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Trial of Eliza Garvin


Posted By: Mona Knight (email)
Date: 9/6/2009 at 09:18:06

Centerville, Iowa, The Appanoose Times, January 6, 1881.
A HORRIBLE DEED. A Man Murdered by His own Family, and Concealed in a Coal Pit. Coroner Shontz was summoned last Saturday to Caldwell township to hold an inquest over the body of Thomas GARVIN, who had been murdered and thrown into an abandoned coal shaft. The evidence at the inquest and the preliminary examination of the murdered man's wife brought out the following statements in regard to his deth: It seems that Garvin was addicted to strong drink and had abused his wife during the day that he met his death, having cursed and beaten her, while she was returning from the house of a neighbor. She had gone on home and was cutting some wood when he came up to her and told her to put down the ax, as he was going to kill her and the children; at this she started to run, and he followed her around the house until she sprang into a door and partly closed it. Garvin was trying to force the door open when his son, a lad about eleven years old, struck him on the side of the head with an ax, knocking him down and repeating the blow after he was down with the blade of the ax. The above is substantially the statements of both the woman and the boy. She further stated that she and the boy, after they found that they had committed a murder, consulted as to what they would do with the body, and finally decided to throw it into an abandoned coal shaft which the man himself had dug, and in which there was some ten feet of water standing. She further states that the murder was committed on the 22d of December, but as Garvin was away from home most of the time, no one ever missed him. It might never have been known how the man came to his death or that he was dead at all if his wife had not told it to one of her neighbors who in turn told her husband, who at once told other men and they went to the house and accused Mrs. Garvin of the deed, whereupon she confessed the whole matter as given above. The woman and boy and a small child are now in the jail here awaiting the sitting of Court; the other children, four in number, have been taken to the County Farm. The woman is a wretched looking object and seems completely broken down with the weight of crime and grief that she is carrying. There are many rumors of late that would lead to the supposition that the man was murdered in bed and that some one else was implicated, but the above is the story of the woman herself corroborated fully by the statements of the boy. Parties from this city who were present and saw the body after it had been dragged out of the shaft, say it was a horrible and ghastly sight. The man's head had been crushed by the blow of the ax and the face and chin were split open in three or four places. The body was perfectly naked when taken from the shaft, which would indicate that they had stripped him of his clothing before throwing him in.

The Appanoose Times
Centerville, Appanoose Co., Iowa
June 16, 1881

The trial of Mrs. Eliza Garvin, for the alleged murder of her husband, commenced Monday, June 6th, Judge Burton prosiding. Monday was taken up in the selecting of the Jury, one-half being taken from the regular panel and the rest from by-standers. They were R.B. Wilkinson, J.O. Hiatt, Jas. A. McElderry, Jos. Cooksey, Moses Ferren, J.F. Irwin, Thos. Powers, J.S.
Hughes, Josiah Gilbert, Thomas Bland, J.W. Hurlis and A. Hicks. The prosecution was conducted by R.B. Townsend, prosecuting attorney, assisted by J.A. Elliot and H.P. Richardson; and the defense by Miller and Goddard
assisted by Jos. Kinkade. The case lasted Tuesday and Wednesday, going to the jury on Thursday morning; on Friday evening about 7 1/2 o'clock they brought in a verdict of not guilty. The verdict was quite a surprise to
everybody, as the universal opinion was, that the prisoner was guilty. The jury on the case were men of weight and intelligence, and cannot be accused of an unfair verdict. A juryman is required to make his verdict according to
the evidence at the trial, the failure to convict lies with the prosecution,
not with the jury. The way to secure justice in such cases, is to elect a more competent Prosecuting Attorney.


The webpage was transcribed by a 'P.E.', and a note at the bottom of this story says the transcriber is a great-great-granddaughter of jury member James A. McElderry.


Appanoose Documents maintained by Renee L. Rimmert.
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