“Mysterious disappearances don’t occur,” William J. Burns, the head of the William J. Burns National Detective Agency, said flatly. He was talking to a reporter from The Houston Post, who was interviewing him for the December 22 edition of the paper.

Burns was a famed detective in his day. Prior to opening his own agency, he was a well-known detective with the United States Secret Service.

William J. Burns

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Tennessee’s Governor Malcolm Patterson occasionally granted reprieves to a condemned prisoner so he could study the case first. But the governor was going to be married December 7, three days before the hanging. Peter’s case didn’t appear to register in his consciousness.

On December 9, Sheriff Reeder prepared for the execution, noting the rope and scaffolding were ready to be used the following day. But late that evening, Governor Patterson granted a reprieve until January 11, 1908.

Tennessee’s Governor Malcolm Patterson

 

Ultimately, the governor agreed with the courts. Turner was guilty of premeditated homicide. On January 10, Peter was notified the he would be hanged the next day at 1:30 p.m.

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Peter said he left town after Minnie shot herself at Mrs. Hall’s home. He’d gone to Etowah, Tennessee, 70 miles south of Knoxville. He stayed there through Thanksgiving and Christmas. He stayed through the New Year. He might’ve stayed forever, if Minnie hadn’t written to him in February and asked him to come home.

For a month, he saw her every day and they were happy. Then she began to talk of suicide again.

At last, Peter agreed. They decided to carry out their suicide pact on March 13 but his nerve failed him again. Two days later, Minnie confronted him: she was determined to end her life that day.

“Go home,” he told her.

“If I ever go in that home again, I’ll be carried in,” Minnie cried fiercely. “I mean to get out of my worry this night, if I have to walk down to the bridge and jump off in the river.”

Minnie insisted on visiting her cousin before she died and Peter asked why she was so anxious to go. Minnie said she had told her husband that she was going there and “I want the last thing I told Will to be true.”

They agreed to meet in a few hours, on the corner of Church and Lithgow. While Minnie visited her cousin, Peter fortified himself with alcohol.

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