MURDER NEAR VAN WERT
Posted By: Volunteer (email)
Date: 4/21/2021 at 09:48:41
Decatur County Journal
July 9, l896
MURDER NEAR VAN WERT
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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
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.
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
Clarke Documents maintained by David Dinham.
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