Dark City

New book spotlights events from Charlotte’s lurid history

Freelance writer and former Q-Notes editor David Moore has recently published his first book, “Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem.” The 127-page tome throws over the decorative rocks in the flower garden to reveal the creepy-crawlies that lurk beneath the Queen City’s manicured landscape. It’s a compelling compilation of calamities.

For instance, there’s the twisting tale of Benny Mack, a violent schizophrenic who died in a regional mental health facility in 1973. In childhood, Mack was bitten by a rabid dog — for which there was no cure at the time — and chained to a tree to rage until his agonizing demise. Miraculously, he survived and grew up to become a prize fighter.

Mack became notorious in 1929 when he was put on trial for shooting a man to death over an unpaid $5 debt stemming from the sell of a bulldog. Mack served just three years of his 20-year sentence. Moore relates that Mack went on to have brushes with Hollywood and the Chicago mob before resettling in North Carolina and eventually slipping into paranoid mental illness in the final portion of his life.

When asked about the dark and sordid tales that populate his debut offering, Moore explains that he’s always been fascinated by the mysterious, the macabre and the things that go bump in the night.

- - - advertisement - - -

“It probably started in my childhood from watching horror films and film noir. It made me develop an interest in the darker side of society and life in general. But, really, I think everybody is interested in reading about misfortune because that kind of stuff doesn’t happen in daily life. When it occurs a lot of ordinary people are drawn to it.”

One of Moore’s tragic tales will be of particular interest to LGBT readers: the suspicious June 2002 death of transgender dog groomer cum prostitute Franklin Freeman. He was discovered lying on an uptown Charlotte street bleeding to death from a gunshot wound just five days before he was scheduled to testify against a member of the Charlotte police department implicated in a cover-up.

The beginning of Freeman’s tragic end possibly commenced in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, when he encountered off-duty Vice Detective Michael Marlow driving in an area known for prostitution. According to a friend, Freeman asserted that Marlow picked him up for sex and they were in the act when the detective spotted an approaching cop car.

Freeman allegedly told his onetime employer and friend Danny Watson — whom Moore interviews — that Marlow, now panicked, pulled out his gun and fired one shot inside his vehicle and another out the door as Freeman “escaped” from custody. Freeman was nabbed by the patrolmen and charged with assaulting an officer.

After spending eight days in jail, Freeman was released and the charges were dropped. Marlow immediately resigned and the patrol officers were terminated. A sergeant with the force received a 30-day suspension for failing to properly investigate the situation.

- - - advertisement - - -

Five months later, Freeman was gunned down before taking the stand at an appeal hearing brought by one of the fired officers. Throughout the investigation of the slaying, police officials maintained that there was no indication that Freeman’s death was connected to the prior scandal. The rapt citizens who followed the case were never so sure.

“The people that I spoke with certainly believe that the police were involved and that there was a cover-up,” Moore says. “In my opinion, there’s something dirty about the whole thing but there’s no proof. It would be nice to have some closure, but given the type of individual that Franklin Freeman was, I think the police will put the solving of his death on a low priority level. This is a story I will probably revisit with more depth in the future.”

Additional chapters in “Charlotte” center around hauntings, a plane crash, a millionaire on trial for murder, the collision of a passenger train and a Charlotte trolley car and a murderess dubbed “Razor Girl” by the press (you know why) among other tales of prurience and peril.

To promote his book, Moore is scheduled to hold a trio of signings in the area. On Oct. 19 he will be at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Rd., at 1 p.m.; Oct. 24 and 25 will find him at Latta Plantation’s “Ghost Walk,” 5225 Sample Rd., in Huntersville.

“I want people to know about these fascinating, calamitous things that have happened,” says Moore. “Also, I’m looking forward to meeting readers who are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the book. I’m already getting emails from them. Mainly, I’m just excited about having the opportunity to get out there and promote the book. I want to show that there is a lot about Charlotte history that most people don’t know.”

— “Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem” (The History Press) is out now.

- - - advertisement - - -

Posted by David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.