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Livengood-Telyea Murder Trial, Installment # 1


Posted By: Mary Durr (email)
Date: 3/25/2007 at 22:06:32

In a book entitled "HISTORY OF WINNESHIEK COUNTY" are a few paragraphs telling about murder trials in Winneshiek County. It states as follows, on page 214:


Winneshiek County has had some half a dozen murders, or cases in which that crime was charged, the trial in the last case being still to come. Several of them have been exciting ones.

The first trial for murder was held in 1861. The defendants were John Livengood and Delilah A. Telyea, who were tried for the murder of Charles Telyea, the husband of Delilah A., in the October term of court, 1861, before Judge Williams. When the charge was first made against the guilty parties, the grand jury failed to find an indictment, on the ground (sic) that the body of the murdered man had not been found; but the case was brought before the next grand jury, who brought in a bill. Public opinion was strong against the accused, and great excitement prevailed. The public was agitated to such an extent over the matter that the defendants attorneys sued for a change of venue, which was granted. The case was taken to Clayton County, where the parties were tried. Livengood was found guilty, and sentenced to the penitentiary for life; while Mrs. Telyea was acquitted, although public opinion generally considered her guilty. Livengood was pardoned out at the end of ten years, and is supposed to be now living somewhere in Northern Wisconsin.

The next case to enlist attention, and set the public in a state of ferment was that of Charles D. Seeley, for the murder of Wm. McClintock, tried before Judge McGlatherty, February 11th, 1872. Seeley was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary, at hard labor, for fifteen months.

The third murder trial , and by far the most exciting, was that of Helen D. Stickles for the murder of her husband, J. P. Stickles, by poison. On January 4, 1876, John P. Stickles, to all appearances was enjoying perfect health. That afternoon he was suddenly taken sick, and died within a few hours, with all the attendant symptoms ....................(my copy ends here.)

THE FOLLOWING NEWSPAPER ACCOUNTS refers to the first trial written of concerning Livengood and Telyea. This article was taken from the DECORAH REPUBLIC newspaper of March 14, 1861:


Examination of John Livengood and Delilah Tellyea, Charged with the Murder of Charles Tellyea (sic).

Last week there came to Decorah rumors of a probable murder case in Burr Oak, by which it was stated that Charles Tellyea (sic) had been murdered and made way with by John Livengood, and Delilah Tellyea (sic), his wife. We received a note last Friday from our friend Moore stating the fact that he had been missing for some time and that suspicions of foul play were entertained.

The rumors grew stronger and asserted positive facts on Saturday and Sunday. Learning that the examination was to take place on Monday, we availed ourselves of the kindness of John T. Clark, Esq., and went up to Burr Oak. We found the village alive with people, and all under high excitement over the case. Parties had been out searching, and had found various things; a large party -- numbering perhaps fifty -- had been out on Sunday, but no traces of the body had been obtained. The house where the supposed murder was committed is situated about three miles this side of Burr Oak village, about ten or fifteen rods to the left, as one travels north. It is a small, wood colored house with no surroundings to especially mark it.

Livengood appears between twenty-five and thirty years of age; is large, well built, has black hair, eyes and whiskers, dark complexioned, with a good forehead, and has nothing repugnant in his general appearance. Mrs. Tellyea (sic) is older than he, and much worn. Never having been possessed of much beauty she has little to boast of now. She kept her veil over her face during the trial; and showed little excitement in the morning and afternoon. Occasionally her hands worked nervously, or her foot and leg, when crossed would have that swinging, nervous motion peculiar to persons in a state of mental excitement, and seems almost unconscious to the individual. In the evening she lost control of herself and nearly fainted once with excess of emotion, she sobbed audibly several times.

The examination was held before O. M. Barrett, Esq., in the Methodist Church. It was filled full of anxious spectators nearly a third of whom were ladies. Many had come from a long distance. Decorah was represented by a dozen, and we saw people there who lived beyond Elliota, Minn. (We must not omit to say there was a good sprinkling of babies in the audience; and we could not resist the conclusion that Burr Oak is bound to become a populous township.) M. A. Moore, Esq., of Burr Oak, and L. Lullis, Esq., of Decorah appeared in behalf of the people, and J. T. Clark, Esq., for the defense. After settling the preliminaries the examination of witnesses began. (We took full notes of the testimony, but after reflection have concluded that a better idea of the case can be given by simply stating the prominent parts of the testimony, and casting aside the mass of outside matter that usually cumbers such cases, and shall content ourselves with doing so.) The first witnesses sworn were Nelson Caswell, of Canoe, Jas. S. Ackerson, of Hesper, and D. Kinnison, of Burr Oak. They helped search and examine the house on Saturday last. They found blood marks on the floor and wall of the main room; in one place on the wall there were appearances as if a bloody hand had been placed against it. In the cellar they found two boards and a stake driven into the ground having strong blood marks upon them. A trap door was just over the stake. In the earth of the cellar, which they spaded up, were what seemed to be blood, brains and hair. They identified the boards, stake, and the package of matter there before them in Court to be what they found at the house.

The boards were badly blooded. One was four or more feet long, and the other about half that length; they had no peculiarities other than the blood. The stake was marked on all sides and had more the appearance as though it had been used in pounding something by which it had become blooded. The defense conceded the point that the boards &c [etc.] were found there, and the prosecution passed on to other matters.

Dr. W. F. Coleman, of Decorah, and Dr. Pickett were called to testify as to the matter supposed to be brains, &c. [etc]. The latter did not give in his testimony until evening, but for convenience we connect the two together. After examining the matter, they both testified that it was almost impossible, without any facilities other than the ordinary means of inspection, to determine that it was or was not brain matter. The former first inclined to the belief that it was brain; but afterwards said that it was about impossible to tell from the condition the specimen was in. It might be human brain or animal, it might be spinal marrow. Dr. Pickett agreed in his testimony to the latter conclusion. They both agreed that the hairs were from a human head, and that a small portion seemed to have been pulled out by the roots and the larger part as though it had been cut off.

Peter McCaffery, and Wm. Peard both living in Bluffton, testified as to the day Mrs. T. left her home and moved away the furniture. They both agreed that it was Monday, the 25th of February, three days after he disappeared and that Livengood was with her, using Tellyea's team. The former had a conversation with Mrs. T., and in answer to an inquiry she said he had gone to Decorah to buy an axe. Poard, who lives only 80 or 100 rods from T's house, saw him last on Thursday, the 21st.

Robert Burroghs corroborated the statement that Mrs. T. left her residence and took away the things on Monday, the 25th.

Joseph Malcolm, of Bluffton, saw Tellyea last on Thursday evening, when Mr. T. and wife were at Malcom's house. They left between 10 and 11 o'clock, and he borrowed a shawl to wear home, (as it was rainy and chilly, and he was thinly clothed) promising to return it the next day. He saw Mrs. Tellyea the next morning, she went to his house about sunrise, and then up to his fathers' where he was feeding cattle and he saw her there. She said she must hurry home and get her husband's breakfast, and left the witness about 8 o'clock. He saw Mr. Wetmore, father of Mrs. T., moving away the rails on Tuesday or Wednesday after this occurred.

Albert Richmond -- a"smart" young man, -- swore that he lived nowhere in particular -- did all kinds of business except murder -- didn't steal horses, &c. [etc]. The burden of his testimony -- which was quite lengthy -- is as follows. That he was at Tellyea's house on Friday, three weeks ago, for the last time until last Saturday, that he was then on his way to Decorah to sell some wagon hubs; that he went to John Livengood's, two miles and a half from Tellyea's, "well tucked on, at that" on Thursday, the 21st, about noon; stayed there that day and all night; slept with Livengood; got up in the morning before L. did; that Livengood was gone not more than an hour from the house; at about 9 o'clock they went a hunting, taking Charley Tellyea (a little boy) with them, and were gone until 12; stayed at the house from that time until dark, and L. was there all the time, between 2 and 3 o'clock that afternoon (Friday, the 22d Feb.) Mrs. Tellyea came there; that he asked where Mr. T. was, and she said he gone to Decorah to buy an axe; about dusk he went to Bluffton to a dance, and did not return until the next morning about 9, and stayed at the house until about noon Sunday. This is substantially his story.

D. S. Richmond, father of Albert, residing at Plymouth Rock, testified that he left home on the morning of Friday the 22nd and arrived at Livengood's about noon. He was on his way down to see Chas. Tellyea about some money matters, and learned there that he was not at home. Livengood and his son were out hunting when he arrived at L's, but came in soon. There he remained all the afternoon; about dusk he and Livengood went to Bluffton to the dance; returned about 11 o'clock; Livengood returned about an hour before; found him in bed on the floor, where beds had been made for the men folks; and slept with him. Mrs. Tellyea came to Livengood's about three-quarters of an hour after Mr. Richmond first arrived there; and she told him Charley (Mr. T) had gone to Decorah to buy an axe.

Mrs. Wetmore, step-mother of Mrs. Tellyea, gave in testimony of considerable length. It showed a very bad state of affairs existing between the husband and wife, amounting to a belief on her part that he had repeatedly attempted to choke and poison her. The week before Tellyea disappeared both of them slept with their clothes on. The Friday she went to Livengood's house as stated by the testimony of the Richmonds, she went to Wetmore's and Mrs. W., seeing she appeared to feel bad asked her what the matter was, and if Charley had been abusing her again. Mrs. T. said, "no, she felt bad, and didn't know what made her feel bad. He had gone away, and she had cried." Mr. and Mrs. Wetmore then advised her to leave him and she assented to their advice. The bad treatment from him has been going on for six months or more. The testimony of the witness showed that the ill-treatment had been on his side.

Julius Fletcher, of Bluffton, testified in relation to the family and about conversations he had held with Mrs. T. in regard to the treatment she received but showed nothing material.

The prosecution here rested, and the defense moved to discharge the prisoners, without introducing any testimony, deeming what had already been given insufficient to warrant their being held. The motion was argued by the counsel, pending which, at about half past 10 P.M. we left for home. Today (Tuesday) we learn that Livengood was discharged and Mrs. T. committed. Deputy Sheriff Bloomfield brought her down to the County jail today.

There is a deep mystery about this affair, which it is to be hoped time will clear up. The testimony is insufficient to convict unless corroborated by developments that may transpire. Tellyea is gone somewhere for neither he or his dead body have been seen since the night of the 21st of Feb'y, the conduct of the defendants in this case in moving the furniture away from the house and their hasty conclusions that he had left, joined to the finding of blood, &c. [etc.] give the widest room for suspicions. We doubted after hearing the evidence if either of them could be held to trial; and so did many others; but it is quite likely the ends of justice will be best served by her commitment.

The fact is these people seem to be very hard cases. Livengood served a term in jail some two years ago for horse stealing; persons of very loose habits were known to be frequent visitors at his and Tellyea's houses; and they bore none the best reputation among their neighbors. It would not do to publish all the statements made in regard to them Tellyea and Livengood married sisters, and it was known to Mrs. Tellyea's friends, ten years ago, that he had a wife in Canada, supposed to be living.

If there has been a murder committed, in all human probability more than two persons were engaged in the perpetration, and the whole thing will leak out. It cannot be kept secret. Blood cries aloud, and the most careful secretion of all the fatal circumstances does not, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, prevent the final detection of the criminal parties. The people who have already manifest so deep an interest in this case will leave no stone unturned to clear up the matter and a little time will tell the whole story.


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