The Shue Murder Trial in Greenbrier.
A letter from a valued Lewisburg correspondent supplies THE WATCHMAN with the following account of the trial of E. S. Shue, indicted for the murder of his wife, which commenced in Greenbrier Circuit Court on June 23rd, as far as proceeded with up to last Tuesday night.
The State concluded its evidence and rested its case on Monday morning. The material points proved are as follows:
About 10 o’clock on the morning of the day, January 22, 1897, on which Mrs. E. S. Shue was found dead, E. S. Shue, the prisoner, after having been to his black-smith shop, went to the house of a negro woman and asked the son of this woman to go to his house and hunt the eggs and then to go to Mrs. Shue and see if she wanted to send to the store for any thing. This negro boy went to the house of Shue, and after looking for the eggs and finding none, he went to the house, knocked and receiving no response, opened the door and went in. He found the dead body of Mrs. Shue lying upon the floor. The body was lying stretched out perfectly straight with feet together, one hand lying by the side and the other lying across the body, the head was slightly inclined to one side. The negro boy ran and told his mother that Mrs. Shue was dead and then went on to the black-smith shop and told E. S. Shue, the prisoner, that his wife was dead. Shue and the negro woman ran to the house, both arriving there at about the same time. Dr. Knapp was called in after the body had been laid out and dressed and pronounced Mrs. Shue dead. The dress in which the corpse was dressed had a high stiff collar. There were slight discolorations on the right side of the neck and the right cheek. The Doctor unfastened the collar and examined the front of the neck and was about to examine the back of the neck when Shue, the _____ that he desisted from further examination and left the house. The body was taken to the Meadows and buried. A few weeks afterward owing to the suspicious conduct and conversations of the prisoner, a post mortem examination was ordered. This examination was conducted by Drs. Knapp, Rupert and McClung. The examination disclosed that the neck was dislocated between the first and second cerebral vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The wind-pipe had been crushed in at a point in front of the neck. All other portions and organs of the body were apparently in a perfectly healthy state.
The defence had finished most of its evidence Tuesday evening but had proved little to show the innocence of the prisoner. The prisoner’s statement amounted, for the most part, to a denial in detail of the State’s evidence.
The case probably went to the jury yesterday evening, June 30th.
The State’s attorney, Hon. John A. Preston, and Henry Gilmer, Esq., appear for the prosecution whilst the prisoner is defended by Dr. Rucker and James P. D. Gardner.
Circuit Court convened on Tuesday, with Judge J. M. McWhorter presiding. The case of the State vs. E. S. Shue, charged with the murder of his wife, was called yesterday afternoon. Both sides announced themselves ready and thereupon the following jury was sworn to try the case:
A. B. Gardner, D. S. Lockhart, C. W. Dunbar, A. B. Stuart, C. W. Hogsett, J. M. Hughart, T. W. McClung, J. A. Vaughan, C. M. Thomasson, J. A. Hartsook, Richard Blofield and J. R. Ridgway.
The State’s attorney, Mr. Preston, and Henry Gilmer, Esq., appear for the prosecution whilst the prisoner is defended by Dr. Rucker and Jamse [sic] P. D. Gardner. But little of the evidence had been heard when court adjourned yestereay [sic] afternoon.
Mrs. Mary J. Heaster, the Mother of Mrs. Shue, Sees her Daughter in Visions.
The following very remarkable testimony was given by Mrs. Heaster on the pending trial of E. S. Shue for the murder of his wife, her daughter, and led to the inquest and post mortem examination, which resulted in Shue’s arrest and trial. It was brought out by counsel for the accused:
Question. – I have heard that you had some dream or vision which led to this post mortem examination?
Answer. – They saw enough theirselves without me telling them. It was no dream – she came back and told me that he was mad that she didn’t have no meat cooked for supper. But she said she had plenty, and said that she had butter and apple-butter, apples and named over two or three kinds of jellies, pears and cherries and raspberry jelly, and she says I had plenty; and she says don’t you think that he was mad and just took down all my nice things and packed them away and just ruined them. And she told me where I could look down back of Aunt Martha Jones’, in the meadow, in a rocky place; that I could look in a cellar behind some loose plank and see. It was a square log house, and it was hewed up to the square, and she said for me to look right at the right-hand side of the door as you go in and at the right-hand corner as you go in. Well, I saw the place just exactly as she told me, and I saw blood right there where she told me; and she told me something about that meat every night she came, just as she did the first night. She cames [sic] four times, and four nights; but the second night she told me that her neck was squeezed off at the first joint and it was just as she told me.
Q. – Now, Mrs. Heaster, this sad affair was very particularly impressed upon your mind, and there was not a moment during your waking hours that you did not dwell upon it?
A. – No, sir; and there is not yet, either.
Q. – And was this not a dream founded upon your distressed condition of mind?
A. – No, sir. It was no dream, for I was as wide awake as I ever was.
Q. – Then if not a dream or dreams, what do you call it?
A. – I prayed to the Lord that she might come back and tell me what had happened; and I prayed that she might come herself and tell on him.
Q. – Do you think that you actually saw her in flesh and blood?
A. – Yes, sir, I do. I told them the very dress that she was killed in, and when she went to leave me she turned her head completely around and looked at me like she wanted me to know all about it. And the very next time she came back to me she told me all about it. The first time she came, she seemed that she did not want to tell me as much about it as she did afterwards. The last night she was there she told me that she did everything she could do, and I am satisfied that she did do all that, too.
Q. – Now, Mrs. Heaster, don’t you know that these visions, as you term them or describe them, were nothing more or less than four dreams founded upon your distress?
A. – No, I don’t know it. The Lord sent her to me to tell it. I was the only friend that she knew she could tell and put any confidence it; I was the nearest one to her. He gave me a ring that he pretended she wanted me to have; but I don’t know what dead woman he might have taken it off of. I wanted her own ring and he would not let me have it.
Q. – Mrs. Heaster, are you positively sure that these are not four dreams?
A. – Yes, sir. It was not a dream. I don’t dream when I am wide awake, to be sure; and I know I saw her right there with me.
Q. – Are you not considerably superstitious?
A. – No, sir, I’m not. I was never that way before, and am not now.
Q. – Do you believe the scriptures?
A. – Yes, sir. I have no reason not to believe it.
Q. – And do you believe the scriptures contain the words of God and his Son?
A. – Yes, sir, I do. Don’t you believe it?
Q. – Now, I would like if I could, to get you to say that these were four dreams and not four visions or appearances of your daughter in flesh and blood?
A. – I am not going to say that; for I am not going to lie.
Q. – Then you insist that she actually appeared in flesh and blood to you upon four different occasions?
A. – Yes, sir.
Q. – Did she not have any other conversation with you other than upon the matter of her death?
A. – Yes, sir, some other little things. Some things I have forgotten – just a few words. I just wanted the particulars about her death, and I got them.
Q. – When she came did you touch her?
A. – Yes, sir. I got up on my elbows and reached out a little further, as I wanted to see if people came in their coffins, and I sat up and leaned on my elbow and there was light in the house. It was not a lamp light. I wanted to see if there was a coffin, but there was not. She was just like she was when she left this world. It was just after I went to bed, and I wanted her to come and talk to me, and she did. This was before the inquest and I told my neighbors. They said she was exactly as I told them she was.
Q. – Had you ever seen the premises where your daughter lived?
A. – No, sir, I had not; but I found them just exactly as she told me it was, and I never laid eyes on that house until since her death. She told me this before I knew anything of the buildings at all.
Q. – How long was it after this when you had these interviews with your daughter until you did see buildings?
A. – It was a month or more after the examination. It has been a little over a month since I saw her.
Q. – You said your daughter told you that down by the fence in a rocky place you would find some things?
A. – She said for me to look there. She didn’t say I would find some things, but for me to look there.
Q. – Did she tell you what to look for?
A. – No, she did not. I was so glad so [sic] see her I forgot to ask her.
Q. – Have you ever examined that place since?
A. – Yes, sir. We looked at the fence a little but didn’t find anything.
The State vs. E. S. Shue.
The evidence in this case was concluded yesterday morning and the argument begun in the afternoon, after the instructions had been given to the jury by the Court.
There was no witness to the crime charged against Shue and the State rests its case for a conviction wholly on the circumstances connecting the accused with the murder charged. The evidence of the medical experts, Dr. Knapp and others, who conducted the post mortem examination, makes it quite clear that Mrs. Shue did not commit suicide. The post mortem made it clear that her neck had been dislocated, but there was no mark upon her person or other evidence to show that she had subjected herself to any sort of violence. Her body was found by the negro boy, sent to the house by Shue, about 11 o’clock in the morning, and when Dr. Knapp reached the house, an hour or two later, it was quite cold and he was satisfied that she was then dead, though he resorted, without effect, to various means of resuscitation.
We mention the following, among other circumstances relied upon by the State to show that Shue killed his wife by dislocating her neck by some means the evidence does not disclose; that he was the only person seen about or known to have been at the house that morning prior to the time when his wife was found dead; that he requested Dr. Knapp, after he had resorted to the usual means of resuscitation, to make no further examination of the body; that he assisted in dressing the body and in doing so put around the neck a high collar and a large veil several times folded and tied in a large bow under the chin; that the head was observed by a number of the witnesses to be very loose upon the neck and would drop from side to side when not supported; that Shue sent the negro boy to the house to gather the eggs, instructing him to go into the house, find his wife and see if she wanted anything; that in his conversation and conduct, after his wife’s death, he seemed in good spirits, and showed no proper appreciation of the loss he had sustained; that when summoned to the inquest and post mortem out at Sewell he said to various witnesses that he knew he would come back under arrest; that in speaking to a number of witnesses on the subject he always said he knew that they could not prove that he did the killing, &c. So the connection of the accused with the crime depends entirely upon the strength of the circumstantial evidence introduced by the State.
Shue was on the stand all Tuesday afternoon. He was given free rein and talked at great length; was very minute and particular in describing unimportant incidents; denied pretty much everything said by other witnesses; said the prosecution was all spite work; entered a positive denial of the charge against him; vehemently protested his innocence, calling God to witness; admitted that he had served a term in the pen; declared that he dearly loved his wife, and appealed to the jury to look into his face and then say if he was guilty. His testimony, manner, &c., made an unfavorable impression on the spectators.
There is no middle ground for the jury to take. The verdict inevitably and logically, must be for murder in the first degree or for an acquittal.
Shue Convicted of Murder.
After an elaborate argument of the evidence by Messrs. Gilmer and Preston for the State and Jas. P. D. Gardner, colored, and Dr. Rucker for the accused, the case of the State vs. E. S. (“Trout”) Shue was given to the jury last Thursday afternoon, and the jury, after being out one hour and ten minutes, returned into Court with a verdict of murder in the first degree, as charged in the indictment, but recommending that the accused be punished by imprisonment, which means, under the law, that he be confined in the penitentiary for the term of his natural life. Dr. Rucker entered a motion for a new trial, but this was withdrawn the next morning, and Shue will be duly sentenced before the Court adjourns. Though the evidence was entirely circumstantial, the verdict meets general approval, as all who heard the evidence are satisfied of the prisoner’s guilt. After the murder Shue had every opportunity to make his escape, as four weeks elapsed before he was arrested and put in jail. The fact that he did not do so was explained by Mr. Gilmer, in his argument, by showing that Shue was all the time laboring under the impression that he could not be convicted on circumstantial evidence, and felt secure in knowing that there was no witness but himself, to the crime. This Mr. Gilmer argued, showed not a lack of sense, but information, and accounts for Shue’s presence at the inquest and his oft repeated remark that they could not show he did it.
Taking the verdict of the jury as ascertaining the truth, then we must conclude that Shue deliberately broke his wife’s neck – probably with his strong hands – and with no other motive than to be rid of her that he might get another more to his liking. And, if so, his crime is one of the most horrible, cruel and revolting ever known in the history of this county.
Mr. Preston deserves the thanks of the people for his diligence in hunting up the evidence and for his admirable management of the case before the jury.
Crime and Punishment