Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer of '65: Murder on the Lake - Part III

It was shortly before eleven o' clock when Richard Romine Sr, his son, and four friends arrived at the camp on Lauderdale Beach Road. The entrance to the camp driveway was blocked by a car identified as the one that had pursued the four Coffee youths.

The six men exited their vehicle with the intention of walking down to the camp, but were met by another Coffee High School student. The young man sported a bloody lip and informed the group that Bobby Stewart's gang was attacking anyone who tried to get to the lake cabin. It wasn't safe to go any farther.

Romine decided to ignore the young man's warning and began the trek to the cabin, along with his five companions. Before he reached the camp, a group of five young men approached. The oldest one spoke directly to Richard Romine Jr., asking him what he thought he was doing there.

The elder Romine walked forward and asked the man if he was Bobby Stewart. When Stewart replied in the affirmative, Romine extended his hand and identified himself, stating he was concerned about the violence that had been taking place between the Colbert and Lauderdale County boys.

After shaking Romine's hand, Stewart quickly stated he had not attacked anyone, but Romine continued, asking Stewart if he had not instigated most of the violence over the past few months. Romine stated if the violence continued he would have Stewart arrested. Stewart shot back that he could just as easily have Romine arrested.

Whether Richard Romine Sr. was angered or simply tired of the ongoing dispute, he decided to finish it that night in some manner. Pulling the .38 from his pants, he fired into the ground, later telling authorities he simply wanted Stewart to know he was indeed serious.

When Stewart saw the gun, he stepped back. Romine first hit Stewart in the stomach with his fist, then swung at Stewart's head, still holding the loaded gun in his hand. The gun discharged, hitting Stewart just over the left eye. A shocked Romine knelt and held Stewart's head in his lap as others brought a car down to the scene. Romine and some others placed Bobby Stewart in the car and headed toward ECM hospital.

After being met by an ambulance on the way into Florence, Romine helped the group transfer Stewart. He then began to follow the ambulance to the hospital, but abruptly decided to drive to the Florence Police Department instead. Romine entered the Pine Street department and immediately announced he had shot Bobby Stewart, handing his weapon to a surprised police captain.

The call came into the police department that Robert T. Stewart Jr. had died in the emergency department at approximately midnight. Now Richard Leland Romine Sr. was facing a charge of what was then called First Degree Murder.

To be continued...


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