Infamous Offences


Hyton, Otho shot by Newton Weddle 1934 PDF

Dr_Herman_Lee_Poff_Homicide pdf

Richmond Whig, Richmond, VA, September 14, 1860


Floyd C.H., Sept 9

To the Editor of the Whig:

On Monday last the Fall term of Floyd Circuit Court commenced its session. Owing to the fact that Ambrose Cox was to be tried for shooting his brother-in-law, William B. Moore, in March last, an unusually large crowd was in attendance, and continued in attendance throughout the week. Owing to the absence of witnesses, the trial did not commence until Tuesday. It continued until Friday evening, when the closing speech for the Commonwealth was concluded, and the jury retired, and after an absence of one hour, returned into the court with a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and confinement in the Penitentiary for five years. The Commonwealth war represented by Henry Lane, Esq, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Floyd county, and Edmund-Irvine, Esq., of Franklin, and L. A. Buckingham, of Carroll. Messrs. Waller R. Staples, Benjamin F. Wysor, John J. Wade, Martin H. Holt and James L. Tompkins appeared for the defense.

Anderson Intelligencer, Anderson SC, March 18, 1903

J. M. Webb, a prominent farmer of Floyd County, VA, was shot & killed by his son in an altercation between them.

(Special to The Times-Dispatch.) ROANOKE, VA., Octobor 15, 1905

John W. Richards is to Be Placed On Trial in Floyd Today


There Were No Witnesses. The Slain-Man Was On His Way to His Fiancé’s.

The trial of John W. Richards, charged with the murder of Maurice K. Francis, of Roanoke, will be called in the Floyd County Circuit Court tomorrow, Judge Moomaw, of Roanoke, presiding. The case is ex¬ citing intense interest throughout this section, largely owing  to the prominence of the accused and the young man who was slain, and particularly the nature of the crime.

Richards is a Floyd county teacher and a last-year law student at the University of Virginia. The murder occurred two months ago, Francis being shot on the public road from ambush, while in route to Floyd to visit his fiancé, Miss Grace Link, to whom he was to have been married during this month. Richards was a rival suitor, and suspicion pointed to him, although there was no witness to the tragedy. He was arrested two weeks after the killing by detectives.

One hundred witnesses have been summoned, and the legal force employed makes it the most interesting legal battle ever tried in this section. The prisoner, twenty-one years of age, will be defended by Cabell and Custer, of Danville, and by A. A. Phlegar, ex-justice of the Virginia Supreme Court.

H. W. Simmons, Commonwealth's Attorney, will be assisted by Samuel H. Hoge of Roanoke, and Joseph C. Wysor, of Pulaski. A large number of Roanokers left today to attend the trial.


The Tazewell Republican, Tazewell, VA, Thursday, August 20, 1908

Charged with murder of a rival

J0HN RICHARDS IS FREE. Fifth Trial of Man Accused of Murder Ends In Acquittal. The fifth and final trial of John Richards, a young school teacher, charged with the murder of his rival in love, Maurice Francis, was concluded Friday afternoon at Floyd Courthouse, when the jury after being out twenty minutes, brought in a verdict of not guilty. This has been one of the most remarkable cases in many respects that has happened in the State for many years, and the details of the case, no doubt, are still fresh in the minds of many people. Maurice Francis, a highly respected young man of Roanoke, was on his way to Floyd to visit Miss Gracie Link, with whom he was engaged to be married, and when within a short distance of her home he was shot from ambush with a shotgun loaded with shot and slugs. Young Francis was taken to a near-by residence and Miss Link sent for, she arriving just a short while before he breathed his last. It was to her that Francis made the statement: "Jealousy is a horrible thing, John Richards." A shot bottle, found near the scene of murder, was identified as the one, or just like the one John Richards had had in his possession. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Richards, but he eluded arrest for ten days, then surrendered himself to the authorities. The first and second trials of Richards resulted in hung juries, in both instances the jury standing seven for conviction and five for acquittal. Both these juries were from Floyd county; and it was decided that the third one should be selected from Patrick county. This jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree, and Richards sentenced to hang January 4, 1907. His attorneys appealed the case, and the Supreme Court set aside the verdict and remanded the prisoner for a new trial. Last April Richards was tried for the fourth time and a hung jury resulted, standing nine for acquittal and three for conviction. The Commonwealth's Attorney refused to nolle pros the case, whereupon Judge Moffet declared that he would not sit in the case again but would appear as a witness for the defense at the fifth trial, which ended Friday in acquittal of the prisoner. Immediately following the close of the second trial in April 1906, the father, mother and brother of Richards died from pneumonia, superinduced by exposure in attending the trial, the three deaths occurring within ten days.

The Burlington Free Press, Burlington VT, Feb 4, 1892

His killed number ninety-nine

Trial of Saltan Hall who has long list of murders to his credit.

Morristown, Tenn Jan. 29. The trial Salton Hall, who is said to have killed 99 men, commenced at Gladville, Va., Tuesday. The crime for which Hall is now being tried is the murder of Policeman Hylton of Norton, Va., who had under arrest Miles Bates, Hall's alleged accomplice. Hall has the reputation of having killed by himself more people than any other living man. He has killed, it is said, a man in Cattettsurg, Ky., his stepfather, three cousins, two brothers-in-law, his second wife's first husband and several others. He assisted in the killing or wounding of all the members of the Floyd county, Virginia, Jones family. Shortly after that he killed the Sheriff of Floyd county. Dick Nance, the Knott county desperado was killed by Hall. He threw his half-brother, John Adams, from a window in Cattlettsburg, Ky., and died from the injury received. Hall then returned to the mountains and met the wife of a man named Saylor. Saylor was killed, and Hall left with the woman. He afterward fell in with Milt Turner and killed him. He went to Cobourne, Va., last summer and offered to kill Jesse Day for $5. From there he went to Norton a killed Policeman Hylton. The sheriff and a large posse are on guard over him to protect him from mob violence and to defeat his friends, who swear they will release him. Excitement is high and there is talk of burning the jail in which he is confined.

Columbus Journal, Columbus, Nebr, Wednesday, January 18, 1899

It is reported from Floyd county, Virginia, that a man by the name of Underwood, who was suspected of being an informer on moonshiners, was seized by a gang of the latter and his throat cut. He was then thrown across a log and decapitated with an ax.

The Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis TN, Thursday, April 17, 1873


A Madman is the Streets of Galveston Killed One Man and Wounds Five Others.

The Citizens in a Frenzy of Excitement -- Lynch Law and Mobbing Suggested.

The Criminal In Jail Takes It Coolly ,and Regrets he was not Able to Kill All he Met.

From the Galveston Weekly Times

Yesterday was a day almost unparalleled in the history of Galveston. As soon as the news of the bloody series of stabbings made by Helm became known, and as full particulars were circulated through the medium of the Times extra, issued at eleven o'clock in the morning, the excitement became intense, and many spoke of lynching, mobbing, etc. The feeling in favor of this course was so great that it was deemed inadvisable by the police and others to take the murderer from the jail for examination. The immensity of the crimes committed appalled our community, and as each fresh detail appeared, the indignation grew more intense, until two o'clock active fears were entertained in regard to the safety of Helm.

THE PARTICTLARS, which we here vouch for as correct in every fact stated, and which we have, at much trouble, gleaned from every individual having the least connection with the terrible tragedy, are presented below. We have been to the trouble of interviewing every one of the parties assaulted, and visiting them personally, with the view of getting at the facts, and here they are: Helm arrived in our city on last Friday though we have heard it said that parties have seen him here for the past month and stopped at the Chicago house. On Sunday, the landlord heard a great outcry in the room occupied by Helm, and going up, heard Helm crying "Murder, Murder!" in a tone of voice alarming to the neighborhood. He quieted him, and nothing out of the way was done until Sunday night. About half past nine o'clock, Helm, who is about twenty-five years old, five feet seven inches in height, with black hair and moustache and blue eyes, and or medium build, entered the market-house from the west side and passing through, stopped at the coffee-stall near the entrance. He sat here awhile, and rising from his seat, passed down toward the entrance.

FIRST Victim. Mr. George N. Clemens, an employee of Freeman & Deary, painters, corner of Market and twenty-second streets, was sitting at the coffee-stand drinking coffee when Helm passed him, and as he did so, drew his knife, and without saying a word struck Clemens under the left arm, the blade entering between the two last ribs, the knife entered but a short distance, inflicting a wound about three-quarter s of an inch long, and half an inch deep, a painful but not a serious one.

SECOND VICTIM. Helm left the market-house, and proceeding across Twentieth street, toward Mechanic, came up with Dan Mehan, who was going to his home. He was in the middle of the street, when Helm passed him upon the left hand, at the same time dealing him a blow with his right, inflicting a stab in the back, a little below the left shoulder, about an inch deep and an inch long.

THIRD VICTIM. Helm here started in a run up Mechanic. Between Twentieth and Nineteenth streets he met Thomas Burns, an old gray-headed man, small in stature. Him Helm met in the middle of the street. We will let him relate what occurred: "I was coming from Geldmacher's saloon, going toward the market, when a man passed me in the middle of the street. He turned as he passed, and struck me with a knife, which I saw open in his hand. Felt that I was wounded, and asked to be taken to the hospital, which was done. Never saw the man before." Burns was also stabbed in the back, below the left shoulder, three inches to the left of the spine, the blade of the knife entering about an inch and a half or two inches and making a wound about an inch and a half long from which he bled considerably.

FOURTH VICTIM. Helm then came back to the south side of Mechanic street, and at Lousen's blacksmith shop, on the corner of Nineteenth street, came upon a party of four, of which John Myers was one. His statement is as follows: "I was walking on the inside, and the man passed between me and the wall, inflicting as he passed, a stab in the back. 'Helm was not running but walking very fast. I fell, when the man passed out into the middle of the street. My friends who were with me, as soon as I called out that I was stabbed, ran different ways, but all soon came back, and I was carried to No 2's engine house. They were unarmed. Mr. Myers, who has been driver of No. 2 engine, was cut in the back, the blade entering about an inch and a half, in close proximity to the spine, and right over the kidneys, narrowly missing them. He bled profusely. After striking Myers, Helm passed down Mechanic street. Mr. Grifiln, who was with Mr. Myers, ran up to the vicinity of the "hobbyhorses," where he met Policeman Ferguson. He told the latter that a man was stabbed up the street, and that the one who did it had a knife in his hand and advised Ferguson to draw his pistol. This the latter declined to do fearing an indictment by the grand jury, should he he tempted to use it, even though he knew the man was dangerous.

FIFTH VICTIM KILLED. Griffin left him, and Ferguson proceeded on alone, to his death, as it proved. He came up with Helm, on the corner above the cotton-press, and stopping him, endeavored to arrest him, holding his baton as though to ward off any blow that might be inflicted. Helm instantly turned, and before the officer was aware of his intention, stabbed him in the breast. He then knocked him down with a blow of his fist, and while Ferguson was down, stooped and stabbed him twice more in the breast. It was during his struggle with Helm that Ferguson, feeling himself mortally wounded, called out "murder," which alarmed both Benison and Donavan, and made them rush from different quarters to the rescue. It was while Ferguson was being held and Helm had him down, that Benison came upon the scene in response to Ferguson's call for help.

SIXTH VICTIM FATALLY WOUNDED. Next to Ferguson, Benison is the most seriously hurt. He received two deep stabs, one an inch and a half long, between the shoulders, to the left of the spine, penetrating the lung, from which he bleeds internally. The other was further to the left and higher up, fully as deep but not so dangerous. He suffers greatly from his wounds, but when we conversed with him yesterday he spoke with great effort, and not above a whisper. The physician expresses but little hope of his recovery. His name is Walter Benison. It was while Benison was holding Helm that policeman Donovan arrived upon the scene. This was on Seventeenth street, between Market and Mechanic.

A BRAVE POLICEMAN! Donovan acted with great bravery and coolness, and proved himself a thorough and efficient officer, fully equal to the emergency, as soon as Benison was freed he staggered home, where he now is. Thus, ended one of the most coldblooded, atrocious and inhuman series of crimes that it has ever been our misfortune to recount. The assassin, in all his various attacks, was actuated but by one purpose, and that was not to wound or disable, but to kill. He chose in every instance the most vulnerable and mortal part in which to stab, and it will be noticed that the knife was always plunged into the left side. That more men are not dead is not his fault, and had it not been for plucky and determined Policeman Donovan, there is no telling what his might have done.

Not Crazy. That Helm is not crazy, his circumstantial and minute account of all he had done conclusively proves. It is supposed that he was recovering from an attack of mania a potu caused by hard drinking in New Orleans. It was a most horrible, cold blooded attempt at wholesale murder, and unless actual insanity is proved beyond the shadow of a doubt - proved so strongly that nobody dare doubt it – an outraged and indignant public will his instant trial and condemnation.

BIOGRAPHICAL BY THE PRISONER. " My name is James B. Helm, and I am from Floyd county, Virginia, where I have a father and mother. I started from Floyd county to go to Collin county, Texas, where I have an uncle. When I got to New Orleans a lot of men swindled me out of my money, and the stage-driver charged me eleven dollars for riding me a mile to the depot. l came here Friday on a steamer and stopped at the Chicago house; when I had been there a few minutes, two men came in pretending to have a warrant for me. They could not fool me, but the proprietor turned me out. Men, and horses, and cabooses, and street cars, were all after me, trying to kill me. They tried to smother me with fire in their fire proof houses. But I scouted round till I came to the market-house and ate my supper at the coffee-stand, and I drank three glasses of soda-water. The men and things were all after me, and I saw no other chance of escaping, so thought I would give up. After sitting there, I saw several of them priming their pistols, and I drew out my knife and thought I would make away with one of them anyhow. Then I lammed my knife into one of them, and the second one I stabbed at the corner of the street and the market-house. I then started down the street and stuck my knife into another. A policeman tried to shoot me, and I stabbed him three times. There was an old man jumped up to take the policeman's part after he fell down and made a lunge at me and fell flat on his belly, and I jumped on his back and lunged my knife in him; 1 think 1 stabbed him three times in the back. He then got me under, and he was on top when the other policeman came up and got my knife. I was carried up to the station-house, or whatever you call it (you had better call it a slaughter-house). Anybody would have done what I did. They had been trying to kill me for two days. If I had had a good knife and plenty of time, I would "got away" with lots of 'em. I knew I was gone up, and I was going to kill as many as I could. I came here to go to Western Texas, Collin county. I am here now for murder, I suppose, and I want to be dealt with according to law. I am under the United States law and am willing to submit to it. I was in the fifty-fourth confederate regiment during the last six months of the war. I am twenty-five years old next October."

Big Sandy, Louisa, Lawrence County, KY, August 21, 1914



Eleven Lives Lost and Two Wounded in Bloody Battles Near Glen Alum, W. Va. One of the Most Horrible Tragedies in History of Mingo County.

First published account of the murder and robbery at Glen Alum, W. Va., was the following In the Williamson Dally News of Saturday, August - 10th. The scene of the tragedy is on the N. & W. railway about 30 miles east of Williamson:

Dr. W. D. Amick, company physician; F. D. Johnson, electrician and, Joseph Shielor, pay master, of the Glen Alum Coal Company, were murdered by highwayman just before noon Friday.

This startling Information reached here in shape of a message to Sheriff G. W. Hatfield, who organized a posse and started to the scene on a special train, placed at his disposal by N. & W. officials.

Walter Speed, the N. W. agent at Glen Alum, telephoned to officials of the Glen Alum Coal Company, who were in Williamson attending court, that the bodies of the murdered men had been discovered by two traveling men who were walking from the station toward the camp.

Other messages were received By the officials of the company, but none of them gave further details. It was not stated whether the three victims had been shot or killed In some other manner.

It was stated here that the amount of money secured by the highwaymen was in the neighborhood of $10,000. The money was shipped on No. 15 from a Lynchburg bank and Dr. Amick, Johnson and Shielor met the train to act as guards from the Glen Alum station to the coal camp, a distance of four miles.

The murder occurred somewhere between the main line station and the camp. The topography of the locality is such as to afford numerous hiding places near the track.

Evidently the highwaymen were well posted as to the mission of their victims and it is believed by local authorities that the lay in wait and shot down their victims before making any demand for the money.

It is also believed that the assassins are employees of the Glen Alum company or had been employees at some time or other. No word reached here until press time that there was any real clue to their identity.

The assassins were doubtless acquainted with the Conditions at Glen Alum, for they chose a most auspicious time for their foul deed.

General Superintendent Yost, Treasurer Fink and Hubert Butcher, special officer, and Magistrate Howard Toler were all in Williamson attending court as witnesses, and until, the arrival of the sheriff with his posse there was no one to organize pursuit.

No. 15 passes Glen Alum at 11:05 a. m. It was probably half an hour later when the three men met their death. The first message reached here about 1:20 and at 2:15 the engine carrying the sheriff's posse left for Glen Alum, a distance of 30 miles.

It was stated that a stop would be made at Matewan to take on the bloodhounds owned by Al Hoskins. These dogs are young but have shown well on the trail.

Messages have been sent to every station along the N. & W. and scores of officers are watching every train Sheriff Hatfield will take his posse into the mountains and the viciousness of the crime makes it almost certain that the assassins will offer resistance if found.

The three murdered men were among the prominent citizens of the county. Dr. Amick was widely known and had been physician- at Glen Alum for a number of years- - 'He was prominent In public affairs and was well liked and highly respected. He leaves a wife and several children.

Mr. Johnson was a native of and had been in the employ of the company for several years. He Is also survived by a wife and family.

Mr. Shielor's home, it is stated, was in Floyd county, Virginia. He was single.

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