Solving a mob mystery: Exhumation may identify bones as constable who vanished in '61
NEWPORT, Ky. (WKRC) - There is still an unsolved mystery from Newport’s days as a mob-controlled “Sin City” with gambling and prostitution.
Constable George Hawkins vanished in 1961. His daughters are still afraid to talk about their father's disappearance, but there is little question the Newport mob had George Hawkins killed.
However, the mystery could soon be solved.
The exhumation of Esttella Hawkins from the Persimmon Grove Baptist Church cemetery in Campbell County is to get her DNA, all to find out if a certain skull with a head wound belongs to her son, George.
The skull was found along the Ohio River in Carroll County in 1980.
"If you look at the roundness of the eyes… mouth structure… there is a likeness,” said Detective Endre Samu of Kentucky State Police Post 5.
A likeness to George Hawkins if compared to a facial reconstruction built over the skull.
George was an elected Newport constable who disappeared after an appointment with his attorney in 1961.
"The last person was Charlie Lester, George’s attorney for an IRS audit,” said Marvin Record of the Newport Historical Society.
Lester was also the attorney for organized crime leaders in Newport, linked to the Cleveland syndicate.
"Aren't many people who disappear off the face of the earth,” said Record.
But George Hawkins seemingly did.
Some in Newport said there was a hit on the so-called “egg man,” Hawkins' nickname for his shakedown of gambling joints.
He owned a market in Persimmon Grove, where farmers brought eggs.
He sold them for a $100 apiece to gambling and strip clubs, then the price went up to $500 apiece.
Remember, a constable has police powers. Sometimes that meant something to the tune of: "I’m a county constable, I won't come in as long as you pay me this… I’ll turn the other way if I see something illegal"
Four days after Hawkins disappeared, his Plymouth station wagon was found parked at the river's edge in Dayton, Kentucky. The key was still in the ignition.
When they found his car, it had been sanitized to the point no trash no chewing gum wrapper scrubbed down by river water.
If things are unraveling and they had to take care of “loose ends…” was George Hawkins a loose end? Was he one of the people gave info to the IRS?
Things were unraveling. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy called out Newport to show the evils of gambling.
There were IRS audits and several lawmen faced indictment.
George Ratterman was campaigning for sheriff on a promise to drive out vice.
Hawkins disappeared the day before hundreds of people gathered at the library in support of Ratterman.
Then Ratterman, the married former football star, became the center of sin city's most sensational scandal.
He was drugged, stripped naked and put in bed with stripper, April Flowers, to derail his campaign. It didn't work.
Ratterman's arrest became the talk of the town, not George Hawkins disappearance, but there was talk about what happened to him.
"He ended up wearing a ‘Newport nightgown,’” said Detective Samu, who explains that the “nightgown” is made of concrete.
That means they encased him in cement, or they put him totally encased in a new construction zone.
Years later, Hawkins' chief deputy gave George’s wife his masonic ring and his watch. He said he got it from Lester.
There was never a police investigation. The only case file on Hawkins is the one on Detective Samu's desk. He believes the egg selling scheme is what George did to support his family. He didn't live lavishly, wasn't indicted, so same chooses to see the good side.
"George was a constable… should be remembered with dignity,” said Detective Samu.
If the skull is George’s, his family will know for certain he was killed.
It won't tell them who or why, but one chapter in sin city's history will have to be rewritten.
If the DNA matches George, it will be added to his information in NAMUS, the database of the missing and unidentified. It is available to police and the public.