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Two true murder mysteries

Sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time can simply make for an inconvenience, like getting delayed in a traffic jam. For these Kentuckians, however, it was a deadly mistake. 

In the mid- 1970s, Bowling Green appeared to be a perfectly sized, perfectly friendly Southern town with plenty of activities, restaurants and cozy neighborhoods. A darker side of the town, though, earned it the name Little Chicago due to underworld dealings involving the nation’s largest car theft ring, hit men, alcohol and dynamite. 

The ease of hiring someone to carry out revenge made it possible for partners in an Elizabethtown automobile dealership to attempt to get their due from Dusty Rhodes, who sold them the failing business. What the Bowling Green hitman didn’t count on was Rhodes’ wife, Peggy, triggering the bomb. Bowling Green author Gary West in his book, Murder on Youngers Creek Road, (Acclaim Press, $24.95) reopens the investigation into this 1975 murder. 

Decades earlier, in Lexington, 27-year-old Marion Miley was making national headlines as a champion golfer, often traveling to tournaments. Miley’s home base was an apartment she shared with her mother, Elsie, at the Lexington Country Club. 

On the eve of her departure for an Ohio tournament, Marion woke to intruders looking for the cash Elsie had taken in during that evening’s dance at the club. The thieves were banking on Elsie being alone, making for an easy take. Taken by surprise at Marion’s strength and aggressive defense, the thieves shot both of them. Marion died at the scene and Elsie died several days later. 

Lexington author Beverly Bell recounts in vivid details the Miley murders and the hunt for their killers in The Murder of Marion Miley, (South Limestone Books, $19.95), bringing back the impact of this notorious 1941 crime on Lexington’s social scene. Because of her extensive research, Bell was a featured consultant in Kentucky Educational Television’s documentary about the legendary golfer. 

—Penny Woods 

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