In recent months, creepy clown sightings have made headlines across the nation.
But 51 years ago, there was one story, out of Atlanta, that would trump them all. It was bizarre and tragic and a lot more complex than a tale about a prankster with a red nose lurking in the woods of metro Atlanta.
One Friday afternoon in 1965, five FBI agents swarmed a bus on the grounds of a traveling carnival in Atlanta, shook a man awake and arrested him.
The man they'd sought went by many names.
There was the one he told his employers at the fair: Leslie Lynn Lamar.
The one he went by while wearing clown makeup and sitting atop a dunk tank: Bobo the Clown.
The most important name was the one listed on the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives list: Leslie Douglas Ashley.
The 28-year-old "slightly built Arkansas native" was sought in a case out of Texas. Police in that state called it "one of the most bizarre crimes in a decade in Houston," according to an article published in The Atlanta Constitution on April 24, 1965.
More than four years earlier, Ashley and his female roommate pumped six bullets into a "real estate man" after the man became violent during a sex act.
Then they burned the body.
Ashley was sentenced to death after he confessed on the stand. But four hours before his electrocution, he won a stay.
The confessed killer, who the paper noted "often worked as a female impersonator in night clubs catering to homosexuals," was eventually declared insane. He was sent to the Texas State Mental Hospital "until he was sane enough to go on trial again."
Before that could happen, Ashley escaped from the maximum security ward.
When he wound up at the Carver Boys Club-sponsored fair on Northside Drive near the current site of the Georgia Dome, Ashley spoke with his carnival manager about his fugitive status. The manager thought Ashley was joking when he said he was one of the 10 most wanted men in America.
But after his colleagues saw a wanted poster and a brunette wig in Ashley's suitcase, they alerted authorities.
Ashely was convicted in the retrial and received a 15-year sentence, according to The New York Times.
Then he got yet another name: Leslie Elaine Perez.
After being released from prison Ashley had undergone "sex-change surgery." Perez ran for a Democratic party chair position in Harris County, Texas.
It's unclear if she ever worked as a clown again.
Read more of the AJC's "creepy clown" coverage below:
- Peachtree City warns against clown pranks
- Creepy clown sightings ‘not cute or funny’
- Scary clown sightings make a comeback with a boost from social media
- Dunwoody cops offer firm warning after 'clown' seen with machete
- Atlanta school police investigate scary clown threats
- Students arrested, released early over creepy clown threats
- Why clowns are scary