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Mark Pulliam Family Murder

William Shakespeare said "Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long."; and such is the case of Mark Pulliam. Winnie Pulliam and five of her seven children were found dead in a house fire in the Sumach Community in early November, 1942. Will Walraven was the first witness on the scene and he realized something was not right when he saw what he thought was blood in the yard, on the front steps of the home and on the mattress that held Winnie's body. George Baxter and Fred Blankenship were next to arrive at the scene and agreed that something was amiss and sent for the sheriff.

The Chatsworth Times noted the names of the victims as being Mrs. Winnie Pulliam, 36; Alvie Jean, 11; Katherine, 9; Martha, 7: and Wayne and Worth who were 3 year old twins. The entire group was buried in a single casket and the Reverend Casey officiated at the funeral. Three children were not present at the house at the time of the tragedy. Mozelle, 14 and Lovell, 5 were visiting their maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John Charles in Gordon County. The eldest child, Mark Jr. 16, was with his father at the sawmill.

Shortly thereafter, Mark Pulliam Sr., husband of Winnie, was arrested at his logging job in Rocky Face and charged with murder. Mr. Pulliam's alibi was that each weekend he spent with his family in Chatsworth and during the week he stayed with a sister in Dalton and commuted from there to his job in Rocky Face. Mr. Pulliam claimed that he knew nothing of the tragedy until he was told by the authorities. He said that he had been at home with is family on Sunday night and that Winnie had gotten up about 3 a.m. to fix him breakfast before he left. Mrs. Moore the next door neighbor claimed she had been at the Pulliam home on Sunday night and that Mark was not present. However, Mr. Pulliam's brother claimed that he came to his house on Monday morning asking for a ride to Rocky Face.

Mr. Pulliam's alibi began to unravel quickly. As deputies began to explore the events, they found that Mr. Pulliam had been keeping company with a Miss Ella Mae Hall. Her occupation was listed as a spread factory worker in Dalton. Upon questioning by the police, she admitted that she spent both Friday and Saturday nights with Mr. Pulliam in Chattanooga. They had returned to Dalton on Sunday and she had not seen Mr. Pulliam since 8 p.m. Sunday night. Miss Hall was arrested on Monday and charged with being an accessory.

A coroner's jury was convened in early 1943. Testimony from two of the Pulliam children, Mozelle and Mark Jr., indicated that Mr. Pulliam had threatened to kill them all. The county coroner, Dr. E.H. Dickie also testified that the mattress found at the home after the fire did contain blood. He also indicated that Mrs. Winnie Pulliam had been slashed across the stomach with a knife. A burnt shotgun and a knife were found at the scene.

T.W. Kenemer, an insurance agent from Dalton, was called as a witness before the coroner's jury. He claimed that four months prior to the tragedy, Mark Pulliam Sr. took out policies totaling some $2,400 issued on the lives of the twins and one other child. These polices had expired the day before the fire. On Sunday night, an unidentified couple came into the insurance agency to pay the premiums for these policies to Tom Smith another agent in the same firm. Mr. Smith acknowledged that the two people that came into the agency were Mr. Pulliam and Miss Hall.

After deliberations, the coroner's jury made the decision that Mark Pulliam, Sr. be arrested for murder and this request was submitted to the grand jury. Although Miss Hall had been arrested earlier and charged with being an accessory, the grand jury did not charge her with anything and she was released. W.E. Foster with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stated that he and his wife had taken in the surviving two Pulliam children at this time.

The trial began in February, 1943 in the Murray County Courthouse. The courtroom was filled with spectators. It was very difficult to impanel an impartial jury because a majority of the prospective jurors were either disqualified or struck by one of the attorneys. An eleven man jury was finally chosen and is listed below: W.T. McCamy, W.M. Harris, Tom S. Wilbanks, William Colvard, Fred F. Caldwell, G.C. Arthur, G.W. Taylor, M.H. Stanley, M. Odell Ingle, W.L. Richards and one name that was ineligible.

Originally the state had a list of twenty-five witnesses and the defense attorney had fifty-five witnesses that were to be called to testify. This list was quickly depleted and the final list contained no witnesses for the state and only seventeen for the defense. Testimonies and arguments by both attorneys lasted for three days. The jury deliberated for six hours and they convicted Mark Pulliam of the murder of his wife Winnie. He was immediately sentenced to life imprisonment.

This incident received national coverage. The tragedy was featured in The Sunday News distributed in New York City in January, 1948. The article was written by Ruth Reynolds and was titled "When Justice Triumphed".

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