Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bradshaw and Miller's history of the murder of Ward Earll a thrilling account until the very end

            On Valentine’s Day 1902 a man with a facial scar claiming to be Ward Earll tried to sell two gray mules, a black horse and a bay horse to a Lake Charles trader. The stranger also asked to ship a box via Wells Fargo before disappearing. Meanwhile, 30 miles away in Welsh, Ward Earll and five members of his family lay dead in their home on the Cajun prairie, all horribly murdered.
            During that same week a hired hand of the Earlls had left southwest Louisiana and was headed home to Missouri when the bodies were found. Albert Edwin Batson, too, had a facial scar and the box the horse-trading stranger had asked to be shipped had been mailed to Batson’s mother.
            Left behind in Lake Charles was an odd letter signed by Batson, dated Dec. 19, 1901, a possible suicide note.
            Evidence was clearly stacked against Batson as the murderer of the Earll family. Batson told a different story of his whereabouts that week, an account innocent of the crimes and placing him en route to Missouri. Witnesses backed up Batson’s alibi on the road, but many never made it to trial to speak on his behalf. In the end, despite the circumstantial evidence and lack of investigation of other possible suspects, Batson was found guilty and hanged.
            Retired Lafayette Daily Advertiser editor, author and popular “C’est Vrai” columnist Jim Bradshaw and Calcasieu Parish Public Library System Director Danielle Miller have compile fascinating data on this early 20th century trial that captivated the state and region. “Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson” (Univesrity of Mississippi Press) includes comprehensive research and photographs and proposes other possible murder scenarios in an engaging narrative style reminiscent of a crime novel.

            Readers will be hooked until they reach the book’s end and Batson is indeed dead, dead, dead.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.