Throwback Thursday – Hendry Denhardt and an 80-year-old unsolved murder

Throwback Thursday falls on Halloween this year. Let’s start your day with thrills and chills. This is a story of one of Kentucky’s most famous unsolved murder cases. The story begins in 1935 and stars Bowling Green-native and infamous politician, Henry H. Denhardt.

Mr. Henry Herman Denhardt was born in Bowling Green in 1876. He went to college at Cumberland University and received a law degree. He came home and worked his way up the political ranks to become Warren County Judge Executive by 1915. You may remember us mentioning him in the dedication of the College Street Bridge.

He then joined the Army and fought bravely in both the Spanish-American War and on the western front in World War I. Denhardt was decorated as a brigadier general by the 1920s. The General returned to Kentucky politics and served as Lieutenant Governor until the early 1930s. 

This is where our story gets goosebumps. General Denhardt retired to a farm in Shelbyville in 1935. He met southern debutante Verna Garr Taylor. She was 20 years younger and well-loved by the Oldham County community. Her mysterious death in 1936 in the middle of a November night from a gunshot wound sparked fury.

General Denhardt was accused of murder. Testimonies at his first 1937 trial told stories of car troubles and Verna’s rampant depression. The General claimed she talked of a double suicide with both of them dying together that fateful night. But when he disapproved, she left the car and showed up dead. The jury was hung.

A second trial was set, but Verna’s family wanted revenge. Her three brothers brutally shot General Denhardt the night before the trial was set to begin. The brothers were acquitted based on lack of evidence against the avenging. Verna’s murder remains one of Kentucky’s unsolved cold cases. 

George A. Hendon, Jr. wrote a ballad, “The Death of General Denhardt” for this gruesome tale. We leave you with his words on this unusual Bowling Green son: 

“The harvest moon was shinin’ on the streets of Shelbyville when General Henry Denhardt met his fate. The Garr boys was a waitin’. They was out to shoot to kill. Death and General Denhardt had a date.”