"Can the Dead Return From the Grave?"

Monroe Watchman
December 16, 1971

I have heard the story of the Shue murder trial which was held in the Lewisburg Court House in June of 1897 as told by my father who was present at the trial. My father was a young man of twenty when he decided to leave his father's farm here at Ballengee to go into Greenbrier County to se- cure employment. He went by train from Lowell to Ronce- verte and made his way to Lewisburg where court was in session. There he met with one of the farmers near Lewis- burg who agreed to employ him. However, it was a rainy time, too wet for the usual farm work so they attended court to hear the trial of Ed- ward S. Shue for the murder cases ever tried In a court of justic where the murder victim came back from the grave to testify through her mother against the murderer My father, as were all others, was greatly impressed by the story told by the mother of the murdered girl Mrs. Mary Heasier.

Edward S. Shue a native of Pocahontas County came to the community near Livesay' s Mill where he gained employment.. in a black smith shop. He was a capable blacksmith and a Liable person and created a He became acquainted with Zona Heaster which he court- ed and married in November 1896. They went to housekeeping in a house not far from the blacksmith shop. Zona fell ill in early January and was treated by Dr. Knapp. Dr. Knapp was unable to find any organic trouble and she soon recovered In this illness Shue appeared to be much concerned about his wife's illness.

On the 22nd of January Shue went to his blacksmith shop as usual. On his was he stopped in at the home of Martha Jones a colored woman and Shue asked that her son Anderson be permitted to go to his home and do some errands for Zona. Shue continued on to his black smith shop but about 11 o'clock he came back to the Jones home and asked if Anderson had gone to help Zona. He insisted that he go right away explaining that he had not planned to return home for his dinner.

Shortly the boy Anderson Jones went to the Shue home where he found Zona on the floor with a trail of blood leading from her body out to the porch. He ran back to his home where he informed his mother and then continued on to the blacksmith shop where Shue was working. When told of the situation Shue appeared in great anguish running to his home and gathering his bride of a few months into his arms and directed Dr. Knapp be called. All during this time Shue held his wife's head in his arms. After a brief examination Dr. Knapp concluded that Zona had died of heart failure and gave that as the cause of her death.

The body was then prepared for burial with Shue assisting in the preparation of her body for burial and placing her in the casket always handling her head. He then placed a folded sheet on one side of her head and an article of clothing on the other side of her head which he said would make her rest easier. The body was then taken to the home of her mother Mrs. Mary Heaster on Big Sewell Mountain a distance of about 14 miles. When the casket was opened Shue always remained at the head of the casket. The next day her body was buried in the little cemetery on the hill top. Nothing more was thought of the death other than that usual for a sudden death of anyone.

The mother was a very religious person and felt that something was amiss in the death of Zona. She prayed constantly for a revelation as to something that worried her. One night as she prayed Zona appeared in the room with her. The mother reached out to touch her daughter who then vanished. The mother on future nights continued to pray for the return of her daughter which she did on the second night who in formed the mother that she would tell her of all the things about her death. The mother continued to pray and on two other nights the daughter appeared and informed the mother that she and her husband had disagreed about the supper that she had provided for him, explaining that she had bread, butter, jelly and preserves. He was angry because she had not prepared meat for the supper. He grasped her by the throat squeezing it, breaking the first joint in her neck. Zona described things about the house which the mother had never visited and also something that she had placed inside the door in the cellar. Mrs. Mary Heaster began to tell the neighbors of her daughter appearing and talking. to her. Many of them scoffed thinking the old lady was out. of her mind having worried about the death of her daughter. But Mary's sincerity began to have it's effect. Her brother-in-law Johnson Heaster was the first to be convinced. Others soon became convinced that the story was true. Mary Heaster and her brother-in-law Johnson Heaster went to Lewisburg Prosecutor John A. Preston who first disbelieved the story but after several hours of questioning Mrs. Heaster became convinced that there was a basis for an investigation.

Dr. Knapp was consulted and he agreed that he might have been mistaken in his diagnosis. An investigation into the background of Shue revealed that he had served a term in the penitentiary and had been married twice previously and the wives had died under strange circumstances. One wife was supposed to have died from a broken neck when she fell from a haystack. The other wife died while helping Shue to repair a chimney. He was on top the chimney and his wife was placing the rocks in a basket with a rope attached to it and as the basket was drawn up the basket turned and dropped the rock on the head of his wife. It was also revealed that Shue had boasted that he would be married seven times.

Prosecutor Preston decided that the body of Zona Shue be exhumed and an autopsy performed. The body was lifted from the grave and taken to a school house nearby where Dr. Kanpp in the presence of Pres- ton and Shue worked for 3 days on the body testing and eliminating all the possible reasons for death, finally coming io the neck where he found a broken vertebrae as described by Zona when she appeared to her mother. "NOTE: Death from a broken neck sometimes causes a hemorrhage which would account for the flow of blood from the body to the door. Also, a body with a broken neck the head can move from one side to the other as in rigor mortis. The muscles of the neck are not strong enough to prevent movement of the head, hence Shue knowing this he was careful to always handle the head of the corpse when it was being moved." All during the examination Shue sat in the school room with a knife in his hand whittling on a stick. He seemed unconcerned until the doctor started working about her neck, when Shue showed signs of extreme nervousness.

Shue was placed under arrest and taken to the jail at Lewisburg where he was held until his indictment by the Grand Jury and the trial in June. Judge J. W. McWhorter wrote to a friend describing the trial and testimony as given by Mrs. Mary Heaster. A portion of the letter follows:

"The third night she again appeared to me (her murdered daughter did) and told me all about the difficulty, how it occurred, and how her death was brought about. He (her husband) came that night from the shop and seemed angry. I told him supper was ready and he began to chide me because I had prepared no meat for supper and I replied that there was plenty; there was bread and butter, apple sauce, preserves, and other things that made a very good supper, and he flew mad and got up and came toward me. When I raised up he seized each side of my head with his hands, and, by a sudden wrench, dislocated my neck.

She went on and describe to me the location of the building and surroundings in the neighborhood, where they lived, so that it was fixed in my mind as a reality. I was telling someone (someone whose name Judge MeWhorter, the writer, had forgotten) about the situation of the buildings, etc. and he said to me, ' 'You have been there" and I replied, "I have not", and he said, "I have been there many times and yet I could not describe the place and surroundings so minutely as you have."

The attorney then said, "Mrs. Heaster, was there not something about a sheet that you could not understand?" and she replied "There was".

She said that when Mr. Shue was leaving from the burial for home she called his at- tention to the sheet that had been under the side of her head in the coffin, and he said, "Mother, you keep it". I kept it for three or four weeks and while it looked clean and white I imagined it smelled badly, and I concluded to wash it. I washed it with my white clothes and when I pressed it down in the tub it turned red, and I concluded I had spoiled my other clothes, but when I dip- ped up water in my hand the water was not colored. I washed it and boiled it and hung it out and froze it three or four days, but it still had a reddish color. Counsel says, "Have you that sheet with you?" She replied that she had it at her boarding house. The sheet was brought in and exhibited to the jury, and it was decidedly reddish color.

When the body was taken and a post-mortem examination was made it was found that her neck had been dislocated, which undoubtedly had caused her death. The trial occupied eight days and the jury found him (Shue) guilty of murder in the first degree and was recommended clemency, and he was accordingly sentenced for life. This murdered woman was his (Shue's) third wife, and he had boasted that he expected to have seven wives. In this, however, he was disappointed. He passed to the Great Beyond to meet the three he treated so brutally here."

The attorney for the defense insisted that Mrs. Heaster had had a dream but she just as firmly insisted it was no dream and that she was as awake when her daughter appeared as she was then in the court room. Those who witnessed the trial were much impressed with her sincerity and the jury of twelve good men of Greenbrier County and Judge J. W. McWhorter evidently believe her. The question of whether a person can return from the grave was very well answered. He died, in the penitentiary about 1905.

Sources on The Greenbrier Ghost