INSIGHT Magazine April 2015 - Page 20

gun. The pair were brothers, living in a trailer on the property of Hyatt and her father; according to a Tuscaloosa News article dated July 18, 1959, Hyatt told police that the pair had sexually abused her and physically abused her father, were drinkers and arguers and, at some point, Hyatt had enough. After shooting both men, Hyatt took an axe and dismembered the bodies, before distributing the remains in various locations between Anniston and Gadsden. The bodies were undisturbed until a man looking for berries found a torso instead, according to another Tuscaloosa News article, dated March 13, 1960. A housewife found the second torso near her secluded home soon after, and the police went on a search for something that could tie either body to an identity. Eventually the missing Harper brothers were submitted as possibilities; by the end of the inevitable interview with the Hyatt family concerning their disappearance, Viola was in custody. Hyatt was a charismatic figure from then on; according to the same March 13 article, her court-appointed attorneys were quoted as saying, “She’s willing to talk to everybody but us.” Viola granted interviews, participated in court proceedings with a “chipper” attitude and seemingly felt no remorse for the crime she readily confessed, so much that the courts had doctors certify her sanity to preserve the legitimacy of the trial. She was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences with a chance at parole in ten years; she was released almost immediately after the decade passed in 1970. Hyatt quietly lived out the rest of her life in INSIGHT Jacksonville, passing away at Jacksonville Hospital in 2000, leaving a gruesome legend in her wake. THE PLAY The upcoming “To Tread Among Serpents” takes the familiar story into a new, fictionalized account, following journalist Juanita Cohen as she investigates Rabbittown resident Violet Haight’s murder of her boyfriend and his brother. Haight won’t give away her motives for giving the men the axe, so Cohen invents a story that blossoms into a media powerhouse, paving a path for the journalist from local newspaper articles to Hollywood, with the sexy, dangerous (and invented) version of Haight becoming a celebrity — a position she enjoys without correcting the revised truth. The story explores modern themes of media murder blitzes, calling cases like that of alleged child-murderer Casey Anthony to mind as Haight’s tale becomes legend. Perhaps intentionally, the play strays from factual basis, an ironic acceptance that in telling stories, they sometimes grow larger than life — a synopsis on the website of writer Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos reveals that Haight’s motives go beyond cruelty and abuse into a more Hollywood direction — which may make the tale even more effective in the telling. “To Tread Among Serpents” runs in its first ever production April 9-12 at Jacksonville State University’s Stone Center Theater, at 7 PM April 9-11 and 2 PM April 12. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students, military and kids. Call the box office at 256-782-5648 or click here to purchase tickets online. ✻ April 2015