Searching for justice

The creators of a true-crime podcast called "Bodies in the Bayou" will come to the Allen County Historical Society's meeting Saturday evening at Allen Community College Theatre to discuss the unsolved 1969 murders of Betty Cantrell and Sally Hutton. They'll also preview their next podcast about a missing LaHarpe man.


Local News

July 8, 2024 - 2:02 PM

Iola Register archives recount the still-unsolved murders of an Iola woman, Betty Cantrell, and teenager Sally Hutton, whose brutally beaten bodies were found days apart in 1969. A true-crime podcast, “Bodies in the Bayou,” tells their stories. The podcast creators will speak at the Allen County Historical Society’s meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Allen Community College Theatre. Register file photo

“The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them.”

— Lois McMaster Bujold, author

Betty CantrellRegister file photo
Sally HuttonRegister file photo

It’s been nearly 55 years since the unsolved murders of Betty Cantrell and Sally Hutton shook Iola to its core.

Just days apart, the two Iolans — one a young waitress working the overnight shift at a local diner; the other a teenager who disappeared after a junior high football game — were savagely beaten and killed, leaving in their wake shattered families and a terrified community.

As the investigations unfolded, it seemed each clue only brought more questions and confusion — but never many answers.

The cases were so bewildering that a jury found a local man, Jack Shoemaker, not guilty for Cantrell’s murder, even though he confessed to doing so.


They didn’t believe him.

Could it have been a passerby? Was it one person or more? Was it somebody they knew? Was it somebody we knew? 

Was Betty killed as part of a robbery? Did Sally die because of a date gone wrong? 

Was there a cover-up?

Most importantly, how can half a century pass following the two highly public investigations with nobody brought to justice for either?

The passage of time has relegated the killings from the front pages to the history pages. Many of those suspected have since died.

Still, for the family members, the wounds remain raw. On a regular basis, the Register receives letters from Hutton’s sister, Carolyn Henery, pleading for the public’s help to find answers.

For the most part, those pleas are left wanting. Over the years, she’s received a couple of letters and phone calls hinting that somebody still knows what happened to Hutton. But it’s impossible to know if those “tips” were authentic or simply a sinister prank.

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