Keyser native Charles Ryan co-authors book on Charleston murder
CHARLESTON— “Murder On Staunton Road” is the real-life crime drama of the 1953 violent death of Juliet Staunton Clark, owner of the Charleston Daily Mail, and the strange investigation that followed the grisly homicide.
The case was never solved and many details of the most famous and historically significant murder in the city of Charleston remain, to this day, shrouded in mystery. Sixty-seven years ago—and today—there are accusations of a cover-up.
Authors Charlie Ryan, a Keyser native, and Mitch Evans conducted intensive research over more than a two-year span with those who knew intimate details of the circumstances surrounding the murder. The interviews revealed surprising detail about the alleged failure of authorities to arrest suspects in the case.
Staunton Road pioneer and Charleston historian Brooks McCabe calls the book by Ryan and Evans, “a smooth blending of a classic murder mystery and the history of one of Charleston’s most prominent entrepreneurial families.”
McCabe writes, “In recent decades this crime and its impact on Charleston has been largely relegated to a historical footnote in what many believe was the distant past when Charleston was reaching its heights as the center for much of the commerce and business development within West Virginia.
“The Staunton family was one of the drivers of this new economy, and they congregated in a small subdivision of isolated houses in one of the early residential developments on the front side of South Hills located just across the Kanawha River from downtown. The murder occurred on Aug. 21, 1953 at Mrs. Clark’s Staunton Road residence, in what everyone presumed was a safe, pristine, park-like setting.
“One summer evening would change everything. The murder sent shock waves through the city. The residents of Staunton Road were in utter disbelief and initially feared for their own safety. Local, state, and national press covered the ensuing investigations with all the flare and drama demanded from a fascinated readership. Here were the makings of a headline-grabbing story—power, wealth, and murder mixed with healthy doses of political drama.”
Charleston Mayor John Copenhaver personally took control of the investigation web that snared some of Charleston’s most prominent names and families. Copenhaver, dubbed by The Charleston Gazette as “Jumpin’ John”, aggressively worked to protect the reputations of the city’s elite, drawing heavy criticism from the Gazette and charges that he bungled the case.
Charleston Gazette-Mail writer Rick Steelhammer said of the book, “For those with an interest in Charleston’s history or fans of true crime novels—or both—it’s a must read.”
The book is available on Amazon and the website www.murderonstaunton.com .