Thursday, August 25, 2011

"I'll kill them all": Shirley Marie Curry's Murder Spree - 1974

FULL TEXT: A wild, post-midnight shooting spree that reached into Springdale, Lowell, and Farmington left five persons dead and a sixth critically wounded this morning.

Fayetteville police captured a woman identified as Shirley Marie Curry, 37, of Lowell, disarmed her and turned her over to the Springdale police. Prosecutor Mahlon Gibson said he will know by Monday what charges will be filed.

Dead are Jimmy Lee Curry,  43, of 406 Michael St.. Springdale, Mrs. Curry’s former husband; the couple’s three children. Sabrina Marie Curry, 17, Richard Allen Curry, 14, and Jessie Lee Curry, 11; and Miss Jo Ann Brophy, 31, of 1710 South Young St. in Springdale, Jimmy Lee Curry’s step-sister.

James Robert Dotson, 46, of Farmington, was shot and critically wounded about 1:30 a.m. by a woman who knocked at the door of his trailer home and identified herself as “Shirley.”

Dotson was taken first to the Fayetteville Veterans Hospital suffering from wounds in the head and back, then transferred to the VA Hospital at Little Rock.


Police said the three Curry children had been living with Mrs. Curry, but custody was recently awarded to the father. Sabrina had recently left Mrs. Curry’s home in Lowell to live with her father at Springdale.

Springdale police said they were first, notified of the incidents about 12:57 a.m. when they received a call on the shootings at the Jimmy Lee Curry home, where they found Curry and Sabrina dead. Curry’s wife, Mrs. Saundra Mollenhoff Curry, apparently escaped by running out a back door of the residence.

Springdale police broadcast a description of the woman driver of a pickup truck seen leaving the home, and the truck’s license number. Acting on this information Lowell Marshal Marion Foster went to Mrs. Carry’s home, where he found Richard Allen Curry dead and Jessie Lee Curry wounded. Jessie Lee died later at Springdale Memorial Hospital.

Later the body of Miss Brophy was found at her home in Springdale. Police believe her death is related to the other slayings.

Before Miss Brophy’s body was found at 3:J2 a.m., Fayetteville Patrolmen Gen Phillips and Frank Upton spotted the pickup truck described by Springdale authorities. They stopped the truck on Wedington Drive at Sang Avenue and arrested Mrs. Curry.

The two officers said they found a .38 caliber revolver on the seat of the pickup near Mrs. Curry’s right leg.

Police speculated that Richard Allen and Jessie Lee Curry were shot first at Mrs. Curry’s home in Lowell. They believe the next victims were Jimmy Lee and Sabrina Curry, Miss Brophy’s murder is believed to have been the last death, followed by the wounding of Dotson at Farmington. Mrs. Curry was arrested shortly after that final incident.


Fayetteville police found a hand written statement in Mrs. Curry’s possession.

The note attached to the Fayetteville police report on the Dotson shooting was a handwritten statement, but some words in the statement were difficult to discern.


It said:


“Okay, you are reading this or having it read to you, it will mean I did it. Which at this sorrowful hour I mean to. You are the only one that cared enough to even offer to come by. No one will come near me.

“The kids are afraid of me so they say on the stand. I’m nothing, never was. Nor ever will be. So why fight — I quit — nothing is worth it now. Toots, you may have it all. Not that anything is worth a damn.

“There’s a pile of bills, too, but might be some left — over — so what you will. To hell with it. I would have made this more legal and binding for you if I could have, but I don’t have the time to go into all that — So — if I goof up —to Sabrina (damn her lying soul) I leave the legal $1, to Anna Dotson I leave all other worldly possessions I own and those I owe on -- so be it.

“Shirley M. Curry.

“P.S., Yes, sometimes even a crumb means a lot. Give Timke the keys.”


Jimmy Lee Curry was born Jan. 24, 1931 at Springdale, the son of Zack and Ida Ledbetter Curry, A Springdale postman, be was a veteran of the Korean War and a member of the veterans of Foreign Wars and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is survived by the widow, Mrs. Saundra Mollenhoff Curry of the home; two step brothers, Ralph and Russell Brophy of Fayetteville.

Sabrina Marie Curry was born Oct. 15, 1956, at Lynwood, Calif., the daughter of Jimmy Lee and Shirley Marie Curry. She was a student at Springdale High School. Surviving are her mother; two step-brothers, David and John Shorter of the home and the maternal grandmother. Mrs. Letha McBroom of Huntsville.

Richard Allen Curry was born Dec. 29, 1959, at Springdale Jessie Lee Curry was born Nov. 26, 1963, at Springdale. Both children were students in the Springdale schools.

Miss Brophy was born Feb. 23, 1943, Daughter at Springdale, of James and the Ida Ledbetter Brophy. She is survived by two half-brothers Ralph and Russell Brophy of Fayetteville.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by Sisco Funeral Chapel.

[“Lowell Woman Arrested After Five Die In Wild Shooting Spree - Sixth Victim In Serious Condition,” Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, Ar.), Jul. 20, 1974, p. 1]


FULL TEXT: Fayetteville, Ark. – a woman who police said wanted to “solve all the heartaches and hurts” killed her three children, her former husband and his stepsister Saturday.

Shirley Marie Curry, 37, of Lowell, wounded a former brother-in-law also, police said, and was arrested in Fayetteville less than two hours after the killings. She was held without bond and authorities said they would charge her Monday with five counts of murder and possibly assault with intent to kill.

Sheriff’s Deputy J. D. Snow said Mrs. Curry had lost a custody fight over one of her children Friday, and that “festered in her mind.”

“Apparently she thought this would solve all her problems,” Snow said. He quoted her as telling him. “This, maybe, solves all the heartaches and hurts.”

Police believe Mrs. Curry first shot her sons, Richard A., 14, and Jesse L., 11, at her home in Lowell. Her former husband, Jimmy Lee Curry, 42, their daughter, Sabrina, 17, and Johann Brophy, 27, Curry’s stepsister, were killed in Springdale.

[“Shots Kill 5; ‘All Heartaches, Hurts Solved’,” syndicated (UPI), Los Angeles Times (Ca.), Jul. 21, 1974, part 1, p. 4]


FULL TEXT: Shirley Lee Curry, 37, of Lowell, charged in Washington Circuit Court with the July 29 capital felony murders of her former husband and daughter and in Benton Circuit Court with the murders of her two sons, was dismissed from future trial and committed to the Arkansas State Hospital Wednesday by Circuit Judge Maupin Cummings.

Trial for Mrs. Curry in Benton Circuit Court for the two Benton County murders is still pending. Officials there said that Benton Circuit Court will deliberate on Mrs. Curry’s legal responsibility for the murders upon her release from the state hospital.

The verdicts were decreed as a result of a Tuesday medical report from the Arkansas State Hospital which concluded that Mrs. Curry was schizophrenic and paranoid.

Dr. George W. Johnson, commissioner of mental health services at the hospital, recommended that Mrs. Curry be kept at the hospital for psychiatric treatment.

Mrs. Curry was admitted to the hospital Aug. 20 for a month’s examination by order of Washington Circuit Court.


She was arrested July 20 by Fayetteville police after a midnight shooting spree which spanned three cities and left five people dead and one person critically wounded.

Killed in the shootings were Jimmy Lee Curry, 43, of 406 Michael St., Springdale, her former husband; the couple’s three children, Sabrina Maria Curry, 17, Richard Allen Curry. 14, and Jessie Lee Curry, 11; and Miss Jo Ann Brophy, 31, of 1710 S. Young St., Springdale, Jimmy Lee Curry’s step-sister. James Robert Dotson, 46, of Farmington, a former brother-in- law, was critically wounded when he was shot in the face and neck by Mrs. Curry. He was released from Veteran’s Hospital at Little Rock a month later in good condition.

Police now believe that the motive for the five murders resulted from a July 19 verdict in Washington Chancery Court which awarded the couple’s three children to the custody of Jimmy Lee Curry and his new wife, Sandra Mollenhoff Curry. Mrs. Curry is reported to have said “I’ll kill them all” upon issuance of the custody verdict in chancery courtroom. The couple had been divorced in 1965.


Police say the killing spree began around midnight July 20 when Mrs. Curry shot her two sons, Richard Allen and Jessie Lee, who were still living with her in Lowell.

The two boys were found at the home by Lowell Marshal Marion Foster a short time later. Richard was dead at that time and Jessie, wounded, died soon severely wounded,  after at Springdale Memorial Hospital.

Mrs. Curry is then reported to have gone to the home of her former husband in Springdale.

Mrs. Sandra Curry, in the home at that time, said that Jimmy Lee Curry was shot twice by Mrs. Curry when he answered the doorbell at about 12:30 p.m.

Mrs. Curry then entered the louse and walked to her daughter’s room. Mrs. Sandra Curry said that she heard Sabrina Marie ask who it was and a woman’s voice saying  “It’s your mother.”

Sandra Curry heard two more gunshots as she ran out the jack door of the house to the home of a neighbor so that she could phone police. Sabrina Marie was found dead by Springdale police at about 12:50 a.m. shot twice in the right temple.

Mrs. Sandra Curry told Springdale Patrolman Randy Carmack that Mrs. Curry had driven away in a new Ford truck.

Springdale police then sent out a bulletin to surrounding law enforcement agencies concerning the description and license number of the truck.

Miss Brophy was killed shortly after the two murders at the Jimmy Lee Curry home. Dotsoh was shot at about 1:30 a.m. when he answered a knock at the door of his mobile home in Farmington.

Mrs. Curry was stopped by Fayetteville Patrolmen Gene Phillips and Frank Upton around 1:50 a.m. at the intersection of Wedington Drive and Sang Ave. A .38 caliber pistol was found on the front seat of the pickup truck.

A note was also found in Mrs. Curry’s possession which stated in part: “If you are reading this or having it read to you, it will mean I did it. Which at this sorrowful hour, I mean it. No one will come near me. The kids are afraid of me, so they say on the stand. I’m nothing, never was. So why fight it - I quit - nothing is worth it now.”


A tape recording found at Mrs. Curry’s home July 21 indicated that two more victims were intended for murder the night on which the shooting occurred.

Funeral services for the five persons were held July 23 at the Sisco Funeral Home in Springdale.

Mrs. Curry was not charged with the death of Miss Brophy or the assault of Dotson at the time of the initial charging July 22 in Washington Circuit Court.

She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at that time for the two Washington County murders.

Mrs. Curry also pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for the two Benton County murders July 24 in Benton Circuit Court.

Trial for Mrs. Curry was originally set for Oct. 16 and 17 in Washington Circuit Court.

[“Lowell Woman Charged With Killing Four Committed to State Hospital; Future Trial Dismissed by Cummings,” Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville), Sep. 26, 1974, p. 1]


EXCERPT (from 1998 article): Fayetteville – As far as Washington County Chancellor Tom Butt knew, Shirley Curry was just a person he ruled against in another emotional custody case. On July 20, 1974, the day after the ruling, a detective woke Butt by calling him at 4 a.m. Curry went on a shooting rampage, killing her ex-husband, her ex-sister-in-law and her three children – 17, 14 and 11. She outlined her murderous plans on a cassette tape police found. “We heard the tape,” the detective told Butt. “She said, ‘The next person I’m after is that man in the black robe.’ “ Police arrested Curry before she could follow through with her threat. At 61, she’s serving life without parole in an Arkansas prison.

[Seth Blomeley, “Chancellor Butt has spent nearly 50 years of hard work and no nonsense on the bench,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Ar.), Sep. 21, 1998]








  1. Do you have links or scans of these articles available?

    1. All the newspaper articles I use are ones that I have transcribe from scans (clippings) that I keep on file. The best sources for full page scans are Proquest Historical Newspapers (major newspapers; available in research libraries) and (regional papers).

  2. I am 1 of 2 left in that family. Emotionally I have never stopped hurting. Living on is the hardest road to travel. Sebrina warned everyone this was coming
    None listened. I still wonder if they regret that...

    1. Hello I'm so sorry for your loss. Please forgive me as I am curious, how would you describe your relationship with Sabrina and the rest of your family?