Forgery and a Burning Bed: The Saga Of Miss Wilma Jones

In March of 1930, the sensational story of a woman being gagged and tied up, and left to die in a burning hotel bed resulted in banner headlines splashed across the front pages of many Texas daily newspapers.

The full story, however, is a bit more complex, and unfolded over a number of days in late March, 1930.

On March 19, Miss Wilma Jones, 23, of Buffalo, Texas, was in Fairfield in Freestone County because she had been accused of forging a check on the account of one G.S. Moore, a prominent businessman from Oakwood, Texas. During her testimony, she fainted and was carried off to her room at the Cook Hotel. [1]

That night, around 10 p.m., others in the hotel were awakened by the sound of banging on a wall, coming from Miss Jones’ room. Upon arriving at the room, she was found with her legs tied, gagged, and next to a burning bed.

Miss Jones was unable to identify her attacker when rescued, and Moore was arrested overnight at his home in Oakwood.[2] She was in a “weakened condition,” as a result of drugs given to her to sedate her after she fainted in court earlier in the day. [3]

Moore was formally charged the next day, March 20, with arson and assault with intent to murder.[4] However, he was not the culprit.

On March 24, 1930, Jones named a young man “as the person who last Wednesday night set fire to the hotel room bed on which she was bound and gagged.”[5] The confession was given in front of W.V. Geppert, the county attorney of Freestone County, Texas Rangers, and members of the press. Jones “declared she did not reveal the name of the young man previously because she did not want to upset his mother.”[6]

The man, however, was Tom, or “Tommie” Dodd of Buffalo. Jones lived with Dodd and his mother.

Tom Dodd had visited Miss Jones’ hotel room after she was removed from the trial following her fainting episode. Dodd himself was actually part of the forgery case, but not charged or a known suspect at the time. He allegedly received $148 from the proceeds of the check on which Miss Jones allegedly signed G.S. Moore’s name, and had promised to pay her back those funds in order that she could render them to the court at the time of the trial. She may have committed the forgery at his behest.

After her fainting episode, Tom Dodd came to Miss Jones’ hotel room to tell her he did not have the money to pay her back. She reportedly told Dodd she would tell the county attorney the truth the following day. Afterward, Dodd threatened Miss Jones and told her he would tie her to a bed and set it ablaze. Miss Jones thought he was joking. He was not. He bound her feet with a curtain, and stuffed one of her stockings in to her mouth. Miss Jones heard Dodd strike a match and then smelled smoke as Dodd slipped out of the room in his “socked feet.” Miss Jones said she rolled herself off the bed, and bumped her head against the wall to attract the attention of hotel guests or staff.[7]

Both Tom and his mother, Sarah Jane Dodd, 50, were later charged as accessories in the forgery case. Mrs. Dodd was released under $500 bond, but her son was held for further questioning.[8]

The case had been so sensational and attracted such attention that Texas Governor Dan Moody actually offered a state reward for the capture of the assailant. G.S. Moore added $100 to the $250 reward announced by Moody shortly his arrest.


[1] “Girl Left To Die Bound To Blazing Bed.” Amarillo Globe, March 20, 1930, p. 1.

[2] ibid

[3] “Girl Left To Die Bound To Blazing Bed.” Amarillo Globe, March 20, 1930, p. 1.

[4] ibid

[5] “Girl In Alleged Burning Attempt Signs Confession.” Corsicana Sun, Monday, March 24, 1930, p.1.

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

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Vince Leibowitz

Publisher & Editor at Contemporary Texas History
Vince Leibowitz is a journalist, author, and historian. He is the Publisher and Editor of Contemporary Texas History.

He lives in Colorado County, Texas with his two dogs, Lyndon "Puppy" and Senfronia.

He serves on the Colorado County Historical Commission and as Managing Editor of The Colorado County Citizen.

He recently secured a Texas Historical Marker for Etta Moten Barnett. the first black woman to sing solo in the White House. In April, 2019, he was named South Texas Press Association Journalist of the Year for Division I.
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