Neon, Tail Fins & Murder

In the era of renaissance, Route 66 is a destination, a

linear theme park stretching from the shores of Lake Michigan to the pier in Santa Monica. There was, however, a time when U.S. 66, in spite of the hype, was a highway, an artery of commerce. It was also a road of flight, for people seeking a new life, and for people fleeing from the law. Serial killers and bank robbers shared the road with truckers and vacationing families in station wagons.

In 1935, the National Guard set up check points along Route 66 in Galena, Kansas as labor violence escalated. Photo Steve Rider.

After going AWOL from Fort Hood in May 1961, eighteen year old George York, and nineteen year old James Latham set out on a cross country crime spree. On June 8, 1961, at a service station on Route 66 in Edwardsville, Illinois, York and Latham stopped for gas, robbed the station, and executed the attendant, Martin Drenovac.

The murderous pair was arrested in Tooele, Utah on June 10. As an historic footnote, after being charged with murder, sexual assault, and robbery in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas, they were charged with murder in Kansas and sentenced to the correctional facility in Lansing, Kansas. It was there that they developed a friendship of sorts with Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the murderers profiled in the Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. 

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