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  • Virginia Viola Hyatt

    Born February 3, 1929

    Died June 12, 2000

    Occupation:  Alabama  Ax Murderer.

    Viola was Calhoun County, Alabama’s most infamous resident.

    Virginia Viola Hyatt know by Viola was from the White Plains, Alabama area more commonly known as Rabbittown.  Her mother died when she was a young child  and she was raised alone by her father, Martin Hyatt until he married her stepmother, Jessie Wheeler. Jessie terrifed of Viola. She died the day Viola was scheduled to be released from prison.

    June 28,1959 Emmett and Lee Harper met their maker.

    The death certificates states June 28th, 1959  as their death date. Other records state the 27th.

    Emmett and Lee were tenants at the Hyatt home living in a small trailer in the back of the property. The story goes that they were sexually abusing her and physical abusing her father and argued over the use of their car.

    She confessed to the authorities that she shot the men in the face with a double barreled shotgun as they stood in the doorway of their trailer.  Then she stated that she hung the bodies up on the door of the shed and dismembered them with a double bladed ax.  It was also told by Hyatt that she then took the parts of the bodies, loaded them up in the family car and headed to different counties in Alabama and threw the body parts out of the car windows as she drove.

    Viola  spent several months, possibly 5 or 6, at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama under mental observation. Then she pled guilty and served 10 years of a life sentence.

    In prison she was a model prisoner. Gave them no trouble and was the seamstress for either the Warden’s wife or Governor of Alabama wife. I will have to dig out my many boxes of information.

    Question has always been on the minds of others as maybe  she was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, if she had produced children and they died or were killed and fed to the hogs and if she actually committed the murders alone or had help by a family member and she took the blame. Whatever the reason or reasons this was a horrific crime and it still is alive and well in the minds of everyone that is still alive from that time.

    I mentioned about the hogs on purpose. When I was a child the talk was she had a baby and it was fed to the hogs. I was fortunate enough to spend a good long time with the now owner of the Hyatt home in White Plains, Alabama. I told her the story I had always heard about Viola feeding a baby to the hogs. She told me that the story was very interesting to her that Viola had visited the home quite often before she died and she always talked a lot about the hog pen and they found that very interesting that she would be so interested in the hog pen area. You see Viola never talked about committing the murders after she was released and when she wanted to tell you something she talked “in circles.”  She never would come out and say “I did this” and ” I did that,” but she would talk about things that would lead you to know the story.

    I have a lot of newspaper articles,  house pictures inside and out, pictures of her as a child and just boxes full of information that I am going to be posting here.

    The day after this happened my grandfather took me to the scene. I do remember a lot of people there and the shed door where they were hung up and butchered up was bloody and had hair on it. I never will forget that scene. Forever etched in my mind.

    Oh Viola why did you take your secret to the grave?

    I hope to keep this story alive for many years to come.

    Top photo, Viola’s purse and her shoes. The shoe was used to keep the storage building door closed.

    Middle, photo, Outside picture of the Hyatt Home.

    Viola’s bedroom. This is how it looks today. But this is where she slept as an adult.

    Top photo, a barn on the Hyatt property.

    Middle photo is inside her bible.

    Bottom photo is a picture of Viola as a child. This was taken on the side of the house that is the same side as in the picture above. Look at those haunting troubled eyes.

    Top photo, this was the tin that she was allowed to have in prison with her supplies. Notice she had a china cup and saucer. In this box also there was a dictionary that she had colored the page illustrations, pencils, horse figurine and a small bible I believe also was there.

    Middle photo is her bible. Notice she always had an obsession with death. Wrote down everyone she knew death date.

    Bottom photo, Her shoe. She was known for her “fashion.”  Even in her jail cell she was allowed her robes and nice clothes. She was quite a celebrity and played it for what it was worth.

    The front of the Hyatt House. Now I want you to click the photo and enlarge it. Look at the orbs that show up in the photo on the porch area. They look  like smiling faces. Do you think this is the spirit of Emmett and Lee Harper still lingering around until the truth is discovered. It is strange that it shows up like this. We will never know I guess.  Just click on the photo.

    Check back.. I am going to post all the newspaper articles, official records and who knows maybe a diary will be found. The information I have tells the story.


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    Published on July 31, 2010 · Filed under: Virginia Viola Hyatt;

40 Responses to “Virginia Viola Hyatt”

  1. Elton Camp said on

    Very interesting material. It would be nice to see a picture of Viola as an adult.

  2. thom cole said on

    I knew Viola in her last 4 years and celebrated her last 4 birthdays with her. We never talked about her case but I was a cop and very interested. I’ve collected a few things over the years and would be interested in seeing what other people have of the most famous murders in Calhoun County.

  3. Patrinka Hyatt Baccus said on

    Having done my family’s family tree, I am interested to find out if Viola also shared my family tree? Most likely, she is in my tree at some point. Would like to hear from others who have the family name of Hyatt in their tree.

  4. Elton Camp said on

    Hey Patrinka,

    Best wishes on researching your family tree. It can be fun to find an occasional notorious person roosting there. I can’t help you with the ancestry since my story about Viola Hyatt is meant only to keep the tale alive and to be an interesting read for those who like such things. There is a tremendous amount of interest in Viola. I posted the story on and it has gotten hundreds of reads–far more than anything else I have written.

    Elton Camp

  5. Brogan Gattis said on

    Shes like my aunts aunt now im scared i have a murderer in my family

  6. Elton Camp said on

    That’s interesting to be able to claim such a notorious person among kinfolk. All families have their share of questionable kin.

    Elton Camp

  7. Regina Smith McKay said on

    Viola’s father married my great-aunt Jessie to have someone to watch after Viola, although he would not support nor allow Aunt Jessie to discipline Viola.

    We visited the Hyatt home between the time she killed the men and her arrest. I was four years old, and hyper, so she took me outside for a walk, and to the “trailer,” where she told me that she would be right back. She went inside and brought out a teddy bear. She gave the bear to me, stating that her boyfriend gave it to her, but they broke up, so she didn’t want it any longer.

    I liked Viola, and remembered her wearing red lipstick. Red lipstick and such drew my attention, because I wanted to be fashionable when I grew up. I believe she was wearing dark blue overalls and a white shirt, but also red lipstick.

    By the way, when we found out about the murders, my dad threw my Teddy Bear out of the car window. I don’t know why…the Teddy Bear was as innocent as I. 🙂

  8. Elton Camp said on

    The Cynic Online Magzine has picked “The Scattering,” my story about Viola Hyatt and it is scheduled to appear in the October 16th issue. At the story has well over 1,500 reads so there is still a good bit of interest in the famous case. I thought some of you might be interested.

  9. Regina Smith McKay said on

    Thank you, Elton.

  10. Regina Smith McKay said on

    Hello, Elton,
    Is the writing you published on titled “The Scattering”? I have searched for it, and saw many of your writings, but was not able to find the writing about Viola. Any ideas or hints on locating it would be appreciated. Thank you.

  11. Regina Smith McKay said on

    Elton, I was able to find your story on Viola, on I read it, and find it fascinating. Most of what I have heard over the years came from family members, and I have been able to recall some details of the day we visited Aunt Jessie, and Viola was there, between the murders and the arrest.

    Two things that I remember…the bright red lipstick (too much), was just as you wrote it. And the the places on the “trailer” where the shotgun marred the surface. She very quickly slipped inside, telling me to wait outside, because it was a “big mess” in the “trailer.” The structure, as I recall it, looked more like a shed than a trailer.

    I wish you multiples times multiples of readers. Not only are older folks interested in Viola, but so are the younger ones who have heard parents and friends talk about her.

  12. Virginia Viola Hyatt is related to me somewhere in the family tree to my great grandfather.
    know one in my famil claims to know anything about her.
    If anyone has any info please post it i want to know more!

  13. Chas Pelham said on

    Viola is my 1st cousin 1x removed by her mother, Virgie Laura Robertson. The “Aunt Gertrude” in the gift bible is the wife of my grand uncle, Grover Cleveland Robertson (We say “great uncle”). Our family research hits a dead end with him and his grandfather, Silas F Robertson. If anyone knows about him and his ancestors, please let me know.

  14. rod harper said on

    These two men were my dads uncles , My grandfathers brothers, he told me of having to help identify the bodies and how they were chopped into pieces. Both these men were veterans of foreign wars and I think one of them had been in the Battan death march. I wish I had gotten interested in this story alot sooner, as I assumed Viola had died a long time ago

  15. Elton Camp said on

    Hey Rod,

    It’s interesting to hear from relatives of the two men who were murdered. I avoided using their real names in my story in the event that they had living children or grandchildren, but of course the names are readily available on the Internet. It’s too bad that we can’t hear their version of events leading up to their deaths. I imagine there was plenty of “blame” on both sides.


  16. Hello.

    My mom and dad used to visit with Viola on Thanksgivings before she died. I met her when I was 2 years old. I didn’t know the story of what happened when I was that young but I found out when I was delivering food to her one Thanksgiving. She was such a sweet lady when I met her.

  17. I was there at the farm a couple of days after the murders. I was 7 at the time. My Grandmother lived nearby.

  18. Elton Camp said on

    Hey Blake,

    Wow, rather gory place for a kid to be visiting, but there was a lot of interest in the horrible crime and the interest continues down to the present. How sad that Viola didn’t supply us with details after her release from prison.



  20. Dennis Cheatwood said on

    my dad took me over there the day it happened! his name was Travis Cheatwood and i was 9 years old…my name is Dennis Cheatwood from White Plains! had a brother named Butch…thats all i remember is pulling up in the drive way in our black ford truck..

  21. I remember the murders and all the tales that were spun from this event. Many years later, I work for the telephone company. The phone lines were behind their farm house in the woods. Often we had to get access to the woods by driving thru a farm road next to the house. Phones line problems were often in that area, and the Hyatts had phone troubles as well. I got to know Viola through working on their phone line. Viola was a sweet lady. Often offering me a coke on hot summer days. No one has mentioned that Viola was mentally a simple person. I am not sure how to describe it, but her mental capacity was not up to full scale. She did not exhibit the ability to commit the gruesome murders. Perhaps if she were defending her Father, she could have done the murders. But someone else did the butchering and scattering of the bodies. She could have helped, I don’t know. But from by observations –she did not know how to drive. Didn’t have a drivers license. I don’t have any proof of any of this, but I dislike all the sensationalized accusations about Viola, whom from what I have known was a victim of circumstances. She was a nice lady and I think authorities at the Tutwiller prison could also vouch for that statement as well.

  22. I had heard the story so many times and I began dating a man from White Plains area… Never asked him about it. Recently I was speaking to My fiancé’s mother and she was telling me the story…. Then She said it…. “Viola was a relative of ours”. I have been thinking how small the world really is now!

  23. Elton Camp said on

    LaTrisha, that’s very interesting. I keep picking up details of the story. Recently, I found pictures (low quality) of the two men Viola killed. I need to update the posting on again so as to include them. Thanks for reading and sharing your relationship to the story. Elton

  24. I lived in Gadsden and did a research paper on this murder back in 1974 or 1975. I worked at the Gadsden Times and had access to the microfiche room and read all the articles about this case. I also interviewed several people at the court house that remember the trial and there are photos of her following her arrest. Following her arrest, she took the sheriff and retraced that deadly drive as she dumped the body parts throughout 3 different counties. Panic gripped the entire area with fear until she was arrested and confessed to these two horrific murders. I was told that after she dumped their bodies on Saturday night she went back to White Plaines to an all day church singing on Sunday morning! Very interesting! Elton…thanks for your information, very interesting writings! I’ll see if I can find my research paper!

  25. Elton Camp said on

    Thanks for your interesting information and for additional details about the case. I hadn’t heard them from anybody, although I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from those who knew or were related to Viola. There are many aspects of the case that are unclear. I sure wish I could read your research paper! My direct e-mail is If you find your paper, I’d be glad to come to Gadsden and make a copy if you will permit it. Elton Camp Russellville, Alabama

  26. Roger hall said on

    My wife and Have kept the farm up for many years. Lived across the road when it happened. Can’t vouch for all the information written here, but most is right on. Thanks

  27. david edwards said on

    For much of her time in prison, I understand she worked in the wardens home as a maid. Folks around White Plains were amazed. My mother visited her often in her last. years. The Alabama state trooper who arrested her and got the confession from her a very few years latter became a major and ran the Alabama I & I. Majro w. Jones. This was a very strange story.

  28. John Stanton said on

    My Mom grew up in White Plains and I remember us having a discussion about Viola. She distinctly remembers seeing Viola walking down White Plains Road in front of my Mom’s parent’s house with a shotgun tucked under her arm. She said that Viola walked with a bit of a swagger, one that seemed to be an unspoken dare for someone to cross her. She recalled hearing of Viola going to Easom Hill, GA on at lease one occasion to look for young men to fight. Easom Hill, at that time, was one of those state line towns that attracted a rough crowd.

    As to the sexual abuse, something an attorney friend of mine quizzed my Mom about after he heard that she knew of Viola. My Mom said that Viola’s parents were normal parents and known as good people in that small community. What happened with Viola was a mystery as Viola seemed to be the antithesis of all that her parents stood for. My Mom said that if there was any abuse involved, it would have been Viola towards her parents rather than the other way around.

    Apparently White Plains was a bit of a Peyton Place at the time and the story of the murder just added fuel to the fire. In My Mom’s opinion, Viola was just one of those people you hopped to never run across in life.

    My Great Aunt, is long dead now, but she remembered Viola coming to her house for dinner, basically unannounced, at least a couple of times. They were afraid to turn her down, so they dined with her, although reluctantly.

    Viola was sure no Saint and how she escaped the Electric Chair escapes me to this day.

  29. Lee & Emmett were my great-uncles ,my grandfathers brothers .I did not know them , I am way too young , however the story is very interesting to me.

  30. Recording the death dates of relatives in the family Bible is not a fascination of death. In the south in the past, recording birth dates and death dates in the family Bible was common. My Grandmother’s family did it and we still have the Bible.

  31. Her step mother was so terrified of her she died the morning Viola was released that afternoon. I still say something was hidden in that family.

  32. Lee and Emmet Harper were my great uncles. Brothers to my grandfather. At 5 years old I overheard my grandmother and family talking about the murders as a magazine had published a story about the murders and Viola Hyatt. They were looking at the magazine a “True Crime” magazine as I recall. I heard the brothers were heavy drinkers and there probably was a fight and she had revenge on her mind. My grandfather was killed in a car accident in 1949. Very sad for my great grandparents to lose three sons tragically.

  33. Chris Harper said on

    Lee and Emmet were also my great uncles..My grandfather was Omar Fred Harper.

  34. Chris,
    My dad is oldest of Velma and Dan Harper. Fred, Joe, Lee, Emmett are the uncles( brothers) my dad talked about. Are you still living down in Andalusia area? We are visiting in a couple weeks family. Maybe you can come to reunion meeting.

  35. She was my grandmother’s cousin. My grandmother refused to talk about Viola until a decade or so ago as she was always embarrassed about the publicity. My sister and I have been trying to learn more about Viola. Thank you for the information.

  36. Elton Camp said on


    A new book has been published that is far more detailed and accurate than my partly fictionalized short story about Viola. The title is “Mr. X and Mr. Y.” It’s available at reasonable cost from Write me at for more details if you wish.


  37. Anne Walker Blake said on

    Interesting that there was a play done at JSU about the Viola Hyatt story. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movie. Or has there, and I just don’t know it?

    I remember well when this happened and my family talking about it. Though we lived in Tuscaloosa at the time it happened, I was born 1944 in Piedmont, actually in Possumtrot next to the old camp meeting grounds. But we also lived in White Plains / Nancy’s Creek a while right after I was born. My eldest brother started school in White Plains. My mother and aunt knew the Hyatt family. (My grandfather was Dave Hulsey of Piedmont.)

    I was in high school in Tuscaloosa when it happened, and was really creeped out about it, when I heard the story; especially when Viola was sent to Bryce in Tuscaloosa for a few months evalution. Being just a teenage kid, like all kids, I listened too close to grownups talking and even joking about gorrie stories. Just the idea that a psychotic killer had enough adrenalin to overpower anybody and escape Bryce’s, kept me turning around and looking over my shoulder every time I had to take the trash out at night. And I think my hair stood up on my head as my scalp crawled when I heard that the first body part found, an arm, was retrieved from a creek we used to go to in Ball Play… a part of Piedmont. (Though called Arm and Leg Creek, that must have been after they found the arm. I don’t know what it was called when we went there.) I now have a half-sister that lives in Ball Play with her family. (“half-sister” not meant to be a pun.)

    I haven’t thought of this story in so long, I can’t recall where Viota Hyatt was buried. If her guilt was questioned, it would be most interesting to see how forensic science would handle it today.

    AWB/Bibb County

  38. Elton Camp said on

    To AWB: Rabbittown Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery is located 2.5 miles from the junction of Alabama HWY 9 and Calhoun County Road 55. The Cemetery traces its antecedents back to the 1840’s. It is found at T14S R9E Sec13.

  39. Al Brose said on

    Your story contains a major error in the first paragraph. White Plains has never been known as Rabittown. The two are separate communities with several miles in between.

    I lived in White Plains when this incident took place and recall the crude excitement of fellow students who for awhile mocked “Viola” in the manner that youngsters pretended to be Frankenstein when they wanted to scare someone. But I recall the whole matter having a very brief effect on the community and don’t remember it being mentioned a few months later.

    The scuttlebutt in the community was that she was taking the blame for her Dad in the assumption that she would escape punishment or get off with a light sentence.

  40. Elton Camp said on

    Al Brose: Thanks for the minor correction on the name of the community. I’d correct it in the version posted here, but it was posted by the owner of the site and I can’t make edits. This is an early version of this story and it has undergone many modifications as I learned more about it from folks like you who lived in the area or who were relatives of Viola and/or the two men. A new book has been written that gives a far more accurate account than my partly fictional story. The title is “Mr. X and Mr. Y” and it’s available on What you say about the killings being of momentary impact doesn’t fit with what I’ve been told by many others who lived there and still reside in the community. But I’ve received contradictory feedback on other occasions, especially about Viola herself, ranging from obviously incorrect to worthwhile additions to her nature. One person even insisted she was simple-minded and couldn’t even drive a car–clearly incorrect. Another depicted her as a predatory monster, also unlikely to be true. What a shame she didn’t open up at some point and give the full story. Again, thanks for your information. I’ll make the correction in my version. Sorry I can’t do anything about the one on this site. Elton

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