Death in Knoxville Part 3: A Season of Retribution

This is Part 3 of Death in Knoxville. Need to catch up?

Part 1     Part 2

After killing Minnie, Peter fled to the small town of Middleboro, Kentucky. He may have known someone there. But after only a week, he went home to Knoxville.

He was approached almost immediately by Deputy Sheriff Singleton. In a panic, he denied that he was Peter Turner.

The policeman shook his head. He’d known Turner prior to the murder; Knoxville was not such a large town. Why deny it?

Peter, hopeless, admitted his identity and voluntarily handed over his pistol. He must have intended to turn himself in because he was carrying a handwritten narrative about his relations with Mrs. Scott; a similar statement in the deceased woman’s handwriting, and a complete confession of the crime.

Turner was arrested and taken to jail.

Shortly after he was booked, Peter was taken to Sheriff Reeder’s office. Peter admitted he shot Minnie three times, and told the sheriff the two had had a suicide pact. Peter had been ready to go through with it, but when he fired at himself, the pistol snapped.

The prisoner was still wearing his own clothes, and Singleton had made sure he wasn’t carrying any weapons. The sheriff asked Turner to empty his pockets to see what else he was carrying. According to the court records, Peter had a small packet on him that contained “mashed up beans, some match heads broken up and a few dead spiders, all wrapped up together, indicating further preparation to take his life.”

It was, as The Leaf-Chronicle, said, “a decoction which would kill anything on earth.”

Peter was tried for first-degree murder in April 1907, three weeks after committing the crime.

His attorney, Frank Sanders, argued that Turner was insane at the time he committed the act. The prisoner’s own narrative proved he was incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. “The enormity of this act,” Sanders argued, “and the absence of any motive reinforces the evidence of insanity.”

But Sanders could produce no witness to testify that Turner had been insane prior to shooting Minnie Scott nor that he had hereditary insanity.

Deputy Singleton testified. He described Mrs. Scott’s statement, in which she gave a complete history of her relations with Peter Turner and their plans to die together. Mrs. Scott’s statement was with a detective who had investigated the crime, but neither the detective nor the statement were in court.

At last, it was time to hear from Peter Turner.

Go to Part 4

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