LOUP COUNTY NEBRASKA
CRIME NEWS

1904
George Brewer and Arthur Russell

Sheriff F.M. Keys, Wm. Smith, C.S. Hoyt and D.J. Miller, of Burwell, and Mr. Worth and Al Abbott, of Loup County, were up this week attending court as witnesses in the case of the state vs Geo. Brewer and Arthur Russell charged with stealing horses from Mr. Swigert, of Gordon.
[source: Valentine Democrat, Dec. 3, 1903 edition]

1914
Roy Fox

November 19, 1914
Leader's Account of the Fox Tragedy about right
J.A. Summers, at whose home Roy Fox died after having received the gunshot wound fired by Ben Gallbreath was in this city Monday.  He was one of the jurors at the coroner's inquest and said that the account of the tragedy as published in the Leader last week was practically correct and as given at the coroner's hearing.

He stated that the wounded man was brought to his place and lived two hours.  He retained conciousness during all of this time.  While suffering intense pains from the wound, yet did not utter a word regarding the shooting.  He would not permit those attending him to be taken in to the house.

While the dead man was wild in his actions and had earned the reputation of being a bad character yet, according to Mr. Summers.  He was portrayed to have been worse than he really was.  Many of the petty theiving and disturbances charged up to him were some in which he had no part in whatever.

The parents and an uncle of the dead man were notified shortly after the tragedy occured, but did not arrive in time to see him alive.  According to Mr. Summers the parents were greatly affected by the sight of their dead son.  After the hearing at the inquest was concluded the jury brought in a verdict that Roy Fox met his death from a bullet fired from a gun in the hands of Ben Gallbreth.

The shooting caused a great deal of intense excitement in that community.
Source: The Sargent Leader, Sargent, Nebraska, November 19,1914

1915
Roy Fox Murder
Reed Wants Charge of Slaying Pushed
Attorney General W.S. Reed Demands Action
Galbreath Killed Roy Fox in November and County
Attorney Loath to Issue Complaint against him.

The failure of the county attorney of Loup county to prosecute Benjamin Galbreath on the charge of murdering Roy Fox, the disinclination of the judge of the district court to call a grand jury for the purpose of inquiring into the killing of Fox has resulted in an inquiry by the machinery of the state.

It has also resulted in a petition signed by 94 citizens of the county asking the judges of the district court to enforce the law, stating that County Attorney A.S. Moon has refused to prosecute Galbreath, and asking the judges to take such action as might be necessary to enforce law and order and also asking the judges to request Governor Morehead
to instruct the attorney general to investigate.

The governor directed Attorney General W.S. Reed to make an investigation.  Fred G. Hawxby of Auburn was employed by the attorney general to inquire into the killing of Fox.  The attorney general has filed a report with Governor Morehead.  It is based upon Mr. Hawxby's investigation and states that Galbreath without justification shot and killed Fox November 9, 1914, that the father of Fox and another citizen named Sam Sears, received letters from a self constituted vigilance committee and ordering them to leave the county and accusing them of harboring thieves.

Attorney General Reed finds there has been considerable petty thieving in Loup county and a few individuals, instead of taking the matter into court, have preferred to become the grossest of violators themselves.

In one letter it was hinted that if the father of Fox and a man named Sears did not leave the country there would be a repetion of the Cherry County affair in which a man was hanged to a telephone pole.  Attorney Reed is determined that Galbreath shall be tried for the murder of Fox.  He has received a letter in which Judge Hanna of the district court says the county board objects to the calling of a grand jury on account of the expense, the board predicting that no good would come of it.  The attorney general has asked County Attorney Moon to join in the request to Judge Hanna to call a grand jury, or inlieu thereof to cooperate with Mr. Hawxby in having Galbreath bound over to the district court for a speedy trial.

Attorney General Reed has filed the following report with Governor Morehead:
"Lincoln, June 1, 1915.  To His Excellency, John H. Morehead, Governor of Nebraska, Lincoln.-Sir: Pursuant to your request, and in conformity to the wishes of many law abiding citizens of Loup county, Nebraska, I have caused an investigation of the death of Roy Fox, who at the time of his death was a resident of Loup County, Neb.


"After a most careful and thorough investigation by Mr. Fred G. Hawxby of Auburn, Neb., a Keen and able lawyer, who went to Loup county and devoted several days consulting with witnesses, am thooughly satisfied it is true that the request of the many good citizens of Loup county was by you properly ordered.

"From evidence before me it appears that on the ninth day of November, 1914, Benjamin Galbreath, in Loup county, deliberately without any justification whatever, shot Roy Fox, and from the effects of the wound Fox died.  There appears to be a self constituted vigilance committee in that county, from whom Ed Fox, the father of the young man who was killed, and Sam Sears, another citizen of that county, received letters ordering them to leave the sand hills, and accusing them of harborng thieves, etc.  In one of the letters a hint was given that if the party did not leaave, there would be a repetition of the Cherry county affair in the sand hills a short time, meaning thereby that another murder may be committed. 

Individual "Justice."
"There had been some petty thieving going on in that county for some time prior to the death of Fox, and  instead of taking the matters to court, as the law requires, a few individuals, in fear of putting the county to some expense, have preferred to become the grossest of violatores of the law themselves.  The county attorney, Mr. Moon, seems loath to begina a prosecution, and when Judge Hanna of the district court was requested to call a grand jury, instead of doing so, and thereby assisting in ferreting out the law violators in that county was reluctant to put the county to the expense of investigating the admitted criminality.  Without the aid of those who are called upon to adminster the law, it is quite difficult to obtain justice.

Judge Hanna in his letter to Fred B. Hawxby said:
"The move for a grand jury will have the opposition of the county attorney and the county board.  The board's position
is based upon a financial consideration, which is this, they claim no conviction will be had, conditions will not be improved, cost will be heavy, they have no railroads, small amount of property subject to taxation, burdens of legal proceedings will be great." 


"Two of the county commissioners have asked to make a showing to Judge Hanna against the calling of a grand jury.  It seems to me that these things in themselves should prompt the judge in aiding the good citizens of Loup county and the state of Nebraska in enforcing the law and calling a grand jury at once, that witnesses may be called and required to divulge such knowledge as they possess, that the criminal law of the state may be enforced.

Need for New Provision
"The situation in Loup county is strking indeed in view of the facts and is but another argument in famor of the necessity of a new constitution which would permit such a change in the constitution as would allow the prosecution of criminals outside of the county in which the crime was committed, when such sound reasons exist as now appear. A vigorous prosecution under those conditions would have a tendency to prevent such wanton violation of the law in the future.

"The statutes of limitations never runs against one who commits murder and the charge in this case is murder and I assure you I shall exert every power at my command to cause a fair yet just trial of Benjaman Galbreath, who should be charged and tried for the murder of Roy Fox.  The only legal way to dispose of this case is to cause Galbreath to be brought to trial in the district court and let the responibility under the existing law rest with a verdict of a jury in Loup county.  It will not do to permit and allow the taking of human life by any individual upon so flimsy an excuse as that offered by a few of the citizens of Loup county, without bringing a violator to the bar of justice.
"Very Truly yours, Willis E. Reed, Attorney General

Source: Lincoln Daily News, Lincoln Nebraska, June 1, 1915



STATE ORDERS PROSECUTION:
Attorney General Takes Step to Force Loup county Authorities to Act
PETITON COMES FROM CITIZENS
(From a staff correspondent)

Lincoln, June 1, (special)
Attorney General Reed has taken the Loup county authorities severely to task for the failure to prosecute Benjamin Galbreath, the alleged murderer of Roy Fox in a letter to Governor Morehead he places the blame for the inactivity of the authorities upon a self constituted vigilance committee, who "for fear of putting the county expense, have become themselves the grossest of law violators," and who "are threatening another murder."

He directs City Attorney A.S. Moon to proceed immediately to prosecute and notifies him that he has appointed Fred G. Hawxby of Auburn as special counsel to assist him in the trial of the case.  He requests the county attorney to join in a request to Judge Hanna calling for a grand jury, or in lieu thereof, to cooperate with Mr. Hawxby in having the defendant bound over to the district court.

The attorney general was moved to action by a petition signed by ninety-four residents of the county and directed to the judges of the district court in the first instance.  It was referred by them as per request of the petitoners to the governor and the attorney general.  The petiton was under the following date line:  "Taylor, Neb. January, 1915"
[source: Omaha Daily Bee, June 2, 1915, page 2]

Judge Hanna of the district court of Loup County has instructed a grand jury of the county to inquire diligently into the alleged killing of Roy Fox, and bring an indictment, if the evidence so justifies
[source: The North Platte semi-weekly Tribune, July 16, 1915 edition]


Special Dispatch to the World Herald-
Lincoln, Neb. Aug. 20-

An uncle of Roy Fox who was shot and killed by Benjamin Galbreath in Loup county, called on Govenor Morehead this afternoon and asked to have County Attorney A.S. Moon removed under the Sackett Law for failing to prosecute the case.  Moon refused to call a grand jury until Attorney General Reed took a hand, sent a special prosecutor there and presented the evidence.  The jury failed to indict Galbreath, finding he acted in self defense.  Moon then poked fun at Attorney General Reed in an open letter to the press.  The governor advised Fox's relative to see Mr. Reed, who would have to file the suit.  Mr. Reed was out of the city today.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, Aug. 21, 1915

1925
Henry Parker

Taylor broke into notariety, at a late hour Saturday night, when Henry Parker of that place, drew his gun and began a fusilade at Ralph Rose, assistant cashier of the Bank of Taylor.   No definte cause seems to be assigned for the act of Parker.   The first shot according to reports, went wild.  Rose then grabbed the arm of Parker and the second shot went into the ground.  The men then clinched and a third and fourth shot failed to find a mark.   Parker was then overpowered and placed under arrest and compelled to give peace bonds on Monday.

Our sister city to the North is evidently partaking of the wild, as she is situated at the entrance to one of the great open spaces in the Nebraska sand hill region and not yet gotten past the wild and wooly days.
Source: The Sargent Leader, May 7, 1925

1926
Fred Bishop

State Deputy Sheriff Dudschus has returned from Hillsboro, New Mexico where he went for Fred Bishop, a Loup County Nebraska man whos is charged with receiving stolen property.  Mr. Bishop had bought a motor car which the officers claim was stolen.  He had driven the car to New  Mexico where he had a gold mine claim.  Mr. Dudschus and Mr. Bishop drove the car back to Central City where Mr. Bishop was taken in charge by Merrick county authorities.  He owns a ranch in Loup county.
Source: Lincoln Evening Journal, Lincoln, NE, June 7, 1926


1940
Sheriff George Brock


Sheriff Killed, 2 Wounded in Sandhills Fray
To File Murder Charge Against Pair; Youth
is Expected to Die


Burwell, NE, Oct. 16-
A shooting at a sandhills draft registration center killed Loup County Sheriff George Brock today and wounded two other men, once critically.

Held tonight at Broken Bow were John Birkes, 50 and his nephew, Richard Birkes,22, both wounded and in a hospital.  Loup County Attorney A.F. Alder said he would charge them with murder.  John's borther, Willard,55, who was not at the Valley View registration headquarters where the shooting occurred was taken to the Grand Island jail for safekeeping.

R.A. Maxson, Loup County commissioner, said he fired at John Birkes and his nephew as they rushed from the scene after Sheriff Brock was wounded in the face and body.  Brock died in a Burwell hospital at noon.

John Birkes was shot in the face and his orphaned nephew who had been living with the bachelor brothers was struck in the lungs, stomach, right arm and face by both shotgun pellets and a pistol bullet.   He was not expected to live.

A posse led by Custer County Sheriff Glenn Fox arrested all three Birkes as Loup County Treasurer Ted Goss directed the group from his plane.  The men, apprehended near their ranch near Valley View, made no resistence.

Adler said the shooting occurred during a scuffle between Brock and Richard Birkes when the sheriff tried to serve an assault warrant on the young man who had just registered under the conscription program.

The county attorney said the assault charges were the outgrowth of the sheriff's previously unsuccessful attempts to serve an order forcing the ranchers to vacate their home.  On one occasion, the Birkes had drawn guns on the sheriff, Alder related.

Maxson, who ran across the street and got his pump gun as John and his nephew filed, fired several shots at their retreating car wounding the men and riddling their auto.  The uncle and nephew drove to their ranch, got Willard Birkes and set out again.  When captured, the nephew ws so weak he couldn't walk.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha, NE, October 17, 1940

Taylor Neb, Oct.21-
Loup County Attorney A.F. Alder filled first degree murder charges in county court here today against John, Richard and Willard Birkes, charging them with the fatal shooting of Sheriff George Brock.

One complaint was filed in County Judge Thurman A. Smith's court naming all three.  No date for their arraignment was set.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, Oct. 21, 1940

Accused Ranchers' Counsel in Court With Guards
Birks Trio is Held for Murder Trial
Taylor Neb, Jan. 13-
After hearing testimony of five state witnesses, County Judge Thurman A. Smith today ordered John and Willard Birkes, ranchmen and their nephew, Richard Birkes bound over to district court on first degree murder charges in connection with the slaying of Sheriff George Brock of Loup county on October 16.

The two brothers were taken to Rock county jail at Bassett and Richard was taken to the county jail at Ord.  It is planned to take all three to the state penitentiary at Lincoln pending their trial.

Witnesses testified that Richard and John Birkes participated in the slaying.  Willard Birkes was not present.  Other witnesses told of threats he had made against the life of the sheriff.

Thomas Lanigan and William Mullen of Grand Island appeared as counsel for the trio.  The prosceution was represented by Assistant Attorney General Rush Clarke, Lincoln; County Attorney Glen Runyan of Burwell and Loup County Attorney A.F. Adler.  Sheriff Brock met death when he went tothe registration hall to serve papers in a civil action against the Birk brothers.  The nephew had gone to the hall to register for the draft.

Lanigan and Muellen were accompanied by two police officers when they came to trial.

Lannigan asked that it be made a matter of record that the officers were there to guard the attorneys.  This brought a retort from Clarke that "defense attorney apparently is lacking in physical courage in making such a request."

The crowded courtroom ws orderly until witness Glen Heffelgesser testified that during the melee in the registration hall John Birkes had started for him with a gun.

John Birkes jumped to his feet and shouted: "You're a lying ____ __ ___".

Most of the men in the crowded courtroom jumped to their feet.  Several of them peeling off their coats.  Judge Smith succeeded in restoring quiet aft a few minutes.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, Jan. 14, 1941


Birkes Trio Wins Change of Venue Plea
Trial of Three in Sheriff Slaying to be held at Ord

Taylor Neb, March 13-
The murder trial of John, Willard and Richard Birkes, charged with the slaying of Loup County Sheriff George Brock at Valley View last October 16, will be held in the district court of Valley county at Ord.

Judge William F. Spikes granted a change of Venue today, after hearing arguments of attorneys for the state and the defense. The three entered pleas of innocence after the informations were read tothem.

In Separate Jails
Judge Spikes ordered Richard Birks returned to the Valley county jail.   John and Willard will be held in the Howard County jail at St. Paul for 15 days, then will be transferred to the Valley county jail.

He ordered also all records of the Loup county district court pertaining to the case transferred to the clerk of the Valley county court.  The trial date could not be set, pending study of the docket in Valley county.  Defense attorneys withdrew a motion asking for separate trials for the three defendants, but reserved the right to present it later in the Valley County court.

Judge Spikes earlier dismissed a plea of abatement filed by attorneys for the Birkes and overruled a defense demurrer alleging insufficient evidence to justify filing complaints.

Glen E Runyan of Burwell was appointed attorney to assist the Loup county attorney in the prosecution.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, March 14 1941

Accused Ranchers Face Quiz Here-
John, Willard and Richard Birkes sandhills ranchers charged with the murder of Loup County Sheriff George Brock last fall were brought to Douglas County jail by state authorities Thursday afternoon for examination by Dr. G. Alexander Young, alienist and member of the insanity commission, and Dr. G.W. Dishong.

The three were placed in light solitary confinement after Jailer Manus Melchiorson said John refused to change into jail clothes and had to be forced to do so.

Willard, 55 and John, 50 brothers, and Richard, 22, their nephew, who lived in a sod house near Taylor Neb, are chared with shooting Brock at a draft registration office in Valley View, Neb., last October 16.

The trio will be tried at Ord.  Dr. Young said the examination would require several days.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, April 4, 1941

Jury Picked for Ord Trial
Testimony in R-Day Slaying starts today-

Ord, Neb. April 22-
A jury consisting of five farmers, a butcher, retired farmer, building loan official, an abstractor, general laborer, mortician and druggist will hear evidence here in the trial of John Birkes, Loup county rancher, charged with the slaying of Sheriff George Brock October 16, draft registration day, near Valley View.

All but one of the 12 men are married.

Selection of a jury, which began yesterday ws rushed to completion this afternoon with the state exercising only three of 10 preemptory challenges and the defense five of 12.

Defense and prosecuting attorneys made opening statements and the taking of evidence will get under way tomorrow.

Deny Slaying Guilt-
In a 68 minute opening statement, Defense Counsel Thomas Lanigan said defense testimony would show that Birkes did not kill Brock, that Birkes suffered delusions everybody was his enemy, bent on wiping out the entire family and that the defendant began carrying a gun in 1913 to protect a sister.

Lanigan said further defense evidence would show Birkes believed his sister was killed after her marriage and that her body was thrown into the Loup river to collect 10 thousand dollars in life insurance, that his mother was poisoned and a brother, Abe, kidnapped and killed in 1937.

To support a self defense contention, Lanigan said he would show that Birks believed Brock had been paid to arrest John Birkes; a brother, Willard, and their nephew Richard, all three of whom face first degree murder charges.  Lanigan said John believed Brock planned to throw the trio in jail and burn the jail.

See 10 Day Trial
Outlining the states side of the case, Assistant Attorney General Rush Clarke said state's evidence would show John Birkes told witnesses three years ago he intended to kill Brock, that the sheriff did not begin shooting until after John and Richard's gun inflicted two minor wounds.  Testimony would show further, he said that a shot fired by John at a distance inflicted a wound in Brock's head that proved fatal.

Attorney's estimated today the trial would take about 10 days.  Information filed by the state lists 51 witnesses and defense counsel said exhibits will be offered in an effort to prove Birkes was insane for several years.

The regular jury panel was exhausted and several talesmen were called in before 12 jurymen were accepted.  Most were dismissed because they had previous knowledge of the case and had formed an opinion.  The three ranchers will be tried separately.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, April 23, 1941


State Rests at Ord Trial
Sheriffs Widow is Witness; Slayings Years Ago Charged
Ord, Neb. April 24-
John Birkes, charged with the first degree murder of Sheriff George Brock at Valley View last October 16 took the stand in his own defense today after the state rested its case in a surprise move at midafternoon.

Although examined nearly three hours, Birkes offered little testimony other than identification of more than 90 exhibits offered by defense counsel.  Exhibits included dozens of letters written by John Birkes in collaboration with his brother, Willard, and a nephew, Richard, both of whom face separate trials on first degree murder.

Old Deaths Reviewed
Memorandum received as an exhibit, purported to be in John's handwriting, told of the killing of a sister Mrs. Claudia McClimans, in 1919 and said the body was thrown into the Loup river in an effort to make it appear she drowned. The memorandum said Mrs. McClimans was insured for 10 thousand dollars and said morticians told him (John) they had found no water in her lungs.

Exhibits and the defendants testimony also disclosed John believed his mother, who died in 1932, was poisoned and a brother, Abe, who died in 1937, was kidnaped and murdered.

Prayed for God's Aid
Exhibits included copies of Psalms in John's handwriting and identified by the defendant as his favorite Psalms.  Reading portions of them, counsel asked Birkes, "Do you believe God protects you?"  Birkes answered, "I know he does," explaining he asked and received protection during the gunfight at the draft registration center in which Sheriff Brock was fatally wounded.

Before resting its case,the state called six witnesses to the standincluding Mrs. Brock, who identified a revolver and a hat with a hole in the crown as having belonged to her husband.

Bloddy Garments Shown
Other witnesses were Sheriff Glenn Fox, Broken Bow, who led the posse which captured Birkes, his brother, Willard and their nephew, Richard; Dr. Roy Cram, Burwell; Mrs. Flossie Ballard, manager of the Broken Bow hospital where John and Richard Birkes were held while recovering from bullet wounds; Frank Strohl, present Loup County sheriff who succeeded Brock and Miss Elsie Mosely, stenographer in the office of County Attorney Ivan D. Evans, Broken Bow.

Mrs. Ballard quoted John Birkes as saying at the hospital, "Well we got the job done."

The defense objected to "parading bloody garments," but the state also submitted the sweater Brock was wearing when he was taken to the Burwell hospital where he died.
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, April 25, 1941



Birkes Held Insane; End Slaying Case
Two others of Family Imprisoned after Killing Sheriff

Taylor, Neb. May 17-
The state all but closed its books today on one of the most colorful prosecutions of the slaying of Sheriff George Brock at a Valley View draft registration center last October 16.

Willard Birkes, 50, Loup County rancher was committed to the hospital for the insane at Ingleside following a hearing before the Valley county insnaity commission.

He is charged with first degree murder in the slaying, for which his brother, John, was sentenced to life imprisonment and his nephew, Richard, to 25 years in the state penitentiary.

Assistant Attorney Genral Rush Clarke, who aided County Attorney A.F. Alder and Glenn Runyan, Burwell attorney, in the case, declared the charges against Willard would not be dismissed, despite today's action.

It was John who caused a dramatic sensation at the trial, held in Ord, last month.

John, on the witness stand, told of conversations with God.  He told of mystic trips taken to Washington and New York and of visits with clairvoyants.

When a jury convicted him and recommended life imprisonment, John protested, "I'm an innocent man.  I have not had a just trial."

Richard on the other hand, who pleaded guilty, told the judge meekly after hearing the sentence, "I think you have done a wise thing."
Source: Omaha World Herald, Omaha NE, May 18, 1941






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