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Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Peculiar Affair.

Mrs. Fanny Bennett excitedly knocked on the door of Charles Bates, the morning of September 10, 1896. Mrs. Bennett, a widow who lived about a mile away in Troupsburg, New York, had come to tell him about an attempted assault at her house at around midnight the previous night. She said that a man entered the window of the bedroom she shared with her 14-year-old daughter, grabbed her by the hand and said: “Lie down there or I will kill you.”

Mrs. Bennett grabbed a revolver and shot him twice. Bleeding profusely, the man snatched the pistol from her then left the same way he came in. Fearing another attack, Mrs. Bennett and her daughter barred all the doors and windows and stayed up until morning. The intruder had been another of their neighbors, Leonard Wilkinson; Mrs. Bennett had recognized him right away.

C. Leonard Wilkinson was a well-to-do, 38-year-old farmer with a wife and children who, hitherto, had a good reputation. When he left his house that night, Wilkinson told his wife he was going to Wellsville to buy a part for a threshing machine. His body was found the next day in a ravine across the road from the Bennett house. A trail of blood led from the house to the body.

Later that day Mrs. Bennett revised her story. She said that Wilkinson had not come through the window, but came to the front door demanding admittance. She refused, he forced his way in, and in the scuffle that followed she shot him twice. The police believed that the motive had been robbery, not assault, but both crimes were out of character for Leonard Wilkinson. Mrs. Bennett was arrested, but apparently, she was never charged in Wilkinson’s death.

The Alleghany County Reporter summed up the situation: “Why he entered Mrs. Bennett’s house and many mysterious circumstances probably will never be cleared up.”

Sources:
“An Assailant Caught.,” Scranton Tribune, September 11, 1896.
“A Dastard Fatally Shot,” Springfield Republican, September 11, 1896.
“For Her Honor,” National Police Gazette, October 3, 1896.
“Intruder Killed,” Lowell Sun, September 11, 1896.
“On His Way to Wellsville,” Allegany County Reporter, September 22, 1896.
“Widow Bennett's Victim,” Middletown Daily Argus, September 11, 1896.

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