Month: July 2020

Death On A Lonely Dirt Road: The Murder of 17-Year-Old Mildred Moore

October 28, 1953
Irish Ridge Road, Marshall County, W
est Virginia

Several years ago, I was reading through one of my great aunt Lulu Winters’ diaries when I came upon a startling entry that read:

“Friday, October 30, 1953 – Arnold McCardle’s niece got murdered on Irish Ridge by 68 year old Chas Ray who stayed there. She was 17. Mildred Virginia Moore. So Iva called for Ed about plot at cemetery. I hunted for him. Funeral Sunday 2:30 at our church. Alta, Lila, and I to sing.”

Mildred Moore in an undated school photo

I set about researching the story and with the help of fellow Find-A-Graver Charles Logston, we unearthed the details of what occurred that October day. Unfortunately, it is one of those events long forgotten through the decades and I want to make certain Mildred remains in Moundsville, West Virginia’s memory .

A Grim Discovery

While driving along an isolated dirt road known as Irish Ridge near Moundsville, West Virginia, a Soil Conservation Service employee came upon a dreadful scene. Harold Burke had been doing field work when he discovered a teenaged girl laying behind a pickup truck sitting beside the road.  The discovery was made at 2 o’clock on that fall afternoon, and after Burke parked his vehicle, he checked on the girl to see what distressed her. To his horror, he realized that she was deceased, having two bullet wounds in her head and two more in her back. He rushed to the nearest phone and called police.

State Troopers W.P. Dove and Joseph A. Shroutt arrived shortly after and discovered a second body in the pickup truck . Slumped in the driver’s seat was an elderly man with a single bullet hole to the head and .32 revolver found beneath him.

Investigators identified the body of the teenaged girl as that of seventeen-year-old Mildred Moore and the man in the truck as sixty-eight-year-old Charles Ray. Mildred lived with her parents on a farm in rural Sand Hill township. Charles Ray, a retired co-op worker, lived at 303 Baker Ave. and worked for the Moore family as a hired hand. According to my aunt, he was living with the Moore family at the time, which was more than likely a temporary situation.

The pair had last been seen around noon at the Moore home when they left for the main road to purchase groceries from a produce truck. Investigators determined that Mildred had been in the act of running away when Ray shot her four times before turning the revolver on herself. It was unclear what series of events led to the murder suicide. Family and friends could provide law enforcement with no clues towards a motive. Marshall County Coroner Ernest D. Conner determined that the theory of a suicide pact was not possible due to the position of Mildred’s body and the location of her wounds.

Family Background

Charles Grover Cleveland Ray was born on Nov 15, 1884 in West Virginia, the son of David Bruce and Ella Gray Ray. His mother died when he was nine years old and his father remarried to Rose Barnett. Charles married Mary Leta West and had a son, Charles Edward in 1919 and a daughter, Freda Vina in 1922. 

On Charles Rays’ 1918 WWI draft registration card, he described himself as having medium height, of medium build, with light brown hair and light blue eyes. He wrote that he was employed as a “sivel [civil] engineer” for Wheeling Terminal Railroad Company. At the time, he lived with his wife at 1311 North Street in Moundsville. 

Mary Leta died of a heart attack five years before Charles committed the murder.

Mildred Virginia Moore was born on April 7, 1936, the daughter of Everett and Elsie McCardle Moore. They lived on a farm in Elm Grove on Stull Run. A little known fact not published in the newspaper articles was that Mildred and Charles were related. Mildred’s maternal grandmother, Minnie, was Charles’ first cousin. Because my mom’s side of the family is from West Virginia, I understand some of the dynamics of family in West Virginia and many rural communities for that matter. I’ve found that even long after my mom and her relatives moved to Ohio, they treat second and third cousins as close family. Blood relation is blood relation, no matter the distance, so Mildred’s parents no doubt trusted Charles Ray with their daughter’s safety.

John Ray and Mary Ann Games children:
Leander Ray (married Sarah McWhorter), brother of David Bruce Ray (married Rose Barnett)
Minnie Ray, dau. of Leander Ray (married James McCardle), first cousin of Charles G.C. Ray, son of Bruce Ray
Elsie McCardle, dau. of James and Minnie McCardle (Married Everett Moore)
Mildred Moore
, dau. of Everett and Elsie Moore


What passed between them that day while driving on Irish Ridge is a mystery and one could theorize until they are red in the face on why Charles Ray committed such a terrible act.

Charles Ray was buried with his wife in Wood Hill Cemetery in Moundsville.

Mildred was laid to rest at Sand Hill Methodist Church Cemetery on Sunday, November 3. A considerable gathering of mourners filled the church, even crowding in the vestibule to hear the funeral service. My great-grandmother Alta, her sister Lulu, and two other women from the congregation sang during the service.

Mildred’s stone at Sand Hill Cemetery, photographed by my cousin Carla Tustin

After the horrific murder of their only child, we can only imagine how terrible life for the Moores became. No doubt they also carried the guilt of hiring a man, a relative they trusted, who turned a gun on their daughter. Everett, the father, suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away in 1957 at the age of 48. Elsie passed away in 1992 and shares a stone with her brother James in Sand Hill Cemetery.