Southeastern Channel sheds light on the famous Breland murders

Thursday, May 14, 2015
by: Tonya Lowentritt

Breland killersBreland victims

THE BRELAND MURDERS-  Reenactment scenes portray convicted killers Avery Blount (left) and Garfield Kinchen (right) and victims Eliza Breland (left) and stepdaughter Alma Johnson Everette (right) in the famous Breland murders that took place in Tickfaw in 1909.  The crime has been called the most diabolical in Louisiana history and sheds light on inter-parish feuds between families and origins of the tag “Bloody Tangipahoa” for Tangipahoa Parish.

     HAMMOND – One of the most mysterious and diabolical crimes in Louisiana history, which took place in Tangipahoa Parish in the early 1900s, will be brought to light on Southeastern Louisiana University’s Southeastern Channel.
     The controversial Breland family murders of 1909 near Tickfaw is the subject of the latest episode of the Emmy-nominated history series, “The Florida Parish Chronicles,” entitled “Murder Mystery: The Breland Killings and the Challenge of Justice in Southeast Louisiana.”
     The episode debuts at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 16, on the Southeastern Channel, Southeastern’s educational channel on Charter 199. According to channel General Manager Rick Settoon, the episode will continue to air at 8 p.m. Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays through May. The program is underwritten by First Guaranty Bank of Hammond.
     “Amid the many tragedies that helped earn Tangipahoa Parish the epithet ‘Bloody,’ one episode stands out as particularly gruesome,” said host and primary researcher Samuel C. Hyde, Ford Family Chair in Regional Studies and director of the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern. “The tragic Breland family murders contain all the elements necessary to make it a true horror story -- the ambush of an already grieving family on a quiet road, the murder of one man and two women, one a teenage mother, a baby left crying at the side of a ditch, along with a jail break and a hanging.”    
     The episode describes a bizarre and violent series of events leading up to and following the tragic murder of J.O. “Buzzy” Breland, his wife and stepdaughter in an ambush, referred to at the time as a “bushwhack,” on a country road between Tickfaw and Genessee.
     Chief suspects at the time were prominent Livingston Parish patriarch Ben Kinchen, his brother Garfield Kinchen and friend Avery Blount, who at the time was Tangipahoa Parish constable. Accounts state that fugitive Garfield Kinchen hid in the swamps of Livingston Parish for 18 months after the murders.
     “The Breland murders have long remained a mystery in the area, and local residents still debate whether all of the varied victims of the tragedy ever received justice,” Hyde said.  “Court records, newspaper accounts, and interviews with descendants of both victims and perpetrators were all employed in our effort to piece together the convoluted story.”
     Settoon said that period photographs along with dramatic reenactments and computer-animated sequences of key incidents play an effective role in depicting the Breland case. Channel operations manager Steve Zaffuto shot, edited, animated and created graphics for the episode.
     “Although there are different versions of the story, Sam Hyde’s exhaustive and thorough research from all sides presents a balanced and objective view of what descendants of the families involved will no doubt debate for decades to come,” Settoon said.
     The program includes an interview that Hyde conducts with noted Livingston Parish historian Clark Forrest, a descendant of Garfield Kinchen, at the New Zion Cemetery near the Little River community west of Tickfaw, site of a killing during a funeral which set the tragic events in motion.
     “In addition to offering details on an exciting and mysterious incident from our past, this episode also seeks to provide insight into the thinking of individuals who lived in our area and participated in the violence that consumed the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” Hyde said.  “This episode will both entertain and educate just as it may also be a bit of a shock to many viewers.”  

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