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PETTIT Murder trial (much inPETTIT Murder trial

PETTIT Murder trial (much in the newspapers - just didn't type it all)
-- Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 1 April 1893 p1
The end of the great Pettit murder case is drawing near. Messrs. George P. Haywood and AB Anderson, attorneys for the State in the Pettit case March 29 sent to the Supreme court at Indianapolis their brief in answer to the appeal of the defense for a new trial in the celebrated cause. The appeal covers 238 pages of printed matter and is a voluminous and complete review of the case from the State’s attorneys. An early consideration is expected in the Supreme court. It is the custom to consider State cases at the earliest possible moment as the appellant is always imprisoned, of course, during the court’s deliberations, and if he is not guilty in the judgment of the court, of if he merits a new trial, he should not be obliged to suffer the delay which necessarily attends judgment in many civil cases. A verdict from the court may be given in a month.

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 3 Nov 1893 p.1

After the death of W. F. Pettit, W. M. White, the stenographer in the trial, wrote to Mrs. Laura Shields, the sister of Mrs. Pettit and asked what disposition he should make of the ring taken from Mrs. Pettit's finger at the Disinterment. He received the following reply WEST MONROE, N. Y., Oct. 28, 1893.— WM. M. WHITE, CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. DEAR SIR:—Yours of the 25th inst. received last mail. May I add to the obligations I owe you by asking you to contradict in the Crawfordsville papers the statement that Pettit was buried by his victim. Warden French notified Pettit's relatives in Oswego (not hers) of his death, with a request as to the disposition to be made of his remains, Without notifying her family and with the assurance which is a noted characteristic of his family they ordered the remains sent to West Monroe. Receiving a letter last Saturday night that he was dead and the remains would reach this place Sunday night or Monday morning, I immediately telegraphed them that we would not permit the interment here. The remains were placed by the side of his father in Oswego. Believing in his guilt as we do we could not do otherwise. A.dine has always lived with us and will continue to do so. I will be pleased to have you forward the ring us a memento of the sad past. Yours truly, LAURA E. SHIELDS.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Tuesday, 21 Jan. 1890

Yesterday afternoon the grand jury of Tippecanoe County returned a joint indictment against W. Fred Pettit and Mrs. Elma C. Whitehead on a charge of murder in the first degree. The report of the jury was not made public, but a warrant was issued and placed in the hands of the sheriff for the immediate arrest of Mrs. Whitehead. A deputy was dispatched to Shawnee Mound and arrived at the residence of David Meharry at about 8 o’clock last night. The Lafayette Journal gives the following particulars of her arrest: “A cheerful fire burned on the hearth and it seemed almost sacrilege to break the pleasure of that circle with such cruel news. After discussing the weather for a few minutes, the deputy told Mrs. Whitehead he had a warrant for her arrest. The information was received with composure by herself and father. It was not until a half hour later when Mrs. Whitehead had prepared herself for the cold, cheerless drive before her that she evinced signs of emotion. Her admirable self control gave way then and she cried without restraint. The cold north wind made the drive here uncomfortable. Mrs. Whitehead talked to her guardian but did not refer to the case which must have been her ruling though. When they arrived here both were chilled through and it required some time to warm. They arrived in the city just as the court house clock proclaimed the hour of midnight. It was an unheeded welcome by the prisoner. After warming Mrs. Whitehead was shown to her cell. Care had been taken to arrange a comfortable couch for her and she was given the cell in the female department which opens into the dining hall.

It was the most commodious and cheerful, if such a term can be used in speaking of a prison, in the set of cells in that department. Mrs. Whitehead evinced excellent composure but it is questionable if she slept any last night.
This morning as soon as Pettit rouses from sleep, which was not broken by Mrs. Whitehead’s arrival last night, the warrant will be read to him. The arrest of Mr. Whitehead will be a great surprise to many, but to others it seems but the natural sequence of events which have gone before. The first intimation the public had that such a thing might follow was when she went before the grand jury with a cut and dried refusal to answer questions on the pretense that to do so would have a tendency to criminate herself. After making this declaration and the grand jury notifying the court, who held her in contempt, but that her evidence was not desired, the matter of returning of an indictment against her does not surprise those who have given the case much thought

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal 22 Jan 1890

Yesterday morning W. F. Pettit and Mrs. Elma C. Whitehead were taken before Judge Langdon to answer to the indictment brought against them by the grand jury. From the Lafayette Call and the Courier we glean the following: Coffroth & Stuart entered their plea for Mrs. Whitehead and gave notice in her behalf of severance in her defense: that is, that she stood upon her own separate defense. The first question submitted was that of bail for Mrs. Whitehead. The court suggested that the counsel on the two sides might come to some agreement as to bail, if possible. Failing in that, each could, of course, then pursue his own remedy. It seemed to be the understanding that the State had offered to admit Mrs. Whitehead to bail in $10,000 if defense would agree that they will not apply for a writ of habeas corpus for Pettit. In the afternoon Judge Coffroth and Colonel DeHart went before Judge Langdon, and reciting the proposition of the Prosecutor as to admitting Mrs. Whitehead to bail, as above mentioned. Judge Coffroth said he was not of Pettit’s counsel and could make no agreement of that sort. He thought, however, that his motion made in the morning, that his client, Mrs. Whitehead, be admitted to bail, should be passed upon, and the Prosecutor required to decide whether he would or would not make an agreement to admit her to bail.

The Prosecutor denied having made any such proposition as that stated. If the prosecution makes no agreement as to bail for Mrs. Whitehead, there will be a preliminary hearing before the Circuit Court, on the motion, to determine whether there is sufficient ground for holding her without bail.

The Journal says the attorneys of the defendants will undoubtedly bring habeas corpus proceedings to test the matter of bail and may possibly begin today. The Call sensibly remarks that the uttermost demands of gossips have been yielded to, and both these parties are in prison under formal indictment for a most monstrous crime. It is proper to remember that the case has passed the stage of idle gossip and is now to be tried upon evidence, and not upon presumption or rumor or through the columns of the press. Nor is it to be forgotten that charge and arrest do not fix crime, and that every accused person is by statute presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Thursday 23 January 1890

The Lafayette Call of yesterday says that Prosecutor Haywood and Col. W. C. Wilson, assistant prosecutor in the Pettit case verbally stated to the court their willingness that Mrs. Elma C. Whitehead should be admitted to bail they said, in the sum of $10,000, believing, they said, that this would be amply sufficient to secure her attendance to answer the indictment, which was all they wanted. Word was telegraphed to her father, who lives, however, at Shawnee Mound, nearly ten miles from the nearest telegraph station. David Meharry received the telegram announcing the admission of his daughter to bail about 3 p.m. In twenty minutes after Mrs. Whitehead, accompanied by Messrs. Coffroth & Reese, her counsel, her father, brother, Miss Ollie Reese, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Meharry, entered the court room, where Mr. Frank Acheson was in waiting. Messrs. David and Samuel Meharry and Frank Acheson were offered as bondsmen. On interrogation by the court each qualified in unencumbered real estate to an amount exceeding $10,000, and the bond was accepted and the sureties sworn. The Prosecutor raised the question of arraignment. Counsel for Mrs. Whitehead then renewed the statement that waived arraignment and that her plea was “not guilty.”

The criminal docket has precedence over any other business. The case will be set down in regular course and will be heard when the court is able to hear it.

Mrs. Whitehead spent a comfortable night despite the cold. Her faithful attendant, Miss Ollie Reese, who accompanied her up to the city on the cold and dreary ride of Monday night, following the arrest, and has shared her cot ever since, is still with her, and will remain as long as permitted, or until her release. The girl’s faith in her innocence has remained unshaken throughout al that has passed, and so believing, she volunteered to accompany her, of permitted, to the end, and share her imprisonment. Mrs. Whitehead bears up with undaunted courage and fortitude, and in fact does not seem to fully realize, even yet, as her friends do, the position in which innocent though they believe her, she is placed. Her brother, Ethan S. Meharry, followed her up in a buggy alone on the night of the arrest, his wife and child having left their own home, and gone over to the residence of his father, whose housekeeper and companion, his daughter, Mrs. Whitehead, was to stay until her return.

Mrs. Whitehead has been quartered in the room (which is really but a corridor or passage way) opening off of the dining room and connecting with the bath room. The ventilation here is much better than it could be in a close cell—a most acceptable relief—and everything has been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances by Sheriff McKee and his family. She takes her meals with the family in their own dining room.

Last night there were three drunken women brought in and put in the woman’s department, who “proceeded to make Rome howl.” Immediately on learning of this undesirable addition to the inmates of the establishment, Sheriff McKee’s family considerately removed Mrs. Whitehead to one of their own private apartments for the night.

The Sheriff and his family have treated this unfortunate lady with the very greatest kindness throughout, and thereby done much to mitigate the asperities of her situation. She has declined to talk about her case and has only once broken the rule. Last evening at the supper table, during the conversation, she impulsively said in response to some remark, “Why, I know no more about this thing than you do. Whatever there is about the poisoning of that woman, I am innocent of any part of lot in it—I don’t know one single thing about it.” This is the only expression concerning about her case into which she has been surprised, since her arrest.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Monday, 24 Feb. 1890
The Attica Democrat has brought to light a new point in the Pettit case. It says: “It comes to the Democrat this week from authority that is pretty reliable that it was only six days after the death of Mrs. Pettit that Mr. Pettit went to the residence of Uncle David Meharry and there made a formal request of him for the hand of his daughter, Mrs. Whitehead, in marriage. This was so unexpected and seemed so outrageously inappropriate that Mr. Meharry could not conceal his anger and ordered the reverend gentleman off of the premises. Whether this visit was made to her father with the knowledge and consent of Mrs. Whitehead is not known but will be very damaging to the defendant. In all the newspaper comments on this case this visit has never been mentioned, but it will be one of the strongest points for conviction brought out in the trial. It shows conclusively that, though Mr. Pettit did not give his wife strychnine with evil intent, he was very anxious to make Mrs. Whitehead his wife—and this is what caused his downfall and ruin.”
Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Tuesday, 2 Sept. 1890 Edition

Lafayette Ind., Sept. 2—Perhaps no case in recent years has attracted such interest in Indiana as the trial of Mrs. Elma C. Whitehead, which is set down in the circuit court of this county for Sept. 3. The defendant is a widow of 35 years of age, who is jointly indicted with Rev. William F. Pettit, a prominent Methodist minister, for the murder by poison of Mrs. Hattie Pettit, wife of the latter.
Mrs. Pettit died on July 17, 1889, at Shawnee Mound, this county, under suspicious circumstances. On July 14, after having partaken of a cup of tea that her husband had made for her, she complained of pains in her stomach. It was then ascertained that the cup in which the tea was steeped had previously contained mixed strychnine for rats. Mrs. Pettit gradually grew worse and died on the 17th. She was buried at West Monroe, N. Y. Immediately upon the return of Mr. Petit from the burial of his wife, he visited Mrs. Whitehead in this city and the two returned to Shawnee Mound. It was not long before rumors were put in circulation as to the cause of Mrs. Pettit’s death. The body was exhumed and strychnine was found. Pettit was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, where he had gone after things began to grow too hot for him among his own congregation. Pettit said he could not get justice in this county and his case was venued to Montgomery County, where it is set for hearing on the 8th of October. The State Attorney wants Pettit to be tried first, and it is thought that if this can not be done he will have the indictment against Mrs. Whitehead quashed. Pettit is a man of marked ability, is prominent in Mason bodies, and at the time of his arrest was the Grand Prelate of the Grand Commandery of Indiana. The State claims strong evidence of an attachment between Pettit and Mrs. Whitehead, and a conspiracy to remove Mrs. Pettit that their marriage might be legally accomplished.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Wednesday, 19 March 1890
Yesterday Judge Langdon overruled the motion of the prosecution to quash the writ of habeas corpus proceedings in the Pettit case. Taking the testimony then began when David Meharry was called and testified. He was on the stand all the afternoon and denied in flat footed terms that Pettit had ever asked him for the hand of his daughter in marriage or that he had ever asked to become a member of his family. There are eighty witnesses to examine and Judge Langdon will hold night sessions.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Saturday, 11 Oct. 1890
In view of the fact that on next Monday begins a trial which will attract more than national interest and comment it seems a proper preliminary to give a short sketch of its central figure, inasmuch as our citizens know little or nothing of his history previous to the past three years. William Fred Pettit was born in Oswego, New York on January 1, 1859. After graduating from the common schools he entered the Mexico, N. Y., academy. He graduated in June 1878, and then entered the law office of French & Stone in Mexico. In the winter of 1879-80, he taught school, and was ordained a local preacher. It was in the spring of 1880 that he met his late wife, Hattie E. Sperry, who was a schoolteacher in South Bend, Ind., and who had returned home to New York to attend the golden wedding of her parents. He was married to Miss Sperry January 21, 1881, and the following July came to South Bend to accept the principalship of the Laurel Public School of that city.
He held this position until April 1882, when Studebaker Brothers offered him the position of collector which he accepted. He held this position until May 1, 1881, when he entered the ministry. The manner in which he came to enter the ministry is as follows: There was in February ’82 a great revival in South Bend conducted by H. A. Merrill, now of the Congregational Church of Kansas, and Rev. W. H. Hickman, now president of Clark University. Pettit professed deep conviction and upon the solicitation of Mr. Hickman and his wife resolved to enter the ministry. His first appointment was the North Liberty circuit, and in the fall of ’86 he was admitted to the conference on trial as ordained local deacon. In the Fall of ’88 he was admitted to full connection having been sent during the Fall of ’87 to Shawnee Mound. Here his famous history begins. He was popular everywhere in the church, in politics and in Masonry, where he held the office of Grand Prelate of Indiana. No one thought ill of him until after the death of his wife, which occurred July 17, 1889. Soon whispers began and we all know with what result. So loud had they become by the time of the convening of the conference that Fall that he judged it wise to withdraw from the conference and church under complaint. He then went to Lafayette and was admitted to the bar. Being short of funds, however, he laid his practice aside, and as a means of livelihood took an agency from a Chicago Book Company, and was engaged in this business when arrested in Columbus last winter for the murder of his wife. His subsequent history is familiar to us all and needs no repetition here. The trial begins Monday which should forever settle the question of guilt or innocence for all reasonable minds.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Wednesday, 3 Sept. 1890

Lafayette, Ind., September 3—on the assembling of the Circuit Court this morning, Prosecutor George F. Haywood filed a motion to nol pros the case as to Elma C. Whitehead on account of the absence of certain testimony. Judge Rabb sustained the motion made thus ending the case against Mrs. Whitehead on this indictmen
The above telegram was shown Mr. Pettit at the jail shortly before noon today as he sat in his room among his books and flowers. He read it through and handed it back with a smile which might be interpreted any way. He had nothing to say and if the news disturbed him he failed to show it in the least. It was the first he had heard of the dismissal, but it was plain that he was not surprised at the news.  This practically ends matters now until the Pettit case comes up in this court October 8th. The expected motion for continuance seems not to have been made and some speculation has been indulged in on this account. It is also a surprise to some that the defense made no effort to fight the motion to nol pros, sin ce they seem to thing that the trying of the Whitehead case first would have been so favorable to their cause. Those interested in the defense state that the action of the prosecution was the result of fear for the outcome of the case. Said one: “They have no case against Mrs. Whitehead that could lead to a conviction, and such an issue must of course materially weaken the case against Pettit, as it would destroy the charge of conspiracy upon which they have laid so much stress. Even if the case were strong against her it would be most difficult to convict her on account of her sex, family and previous good character. The prosecution knows just how its case stands, and not only that public sentiment would be turned in Pettit’s favor by Mrs. Whitehead’s acquittal, but that they would have to lay bare their whole line of attack against him in her trial, and thus give his lawyers an opportunity of shattering their evidence by rebuttal. It shows they have a weak case against both of them, and it was a tricky move to avoid what I consider a fair fight.”

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal The short telegram which appeared in The Journal last night to the effect that a motion for continuance would be made in the Pettit case here this morning roused up the lawyers in the case. Early this morning Judge Davidson visited The Journal and stated that the defense had been treated unfairly by the message. He said that if such a motion were made, it would be made by the State, for so far as he knew his side would take no such action. Ten minutes after Prosecutors Anderson and Haywood were holding The Journal up for not stating that if such a motion were made it would be by the defense. Mr. Haywood, who came down last evening, said that yesterday afternoon Attorneys Stewart and Kumler had come to him in Lafayette and announced that they would make a motion in the case here at 10 o’clock this morning. They refused to reveal the nature of the motion although they intimated that it would be a motion for continuance. “Yes,” said Anderson, “I have no doubt such a motion will be made by them in the expectation of having Judge Snyder overrule it. They merely want to enter another exception in the case.” The Journal could not enlighten the gentlemen beyond the text of the telegram so all concluded to await developments. Mr. Pettit was seen at the jail by The Journal immediately afterwards and when asked if he had received any intimation of such a motion to be made replied that he had not. He was in high feather, however, and seemed well pleased with the world. He said that the trial could not begin too quick for him. At about 10 o’clock Pettit’s attorneys, Kumler, Gaylord, DeHart and Stuart put in an appearance and proceeded to Judge Davidson’s office. They passed into the back room and very soon Mr. Pettit himself was ushered in under charge of a bailiff. A long consultation was held and looking through the glass door one might observe Mr. Pettit in the midst of his lawyers busily writing at the table. At shortly before twelve they proceeded to the court house and filed the following motion for a continuance which Judge Snyder decided to hear at 1:30.

The Affidavit
After the usual preliminaries drawn up in a most lawyer-like manner, the affiant swears that he is not guilty of the crime charged against him and that if he can have reasonable time to secure attendance of witnesses he will be able to prove his innocence; that he can not safely go to trial at this term of court because of the absence of an important, material and competent witness, viz: Mrs. Emiline C. Ford, that he was married to his said wife on January 27, 1881 at West Monroe, N. Y.; that one child was born to them, that for about six months after his marriage they lived at West Monroe and for the next six years in St. Joseph County, Indiana; that they then came to Shawnee Mound, Ind., and resided there until the 19th of July 1889, that said Mrs. Ford now resides and for more than ten years past has resided in South Bend, but is temporarily on a visit at East Portland, Oregon., that she is the aunt of said Hattie E. Pettit and was for a long time almost a member of affiant’s family; that the relations between them were of a most intimate character; that Mrs. Ford was a warm  personal friend of affiant’s wife and when they first came to Indiana in July 1881, they went to the home of Mrs. Ford remaining there until August, when they secured rooms about three blocks away from the home of Mrs. Ford. During all the time they lived in South Bend and in St. Joseph County, Mrs. Ford was frequently at affiant’s home and affiant and wife were frequently at Mrs. Ford’s and Mrs. Ford frequently saw affiant and wife together; that Mrs. Ford is familiar with and knows the relations that existed between affiant and wife, the manner of which he treated her and her conduct towards him; then in the summer or fall of 1888 affiant’s wife visited Mrs. Ford at South Bend; that in May 1889 Mrs. Ford visited affiant and his wife at Shawnee Mound; that affiant’s wife visited in St. Joseph County in June 1889, and while there was frequently at the home of Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Ford saw much of her from that time until she returned to Shawnee Mound, shortly before her death, and that Mrs. Ford’s knowledge and means of observation of the conduct and relations between affiant and his wife continued to the time of her death.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Thursday, 19 October 1893
Bob Pettit, a former citizen of Crawfordsville, died day before yesterday in Logansport of congestion of the stomach presumably super induced by the destruction of intoxicants. Pettit was very well known here and formerly officiated at the Nutt House bar. He left about a year ago and has not been here since. His convivial temperament got the better of him.

Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Saturday, 21 October 1893

“We the jury find the defendant W. F. Pettit, guilty as charged in the indictment, and that he be imprisoned in the State’s prison during life.”
Such was the verdict handed to the clerk of the Montgomery Circuit Court on November 20, 1890. such was the verdict which had its fulfillment in the northern penitentiary of Indiana last evening at 6:30 o’clock.
Was it some Higher Power hastened the convict’s end that a just verdict should prevail in spite of the rulings of a high tribunal? Was it the final act in the great tragedy of an unjust conviction? The answer is with that grim Sphinx, Death, whose secret no man knoweth.
A man of superior intellect, of charm of manner and magnetic personality died a convict for the murder of his wife. His dying request was to be buried at that wife’s side. Was that sensational request the consummation of the brazen effrontery of damning guilt or was it the last tribute of conscious innocence and undying affection? No man knows. We may all have our opinions but none of us know.
W. F. Pettit has passed to the bar of a higher court and there the deeds done in the flesh shall be expiated. If he was guilty he has suffered most terribly for a most terrible crime. If he was innocent, he has been the victim of a most awful persecution and the most unfortunate train of circumstantial evidence. The following special from Michigan City describes his last hours.
W. F. Pettit, the prisoner under indictment for wife poisoning, who has served about two years and a half in the Northern Prison, died in the director’s room at the prison at 6;30 o’clock this evening. The remains were at once taken to Earl’s undertaking rooms, on Michigan Street, where they are now being prepared for shipment, presumably to New York, for interment, although final instructions for the disposition of them have not yet been received. The news of the decision of the Supreme Court granting Pettit a new trial came in the shape of a telegram signed by his attorneys yesterday afternoon. The message was carried to the prisoner by the chaplain. Pettit was at first greatly excited at the news, but later became much more quiet. The condemned man had been in a very weak and exhausted condition for some time, and for several days had been unable to speak above a whisper. Even this so fatigued him that he could speak but a few words at a time. He therefore had very little to say in regard to his good news. He, however, seemed to be greatly pleased and gratified, but realized that the chance for another trial had come too late. He said to Rev. Father Bleckman this morning: “I have had good news, but it has come too late.” He has been confident at all times since his incarceration that the action of the Supreme Court would be to reverse the finding of the lower court, his only fear of late being that the case would not be reached until it was too late to do him any good. He was carried on a stretcher down stairs from the hospital to the director’s room this evening and his prison garb changed for a suit of citizen’s clothes. The remains are in a very emaciated condition, there being scarcely anything but skin and bones left of the once splendidly developed specimen of physical manhood. A jet black beard of about six weeks’ growth adorned the livid and sunken features, and this seems to make the face more ghastly in appearance. He never discussed spiritual matters in prison and died silent on the subject. At six o’clock he asked for milk and drank half a glass. He said to the doctor: “Pack my trunk.” After which he lay back on his pillow and died. Pettit would have gone to Crawfordsville tomorrow. He came here Jan. 13, 1891, and worked on a chair contract until last April, when consumption caused him to be taken to the hospital. He expressed a desire to the warden to be buried beside his wife, at Oswego, N. Y. He was thirty five years old.
It is hardly probable that the remains of Pettit will be allowed to rest by the side of those of his wife. Her body lies in the family burying ground of her sister, Mrs. Laura M. Shields at West Monroe, Oswego County, N. Y. Mrs. Shields hated Pettit with a fierce intensity and was most relentless in her belief of his guilt and would never consent to Pettit being buried there. Mrs. Shields has possession of W. F. Pettit, the only child of W. F. Pettit and wife. The child is now about seven years of age.
Sheriff Davis had made all arrangements to receive Pettit today and would have made him thoroughly comfortable. George P. Haywood objected yesterday to his being dropped off at the Lafayette Hospital. Mr. Haywood intended to have asked the Supreme Court for a rehearing but will now be spared that trouble. Mr. Haywood has the supreme satisfaction of knowing that he followed Pettit to the death. He will have to pause at his open grave.

Pettit in Prison
Source: Crawfordsville Daily Journal Monday, 23 October 1893
The Michigan City News speaking of Pettit’s death and prison life, says:
“In his prison life, Pettit never referred to his case. He was reticent in this and displayed anxiety only for a new trial, in which he hoped to prove his innocence. He seemed devoted to the memory of his departed wife, with whose murder he was accused, and greatly wrapped up in his only child, a daughter aged about twelve years, residing with his mother in Oswego, New York. A few weeks ago in a confidential conference with Warden French, he made his last will and expressed a desire to be buried beside his wife.
Shortly after death, a key to a box belonging to the deceased was given to Warden French, who opened the box. In it was found only a few personal effects, among which was a beautiful Bible, pictures of deceased’s wife, daughter, and other evidences of apparent devotion to them. Death has ended all. Let the poor man rest in peace.
As soon as death had claimed its victim Friday evening, A. F. Earl, who at once took charge of the body, preparing it for burial and removing it to the undertaking rooms. Friends of the deceased at Crawfordsville were notified. Deceased’s mother, who resides at Oswego, N. Y., with whom the warden has frequently corresponded regarding her son, was also notified and asked what disposal should be made of the remains. This morning word was received from the mother to have the remains forwarded to West Monroe, N. Y. for interment, in compliance with which they will be prepared for shipment and sent east via the Michigan Central Road this evening.”

The Pettit Case
Rev. G. W. Switzer on the Witness Stand Yesterday
An Interesting Narrative of the Scenes in the Pettit Home—The prisoner in Tears
Source; Crawfordsville Daily Journal Tuesday  25 March 1890

Rev. G. W. Switzer, of this city, was on the witness stand in the Pettit case yesterday at Lafayette from 10 o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, except during the hour of the noon adjournment. His narrative began with the receipt of a telegram from Pettit announcing the death of his wife. In company with Mr. Hickman he went to Pettit’s home in Shawnee Mound. He said: “We drove over and found a great number of Shawnee Mound people there. I saw Pettit in his study when I entered the house. No one went with me to the study. When I sympathized with him he thanked me and said he wanted me there. Hickman came in about three minutes. I left very soon after Hickman came in. Hickman said: “God knows, Fred, I bring you the deepest sympathy.” Pettit said: “It is pretty tough on me.” I could not say, but I think Pettit invited me to stay. When I informed him that I would stay all night he seemed very much gratified. We were served a lunch; a number of others ate; there were about forty persons present. I went to his study after supper and found Mrs. Whitehead there with Pettit. Whitehead left immediately. I saw nothing that attracted my attention except their being alone. They were sitting four or five feet apart. The door was not locked. I said to Mr. Hickman that I believed I had better stay all night. My purpose for staying was that I had though the conducted of Mr. Pettit and Mrs. Whitehead was unbecoming, and that if I remained, it would prevent their doing anything that would cause remark. I did not discuss the matter with Hickman, or mention the matter to Pettit or Mrs. Whitehead. I did not see her in the room on any other occasion. After I had come down stairs Mr. Pettit came down and Mrs. Whitehead and he went to the front door and remained in conversation for some time. I was in the sitting room. They met at the stairway again. I think that on that night Mrs. Whitehead had a general oversight of the house. She invited us to supper. I have no recollection of Pettit talking with any other woman except Mrs. Ford. I do not remember that I slept at all that night. The natural surrounding was enough to keep anyone awake. The same reason that caused me to stay there was one thing that made me sleepless. Next morning I went upstairs to call Pettit to breakfast. He was in the bedroom alone, dressing for the services. I saw Mr. Pettit and Mrs. Whitehead in the study afterwards. The door was open—they were packing a valise. I was told by Mr. Pettit that Mrs. Whitehead was preparing little Dean’s clothes. I think that is the last time I saw them together. Mrs. Whitehead went to her home for her breakfast. I had never seen them together alone before the time of the death. After breakfast Pettit and Mrs. Ford and little Dean went in to take a last look at the remains. The door was closed and there were noises in the room as of great grief. During the relating of the above, Mr. Pettit wept quietly; covering his face with his hands, but recovered his composure in a minute. The eyes of the prisoner showed tears. I met him at the camp meeting after his return from burying his wife. He was very busy. I went to Battleground with Mrs. Whitehead, David Meharry and others, had an engagement with Pettit in the afternoon, but did not find him in his office. I saw Pettit and Mrs. Whitehead in the dining room eating dinner alone, about 2:30 in the afternoon. It is due Pettit to say that he had been absent to Lafayette and did not return in time for regular dinner. I talked with Pettit that evening. He asked what was the matter. I asked why he asked. He replied that he had seen Mr. McCorkle and I in the dining room, and said he knew something was wrong. I told him that McCorkle had told me that he had learned from Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorn about his and Mrs. Whitehead’s conduct. He seemed not at all communicative. I told him that he had been indiscreet and he had evaded me. He replied that he was of a very peculiar temperament, and that he curbed his feelings, and that could not talk to me without showing what I would think weakness; that he found great comfort in Mrs. Whitehead; that she never mentioned the death of his wife, and thus harrowed his feelings. He said that the reason he went to her instead of to married ladies was, that she was the best friend his wife had had, and that David Meharry had been like a father to him; to which I told him that he must not bring the good name of Mrs. Whitehead and her father into question by his indiscretion.  The conversation lasted until 2 o’clock in the morning.
He said that he could not sleep, and had only slept one night since his wife’s death; that he was keeping up on quinine, and was on the verge of a break down. He said he did not think that what he was doing was attracting attention, and asked me what to do. I advised him to cease visiting the cottage, but not to attract public attention by changing his place at the table. He also related about having scattered poison, to which I remarked that if the rats were as large and as numerous as when I lived there, it would be necessary to scatter poison. Pettit related about his exchanging pulpits with Rev. Dunlavy, and about how his wife was taken sick, the convulsions and death, which witness (cannot read) I saw Pettit next morning—not with Mrs. Whitehead. After returning Pettit sent for me to come and preside at a meeting to investigate the rumors. I told him to send for Rev. Hickman at Acton and he did. On the last Monday night of the camp meeting, Pettit told me that George Hawthorne had been on the grounds, and would not talk to him and asked me to try to regain him for him as a friend, and I consented to try to influence Hawthorne. On this occasion I suggested that he should not even go to Meharry’s for his meals. He promised that he would be discreet, and would cease his attentions to Mrs. Whitehead. He thought that I was too strict in this regard. I advised him to go to some other family and get board. I urged him not to call an official meeting. I thought it would be prudent for him not to go to Meharry’s for his mail. I told Pettit that David Meharry had come to me and urged that I would try and induce Mrs. Whitehead to cease her indiscretions with Pettit. Meharry went to the cottage to arrange a talk between myself and Mrs. Whitehead, and she would not see me, saying she was busy packing to go home. At the close of the conversation on Monday night, at my suggestion, Pettit and I, knelt in prayer, Pettit offering a very feeling prayer, breaking down and weeping bitterly. Next saw Pettit at the Old Settlers’ meeting August 29. I told him I thought the public feeling was growing against him. I told him that his conduct was such as could not be recognized by common decency. Mrs. Whitehead was there. Did not see them together. Next saw Pettit on the way to conference. At Brazil Pettit asked me if I would try to get Mr. Hickman to urge his case through the conference without investigation. I replied that Mr. Hickman’s mind was made up that the case must be investigated. In a conversation with Hickman before conference time, I discouraged an investigation. Colvin asked me at Brazil to narrate what rumors I had heard. I refused. The Bishop advised me to do so, and I did. Before the cabinet Rev. Cissel stated that he had heard that Pettit had bought goods at a Queensware store in this city, and got the ministerial discount, and the good were for Mrs. Whitehead. At Brazil Pettit and I had a talk over some transactions between us. At that time he said he thought I had made myself quite busy in his affairs. Pettit said that his course at conference was not his best judgment, but that he did so under the advice of friends. I informed the cabinet that I had seen him drink egg-nog. I knew it was whiskey, because I smelled it on his breath. I would judge that he had poured more than a half dozen spoonfuls of whiskey. He said that he had taken ti for a stimulant. I am not sure that I told the cabinet about what reason he had given. I made no other complaints before the cabinet other than what I have mentioned heretofore. I did not tell the cabinet that Dr. Yeager would testify that she had died of strychnine poison. I did say that he would say there were some symptoms of strychnine poison. Dr. Black told me that the patient was under the influence of chloroform, and he could not discover any symptoms of strychnine poison. I told the Bishop that I did not think a church trial would bring out anything but imprudent conduct. He said he thought the word imprudent was very mild. The Bishop did not indicate that he would appoint me prosecutor. I suggested Dr. Brooke, and another brother. I saw Pettit the Tuesday night following his arrest at the jail.

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