Death in Knoxville Part 4: A Doomed Love

This is Part 4 of Death in Knoxville

Peter’s attorney’s attempt to plead insanity had seemingly failed, but he pushed forward. Turner’s narrative was read aloud in the still courtroom. In it, he said he had known Minnie Scott for four years and they were very attached to each other.

The first time Minnie had been shot was at Mrs. Hall’s home, and by then her affair with Peter had been going on for some time. It’s interesting that neither the court nor the newspapers explained why Minnie didn’t leave her husband. Peter was not apparently not questioned on this point.

Knoxville County Courthouse-circa 1900 (LOC)


Minnie had been worried about the gossip, Sanders explained. She had begged Peter to kill her; over and over; she had pleaded with him.

In his narrative, Peter stated that each time Minnie asked him to end her life, he had promised to do it but he never could. One day, Minnie said bitterly, “Jack, you’ve lied to me so much, until I hate to make you lie any more.”

This is Peter’s narrative regarding the incident in Mrs. Hall’s kitchen:

“We met there she seemed to still be worried, so I pulled her down on my lap and talked with her a while. She wanted some beer, so I goes and gets some beer and whisky…Minnie gets up and shuts both kitchen doors, comes back and sat down side me, and we talked on a while, and finally she put one arm around my neck and kissed me three or four times, and said, ‘Jack, I have a good mind to blow your brains out and kill myself.’

“I laughed and said, ‘If I was you, I wouldn’t spile my good mind.’

“I didn’t think of her having any gun. She begin to cry, and said, ‘Now I mean that,’ and I said, ‘I know you do.’ She then taken a little gun from her bosom, and I grabbed her and taken it, and we sat down and talked a while, and she taken hold of my hand and placed the barrel of that gun in her left ear and said to me, ‘Now pull the trigger.’ 

“I said, ‘Quit your foolishness.’ She said, ‘I am not fooling.’ So she put her finger on mine and tried to press on the trigger; but I managed to hold her hand and move the gun from her ear, but in so doing the gun went off, and thus it was that she got shot.”

According to Peter, then, Minnie Scott was suicidal and possibly homicidal. Reaction in the courtroom was mixed and a murmur arose. The elderly judge banged his gavel and glared at the spectators into silence. When it was silent, he sat back in his chair and motioned to the attorneys to proceed.

Peter Turner looked at Sanders nervously but the attorney’s face was a mask. The prisoner listened without moving a muscle as the last part of his narrative was read aloud.

Go to Part 5


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