Tales from the Morgue: Goodwin, alias Steele, on trial

2013-08-02T09:45:00Z 2013-08-07T12:13:42Z Tales from the Morgue: Goodwin, alias Steele, on trialJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 02, 2013 9:45 am  • 

Few doubted the guilt of the men accused of killing Fred Kibbe and Alfred Hilpot, but the big surprise in the trial of John Goodwin was that he offered no defense. His lawyer merely argued that the prosecution didn't prove its case.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Dec. 2, 1910 (WARNING: graphic content):

KIBBE MURDER THEORY OF THE PROSECUTION
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Surprise at Close of Case Was the Fact that Defense Did Not Offer Any Testimony of Self Defense as Expected
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GLOBE, Ariz., Dec. 1.—A great surprise was sprung in the sudden termination of the trial of John B. Goodwin, alias Steele, yesterday afternoon, when after District Attorney Walter Shute having rested the case of the territory with the identification by Martha Kibbe of the gold watch and chain taken by Sheriff Thompson at Adamana from "Steele" as the property of her murdered husband, Attorney Thomas Flannigan announces that the defense had no witnesses to examine. This followed soon after a motion by the defense asking the court to instruct the jury to bring in a verdict of acquittal on the grounds that the defendant had not been connected up by the prosecution with the specific offense charged—the killing of Kibbe, and which was overruled by the court.

Attorney Murphy did not offer any argument but contented himself with a presentation of a construction of the evidence, beginning with the day of Sept. 13, when Kibbe, with Hilpot, left home, for the mountains, camping at Tuttle's station, which was run by "Steele" and Stewart. The circumstances indicating a premeditated, cold-blooded murder, the subsequent flight of 150 miles through a rough, unpopulated country, the capture and search of the suspected men, and the finding of articles identified as having belonged to Kibbe and Hilpot in the possession of Steele and Stewart, and the six-shooter claimned to have been the weapon of Steele were related. Most of the facts recited had been clearly established, concerning the events that preceeded the alleged nmyurder and subsequent thereto also the fact that four shots and no more had been fired about eight o'clocl on the evening of September 15th. These sounds were heard by neighbors living about 300 yards from the scene, who were started while singing first by a sharp, distinct shot, succeeded by a few seconds of silence, then three more shots, muffled and less distinct, but in rapid succession.

Mute Evidence

Here theory and circumstances supplied the details for the territory, Attorney Murphy referring to the diagram of the house where the two men met death, and calling the dead bodies "mute evidence" of the crime. The scene itself which greeted the horrified gaze of the coroner, officers and others, when the dining room in which the bodies lay was examined, the prosecution said furnished the remaining details of the crime. Kibbe's body lay in its own pool of blood on the floor, with head partly under an eight-foot dining table situated in a southeast corner of the room, a chair on which the dead man had presumably been sitting when shot having tipped forward with the back of the chair up, indicating that Kibbe had been sitting with his back to the table with elbows probably resting on the edge. What seemed to confirm the conclusion, the attorney said, was the fact that a half-filled pipe had fallen on the table and there were spots of blood on the table top, that had dripped there as Kibbe's body slipped down out of the chair, lifeless.

Hilpot Lying on Floor

The bullet, which killed Kibbe entered the left eye, and to the left was a bed in the corner, and nearby the door into the kitchen, from wither of which points he might have been killed. Theory of the prosecution was that when Kibbe was killed, Hilpot was lying, as his body was found, in the northeast corner of the dining room opposite the kitchen door, with his head pillowed on his saddle flung in the corner, and that he and Kibbe were smoking and talking up to the tragic moment. The evidence on which the territory relied to substantiate this theory, was the position in which Hilpot's body was found, the pipe, its contents charred and half burned lying by his side, a bullet hole near his neck in the floor as though fired from above, and two bullet wounds in the body, one penetrating the shoulder toward the kitchen door, the other entering the breast, neither of which was considered necessarily fatal. Then there was the knife thrust in the throat, the fractured skull, struck probably with the broken rifle found nearby, the dent of the trigger showing in the wound, and the brains and blood spattered on the wall in that corner where the body lay. The assistant district attorney concluded that it had been a concerted attack in which Kibbe and Hilpot were slain; that Steele with the six-shooter had fired the first "distinct" and accurate shot, which killed Kibbe as he sat at the table, and that probably the other man, Stewart, had fired the other three "muffled" shots with the Winchester which wounded Hilpot, and then clubbed him to death, neither man having moved, or having been moved after the alleged crime was committed. That practically completed the presentation of the theory of the territory. Attorney Thomas Flannigan is expected to make a strong plea today on a line already indicated that the territory has failed to connect Goodwin with the killing of Kibbe beyond a reasonable doubt, or sufficient to warrant a verdict of guilty.

The Evidence

The witnesses heard yesterday were Judge Hinson Thomas, Abe Johnson, a stage driver; Julian Gjergen, a government employe; M. E. Conboy, a druggist; Mrs. M. E. Conboy, George Zimmerly, W. Tuttle, of Rice, owner of the Tuttle station; Sheriff J. H. Thompson and Mrs. Martha Kibbe. Coroner Thomas testified as to the relative position of the bodies, the bullet holes and wounds. His testimony was corroborated by Johnson, Gjergen and others. Gjergen going into quite a little detail. Mr. and Mrs. Conboy were on a vacation trip in September and camped near Tuttle's station. They related hearing the shots about 8 o'clock on the evening of September 15th, and the disappearance of Steele and Stewart. All agreed on one point that the first shot was distinct, and was followed after a few seconds' intermission by three other shots not so loud. They illustrated the timing of the shots by clapping their hands. During the vital description of the incidents of that evening, the scene of the murder, Goodwin, the accused man, never showed the slightest nervous tremor.

Tuttle added a new feature to the testimony by averring that Steele had in his possession a six-shooter, similar to the one found by the sheriff, eight or ten days ago before the 15th. It was hanging on the dining room wall. He also noticed the rifle there at that time and identified the broken rifle as the same one. It was 30-40. The 45-Colt and rifle were made exhibits for the territory. The district attorney announced that he would later establish that the revolver was the one taken from Steele when arrested. Tuttle was also at the scene of the murder on the 16th. He was asked by the defense whether he did not see a cartridge belt in the room or wether the dead men had been armed. The witness did not see any cartridge belt nor if Kibbe and Hilpot had weapons.

This differs a bit from the earlier stories that indicated Hilpot put up a valiant struggle for his life. Perhaps either the reporter was speculating or the reporter's source was doing so.

Next: Verdicts and sentences.

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About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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