Henrietta Wilmer Ragan was born and raised in Leonardtown. Her St. Mary’s County roots can be traced to the early 1700’s.
Henrietta was active in her church and taught piano to local children. Recently widowed, she was grieving from the passing of her husband on Valentine’s Day 1959.
A few weeks before Christmas that year, there was an incident that rocked sleepy little Leonardtown. Henrietta Ragan was raped and murdered. Her killer was never apprehended.
In 1959, newspaper articles detail an extensive investigation by the Maryland State Police assisted by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, with “200 sets of fingerprints” and “lie tests” given. These articles come to a halt in March 1960.
Although the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office was (and still is) the primary law enforcement agency in the county, the Sheriff's Office of the 1950's was woefully understaffed and undertrained.
The year Henrietta was raped and murdered, the Board of County Commissioners refuse to fund items for the Sheriff's Office as minor as badges with the deputies name on them. They later decide to spring for caps and badges, but no uniforms. In October, Commissioners refused to cover training for a deputy to attend the FBI's school.
A trained, equipped, full-time professional police force for St. Mary's County Maryland was still half a decade away.
In 2012, police reports from this “extensive investigation” and results of the polygraph exams are nowhere to be found in the archives of the Maryland State Police and St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office. Some locals still think things are better left alone. Others disagree.
A couple years ago, the Sheriff’s Office gave the case another look, interviewing surviving family, friends and associates of Henrietta and others involved in the initial investigation.
In an odd twist, an interesting “what if” revealed itself when a niece of Henrietta’s (age 15 at the time of the murder) was interviewed. She clearly recalls her father (Henrietta’s brother) telling her family the mortician in Leonardtown told him that the funeral home received Henrietta’s body with her two front teeth knocked out, held in with chewing gum - contrary to the paperwork he received with Henrietta’s body listing the suspected cause of death.
Henrietta’s brother then contacted the Maryland State Police.
QUESTIONS REMAIN - ANSWERS ARE POSSIBLE
Who was the man, with scratches on his neck, that was questioned for four hours on the day Henrietta's murder was discovered? (The Enterprise newspaper, 12/10/1959)
"He has not been eliminated as a suspect" - Deputy Sanger, Enterprise 12-10-1959
In 1959, there was no “CSI” or “DNA.” Had today’s technology existed then, the killer of Henrietta Ragan may have been revealed in short order.
Is the chewing gum that held in Henrietta's front teeth still in her mouth? If so, the answer to “Who Killed Henrietta” may have been taken to her grave.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
It is hoped that this website will “shake the tree” and something will fall out. Those people involved in this investigation are well into their 80’s. Many have passed. Perhaps those surviving individuals, or a friend or family member, has an artifact in the attic or a memory in the mind that may help give Henrietta the justice she deserves.
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