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The Ruby Hardy Mystery

By Butch Bridges
Ardmore, Oklahoma
June 8, 1996

An Ardmore attorney, an Ardmore physician, A CARTER COUNTY deputy sheriff, two black men and a young woman make up the players to one of the most mysterious deaths of Carter county

The time is Wednesday, November 12, 1930, and a young woman’s concern over a dog, and the sudden forward lurch of her automobile, cost the woman her life. Her husband told authorities it was an accident. Was it an accident? Or was there more to this story?

The players in this mysterious tangled web of money, love and death:

Andrew J. Hardy, a 46 year old Ardmore attorney. He was a county judge and one time County Attorney

Ruby Hardy, age 31, the wife of Andrew Hardy

Con Keirsey, 36, Deputy Sheriff of Carter County and the lead investigator

Dr. Walter Hardy, a prominent Ardmore physician and brother of Andrew Hardy

Mitch Ligon, a 38 year old Negro farmer from Newport

Columbus Nero, a Carter County Negro

Andrew Hardy told investigators he and his wife, Ruby, went hunting on their farm, four miles north of Lone Grove, Oklahoma that November afternoon. He said his wife was at the wheel of their automobile. Their dog, which was leashed in the back seat, became tangled, and Andrew, who was carrying a 10 gauge shotgun, leaned the gun against the side of the vehicle. Mrs. Hardy, with her foot on the clutch and the motor running, leaned backward to help with the dog. Her foot slipped off the clutch, the car lunged forward, causing the shotgun to fall, discharge and striking Mrs. Hardy in the face. She died instantly.

But a few hundred feet away was Mitch Ligon, on horseback and near the gate. He told investigators a completely different story than that of Mr. Andrew Hardy. Mr. Ligon said he heard a woman screaming. Turning toward the area where the screams came from, he saw Andrew Hardy chasing Mrs. Hardy through the field. She tripped and fell. Mr. Ligon said he saw Andrew Hardy point the shotgun into Mrs. Hardy’s face, fire a shot and Mr. Ligon said the screaming then stopped.

Murder charges were filed against Andrew Hardy. Sheriff Walter Colbert would assign Deputy Con Keirsey to the case. Thirty days after the death of Mrs. Hardy, Con Keirsey, along with Undersheriff Vernon D. Cason, would be called to Wirt to investigate a stolen car report. While there a gun fight ensued between the two deputies, and the two car thieves. Both deputies were wounded. Vernon Cason was seriously wounded with a bullet to the stomach. Con Keirsey received what was believe to be a minor wound to the side of the face. Vernon Cason would survive his stomach wound. But Con Keirsey would die unexpectedly 10 hours later at 3:00am in the Hardy Sanitarium, under the care of Dr. Walter Hardy. Dr. Hardy was the brother of the accused. Dr. Hardy wrote on Con Keirsey’s death certificate, “gunshot wound” as the cause of death.

In February 1931, Mitch Ligon, the state’s key witness, was shot near Lone Grove during an argument with a friend over some insurance money. Mr. Ligon, though just recovering from the serious wound through the shoulders and chest, would testify at the trial.

One of the Negroes who heard the screams of the young woman, would be found dead, apparently of an accidental drowning, in a creek near Lone Grove.

Andrew Hardy would eventually be brought to trial in the Spring of 1931 on the charges of murdering his wife.

Mr. Hardy declared Mitch Ligon was a liar. Also he declared that his mother-in-law, Mrs. N.S. Shadden’s accusations that he and a County Attorney secretary were in love and had been having an affair for months before Mrs. Hardy’s death, to be a lie. Witness Viola Ross, a Lone Grove resident, was accused by Hardy of an affair with a Negro, and that one of her six children was the result of that affair. Defense attorneys would have the six frightened children of Mrs. Ross parade before the jury and all in attendance, to show that one child was darker skinned and had black, wavy hair.

State prosecutors would show that one month before Mrs. Hardy’s death, her husband, Andrew Hardy, took out several life insurance policies on his wife. They would also show the court, two other Negroes nearby heard the screams of a young woman moments before the shooting took place. Also there were no shotgun pellet marks nor blood splatter on the inside top of the automobile. Prosecutors would also present post office employees who had seen nude pictures of Mr. Hardy and Edna Stewart, a County Attorney secretary, into evidence.

After four days of testimony, and in less than two hours of deliberations, the jury would come back with a Not Guilty verdict on Andrew Hardy.

Grave marker of Andrew Hardy located in Rosehill Cemetery just a few feet south of the north entrance.

Grave marker of Mrs. Andrew Hardy located in Rosehill Cemetery just a few feet south of the north entrance.

Grave marker of Dr. Walter Hardy located in Rosehill just a few feet south of the north entrance.

Grave marker of deputy sheriff Con Keirsey located in Rosehill Cemetery just a few feet west of the north entrance.

Additional Note:

In the Fall of 1997 I saw long time Ardmore attorney Claud Smith (1905-1998), at the courthouse.  I asked Mr. Smith what was the most memorable event at the courthouse he remembers during his lifetime of practicing law here. Without hesitation Mr. Smith said the trial of Andrew Hardy in 1931.  He said the trial drew the largest crowd of people ever during the trial, with standing room only inside the courthouse, and many more citizens standing outside on the lawn.