United States

Three killed on I-57 during robberies

June 3, 1975
I-57, United States
Four men murder three people on I-57 during robberies

The men involved were Stanley Charleston, Henry Brisbon, David Sanders, and Darrel Thompson. Together, the four decided to get money by robbing a restaurant. They changed their plans to instead “bump” cars; this ploy involved clipping other vehicles then, when the occupant pulled over, they would rob their victims at gunpoint.

The first intended victim simply walked back to her car after a gun was pulled on her; she later served as a witness against the defendants. The second vehicle the group bumped belonged to Betty Lou Harmon. After she pulled over, she was forced into the back of her car which Thompson drove. Sanders drove his car behind the stolen vehicle. Brisbon, in the car with Thompson and Harmon, forced Harmon to strip. Sometime later, Thompson stopped and Harmon fled the vehicle. Thompson caught her and brought her to Brisbon who took her into a cornfield. There, he inserted a double-barreled shotgun into her vagina and fired. The shot did not kill Harmon. After some time, Brisbon shot Harmon in the throat, killing her.

Unsatisfied with the amount of money stolen from Harmon, the group resumed bumping vehicles, with the next victims being James Schmidt and his fiancé Dorothy Cerny. After the victims and assailants pulled to the side of the road, Brisbon forced each to lay on the ground. When the couple begged for their lives, explaining they were engaged, Brisbon ordered them to “kiss their last kiss” before shooting both victims in their backs at close range.

The group then divided up the money and items stolen: $54, two watches, Harmon’s wedding ring, and Cerny’s engagement ring.

The men were only charged with the murders of Schmidt and Cerny. Thompson and Charleston pleaded guilty and testified against Sanders and Brisbon in exchange for lighter sentences. Both were sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Sanders was found guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of robbery. He was sentenced to 300 to 700 years in prison for each murder charge and 50 to 100 years for each armed robbery charge, to be served concurrently. Brisbon was sentenced to 1,000 to 3,000 years in prison. At the time, the death penalty had been abolished which spared Brisbon and Sanders from death row.

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