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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stranger Than a Dime Novel.

Little Murders
(From St. Louis Republican, December 31,1878)


Stranger Than a Dime Novel.
 Murder Revealed by an Old Letter After Two Years’ Concealment.

The Vandalia train which arrived at the Union depot yesterday morning had on board Sheriff Heber, of Greene county, Mo., and a young man named James Hickman. The latter was a prisoner to the hands of the Sheriff. The two were bound for Ash Grove, Mo., a station on the St. Louis and San Fraucisco road, not far from Springfield. The two were bound train did not leave until ten minutes to nine P. M., and in the interim the Sheriff took his prisoner to the Four Courts as the easiest place to keep him. It was there that the Sheriff was interrogated by a reporter. He said that Hickman was charged with murder. This caused the reporter to get his pencil out and get to work. The Sheriff told the story of the crime and it is an interesting one.

Only a year ago James Hickman was a thriving young farmer. He kept company with a girl named Kate Rice, The was one of the belles of Ash Grove. They loved too well, as the saying is, and ere the marriage day arrived a child was born. She hid her shame, living on and not letting her friends or his know of her trouble. He seemed true to her for a while and always promised to keep the vow that he had made, that he would marry her, but the marriage day never arrived. One day he went to her and told her that he loved another and intended to marry her. This cruel confession so wrought upon the girl’s feelings that she threatened to expose him, if he did so, to people of the village and to his father and mother, who were alive and who were well thought of. He did not expect this, promised to break off the new engagement which he had already made and marry the woman he had wronged as soon as the banns could be duly proclaimed. Instead of doing this he returned his new love. Time flew by and the day came when Hickman had to marry at least one of the women. That one was his latest love who had brothers who had an inkling of Hickman’s treatment of his first victim and who were determined that he should jilt no sister of theirs. Hickman, finding himself between two fires, wrote a letter to Kate Rice. He told her as she valued her life to keep the contents of it secret and to meet him that night in an out of the way place. She obeyed his request and leaving her home on the night of September 10, 1879, She was never seen alive again, but two days later her body was found at the side of a field with a bullet through her brain and a pistol by her side. There were no signs of a struggle. The pistol no one had ever seen before. Those who knew of her troubles supposed that It was a case of suicide, and those who did not know of them thought the same thing. The body of the girl was laid in a grave. Hickman, it would appear was so overburdened with guilt that he resolved to leave the scene of the murder. He transferred his worldly goods into cash as soon as possible and left, telling those who took the trouble to ask that he was going East to embark in a mercantile enterprise. But little was said concerning his departure and less thought of it until one day about three months ago the mother of the dead girl made a discovery. While looking over some of her daughter's old letters she found the one that had been written to her upon the very night of the murder. The mother concluded almost at once that that letter was the decoy which led to her daughter's death. She consulted the authorities and they were quick about investigating the case. The mother still held the revolver that had been found with her daughter's body. She had never found the real owner of it—in fact, no one had looked for the real owner. The authorities looked, and, strange to say, found upon very short inquiry that Hickman had purchased the revolver but a few days before the girl's death. This fact, together with his sudden disappearance, caused further inquiry to be made. His parents professed ignorance as to his whereabouts. This itself, it was thought, implied guilt. They were watched. and it was found that they did receive letters from him. These were postmarked Paris, Ill. The deputy sheriff was sent to hunt up the supposed murderer. He found him farming upon a piece of ground not far from Paris. The result was his arrest and transfer to the scene of his crime. Since the authorities first commenced investigating the murder they have found overwhelming, evidence of Hickman's guilt.


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