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Posted By: Volunteer (email)
Date: 3/1/2019 at 16:12:12

Decatur County Journal

July 9, l896


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JOHN DAVIS of Clarke County Shot by His Neighbor

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The Killing a Result of Political Controversy -- Murderer Taken to

Osceola--Believed to be Insane.

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VAN WERT, July 8th.--an atrocious murder committed in daylight has been

added to the criminal annals of Southern Iowa. The startling report of

a cold blooded murder committed seven miles northwest of Van Wert at

l:30 Tuesday afternoon reached this city about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

JOHN LYKENS, an unmarried farmer aged 36, shot and almost instantly

killed his neighbor, JOHN DAVIS, aged 65. The two men became involved

in a heated political discussion, the murderer contending for the

doctrine of republicanism; the murderer's victim espousing the doctrines

of populism. After a short but very excited discussion LYKENS in a

rage, commanded DAVIS to desist slandering the Republican Party. But

the statement of LYKENS shows that he did not, but on the contrary

continued the discussion several minutes longer, when matters of a

personal nature were approached and commented upon. In the heart of

JOHN LYKENS existed the demon's desire for revenge and instantly

removing a loaded shot gun from the shelf he quickly discharged the

contents into the left lung of his adversary, who retreated a few yards

writhing in the agonies of death, and a few minutes later the body of

JOHN DAVIS fell lifeless to the ground.

Then his slayer placed branches of trees over his body to protect it

from the sun. LYKENS then proceeded to the DAVIS home and in an

unconcerned manner related the circumstances of her husband's death to

MRS. DAVIS and asked that the body be removed at once, as he did not

care for it being outside his home. The distracted wife called for help

from her children who, when they heard of the terrible affair, made it

quickly known to the neighbors.

After notifying the relatives LYKENS crossed a field and told G.W. CREW

what he had done, and when questioned as to his reason for committing

such a deed said DAVIS slandered the Republican Party as well as abused

himself. CREW asked LYKENS if he had a gun, expecting to find him armed

with a revolver, but he was informed that he carried no revolver, but

the shot gun was at the house, although nobody should have it because he

himself wanted it to hunt with. MR. CREW and some of the neighbors

accompanied LYKENS to the scene of the murder and found JOHN DAVIS lying

upon his back, and blood flowing from a deep gun shot wound in the left

lung. LYKENS asked to be permitted to help remove the corpse but his

aid was refused.

Almost immediately the authorities at Osceola were notified and the

constable and deputy sheriff arrived. LYKENS refused to go with them,

maintaining that the authorities had no right to arrest him, and perhaps

if some neighbors how, having an influence over the prisoner to a

certain extent, had not advised him to accompany the men, he would

certainly have offered resistance. He was taken to Osceola and on the

way told conflicting stories about the murder. The coroner of Clarke

County arrived at 8:30 p.m., examined the body and heard the testimony

of half a dozen witnesses whose knowledge of the affair consisted of

nothing more than what is already related. It being clearly proven as

to the manner in which the deceased came by his death and by whom

committed the coroner considered it unnecessary to further proceed with

the matter and therefore dispensed with a post mortem examination.

Deceased was well known here, having been in business some years ago.

One of his daughters was married to L.F. ROBERTS.

JOHN DAVIS was a Kentuckian by birth having been born in Harbin County

in l83l. When a small boy he removed to Marshall County, Ill., where he

lived till l855, when he crossed the Iowa prairies and located in Clarke

County. He was a devout Christian man, being a member of the Baptist

Church for thirty years. A wife and seven children survive to mourn his

sad fate.

LYKENS, as already stated, is an unmarried farmer living in seclusion in

an old log cabin twelve feet square, the interior representing a most

wretched appearance, about the only articles of furniture being a rusty

stove long since worn out, a dirty table and a shelf upon which rested a

fiddle and the shot gun. The log cabin being situated in the middle of

a twenty acre corn field seemed to increase the awesome aspect of the

surroundings within the cabin. On several occasions his mind has been

noticed to be wandering. A report is current that nine years ago, he

drifted into the town of Glenwood, Iowa, and his strange actions,

warranted the Insane Hospital authorities in detaining him.

Subsequently he was released and then went to Dakota to visit a sister.

It was while there that one day he was discovered to be a raving maniac

and he was soon placed in the State Asylum. Under good medical

treatment he soon recovered sufficiently to cause his discharge when he

returned to the home of his birth near Leslie. Since then he has been

farming and everybody acquainted with him believes him insane.


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