September 24, 1909


Three Times Court Denies Motion of
Defense to Dismiss Jury -- Wit-
nesses Tell Events Night
of the Attack.

While Mrs. Mina Johnson did not go on the witness stand yesterday to testify against her husband, William A. Johnson of Buckner, Mo., now on trial in the criminal court on the charge of having assaulted her the day was replete with incidents even without the wife's story.

Three times counsel for Johnson moved that the jury be discharged, stating that matters prejudicial to a fair trail had occurred, and s harp exchanges between attorneys on both sides were not infrequent.

Mrs. Johnson will testify today. Virgil Conkling, prosecuting attorney, informed the court during the afternoon session that he would not call Mrs. Johnson to the stand until today, as he had excused her because she complained of feeling sick.

Of the witnesses examined yesterday, only Mrs. Cornelia Hilt and Edward H. Hilt, her husband, were at the Johnson home in Buckner the morning of August 20, 1908, when Mrs. Johnson was hurt. For six years prior to her marriage Mrs. Hilt lived at the Johnson home. Mrs. Hilt was married ten years ago. At the time of the assault she and her husband had been two weeks at the Johnson home, Mrs. Hilt working about the house and Hilt doing farm work. They live in Buckner.


"The night Mrs. Johnson was hurt we had been at a Baptist meeting," she testified. "Early in the morning Mr. Johnson came to the room where my husband and I sleep and roused us. He said: "Jump up, quick, Nella, quick.' He said it several times. I got up and followed him up the stairs part of the way. As we were going upstairs he said: 'Mina's hurt.' Then I passed him on the stairs because I began to run. He said: 'Mina's hurt. I'm afraid she's hurt bad.'

"I found Mrs. Johnson on her back on the floor. I can't describe how bloody she was, for there was blood all over her. I could not see the wound, she was so bloody My thought was that her throat had been cut, there was so much blood."

"Did you notice the bed?"

"Yes, I noticed there was blood on it when we lifted Mrs. Johnson from the floor. The blood looked dry compared to that on Mrs. Johnson's clothes and on a corset cover that was lying on a chair by the bed. Mr. Johnson said his wife had wiped blood from her face with the corset cover.

"There was a light in the room. I stepped over and turned it up, although Mr. Johnson told me not to do so. Mr. Hilt said we must have a doctor and I offered to call one, but Mr. Johnson said he would. Mr. Johnson asked no questions nor did he tell me where the wound was. I stayed in the room only a few minutes, then my husband and I went downstairs to heat some water to wash Mrs. Johnson. When we returned, the doctor was there."

Mrs. Hilt said she had heard no unkind words between the Johnsons during her residence at the house. She said that two days before the assault she had driven to Buckner to meet Mr. Johnson and bring him home from the train. On that occasion, said the witness, Johnson had said to her:

" 'Nella, what am I going to do with Mina?' I said: 'I would not do anything to hurt her feelings, Mr. Johnson.' He said" 'She quarrels with me all the time and I don't say anything back.' "

Edward H. Hilt, husband of the previous witness, was then called to the stand. He said:

"While I was at the Johnson home I was in the habit of getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning and going home to do the chores there, then returning to the Johnsons. The morning of the assault I was awakened at about 3:30 o'clock. I was sleeping in the east room downstairs.

"The first thing I heard was a groan from above and southwest from where I lay. Then I heard footsteps or 'footpads' coming down the stairs toward the north. Then I heard a doorknob turn. I cannot say which knob it was, except that it was not the knob to my door. Almost immediately the footsteps returned the same way.


"Fifteen minutes later those footsteps came again, just as the first time. My door opened and Mr. Johnson came by and said: 'Jump up.' My wife went out at once, but I waited to dress. I found Mrs. Johnson on the floor, with pillows under her head. Johnson meet me at the foot of the stairs as I started up and said: 'Mina has fallen and hurt herself.'

"We picked Mrs. Johnson up and laid her on the bed and then my wife and I went downstairs to heat some water. There was a dim light in the room when I came in."


Dr. M. G. Ravencroft of Buckner, who was called to attend Mrs. Johnson after the assault, was the first witness. He identified six pieces of bone taken from Mrs. Johnson's skull in the course of an operation . He was asked whether the wound on Mrs. Johnson's head did not look as if the blow which caused it had been struck from the rear and forwards, but the court would not allow him to answer.

The physician said he asked Johnson how Mrs. Johnson was hurt. The latter replied, "I don't know." Mrs. Johnson also was unable to give an account of the happening, said he.

Dr. J. W. Robertson of Buckner testified that it would take a heavy blow to cause the injury received by Mrs. Johnson.

There was a craning of necks when Samuel H. Chiles, four years a marshal of Jackson county and the most renowned fox hunter in the county, took the witness chair. Mr. Chiles has lived forty years in Buckner and has known the Johnsons for a quarter of a century. Mrs. Johnson lived with his family when she was a little girl.

Two days after the assault Mr. Chiles went to the Johnson home. Johnson met him at the gate and said he wanted to talk to him.

" 'I want you to help me out in this trouble and help me ferret out who did this.' I said I would help all I could and asked him to tell me who was at the house at the time so that I would have something to work on. He told me who was there and I suggested that perhaps these people could tell, but Johnson said:

" 'No, they can't tell anything. I heard my wife say, 'Oh, don't,' and saw her on the floor and saw a light. I know I blew out the light when we went to bed. I saw my wife on the floor groaning and wanted to put her on the bed, but she said no.'

"The Johnson took me into the yard and said: 'Have you heard anybody talk about this?' I said: 'Yes, everybody is talking about it.' 'What is the impression of the people to whom you have talked,' he asked and I said: 'The impression is that you did it.' "

About four days later, said the witness, Johnson came to his house, with Clint A. Winfrey, a banker at Buckner. Johnson took him aside and out of Winfrey's hearing, said the witness, and spoke about getting a lawyer and employing a private detective. Whig Keshlear, a relative of Chiles, was mentioned, and Chiles said Keshlear would do as well as anybody.

In his opening statement for the state I. B. Kimbrell said that quarrels with is wife over a period of years were the cause of the assault and that Johnson struck his wife. The defense said that the blow was struck either by an intruder or that Mrs. Johnson fell and hurt herself.