Innocent As The Angels (Paperback)

Innocent As The Angels By Duane Taylor Cover Image

Innocent As The Angels (Paperback)


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More than a simple true-crime narrative, this rural Missouri family's unsolved murder spawned an ugly life of its own, encircling countless lives in three states for three years. This story and its characters deserve to be lifted from the obscurity in which they've slumbered for 150 years. Second, the book illuminates the shadowy world of bounty hunters working as unscrupulous private detectives in post-Civil War America. No book-length, in-depth treatment of this epic of multiple interlocking narratives has ever been published.

Incredibly, everything is here--murder, scandal, revenge, gunplay, courtroom drama, perjury, a posse or two, sexual scandal, a lurid lynching. The cast runs from washerwomen turning the occasional trick to storekeepers, jailbird drunkards, farmers, and ambitious lawyers.

The entire Spencer family of five was murdered with the blunt end of an ax as they slept in their modest home in Clark County, Missouri, in 1877. These ghastly murders generated two sensational murder trials, both of which received a measure of national coverage at the time. The first man accused was the one who discovered the bodies. His trial ended in an acquittal because a professor at a local medical college refused at the last moment to testify to blood evidence essential to the prosecution. The accused was probably not the murderer in any case.

More than a year later, a second trial involved a wealthy, locally despised farmer who was framed by a bounty hunter posing as a detective, using the farmer's former housekeeper and mistress as both accuser and chief witness. Following a lengthy and scandalous preliminary hearing, the accused farmer--Bill Young--was bound over for indictment and trial.

Before the trial could begin, newspapers both pro- and con- weighed in on the case, the evidence provided by the bounty hunter continued to grow, and the bounty hunter's felonious past was exposed. Convinced that he could defend himself in court, Young fired his lawyers, but immediately had to find others. Unaccountably, he secured two exceptional attorneys--a future attorney general and a future governor of Iowa--to defend him.

Though acquitted, the accused was hanged by a lynch mob three days later, the mob being led by the bounty hunter posing as a detective. The bounty hunter's scandalous fake marriage to a teenager and his flight out West was followed by his capture and jail time. Eventually his case was heard by the state supreme court which required that the bounty hunter go free.

After 150 years, can the real Spencer family murderer be identified?

Product Details ISBN: 9798215411070
Publisher: Breckenridge Crossing
Publication Date: April 5th, 2023
Pages: 430
Language: English