Fifty years after perhaps the most notorious murders in Auburn history, a time when the normally peaceful community literally formed a posse and took up arms in an ensuing manhunt, the killer still lives.
And, 50 years later, the story continues.
Two little girls, one of them a neighbor enjoying a sleep-over, were shot to death in the bed they shared.
A teen sister, tortured in the hallway for not sharing the whereabouts of the killer’s former girlfriend who was the oldest of the four sisters and the primary target of the spurned suitor, was killed with her throat slit by a hatchet.
The mother, the first of the victims, was sleeping on a living-room sofa, shot, and left bleeding before she dragged herself away and knocked on a neighbor’s door in a desperate cry for help and pleading for someone to save her babies.
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Not even a propped-up doll escaped harm, as the rampaging killer raised his shotgun and blasted a hole right in the doll’s chest during his savage hunt to destroy all innocence.
For days, the killer remained at large, prompting at one point a posse of more than 100 armed civilians to join Auburn police and local deputies in a search of nearby woods. Several hundred Auburn University students gathered to watch when the search drew to within two blocks of what was then known as Cliff Hare Stadium.
Today, the killer’s other would-be victims on the night of the horror, long gone from the area and for a time keeping their location secret, and their friends still in Auburn all fear his return. And with good reason.
The imprisoned killer, who escaped his sentence of death in the electric chair and without remorse has described in detail his intentional acts of evil, will go before a parole board on Nov. 8 and ask for his freedom.
There are those who feel that if granted, he would seek a return to finish the job he set out to do that night on Sept. 6, 1967.
That is why the survivors, quite literally, will be there… still fighting for their lives.
Every five years
Faye Sinclair, today in her 60s and living in another state, must relive this tragic story every five years.
It never gets any easier.
Every five years, she goes before a parole board and painfully, often tearfully, opens back up the deep emotional scars carved that night evil came and killed her sisters and tried to kill her.
Every five years, she recalls how she hid under a bed to save her life, how her sister Cathey hid in a closet before escaping through a window.
Their mother Juanita is 95 years old. She may have forgotten a few things in her 95 years, but she forgets nothing about the night of Sept. 6, 1967, Faye says.
“Quite truthfully, it doesn’t get any easier,” Faye said in an interview this week. “It brings everything back.”
Faye won’t be alone when she attends the parole hearing in Montgomery on Nov. 8. Cathey, their mother Juanita, friends from Auburn, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones and District Attorney Brandon Hughes will be there as well.
They all have things to say about one Edward Albert Seibold.
A rampaging killer
Auburn resident Linda Dean, a lifelong family friend with the Sinclair girls, one year went to the prom with Seibold.
They all attended Auburn High School together.
“He was an Eagle Scout. He was smart, extremely smart,” she recalls, sifting through a pile of newspaper clippings with headlines about the ongoing saga. “I get sick reading through them. Emotionally sick.
“It’s almost boastful the way he describes this.”
Eddie, as they referred to him, dated Cathey before she went off to college, but when she wanted to end the relationship, he did not and became obsessed with Cathey and according to one interview, the girls’ mother, who was a widow.
“The Sinclairs realized he had become obsessed,” Linda said. “When they left for a vacation, for example, he would follow them.
“He would break into their house and leave notes,” she said. “He clearly was dangerous.”
Manhunt grips a nation
Seibold, 21 at the time, never intended to be captured.
He made his way to Miami in what some considered part of a planned getaway to an island somewhere in the Caribbean. While in Miami, he took on a part-time job caring for an invalid child.
The murders back in Auburn had captured nationwide attention.
Killed were Elizabeth “Libba” Sinclair, 18; Mary Lynn Sinclair, 9; and Mary “MayMay” Durant, 8, the little girl from next door.
Posters and bulletin board pin-ups of Seibold quickly spread.
After a woman in Miami saw a picture of him in a magazine and then recognized Seibold walking down the street, she quickly alerted authorities.
FBI agents from there learned where Seibold was working to care for the invalid child, and at 7 a.m. went to the home, where the residents were shocked to hear about the crimes facing the man they had hired to care for their own child.
Seibold was found, according to Miami news accounts, “asleep in a bedroom where the invalid male was sleeping.”
She begged for her life
The murder trial was held in January 1968.
Seibold was found guilty, and he was sentenced to die in Alabama’s electric chair.
Then in the early 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentences, and the Sinclair family was asked if it would agree to a guilty plea and life sentences to avoid the costs, pain and suffering of going to court again.
The family agreed. However, lost along the way were the words “life without parole,” and in doing so, a window remains open to this day that allows Seibold the right to appear before a parole board every five years.
Ten years ago Seibold, serving his time at Stanton Correctional Facility in Elmore, granted an interview with veteran journalist Alvin Benn of The Montgomery Advertiser.
Seibold held nothing back, apparently having little reason to believe he would be granted parole. He described the murders in detail.
The killing started when he murdered the children first, blasting them with a round from his 12-guage, bolt-action shotgun in the bed they were sharing, Benn wrote.
He found 18-year-old Libba standing in the hallway.
She begged for her life. “He walked her up and down the hallway asking where her sister Cathey was. She said she did not know, and he believed her,” Benn reported. “Then he slit her throat with the hatchet.”
“It didn’t make any sense to kill Libba,” Seibold said in the interview. “She was a substitute target. If I couldn’t locate Cathey, I’d take down Libba or Faye. I didn’t know if Cathey would be there or not.”
Seibold claimed he didn’t kill their mother, Juanita, because he was in love with her and, once rejected by Cathey, sought to have an affair with the mother.
He never saw Cathey that night.
Cathey and Faye both managed to escape from their hiding places, and in doing so survived the carnage left behind inside their home.
But now, they feel they must continue that escape.
Every five years.
‘Die in prison’
Sheriff Jay Jones realizes how the murders that night long ago made a lasting impression on the community he serves today.
“I am planning to attend the hearing in November. I was at the last hearing and my position will be as it has always been: Eddie Seibold should never draw a single breath of air in freedom,” Jones said.
“The evidence was substantial and convincing. His actions that night in 1967 revealed a deliberate and calculated plan of action which he methodically carried out,” Jones said. “If others had been present and detected, there is no doubt in my mind that they would have suffered the same fate.
“His mindset and actions that night support the decision to not return him to walk among the population of a civilized society.”
District Attorney Brandon Hughes plans to be there as well, and just as spirited in his arguments.
“In addition to writing a letter opposing parole, I will be there personally to request the parole board deny the defendant early release,” he said. “My main arguments will center around the heinous nature of the crime as well as making certain the board knows that the original intent of the trial court was that the defendant be put to death.
“This was a brutal, premeditated murder of two 9-year-old little girls and an 18-year-old girl with a shotgun and a hatchet. A murder which Mr. Seibold admits to committing and continues to show no remorse whatsoever.
“The United States Supreme Court may have saved him from the death penalty, but he absolutely needs to die in prison.”
Still, she remembers
There is no doubt in friend Linda Dean’s mind that Eddie Seibold’s release from prison would create an instant danger to the community.
“He is still dangerous. There is nothing in any of these interviews that shows he feels remorse,” she said. “The fact of the matter is, even if he did feel remorse, he killed those three children.
“He needs to serve his time.”
She looks forward to seeing her friends, the Sinclairs, but regrets when it comes under the circumstances of every five years having to argue against the freedom of their would-be killer.
Meanwhile, 50 years later, after dozens of court hearings and parole board meetings and having to relive that night over and over again when she barely escaped with her own life, Faye Sinclair still sheds tears when thinking about the lives of her sisters snuffed out at such a young age.
“Sometimes you forget what your life was like, when you were young,” she muttered. “You move on, you go on with your life.”
But still, she remembers:
“I can’t forget my sisters.”
Nor can the peaceful village of Auburn, where she once called home, and where 50 years later it rallies behind her and her family once again.
For Libba, Mary Lynn and MayMay.
Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.