September 25, 1909


Court Overrules Demurrer to Evi-
dence Introduced by State -- Im-
portant Testimony Allowed in
Record -- Defense Begins Today.

"This crime was not committed by a burglar, but by a member of the household. The evidence here is that whoever came down stairs soon after the crime went up the stairs again. Burglars do not return to a place where they have committed a crime. They leave the vicinity.

"As to motive, there is an unexplained forgery of Mrs. Johnson's name to a deed. There are quarrels between the couple to help in establishing motive. For these reasons, the demurrer is overruled."

The ruling here quoted was made by Judge Ralph S. Latshaw of the criminal court yesterday after attorneys for William A. Johnson of Buckner had argued half an hour that the state had not presented sufficient evidence to allow the cause to go to the jury. The court held that there was evidence. The introduction of testimony for the defense will be begun this morning.

Mrs. Mina Johnson told her story on the witness stand yesterday. Tired to the point of exhaustion by the many questions put to her, she answered all of them quickly Facing her, at a distance of twenty feet, sat her former husband, charged with assaulting her. She looked in his direction as she testified, but he did not lift his eyes from the table at which he sat.


After she had exhibited to the jury the place on her head where she was struck, Mrs. Johnson related the happenings on the night of the assault. She and Johnson had come home from church, and retired. He went to bed first and she blew out the lamp. In the course of the night she awoke. The light was burning and brown paper had been put about the glass. She fell asleep again, seeming to be helpless.

Her next recollection, she said, was after the blow had been struck. She remembered kneeling by the side of the bed, blood streaming over her clothing. She looked about the room for her husband, but not seeing him, called. Then, she said, he came up and took hold of her arm, asking what was the matter with her. She told him she did not know, and asked him to let her lie on the floor.

Then he took pillows from the bed and put her head on them. Mrs. Johnson said Johnson did not ask her how she was hurt, either then or at any time since, in fact, that he had never asked any questions about the affair.

While Mrs. Johnson did not call it a quarrel, she testified to an argument she had with Johnson a few days prior to the assault. He was then planning a trip to New Mexico, and she insisted that she was going with him.

"I told him only death would keep me from making the trip," said the witness.


Mrs. Johnson testified as to her marriage thirty-two years ago. She was Mina Alderman, a school teacher. She taught Johnson to read and write after they were married. They rented a farm near Buckner and prospered, so that they came to own the place in a few years. Everything seemed to go nicely until seven years ago.

About that time, she testified, he became less cordial. Three years ago Johnson intended to buy a ranch in New Mexico, and on this deal was absent form home for three months. He seemed even less cordial on his return from that trip, said the witness. In one of his pockets she found a receipted bill from the Savoy hotel, Denver. It was for $46.50 on account of "W. A. Johnson and Mrs. M. B. Howard."

"It's a mistake," the witness said Johnson remarked when she questioned him.

Not long afterwards Johnson told her, she said, of buying a house and lot in Kansas City. He did not explain the deal to her satisfactorily, the witness testified.


After the finding of the hotel bill Mrs. Johnson made search and learned the address of Mrs. Howard. She wrote Mrs. Howard, requesting an interview, but was refused. Mrs. Howard said in the letter, according to the witness, that she had met Johnson in a business way. She accused Johnson of dictating the letter, said the witness. Mrs. Johnson also told of coming to Kansas City once with Johnson, who would not or did not ride on street cars, so that she was soon very tired and unwilling to make another trip.

Lillian Short, a milliner in the employ of B. Adler & Co., said that she had seen Johnson come to the store three times with a woman who on each occasion purchased a high-priced hat. The woman was not Mrs. Johnson, the witness said. Mr. Adler testified to the same effect.


John F. Cox, Prescott, Kas., testified that Johnson told him on one occasion that he was very well acquainted with two women in Kansas City.

Edward H. Hilt, who testified Thursday, was recalled by the defense and further questioned. He was asked whether Keshlear and another detective who investigated the alleged assault did not talk to him. The witness said he could not remember.

Hilt was allowed to testify only after the objection, raised Thursday as to part of his testimony and again yesterday morning, had been overruled by Judge Latshaw. Hilt had testified that he was awakened by a groan and that, soon afterwards, he heard the footsteps coming down the stairs and almost immediately retrace their course. Fifteen minutes later he again heard footsteps and this ti me Johnson came to his door. The defense objected to any statement of the witness that the sound of the footsteps was similar.

It was one of the most important points that could be raised in a case in which, as in the one on trial, the evidence is wholly circumstantial. The testimony of Hilt was allowed to remain in the record.


This concluded the state's case.

The defence then submitted its demurrer, which was overruled.
The assault on Mrs. Johnson was committed in the morning of August 20 at Buckner. The Johnson were at one time wealthy, but in the settlement of their affairs which followed the divorce given Mrs. Johnson last spring, only about $15,000 could be saved from the wreckage. Mrs. Johnson was given half of this. There was property sufficient to carry mortgages aggregating about $50,000.