Hammer attacks, 1975

Two men were killed and eight other people injured in frenzied hammer attacks that took place in Springfield on Aug. 4, 1975.

Frank Sherry (1950-2004) later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a deal agreed to by relatives of the victims. He served 13 years in prison. After his release, Sherry became a minister to inmates.

Prosecutors said Sherry, 26, had been drinking and taking PCP, a powerful animal tranquilizer, for several days before the attacks. Presumably as a result, he was in a psychotic state when he attacked his victims, Sangamon County State’s Attorney William Roberts told reporters. That led to the manslaughter plea, Lee Aschoff reported in The State Journal-Register.

“As a result of this psychosis, Mr. Sherry felt the persons he attacked were attacking him and he was defending himself.”

Roberts said he agreed to dismiss murder charges against Sherry because he could find “not a shred of premeditation or motive,” which is necessary for a murder conviction.

The two dead men, Mercer Hopper, 67, and Tompson Dace, 74, were remodeling an apartment in Sherry’s building at 216½ E. Scarritt St. when Sherry attacked them. Sherry assaulted another man next door and then went to a Thrifty Drug Store at 1400 S. Sixth St., where he attacked the other five people.

Two of those victims were the wife and granddaughter of Edward Cropp, 63, who subdued Sherry despite the fact that Cropp had the use of only one arm.

“When he hit that kid, I went crazy, almost,” Cropp said. “If it had been any kid, I would’ve.

Cropp, who was struck five times by the assailant, said a stroke several years ago immobilized one of his arms.

“I just wrestled him down and took the hammer away from him” …, he said.

Sherry was released from prison in 1988 and founded The Lord Looseth the Prisoner Ministries in Heber Springs, Ark. He died in 2004 in Heber Springs.schs logo (2)

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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19 Responses to Hammer attacks, 1975

  1. Doc Kirk says:

    There is so much more to this story. It didn’t end just there. I would like the author of this story to write me so I can share the story beyond the attacks.

  2. Doc Kirk says:

    I’m still doing alot of research on this. I’ve found his widow and have interview people who were associated with Mr. Dace. I’m going to put all this information together to write a book that will keep the memory of this forgiving story alive.

    • Ramona Johnson says:

      I would love to buy a copy of the book! I was in a church service that Frank spoke at many years ago. I’ve never forgotten it.

  3. Angela says:

    My bff was there that day. Does anyone know the little girl who was injured??

    • Carol Gruwell says:

      She was the granddaughter of Edward Cropp. He was inside the store getting his perscription filled. His wife came in screaming a man is killing people out in the lot. ?bff

  4. Sandy Baksys says:

    I was a neighbor of Mr. and Mrs. Dace on South State Street. Can you share the story that Doc Kirk says he is working on? I also remember the day of the hammer attacks–the pure shock.

  5. Nick Penning says:

    I was a reporter at Channel 20 at the time. The story was horrific, almost impossible to believe.

  6. Carol Gruwell says:

    My then soon to be Husband Jack Gruwell (pharmacists. ) & I both worked that day. My name was Carol Kuffner at the time. I ran across the street to get help.

  7. Aaron Pearl-Cropp says:

    My uncle Edward Cropp, even though he was paralyzed on one side, he still stood up and took the weapon out of Mr. Sherry’s possession…My Aunt Irma is still living and my cousin Rhea is also still alive…My Uncle always put family first and would have done that for anyone….If he would have been alive today, he would have been around 106 years of age…

  8. Mark R Scott says:

    What was the ethnicity of frank sherry?

  9. Elizabeth Rutherford says:

    From the Friday, October 10, 1975 edition of The State Journal Register:

    Sherry named assailant

    Frank Sherry, 25, was named in an inquest held Thursday morning by Coroner Norman Richter as the assailant who caused the deaths of two eldery men.

    The coroner’s jury found Mercer Hopper, 67, died Aug 4 of head injuries received from a hammer “in the hand or hands” of Sherry.

    Tompson Dace, 73, died Sept. 15 as the result of injuries caused by Sherry, the jury found. Dace died of pneumonia, according to the autopsy report. The pneumonia was the result of Dace’s weakened condition caused by the head wounds, the pathologist found.

    Frieda Gallehugh of 1002 S. 2nd St., who lived across the street from 216 E. Scarritt St., where the victims were beaten, testified she saw Sherry leaving the Scarritt Street house, a hammer in his hands.

    According to the witness, Sherry exclaimed, “Oh My God,” got in his car and drove away.

    The witness reported Sherry returned about 10 minutes later, went into the house briefly and then returned to the porch, where he sat down. Then he left again, she reported.

  10. David Cordell says:

    I knew Frank Sherry. He was truly a changed man. He was devoted to his Ministry. So much so that he made a trip to the Prison in East Arkansas just a week prior to his death. He made a great impact on everyone that he met.

  11. Steve Botkins says:

    I knew Frank in the nineties and attended Prevailing Word church. I am sorry to hear of his passing. I was fortunate to have met him and be involved in a testimony that we both were detrimental in helping a hitchhiker. Bill Sutton was the pastor back then. Steve Botkins. Knoxville Tennessee

  12. Michelle says:

    Mercer Hopper was a relative of mine…

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