4 teens arrested & charged with capital murder in the lethal mugging of 87 year old WWII veteran ‘Shine’ of Greenville

4 teens arrested & charged with capital murder in the lethal mugging of 87 year old WWII veteran ‘Shine’ of Greenville

Photo story (Clockwise from top left): (1) Thornton crowned King of Delta Hot Tamale Festivals held in 2012 (2) Shine with his wife Mary (3) An Auk class minesweeper of US navy in WWII (4) Another WWII veteran Delbert Belton was brutally pummeled to death by the teen criminals on 21st August, 2013 (5) Demetrius Glenn, 16 (6) Kenan Adams Kinard, 16 (7) Geblonkski Murray, 18 (8) Leslie Litt, 18 (9) Edward Johnson, 19 (10) Terrance Morgan, 19, who was denied bond by the judge   

87 year old WWII veteran Lawrence E Shine Thornton was much beloved in the local Greenville, Mississippi community and was best known as king of hot tamales. Shine was born in the city of Shaw in Bolivar County, Mississippi in 1925. He got his nickname Shine in his high school when he was picking out the notes to ‘You’re my sunshine’ during a performance. The veteran had served in the Pacific theatre on USS Herald AM-101 an Auk class minesweeper naval warship during WWII. The 87 year old widower was attacked on his own driveway by four teenage muggers on 18th October 2013. The 18 and 19 year old muggers recognized Shine as the king of the second annual Delta Hot Tamale Festival which was drawing to a conclusion on that day and targeted him for mugging. Greenville police said that around 05:30 pm the muggers had ‘pushed him down & stole his wallet’.

The veteran’s hip had been broken in the attack and he was suffering from internal bleeding. Emergency services arrived at the scene and airlifted him to the Mississippi University Medical Center in Jackson where he passed away from his severe injuries two days later on 20th October. Renowned American news website Cybercast News Service, also known as CNSNews, reported that all four teenagers have been arrested and charged with first degree murder in the lethal mugging of 87 year old WWII veteran Thornton.

To capture the culprits, Thornton’s community had launched reward campaign for the arrest and on 21st October 2013 police arrested the two 19 year olds- Edward Johnson, Terrance Morgan and the two 18 year olds- Leslie Litt, Geblonkski Murray. Andrew Kaho, Assistant police chief, said that each of the four teens was charged with robbery, capital murder and conspiracy to commit robbery. On 23rd October, Morgan was denied bond by the Judge while Geblonski and Johnson’s bond was set at $ 3 million and Litt’s was set at $ 2.5 million.

After accomplishing his 2 years assignment as Fireman First Class aboard the Auk class minesweeper USS Herald in the major WWII Theater of war, Thornton returned home. Significant service in the Pacific was accomplished by the minesweeper and until his death, Thornton remained proud of his service on the ship. Upon returning he worked for Delta Electric Company for 37 years until 1984. To support his family he also started a liquor store as side business.

After losing his job at Delta Electric, Shine switched to running the liquor store. A severe head injury at the store made him take decisions to change the business. He said that he got hit in the head that took about six months before he could do anything. He also said that he ‘had to get out of the Whiskey Business’. He further added that his doctors said that they had to operate on his head and they did not know whether he could come out of the operation alive or not.

The 59 year old was concerned about making ends meet at the store and was considering starting the hot tamale business in the same year. Tamale is a traditional corn based starchy dish filled with meats, cheese, spices etc. Shine began experimenting with the hot tamale recipe he received from a friend and came up with his own crafted beef hot tamale recipe which eventually became a successful business. He named his brand ‘Maria’s famous hot tamales’ after his wife Mary. She was Sicilian by origin. Shine’s hot tamale made him a local legend for the last 20 years. In both the Delta Hot Tamale Festivals held in 2012 and 2013, he was crowned as the King of hot tamale.


Video story: Thornton described how he had started ‘Maria’s Famous Hot Tamales’

This is the second violent incident of teenage mugging and murder of WWII veteran in recent time after two 16 year olds Kenan Adams Kinard and Demetrius Glenn was arrested and charged with first degree murder of WWII veteran, survivor of Battle of Okinawa, 88 year old Delbert Belton who was brutally pummeled to death by the teen criminals on 21st August, 2013. The two teen culprits were also charged with first degree robbery.

Thornton’s life is a story of heroics in WWII for his country, overcoming adversity, hard work and finding success in something you love. Some of the locals said and posted on their facebook pages, ‘you’ll forever be our King, Shine’.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE