Saturday, May 5, 2012

Forty Years Suspected of Murder.

Little Murders
(From Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, November 9, 1885.)

Forty Years Suspected of Murder.

Jonas L. Parker, a resident and tax-collector of Manchester, N. H., was enticed from his home one dark night in March, 1845, and murdered. His body was found the next day near some woods on the outskirts of town, the throat cut and a deep gash in the hip. A shoe knife and razor lay by his side, left by the murderer, who hoped to leave the impression of suicide. A watch and about $2000 were found in the victim’s pockets. The case attracted wide attention and for four years no evidence was found to implicate anybody. Finally in 1849 it leaked out that Parker had visited Saco, Me., a few days before his murder with the object of buying a hotel. There he met Henry T. Wentworth, to whom he explained his visit and showed a large sum of money he had about him. So Henry T. Wentworth, his brother Asa and his wife were arrested on suspicion and tried at Saco in February 1849. For lack of evidence the judge dismissed the case. Suspicious and slight circumstantial evidence, however continued to accumulate, and in May, 1850, the Wentworths were again arrested and taken to Manchester for trial. Gen. Butler and Franklin Pierce, afterwards president of the United States, appeared for the defendants. The trial lasted 12 days. The accused were again acquitted and since then the matter has rested, the Wentworth family being suspected all the same of having done the deed.

Last month, a dispatch was sent out from Manchester saying the Gen. B. F. Butler had related to two men recently, that a client of his named Pierson, hanged for wife-murder about the time of the last trial of the Wentworths, had confessed to him before the execution, that he, Pierson, had done the murder. He killed Parker because the latter refused to return a sum of money he had loaned him. Driving from Lowell, he went to Manchester, enticed Parker from the house and killed him with a shoe knife. When this rumor came out a relative of the accused Wentworths came down from Maine to see Butler and went away showing a revolver to the reporters that called on him . Now Gen. Butler writes a letter at the request of Dr. Horace Wentworth, another relative, and it is made public. He speaks of  being counsel for the Wentworths in the Manchester murder and says:

“I had been a counsel prior to and after that trial for a man convicted of murder of his wife and two children in Wilmington, this state. That murder was committed in a very singular manner and with a singular weapon, to wit, a shoemaker’s knife ground to a point; and a razor was left on the table by the woman’s bedside, and means taken to have the murder appear a suicide. The murder was not committed until some years after the Parker murder but before the investigation of the Parker murder, as that was not tried until some five years after the deed was committed. Upon the trial of the Parker murder, it came out that the murder was committed with exactly such a knife and a razor was left by the dead body. I was struck with the coincidence, and the fact was known that on the night of the murder of Parker, which took place between 9 and 10 at Manchester, N. H. a wagon drown by a white horse with two men in it passed through Lowell in  the direction of Wilmington, and the marks of the wheels of such a wagon were found in the mud near the murdered man, which wagon apparently drove off in the direction of Lowell.”

Gen. Butler says he questioned this man Pierson, assuring him that it would make no difference as he was about to be hanged, and the man practically admitted having driven from Lowell to Manchester and murdered Parker. He had said nothing about it as he supposed nobody was so foolish as to longer suspect the Wentworths. Still it is very strange that Butler should have been so long silent in clearing up the mystery.

Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, November 9, 1885.


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