MoCo History: The 1932 Murder of Horace Waters (A Man Whose Ancestors Helped Settle Germantown)

The peace of the little village of Germantown was broken by the sound of gunshots on January 20, 1932. Robbers had entered Horace Waters’ store at around 7 p.m. They shot and killed Mr. Waters, a prominent citizen of Montgomery County, and wounded his clerk

Horace Waters was known to carry a large amount of cash, and often loaned money to local people in need, both white and black. He operated a general store in Germantown at the corner of Germantown Road and Clopper Road for more than 50 years. A grandson of one of the first settlers of the area, William Waters, Horace was a director of the Farmer’s Banking and Trust Company of Rockville and well respected in the community.

On the evening of January 20, 1932, Mr. Waters was sitting behind his desk at the rear of the store, and his clerk, Richard Bennett, was at the counter in the front. Three local men, Herman Moore, Milton Warren, and Quaint Perry were sitting around the stove near the back. Three men entered the front door of the store and went directly to the rear where the leading man pointed a gun at Mr. Waters and demanded money. Waters resisted when the robber started to go through his pockets and the robber shot him in the chest just under the heart. He died almost immediately.

On seeing the scuffle, Mr. Bennett had rushed to the aid of his employer, only to be shot in the wrist by the assailant, which bullet also hit Mr. Waters in the hip.

Just then there was the sound of a vehicle pulling up to the front door and, frightened of being caught, the three intruders hurriedly left.
The vehicle was a bread truck pulling up to get gas. J.M. Siever and W.C. Hershberger got out of the truck and entered the store. When they came upon the scene Hershberger immediately telephoned the police. It was found later that Mr. Waters still had his wallet pinned inside his coat with more than $100 in it.

The police combed the area but found no trace of the three bandits. The three men who were inside the store during the incident, and Bud Praither who an informant said was a person that the robbers were looking for were jailed and questioned, but released after a few days.

State’s Attorney Stedman Prescott assigned the case to Gen. Gaither, Police Commissioner for Baltimore City, but they got no further than the local police in solving the case, even with Montgomery County offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

In April, however, the case was revived when Mary Burns, wife of the local postman Harry Burns found a gun under the hedge in front of her house at 19311 Germantown Road (now Liberty Mill Road), the probable escape route of the robbers. The gun was a 45 caliber pistol, the same that shot Horace Waters, but no fingerprints were found on it.

The murder was not solved until four years later.

According to an article written by Jack Toomey for the Monocacy Chronicle in 2007, the murderer, Donald Parker, was overheard telling a fellow inmate at the penitentiary in Baltimore about the killing in 1936. He was tried and convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

According to police files, Parker, Gordon Dent and James Gross made up a gang who held up filling stations, taverns and stores all around the mid-Atlantic area. Dent and Gross had already been hanged for another murder by that time. According to Toomey, Parker was released on parole in 1953, re-arrested in 1958, paroled again in 1962 and died in Washington, D.C. in 1973.

The funeral of Horace D. Waters was attended by about 500 people. Canon Arthur B. Rudd of the Washington Cathedral officiated. He is buried at the Neelsville Presbyterian Church Cemetery. He was 79 years old when he was killed and left a widow, Valeria Dorsey Waters, and five adult children.

The store clerk who was wounded, Richard Allen Bennett, age 68 at the time, went on to live another 14 years. He is also buried at the Neelsville Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

A Sunoco gas station now occupies the site of the Waters General Store at the northeast corner of Clopper Road and Liberty Mill Road.

Written by Susan Soderberg, President of the Germantown Historical Society.

 

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