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Murder at Mansfield
Mrs. Effie Goodwin found by the roadside last Saturday nearly dead – she expired in the Blossburg Hospital Sunday morning – arrest of her husband – the inquest and the examination of Goodwin – evidences of a cruel plot and a cold-blooded murder
Last Saturday afternoon there was a great sensation in Mansfield when it was learned that Mr. E.L. Palmer as he was driving into town had discovered the apparently dead body of a woman lying on the bank and covered with blood about 100 feet from the road on Sullivan street in the outskirts of the borough. Dr. W.D. Vedder and a number of persons went to the spot and found evidences of a struggle near the place where the body lay and blood trickling down the bank for a long distance. It was found that the woman was not dead, and she was taken to the house of Mr. S.G. Mudge, who lives nearest to the spot. Mr. C.J. Beach arrived and identified the woman as Mrs. Effie Goodwin, who had been employed as a domestic in his home for some time. A message was sent to the Cottage State hospital at Blossburg for an ambulance, and the woman was taken there that afternoon. She did not regain consciousness, and she died about six o’clock on Sunday morning. After her death the surgeons probed the wounds, and they found four bullets from a 32-caliber weapon lodged in the head. That the woman was enticed from the home of Mr. Beach and foully murdered there can be no doubt.
Mrs. Goodwin was the daughter of Mr. William Copley, of Hill’s Creek, in Middlebury, near the Charleston line, and she was 22 years of age. On February 1896, she made an information before Justice Brewster, in this borough, charging Walter Goodwin with being the father of her unborn child. Goodwin was arrested and brought before the Justice. The case was not tried, but the parents of both parties appeared, and by agreement Effie and Walter were married by Justice Brewster. It is said that their child lived only a short time, and it was not many months after their marriage before Walter abandoned his wife entirely.
On May 31st of this year  the young woman again appeared before Justice Brewster and made information that her husband had deserted her. Goodwin was arrested, and the next day he gave bail in the sum of $300 for his appearance at the approaching term of court, his father, Mr. J. Wesley Goodwin of Charleston, being his surety.
It is said the young Goodwin was very anxious that his wife should withdraw her suit. Last Thursday night he called at the house of Mr. Beach, in Mansfield, at a very late hour and had an interview with her regarding the matter; but it is understood that she stoutly refused to abandon the suit, because she had knowledge that he was running with a number of other girls and he was doing absolutely nothing towards her support.
The Husband’s Story
When the young wife was found fatally hurt, suspicion was at once turned to Walter Goodwin as a person who might have a motive for committing the crime. A warrant was issued at Mansfield for his arrest, and the officers arrested him at his father’s home on Hill’s Creek about nine o’clock on Saturday evening, it having been learned that he had spent the day in threshing on a farm near Stony Fork in Delmar township. Goodwin seemed to be quite unconcerned about his arrest, and he claimed that he would be able to prove an alibi. He said that he was 21 years of age, and he talked quite freely about his marriage and the death of Effie, and he did not show any regret for her sad end. He told about his marriage in 1896, and said he had not lived with his wife since last October. He said that the last time he saw Effie was Thursday evening at Beach’s at 10 o’clock. He drove home, a distance of ten miles, arriving there at 4 a.m. on Friday. He worked on the farm all day and in the evening went to Wellsboro. He spent a portion of the evening with Gertrude Taylor and returned home, arriving between 1 and 2 a.m. on Saturday. He wife arrested him for desertion so he went to Beach’s Thursday evening to see if she was going to push the case in the September term of court. He did not made an appointment to meet her again, saying he would write to her if he had anything to say. He did not see her after Thursday night.
C.J. Beach stated on Saturday afternoon to a reporter that Goodwin came to his house, where Mrs. Goodwin worked, after midnight Thursday, and stayed with her about an hour. About 9 o’clock Friday night he heard a door open in the house and he did not pay any attention to it at the time as Mrs. Goodwin told Mrs. Beach that she expected to meet her husband about that hour. He did not know that Mrs. Goodwin was missing until her room was visited Saturday morning.
Walter was taken to Mansfield and placed in the lock-up until Monday, when his examination was held and he was committed to the county jail.
The remains of Mrs. Goodwin were taken to Mansfield on Sunday afternoon, and on Monday morning an inquest was held by Coroner C.W. Hazlett and a jury composed of Messrs. H.F. Kingsley, Thomas Judge, Wayne Pitts, John Reese, John VanOsten and L.H. Robbins. It was found that one bullet had struck the woman in the right ear, another just under the left eye, the third on the right cheek and the fourth nearly on top of the head.
Mr. Stephen Mudge stated that his wife had aroused him about half past ten on Friday night, saying that she thought that she heard shots and a woman scream. She started to light the lamp, but finally concluded it was the noise of cats and went back to bed.
Mr. & Mrs. Howard Lewis stated that they distinctly heard four pistol shots, and they made this statement to neighbors before it was known that there had been a tragedy.
The inquest was not open to the public, and reporters were not permitted to be present. It was not concluded until some time in the afternoon. The jury decided that Mrs. Effie Goodwin cam to her death by gunshot wounds, and that there was enough evidence to hold Walter Goodwin to appear before the grand jury.
On Monday evening an examination of Walter Goodwin was held before Justice Burr R. Bailey, District Attorney Dunsmore was present, and David Cameron and F.W. Clark, Esqs., represented the defense. There was very little evidence presented; but there was enough for the Justice to hold the prisoner upon the charge. Sheriff Champaign was sent for, and Goodwin was brought to jail that night.
On Monday there was another development in the case, when it was learned that Miss Gertrude Taylor had been arrested at the home of her father, Mr. C.K. Taylor, on Phoenix Run, near Gaines, and that she knew something about the crime. She was lodged in jail Monday morning, and before night it was rumored on the streets, and it was undoubtedly true, that she had made a full statement of her knowledge of the circumstances connected with the case.
Miss Taylor’s Statement
Miss Taylor says she is only 14 years of age. She has worked as a domestic at several places in this borough, and last week she spent some days at the home of Goodwin in Charleston. She says that she went to Mansfield with Walter Goodwin on Thursday night, and that she sat in the wagon and held his horse for an hour while he was having an interview with his wife in Mr. Beach’s house. She drove back with Goodwin that night, and spent Friday at the home of Mr. Goodwin’s father in Charleston.
On Friday evening she drove down to this borough with Walter to attend the band concert. There being no concert, they left here about half-past eight, after she had procured a sack of her sister and, Goodwin had got his laundry, and they drove directly past the Goodwin place and to Mansfield. There she again held his horse, but it was not in the same part of the town as the night before. She saw Goodwin meet a man some distance from the wagon; not long after that she heard three shots. A moment later Goodwin came running to the wagon, jumped in and drove off. Just out of the borough a man in a road-cart drove up behind them, and she heard Goodwin ask, “Well, did you do it?” The man replied, “You bet I did!” Then Goodwin made some remark about his being a free man again, and then said to the other man that he had better be “getting out.” To this remark the man said that he was “getting out” as fast as he could.
Goodwin and the girl drove rapidly past the Goodwin home again and directly to this borough, where they drove leisurely around two or three squares. Goodwin did not get out of the wagon and finally started back home, and they reached the Goodwin place just as it was getting daybreak. Here the man and the road-cart again appeared, and the girl heard the stranger tell Goodwin that his wife lay dead on the hill at Mansfield. She was so nervous over these strange occurrences that she could not go to sleep, and she insisted early in the morning that Goodwin should bring her back to this borough. He did so, and she found her father here looking for her, and she went with him to Phoenix Run that morning.
This is the substance of the young girl’s story as it is told on the streets. It certainly has a strong bearing on the case, and her testimony will no doubt be thoroughly sifted on the trial.
The murdered woman’s maiden name was Effie Louise Copley, and she was 22 years of age on the 14th of August. She attended the Mansfield Normal school in the fall of 1891, and was afterward employed in the hotel there and also in a private family as a domestic. Then came her intimacy with Goodwin, her trouble and the forced marriage. The young couple went to the Goodwin family home in Charleston to reside, and it was there that her child was born. She had often expressed the belief that the child was put out of the way by some one, as she asserted that she had heard it cry after it was taken from her room, but never saw it afterward. The couple separated last October, having remained on the farm of Goodwin’s father until the separation. When she left, the elder Goodwin gave her $50 and stated that it was understood that this was to end all relations between her and the family, although Goodwin’s mother has stated that she did not know that her daughter-in-law was to leave until she came for her clothing. Last April Effie went to Mansfield and was employed in the family of C.J. Beach until her murder.
Another Young Man
While the couple resided at the Goodwin homestead a young man named Bert Ogden, a tramp cigar-maker, who had been working at painting in that vicinity, was also staying at the house, and when asked the reason for his extended sojourn, replied that he had an object in view – to get young Goodwin out of trouble, probably meaning to separate him from his wife. The wife often remarked that if is had not been for Ogden there would have been no trouble.
An Interview with Walter’s Father
Walter’s father, J. Wesley Goodwin, in an interview, stated that he had furnished Walter with the $50 to give to Effie, and had also bought her a new dress. When asked about Ogden, who stayed at hid house so long, he said: “Ogden was a tramp cigar-maker, and I considered him a bad man, but he liked Walter, and so he remained there some time after he finished painting the church. The only quarrel I ever knew my son and his wife to have was while this man was there.”
The reporter asked Mr. Goodwin if his son was not in the habit of keeping company with dissolute women, and he answered:
“Well, we have had girls to work for us, and he has taken them to parties on one or two occasions; that’s all there is in that.”
“Walter’s wife had said before her death that she believed that her baby was murdered soon after its birth. Do you know anything about that, Mr. Goodwin?”
I’ll tell you all about that. She would not have a doctor, so my wife and the wife of another of my sons attended her. The child was a monstrosity and breathed only a few times after its birth, and we thought it best that she should not see it. That boy thought everything of that woman and would not hurt her for the world. Recently he had been talking of bringing her back home; but I said I would not allow it, as she had taken $50 to stay away from us, and if he lived with her they could not live in my house, but it they desired to keep house elsewhere I would do as much for them as I had for the other boys.”
“Where was your son last Friday night?”
“Well, I’ll tell you. We had a girl, Gertrude Taylor, who had been at work for us a week, and we were through with her, so I told him to hitch up and take her to her aunt’s house in Wellsboro, where she said she wanted to go. About midnight they returned, and when I asked him why he had not taken her home, he said her aunt was not at home, so he brought the girl back. In the morning I told him to hitch up and take the girl to Wellsboro, and then go on to his brother’s where we were engaged in doing some threshing. He did so, and worked with us all day.”
Wellsboro Agitator, October 6, 1897, p2
Goodwin Guilty of Murder
That is What the Jury Said Yesterday – Substance of the Testimony Given in His Case – Remarkable Evidence Showing How the Accused Gave His Case Away
The trial of Walter Goodwin for which the jury was impaneled last week
Tuesday closed yesterday afternoon with a verdict of murder in the first
degree. In some respects the case was a remarkable one – remarkable for
the almost direct evidence of the crime in effect procured and furnished
by the accused himself and remarkable for the paucity and light character
of the evidence for the defense.
Last Wednesday morning District Attorney Dunsmore made the opening address in the trial of the case of the Commonwealth against Walter Goodwin, charged with the murder of his wife Effie Copley Goodwin. The prosecuting officer spoke some forty minutes in outlining the evidence that the Commonwealth expected to introduce and upon which the jury would be asked to find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree.
The defendant when brought in by Sheriff Champaign took his seat back of his counsel and his father occupied a seat on his right while his mother and brothers seated themselves close to him just outside the bar railing. The defendant seemed wonderfully cool and indifferent when he took his seat. He cautiously took a little looking glass from his vest pocket and holding it in the palm of his hand looked at himself admiringly and arranged his hair, putting back a lock here and there so as to show that he had his hair parted in the middle. He would quietly smile at himself and occasionally wink his eye to some acquaintance. He did all this in a very sly way as if not to attract attention.
When the District Attorney began his opening Goodwin sat erect and listened with apparently no more interest in the matter than any spectator present but when the District Attorney came down to the evidence which the Commonwealth proposed to introduce by Miss Gertrude Taylor the prisoner grew excited and as Miss Taylor’s proposed testimony was outlined and his confessions were related he placed his head on his hand resting his arm on the chair [cannot read rest of sentence].
The first witness called by the Commonwealth was Miss Rita Copley of Hills Creek who said that she was the sister of Mrs. Effie Goodwin, the murdered woman; that her sister married the defendant Walter Goodwin in February 1896 and lived with him at his father’s until October of the same year; that her sister was 22 years of age on august 11th last and that she went to live with Mrs. C.J. Beach about a mile beyond the borough of Mansfield as a domestic on the 11th of April of this year. Witness stated that the last time she saw her sister alive was on Sunday September 4th at the hospital in Blossburg.
The witness then took her seat with the counsel for the Commonwealth where she remained throughout the trial as the representative of her deceased sister.
Scene of the Homicide
Mr. Hugh Sherwood of Mansfield was then asked to explain certain maps and drawings, which he had prepared of the borough of Mansfield showing the roads, distances, etc. in the locality of the murder.
Counsel for the defendant took up considerable time in cross questioning Mr. Sherwood in reference to his maps but they were finally admitted in evidence with the exception of a free hand drawing showing the junction of Wilson Avenue and Sullivan Street and the place where the body was found. This drawing the Court rejected as not coming within the proper rule of law governing such exhibits.
Photographer Fred Bailey of Mansfield was next called and introduced the photographs and site of the murder which were admitted in evidence.
Wednesday afternoon Arthur Smith of Mansfield was called and testified to finding the body of Mrs. Goodwin some 150 feet up the Mainesburg road from the forks of the road. The body lay in --------- up the road the right arm under her head, her right leg drawn up, her hat badly jammed lay on the ground a short distance from the body. There was blood on the face, neck and ------------ and it appeared in three places on the ground running down the wagon track from 4 to 6 feet. There was a sealed envelope lying by her side covered with blood. Witness was shown the bloody letter, which he identified. It was directed to Miss Rita Copley, Hill Creek, PA and was a communication with the dead woman’s sister. The letter was stamped ready for posting. This witness detailed how he was driving past the forks in the road on his way to Mainesburg and was called upon to assist in moving the body to Mr. S.G. Mudge'’ home. Witness stated that the right slipper and stocking were in place upon her foot. He did not notice that the clothing was torn.
Mrs. Mary Gaylord of Mansfield was then called and testified that she was visiting at the S.G. Mudge house when --------- informed the family that a woman had been found lying in the roadway not far from the house. Witness went to the scene of the tragedy immediately and found the woman lying on her back on the ---------- with her head elevated. A stream of blood was flowing from her head, her right leg was moving up and down causing her clothing to go up as far as her knee. She made a motion with both her right hand and foot. She could not be seen from Mr. Mudge’s house as she was lying in the road. She looked as if someone had pounded her head with a --------. Dr. Vedder who was present started to open the clothing about the woman’s neck but it was quite difficult and he ordered the woman removed to the Mudge house. Witness stated that the woman’s clothing was not torn.
Dr. W.D. Vedder of Mansfield then testified that he was called to the scene of the tragedy about 1:30 o’clock Saturday afternoon, September 4th. He described the condition he found the woman in as she lay upon the roadway on Wilson Avenue, how he caused her to be moved to the Mudge house, the examination he made of her wounds, and his trip with his patient that afternoon to the Blossburg hospital.
Mrs. M. Smith, superintendent of the hospital, was next sworn as to receiving the patient and caring for her. She said that the woman died at 6 o’clock Sunday morning, September 5th.
W.W. Allen, of Mansfield, testified that as one of the Councilmen of the borough he was notified of the finding of the body of the woman, and that he got Dr. Vedder and a team and went directly to the scene of the homicide. He related the condition of things when he got there.
The Victim’s Wounds
Dr. Charles W. Hazlett, the Coroner of the county, then detailed the facts relating to the autopsy, and exhibited the deceased woman’s brain, which was taken from a glass jar where it had been preserved in alcohol. The right lobe of the brain showed a bullet hole passing diagonally through it. This wound the doctor said, was sufficient to produce death. The Coroner also explained at length the several bullet wounds, one in the right ear, one in the right side of the lower jaw, one in the left eye and one on the right side of the top of the head. He stated that two of these wounds were necessarily fatal – the one in the ear and the one on the top of the head passing through the brain. He had no hesitation in stating that Mrs. Goodwin came to her death by reason of the gun shot wounds.
Dr. S.P. Hakes of Tioga who assisted Coroner Hazlett in the post-mortem examination testified in the same line, giving it as his opinion that the woman came to her death by reason of the bullet wounds, two wounds – the one in the ear and the one on top of the head – being fatal.
Constable O.T. Height, of Mansfield then related the circumstances of the arrest of Walter Goodwin at his father’s home in Charleston on Saturday evening, September 4th. He said he got a revolver at the time he made the arrest that Walter found it for him under the stand in the parlor.
Defendant’s counsel offered to prove that at the time the revolver was obtained the defendant asked his mother where he revolver was and she directed him where to find it, but the Court excluded the testimony under the objection that it was a self serving declaration. The revolver was exhibited in court.
Joseph Fleitz of Charleston, a brother of juror Edward J. Fleitz was then introduced and testified that about five months ago he made an exchange of revolvers with the defendant Goodwin, and upon being shown the revolver obtained by the Constable from the Goodwin home he identified it as the same revolver that he had once owned and let Walter have. He knew it by a private mark and also by a peculiarity in connection with the trigger. The revolver is a 32-caliber self-acting weapon but is will not fire successively unless you throw the trigger forward each time after it has gone off. The spring is weak.
Agnes Watson who now lives in Elmira, but who worked for the Goodwin’s in July last testified that the revolver produced in court was Walter Goodwin’s revolver, that she knew it because she had fired it off and had noticed the peculiarity of the of the action of the trigger at the time.
Darwin Thompson a gunsmith of Wellsboro was sworn as to the caliber of the revolver and of the bullets which were taken from the wounds of the murdered woman. He testified that the pistol presented to him for inspection was a 32-caliber revolver and as one after another of the four bullets in evidence were presented to him. Although they were badly battered and out of shape he testified positively to the four bullets as being 32-caliber bullets the same as the revolver. The defendant’s counsel tried hard to shake Mr. Thompson’s positiveness in the exact caliber of the bullets but he persisted in stating that he knew the bullet were 32-caliber. He did finally however say that the only other size that it might be difficult for him to distinguish from the bullets shown would be a 30-caliber bullet but he said that without doubt in his mind the bullets in question were 32-caliber.
Goodwin Visits his Wife
C.J. Beach testified that he lived on the Mainesburg road just outside the borough of Mansfield; that Effie Goodwin worked as a domestic in his family; that on Thursday night prior to the tragedy Walter Goodwin came to the house after they had retired and witness had been asleep. He heard Goodwin’s voice and knew who it was as he had been there before. Goodwin said he wished to see his wife. Witness spoke to Mrs. Goodwin and she said, “Send him up.” Walter came into the house took a light and went to his wife’s room, which was directly over Mr. Beach’s bedroom. Mr. Beach said he heard them talking for some time. After a while he heard some one come down stairs and go out the front door, leaving the lighted lamp upon the stairs. Mr. Beach said he looked at his clock when he let Goodwin in and it was half past one in the morning. Walter said he had been driving from Wellsboro and had paid no attention to the time. After the light had remained burning on the stairs some time, Mr. Beach got up to investigate and went up to Mrs. Goodwin’s room and called her and she answered, “Here I am.” From downstairs, opening the front door where she had gone out with her husband in her stocking feet. Shortly afterward she came in and went up stairs to bed. The next morning she worked as usual. Mr. Beach saw her again that Friday evening as she sat at the table in their sitting room crocheting. Afterward she put up her work and went up to her room and while he sat at the table reading he heard the hall door open and shut. This was some time between nine and ten o’clock that Friday evening. That is the last he saw of her until he saw her at Mr. Mudge’s the next afternoon.
Mrs. Beach, wife of the above witness was sworn and corroborated the statement made by her husband.
The Commonwealth offered to show by the testimony of Mrs. Beach that Mrs. Goodwin was very much depressed in spirits that afternoon; that she cried and appeared very nervous in anticipation of her coming appointment with her husband but the defendant’s counsel objected to this evidence and the Court excluded it.
The Fatal Shots
Howard Lewis who lives near the Beach home was called and testified that he heard shots about 10 o’clock that Friday night; that he heard two shots and then some one screamed and then after a little interval he heard two more shots. Witness said that after the last shot was fired he listened to see if he could hear any other noise; that he got partially up in bed and in this position he heard the clock strike half past ten.
Mrs. Howard Lewis was called and corroborated her husband’s testimony.
Enos Watkins of Richmond township next testified that he lives on the Newtown road and was walking home that night from the borough of Mansfield; that he heard shots and screams – two shots and a scream and two more shots and a scream; that it was about half past ten o’clock and quite dark.
John Grover who lives a mile and a half out of Mansfield on the Newtown road testified that he also heard shots and put the time at about a quarter after ten o’clock that night. He said there was one shot, a scream and pause then another shot and finally two more shots then he heard a vehicle driven rapidly down the Mainesburg road.
Mr. & Mrs. S.G. Mudge of Mansfield located their home and told of the wounded woman being brought there Saturday afternoon. They stated that they went to bed the night before about ten o’clock. Mrs. Mudge said she heard something which she took to be a racket at the barn and got up and looked out, not seeing anything, she went back to bed again, when she heard something again and spoke to her husband, and just then she heard a shot. Her husband also awoke just in time to hear this last shot which appeared to come from back of their house toward the hill. They then heard a vehicle driven rapidly by the house.
Mrs. Mudge said she examined the underclothing of Mrs. Goodwin as she lay in her house and found that her drawers were clean and whole.
Goodwin Addresses about His Wife
On Thursday afternoon Henry Wood, the stage driver between Wellsboro and Mansfield testified that in July last at Mr. Goodwin’s barn, he had a conversation with Walter about his wife’s suit against him for desertion and support, and that Walter told him that he would not “support the damned bitch,”; that he would not live with her, would have nothing to do with her and was going to get rid of her.
Decatur Clemons, of Hills Creek, testified that on July 28 or 29 last, at his barn, he met Walter and had a conversation with him about his wife, that Walter asked him if he had seen his wife at Blossburg recently and if she had someone with her. Witness said, Yes, that he saw her and that she was with another person, and that person was a woman. Witness then asked him what he was going to do about his wife’s desertion case, and Walter replied, “You need not worry about that, I will fix her so the dogs won’t bite her before I get through with her.”
Fred Nickerson testified that he lived at East Charleston, and that about the middle of June last Walter came to his house and said he came to see a young lady who was working for his wife as a domestic. It was between eleven and twelve o’clock at night, and witness said he went out on the porch and asked him if he did not have a wife depending upon him for her support. Walter replied that he did, but said, “By God, she won’t hold me very long.”
The Taylor Girl’s Story
About three o’clock on Thursday afternoon Miss Gertrude Taylor, the principal witness for the prosecution, was brought into court accompanied by her older sister, Belle Taylor, a school teacher at Phillips Station. Both the girls state that Gertrude is but 14 years old, but she appears somewhat older. She was nearly dressed, of good form and pretty face, and made a most excellent witness for the Commonwealth. She told her story in a straightforward manner, and detailed circumstances and conversations with wonderful particularity.
She said she first met Walter Goodwin on Wednesday afternoon at four o’clock, August 25th last in front of H.B. Packer’s residence on Main street; that she was introduced to him by a young man by the name of Kerwin; that she met him again that night by appointment and remained with him from nine to twelve o’clock that night among the trees in a grove [the Converse property] just beyond Mr. Packer’s house; that she then went to her grandmother’s house; that she again met him by appointment on Friday night of that week just below the Wilcox house and took a ride with him to Stokesdale Junction and attended a dance with him at that place; that they remained there until a quarter past two when they drove to his father’s home and remained there over night and the next day they drove to East Charleston to a picnic; that she remained at Goodwin’s fully a week after that in company with Walter, but was not employed by the Goodwins. On the following Thursday evening she and Walter drove to Wellsboro. He hitched his horse on Central Avenue, and she went up to see her sister who was working at Mr. Packer’s house. From there she went up to Mrs. Jacob Sticklin’s [?], her grandmother’s. Walter accompanied her and told her to tell her grandmother that she was working at James Husted’s, some three miles out of town; that she told her sister this story, which was not true; that she got into the wagon again with Walter and as they were driving toward the Goodwin farm that night he told her he had to go to Mansfield that night and said, “Suppose you go with me.” She said, ‘All right,” that she would like to go and see the place, as she had never been there; that the horse they drove that night was a black horse, and the vehicle a closed buggy; that when they got over to Mansfield the business places were closed up but the hotels were not; that she could not state how late it was; that they had come along at a good pace and drove in going over the Hollow road and went into town over a long iron bridge with two parts to it like two separate bridges, turned to the left and went round by the depot and then drove some little distance and turned to the right and went through a street with buildings with glass fronts and then turned to the left again where there were no lights, then drove along to the other side of the village to a house that looked to her like a boarding house. Walter said, “This is the place.” He drove past the house some two rods and hitched the horse and left her and went back to the house and whistled, she got down on the bottom of the buggy and put her arm on the seat and her head on her arm, drew the robes over her and went to sleep; that after a time she was awakened by Walter’s return; that he said, “Wake up sweetness,” drew the robes off from her got into the buggy, and they drove home going out of town over the same long iron bridge but coming straight up the hill through East Charleston to his father’s house; that they arrived there about a quarter past four o’clock; that Walter went to her room, lit a lamp and looked at his watch; that she went to sleep and did not get up the next day until about dinner time; that she remained at the farm house until after supper when Walter and she left shortly after six o’clock that Friday night and drove together to Wellsboro to attend the band concert; that Walter hitched his horse on Central avenue again just above the green and she went up to her sister’s at Mr. Packer’s while Walter went after his laundry; that she asked her sister for a cape but did not get it; that she noticed electric lights were burning in the pagoda on the green; that she and Walter met at the carriage, and Walter told her that there was no band concert; that soon they got into the carriage and went out of town toward home, she thought it was about half past eight. When they got where the road turns off to the left leading to the Goodwin place, Walter kept straight ahead and she asked him if he was not going home. He said that he had got to go the Mansfield again that night; that he would not be gone very long and that she had better go along with him so they would disturb the old folks but once when they turned in; that they drove a different horse that night – a bay horse with white feet. They drove very fast, and he kept speaking to the horse and urging her on and would strike her with the whip.
When he got nearly over there, he said, “My horse is steaming.” There was a sort of fog arising from the horse, he had driven so fast. There was a moon the forepart of the night, but the moon went down when they were about a mile this side of Mansfield. Walter showed her a building on the road near Mansfield where they dry berries. On their way over Walter said he must disguise himself a little and took off a pearl button that he wore on his coat with a letter “G” on it, he also took out his handkerchief and put it around his neck and pulled his hat down over the forepart of his face. He said he had a date to meet a man at Mansfield that night at nine o’clock but that the man would wait until ten. In going into Mansfield they drove over the same iron bridge, but this night, instead of turning to the left and going around by the depot they went straight ahead from the iron bridge through the town and so on to the outskirts of the village.
On The Scene
Walter stopped the horse near a little tree and told her to hold the lines, while he got out in a hurry and went forward along the road in front of the horse. It was starlight, and about two rods away he met someone, she could not say whether it was a man or woman, and could only say that the person had on dark clothing. The two walked along in the same direction out of her sight. The place where Walter left her was up hill to her right and sloped down hill toward the left. Witness did not go to sleep, but dozed away, she should think about half an hour, when she was startled by the report of three pistol shots. The horse jumped, and she quickly grabbed up the lines as she thought the animal was going to run away. After the first shot, which came from the direction of the hill on the right, she heard a moaning sound, and the last shot seemed nearer to her, as she was fully awake by that time. In about five minutes Walter came, walking very fast. He had been running and was out of breath. He jumped into the wagon, cramped the carriage around, swore at the horse for not getting around faster, did not stop to pull up the lap robes, but drove rapidly out of town over the long iron bridge toward Wellsboro and then slowed down.
About a mile out of town, witness said, she asked Walter if he had been engaged to many young ladies, and he answered that he had been and to one that “tied him.” She then asked him what relatives he called on at Mansfield, and he replied that “the relative that he had there wouldn’t be of any further use to the Beach family.” He then took off his disguises, put on his button, took off the handkerchief from around his neck, and placed his hat back properly on his head.
Soon they arrived in Wellsboro and he said to her as they drove around the square, “We have been in Wellsboro all night under these trees –do you understand?” and she said, “Yes.” On State Street Walter looked at his watch and it was fifteen minutes to one o’clock. They drove around town a little, watered the horse at the watering fountain at the foot of Main Street, and in passing the Farmers’ hotel they noticed three men over by the fence. They then drove home, arriving at his father’s house about three o’clock. He told his father, on striking a match and looking at his watch, that it was ten minutes to three. His father asked him if he had put the horse out, and referred to their threshing the next day. The witness sat in the wagon in the barn while Walter put out the horse, and she walked with him into the house, but she said she told Walter to walk on, that she did not feel like taking hold of him that night.
At The Goodwin Homestead
When they arrived at the house she went to her room and he to his. After she had been in bed some twenty minutes she got nervous and afraid and got up, dressed and read a novel for a few moments and then went over to Walter’s room and said, “Good Lord! Get up.” He got up and dressed a let her into his room and asked her what she was nervous about. She said that she had seen enough to make her nervous, and said to him, “Now, Walter, you know I love you, tell me what all this means tonight.” He began to caress her, and finally after making her promise never to divulge anything he might tell her, he took a revolver out of his hip pocket, the end of which was covered with blood, and said, “You see that little dog, that killed my wife last night.” Witness stated she was horrified at the sight of the blood on the barrel of the pistol, and said to him, “You must have got very close to her when you fired.” At that Walter took a handkerchief out of his pocket, wet one end of it with his lips and wiped the blood from the weapon. Witness said about this time she grew sick and faint, and told him to say no more to her. While she sat there he hugged and kissed her and called her pet names, and finally began to talk to her again and said, “I made my engagement to meet my wife on the hill where we went. I also made a date with another person. You saw that man who met me after I left you? That fellow took my revolver and went around the cornfield. Effie and I stood face to face talking to each other – she was on the lower side, this fellow then stood between us. This fellow said, ‘Listen Effie,’ and as she looked up gave her one right in the ear and then we gave her three more shots, and I run like hell.” After a little Walter said to witness, ‘I won’ t say what I said was true, but my poor wife was killed last night. He then added, “Gertie if I am arrested I want you to say we were not at Mansfield last night.” He then pulled me over on his lap and hugged and kissed me and said, “After this thing blows over we will get married.” Witness stated she had engaged herself to Goodwin on the Tuesday night previous and at that time did not know that he was a married man. She said she sat on his lap fully half an hour and he told her what to say in case he was arrested and she was called upon to testify against him. He told her among other things, that she must say that they spent the evening at Wellsboro. She refused, saying that somebody might have seen them at Mansfield. He told her in that case she should say that shortly after leaving Mansfield on their way home a man drove up to them in a road cart and he said to the man, “Did you do it?” and that the man made answer. “You’re damned right, I did,” and that he then said, “You’d better get out of the country,” and he said, “By God! That’s just what I’m going to do,” that when they reached home the same man drove up again and said, “Your wife lies dead on the hill beyond Mansfield,” and that he answered, “That’s good,” that the man then lit a cigarette, and she saw that he had high cheek bones.
Miss Taylor said by this time it began to get daylight and both lay down on the bed with their clothes on, drawing a quilt over them and slept until about half past six o’clock that morning, when they got up and Walter drove her to her grandmother’s at Wellsboro in the road cart. The old man Goodwin followed them down with a double team going to his work of threshing over in Delmar Township, where he was joined that Saturday by Walter.
A Remarkable Episode
After Miss Taylor had detailed the above story to the jury she was asked by Major Merrick whether any attempt had been made to induce her to testify falsely since she left Walter Goodwin on the Saturday morning after the tragedy. The great throng in the courtroom became suddenly silent with suppressed excitement for everyone knew that the defendant and the witness had been confined in the county jail for nearly a month and that something dramatic was about to take place. The attorneys for the defendant supposing that if any statement had been made under the circumstances by the prisoner to Miss Taylor it was done through the suggestion of a third party, promptly objected to the admission of any testimony on the subject by the witness.
Sheriff Champaign was then called and thoroughly questioned and cross examined as to the circumstances under which the statement about to be given by the witness Taylor was obtained. The Sheriff said that the prisoner had importuned him for nearly a week fairly begging to be allowed an interview with Miss Taylor. At first the Sheriff refused but finally he made up his mind to place the matter before the attorneys for the Commonwealth and take their judgment concerning the matter. Accordingly an interview was arranged. Miss Taylor was taken from her cell in the woman’s department up stairs in the jail and upon some pretext she was taken down into the Sheriff’s living rooms while the Sheriff place two Deputy Sheriffs, William M. Kehler and James S. English, secretly on top of the steel cage in the county jail over Miss Taylor’s cell. Miss Taylor was then taken back to her cell, not knowing of the presence of the two deputies, and the defendant Goodwin was brought up stairs and placed in another cell some eight feet away from Miss Taylor’s cell. The Sheriff as he brought the defendant into the woman’s department walked Goodwin all around the room so that he could convince himself that there was no one present who could hear what he was about to say to Miss Taylor. So anxious was the prisoner that no one should overhear what he had to say that he asked the Sheriff to put him in a cell where he could see the Sheriff when he retired from the department and closed the door. The Sheriff agreed to this request and after locking Goodwin in the cell went out of the room and locked the door, but he did not inform Goodwin of the fact that there were two men concealed on top of Miss Taylor’s cell waiting to hear every word that he might utter and use it against him in his coming trial.
The defendant’s counsel, after hearing all this, renewed their objections to the admissibility of the evidence, and considerable time was taken up with the argument of counsel on both sides, but finally Judge Mitchell overruled the objections and admitted the evidence of Miss Taylor as to what took place at the interview between her and Goodwin, and also allowed the two Deputy Sheriffs to testify as to what was said between the two and overheard by them from their perch on top of Miss Taylor’s cell on Tuesday evening, September 21st.
Defendant Fixes Up a Story
Miss Taylor said that when Walter was locked in his cell and the Sheriff has returned she said, “Hello, darling. It is lonesome staying up here, but I don’t suppose you want to talk about that,” and he replied, “ No sweetness, I want to talk about that Friday night.” He then went on to tell her that he had a story all made up for her to tell, he had thought it all out, and that if she would only do just as he told her it would all come out right. She replied that she could not do as he wanted her to, for the reason that she had already made one statement and taken her oath to it, but he said that made no difference; that he knew she had made a statement, for he had seen it in the newspapers, but that she should discard that statement and accept the one he would now detail to her. She then said to him: “I told them about the revolver with blood upon it,” and he said, “Oh, sweetness, you ought not to have done that, for they might send me to prison for three years.” She then told him that she had told her counsel that the road-cart story was not true, but he insisted that that made no difference if she would only take up the story he was about to relate to her and which he himself would swear to. She finally promised him to testify to the set of facts he should relate to her, and the story began. After he had told it to her twice, he had her repeat it back to him to be sure she had it, as he wanted it, he prompting her as she made mistakes.
This cunningly – devised story placed the defendant and Miss Taylor at Wellsboro on that fatal Friday during the early part of the evening, strolling about the streets and reclining leisurely under trees in the grove in front of the Converse house, then they started for home with the horse and carriage and came to what Miss Taylor thought was Mansfield, but the defendant told her she was mistaken, that it was Whitneyville, and that the lights which she saw and thought came from store fronts were but burning stumps on the hillside, that while there a man in a road-cart came up and said, “Hello, Wallie!” and Goodwin replies, “Hello, Pratt!” Miss Taylor at first did not catch the name, and asked him if he said, ‘Pat.’ He said, “No, not ‘Pat’, but ‘Pratt,’ remember that.” A conversation then takes place between Goodwin and his straw man “Pratt,” who is made out a perfect villain who has attempted to outrage Mrs. Goodwin and finally fires the fatal shots. Then the couple drive back to Wellsboro again, and while watering the horse at the fountain at the foot of Main street he is to take out a watch, which he describes to her minutely as a lady’s gold watch, and she is to look at the watch and see that it is just five minutes past eleven, he charged her specially to remember that. They then go home, and he told her to say they arrived there a little after twelve, she objected, saying, “I have already sworn in my statement that we got home at three.” Finally he compromised with her and told her to make it about half past one, and further told her that his people would help her out on that statement. On arriving at the Goodwin home the fictitious man “Pratt” is again made to appear, and he tells Walter what he has done to his wife and threatens his life if he ever tells on him.
Deputy Kehler was called to the stand and related the story at great length fully corroborating Miss Taylor, as did also Mr. J.S. English.
On Friday, Miss Taylor was upon the stand nearly the whole morning under cross-examination. She admitted that she had made two different sworn statements and acknowledged that certain parts of those statements were untrue. These statements related largely to the road cart episode, which she first put in her story but finally repudiated.
Darwin Thompson was then recalled, and stated that he had made a test by weight of a 30 and 32 caliber pistol cartridge, and found that a 30 caliber long weighted 75 grams, and a 30 short 58 grams, while a 32 caliber short weighed 82 grams and a long 32 caliber 90 grams. He further testified that he had weighed one of the bullets extracted from Mrs. Goodwin’s head and had found that it weighed 82 grams.
Ed Winters, of Charleston, testified, corroborating Miss Taylor. He saw Walter Goodwin and the Taylor girl on the fatal Friday evening between 6 and 7 o’clock driving toward Wellsboro with a bay horse and top buggy.
The Commonwealth then offered in evidence a letter written by Goodwin in the jail, which, a week ago last Saturday, after many solicitations, the Sheriff took and promised to give to Miss Taylor. The defendant gave the officer some matches and told him to tell Gertrude to burn the letter as soon as she had read it. The letter is in full as follows:
The envelope is addressed to “Miss Gertrude Taylor, Wellsboro, PA,” and the letter reads as follows—
I saw my Lawyer today and he said if you would swear that it was five minutes after eleven when we left town Friday night that everything would be all right. Now don’t fail to swear to this. Will you. And stick to it too, and don’t say that you crossed the Mansfield bridge either when they ask you if you crossed it you say you don’t remember of crossing any bridge that was as long as the bridge we crossed Thursday night and stick to it and don’t let them catch you, and don’t let anyone know about our talk the other night. He was so good to work us together that we don’t want to give him away for anything.
Now be sure you don’t you touch a match to this as soon as you read it if you can read it at all. I wrote it on my knee so excuse poor writing. Write and tell me all about this when he gave it to you and all about it – be sure you seal our letter good, and that mine is sealed when you get it. And tell me whether you think it has been opened or not.
Now when it comes to Court you must deny that about seeing a revolver that night – for if you tell that it will give it all away and you know that if you give that away we are both in the soup they will ask you if you saw me have a revolver that night at all and you will answer NO. What you have sworn to doesn’t amount to anything. My Lawyer said so and he must know. It is what you swear before grand jury is going to count. They are not mistrusting you so you can swear to what you please. I am depending on you. Now don’t go back on this if you do I will have to give you away and that will let us in the soup as well as that other fellow, so ha, ha, ha, and stick to what I said about being under those trees up above Packers, that is what I told my lawyer and that is what I have got to stick to. And another thing I want you to say and that is this. You must say there was a lot of people on the green when we went up by and you must say that I left you a moment before we went up under the trees. If they ask you about where I went you say he went towards the Wilcox House will you now be sure because I told my lawyer that I left you a minute and went over to the Wilcox house to the water closet. And a man saw me there and spoke to me now don’t say anything about this only that I left you a minute and then came back and we went on up together under the trees. If they ask you what time it was when you was under the trees you say you don’t know. Now you say we didn’t drive near as far as we did the night before and you must not say that I had a date with anyone for that will give me away. I have told all of them that I had no date with anyone, and if you give it away it knocks it all in head now don’t let them scare you in any way for they can’t touch you no matter what you say and don’t say very much to the District attorney Dunsmore. Don’t let him work you up against me and you stick to the time and you say that you looked at my watch and saw for yourself and you describe the watch if they ask you, you know it was a ladies gold watch. Burn this up as soon as soon as you understand it thoroughly. Maybe I will get another chance to write and if I do you bet I will take it.
Well good by for this time. From You know Who
Them came this postscript------------
Write as soon as you get this. Be sure you burn this up. Don’t let a person see it. Well good by it is to dark to write now. Remember what I have said.
The Commonwealth offered to prove by C.A. Goodwin, an uncle of the defendant
the finding of a blood stained handkerchief on the back porch of the Goodwin
residence on the Monday night following the homicide, but the Court upon
motion of defendant’s counsel, excluded the testimony.
Jacob Corbin, a prisoner in the jail, was next called. He said he was from Cross Forks and had been in jail for several weeks charged with assault and battery; that his cell was next to Goodwin’s; that shortly after Goodwin was brought to jail his [Goodwin’s] father was allowed to see his son, and witness overheard part of a conversation between them; that he heard his father ask Walter who had the revolver and Walter replied, giving a name, but witness could not quite hear who it was. Walter asked his father about certain letters and his father told him he had burned them all up; that he need not worry about that as everything was all right. In this connection he heard them mention the name “Ogden.” Walter at one time told witness that he would willingly give $50 for a half-hour’s talk with Gertie Taylor.
This closed the testimony of the Commonwealth, an on Saturday morning David Cameron Esq., opened the case for the defense by a short address to the jury. His remarks were listened to very attentively by every one present, as people were curious to know what reply would be made to the overwhelming testimony of the Commonwealth. It was soon apparent that it was not the intention of the defense to place Walter Goodwin upon the witness stand. Mr. Cameron confined himself to the inconsistencies and acknowledged falsehoods in Miss Taylor’s testimony, and tried to show from the Commonwealth’s evidence that there was only about an hour and twenty minutes of time for the defendant to get to Mansfield and drive the 14 miles, which he said was the distance from Wellsboro to the place where the shooting took place on that fatal night.
The defense then swore Mr. P.C. Olney, of Mansfield, as to the distance from the manhole on the sewer at the junction of Mann, Wellsboro and Sullivan streets at Mansfield to the Coles hotel in Wellsboro and he gave it as 13 miles and 90 rods, and from the manhole to the junction of the Mainesburg road and Sullivan street the distance is half a mile.
Messrs. Gibson, Valkner and Newell, of Mansfield, testified to lights being in the Hotel Allen and the Holden restaurant and Newell restaurant after 10 o’clock that night.
Messrs. O.T. Osborne, John Grover, Ivan Potter and William Baker testified to comparatively unimportant matters that transpired in and about Mansfield about the time the 10 o’clock excursion train came in that Friday night.
O.T. Height, the Constable, was then called by the defense and testified more at length about finding the revolver at the Goodwin residence. While they were upstairs, where the defendant was changing his clothes, the Constable asked him for his revolver. He said it was downstairs lying on the machine in the sitting room. They went down to get it, and defendant did not find it there and turned to his mother and asked her where it was. She told him where to find it, and he stepped to the door of the room where she said it was, reached his hand under a stand into a box and got it. The revolver was empty. Defendant made no inquiries as to why he was arrested at first. It was after he went upstairs he asked why he was arrested and when told he seemed very cool and collected.
Mrs. J.W. Goodwin, the mother of the defendant, then testified to taking the revolver from the sewing machine and placing it in the parlor under a stand upon the top of a grape basket ornamented with paper flowers. She said she put the revolver there on the Tuesday before her son’s arrest and saw it there every day until that Saturday night when her son asked her for it in the presence of the Constable; that the revolver had been used on that Tuesday morning to kill a skunk, by Mr. Goodwin and Walter. Mrs. Goodwin said she saw the revolver there on Friday night after Walter had gone, that she took a light and went into the room that night and saw the revolver. She said she also saw it Saturday morning again as she was sweeping up the room.
J. Wesley Goodwin, the father of defendant, was then called and testified to using the revolver on Tuesday to kill the skunk.
Samuel Ludlam testified that he spoke to Walter Goodwin about 9 o’clock on that Friday night in Wellsboro as he was coming across the street from the Sherwood corner toward the Wilcox hotel. Mr. Ludlam said just before meeting Goodwin he had occasion to consult a watch and saw that it was just 5 minutes to 9 o’clock.
Joseph Goldburg said he was sitting on the steps in front of the Coles hotel that night and saw Walter Goodwin go by just about 9 o’clock.
Carl Clark said he was driving a rig that night and while he did not at that time know Walter Goodwin he did know the Taylor girl, and he saw her in a buggy driving with a man from Cone[?] street toward the center of town about half past eight or nine o’clock that night.
The evidence was closed and the witnesses on both sides were discharged Saturday night.
On Monday morning Major G.W. Merrick opened the argument for the Commonwealth but after talking about half an hour his voice gave out on account of a severe cold and R.K. Young Esq., occupied the remainder of the time. He went over Miss Taylor’s testimony at length and showed wherein she had been corroborated by other witnesses.
David Cameron, Esq., occupied the remainder of the morning making an earnest plea for the defendant from the standpoint of a “reasonable doubt,” which he claimed had been raised from the evidence in the defendant’s favor.
After dinner court called at 2 o’clock but as it was “motion day” for the attorneys, and as a jury had to be drawn in the civil case of French against Richmond township, Mr. Clark did not begin his plea for the defense before 4 o'clock. He occupied the time till 6 o’clock.
Court then adjourned until 7 o’clock that evening when Mr. Clark resumed his argument and closed at half past 9 o’clock. Mr. Clark complained bitterly to the jury that the defendant was driven to trial without preparation and that the case should have been continued and not tried at this time. He spent considerable time talking to the jury in this vein although when the case was first called he did not ask for any continuance, and stated to the Court that defendant was ready for trial.
Yesterday morning District Attorney Dunsmore made the closing address for the Commonwealth in an earnest, effective plea for a conviction of murder in the first degree.
Judge Mitchell occupied about two hours in explaining the different degrees of murder and charging the jury in a clear and forceful manner as to the law and evidence governing the case.
The case was given to the jury at 12:15 o’clock in the afternoon, and the jury came into Court at 3:50 and returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.
The defendant sat with his counsel and showed wonderful nerve in fact he seemed wholly unmoved by the verdict of the jury. While the Clerk was writing out the verdict prior to announcing it he looked leisurely around the room and then fixed his hair, spoke pleasantly to one of his attorneys and as Prothonotary Sheffer arose to read the verdict he looked steadily at him and as the words guilty of murder in the first degree were pronounced he never moved a muscle or changed color in the slightest degree. There was perfect quiet in the courtroom and no demonstration of any kind was made when the verdict was announced.
Judge Mitchell directed Deputy Sheriff Kehler who had charge of the prisoner to remand him for sentence, and he was taken back to jail in a quiet orderly manner. Just outside of the courtroom the prisoner caught sight of some friend and smiled at him pleasantly.
The young man did not seem to realize his situation in the slightest degree.
The Taylor Girl
Miss Gertrude Taylor was then brought into Court and Major Merrick addressed the Court at length, explained how he, although counsel for Miss Taylor, had consented to act with the District Attorney in the prosecution of the defendant Goodwin. Major Merrick stated he did not agree to be employed for the Commonwealth until he had a promise from the District Attorney that if Miss Taylor was allowed to testify no indictment for murder should be found against her, and that she should not be prosecuted as an accessory after the fact. He then commented upon the evidence, which she had given in the case, and argued that in his judgment she had told the truth. He closed his remarks by asking that she be discharged form further custody, and intimated that place had been provided for her in Philadelphia in some one of the missions, and that his client was willing to go there with a view of mending her ways and trying in the future to lead a better life.
Mr. Young followed and praised Miss Taylor for her qualities of heart and mind, which he had discovered from his interviews with her in jail. Mr. Young stated that in his opinion Miss Taylor had more than an ordinary intellect; that she was fond of reading, had a great memory and a decided talent for music, and he thought if she had an opportunity she would become a credit to herself and a useful member of society.
District Attorney Dunsmore then addressed the Court and said he had made the arrangement with Major Merrick as stated by the latter; that he felt confident that he could not convict the defendant Goodwin without the testimony of Miss Taylor, and that if she refused to testify, which she had the right to do under the circumstances, the Commonwealth would not have been able to make out a case against Goodwin. He joined in asking for her discharge from custody.
Judge Mitchell then stated that he would not dispose of Miss Taylor’s case until he had disposed of the motion for a new trial.
It was supposed that the argument upon the reasons filed for a new trial would not be taken up before Tuesday; but late on Monday afternoon Attorney Clark stated that as he could not be here on that day he would prefer to take up the matter forthwith, and so about four o’clock on Monday afternoon the defendant Goodwin was brought in from jail and the arguments of counsel on both sides were heard by the Court until adjournment at six o’clock, which the prisoner was remanded and the Court adjourned until Tuesday without giving any decision in the matter.
A New Trial Refused
When court convened at nine o’clock yesterday morning, Judge Mitchell took up for final disposition the reasons for a new trial filed by the counsel for Goodwin.
The prisoner was brought into court by Deputy Sheriff Kehler and took his seat by the side of Mr. Cameron, Mr. Clark not being present. Goodwin looked somewhat paler than usual, and his face had a careworn, haunted expression.
Miss Gertrude Taylor was also brought in from jail and took her seat by the side of her counsel, Major Merrick. As the girl came into the room she looked across the bar and caught the eye of District Attorney Dunsmore and gave him a most gracious smile of recognition in anticipation of her coming freedom.
Judge Mitchell stated that he had considered carefully the reasons asking for a new trial and had determined to reject them all and refuse a new trial, as the reasons assigned were not sufficient in law to warrant the Court in doing otherwise.
The District Attorney then moved the Court to pronounce sentence upon the defendant, and Goodwin was accordingly told to stand up. Judge Mitchell then stated to him that he had been convicted of the murder of his wife, and asked him if he had anything to say why the sentence of the law should not now be pronounced upon him.
Goodwin Protests His Innocence
Goodwin turned to his counsel and whispered something in his ear. Mr. Cameron replied to him in the same manner, and a few moments were occupied in the whispered conversation while every eye was fixed upon the defendant as he stood in his place awaiting the final words from the Court which were to seal his doom. Finally the conversation between client and counsel ceased and Goodwin, turning his face toward the bench, began to address the Court in a quiet, subdued voice. He did not seem to be bold and defiant or to be especially timid but spoke naturally and unhesitatingly, and upon the whole conducted himself admirably under the trying ordeal of the moment. His exact words were these:
“I can say that I never saw my wife after Thursday night; that I never met her, never saw her, and did not shoot her, and did not kill her. Therefore, I am not guilty of the crime charged against me. As I understood it, she was said to be found on Wilson Avenue. I never have taken a step on that road; never been on that road in my life, and furthermore I was not out of my buggy that night except at Wellsboro ----- at my house. I can say that I have been wrongfully accused; that I never killed my wife, and that never entered my mind.”
When Goodwin ceased speaking Judge Mitchell said to him that the remarks which he had made were not sufficient in law to prevent the sentence which must be pronounced against him; that while he had denied doing the act charged against him yet a jury of his countrymen had found him guilty of the murder of his wife, and that no matter how painful it might be to the Court, yet the sentence of the law must now be pronounced.
Judge Mitchell then went on to remark that this was the first time during his judicial career that he had been called upon to pronounce the death penalty; that it was anything but a pleasant duty for him to perform. He then said to the prisoner that he wished to direct his thoughts to a future life, and to a preparation to meet a higher tribunal where an all wise and just God would pass in final judgment upon the deeds done in the body; that there was a future state of reward and punishment, and a plan of salvation offered to mankind by which we might be saved. He would call the prisoner’s attention to that scene enacted nearly two thousand years ago, when the Saviour of mankind was crucified and nailed to the cross between two malefactors; that the thief upon the cross was saved by calling upon his Lord and received the promise, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise”; that there is hope of salvation for the condemned sinner, and to the Saviour’s forgiveness and tender mercy he commended the prisoner.
Judge Mitchell spoke for fully ten minutes in this earnest, feeling manner to the defendant, and all who were present were deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion and many an eye was moist with tears as the big-hearted Judge pleaded with the young prisoner to prepare to meet his awful fate. After these affecting remarks had been made Judge Mitchell again asked the prisoner if he had anything further to say and as no response came from the prisoner, the Court pronounced the following sentence:
“And now, October 12, 1897, the sentence of the law, declared by the Court, is that upon such date as the Governor of this Commonwealth shall designate you, Walter E. Goodwin, shall be hung by the neck until you are dead. And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
Goodwin showed no signs of breaking down, but stood apparently unmoved through it all, occasionally looking about the room and frequently glancing toward the spot where Miss Taylor sat, with an evident desire to catch her eye. After all was over and the Deputy Sheriff took his arm to lead him back to prison, in passing by Miss Taylor, Goodwin fastened his eyes upon the girl, and gave her a terrible look with a slight shake of the head, which were evidently expressive of the most deadly enmity.
The Taylor Girl Released
After Goodwin had been taken from the room, the Court turned by Miss Taylor and told her to stand up, and he then talked to her about the serious trouble she had brought upon herself by leading a life of sin and shame for the ten days she had consorted with Goodwin prior to the tragedy. The Judge told Miss Taylor that he was convinced that she did not help plan or execute the murder of Goodwin’s wife, but that she was guilty of doing a serious wrong by agreeing with him after he had confessed to her what had happened to his wife that night, to tell a false story and shield him from the law; that owing to her youth and her subsequent conduct in testifying fully about the transaction in behalf of the Commonwealth he should not longer her a prisoner; that he hoped the lesson which she had had in five weeks imprisonment would be sufficient, and that she would mend her ways and become a useful, truthful and worthy member of society; that she should try from mow on to be a good girl, and live a good life.
The Court then directed the District Attorney to enter a nolle prosequi as to the charge against her at the next term if nothing further appeared against her and to take her own recognizance to appear at the next term of court. This was done and Miss Taylor was liberated and allowed to go with her older sister.
Wellsboro Agitator, January 26, 1898, p4
? The report was circulated on the streets last week that Walter E. Goodwin was to be executed early in March. This rumor was based simply on speculation. A private letter received here recently from Harrisburg stated that it has been customary for the Governor to wait at least two months after a sentence of death has been passed by a court before fixing a day for the execution. It was also stated that it was usual to give the condemned person a month or six weeks to prepare to meet death. Therefore, it was concluded that Goodwin will be executed early in March. The papers have not yet been acted upon by Governor Hastings, however, and speculation on the subject is idle.
Wellsboro Agitator, February 2, 1898, p3
The Date of Goodwin’s Execution
Governor Hastings Fixes Thursday March Thirty-First, as the Day
Governor Hastings last Monday fixed the dates for the execution of four
convicted murderers as follows: Frederick C. Rockwell, Erie, April 26;
John R. Lamb, Allegheny, April 21; Patrick Banya, Elk, April 26; Walter
E. Goodwin, of this county, on Thursday, March 31st.
The story of the trial of Walter E. Goodwin on the charge of murdering his wife, Effie Copley Goodwin on the night of September 3, 1897 in the suburbs of Mansfield is still fresh in the minds of our readers and need not be recounted.
Goodwin was arrested on Saturday evening, September 4th and taken to Mansfield for examination. His wife died on Sunday morning, September 5th, in the Blossburg hospital. The inquest was held at Mansfield on Monday September 6th, and the young husband was held for shooting his wife four times in the head.
On the day of the inquest a young girl names Gertrude Taylor, with whom Goodwin had been keeping company, was also arrested. Although but 14 years of age, she was of a somewhat notorious character. She made a statement about being in company with Walter Goodwin on the night the crime was committed riding to and from Mansfield with him, and staying at his home in Charleston that night. She was sent to jail as an important witness in the case against Goodwin.
On Tuesday, September 28th the trial was begun, and it closed on the following Tuesday, October 5th. The jury remained out two hours and a quarter and then returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. On Tuesday, October 12th Walter E. Goodwin was sentenced to be hanged on such date as the Governor shall designate.
The principal witness against Goodwin at the trial was the Taylor girl who made a remarkably good witness and the defense was unable to trip her in any important particular. A remarkable episode in the case was a letter offered in evidence which Walter Goodwin had written to Miss Taylor while both were confined in jail in which he prompted her about the testimony she should give in his behalf, lest she should give them “both away.” The prisoners were allowed to have a conversation from adjoining cells in the jail they supposing they were alone. Two officers overheard the conversation, and their relation of it made most damaging testimony against young Goodwin.
Walter E. Goodwin was twenty-one years old on 6th of last May.
The death warrant did not arrive yesterday morning from Harrisburg as Sheriff Johnson expected but it will no doubt be here today. Goodwin was uneasy all day yesterday in jail and evidently suspected something but he asked no questions. He will not be informed of the date of his execution until the warrant is received.
Wellsboro Agitator, February 16, 1898, p3
About Walter E. Goodwin’s Nerve
Some newspaper reporters have drawn on their imagination so strongly that they have made it appear that Walter E. Goodwin is so broken down over the approach of his execution on March 31st that he spends his time in moody silence, so dejected and sorrowful that he scarcely notices what is going on around him in the jail. He is pictured as a poor, miserable, unhappy wretch, shivering on the verge of eternity.
The fact is that this is all rot. Goodwin’s manner has changed very little from what it has been all along since his confinement in the county jail. At rare intervals, perhaps, his attendants notice that he appears to be thinking seriously. He gives the same careful attention to his toilet, and his vanity has been gratified apparently by the number of visitors he has been allowed to receive. Last Thursday was a big day among all his reception days of late. By actual count more than 100 persons visited the jail, all drawn by morbid curiosity to look at the man who is soon to pay on the gallows the penalty for murder. But no wall that is at an end and Goodwin will have an opportunity to do more thinking in solitude if he wants to. Last Saturday Sheriff Johnson posted up a notice that at the request of Goodwin’s parents and his attorney no more visitors will be admitted to the jail.
Goodwin’s father has been keeping the young man buoyed up with the hope that he was going to be able to get a new trial for him. Only last week the old man was chasing Gertrude Taylor about, going to Sabinsville and following her up to her home in Potter county, deluded with the notion that he was going to get her to made a statement that she had sworn to a lie regarding her knowledge of what occurred on that fatal September night. Of course, this is all a wild-goose chase, and there is no probability whatever that anything will come of this move; in fact it is reported that the Taylor girl refuses to have any interview with Mr. Goodwin. It only shows that sorrowful and pitiable condition of the young man’s father.
Wellsboro Agitator, March 2, 1898, p3
An Effort to Save Walter Goodwin
As will be seen by reference to a notice in the advertising columns of this week’s AGITATOR, the attorneys for Walter E. Goodwin, Messrs. David Cameron and Jerome B. Niles, are preparing to make application to the Pardon Board in behalf of the man who is condemned to end his life on the gallows on the 31at instant. It is reported that the attorneys also propose to make an application to the Supreme Court for a special writ of error and a chance to show grounds for a new trial. Last Monday afternoon Judge Mitchell, on pursuance of the law, granted an order for the court stenographer to write out the evidence in the case and furnish it to the attorneys for Goodwin. The time for making an application for a new trial of the case in the regular form expired long ago. The attorneys claim, however, that the Supreme Court may grant a special order, and they hope to present strong enough evidence to secure such an order.
Goodwin’s father has been very active for several weeks in his efforts to secure a new trial, and he has kept his son buoyed up with the hope that he is to be saved from the gallows. The prisoner has made the remark many times that he was not to be executed on the day appointed by the Governor, but that something would turn up which would be a surprise to the officers and the public. Whether some new testimony has been secured from Gertrude Taylor, or whether a confession of some accessory has been obtained is not yet given out. It is thought that the Goodwins are hopeful of getting a stay of the execution and finally a new trial.
In the meantime Sheriff Johnson has given his order for the lumber and material for constructing a fence 16 feet high around the yard at the rear of the jail, where the execution is expected to take place. The yard is to be covered with canvas. He has also made plans for the scaffold and is to have it built here. The framework will be put together in such a manner that it may be taken down and stored for future use if there should ever be occasion for it in another case. The plan of the gallows calls for a platform some eight feet above the ground, with a trap under the main beam. It is of the simplest form, that being found to be the most effectual for such a purpose.
Wellsboro Agitator, March 9, 1898, p3
? Mr. James L. Brownlee, of Redburn, Lycoming County, is the author of a poem entitle “The Song of the Goodwin Murder,” which he had had printed with a good portrait of Walter E. Goodwin. Mr. Brownlee will send a copy of the portrait and poem by mail on receipt of a one-cent stamp and ten cents in silver.
Wellsboro Agitator, March 16, 1898, p3
Reprieve for Walter E. Goodwin
Last Thursday it was announced from Harrisburg that a reprieve had been granted for sixty days in the case of Walter E. Goodwin, who is under sentence of death and was to be executed on the 31st instant. When Goodwin was informed of this fact, he did not have the slightest emotion and seemed to feel no more interested in the matter than he would in any bit of general information. His face never changed expression as he listened to the statement, which assured him a longer lease of life. He made no comment, and did not even thank the bearer of the good news.
This respite is granted on the application of Goodwin’s attorneys for the purpose of giving them time to make an appeal to the Supreme Court for a writ of error. This will be asked for on the ground that the Judge erred in admitting in evidence the letter Goodwin wrote to Taylor girl, the evidence this girl gave regarding their interview, and the testimony of Deputies English and Kehler regarding the conversation of Gertrude Taylor and Walter Goodwin in the jail. If the Supreme Court should hold that Judge Mitchell erred in admitting this evidence, the writ of error will probably be granted. In that case there would be a new trial in which all the testimony in the case, except that especially ruled out by the Supreme Court, could be taken and as much new testimony as the District Attorney or the attorneys for the defense might produce.
As the case now stands the execution of Goodwin is only postponed sixty days. Application has not yet been made to the Supreme Court for the writ of error. If it is made, it may be refused. In that case Goodwin will be executed about the last of May. If the writ of error is allowed, and the rulings of Judge Mitchell reversed Goodwin will be tried again with a fair prospect of being again convicted. It the rulings of Judge Mitchell in the case are sustained this verdict and sentence will stand and Goodwin will be executed at the expiration of the reprieve.
This effort for a writ of error is simply an opportunity which is usually embraced in such cases to have the Supreme Court pass upon the rulings of the court below and it is a constitutional right.
The officials seem to have made up their minds that Goodwin will not attempt to commit suicide or cut up any didoes in jail, so the guards have been discharged.
Wellsboro Agitator, March 23, 1898, p3
? Last Saturday Sheriff Johnson received the papers notifying him that Walter E. Goodwin had been reprieved and that his execution would be deferred to Wednesday, May 11th.
Wellsboro Agitator, April 20, 1898, p3
The Case of Walter E. Goodwin
Last week the counsel for Walter E. Goodwin, who is under sentence of death, the day appointed for his execution being May 11th, secured a writ of error from the Supreme Court. They expect to argue the case before the Court on Monday, May 9th. Goodwin’s counsels are David Cameron, Esq., and Hon. Jerome B. Niles.
The case as made up for the Supreme Court is based on exceptions to the rulings of Judge Mitchell in admitting the evidence of Miss Gertrude Taylor, James S. English and W.M. Kehler, relating to the interview between Miss Taylor and Goodwin in the jail. The counsel for the defense contends that this evidence was improperly admitted and they filed exceptions at the time.
Goodwin’s attorneys hope to reverse the ruling of the lower Court on that question, and if they do so the result will be a new trial. Without that evidence the defendant’s counsel believe that Goodwin could not have been convicted.
Wellsboro Agitator, May 4, 1898, p3
? District Attorney Dunsmore expects to leave next Saturday for Philadelphia to argue against the motion in the Supreme Court next Monday for the granting of a new trial for Walter E. Goodwin. Next Wednesday is the day appointed for Goodwin’s execution, but is probable that the consideration of this case by the Supreme Court will secure for but another reprieve. The District Attorney is however very confident that the new trial will not be granted.
Wellsboro Agitator, May 11, 1898, p3
? Walter Goodwin has been reprieved for the second time, the date of his execution being postponed from today to Thursday, June 9th.
Wellsboro Agitator, May 18, 1898, p3
Goodwin’s Doom Sealed
Last Monday afternoon District Attorney Dunsmore received the following dispatch:
Philadelphia, May 16, 1898
A.B. Dunsmore, District Attorney
Commonwealth against Goodwin – judgment affirmed.
[Signed] Charles S. Oakes [?]
Prothonotary Supreme Court
This takes away the last ray of hope that Walter E. Goodwin may have
entertained for a new trial. He will undoubtedly be executed on Thursday,
When Walter was informed of this decision of the Supreme Court he grew very pale, his chin quivered and his eyes were moist, but not a tear rolled out of them. He soon grew calm again, however, and within a day or two he has seemed to be in high spirits, playing his banjo, singing and amusing himself with a false moustache and a hand mirror.
Sheriff Johnson has made all preparations for the execution. The gallows has been constructed on the simple plan of a platform and drop of about six feet, the rope, a half-inch manila, has been selected and the apparatus tested. The execution will take place in the yard at the rear of the jail, which will be enclosed with a high fence and probably covered with canvas.
We have not learned that Goodwin has by word, expression or action of any kind shown the slightest pang of remorse for his crime, or indicated that he is making any preparation for the unknown world.
Wellsboro Agitator, May 25, 1898, p3
Goodwin Makes a Statement
The Condemned Man Tells a Story About The Crime and Accuses Gertrude Taylor of Shooting His Wife
Last Wednesday afternoon the AGITATOR reporter was informed the Walter E. Goodwin requested his presence in jail to take down a statement, which he was about to make relative to the crime for which he had been tried and convicted. On conferring with the Sheriff our reporter learned that Walter had appeared to be somewhat broken up that morning and that he announced that he was going to make a full statement of the truth that day. He wanted a barber to come to the jail and shave him, and then he wanted certain persons to be invited to be present at 4 o’clock.
At the appointed hour the party gathered at the Sheriff’s residence and were taken into the jail. Walter greeted them all cordially and with no apparent embarrassment. With a clean shave, his hair smoothly brushed, a clear complexion, dressed in spotless linen and a well-brushed suit of black, he looked not at all like a hardened criminal. His eyes sparkled with excitement, and his manner was the same soft, gentle air as usual. There was no outward sign that anything serious of solemn was about to take place. While this was something of a set back to some of the gentlemen present, they gathered about in front of his cell, a table was provided for the Justice and the reporter and all were waiting in anxious expectation for the confession they had reason to suppose was coming.
There were present Sheriff George W. Johnson, Dr. J.L. Beers, Rev. N.L. Reynolds, Justice of the Peace B.M. Potter and Goodwin’s brothers, George, Alfred and Leroy, and the AGITATOR reporter. Goodwin rose and Justice Potter administered the oath. There was some little hesitation on Goodwin’s part, and Rev. Mr. Reynolds, in order to prepare him for what might be a great effort if he was about to make a confession, tried to assist the convicted man to begin his story by suggesting that he keep his mind fixed on the incidents of that fatal night just as they occurred.
He also suggested that as the time was drawing near when he would meet the Great Judge of all the world he should be careful to state the facts exactly and with no coloring or reservation.
It was a solemn moment for those clustered about the corridor in front of the iron cage in which sat a man who was looking death in the face – could count off the days, the hours almost, that he was to remain in this world. But that was about the only solemn moment of the whole three hours, for very soon after Goodwin’s story began the atmosphere of the place changed to a patient disposition on the part of those present to await the conclusion of the statement.
The following is the statement made by Goodwin, which is reported in full:
I will begin with my first acquaintance with Gertrude Taylor her in Wellsboro. That began on August 25, 1897. I was introduced to her that day by Jim Kerwan, and I fixed a date to meet her that night in front of Mr. Packer’s, on the walk. I did not meet her there, but found her with Jim Kerwan on the corner of the Stony Fork road and Conway Street. I was with young Dickinson. Kerwan says, “Come over here!” I went across the road to where they were and then Jim says to Gertrude, “I suppose you don’t want me anymore now.” Gertrude says, “No.” Kerwan and Dickinson left us, and Gertrude and I walked down Conway street and out by Mr. Robb’s and came down Main street, This was about 10 o’clock. We went over on Pearl Street and walked down around by Mathers, Graves & Co.’s store. I left her on that corner and went over to the Coles House, while she walked up the street on that side and I overtook her on the corner of the green. We then went up to Converse’s yard and sat down on an iron bench there. We were there until about one o’clock. I walked with her to her grandmother’s on the Stony Fork road. Then I came back to Converse’s yard, got my wheel and rode to my home in Charleston.
I didn’t see Gertrude again until Friday night, the 27th, when I met her with her sister in front of the post office about 9 o’clock. I asked her to take a ride. We walked up the street a ways with her sister, and then went down to where my horse was on Main street and got in the buggy. While we were riding about the streets we met Kerwan and Dickinson, and they asked me it I was going down to the dance. I told them I was not. After we had driven a little further, Gertrude asked me to take her down to the dance at Jim G----- near Stokesdale. I consented, and we drove down there, and we stayed until about 2 o’clock in the morning. Gertrude said it was then so late she could not get into the Coles House, where she was then working. I told her that she could go home with me, and she consented to that. We drove directly to my father’s house and went to bed.
The next evening I took her up to Whitneyville to the post office and was went straight back home. On Sunday afternoon I took her for a ride of three or four miles down Hill’s creek, and we got home about 11 o’clock. Gertrude remained at our house until the next Wednesday evening, when she and I drove to East Charleston to the picnic of the Maccabees. We got home about midnight. During all this time I was working about home in the daytime.
On Thursday morning, September 2nd, father and mother drove to Wellsboro to attend the Granger’s picnic, leaving Gertrude and I alone at home. Some time before that my mother had told Gertrude that I had a wife. That was the first she knew about my being married. That morning while Gertrude was lying in the hammock she said, “I heard your mother say that you had a wife, is that so?” I told her it was true, and she seemed surprised. Nothing further was said about the matter until that afternoon. We were in the parlor and Gertrude was playing on the organ. She caught sight of the revolver, which was lying on the cover of a grape basket under the stand. She went over and picked it up. It was empty. She asked if it was loaded, and when she found it was not she began fooling with it. She asked it I had some cartridges so she could shoot it. I asked her if she wasn’t afraid to shoot, and she said that she was not, for she had a revolver at home. I got some blank cartridges from the sewing machine drawer and put in the chambers and she stepped to the door and fired two or three times. There was a tin cup hanging on a nail out on the well- curb, and she went out there. She held the pistol close up to the cup and fired and blew the cup off the nail. After she had fired all the cartridges, Gertrude says, “Do you know what I was thinking of?” I said, “No.” She said, “I was thinking if I could see your wife I would shoot her just as quick as I would a d----d toad!” She had a great habit of swearing when we were along. I said, “That’s a queer idea.” She said, “I wish I could see her.” She then asked me where my wife was and where she worked. I told her that she was in Mansfield and at Mr. Beach’s. She then asked me if I went to see her often and if I was made at her. I told her that I was not mad at my wife and that I did go to see her occasionally, but I went on the sly. I told her about visiting my wife at Mr. Beach’s and about having spent the night and all day Sunday with her there. Gertrude then went and put the revolver away and soon after we were interrupted by visitors.
Late in the afternoon Gertrude was lying in the hammock and I was sitting near when she said, “If I could see your wife I would shoot her.” It was not long after that when the folks came home. That evening we took the black horse and drove to Wellsboro. She asked me coming down to get her a place to work out in the country, so she would not have to go home. We got down town about 8 o’clock and she went to the hotel to change her dress, her trunk being still there. We started back home about 10 o’clock and drove directly through East Charleston and to Mansfield, straight through the town and to Mr. Beach’s. We got there about 25 minutes to 1 o’clock. I stopped the horse a short distance from the house and left Gertrude in the buggy. Mr. Beach came to the door and invited me in. I told him I wanted to see my wife. He went up and told her I was there, and she asked him to send me up. Mr. Beach gave me the lamp and told me to go up to my wife’s room. I found her in bed, and I put the lamp on the stand and sat down on the edge of the bed. We talked about our troubles while she was lying there. I asked her if she was going to push the case against me for desertion. She said that she did not know; it would depend on circumstances, but she was afraid she would have to.
I stayed there for over an hour, and we had a good time talking and laughing. Gertrude was sitting in the buggy all this time waiting for me. We had no hard words at all. Everything was pleasant between my wife and I. She asked me when I was coming again, and I told her that I might be over the next night. But I said that perhaps Mr. Beach’s folks might not like my coming so often, so we would not let them know. I said, “If you will be out somewhere away from the house about 9 o’clock I may come over.” Then she got out of bed, put on a loose wrapper and went down stairs with me and out the front door. She sat on the steps and I stood on the ground when I again said that if she would be outside somewhere, so that Beach’s folks wouldn’t know, I would come over. She said she would, so I kissed her good night and went back to the buggy. I found Gertrude in the buggy fast asleep.
I forgot to state before this that on the way over to Mansfield Gertrude had said again that she wished she could see my wife, and had asked me to make an appointment with her so she could see her.
We drove home by the ore-bed road. The next day Gertrude and I were both at home all day. In the evening I hitched up the bay horse and we came to Wellsboro. The electric street lamps were burning when we got there. I drove up to Central Avenue and tied my horse. On the way down Gertrude again spoke about her desire to see my wife. I told her that she could see her if he would go over with me. I forgot to say that just before we started for town I went to the parlor and got my revolver and put it in my pocket. It was not loaded. After I tied my horse, Gertrude went up to get her cape from her sister, and I went after my laundry. It was 25 minutes to 8 when I spoke to Walter Lent on the street and learned that there was no band concert that evening. Gertrude came down across the green and we started up the avenue, down by the school buildings and out State street and straight by the “hollow road” to Mansfield. We drove rapidly and we didn’t talk much going over.
On reaching Mansfield we turned to the left before crossing the railroad and then went out Elmira street, across Main Street and up to the Mainesburg road to a point on top of a little knoll, near Mr. Mudge’s. [Here Goodwin exhibited a map of the main streets in Mansfield, which included the district where the murder was committed. He had drawn it with much care and it showed a familiarity with the town, for the streets were correctly laid out, and it also gave the location of most of the buildings.]
When we reached this little knoll, Gertrude said to me, “Where is your wife going to be?” I told her that my wife would be out on the road or near Mr. Beach’s house, but I thought it doubtful about her being our, it was then so late. On the way over, some where on the road, I loaded my revolver and instead of placing it back in my hip pocket I laid it on the seat between us. The four or five cartridges had been in my pocket for a long time – several weeks.
Gertrude says, “If your wife is out and sees me with you, she won’t know that it is you; so let me get out.” I says, “Aren’t you afraid to get out?” Gertrude says, “I ain’t afraid of anything.” She says, “Give me that revolver I saw you loading up.” I says. “It’s right there on the seat.” She picked up the revolver and slipped out of the buggy backwards. I left her right there and drove straight down the Mainesburg road towards Beach’s. A few rods beyond where I left Gertrude I met a single rig – one man and a gray horse. I paused and went on to Beach’s, and just beyond the house I turned around. I saw nobody; I drove back past the place where I had left Gertrude to near Mudge’s barn. I saw nobody. I turned around again and headed towards Beach’s and drove on to the house and perhaps a hundred yards beyond to a little turn in the road. There I turned about again and drove back towards Mansfield to about the same place where I had left Gertrude. Driving slowly along, I saw Gertrude come running down over what seemed to me to be a bank. She came up to the side of the buggy and jumped right in while it was still moving before I had time to pull up the horse, and she threw something down in the bottom of the buggy. She got clear into the buggy before I could stop the horse. She was crying and sobbing, and she says, “My God, Walter; take mw home, quick!” I started up the horse and we drove back the same way we came to Wellsboro.
On the road over Gertrude said, “I saw your wife, and I fooled her nicely.” She then went on to tell how she met my wife; that she had told her that she knew me; that she gave her a false name and told her that she was from Mainesburg; that she knew her sister Rena, the school teacher; that she had lost her way and wanted to be directed to the Normal. She said that my wife thought she had found a friend, and she told her she would show her the way pretty soon, and they walked along the road together. Gertrude said that when she saw she had found the right person, she said to her, “Listen!” and when my wife turned her head she pulled the revolver from under her wrap and shot her in the side of the head. When she fell she said she gave her two or three more and then she said she “run like hell,” or something of that sort. She was taking on so I kept telling her to be quiet, and I said, “Gertrude, you have got me into trouble!” I did not hear any shots.
We came into Wellsboro by the same road we went out and drove down to the fountain. It was then between 12 and 1 o’clock. Then we drove straight home. I was not out of my buggy from the time we left Wellsboro till we came back to Wellsboro from Mansfield.
This is the truth, and the whole truth. The road-cart story and all the other stories are simply fakes and untrue.
The copy of his statement was then read to Goodwin, and he assented to it all and took the pen and signed his full name, “Walter E. Goodwin,” to it and then stood up again and took the solemn oath that it was true in every particular.
After he had signed and sworn to the report our reporter asked Walter a question bearing on his interview with the Taylor girl in jail; but before he could answer, one of his brother spoke up and advised Walter not to say anymore, that he had said enough and he had better let it go at that.
Through the whole three hours consumed in making this statement Walter did not show the least emotion. When Rev. Mr. Reynolds suggested to him that this was to be his last statement and that he ought to fix his mind on the occurrences that night and tell the exact truth about them just as they happened in every particular, for he was soon to meet his Maker and he must not have a lie on his lips at the last. Walter flippantly replies, “Oh, yes; I am going to tell the truth now and give things just as they happened that night.”
His Mistaken Idea
In a private interview with Goodwin it was learned from his lips that he had the very foolish notion at the time of the murder of his wife and for a long time after, that if he did not actually do the shooting himself he was in no way guilty of the crime. If the statement he made last Wednesday is true and he was possessed with such a notion at the time he took the Taylor girl over to Mansfield on the night of the murder, it does not help his own case any now, but it makes him appear, if possible, even in a worse light than he did at the trial.
It is as follows:
The assignment of error are base on the refusal to strike out the testimony of Gertrude Taylor and of the two Deputy Sheriffs as to what the prisoner said in the interview with the girl, and on the admission of the prisoner’s letter to her. The only objection is that the Commonwealth obtained the evidence by an artifice, which the prisoner did not anticipate or suspect. There is nothing substantial in this argument. The means by which the Commonwealth obtains its evidence must vary with the circumstances of each case. In dealing with crime nicety of method and considerations of delicacy must often give way to necessity. If the rule were otherwise the testimony of accomplices and even of detectives would seldom be admissible, and crime, which works in the dark, would go unpunished.
The conversation between the prisoner and Gertrude Taylor was of an incriminating character amounting practically to a confession, and we may concede that its admissibility is to be determined by the same rule. If it had been accidentally overheard, or his letter had been carelessly dropped by her and found by the sheriff, there could have been no objection to the use of them by the Commonwealth. But there is nothing in the circumstances to produce a different result. The prisoner has no right to object unless the evidence was cajoled or forced from him by inducements or threats from those whose authority over him would make their promises or threats equivalent to duress. There was no such element here. Both the interview and the letter were the prisoner’s voluntary act on his own initiative and for his own purpose. Neither his hopes nor his fears were raised by any act of the Sheriff. In Commonwealth vs. Smith, 119 Mass., 305, the prisoner, a girl of fourteen, made a confession to the officers who had her in custody. The Judge at the trial ruled that “mere fear on the part of the defendant did not render the confession incompetent, unless induced by some improper conduct on the part of the officers,” and this was affirmed, the Court saying, “to avoid the effect of this confession the hope or fear which led the defendant to confess facts unfavorable to her must be induced by the threats, promises or conduct of the officers.” And in Wharton on Ev. In Crim. Cases, Sec. 644, it is said, citing cases, “Nor is it fatal to the admissibility of such a letter that it was in answer to a letter meant as a trap.” Though it is necessary to the admissibility of a confession that it should have been voluntarily made, that is, that it should have been made without the appliances of hope or fear from persons having authority, yet it is not necessary that it should have been the prisoner’s own spontaneous act. I will be received though it were induced by spiritual exhortations, whether of a clergyman or of any other person; or by a solemn promise of secrecy even confirmed by an oath or by any deception practiced on the prisoner, or false representation made to him for that purpose, provided there is no reason to suppose that the inducement held out was calculated to produce any untrue confession, which is the main point to be considered.” Greenleaf on Ev., Par. 229, “A confession procured by artifice is not for that reason inadmissible unless the artifice used was calculated to produce an untrue confession.” Am. & Eng. Encyc. Of Law, Tit. Confessions, sect. 6. The subject was very carefully considered in a noted case somewhat analogous to the present. Commonwealth v. Hanlon, Phila. 423. The prisoner there, being charged with murder, was put in the same cell with a criminal named Dunn for the purpose of obtaining, if possible, evidence to convict. At the trial Dunn’s testimony as to be confession made by the prisoner was admitted, and upon it the later was convicted and executed. The trial was presided over by a Judge of great experience in criminal cases, the late Judge Ludlow, assisted by Judge Brewster, and in the formers opinion refusing a new trial he states that the result of their examination of the subject was concurred in by their colleagues, the late President Judge Allison, and Judge Paxson, subsequently Chief Justice of this Court. The rule as stated by these authorities is far stronger than is required to sustain the present case.
In regard to the admission of the prisoner’s letter, we have an authority directly in point in Rex v. Derrington, 2 C. & P. 418. A prisoner gave a letter to a turnkey under promise that it should be posted; but the turnkey gave it to the prosecutor. Baron Garrow held that it was admissible, saying the only cases where what a prisoner says or writes is not evidence are, first, “where he is induced to make any confession in consequence of the prosecutor, etc., holding out any threat or promise to induce him to confess; and secondly, where the communication is privileged as being made to his counsel or attorney.”
By the well-settled rules therefore the evidence was properly received.
Judgment affirmed and records remitted for purpose of execution.
Sheriff Johnson set a number of carpenters at work yesterday morning building a fence 16 feet high about the yard in the rear of the jail and also a tight fence along the side of the jail, enclosing the entrance through which Goodwin will be taken from his cell to the gallows. There will be no opportunity whatever for curious spectators to get a sight of the condemned man. Everything will be in readiness for the execution this evening.
Goodwin does not manifest the least nervousness. He is calm and talks freely about his end. His appetite is hearty, and he eats a square meal every time. He says that he is perfectly ready to meet his Maker; he feels that his sins have been forgiven and that he will be much better off in the next world than he could possibly be in this. He remarked that he had often wondered lately if he would meet his wife in heaven; he didn’t know but she met death so suddenly that perhaps she had not repented, and that he might not meet her there.
In an interview last Monday he still stoutly maintained that he did not fire the bullets which ended the life of his wife but that the Taylor girl did the shooting. He frankly acknowledged, however, that he deserved punishment for the crime for he knew all about it beforehand. He expressed a great deal of surprise that the people refused to believe his statement made a short time ago, in which he accused the Taylor girl.
Last Sunday Goodwin had a long talk with Rev. J.C. Warren, whom he had selected as his spiritual adviser, and he claims that he made a full and free confession to him during the interview. The minister is pledged to keep the confession a secret. Goodwin, however, has dropped enough from time to time to convince those near him that he had full knowledge of the murder in advance, and that while perhaps he did not do the shooting himself it was not the Taylor girl who fired the shots.
It is not believed by those about him that Goodwin will have anything to say on the scaffold.
Wellsboro Agitator, June 15, 1898, p2
The Law’s Dread Penalty
Execution of Walter E. Goodwin – His Last Days in Jail – His Nerve on the Scaffold – His Last Words to the Jury and Deputies
Walter E. Goodwin was executed in the yard at the county jail in this borough last Thursday afternoon at 12:27 o’clock. Besides the twelve jurymen and the officers who conducted the execution there were present about fifty men who had been appointed deputies and six relatives of the condemned man. The last incident in this sad chapter in the criminal annals of the county passed without a hitch, and all those who witnessed the solemn affair felt that Sheriff Johnson and his assistants had performed their duties perfectly in all the details.
There was a crowd of curious people gathered outside the jail yard, although there was absolutely nothing for them to see, but the people hugged the fence with a morbid desire to hear “the sickening thud: of the drop from the scaffold. It was a motley crowd, and such as one as is seldom seen in this borough.
Goodwin spent his last days of confinement very much as he had spent the months before them. There was little change in his manner. He liked to receive visitors, and he greeted all with the same cordial manner and pleasant smile. He was not averse to talking about his execution, and he expressed himself as perfectly resigned to his fate and spoke about the details with the utmost composure. The last few days he spent much time in reading his Bible, and he had numerous conferences with his spiritual adviser, Rev. J.C. Warren, pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church. He ate heartily and did not lose a meal, and he appeared to be in the very best of health.
On Wednesday Goodwin received numerous visitors, some of whom he asked to come and see him for a last interview. His brothers were with him for some time, and his mother spent several hours with him. His played his banjo and sang for her at her request. She bravely kept up an outward show of good spirits so that her son should not be unnerved for the last moment. In the evening Goodwin sent for Ex-Sheriff Champaign and he got out of a sick bed to visit the young man who had been under his charge for so many months. He found Walter sitting close to the grating of his cell where he was always found by callers, and he appeared as composed as usual. In one of the apertures of the grating was a bouquet of flowers and just above it was a sign printed in ornate letters by Walter, “Cigars received with thanks.” Mr. Champaign gave him a good cigar, and Walter lit it at once and began to relate some of the jokes he had played on his guards at different times. Mr. Champaign finally asked him what he wanted of him, he said he was not feeling well and desired to get home as soon as possible. Walter then said, “Sheriff, I want to say to you that I have no hard feelings toward you. I want you to forgive me for all the harsh words I have uttered about you, and I forgive you for what you did in my case I know it was your duty. I do not want to go out of this world with any ill will towards anybody. Mr. Champaign told Walter that he felt no animosity towards him, and that he was sorry for him, that he had his full sympathy, that he was very glad to learn that he had been making preparation for the next world, and he hoped that all would be well with him there. Walter said, “Sheriff, I think you feel that I was always obedient there and that I have given you as little trouble as any prisoner you ever had.” Mr. Champaign replied that such was certainly the fact and then he shook hands with Walter and withdrew.
Rev. Mr. Warren spent some time with the prisoner Wednesday evening, and after his departure Walter spent two or three hours in writing letters to his relatives. He seemed to be much interested in this, and when he finished he folded the missives and placed them among the effects which he had designated should be sent to his parents. He played on his banjo for some time and sang “The Rock of Ages” in a fine tenor voice. His guards say that Walter had considerable musical talent. He went to bed about 3 and slept until 8 the next morning, when he ate a light breakfast with apparent relish. He immediately began reading a religious book in which he had manifested considerable interest.
At 9 o’clock Rev. Mr. Warren arrived and was greeted with a pleasant “Good Morning,” from Walter. Then began the final preparations for the last moment. They engaged in prayer and singing and it is said that Walter himself made a most fervent and affecting prayer. He expressed himself as believing that his sins had been forgiven and that all would be well with him in the unseen world. About 10 o’clock he donned a new black suit in which he was to be executed, arranged his hair and made his toilet very carefully, His brother, a sister and two brothers-in-law visited him, and their last interview was most affecting, though Walter maintained more composure than any of the others. He bade them all good bye and expressed the hope that they would meet him in heaven. Sheriff Johnson tenderhearted and considerate as he is known to be, gave the prisoner every courtesy that he desired and did not hurry the events preceding the execution.
It was only a few minutes before 12 o’clock when the jurymen were admitted to the jail, and the deputies soon followed. They assembled in the yard at the rear of the jail where there was an enclosure about 30 feet square, the wall of the jail and the engine-house forming two sides and a 16 foot fence the other two sides. A tight 8 foot board fence was built along the wall and around the side porch of the jail, so that at no time was the prisoner exposed to the curious gaze of the crowd outside.
It was 10 minutes past 12 o’clock when Sheriff Johnson and Rev. Mr. Warren, having Goodwin between them and each holding his arm, left the cell and started for the scaffold. Goodwin walked firmly and on entering the enclosure he bowed to those about the yard and mounted the steps to the platform with a buoyant tread. He stepped to the trap and looking down carefully placed his feet as near the center as possible. Then he raised his eyes and surveyed those present, and as a familiar face met his gaze he waved his hand, bowed and smiled. The youth of 22 years, standing there on the scaffold, with a clear complexion, pink cheeks, bright black eyes, skin as white and smooth as a babe’s and the picture of good health, did not look much like a hardened criminal; yet those who looked upon him knew that he was a self-confessed murderer, although he had stoutly maintained that he did not actually fire the murderous shots. On the scaffold stood Sheriff Johnson, Deputy Sheriff C.H. Vail and Deputy Sheriff Richard Smith, who was mush esteemed by Goodwin and who had long ago promised to be near him at the last moment. Rev. J.C. Warren stood at Goodwin’s right. Goodwin looked up and saw the beam and the rope over his head and the canvas cover on the scaffold, and then his eyes dropped to the men on the ground again, and still supported by the Sheriff and the minister, he scanned the faces below him and recognized others he had not seen before. He then said something in a low tone to the Sheriff. He asked the Sheriff to give him time to look around, but he said in reply to the Sheriff’s offer that he did not think he cared to shake hands with anyone. Goodwin’s brothers, Leroy, George and Alfred, and his brothers-in-law, George Root and John W. Lester, and his cousin, Mr. Charles Andress, of Coudersport, were present and witnessed the execution from the first to the last.
In order to give Walter a moment to prepare himself Sheriff Johnson addressed the jury and witnesses. He said, “Gentlemen, this is a solemn hour, it is a solemn hour for me and a solemn hour for you. It is a most trying ordeal for Walter. I want to say to him that the golden gate which opens in the west for you and for me at eventide stands open for him now. He seems to be reconciled and says that he is ready to go, and the law of the land has so decreed. Now if Mr. Goodwin has anything to say before he dies he has that opportunity.”
Walter raised his eyes and in a steady strong voice he said, “Gentlemen, I want to say to you that I feel that I am about to fall into the hands of a just God, I fear not what man can do to my body. Gentlemen, are you all prepared, as near prepared as I am?” Then he hesitated, and the Sheriff told him to take his time, for he thought that Walter ought not to go into the next world without having a chance to express himself fully and truthfully, He then asked Walter if he had anything more to say, and Walter replied, “Nothing,” but just then Deputy Sheriff Vail began to buckle the heavy straps about Goodwin’s arms, wrists, knees and ankles. He did not appear to be unnerved at this, but looked smilingly up in the Sheriff’s face as he asked, “You will give me a mew more minutes, won’t you, just to think?” Sheriff Johnson, with his eyes full of tears, willingly granted the request and for a moment all stood there in silence. It was evident that the Sheriff desired that Walter make a complete confession, and he so told him in an undertone.
Goodwin then spoke again, “I want to say to you, gentlemen, that I forgive every one of my enemies for testifying falsely against me, I forgive them all willingly.” Just then the wind caught the canvas and flapped it noisily and Goodwin’s coat was blown back, He asked the Sheriff to button his coat, and as he did it Goodwin said, “Sheriff, you are getting nervous, aren’t you? You ought not to if I do not!” The Sheriff said he wasn’t very nervous, and he spoke again to Walter in an undertone, then he turned to the audience and said, “I appreciate Walter’s awful position, and I have told him not to die with a lie on his soul but that if there is any thing he thinks he ought to say, to say it publicly now.” Goodwin kept his eyes fixed on the Sheriff a minute and then he turned calmly to those about the scaffold and said slowly and distinctly.
“Gentlemen, I want your attention a moment, please. The awful crime charged against me I am not actually guilty of. The very act or deed – the firing of the shots which killed my poor wife were fired by Gertrude Taylor. This is no lie; I could not face death and tell a lie at this time. Nobody with any kind of a mind would say that I could tell a lie at this time. I would say to the people here that I was implicated in this crime, but I did not do the actual deed.”
Rev. Mr. Warren then whispered to Goodwin, and he spoke again as follows. “Gentlemen, it is the power of Christ which gives me strength now. I can see light, I can see Him. I hope to meet you all where we will part no more.” To all outward appearances Goodwin was at that moment the coolest man in the yard.
Rev. Mr. Warren then made the following prayer, “Oh, God, our Father, Thou hast made us and read our hearts today. We humbly bow our hearts at this time. We thank Thee that Thou hast made it possible through the gospel of Christ that all sins can be forgiven. We thank Thee, Oh, God, that evidence after evidence has been secured that Walter has been saved and that he is prepared to die. Grant that he may see beyond. Bless these officers whose duty it is to carry out the law’s decree. And now we leave Walter in Thy hands and keeping. Thou art a just God, take him to Thyself, Oh, God, and keep him safe from every harm till we meet again.”
Walter stood with closed eyes and his face turned upward during the prayer and at its conclusion, while the black cap was being drawn over his head, he said firmly, “Farewell, gentlemen, I hope to meet you all in heaven.” Then, as Deputy Sheriff Veil reached for the noose and was about to adjust it, Goodwin addressed Deputy Sheriff Smith, and shouted through the cap, ‘Good-bye, Dick.’” Deputy Sheriff Veil pulled the knot tight and Sheriff Johnson at the same instant pulled the lever and Goodwin’s body dropped through the trap fully six feet and hung suspended, his feet only a few inches from the ground. Dr. M.L. Bacon stepped forward, and after 12 minutes he reported that the pulse had ceased to beat, and after 20 minutes the body was cut down and placed in a handsome cloth covered casket, which the brothers brought out from the jail. Then his brothers carried the remains out to the hearse in waiting and after they were placed therein the hearse was driven rapidly away and the large crowd dispersed.
Goodwin’s neck was broken by the fall, and there were very slight signs of life after the drop. Some of the witnesses, who were ex-Sheriffs and had performed executions, said that this was as perfect in all details as any one they ever saw.
Goodwin’s marvelous nerve at the last moment was a surprise to the Sheriff and his attendants, all of whom expected that he would break down completely when he came to the scaffold and that they would have to carry him up the steps.
Certificate of the Jurors
After the execution was over the jurors returned to the Sheriff’s office and signed the following certificate, which is duly filed according to law in the Prothonotary’s office.
Tioga County Jail, June 9, 1898
In the matter of the execution of Walter E. Goodwin, convicted of murder in the first degree. We, the undersigned jurors summoned by George W. Johnson, High Sheriff of Tioga County, to witness the execution of Walter E. Goodwin, first having been duly qualified, do hereby certify that we were present and saw the said Walter E. Goodwin executed by hanging by the neck, within the yard of the county jail in Wellsboro, Pa., at 12 o’clock and 27 minutes on Thursday, the 9th day of June, 1898, in pursuance of the provisions of the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided.
Jos. M. Johnson
Dr. S.P. Hakes
A Few Notes
Walter E. Goodwin was 22 years of age last May. He was the youngest of his father’s six children.
The scaffold was built of 6 by 6 posts, bolted together so that it can be taken apart and used again if it should ever be required. The platform was 10 by 10 feet and it stood 9 feet above the ground, and the beam was 17 feet about the ground. The opening, when the trap was sprung was 2 feet and 6 inches square, the bolts being drawn by a lever from above and the trap being drawn down by a heavy weight. The 5/8-manila rope was of the best quality, and it was presented to the Sheriff by a firm to whom he wrote for it, the firm stating that they did not make any charge for a rope to be used by such a purpose.
Sheriff Johnson hears some criticism about his allowing Goodwin so much time to talk on the scaffold. He said that Walter had repeatedly asked him to give him time to say something; on the scaffold he asked for time to look around and once, after he had said that he had nothing more to say, he asked the Sheriff for another moment to collect his thoughts and speak again. The Sheriff stated that he would have given him still more time if he had asked for it. It was the Sheriff’s own affair, and if there were any about the scaffold who did not like the proceedings they knew the way outside. Sheriff Johnson is a generous hearted, sympathetic man, and he did what he thought was right in the matter.
Goodwin’s remains were taken to the undertaking rooms of Mr. M.F. Bailey and there kept until Friday morning, when they were taken to the Keeney cemetery at Hill’s Creek and buried, Rev. Mr. Warren conducting the burial service.
Rev. Mr. Warren says that Goodwin did not accuse any other person than Gertrude Taylor in the statement he made to him that it was substantially like the published statement made recently, but there were some details given of the crime which were not published and which Walter had not made before to any other person.
Among those at the execution were Ex-Sheriff Harry Baxter, who executed George Traviss on January 15, 1885, Deputy Sheriff Brown, of Steuben county, NY, ex-Sheriff John Irvin, of Lawrenceville, Chief of Police Cassada, of Elmira, NY, and Chief of Police Ryan, of Corning, NY.
This was the second execution in this county, that of George Traviss, in 1885, being the first.
The Sheriff says that Walter was very anxious that everything should go off all right at the execution, and he spoke about it a number of times. When the Sheriff went to his cell and told him that the time was up. Walter said that he had forgotten to address one of the letters he had written the night before. He turned and wrote the address nearly and then said he believed he was all ready, and again asked if the Sheriff was sure the arrangements were also completed and that there would be no mistake made.
The gallows and the enclosure was left standing for a few days and many curious persons took the opportunity of inspecting them. The framework of the gallows was painted red, and after it was dry it was taken away last Monday morning.
And now we come to the most disgraceful incident connected with the execution, and that was the number of drunken men seen of the streets that day. The infliction of the death penalty is always a solemn and should be a sobering event, yet there were persons who came to town on Thursday and seemed to regard it as a holiday and a time to get drunk. The borough lockup was filled early in the afternoon. Eight arrests were made, and the number might well have been doubled. The crime for which Goodwin paid the forfeit of his life was committed on the night of the 3rd of last September, when he drove over to Mansfield in company with Gertrude Taylor and murdered his wife, from whom he had separated, by shooting her with a revolver. The particulars of the crime have been so recently detailed in our columns that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. It is sufficient to say that the verdict of the trial jury was fully justified by the evidence, and that the condemned man admitted his guilt and the justice of his punishment, although he insisted that the actual shooting was done by the Taylor girl.
Wellsboro Agitator, July 6, 1898, p3
? The name of Gertrude Taylor’s husband is said to be Steadman.
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