waited until Mrs. Ida Dobbins, night supervisor, and two orderlies came from the hospital and got the mortally wounded man. He died minutes later in the hospital emergency room with 26 stab wounds, one of which was in the heart and two more of which severed major arteries.
    Ptl. Newton, who said he arrived at the scene as Vinson, of Rt. 5, Seneca, was walking from the station wagon in which Cantrell lay dying, heatedly denied charges, they had failed to do all they could for the wounded man.
    HE SAID he placed Vinson under arrest, leaving him with Ptl. Harold Huff while he ran into the hospital for help. He said the front door of the hospital was locked and stated that he had to run around the hospital to the emergency room, call Mrs. Dobbins, and get the nightwatchman to unlock the front door so a stretcher could be carried to the station wagon.
    The officer denied that police did not help place the man on the stretcher and estimated that less than five minutes elapsed from the time of the stabbing until Cantrell had reached the emergency room. "We had to get a stretcher. We couldn't have picked him up. We couldn't walk right in with blood spewing from him. Every stitch of clothes on him was wet with blood." the officer stated.
    THE OFFICER said the doctor attending Cantrell said he was mortally wounded in at least three places and would not have lived to reach the hospital if he had not been there already.
    Nurses who watched as the victim was carried into the hospital said they did not know if Mrs. Dobbins actually asked for assistance from the police.
    Vinson, being held in County Jail, gave police a statement indicating that he had threatened Cantrell on a previous occasion and declaring that he had informed Sheriff D. H. Crenshaw in Oconee County that he proposed to kill Cantrell.
    THE FIRST police car arrived at the hospital parking lot within moments after an emergency call. Officer Newton said he and Ptl. Huff were four blocks away. Right behind them came Ptl. John Hooper and Paul Jordan.
    As a doctor and nurses worked to save Cantrell, Mrs. Dorothy Vincent [sic], 35, wife of Austin Vinson stood at the door of the emergency room. "I wish I could die and go with Lester," she sobbed. She said she was in the 1963 Comet station wagon with Cantrell when her husband ran up and began stabbing Cantrell. She ran to the emergency room and asked that police be called.
    CAPT. WALT Embler, Coroner Tom Tolly, and Ptl. Newton, Huff, Hooper, and Jordan heard Vinson give a detailed statement at the Police Station about 4:15 a. m. Sunday.
    Vincent [sic] said he is an employee of the Clemson University dairy farm. He said that Saturday afternoon he went to his wife's car, got into the luggage compartment, and locked himself in. He first practiced taking the lock off from inside the compartment.
    About three hours later, he said his wife drove off with him concealed in the compartment. He heard a dance in progress where she stopped. Later she drove away and parked again.
    There Vinson took a wrench and freed himself from the compartment. He got out and found he was in the front parking lot of the hospital.
    VINSON SAID he sat down on the front steps of the hospital and waited. About 4:10 a. m. he saw Cantrell drive up in the station wagon, accompanied by Mrs. Vinson.
    "The motor was still running and he started backing. While he was still backing, I was stabbing, and I kept on until he hit the flagpole," he told officers. He said he planned for months to attack Cantrell and said he warned his wife.
    "I TOLD MY wife if she couldn't have me, she wasn't going to have Lester Cantrell. She wasn't going to take my heart and take his too. I may regret this before it is over with, but I don't regret it now," he told officers. He said he didn't attack his wife "because she had six children to look after."
    Mrs. Vincent told officers that she and Cantrell went together some eight years ago, but said she had not seen him recently until three weeks ago. On July 4 she said she went to a dance and saw Cantrell there. They talked and they agreed to meet at the hospital parking lot.
    She said they went in Cantrell's car to Lake View Drive-in near Twin Bridges, drank several beers, and returned to the hospital lot, where her husband attacked Cantrell.
    Cantrell was a salesman for J. T. Melton and Co. He is survived by his wife and three children.

SOURCE: News article, Anderson, South Carolina, Anderson Daily Mail, 6 July 1964 (Monday), p. 11.
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