Southeastern Channel spotlights famous crimes and criminals of the Florida Parishes
Contact: Christina Chapple
(1) CONTROVERSIAL HANGING -- Onlookers gather at the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse in Amite during the 1921 hanging of the men convicted of murdering Independence banker Dallas Calmes. The controversial incident is one of the infamous Tangipahoa Parish crimes featured in a new "The Florida Parish Chronicles" episode debuting Oct. 10, 8 p.m., on Southeastern Louisiana University’s educational access channel, the Southeastern Channel.
(2) DARK SIDE OF HISTORY -- National Guardsmen escort the six convicted men to their public hanging at the Amite Courthouse, climaxing the infamous 1921 Tangipahoa Parish murder trial featured in a new episode of "The Florida Parish Chronicles" airing on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 10 on the Southeastern Channel, Charter Cable Channel 18 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Livingston parishes and Channel 17 in Washington Parish.
HAMMOND -- Famous crimes and criminals in Florida Parishes history will be highlighted in the newest episode of the Southeastern Channel’s Telly Award-winning history series, “The Florida Parish Chronicles.”
“Part One: Legendary Crimes and Criminals of the Florida Parishes” will air on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 10 on Southeastern Louisiana University’s educational cable access channel.
General Manager Rick Settoon, the show’s executive producer, said the new episode includes period dramatic reenactments, vintage photographs, archival footage and interviews.
“The colorful history of the Florida Parishes is spiced with legend and folklore of notorious villains and highly-charged criminal cases that most have only heard about in bits and pieces passed down through generations,” said Settoon. “This episode presents detailed and factual records of two of the more well-known stories in a dramatic fashion that viewers will enjoy.”
The show profiles the adventures of famed train robber Eugene Bunch, who terrorized the Florida Parishes in the late 19th century. Bunch began his robberies in Washington Parish and successfully held up trains throughout southeast Louisiana until he was tracked down, ambushed and killed in 1893.
It also chronicles the much-publicized and much-disputed 1921 trial and hanging of six Italian men who murdered Independence banker Dallas Calmes while attempting to rob the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank of Independence. The men, who had criminal backgrounds and were from New York, Chicago and New Orleans, had heard that the bank housed large deposits made by Independence strawberry farmers.
The narrative looks at the much-disputed hanging of six men for the murder of one person and whether the verdict and swift punishment exacted vengeance rather than justice.
The account touches on the Independence community’s anger at the killing of a beloved citizen at the zenith of anti-Italian sentiment in Tangipahoa Parish, fueled by speculation of new Mafia involvement in the region and its reputed involvement in the murder of New Orleans police chief David Hennessey which had resulted in a mob lynching of Italians.
Included is an interview with Anthony Margavio, Southeastern scholar-in-residence and co-author with the late Jerome Salomone of “Bread and Respect: Italians in Louisiana.” Filmed at the still-standing Independence bank building where the murder occurred, Margavio discusses whether or not the controversial hanging was a result of the area’s prejudice against Italians due to accounts of spreading Mafia crimes in south Louisiana.
The 30-minute program is hosted, written and narrated by Samuel C. Hyde Jr., Leon Ford Endowed Chair and director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies. Hyde was nominated for an Emmy last year for a “The Florida Parish Chronicles” script. He said the current episode took almost eight months to research and write.
“We wanted to be certain not only that we told the stories as accurately as possible, but that we did justice to historical events that are painful to some, yet fascinating to others,” Hyde said.
“Americans are simply fascinated by stories of dramatic crimes and the lives of famous criminals,” Hyde said. “Although the Florida Parishes have long been associated with a highly-celebrated record of criminal activity due to the extended frontier period, the true stories of many of the most dramatic crimes and criminals have been obscured by faded memories and legend.
“This episode will set the record straight on some of the most celebrated crimes and criminals from our region’s past,” Hyde said. “It’s a must-see for those interested in the dark side of our history.”
Settoon said the show’s dramatic reenactments strengthen the visual storytelling. Train robbery scenes for the Eugene Bunch story were shot using an authentic, steam-powered locomotive engine provided by the Republic of West Florida Museum in Jackson, La.
“Although we were working with a limited budget and crew, with a little planning and creativity we were able to enhance the story with some fairly effective images,” said channel operations manager Steve Zaffuto, who directed the reenactments.
Editor Josh Kapusinski, who won an Emmy last year for a promotional spot for “The Florida Parish Chronicles,” said the show’s content made it easy to be creative.
“We’ve always been told of the exploits of characters who rob banks and trains through popular movies, but it’s fascinating to learn that an outlaw of this type, such as Eugene Bunch, crossed paths with many parts of this region of southeast Louisiana,” Kapusinski said.
The Southeastern Channel can be seen on Charter Cable Channel 18 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Livingston parishes and on Channel 17 in Washington Parish. It can be seen online at www.selu.edu/tv.