The Death of Lester E. Cantrell - part 3

Accused Slayer Treated After Jail Cell Seizure

    Austin Doffice Vinson, 38, Rt 5, Anderson, charged after an inquest Wednesday with murdering Lester Cantrell, 47, 429 Horseshoe Bend, Anderson, July 5 "became ill or otherwise disturbed in his cell early today and had to be transported to Anderson Memorial Hospital for treatment," Sheriff W. J. "Bub" Erskins reported.
    Night Jailor Wallace Davis was summoned to Vinson's cell by other inmates who were awakened by screams about 2 a. m. today.
    VINSON WAS found on the floor of his cell and taken to Anderson Memorial Hospital, treated and returned to his cell within a span of about two hours. It was understood doctors gave him a sedative.
    Sheriff Erskine told The Daily Mail today "Vinson just lost control." Until the display early today Vinson had maintained a clam and unconcerned composure through his arrest, stay in County Jail and Inquest Wednesday.
    Vinson heard without sign of emotion the verdict of Coroner Tom Tolly's inquest jury Wednesday holding him responsible for the fatal knife stabbing of Cantrell.
    IT WAS the same kind of composure Vinson had maintained since his arrest about 4:10 a. m. Sunday near the front of the same hospital where he was treated today.
    Those testifying at the two-hour long inquest include: Vinson, Mrs. Dorothy Vinson, Mrs. Lucille Cantrell, Ptm. Billy Newton, Capt. Walt Embler, and Michael Cantrell.
    THE COURTROOM in Anderson Courthouse was packed and emotions among the spectators, many from Oconee County and personally connected with one of the two families, nearly exploded from time to time during the course of the inquest.
    Ptm. Newton was first to testify and since he was the arresting officer and first to arrive at the scene Sunday outlined what he saw and the series of events which followed.
    "When we arrived I saw Austin Vinson coming out from behind a 1963 Comet station wagon. He walked up to me, handed me the bloody Scout knife with a five-inch blade and said, 'I killed that [marks here indicate a deleted expletive] Lester Cantrell'. I placed him under arrest, then took a look at Cantrell," Ptm. Newton testified.
    IT WAS brought out Cantrell has 26 stab wounds in his chest, back and arms. Dr. Charles Browne arrived at the hospital and treated Cantrell. He died 45 minutes later.
    In a statement Mrs. Vinson said she left home about 7 p. m., drove to Anderson and went to a dance at the VFW Club (it turned out to be the American Legion Hut), Ptm. Newton related. There she met Cantrell, who called her off the dance floor and said he wanted to talk to her about a divorce case a Mr. Scott was trying to get them involved in as witnesses. It was agreed they couldn't talk at the dance, so they left and met again at the hospital parking lot. They went to the Lake View Drive-In, near Twin Bridges, drank some beer and returned to the parking lot about 4 a. m.
   Coroner Tolly inquired when she first became acquainted with Cantrell.
    "Years ago," Mrs. Vinson replied. "We told each other our troubles. I've seen him a few times in the past few months, but not like people would like to think.
    VINSON WAS told he could testify, but did not have to, and that if he did what he said could be used against him then or later. He replied that he wanted to testify, said he had no lawyer and asked each juror to feel a swelled place on his left arm.
    "I feel like the jury here will turn me free when they hear what I have to say," he said.
    Vinson, employed at the Clemson College dairy department, said he preaches as a side line, and eight years ago learned that Cantrell had been seeing his wife.
    SHE BECAME pregnant, and I don't know whether the baby was mine or his," Vinson stated. "She continued to go with him. She'd go to dances and sometimes stay out all night. On one occasion while I was cutting wood I saw her in a car with Cantrell. I took off after them with a truck loaded with green wood and drove 70 or 80 miles an hour, but I couldn't catch them. Later on he would come by my house, blow his car horn. She would come out and go off with him. She would usually see him one night a week. Finally I wrote Mrs. Cantrell a letter. I told her to keep her husband away from my wife. I signed it "The Killer." I didn't mention any names, but she knew who I was talking about," Vinson related.
    VINSON'S TESTIMONY was lengthy and at times he went back as far as three years in attempting to link his wife and Cantrell in different affairs.
    Capt. Walt Embler said he could add nothing to Ptm. Newton's testimony.
    Mrs. Cantrell requested permission to testify and told the jury her husband had told her about Mrs. Vinson and that he tried to break off relations but she wouldn't let him. She said she had her telephone number changed three or four times trying to get away from Mrs. Vinson. She acknowledged receiving the letter signed "The Killer".
    Michael Cantrell, son of Lester Cantrell, testified his father had told him several times about the difficulties he was having with Mrs. Vinson.
    The jury deliberated about seven minutes before returning the verdict about 5 p. m. Sol. J. K. Grisso served Vinson with the murder warrant.

SOURCE: News article, Anderson, South Carolina, Anderson Daily Mail, 9 July 1964 (Thursday), p. 3.
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