At the October term, 1839. Howell Purdue was indicted for the murder of Robert Karr. This was the first murder trial begun in the Warrick courts, although several prosecutions for assault and battery with intent to kill had taken place before. Eben D. Edson was at that time Prosecuting Attorney. The indictment charged Purdue with having stabbed Karr in the neck near the ear, from which death resulted. The law required that the value of the knife or other weapon used in murders should be alleged in the indictment, and the knife in this case was declared to be worth 25 cents. A change of venue was granted, and the cause sent to Gibson County for trial.
Judge Embree was succeeded by James Lockhart upon the bench at the April term, 1846. The latter was a resident of Evansville. He had become one of the foremost lawyers in this part of the State, and his selection for the important office to which he was now called was but a just tribute to his abilities. For several years he continued to hold aloft the scales of justice, and none have filled the position in Warrick County with a more becoming dignity or with less partiality than Judge Lock-hart. He, too, like his predecessor, was called into the counsel of his Nation and elected to the House of Representatives. It had become a common thing for the grand jury to condemn the county jail, which it did at almost every session. Sometimes it recommended additions and repairs, sometimes it recommended an improvement in the manner in which it was kept.
The trial of Marsham Powers and George Rice for the murder of an unknown man was one of the most exciting criminal cases of the Warrick Circuit Court. The story of this cause runs about as follows: Some years' prior to the prosecution the defendants, who lived in the northern part of the county, had come through Boonville in search of a man that they claimed had passed some counterfeit money on them and who was a stranger. Being informed that he had gone through town some time before they followed after him. On their return, probably the next day, they said they had not found the man and went home. Nothing more was thought of the matter until several years later, when the remains of some man were found in the catalpa swamp in Ohio Township. Investigation indicated that the remains were those of the man for whom Powers and Rice had been looking and that they had disposed of him in an unlawful manner. They were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.
Shortly after the war Ira Duncan was indicted for the murder of Elliott Mefford. This derived additional interest from the fact that the deed was committed at the time of the celebrated Newburgh Raid. Mefford had been thought to have incited the raid. No proof of Duncan being the actual murderer could be introduced and he was acquitted. About the same time James W. Irvin was tried for the killing of Mr. Beach at Newburgh. This was during a street brawl and Irvin was acquitted on the ground that the deed was done in self-defense. It was something of a political quarrel and family fuss.
Later, George W. Murphy was indicted for murder. This case was peculiarly interesting. Murphy had laid a wager that the deceased could not drink a quart of whisky in an hour. The whisky was drank but the drinker died before he had left the place more than fifty yards. Murphy was at that time keeping a saloon in Newburgh. The defense was conducted by Isaac S. Moore and Judge Parrett. He was acquitted. Another murder trial occurred in the spring of 1875. This was against A. J. Taylor for the murder of Silas. This grew out of an old feud between the two men, dating back for several years. Taylor was acquitted, this too on the ground of self-defense. The prosecution was by Blythe Hines, of Evansville, who was an able attorney and made a strong effort The defendant's attorneys were DeBruler and Hatfield, of the same city. Later, John Bell and Mr. Frame were prosecuted for killing a negro. The evidence is said to have been rather strong against the defendants, but notwithstanding this, they were declared not guilty by a jury of twelve men.
Later, A. J. Maxey, of Lane Township, was tried for the murder of Mr. Beard. Beard claimed that Maxey had been for some time alienating the affections of his wife. On occasion of their meeting at a church, Beard approached Maxey, who told him to stop and not come near him, as he had threatened his life. Beard continued the approach, and Maxey shot him. He was defended by Moore and Denby, and was acquitted. Judge Parrett assisted in the prosecution.
Late in the fifties Minos Johnson was indicted for killing George McClintock. He was acquitted, and no doubt justly. The murder was most likely committed by another. McClintock had procured an indictment against a man named Tennison for robbery. Tennison was a son-in-law of Johnson, and that was the only motive alleged against Johnson. Tennison was afterward sent to prison for passing counterfeit money.
For the murder of a man named Willis, George and Thomas Williamson, father and son, were prosecuted about 1878. Thomas, the father, was tried and acquitted, and the other case was nullified. Denby, Hines and I. S. Moore defended. One of the most interesting civil trials ever had in the county was that of William and Silas Bell against Joseph and William Hedge and Christian Sams. This was for damages sustained by the plaintiffs in consequence of the burning of their barns by the defendants. After several changes of venue and having been sent to Gibson, Perry, Vanderburg and Spencer Counties, it was finally disposed of "at home." No judgment for damages was given, and the verdict was for the defendants.
Murder Newspaper Accounting
Murder in Warrick County—The
Evansville Enquirer learns that a cowardly and atrocious murder was
committed on Tuesday night, upon the person of a highly respectable man
named McCIintock, residing about four miles east of the town of
Boonville, Warrick county.
His wife was preparing supper for the family, and, hearing a noise outside the house he opened the door, when he was immediately shot in the side and fell dead in the doorway. Wednesday morning, upon examination it was found that he was perforated with eight buckshot, and it is supposed that the assassin must have been standing close to the door sill. As yet no trace of the murderer has been found, though after day broke he was tracked some distance by his footprints. This horrible affair has caused great sensation throughout Warrick and part of Vanderburgh counties, as the deceased was a man extensively known and Highly respected by all who were acquainted with him. He left a family behind him, some of them quite young He was a native of Pennsylvania.
Warrick County . Young Man Assassinated after a Call on His Best Girl
EVANSVILLE, Ind-. March 1.—Nicholas Trautvetter was mysteriously murdered near Millersburg Warrick County lost night, and Robert Moore was arrested this afternoon charged with the crime. The parties are young men of prominent families. They were suitors for the hand of Miss Phoebe Schick. Moore formerly kept company with her, and Trautvetter was doing so at the time of his death. He had spent Sunday evening with Miss Schiek, and was on his way home when shot to death. As he traversed the country road Moore joined him. The later when arrested claimed some unknown party shot Trautvetter from ambush. Moore then hastened home and told this story to his father. The latter aroused the neighborhood, and sought the murdered man. Later the dead man's' family was notified. Moore's story is not generally believed.
Date: 1897-03-03; Paper: Indiana State Journal
Death Sentence Cannot Be Carried Out Legally in Indiana, Condemned
Indianapolis, Ind., Sept. 28.—Joseph D. Keith, convicted of murder, in Warrick county, and under sentence of death, in his appeal to the supreme court, depends largely on the plea that in turning the state prison south into a reformatory it left no legal place in which Warrick county criminals can be put to death. This contention has led the attorney general to prepare a brief, covering, 168 pages, holding that the reformatory act did not repeal the law of 1889, and, if it did, it simply revived the common law under which the death sentence can be carried out. The brief prepared by the attorney-general is unique in that it contains half-tone pictures of the hammer with which it is charged Keith murdered Miss Kifer, the heavy stone that was tied about her neck to sink her body in Pigeon Creek, and the slippers and corset she wore in life.
Date: 1901-09-28; Paper: Jackson Citizen Patriot