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THE ENDS

Two Young Lovers’ Crimes and the Aftermath

Shortly after World War II, two 20-something lovers with troubled backgrounds left a Maine fishing village on foot to start life anew, together, somewhere far away. At the same time, an older, friendly bachelor was vacationing, exploring the western U.S. by car, alone. They crossed paths in Nevada, and each impulsively acted to fulfill their own desires, to achieve certain ends.

The lone traveler generously picked up the penniless hitchhikers, drove them about eight hours to the city in which he had a cabin reservation and let them crash there with him overnight.

The next day, the couple lured him to a remote, forested spot in Hirschdale, California and committed what the local newspapers dubbed the diabolical “Sex Lure Slaying.” After, the duo partied in Reno and Las Vegas.

That’s just one piece of this bizarre and compelling story, filled with twists. From childhood to death, The Ends chronicles the true events that occurred before, during and after the lives of these ordinary people converged.

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CHAPTER 1: FAILED ATTEMPT

ends: intentions or aims; outcomes or results; terminations of existence, deaths
—Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary

ends: money; from where one lives or hails
—Urban Dictionary

 

1947

Mid-July

Next time, the hitchhiking lovebirds would have to execute better, having botched their first try in Texas. They’d have to ensure their target didn’t a) get away and b) survive. Perhaps when they got further west, they’d give it another go, as they desperately needed money.

The final destination of their cross-country trip was yet to be determined. The purpose, though, clear to both of them, was to “find a new life.”[1]

Joseph Leslie Hardy, Jr., age 24, and Lois Hunt, age 22, had set out on their journey on Monday, July 14. Their chosen time to travel boasted hot temperatures throughout the United States that year. However, for the sojourners, the rest of the summer and beyond would become oppressive. And it would be their own doing.

They’d departed from the house in which they’d been residing together, Joseph’s mom and dad’s residence in Kittery, a small fishing village in Maine. The young couple had taken a few belongings with them, only what they could carry comfortably on foot and a small amount of money.

Since they’d left, the two had been forever “tired, cold and hungry,” according to Lois.[2] Some strangers along the way had given them food, and for sleep, they’d resorted to lying in a pasture or random truck bed. Joseph and Lois each had wired and phoned their respective parents, asking for funds, to no avail.

Nine days later, on Wednesday, July 23, the couple arrived in the Northern California waterfront city of Vallejo,[3] where Lois’ only brother Raymond Strong Hunt, 24 and two years older, lived. He’d enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941, was a World War II veteran and now worked at the Benicia Arsenal, the primary West Coast ordnance facility for that service branch.

Lois and Joseph stayed near Raymond at a nearby rooming house for three nights. The next morning, they borrowed $100 (about $1,150 today) from him and took a bus to Reno to “double our money,”[4] Joseph would write later, by betting it on casino games there. The Biggest Little City was Nevada and the country’s legal gambling mecca at the time.

Instead, the duo lost all but a few dollars of their only cash and still lacked an income source. They mailed a thank you card to Raymond and a similar to note to Lois’ mother, Julia G. Heavilin, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Raymond’s read:

“This may come as something of a surprise to you but I’m sure you’ll understand. We have decided that we do not desire to become a burden to you and so we are leaving. We are very grateful for your assistance and we love you very much. I do hope you will understand and not hate us too much. Goodbye for the last time. Thank you again. Lois and Joey”[5]

On Sunday, July 27, the weary travelers left Reno for Salt Lake City, Utah, founded in 1845 by Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young. Though Lois and Joseph weren’t of their faith, perhaps they’d find an opportunity or build a foundation for a future there.

———————————

[1]  Reynolds, Ruth, The Post-Standard, “Justice Topsy-Turvy When Confusion Confounds Confessions,” March 19, 1950.
[2]  The Union, “Hardy Trial Nears Finale,” Feb. 1, 1949.
[3]  The city was named after General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who’d championed statehood for California.
[4]  Joseph Hardy and Lois Hunt’s written account from the Nevada County Jail, 1947.
[5]  The Sacramento Bee, “Brother in Vallejo Will Aid Lois Hardy,” Aug. 7, 1947.

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