Fosterville Murder Part 5
The Fosterville Murders 
Part 5

Last Chapter of Murder Drama Opens- -The Judge's Charge This Afternoon

Prisoner Doesn't Know What is Going On, His Counsel Says


Crown Prosecutor Flays Accused—
SaysThat He Feigns Insanity

    The last chapter of the trial of Harry D. Williams, charged with the Fosterville murder, was commenced this afternoon at 1:30 o'clock when Mr. Justice LeBlanc started his charge to the jury before the fate of the accused was finally placed in the hands of "twelve good men and true" of the county of York.

    A little over two hours was occupied this morning by Fred H. Peters, counsel for the prisoner, and P.J. Hughes, K.C., Crown Prosecutor, in the presentation of the case for the defence and for the Crown to the jury. Mr. Peters, first to address the jury, occupied an hour and a quarter in the presentation of his case, while Mr. Hughes concluded his address in fifty minutes. Judge LeBlanc then stated that as he did not wish the jury to leave the court room after he had delivered his charge to them that he would adjourn the court until 1:30 p.m.

    Upon resumption of court this afternoon Mr. Justice LeBlanc delivered his charge to the jury, concluding the first phase of the nine day trial. The fate of the prisoner was then placed in the hands of the jury who were then retired from the court room to deliberate upon the guilt of the accused while his life hung in the balance.

Williams Still Indifferent

    Williams still maintained his attitude of indifference and abstraction while the Crown Prosecutor flayed him as one whose crime was such as to place him beyond the sympathy of anyone. Only when he was being led into the court house this morning did he show any further symptoms of his nameless fear when when he encountered Court Crier, James W. Fanjoy whose appearance last night resulted in his refusal to be sworn as a witness for his defence. Williams had a momentary return of his terror-stricken appearance and pushed away to avoid the Court Crier.

Counsel For Defence

Mr Peters Suggests That This is Another Case of Dr. Jekyl And Mr. Hyde

    Addressing the jury, Mr. Peters said that in order for the Crown to prove a charge of murder it would be necessary to establish a motive and show malice.

    He briefly reviewed the evidence of the prisoner's wife, given in a straightforward way. showing the happy circumstances under which they had lived together. He was a home man. Almost invariably he was accompanied out in the evenings, when he went out, by his wife. The only break in his life was the period when he had left his wife, who had said the cause was visionary, and then the final desertion when he had left home after kissing his wife and child in his usual manner, ostensibly to new employment.

    The prisoner had next entered the scene as Harry D. Williams at Fosterville. Mr. Peters pointed out that he had not been able to find from the prisoner any reason for the change of name or to produce any evidence relating to his youth or envoirnment. The man had a heart. He showed a son's regard for his mother despite the circumstances of his illegitimate birth as shown by his visit to her when she was ill.

    The accused had been welcomed in his sister's home. He had enlisted — a very laudable act. Evidence of his overseas service was very hard to obtain and little had been produced after every effort. He had been shown, however, that a member of a trench mortar batter occupied an exposed and dangerous post, and the dangers to which this man had been subjected could readily be understood. It had been found impossible to procure the accused's military records.

    "While some evidence has been given that he was an indolent man," said Mr. Peters, in connection with Williams' stay as a member of the Foster family, "yet he must have rendered some service else they would have kicked him out." He had later moved to the camp when quarters became cramped at the Foster's.

Pictures Williams' Camp

    "What more desolate place, gentlemen, can you picture than Williams' camp," continued Mr. Peters, speaking of the rock bound shore line and the surrounding "haggle" of partially cut overgrown timber. Cases of men losing their minds in Western Canada under similar circumstances of loneliness were very common, said Mr. Peters. Evidence had been given to show that Williams had held aloof from his neighbors. Williams hever pushed himself into company, and it had been shown that only on two occasions had he appear in public. It was fair to assume that he had spent most of the money he earned upon the Foster family.

    In order to establish a motive the Crown had set up that Williams had invited Cynthia and Necia to his camp. This was quite natural and customary. It had been going on for a long time. Mrs. Foster and the girls were in the habit of going to his camp to assist him with his housekeeping. It seem ridiculous that a man premeditating such a crime would find it necessary to tie up his own dog. It also seemed very far fetched that Williams had procured the togue lines for the purpose of binding the girls.

    It would be urged by the Crown that Williams was jealous of his niece in connection with the propose part in the school concert. Would not the father's evidence that he thought it time to assert himself as head of his own family indicate that Williams had been providing and looking after his children.

Might Have Escape All

    Reviewing the horror of the camp scene with the two little bodies as found, Mr. Peters said he could conceive no more horrible sight. The Crown would probably further allege the additional crime of rape. Evidence had been given on this point by tow medical men of a very contradictory nature. Dr. Turner, while holding to the opinion that rape had been committed, had admitted that the conditions he viewed might have been caused through some other agency. Dr. Dougan held that rape had not been committed. "There is only one person in the world who can clear this up — the girl's mother, and she has not been brought here," said Mr. Peters. The jury would be instructed to give the prisoner the benefit of any doubt.

    "If Harry Williams committed that crime, unprecedented in history, and realized the nature of the crime, did he not have ample time to escape across the border with but two or three miles to walk? suggested Mr. Peters.

    "On the other hand, providing he had known and understood what he had done, would he have left to empty shells on the floor? Would he not have taken his rifle and gone away to return in a few days, ostensibly from a hunting trip? Would not this be the action of a man in his right mind under the circumstances? But no, he sets out in the morning to go down the main highway. Does that look to you like a man realizing the enormity of his crime?

    "No attempt was made to escape the Pecks. An attempt had been made to show that he had taken something — presumably strychnine. Could a man take nourishment, a cup of coffee, so soon afterwards as he had? Then his complete unconcern and indifference?"

Says Williams Not Feigning Insanity

    "I am conscientious gentlemen, when I say this man Williams does not yet know what is going on. I have had the additional privilege of observing him," continued Mr. Peters, referring to his meetings with Williams and the medical examinations. "You gentlemen have heard what medical men have said about this man's mental condition. So far as I am concerned I have my own opinion."

    It had been his purpose to place the prisoner on the witness stand where he would be subjected to cross-examination by the Crown Counsel. His action in this regard would be taking a long chance but his main object was to place him in a position where the Crown counsel could examine him thoroughly and show whether the prisoner was feigning insanity or indifference. He felt quite sure his learned friend would be able to show this. He, himself, had not cared so much whether he had an opportunity of examining the prisoner.

    It might be charged that he had in some way been responsible for the prisoner's actions on that occasion. He assured the jury that he was not in any way responsible for Williams' actions. With the exception of the first interview on the day of the trial opening, he had not seen the prisoner except during medical examinations and a few moments last evening in the presence of two officers. When he had asked the prisoner if he would go on the stand, Williams, he did not believe, understood him but had given an answer such as the jury had heard. He had not had an opportunity of coaching the prisoner regarding his behavior.

    "If Harry Williams is the man responsible, there must have been a transformation," declared Mr. Peters. "It must have been some other person in this form of Harry Williams. Think of that, gentlemen." Here Mr. Peters presented a vivid contrast between the loving nature of Harry Williams and the horror of the deed.

    "No human could do that. Murders are committed every day, but there are some motive, some gain." 

    The jury were probably all familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, he said. "Did not something like that take place on this occasion," he concluded. "Gentlemen, it is so plain to me. How could it be possible that he in his right mind could do such an atrocious horrible deed? Gentlemen, I will leave it with you."


Bitter Denunciation of the Prisoner by
Mr. Hughes, Who Called on Jury to Do Their Duty

    Mr. Hughes, opening his address for the Crown, referred to the unpleasant but necessary duty the jury were called upon to do on an occasion such as this.

    Very little was known of Harry D. Williams. The accident of his birth was known. He came into the Foster home like an evil spirit out of the darkness. Then at Houlton until he lost his job on the railway through drink. Back again at Fosterville, enlisting and returning and then in and out of a home where he appeared to be dependent for a great deal of his supplies.

    Williams interest in the family was significant of something else, apparently he thought she would be slipping away from him and so he told her she should not take part in a school concert. He had seen her grow from childhood to womanhood and apparently a pretty being young woman of five feet four inches in height. He had coaxed Cynthia to come to his camp and then her mother to allow them to come to his camp. Fortunately, Providence saved one of them. Meanwhile he planned to destroy them. He prepared the cords to bind them and also the sandbag shown in court. It was just as well that no one knows what transpired when they reached the camp. Perhaps they had been bound in trickery or in play. Anyway they had been bound for some time before being shot like dumb beasts. Who did it? There was no possible doubt but that Williams and Williams alone.

    His learned friend had asked for a motive. A motive did not have to be sought in a case of this kind. Did Harry Williams care for these children when he had not care for his wife and his own? What had be been but a whited sepulchre? His learned friend had said he had difficulty in procuring evidence. He should think he would. He as Crown counsel had done more in this case than had ever been done in any other criminal case that he knew of. Every witness the defence could name had been summoned and brought here.

Says Insanity is Feigned

    "The kind who deserted his own flesh and blood and who his away where he could loaf and sponge — this is the kind of man who would protect and care for these children," was the denunciation hurled at the jury summing up the damaging evidence of his past.

    "Where can there be any reasonable doubt under the circumstances that Harry D. Williams did this," said Mr. Hughes touching briefly on the most outstanding circumstances of his arrest and admissions. There was but one other ground for defence — that of insanity and insanity has been feigned since the dawn of history when it was worth while. Cases were known but the Department of Justice takes care of such when specialists were sent to examine the condemned man to see whether or not he should pay the penalty for his crime.

    "Harry D. Williams was not, however, being tried as to whether he was now sane. Every man was to be presumed sane until he had otherwise proven. Not every phase of insanity, however, was a defence to a murder charge. Harry D. Williams would have to show that he was insane when he shot these girls—that he did not know what he was doing." He had occasion to prosecute a man who had destroyed his own son in an epileptic fit when this defence had been open to him. Was Harry D. Williams in this position?

    "It did not matter whether rape had been committed or not. The accused was being tried for murder. If a motive were sought that was ample evidence of rape to supply one. Dr. Turner had been sure of rape; Dr. Dougan, who arrived after the clothing had been destroyed and the bodies washed was uncertain.

    " 'I shot the two girls and expect to pay the supreme penalty'," — this explained his indifference—he had not decided to feign insanity at that time. Was there any signs of insanity at that time? None at all. Everything indicated a normal condition of a hardened individual. But as soon as he found he was to have somebody look after him when assigned counsel, he suddenly became insane. What he has now is of importance; what he had then was of concern. "He had always been the same until he comes into court and to fake before you gentlemen here."

    "Think of these things, gentlemen, rather than the play we see here in court," said Mr. Hughes in concluding as he painted a word picture of the sorrow and desolation following his act."

    Court then took recess until 1:30 p.m.

Judge LeBlanc's Charge

Throngs which once again taxed the capacity of the court room heard
Mr. Justice LeBlanc's charge to the jury yesterday afternoon
in the trial of Harry D. Williams in the York Circuit Court.

    The judge's review of the case, the facts surrounding the most revolting crime in the annals of York County and his summary of the evidence, his directions to the jury were regarded as making up one of the ablest charges heard in many years in a criminal case here.

    In his charge to the jury Mr. Justice LeBlanc referred to the magnitude of the charge and the length of time occupied with the trial proceedings. He then proceeded to outline the functions of the judge and jury. All questions of law were to be taken as stated by the court. Questions of fact were exclusively for the jury and must be passed upon by the jury irrespective from anything else but the law as stated by the court. The question of the prisoner's guilt as a question of fact rested entirely with the jury. The burden of proof is cast upon the crown to prove the prisoner's guilt. When Harry D. Williams pleaded not guilty he was to be presumed not guilty until his guilt had been established by the crown. When two contrary sets of facts pointed equally to the guilt and innocence of the accused, the jury was to deduce that he was innocent.

    Quoting from the Criminal Code, Mr. Justice LeBlanc pointed out that culpable homicide was murder. Homicide was defined by the Code as the killing of one person by another, directly or indirectly. Homicide was culpable when homicide was brought about by some unlawful act or omission.

    The indictment was then read and the situation and some of the salient facts of the crime outlined to the jury. Emphasis was laid upon the fact that Ward B. Foster had told his daughters that he himself would accompany them at nights when they appealed to him for permission to participate in a school concert which Williams had said they could not, and when Williams asked Cynthia to come and do some cooking for him the following day she had refused. Describing the manner in which the victims were last seen alive leaving home for Williams' camp, Judge LeBlanc said: And the next time they were seen bound and tied—two corpses in the prisoner's camp."

    Medical evidence showed that from the condition of the younger girl's limbs she must have been tied up fifteen or twenty minutes before she was shot. What was the fiend who committed this abominable crime doing in the meantime? The jury was also asked to consider that while the smaller girl had been bound hand and foot, the elder girl's arms alone had been tied.

    Mr. Justice LeBlanc also pointed out to the jury that the prisoner's rifle, when found, contained six cartridges, and if there had been two shells fired from a fully loaded rifle one must have afterwards been added before it was found. The fact that the elder girl had been fastened with a soft rope about her wrists was also remarked. Had her slayer had dome feeling for her which would cause him to use a soft rope? Where was Williams when the crime was committed?

    Was he insane when he committed the act, should the jury find that he committed the act? That was all the insanity defence which could be allowed. If the prisoner wishes to avail himself of an insanity plea he would have to prove it to the satisfaction of the jury. Insanity under this defence might be considered two ways. Did he know what he was doing when he pulled the trigger and shot the girls? If he did not then he would be found not guilty. Then as an insane person might perceive the act but not understand the nature of the act itself. Their minds were warped by hallucination or delusion. The jury must not confound insanity with moral depravity.

    In making a finding on an insanity plea the finding must be based on evidence produced and not on theories. If Harry Williams did shoot the girls not recognizing what he was doing, why did he not stay there beside the two corpses? He was not there when Ward Foster found the bodies. The last person to see Harry Williams before the crime had not given any evidence, which he could see, which would show that Williams was in a different state of mind than usual. His first words after the crime before being charged with anything was: "Don't hurt me. I want to give myself up." His state of mind from Claude Peck's uncontradicted evidence that he committed the killing and expected to pay the supreme penalty appeared to be that of a man who knew the nature of the crime and its consequences.

    While a motive had been spoken of he was not he was not aware that it was necessary in such a case. Two motives have been suggested. Williams' preference for Cynthia Foster and his objections to her taking part in the concert had been shown. One motive might have been jealousy. "The second motive would have to be the abominable crime of rape, and, gentlemen, rape is not an uncommon crime. I don't say that it was." A considerable portion of the charge was devoted to discussion of this phase of the case.

    In concluding Judge LeBlanc urged the jury to give the matter their best consideration, to find the prisoner guilty or not guilty according to the evidence. It was a duty which they owed to society and he urged them to do their duty as good citizens.

    He completed his charge by 3:03 p.m. by telling them that they must be unanimous to bring in a verdict. The jury retired at 3:07 p.m. in charge of Constable Charles MacMurray.

    The jury was recalled by Judge LeBlanc at 3:16 p.m. for further instruction with reference to insanity. They were told that if the prisoner could not tell right from wrong at the time of committing the act he must be held as insane.

    The jury retired again at 3:20 p.m. and ten minutes later brought in their verdict.

Williams Found Guilty,
Unmoved When Sentenced 
To Be Hanged April 23rd

Throng Heard the Death Sentence Pronounced by Judge LeBlanc


Prisoner Stands Inanimate-Like While the Sentence is Passed

    Harry D. Williams, alias Darius Thornton, was found guilty of the murder of Cynthia Foster ten minutes after the jury had received their final instructions from Mr. Justice LeBlanc yesterday afternoon in the York Circuit Court and was immediately sentenced to be hanged before the hour of 9 o'clock in the morning of April 23rd—St. George's Day.

    Mr. Justice LeBlanc completed his charge to the jury at 3:05 p.m., having consumed an hour and a half in his address. The jury filed out of the court room at 3:07 p.m., but were recalled by the judge at 3:16 p.m. for further instructions regarding the plea of insanity. At 3:20 p.m. they finally left the court room to return at 3:30 p.m. with a unanimous verdict of "guilty."

    The verdict was announced by Coun. Fred Seymour, of Nashwaaksis, foreman of the jury , and in answer to the formal query, "So say you all?" there was a unanimous chorus from the members of the jury: "We do."

    Williams, who had been taken from the dock on each occasion when the jury had retired and brought back in, heard the verdict without a trace of emotion nor did his fixed gaze at the ceiling flicker for even an instant. Mr. Justice LeBlanc then stated to the jurors that they were discharged from the present trial but might be required on some further case. The jurors, however, did not leave the jury box. The court room was thronged to overflowing.

Judge Addresses Prisoner

    Turning to the prisoner Judge LeBlanc said: "Prisoner, stand up."

    Apparently Williams did not hear the command. A court attendant standing alongside the dock directed him to stand up and Williams complied without hardly moving his eyes from the point on which his gaze had been riveted throughout the trial.

    Judge LeBlanc— "Have you anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?"

    "I don't know," replied the prisoner in the same toneless voice which has marked his infrequent utterances during the trial.

    "Harry D. Williams," said Judge LeBlanc in a quiet voice, "you have been found guilty of the murder of Cynthia Foster. You have had a fair trial. You came here without counsel or the means to procure counsel and I assigned Mr. Peters, a lawyer of good standing and considerable practice, to defend you. He has defended you faithfully and you owe him a deep debt of gratitude. You have been defended with a good deal of zeal and resourcefulness and Mr. Peters is deserving of a good deal of appreciation.

    "Now, Harry D. Williams, I am the last man in the world who wishes to add one word to the feeling you must experience now in your sad position. My advice to you is to prepare to meet your fate and to prepare to meet your God. I don't think you may expect much this side of the grave, and I do not say this to discourage you. I would advise you in a friendly way to make your peace with your Maker. Use your time in the best way.You will be given sufficient time to prepare to meet that Judge from whose decision there will be no appeal and which will seal your fate for eternity.

    "The sentence of the court is that you, Harry D. Williams, be kept in the close custody of the common jailer of York county until the twenty-third day of April, and that before the hour of 9 o'clock in the forenoon on the twenty-third day of April, that you be hanged by the neck until dead. And may God Almighty have mercy on your soul."

Prisoner Was Unmoved

    Throughout the remarks of the judge, and the passing of sentence upon him, Williams gazed unseeing over the heads of the jury without showing the faintest flicker of emotion.

    "That's all, sit down," said the same officer as Williams remained standing and he resumed his seat in the dock.

    There being no further cases entered upon the docket for trial, two civil cases going over for chambers hearing, all jurymen were discharged.

    To Mr. Hughes, crown prosecutor, Judge LeBlanc said that the second indictment against the accused for the murder of Necia Foster would go over until the next term of the court. The court was then adjourned.

    Williams, who had chewed throughout the entire period while the judge was delivering his charge to the jury, was then led away and left the court as he had on every previous occasion — apparently entirely indifferent.

Crowds Wait at Court For Closing Session

    Some of the spectators at the murder trial of Harry D. Williams this morning went without their dinners when court was adjourned at noon until 1:30 p.m., when it resumed with Mr. Justice LeBlanc's charge to the jury. They remained about and near the building that they might be amongst the fortunate few obtaining seats when court opened at 1:30 p.m.


    Less than fifteen minutes before Harry D. Williams, charged with the Fosterville murder, had, by his refusal to be sworn as a witness on his own behalf in the York Circuit Court, created one of the most dramatic scenes of the whole trial. A reporter for The Gleaner watched him for about ten minutes in the jury room before he was placed in the prisoner's dock.

    Seldom was Williams ever seen to be so absolutely devoid of signs of life. With the exception that at the time he was sitting slightly hunched forward in a chair, there was nothing to indicate he was alive. There was not a twitch of his body to be seen and his appearance was that of a statute so far as signs of life could be noted. His gaze was fixed straight forward., his hands held together in front of him, his legs drawn back, and the upper portion of his body hunched over his knees. Nor did he move when a number of the witnesses from Fosterville entered the room and commenced to remove their outer clothing. A number brushed the prisoner with their coats as they hung them up, but he did not move.

    Throughout the afternoon, during the testimony of his wife, Mrs. Ada Thornton, who came here from Houlton, Me., in order that he might know she had not deserted him despite the fact she felt she could be of no avail. Williams failed to show any signs of recognition or emotion. He sat facing away from where she sat and when she was called to the stand he did not removed his gaze from the ceiling. Not even the sound of her voice caused him to even momentarily turn his eyes toward her.

    Leaving the court room at 6 p.m., Williams snatched a copy of the The Daily Gleaner from a newsboy in the hallway and stuffed it into his pocket. It was taken from him by the officers, however, as he has not been allowed to see a newspaper during his trial. While waiting in the jury-room he was asked by Fred H. Peters, his counsel, if he would take the stand on his own behalf. After replying in an uncomprehending manner he finally assented. Leaving the jury-room in charge of the officers, he again tried to grab another copy of The Gleaner but the newspaper boy held fast to his bundle and prevented him from obtaining the paper which Williams had grabbed with his free hand in passing.

All Night Guard Over Williams

    An all night vigil was kept over Harry D. Williams in his cell at the York county jail last night by an officer especially assigned to the duty.

    Sheriff John B. Hawthorn said last evening that, as a result of the sudden change in the prisoner's demeanor which constables taking him from the court after the afternoon session had reported, he had decided to "take no chances."

    Fred H. Peters, defence counsel, said today that Williams had been suffering from hallucinations, as doctors had testified. One of these hallucinations was a fear of an "old man" who he said was trying to steal his false teeth. Mr. Peters said that it had been thought Magistrate John L. Foster, of North Lake, was the "old man" referred to, but that apparently it was Court Crier Fanjoy.

"Hanging Too Good For Him," 
Says Ward Foster

    "Hanging is too good for him," was the comment of Ward B. Foster, father of the two murdered girls, before he left for his home at Fosterville today after being present at the conviction of Harry D. Williams, slayer of his daughters, and the passing of sentence of death.

    "He did what he calculated to do to get his revenge and he was prepared to take his chances. He'll have to take his chances now, but he is not getting what is coming to him." Mr. Foster added that the people of North Lake would now be satisfied that justice had been done.

    Mr. Foster and the rest of witnesses from North Lake left by C.P.R. this morning on their return to their homes after an absence of seven days.

Williams Moved to Death Cell in The County Jail

Condemned Prisoner is Constantly Watched by Guards


Sheriff Hawthorne Says There Won't Be Bungle on April 23rd

    Harry D. Williams, sentenced to death yesterday afternoon as the perpetrator of the most revolting crime in the criminal annals of New Brunswick, has been moved to what has become the death cell at the York County Jail.

    Until he was sentenced to be hanged Williams occupied a cell on the top corridor of the jail, but last evening he was moved to a cell on the lower floor where provision has been made for the death guards who will constantly watch the prisoner until April 23rd, the date set for execution. Day and night the vigil will be continued and from now on the prisoner will get regular meals instead of the jail fare.

Ellis Likely To Be Employed

    Sheriff Hawthorn was reticent today to discuss what plans he will make for the execution. He has stated, however, that he will employ an expert hangman to carry out the execution. It is expected that Ellis, the Dominion hangman, will be employed. Some time ago he said that he believed the gallows could be erected without sufficient commotion to attract outside attention.

    "There will be no bungling in the carrying out of the court's sentence," said the Sheriff. "I will take every precaution to prevent anything of that kind."

    It is 94 years since a man has been condemned for murder in York County. The last execution which occurred here was in 1831 and took place near what is now known as the old Burial Grounds.

    The death guards who will be in charge of the prisoner until the day of the execution went on duty yesterday afternoon at the jail immediately after Williams had been returned to jail from the court room where he had been sentenced to death. Last night a guard watched Williams throughout the night and either one or the other of the two officers acting as special guards will be continuously with the prisoner both day and night.

    This morning the prisoner was visited by Very Rev. Dean Neales who has been his spiritual advisor ever since his incarceration in the York county jail. Sheriff Hawthorn told the Gleaner this morning that he could observe no change in the indifferent attitude of the prisoner which marked the entire progress of the trial except on the occasion when he balked at being sworn as a witness on his own behalf.

    With the conclusion of the trial information which could not be produced in evidence at the trial on account of the fact that it had been elicited from the prisoner in response to questions now may be made public.

    According to a statement made by Enoch Peck, one of the witnesses at the trial who corroborated damaging statements made by the prisoner while in his custody. Before being taken away from Fosterville, Williams had also told that he had knocked the young girl, Necia, with a sandbag before attacking Cynthia. Williams said that he had quite a struggle with Cynthia before fastening her arms, and Cynthia, he said, was the first of the victims killed.

Williams' Wife Visited Him At the Jail Last Night 
But He Did Not Recognize Her

Mrs. Thornton Accompanied by Houlton Newspaper Woman on Visit to Jail

    "My wife? Ada? — no I can't remember."

    Thus did Harry D. Williams reply to the pleadings of Mrs. Ada Thornton, of Houlton, Me., his wife whom Williams is said to have deserted some fourteen years ago, when he changed his name from Darius Thornton to Harry D. Williams, under which he now stands indicted for the most horrible double murder in the history of York county.

    The scene took place in Williams' cell at the York county jail last night shortly after the dramatic spectacle which occurred in the York circuit court last evening when the prisoner shrank in terror from Court Crier, James W. Fanjoy and refused to be sworn as a witness in his own behalf. Mrs. Thornton, who Williams had ignored while she testified yesterday afternoon as a witness for the defence and whose presence in the court room he appeared to be entirely unaware of, visited him in his cell last evening in company with her companion Mrs. Cora M. Putnam who came here with her from Houlton, Me.

Pressed Spot on Head

    Williams failed entirely to show a glimmer of recognition and replied in a distracted and puzzled manner as his wife entreated him to recall her name or thoughts of his baby, now a boy of seventeen years. That Williams was making an effort to recall scenes and thoughts suggested to him was apparent to the witnesses of the scene. Throughout the interview he pressed his hand against a spot on his head where he has been observed in court to abstractedly brush occasionally with his hand.

    For the first time on his trips to and from the jail in company with Deputy Sheriff Fraser Saunders and Provincial Constable A. Ford Yerxa, Williams showed signs of a new temperament to his guardians. Twice enroute back to jail last evening he slackened his pace to glare back at Constable Yerxa who was walking behind him. The officer, who was outside the court room not a witness to the scene created by the prisoner in court that evening, immediately noted a change in Williams' usually docile condition when called to escort him back to jail last night.

The Daily Gleaner Tuesday, April 21, 1925

Williams Writing Letters Singing Hymns and Praying 
As Workmen Build Gallows

Fosterville Murderer Wrote Almost 20 Letters Yesterday — Sure He is Forgiven and Says Lord Will Carry Him Along to Finish — Sheriff Hawthorn Refuses Permits to Morbid Curious Who Want to See Execution

    Almost twenty letters to various people in Fredericton, at North Lake and in Maine were written yesterday by Williams, the Fosterville murderer, who on Thursday morning will pay the death penalty at the York County jail for the most fiendish crime committed in the county for almost a century.

    The first murderer to go to the gallows in York County since the last double murder was committed in this county 94 years ago is spending his last days in his cell at the jail writing letters and singing hymns, when he is not receiving his small list of visitors, largely ministers and others interested in his spiritual welfare.

    Although his color is ashen from continued confinement Williams has taken on weight and told a reporter who he sent for yesterday that he was "feeling fine." Regarding himself he said: "The Sheriff has been awfully good to me, so why shouldn't I take on weight and feel fine? I couldn't be better treated if I had been a guest at a hotel; they have been so kind."

"And," he continued, "I am not worrying, either, for the Lord has been awfully good to me. He has been carrying me along day by day and I hope and believe He will carry me along right to the finish. I feel sure the Lord has forgiven me. I know I have sinned deeply and grievously, but the blood of Christ will wash away the sins of those who believe in Him. The Lord is good and He will help me through all right."

Has Lot to Do in Short Time

    Williams said that his only trouble was to do all that he wanted to do in the short time that he had left to do it. He said that up to that time—it was then about 6 p.m. — he had written fifteen letters and was then starting on his sixteenth that day. He said he had three more he wanted to write during the evening, but that Rev. P.J. Trafton was coming to visit him and to "hold a meeting" for him. He also said the Salvation Army were going to have their last service with him tonight and that Very Rev. Dean Neales was going to call again today. "And," he said, "the Dean has promised that he will come here and remain with me all through the night on Wednesday night. You know I was baptized and confirmed by the Dean's half-brother, the late Venerable Archdeacon Neales, and I am a member of the Church of England. That was about twenty years ago at Woodstock, but I am still a member of the Church of England and the Lord is carrying me along day by day."

    Williams said he had received letters from his mother and his youngest sister at North Lake and he was writing to them and to others who had written to him or who had otherwise been kind to him. "You know," he said, "it takes time to write all these letters and then I have to get my meals (he was in the midst of eating a substantial supper) and I have to pray quite a lot to ask the Lord to carry me along day by day, and then I like to sing—so it all keeps me pretty busy and I haven't got much time left. but I feel I will be all right. The Lord will help me and the Dean is going to give me final absolution."

Preparations for Execution

    Meanwhile, preparations are going actively forward under the direction of Arthur Ellis, the official Dominion hangman, for carrying out the execution. The gallows is being erected today and it was said this morning that plans were all completed. Dr. B. H. Dougan will be the coroner to conduct the inquest and members of the coroner's jury will be drawn from the county and three from the city; they are being summoned.

    Sheriff Hawthorn said today that bona fide press representatives would be the only persons present at the jail, aside from those required to be there officially, when the execution takes place. The Sheriff said that he was preparing to have guards outside the jail building tomorrow evening and that a number of special constables would also be on duty inside the jail. He has already had some requests for permits to be present, including a request by long distance telephone from Minto.

    Hangman Ellis is preparing to leave here Thursday afternoon for Montreal and on Saturday will start for the Pacific Coast, where his services will be next required. This summer he is planning two months vacation — in July and August — and will go to England to the Wembley Exposition and to visit his former house in Manchester.

The Daily Gleaner Thursday, April 23, 1925

Darius Thornton Went to Gallows With a Smile

Paid Death Penalty as Harry D. Williams Soon After Midnight for Fosterville Murders Last November — Marched Unaided to Gallows and Was Pronounced Dead 12 Minutes After Trap Was Sprung

    Darius Thornton was hanged at the York County jail immediately after 12 o'clock this morning for the murder of his two half-nieces, Cynthia and Necia Foster, who, as Harry D. Williams, he brutally murdered in his cabin at Fosterville on the shore of the Chiputneticook Lakes, which form part of the international boundary between New Brunswick and the State of Maine.

    The trap was sprung by Arthur Ellis, the official Dominion Hangman, at 12:01:55 in the loft of a barn in the rear of the jail in the presence of members of the coroner's jury and several other persons just as Very Rev. Dean Neales, the condemned man's spiritual adviser, finished reciting the Lord's Prayer. Twelve minutes later he was pronounced dead by Dr. Allan Sterling and Dr. L. J. Violette, M.L.A., of St. Leonard, the official medical examiners, and the body was cut down. Ellis said there had been a complete fracture of the neck.

    Within a few minutes the coroner's jury, who had retired to the sheriff's office in the jail, were again summoned. They viewed the body and again retired to the sheriff's office, where they took the necessary evidence with Dr. B.H. Dougan, of Harvey Station, presiding as coroner. Before they had completed the findings of their formal verdict an undertaker had arrived with a casket and a short time later Williams' body, which had been claimed by his mother to prevent burial in the jail yard, was buried with simple ceremony in a lot in the Rural Cemetery extension. The execution was carried out without a hitch in a solemn manner and the crowds on the outside of the jail enclosure did not know it was all over until the undertaker's wagon arrived with the casket.

Went To His Doom Smiling

    Williams, it can be truthfully said, went to his doom smiling and fervently praying. As the clock struck twelve Williams, who had spent the evening in prayer with his official spiritual adviser, Very Rev. Dean Neales, had just seated himself upon the cot in his cell after having spent some time on his knees in his last lonely prayer. Hangman Ellis gave the signal and the two death guards entered the cell and shook hands with the condemned man and told him to get ready. Williams shook hands with his guards and thanked them for their kindness to him while he has been in their care. The guards were Charles A. Sterling and Alexander Murray, a former city policeman, and as the former said good bye to him and urged him to do his best, Williams replied: "I cannot do anything myself, but I am trusting in Him and He will carry through as he always has."

    Then Hangman Ellis entered the cell, stepping briskly. He carried a leather strap in his hand and quickly pinioned the condemned man's hands behind his back. Williams kept smiling: he wore a pair of black trousers and a white shirt with a stiff bosom and the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, but had no coat nor hat. He was then led from the cell by the two guards and he marched along the corridor of the jail with his head erect and smiling a good bye to those amongst the half a dozen people in the corridor who he recognized. He seemed equally as unconcerned about his fate — and he knew death was then only a matter of seconds away — as he had been all the time since he was condemned to pay the supreme penalty for his heinous crime.

Marched With Unfaltering Step

    As Williams, Ellis and his two guards started the procession along the corridor leading to the rear exit into the jail yard, which they crossed to the barn fifty feet away. Dean Neales recited the 23rd Psalm, The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want. The procession had just reached the darkened jail yard as Dean Neales came to the passage Though I walk through the shadow of the Valley of Death, but Williams walked along with unfaltering step. Then as Ellis twice repeated command a constable opened the door of the barn and the rays of a high powered electric light which had been installed illuminated the yard. Williams, with his hands pinioned behind his back, ascended without assistance the narrow flight of steps heading to the loft of the barn and never faltered as he was escorted across the floor to the western corner, where the trap had been installed and the scaffold erected. the first thing that met his gaze was the noose of the rope hanging from the gallows; across the rope the black cap was hanging. As soon as the condemned man had been placed upon the trap Hangman Ellis went to work with lightening like rapidity, while Dean Neales commenced to recite the Lord's Prayer. The hangman first of all pinioned Williams' feet, and as he did so Williams turned his head around with an apparent look of surprise to see the coroner's jury and others present. He half smiled just as Ellis pulled the black cap over his head and then quickly adjusted the noose. Then just as Dean Neales finished the Lord's Prayer and uttered Amen, Ellis pushed the lever which sprung the trap and Williams shot into eternity. The first execution in Fredericton in 94 years had been carried out.

    As soon as the trap had been sprung jurymen and other witnesses of the execution left the building and retired to the sheriff's office in the jail. There at the request of Dr. B. H. Dougan, they elected their foreman. The members of the jury were: Warden John T. Christie, of Bright; Peter McFarlane, of Nashwaaksis; Coun. John F. Doherty, of Springhill; Ald. W.L. Jennings, Thomas Davidson, Edward Hall and James H. Hawthorn, of Fredericton. As soon as the medical examiners reported to the coroner that death had occurred, the body was cut down and the jury were then called to the barn again where they viewed the body prior to taking the official evidence upon which they later returned the necessary formal verdict and the formal notice that the death penalty had been carried out was then posted as prescribed by the Criminal Code, upon the jail door. The funeral followed soon afterwards in the early morning hours.

    While the jurymen were viewing he body one juror remarked that Williams must have been a man of remarkable vitality since the cessation of the heart beat had not resulted until twelve minutes after the body had been cut down

    "I have often seen the heart continue beating for 14 or 15 minutes," remarked Hangman Ellis, and Dr.Sterling and Dr. Violette declared there were instances on record where the heart had not ceased beating following a hanging for at least {obscure} minutes.

    "Fully Penitent," Says Dean

    So quietly was the execution carried out that few outside the jail enclosure knew that Williams had paid the death penalty until the arrival of the undertaker's wagon. Inside the jail there was a solemn stillness and perhaps the least affected about the place was Williams. Even Ellis started to show some effects of the enormous strain after he had cut down the body.

    "I have never seen a man so penitent for a sin," said Very Rev. Dean Neales to the newspapermen after the execution. "Only a few days ago he told me he believed he was the most fortunate man in Fredericton. He was filled with penitence and felt that in his heart the Lord had forgiven him."

    "Williams was to me a man of extraordinary character, the strongest I have ever known. Ever since I first visited him he has been a penitent man," continued the Dean to the group of reporters present.

    "Personally I cannot understand how he came to commit such a crime. Indeed I can only believe he did so during an insane fit of passion."

    Executioner Ellis who took complete charge of all details just prior to the carrying out the death penalty was most precise in his actions. He impressed upon the jurymen and the press representatives who gathered at the jail before midnight the need for solemnity on such an occasion.

    As the jury went to view the scaffold in the barn shortly before 12 o'clock, Ellis turned to them and said: "Now, gentlemen, when the condemned man comes up the stairs I want you to take off your hats. Its just a matter of respect to the proceeding." 

    Ellis was immaculately dressed. He word a black morning coat with neat grey striped trousers a large black tie and winged starched collar. His every move was quick and he directed events before and after the execution with military like precision.

    Harry D. Williams was hanged at the York County Jail immediately after midnight this morning, left among several communications addressed to The Gleaner a note in which he absolved Fred H. Peters, his counsel at his trial, from blame or knowledge in connection with his having feigned insanity. 

    The condemned man's note, exactly as written, follows:

   "This is to certify that my counsel, Mr. Peters, had nothing to do with my actions during my trial and is blameless. He acted true to his conscience as far as I know, and done everything that could be done for me, and I thank him from the bottom of my heart."


alias Harry Williams


Death Penalty Last Here Was For a Double Murder in 1831

    The execution of Darius Thornton this morning for the Fosterville murder was the first hanging to take place in the city since 1831.

    It is an unusual coincidence that in the case of the man named Smith who was hanged near the entrance to the Old Burial Ground ninety-four years ago, and in the present case both had been sentenced to pay the supreme penalty for a double murder. Smith was executed by a man named London, a resident of the city, who acted as hangman, for the murder of two men in a lumber camp in York county. The victims were killed with an axe while a third man who was badly injured managed to make his escape.

    The scene of the last execution almost a century ago, was transferred from the jail yard opening off King street on account of the objections raised by residents of that vicinity, to the Old Burial Ground, then a modern grave yard. This occurred prior to the removal of the county jail to the present site in 1842. The execution was conducted under the direction of the last Sheriff D.W. Miller, Deputy Sheriff Charles Brannen, father of W.C. Sterling Brannon, retired provincial official, conveying the condemned man to the gallows.


Declares That He Believed He Had Been Forgiven For His Heinous Crime

    An "evil and sinful jealousy" which clouded his mind because he had been "serving Satan" was the explanation which Darius Thornton who, as Harry D. Williams, was hanged at the York County Jail immediately after midnight this morning for the heinous murder of his two half nieces at Fosterville last November, gave for his crime in a communication in his own hand writing addressed to The Gleaner which he had written in his cell yesterday morning and which he left behind him when he marched smiling and praying to the gallows to pay the supreme penalty for his crime.

    The communication was written in a firm hand and shows that, feeling himself a penitent and forgiven sinner, the condemned man went to his doom without fear. He explained that his end was near and that he had many things to do, but afterwards explained that he wrote his communication in the hope that it might help somebody else and "stop others from committing grievous sins." It constitutes a homely sermon and is the first and only explanation of the motive for the terrible crime that has come from its perpetrator to the public.

The complete communication follows:

Fredericton, April 22, 1925

To The Gleaner:—

    Would like to tell the public of a wonderful Saviours love and that this man Jesus who died for sinners has restored me the very chief of sinners. Dear Public He is real and can save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him. I know for He has saved me and is keeping me day by day and is going with me in my darkest hour. Oh let this Saviour of mine be your Saviour too. Nothing to pay to have Him for your friend. Not a cent, but you must bring to Him a broken and a contrite heart. Only surrender your sins at the foot of His Cross and say, Jesus I need Thee as my Saviour and you will soon see how able and willing and how He loves to forgive and help you. Give my Saviour a trial sinner friends.

    Just look at the many friends He has raised up here for me, real friends who have shown me every kindness and made things cheerful as could. And sinners, what has He done all this for me if He is not my Saviour and you cannot say that His people showered all of this wealth of love upon me, expecting in return riches, position or power. I have nothing to give in return, nothing but a grateful heart to Jesus and His people. By the grace of God I am what I am, praise be His holy name and He has shed His love abroad in the hearts of His dear children towards me. I have sinned deeply but Jesus died and pleads for me and I know that it is well with my soul. Jesus keeps me day by day, bless Him. He is giving me a peace and quiet to my soul that the world cannot give and I am resting in Him, secure, knowing that He is able and willing and competent to guard me now and land me safely with Him in Glory.

    Praise be His Holy name, Jesus is mine and I know I am His. This is the 22nd and have a lot of letters to write and callers to receive. The barber is coming in this a.m. I had a nice bath this morning and the Sheriff has promised me with new clean linen. I cannot thank that man enough and his family for what he has done for me and in addition to all of this he going to see that I am given a Christian burial in the Cemetery at Fredericton. Dear Friend, I thank him. My heart is full to my Jesus and to all His people here. Oh I ask Him to bless them and bestow upon them every good gift from above and lead and guide them in all of their life here and when done with this life He will pilot them to safety in His Kingdom where we will all be reunited as one happy family with Him.

    Oh dear public, the love of Jesus in your hearts keeps you in perfect peace but you have got to trust Him, willingly, blindly, wholly and without reserve. Give up all sin. You cannot expect to try and keep the smallest sin and keep the love of Jesus. He wants all your best and in return he will give all. He loves to save and do for us all if we will only left Him.

    You are all familiar with my trial and my crimes. They are grievous and many. Satan was the cause of it all. I served him and he always pays all who serve ;him with sorrow and grief. Oh, sinner depart from Satan and serve Jesus. Do not take the fearful risk of going with Satan any longer. Oh how he tempted and lead me on. I fought and resisted. Oh, indeed I did but I had served Satan too long. He proved stronger than I. He had my mind clouded with evil, a sinful jealousy. Oh it is fearful to think what Satan can do to them that serve him.

   But my Jesus saves and keeps me now and has taken out all fear and dread of what is to come and will go through the Valley "Shadow with me," lead me to the Pearly White City. Now, dear public, which is the best master? You see what they have both done. You believe what Satan has done, don't you? You do not doubt for a minute it is easy to believe what Satan does. But you find it hard to believe what God has done. Oh let me tell you, believe what God has done too for it is real and true, bless Him. God's ways is not our ways and His ways are much higher than ours. He does not look at sin as we do. The least sin consciously done, unforgiven, will doom you just as sure as if you had committed all of the sins and not been forgiven. Oh do not doubt or question God's power to save to the uttermost. The vilest may come humbly and ask to be forgiven because Jesus died and pleads for that vile thing and because it is Jesus that pleads, you are forgiven. If it was something depending on you or your works why the world would labor in vain. But no it is the Blood of Jesus, sheltered under this Blood. And let me tell you again sinner friends and Christian friends that I am forgiven and safe, Glory be to God. Think as kindly of me as you can when I am gone and if I sinned deeply Satan caused me to sin. But the love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus has lifted me up and restored my soul. I thank, praise and give Him all the Glory. Adieu.


Hangman Leaves For Coast

    Arthur Ellis, the official Dominion hangman, who conducted the execution of Darius Thornton, who as Harry D. Williams, paid the death penalty at the York County Jail immediately after midnight this morning, leaves Fredericton this afternoon for Montreal and on Saturday will leave there for the Pacific Coast where his services will next be required.

    The efficiency of the official hangman and the completeness of the arrangements which had been made by Sheriff John B. Hawthorn combined to carry out the first execution of Fredericton in almost 94 years in a manner which was fitting to such an occasion. The drop of more than eight feet when the trap was sprung caused practically instant death. Sheriff Hawthorn's onerous duties in connection with the carrying out of the death penalty were many and varied; but he made all the necessary precautions and arranged that everything would be carried out without a hitch. The condemned man left a letter in which he expressed thanks to the Sheriff and others at the jail, as well as his death guards for the kindness and consideration shown him while he was a prisoner at the jail.

    Yesterday afternoon Mrs. Ada Thornton, of Houlton, Me., called on her husband. She spent a few minutes with him and was led away crying. "I was glad she came to see me," the condemned man said afterwards. "It shows what a brave, courageous and good little woman she is. God bless her and my son.

    Note: Later that year (1925) a bill for the cost of the trial was presented to the Municipal Council for payment in the amount of $4,418, with some small items still to be added. One of the "small items" is $4.00 for the cost of the gallows, which, according to the Gleaner is "a very reasonable charge."

    Comments:Would Darius Thornton, alias Harry Darwin Williams, been convicted had the trial taken place under 1995 rules? All things being equal, the answer is probably yes.

    Although there was little or no investigation by any competent authority, the only professional act of any kind was the Coroner's Inquest which today would not be held where criminal charges are laid. The inquest verdict had already determined, largely on circumstances and emotion, that Williams had committed the crime. To find a single person in the Fosterville area who believed otherwise seemed impossible. 

Out of natural curiosity, most residents, youngsters and oldsters alike, probably visited the scene, poked around, destroying evidence, such as the young Hollis Vantassel testing the strength of the sand bag. After all, nothing in the history of Fosterville, before or since, proved quite as dramatic as this. And yet even years afterward, out of consideration of the Foster family, very few people would discuss the crime openly.

    One aspect of the crime was not resolved at the trial: was Cynthia "outraged", or raped in today's vernacular? Williams told Claude and Enoch Peck that he killed the girls but "didn't do what you think I did." Fred Peters, Williams' lawyer, wanted to call the girl's mother, Minnie, to the stand to testify as to her "condition," that is, was the young victim having her period at that time. If this was the case, then Williams probably did not follow through on what obviously was his intention. Certainly the two doctors couldn't agree on the subject. From a legal stand point, it mattered little. Williams was charged with murder, not rape. And for that crime he paid, in his words, the supreme penalty.

    It is amusing today to read of how sanity was determined seventy years ago. The symmetry of the head, shape of one's ear lobes had a great deal of influence in the minds of the doctors specializing in mental illnesses. Even the term "alienist" (one who studies mental disorders) is alien to us today. And to have the jury determine in a separate trial the mental state of the accused, not whether he was insane at the time of the crime, but whether he now understands what is happening has certainly changed over the years. In today's legal system, insanity is the thrust, or an integral part, of the defense, not a separate issue. In Williams' sanity trial there seems little doubt the jury arrived at a just conclusion, as later events proved. The notes Williams left behind absolved his lawyer, Fred Peters, from responsibility for his actions during the trial. His apparent lack of interest, refusing to be sworn, fear of the old man, all were calculated by Williams to have an influence on the jury. Unfortunately, it did not work. 

    Whether or not he became truly repentant as he awaited his date with the hangman is a matter of speculation. It has been said that no one ever saw an atheist in a foxhole. No doubt Williams faced some scary moments during his duty with a mortar crew during WW1, but there seemed not a shred of fear as he marched to the gallows seventy years ago. 

    It was only minutes after Williams was pronounced dead that McAdams Funeral Home took charge of the body. After a short burial service, Williams was interred in the huge cemetery on the Woodstock Road near the east side in an unmarked grave. 

    Three lives so needlessly lost. So much sorrow for the survivors. Those of the faith remind us that God, in His infinite Wisdom, has a reason for all things. Sometimes it is difficult to see it.

Bill Boone, Centreville, N.B. April, 1995

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Last updated: February, 2001