SAN ANTONIO – Editors Note: Caution this story contains graphic details.
It’s a gruesome story that still shocks people today about the man known as the “The Butcher of Elmendorf.”
Joseph D. Ball was born and raised in Elmendorf. In the early 1930s, he opened up a tavern in the small town just southeast of San Antonio.
The tavern became the weekend party spot but things all changed when a barmaid named Hazel disappeared.
According to Ball’s right-hand man, Clifton Wheeler, Hazel and Ball had a romantic relationship. Wheeler told Bexar County deputies that Ball was the jealous type and that when he found out she wanted to start a new life with another man he shot her in the back.
Wheeler said he knew all of this because he helped Ball get rid of her body. In very graphic detail he said they stuffed her body parts in a barrel and burned her head along with her belongings.
The barrel was later found in plain sight after deputies noticed a strange odor coming from it.
When authorities went to arrest Ball, he asked if he could lock up his tavern first. While doing so he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the chest.
Days later, authorities discovered more bodies buried nearby. It was never reported how many though.
Rumors began to surface that a pool behind the tavern with five alligators inside may have played a role in disposing of the bodies.
Wheeler claimed Ball fed some of his victims to the reptiles.
No evidence was ever found to support the claim and the alligators were taken to what is now the San Antonio Zoo.
Wheeler was sentenced to two years in jail for being an accomplice in Hazel’s murder.
It was never reported just how many murders Ball committed or if any of the bodies were ever identified.