Episode Two: George “Buster” Putt
October 26th, 2015 - George Howard Putt, the serial killer that terrorized the city of Memphis, for 29 days during the summer of 1969, died of natural causes at the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Nashville. News of his death would not reach the public, nor the families of Putt’s victims, until March of the following year. Michael Dumas, the son of Putt’s first victims - Roy and Bernalyn Dumas - reportedly only discovered months later that Putt had died when his wife logged into the correctional facility website and noticed that they had listed Putt as “deceased.” In an interview with the Commercial Appeal following the announcement of Putt’s death in March of 2016, Michael Dumas said, “My reaction was remorse, because it brought back all the painful memories of that summer. The death of my parents has always been painful. One part of me was happy that maybe this is over with. We all carry our pain from the past. You never get over that.” The summer of 1969 was quite a tense time in the US… -The war in Vietnam had been in full swing, which was dividing the nation due to differing opinions on our involvement and conduct there... -Charles Manson’s followers committed the infamous series of horrible murders in the Los Angeles Area…-Riots broke out outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, after a conflict between gay rights activists and police… And for Memphis in particular, the years of ‘68 and ‘69 were quite a struggle. First, the sanitation strike happened, which brought Martin Luther King Jr to the city. Protests were ending in violence and arrests. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel… and after all of this happened, business and residents in Downtown Memphis relocated en masse for fear of more racial strife in the area. By the time this all settled, the area was said to be home to more jail inmates than actual residents. It was indeed a very heavy time in Memphis. Many Memphians who were not in Memphis during the late 60s, or who were not yet born at the time (like me), may not even be aware that there was ever a serial killer in Memphis. I personally was not aware of it until a coworker brought it to my attention just under a year ago. But it’s true! Memphis, during the latter part of the summer of 1969, was home to a series of brutal murders, all committed by one man - George Howard Putt. There is quite a lengthy backstory here, which we will try to deliver as concisely as possible, but I think it might provide insight into George Putt’s early development and his progression from minor crimes and misdemeanors to his later crimes of a violent, sexual, and even murderous nature. George "Buster" Putt Putt’s Early Life and Criminal History Known as “Buster” to his friends and family, George Putt did not begin his life in Memphis, but this is certainly where he ended his life as a free man. George was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to abusive, drifter parents Clifford and Leola Putt. Whether to look for work, or simply to satisfy their wanderlust, Clifford and Leola removed George from school, along with his older brother, to roam around the Southeastern United States with them. George’s parents were constantly in trouble for petty crimes, making whatever home life they had unpredictable and unreliable. George’s father, Clifford, was also extremely abusive to him and his siblings. One of Clifford’s many arrests during George’s early life was for cruelty to a minor for severely beating 3-month-old George with a leather strap. By the time George was 8 years old, his parents went to prison for check forgery, leaving Buster and his 6 siblings to live with their grandparents. It took only three years for his grandparents to send George and four of his brothers to live at a school for orphans outside Richmond, Virginia, following the arrest of 11-year-old George and an older brother for shooting out a neighbor’s windows w...