By: Mike Simmons
Regardless of the differences in their stories, there are two known facts: 1) He beat her in the face, and 2) She shot him in the gut. How they got there is anyone’s guess.
Marion T. Martin was born in Live Oak, Texas in 1915. As a child, Marion always knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. He wanted to be a physician. So, as soon as he could, he left home and moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he enrolled in medical school at the University of Tennessee. It was there that he met the cute medical tech named Laurabel Gaulding. Laurabel was born in 1919 in Memphis, and she was attracted to the dashing young medical student. A romance led to a marriage in 1941, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The birth of their eldest, Marion Jr., soon followed. In 1943, when Laurabel was 24, 28-year-old Dr. Marion Martin entered the United States Navy and was immediately thrust into the middle of it – Germany. It was there that he picked up his German Luger, the handgun he was later shot with.
After World War II ended, Marion stayed in the military. The couple gave birth to a daughter, Mino, while the family was stationed in California. After they were transferred to Pensacola, the youngest son, John, was born.
Marion was a physician working on the Navy base and Laurabel stayed home and took care of the house and the kids. They lived at 4 Greve Rd, a charming house in the quaint neighborhood of Navy Point, overlooking the beautiful Bayou Grande. On at least one occasion, she hosted a party for the Pensacola Pilot Club. It was a storybook life.
Well, not quite. On Tuesday night, January 3, 1950, Marion and Laurabel went to some friends’ house for an evening of eating, drinking and fellowshipping. When they arrived home afterwards, the argument began. Marion was not happy that Laurabel was hardly ever home at the end of the day and dinner was often not ready. The argument turned heated when they got home and into the kitchen. Suddenly, Marion slapped her face. It was not the first time, however. He continued beating her in her face and head, leaving welts and bruises. He then retreated to the bedroom.
This is where the stories differ. Laurabel said that, a few minutes later, Marion called to her and said to bring his gun, the old German Luger. Even though it was a deadly weapon, it was more of a keepsake to the family, so it was usually kept unloaded. However, a few weeks before, Marion had loaded it, and he made a remark to Laurabel about contemplating using it on himself. So, when tempers were flaring and he called for his gun, she went to the drawer and retrieved it. When she looked at him, she said she saw a strange expression in his eye, so she turned to leave. He grabbed her arm and threw her on the bed. A struggle for control of the gun began and the gun soon discharged. She got up and went into the other room. A few minutes later, Marion called to her and told her he had been hit by the bullet.
It wasn’t until the next day that the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office was notified. The case was assigned to Investigator Henry Clay Mitchell. He interviewed Laurabel, and she told her side, showing him the obvious bruises to her face. He did not place her under arrest…yet.
On Thursday night, January 5, 1950, Investigator Mitchell finally was allowed to speak to Dr. Martin at the Naval Hospital. The Commander said that, after the argument, where he “had to slap her around a bit,” he went into the bedroom and began to read a book. A few minutes later, he saw her coming into the room with the gun, headed straight for him. He stood up, grabbed her arm, and they began to struggle. That is when the gun went off. The bullet went through his body, entering the front, passing through his stomach and exiting the back.
The detective went to the house and looked the crime scene over. He examined the bed where Laurabel said the struggle took place on, but there was no sign of a bullet passing through. He did, however, find bullet damage to the venetian blinds in the room, giving more credence to the doctor’s account. When Mitchell asked Laurabel what caused the damage to the blind, she simply said it came from another incident with a gun.
Investigator Mitchell returned Saturday with a warrant for the arrest of Laurabel. As soon as he completed the paperwork, the $500 bond was signed by Admiral John W. Reeves, Jr., Chief of Naval Air Training. She was released into his custody.
Shortly after the incident, Dr. Martin and family moved to Detroit and were divorced by 1952. Both stayed in Detroit. On one occasion, however, Laurabel moved back to Memphis and, in 1957, lived in Apartment #1 at 1900 Linden Street. On August 7, 1957, the Memphis Press-Scimitar reported that Laurabel was indicted for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. She had been having relations with a 17 year-old boy. She admitted to the deed and was fined $100.
Marion died in 1969 and Laurabel in 1978. Both are buried in cemeteries in Detroit, 10 miles apart.