The mysterious case of a missing Danville merchant

Published 8:54 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

The disappearance of a prominent Danville merchant attracted nationwide attention in December 1926, according to articles in the Kentucky Advocate archives.

Charles L. Henderson disappeared on the night of Dec. 9, 1926, near Chenault Bridge on the Garrard County side of Herrington Lake.

After six months of searching the lake, Price Elliott, T.C. Mays and Liga Logan, all of Danville, found the decomposed body, fully clothed and floating 10 feet from shore. It was about 100 yards below Chenault Bridge on the Boyle County side.

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Deputy Sheriff James Bean identified the body as Henderson from cards inside the victim’s billfold but found no money. A diamond stickpin and a watch, that stopped at 12:13, also were found.

Garrard County Coroner Sim Anderson held an inquest at the site and found no marks of violence.

The body was removed to Bruner and Sims Undertaking firm in Harrodsburg. Burial followed the same afternoon in Harrodsburg cemetery.

Last seen

Henderson was last seen Dec. 9,1926, when he left his home to take the cook home.

His automobile was found the next day while parked on Chenault Bridge by Oliver Kays and Tom Parks.

The glass on the car’s front door was broken and had bloody fingerprints about the automobile. There also were indications of bloody prints on the railing of the bridge.

A professional diver searched the lake for two days without success.

Albert Marshall, hero of Sand Cave, set off a dynamite charge near the bridge on Dec. 13. Fish were brought up, but nothing to indicate the presence of the missing man.

Coast Guards and deep sea divers also were unable to locate the body.

Detectives of Louisville also investigated the disappearance.

By then, most people apparently thought Henderson had been robbed and murdered. Others concluded he had committed suicide.

Funds missing

The search continued for Henderson until Dec. 24 after auditors of the Central Grocery Company, where Henderson was manager, reported a shortage in funds.

Henderson was accused of embezzling more than $20,000 from the business and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The shortage was noticed two weeks before Henderson went missing. He was questioned about the funds and told the stockholders he would explain the next day. He disappeared that night.

Henderson reportedly took money over a period of four years but never cashed any checks.

After more investigation, authorities said Central Grocery Co. carried an indemnifying bond on Henderson, in the sum or $15,000. The policy was carried by The Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York.

Henderson was a popular man in town. He was eminent commander of Ryan Commandery, Knights Templar, and on the night of his disappearance he was to have attended a meeting of the lodge. He didn’t show up.

The lodge offered a $100 reward for recovery of the body. Another $250 reward was offered by Henderson’s father-in-law, Clell Coleman.

Sightings reported

After the disappearance of Henderson, several sightings were reported. Five days after the disappearance, Homer Phillips of Parksville said he saw a Dodge Sedan, like the one Henderson drove, stopped on the railroad crossing between Alum Springs and Parksville the same night of the disappearance.

Phillips said the car then backed onto the road and turned up a road leading to the Knobs, and turned around and headed back.

The driver asked Phillips the way to Parksville and left. Phillips took the license number of the car and it corresponded with the number of Henderson’s vehicle.

Someone in Garrard County also thought he saw Henderson the evening he disappeared, but the rumor could not be verified.

Ten days after the disappearance, the sheriff in St. Louis sent a photo of a man who had identified himself as Henderson when he was arrested. The man was later identified as

Floyd Henderson, an escaped convict.

Mayor W.O. McIntyre and Clell Coleman, asked Capt. John J. McGillicuddy, chief of Louisville detectives, Capt. Fred Hauler, head of Louisville identification bureau and Lt. Ira Froh, assistant to McGillicuddy and help with the case. They came without charge to help. Also, a battery of newspapermen were rendering valuable services to local officers with the case.

Henderson had been in the grocery business in Junction City 20 years before going to Harrodsburg. He also was manager of the Nichols Detergent Company in Danville.

He was a charter member of the Danville Rotary Club and was prominent in social life in Danville. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1925. He was a devoted church member and worked in community welfare work.

He and his wife, the former Verna Coleman, and daughter, Mary Louise, lived on Maple Avenue. Verna was the daughter of Clell Coleman, state commissioner of agriculture.