The Witness in the Billings Murder-Amos Singleman 1875
SINGLEMAN, MILLER, BILLINGS
Posted By: cheryl moonen (email)
Date: 5/8/2017 at 21:20:58
Sunday, October 3, 1875
Paper: Dubuque Daily Times (Dubuque, Iowa)
The Witness in the Billings Murder
Amos Singleman, supposed to be the sole witness of the murder of L. A. Billings, near Nora Springs, is a boy between 16 and 17 years old, not one of the “New York boys” brought west under the auspices of the “Children’s Aid Society,” though his father and two brothers came west in company with a cart-load of children forwarded by that society, for the sake of having company on that journey. The father, Charles Singlemen, had the say, and all the say, as to where his children should live. Amos was selected by L. A. Billings, and was satisfied with his place, for a number of months-until, about the middle of last July, wishing to go to school, and Frank E. Miller offering him board, clothing and schooling, he went to work for Miller. On the 26th of July Billings was killed. Suspicion pointed to Miller. The boy, on being questioned, declared he was with Miller when the murder was committed. Three times-once to private parties, once to the coroner’s inquest, once before the justice of the peace on preliminary examination –the boy told his story, alike every time. There was too much of it to be a lie; and attendant circumstances corroborated its truth in every particular. The first time this story was told was less than twenty-four hours ago after the murder; if he had had the ingenuity, there was not time enough to invent so consistent a story. After the examination the question arose, what to do with the boy? It was thought dangerous to him, and to the cause of justice, for him to be left at large, with no home but that of the man whom he had sworn was a murderer. It was agreed, the boy seeing the propriety of it and voluntarily consenting, that he should be taken to Osage, and placed in charge of the Sheriff there-to be considered and treated, not as a criminal, but as a witness without a home-not to be incarcerated for a crime-but to be kept out of reach from any who might desire to tamper with him. The leading citizens of Nora Springs united in a written request to the Sheriff of Mitchell County that the boy be held and treated only as a witness-that he was a harmless, good natured boy, and urging that he be treated with all the leniency and kindness consistent with seeing to it that he was on hand as a witness when the trial of Miller for murder should come off. The boy was told, if he was treated unkindly, or found anything unpleasant with the situation, to write or send word. The officer sent with the boy knew all of this. Now for the result, as told by the Nora Springs Reveille: the boy was at once locked up in a criminal’s cell, with a single small window, grated with two sets on interlacing iron bars. The boy cried all the rest of the day, and all the next night. He sent for the officer to come to his cell, and with tears implored he to tell those who sent him there that he could not endure this dungeon. The officer, whether he promised to do so or not, certainly did not, but the boy was left to suffer, to reflect on the supposed treachery to his friend in consigning him to such a fate, to dread what might follow-he knew not what. More than that, his cell was next to Frank E. Miller, the alleged murderer. If any communication passed between them, the Reveille does not know; but conversation between them was not only possible but easy. A few days afterwards Miller’s counsel wet to Osage: That day the boy’s confession that his former statements were all lies, appeared. The next day the boy was given his freedom in the daytime, and locked up only at night. The Reveille accuses nobody, but states these facts, and lets its readers consider them at their leisure.
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