Terrible Murder

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The Weekly Advertiser
Place of publication: Montgomery, Alabama
Date of publication: May 30, 1855 12:00 am
Source URL: View Source

[From the Sumter County (Ala.) Whig]
Mr.editor — it becomes my melancholy duty to record an act of the of the most outrageous cruelty; a murder, the most diabolical in the annals of crime. Sunday evening, the 29th of April, between two and three o’clock, a little girl, (fourteen years of age,) the daughter of James D. Thornton, a well know citizen of this community, stepped out at the back door of her father’s home, and as she walked towards the gate looked back and spoke to her mother, who sat in the passage. She passed through the gate, and walked on, so all at the time thought, to one of the negro cabins, close by. After some time elapsed, an hour and a half, perhaps, and she did not return, her mother went to the cabin to see what detained her. On arriving there, what was her surprised to learn that she had not been near the cabin, and none of the servants seem to know anything of her. Becoming alarmed, all began at once to search for her, sending at the same time, the neighbors houses to see if she had gone to any one of them. That, though, was hardly probable, as no one lived very near, and she was never known to leave the place alone, and without first obtaining permission of her mother. The search continued from about two hours by sun — the time when they first missed her— till dark, but no trace of her was found. Several of the neighbors, then collected, and the search became more general.— They scoured the fields and woods, till nearly day, when all retired to snatch a little repose, preparatory to renewing the search with the return of daylight. At length, between eight and nine o’clock in the morning, she was found— and oh! What a spectacle! Some incarnate devil had murdered her— thrown her into a ditch and covered her up! One of her feet was partially uncovered — a part of her hand, and a small portion of her dress were visible; by these things they discovered her. A jury, was immediately called, and the verdict, “a bloody murder,” being rendered, they proceeded to remove the body. On examination, it was found that she had been put to death in the most torturing manner. She was bruised all over— is this her right arm and hand were severely beaten; the singer of her left hand was also nearly been off. Her head had received several severe blows— the school being fractured in one place. Her neck and face were beaten to complete jelly— she had received an awful stroke across her right eye— and her neck was broken into. The sticker with which that was done was still there, having never been removed. Upon the hole, she was certainly the most mangled object ever seen. It now remain to discover the perpetrator of this foul deed. From several circumstances, suspicion rested on a servant belonging to her father— a boy between nineteen and twenty years old. Accordingly, he, with several others, was taken into custody and severely cross questioned. Dave, the boy whom they suspected, at first strongly denied, knowing anything of the matter. After a while, however, he said that he knew all about— that he had seen one of the negroes— a man by the name of hardy, snatch her up as she walks towards a branch that was not more than 100 yards from the house— that he had watched him as he took her off and killed her. He even went so far as to show how he picked her up, and threw his hand over her mouth to prevent her from screaming. He also stated that he had heard Hardy express his determination, about ten days previous, to kill her. This table, so nicely gotten up and told was such an air of truth, came near implicating Hardy. He was in question, and, luckily, for him, succeeded in proving beyond a doubt, that, at the time the murder was committed, he was at a neighboring plantation, some 6 miles distant. Dave, on being questioned again, acknowledge that he had done the deed, but Hardy hired him to do it, telling him he would give him five dollars. If he (Dave) would kill her. He then went with some gentleman and showed him where he took her from— said she was sitting down, playing in the water. He then showed them where, in taking her off, he had thrown her on the ground, evidently very hard. A little further on he had thrown her on the ground again. It is supposed that when he did this, she was trying to escape. He said that she was crying all the time, and pleading with him not to kill her. The fourth time he drew her down, he beat her head with a piece of an old stamp. She did not speak again after that, but cried very much. When he got to the place where he buried her, she was not quite dead, so he cut a club, and struck her on the forehead. He then got a large stick and put it across her throat, and put his knees, one on each end, and bore down upon it until she was entirely dead. He then took a hoe and covered her up, throwing some leaves, and a brush on her. He acknowledged, finally, that he did it all on his own accord; but no one else knew anything of it; that he had never thought of doing it until he saw her walk down to the branch. He had not the slightest shadow of a reason for doing it— said he was not even mad at her— that she had not provoked him in the lease. He had belong to her father, since she was quite a small child, and had always seem to think a great deal of her— ever ready to accommodate her in anyway. He is now lodged in person, where he waits for trial. He will, without doubt, receive a sentence he justly deserves— that of death.