Tales from the Morgue: Murderers captured

2013-08-01T09:45:00Z 2013-08-07T12:14:05Z Tales from the Morgue: Murderers capturedJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 01, 2013 9:45 am  • 

Within a few days of the news of the murder, Tucsonans read of the killers' arrest. They offered no struggle.

The fugitives' main thought at the time of their capture was for food and drink. Such things are luxuries when one is running from the law.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 25, 1910:

 

MEN CHARGED WITH MURDER CAUGHT

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Two men charged with the murders of Kibbe and Hillpot were caught while searching for food and drink thinking the sheriff left.

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PHOENIX, Ariz., Sept. 24.—Sheriff Thompson of Gila county, having in custody Stewart and Steele, arrived at 10 o' clock, en route to Globe. They admit to Killing Kibbe and Hilpot and taking their guns, ammunition, hats and horses when they fled but claim self defense. They claim the quarrel arose over a dog and Kibbe and Hillpot were drawing weapons.

The men say they would not have been captured so easily, but were trapped by Thompson at Adamana. They saw the sheriff in the afternoon and supposed he left town but he remained. Thinking they would have to come in for water, the sheriff was hiding behind a water tank when the men passed and covered them.

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The following account of the capture of the murderers is from the Daily Globe, Globe, Arizona:

HOLBROOK, Ariz., Sept. 23.—James Steele and William R. Stewart, alleged murderers of Fred Kibbe and Albert F. Hillpot, are prisoners in the Navajo county jail, shackled hand and foot, and under heavy guard to prevent any possible attempt at escape, while the exhausted members of Sheriff Thompson's posse are taking a well earned rest before starting on the long journey back to Globe. There is no chance of the men escaping, and even if there was, their own physical conditions would prevent this. When captured, both men were utterly exhausted, footsore from their long tramp and almost starved. Even after a fair nights rest the prisoners are not in any condition to travel.

The murderers were captured at Adamana last night at just 9 o' clock by Sheriff Thompson, one of his posses which accompanied him, and three local men, the capture being effected by a clever ruse. Thompson had figured to a nicety just when the fugitives would be captured.

The men had been in hiding near Adamana all day and had seen the automobile going across country early in the day. Thinking that the entire party had returned to Holbrook, they imagined themselves safe in going to the station in search of something to eat. The sheriff and posse were in the depot at the time the men approached, and were first appraised of their presence by the barking of the station agent's dog. They quietly went out the back door of the depot just in time to come upon the two fugitives.

There was not the slightest hint of resistance, as the surprise was complete and the two men hardly capable of resisting. The foremost thought in their minds was the satisfying of their hunger and their only request was for food and drink. After being provided for, the men were kept in the depot all night, a guard of two men being kept over them.

Sheriff Thompson and his prisoners, accompanied by members of the posse, arrived here this morning on the early train, and the captured men were immediately lodged in jail.

So far as known the prisoners have made no statement and if they divulged anything to the officers it has not been given out here. They said, however, that they had seen the posse at various times during the chase, but had succeeded in eluding them every time they were in danger of being overtaken.

Sheriff Thompson will probably leave with his prisoners and a strong guard by train tomorrow for Globe by way of Phoenix, and the remainder of the party will return by automobile to Globe via Fort Apache.

Tuttle and his Indians were at Snowflake last night, while District Attorney Shute and some cowboys were at Woodruff. Word was sent them last night to come to Holbrook and join the party there.

The automobile of M.L. Naquin which took such a prominent part in the long pursuit, in in good shape, considering the roads over which it has traveled, many if which have been considered impassible for a machine. Had it not been for the machine, the opinion is that the murderers would still be at large.

More information came later from the prisoners, allowing for a timeline.

From the Star, Sept. 27, 1910:

 

STEWART AND STEELE IN THE MARICOPA JAIL
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Men admit killing Globe hunters but claim self defense
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PHOENIX, Sept. 24.—With their prisoners handcuffed and shackled with a heavy leg chain, Sheriff J. H. Thompson of Gila county and Deputies C.M. Dean and W.P. Drew arrived in this city Saturday evening, having in custody William Stewart and James Steele, self-confessed slayers of Fred Kibbe and A. F. Hillpot of Globe. The prisoners were lodged in jail Saturday night and Sheriff Thompson started with them Saturday night on the last leg of his journey from Adamana where the men were captured after one of the most spectacular chases of recent years, to Globe, the county seat in which the killing occurred.

According to Sheriff Thompson, the two men admitted to him that they killed Kibbe and Hillpot, but each claims that the act was committed in self-defense during a quarrel over a dog. Sheriff Thompson, however stated that his investigation falls sort of bearing out the contention of the prisoners and that in his opinion it was a cold-blood murder.

Steele and Stewart had each been members of Troop E, Fifth United States calvary, located at Fort Yellowstone, Wyoming. Stewart received honorable discharge about one year ago, while Steele was discharged about seven months ago. Recently they established a camp at an abandoned ford station about forty-five miles from Globe and not far from Fort Apache. Here Kibbe, a stationary engineer, and Hillpot a cigar store proprietor of Globe, found shelter the night of September 15, while upon a hunting expedition.

On the following morning Edward Johnson, a Fort Apache teamster, hauling passengers from Fort Apache to Rice, crossed the ford and found the dead bodies of the two men. He carried the news to Rice, and from there a telegram was sent to Sheriff Thompson, notifying him of the murder. That began the chase which lasted six days and culminated on Thursday night at Adamana, many miles from the site of the killing.

Before leaving the camp, Stewart and Steele possessed themselves of the hats, guns, revolvers, ammunition, and horses of the dead men. It is also believed they robbed the bodies of upwards of $100 which friends of the dead men say it was known they carried to meet contingent expenses incidental to their hunting trip. It is claimed they even took the shoes from the feet of the dead men, but evidently found they did not fit and so left them.

Sheriff Thompson said last night that he expected to encounter a spirited resistance from the men, but said that when he and his prisoners finally came together he and his deputy were so situated that they managed to secure the drop on Steele and Stewart before they were aware that they were observed. The men were known to be heading for Adamana and Sheriff Thompson and Deputy Dean managed to round them and reach Adamana in advance. In the evening the officers lay in wait at the railroad water tank, knowing that the two men would be obliged to come there for water. About 9 o' clock Steele and Stewart were seen walking down the track together, they each had cached their rifles and carried only side arms. When they came within the shadow of the tank the officers poked the muzzles of their rifles almost to the faces of the men and demanded them to throw up their hands. Taken completely by surprise and realizing the officers would take no chances, they complied. They exhibited great surprise at finding the officers still at Adamana, stating they knew the man hunters had been there around the afternoon but supposed they had gone on.

The men were disarmed and were chained together. All night Sheriff Thompson and Deputy Dean sat guard over them in the grocery store of Al Stevens at Adamana and yesterday started their return journey. Deputy Drew, who had been at Holbrook, joined the party just before it left Adamana.

Steele and Stewart have the appearance of desperate men and it is considered fortunate that the officers were able to effect their capture without a serious encounter.

The next hurdle would be keeping them captured men alive until they could be tried. Threats of a lynching meant the sheriff would need to move the prisoners in secret.

 

ACCUSED MEN TAKEN TO GLOBE
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Alleged Tonto Basin Murderers Taken to Globe—Lynching Bee Threatened.
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PHOENIX, Sept. 27.—James Steele and William Stewart, alleged murderers of Fred Kibbe and A. P. Hillpot, who occupied a cell in the Maricopa county jail Saturday night left Phoenix yesterday afternoon under guard of Sheriff Henry Thompson and Deputies C. M. Dean an W. P. Drew for Globe.

In order to avoid the crowds which it was feared would gather at the evening train, Sheriff Thompson went by way of Roosevelt in an automobile, his prisoners being handcuffed together and with chains on their ankles. The automobile was driven by Bort Arendt.

Both prisoners presented a desperate appearance when brought to Phoenix Saturday night. Their hard travel through the mountains had reduced them to physical exhaustion, and their clothes were crumpled and dirty from sleeping on the ground.

When taken from the jail both walked with the carriage of soldiers and looked neither to the right or left. Steele wore a Van Dyke beard and was the better dressed of the two men. Properly dressed he would have passed for a professional man. Stewart looked more like a real criminal and his countenance showed that his intelligence is far below the average.

Information reached Sheriff Thompson yesterday that there was some talk of a lynching bee for the two at Globe, that was one reason why the sheriff left by automobile, rather than take the train route.

The Morgue Lady must note that, although she has not yet found an article explaining it, it was later discovered that James Steele was an alias for John B. Goodwin.

More to come.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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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