Murder in Haralson County
The Haralson County Tribune
Thos. J. Latham, Well Known Haralson Farmer and Teacher,
Attempts to Annihilate Entire Family Early Thursday Morning
Kills Wife, 2 Children, Wounds 2 Others, Then Ends Own Life
Two Will Recover
Terry J. Latham, age 15, and Beryl Latham, age 11, both of whom were wounded by blows of a hammer wielded by their father, are expected to recover. Beryl is apparently in critical condition, however, and is in a Cedartown hospital.
KILLING HIS WIFE with a heavy shop hammer while she lay asleep and attacking four of his children with the same instrument, injuring two of them so badly that they died a few hours later in a Cedartown hospital, Thomas J. Latham, well known and highly respected farmer and school teacher residing near Philadelphia Church, six miles north of Buchanan, placed his shotgun underneath his chin and blew his face almost entirely off.
The tragedy occurred between three and four o'clock on last Thursday morning.
The dead are Mrs. Lois Jones Latham, mother; Erlene Latham, girl, age 6; Grady Latham, boy, age 13, and Thomas J. Latham, father. The injured are Terry J. Latham, boy, age 15, and Beryl Latham, girl, age 11.
Collier B. Latham, age 8, fortunately escaped unscathed by covering himself up with the bed clothing.
The first news of the tragedy trickled into Buchanan over the telephone between three and four o'clock. Sheriff Richards, Constable Cheatwood, and Dr. E.F. Sanford left hurriedly for the scene. Upon their arrival, being under the impression that Latham was still alive and perhaps desperate, made plans to storm the house. But when they called to him there was no answer. Quiet reigned supreme; a flickering lantern light in the home was the only semblance of life within. The officers rushed to the door and, gaining entrance, were greeted by a most gruesome sight. In the floor lay Mr. Latham, dead, and beside him lay the shotgun with which he ended his own life; nearby lay one of the children in a pool of blood, apparently dead; upon a bed lay the mother, dead from the impact of the two-and-one-half-pound shop hammer which the father used in his effort to exterminate his family. Upon the bed, beside the mother, was another child who had also been rendered unconscious. Upon another bed was still another of the children, also apparently dead.
It was a scene to try the nerves of the strongest man, and the party of officers was visibly stirred. The floors were running with blood; the walls stained; the clothing gory.
While the officers were viewing the scene and examining the prostrate bodies they were shocked to see one of the children, Collier B., age 8, untangling himself from the cover under which he had taken refuge. He was the only one of the children unscratched.
It was found that Erlene, Grady, and Beryl were breathing. An ambulance was called and the injured children rushed to a Cedartown hospital, where Erlene died a few hours afterward.
Friday morning, at about 8 o'clock, Grady also succumbed to his injuries.
Terry J. Latham, age 15, who was rendered unconscious by a blow upon the back of the head but who regained consciousness sufficiently to escape, ran to a neighbor's home and gave the alarm. Terry states that he was awakened between three and four o'clock by his father coming into the room with a lantern. His father set the lantern down and, according to the boy, grabbed him by the hair and hit him in the back of the head. The boy threw his hands up to protect himself and the hammer landed several times upon them, bruising them considerably. The father then hit his brother Grady several times and, leaving them both for dead, went into the adjoining room. Terry regained consciousness and started to leave the house; as he did so, he says that his father was returning from the other room and started after him. The boy fell and regained his feet three times, with his father in close pursuit, until he reached the roadway some 100 yards away, and seeing the boy had eluded him, the father went back into the house, and it is thought it was at this juncture that he ended his own life.
Mr. Latham had been worried about his health for some time.
He had been a teacher in the rural schools of this county and had served as a Superintendent of the Sunday school at Mt. Zion - East. He was known as a Christian gentleman, and the entire county has been shaken by the tragedy. His home life had been absolutely congenial; he loved his children and was wrapped up in their futures. His wife was one of the leaders in the community and was known as a Christian lady, and the children were all popular.
Mr. Latham's financial affairs were in good shape and could not have prompted the act. His health had been on the decline of late and only a couple of days prior to the tragedy he had consulted Dr. E.F. Sanford of this relative to his condition.
A coroner's inquest was held over the remains Thursday morning and the verdict was that the wife and children came to their deaths at the hands of Mr. Latham and that he took his own life.
Saturday morning at 11 o'clock in the presence of a great crowd of sorrowing friends and relatives, impressive funeral services were conducted over the remains of Mr. and Mrs. Latham and Erlene and Grady Latham, at the Philadelphia Church. The church and cemetery, where the bodies were interred in same grave, are located just across the road from the Latham home.
The funeral services were conducted by Rev. J.A. Dean, of this city, and Rev. Jolley, of Bremen.
Five brothers survive Mr. Latham and are: Col. Edgar Latham, a prominent Atlanta attorney; J.T. Latham, who is in the railway mail service with headquarters in Atlanta, and A.B., Victor, and Virgil Latham, all prominent farmers residing in the Mt. View section.
Mrs. Latham is survived by her mother, Mrs. Cora E. Jones, and one brother, Paul Jones, who resides near Philadelphia Church, and another brother, Carl Jones, who is prominent in railway circles, with headquarters at Alberta, Va.
Miss Eloise Latham, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Latham, is a student at Powder Springs A & M College, and was prostrated over the sad affair.
Read the complete interview here.
Find out more here.