THE COFFIN CASE.
About the first day of January, 1873, Mary R. Coffin, wife of Eli T. Coffin, died. Her husband, being a peculiar man, had refused to call a physician -- attending her himself. After her death, suspicion being aroused that all was not right, Justice H. T. Sharp, was called to act as coroner, and hold an inquest. This he did, summoning a jury consisting of L. C. Bishop, T. P. Bruington and J. B. Allman, A post mortem examination was made by Drs. O. B. Thompson, N. Richards and J. H. Barnwell on January 14, 1873.
While the coroner's inquest was in progress, Mr. Coffin was arrested on charge of insanity, but the insane commissioners pronounced him sane and discharged him. The coroner's jury returned a verdict implicating Mr. Coffin, for the reason that he had not taken proper care of his wife in the cold weather, and had not called a physician until too late for a physician to be of service. Mr. Coffin was therefore arrested on the charge of causing his wife's death, and was held to appear before Esquire Sharp, in bail of $800.
The preliminary examination was set for January 27, 1873. The defendent was represented by Messrs. C. F. Loofbourow and L. L. DeLano, while Messrs. Brown and Churchill appeared for the State.
On January 27th another continuance was granted until Feb. 3d. The preliminary examination was never had. On Saturday night, February 1st, 1873, Coffin was murdered and his body was found on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 2d, hanging by a rope under the bridge that spans Turkey creek, five miles south of Atlantic. A pistol-ball was found in his head, indicating that he was dead before he was placed under the bridge.
An inquest was held on the body, and much evidence taken. The verdict was to the effect that the deceased came to his death in a manner to the jury unknown. No one was ever tried or convicted of the murder. The case attracted much attention at the time, and was a sad one in all respects. Mr. Coffin was a man possessed of considerable property.
From the History of Cass County, Iowa Together With Brief Mention of Old Settlers
by Lafe Young, Atlantic, Iowa: Telegraph Steam Printing House, 1877, pg. 101.
Transcribed for Cass County by Cheryl Siebrass, July, 2013.