St Augustine Police spokesman Mark Samson announced to Historic City News that, because the crime remains unsolved 38 years later, cold case Detective Corporal Charles Simpson is taking another look into the investigation of the brutal murder of Marine Street resident, Frances Bemis.
As was her custom, the outspoken owner of the Maria Sanchez Apartments was observed on her nightly walk through the neighborhood on November 3, 1974 — the same night residents told police they heard what sounded like “someone was being choked”.
The next morning, her body was found in an empty field just south of 46 Marine Street near Bridge Street. The victim’s head had been crushed by a cinderblock. The autopsy confirmed that she died from blunt force trauma.
During the 1974 investigation, police interviewed potential witnesses; although some in the area say they heard “screams” at about 7:00 p.m., no one admitted to seeing the attack or observing the killer’s escape.
Frances Bemis was an activist in the community. She was involved with the Humane Society and the St Augustine Art Association. She was also a vocal critic of the treatment of carriage horses.
Just over nine months earlier, on January 23, 1974, her friend and neighbor, Athalia Ponsell Lindsley, was murdered on the front steps of her Marine Street home. Bemis alluded to having gathered information that would identify the man responsible for Lindsley’s murder; however, whatever information she may have uncovered, if any, was taken with her to the grave.
Anyone with any information concerning this crime or who may know the identity of those involved is asked to contact detectives with the St. Augustine Police Department at (904) 209-3482. You can remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a cash reward by calling CrimeStoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-(888) 277-TIPS.