Edward Hamilton LaGrave (30), a used car dealer, was killed with three shots to the head as he was preparing his wife Betty’s birthday present. He had three young children with the fourth on the way with Betty Jean Holt LaGrave. Despite following many leads and questioning people, his case remains unsolved.
LaGrave had called his wife around 845pm from the company. He told her that he would be late. He had a surprise for her upcoming birthday. Betty believed that he was getting her a new car. A little later, she was told that her husband was dead.
LaGrave was shot in the right cheek, in the right temple, and in the back of his neck. There were no signs of a struggle. The bullets were fired at close range from a .32-caliber revolver. However, in other articles they mention a .22 or .25 caliber revolver.
He was found on the floor inside his office. He was on his back and near his desk. In one article it was mentioned that a soda machine was nearby.
His ring, insured for roughly $2000 at the time, and his watch were missing. His pockets were turned inside out, but his money belt with $3500 was still there. Coins were scattered on the floor. An uncapped fountain pen was found under his chair.
He had an conditional sales contract on his desk to trade in a 1948 Lincoln four-door sedan for a 1951 blue Pontiac Catalina. No names, no identifiers.
LaGrave had attended a car auction the day before and was seen there with cash. That could have made him a target. LaGrave was the 24th murder victim in that area that year. No cars were missing from the lot.
LaGrave was found by Loren Fouch who had taken two out-of-town car dealers, John Pratt and Howard E. Thornton, to see LaGrave. They were interested in a truck.
Fouch went into the office, then came out and called for Pratt. I am not sure who called police. I am also not sure if all three were cleared by police. Fouch has been arrested for domestic disputes.
In Nov 1952, police questioned Jacob Henry Sherman for several crimes. I found nothing else to connect him to LaGrave. If you have links to newspaper articles that I missed please let me know.
Another former convict, who had robbed LaGrave, was arrested but he had a solid alibi for the evening LaGrave was murdered.
LaGrave himself had a record. He served 3 years out of a 10-year-sentence for burglary. He also had a conviction for petit larceny. Later on, charges for receiving stolen goods were dropped.
A car dealer near LaGrave told police that he had a strange encounter with three young men and a boy of about 13-15 years old that night. They wanted to sell him their car. He agreed to buy their ’47 Chevrolet twin-tone gray Fleetline with double spotlights for $700.– The interesting part was that when he wanted to give them a check, they asked for cash. As he didn’t have that much in the office, they just left.
If you have any information about this case, please contact the Indianapolis Police Department at (1)317.327.3282. At the time of writing, LaGrave was not listed on their cold case website.