With their heads together as lovin’ as two little kittens

Posted by | January 5, 2011

Major crime remained very rare in Noble County [OH], and the occasional exceptions made big news. One of the county’s more baffling murder cases began on November 5, 1905, when the family of William Leisure returned to their Carlisle home from Sunday church services and found Leisure sitting fatally wounded in his chair with two bullet wounds to the head.

One bullet, fired from inside the house, was found lodged in the door, but no weapon could be found. Subsequent investigations were apparently fruitless as well, because in December, the county commissioners offered a $350 reward for evidence leading to conviction of the guilty party. They later increased the reward to $500, and on January 10, 1906, the apparent breakthrough came.

On evidence gathered by T.P. Gidden of Caldwell and a Cambridge detective, officials arrested James Harvey Leisure, a nephew of the deceased. A few weeks after his arrest, a grand jury indicted Leisure for first degree murder. Meanwhile, rumors spread that the accused had a romantic interest in his uncle’s daughter, while others spoke of his alleged love for Leisure’s wife.

By the time the trial opened on March 13, interest in the case was intense. Courtroom spectators reportedly stood “on window sills, on the backs of seats, on the tops of desks and wherever a footing could be had.” They watched as over fifty witnesses told their stories in an epic two week courtroom drama.

The prosecution based much of its case on James Harvey Leisure’s alleged love for his uncle’s wife. They produced one witness, a neighbor, who testified, according to the Republican Journal, that she had once seen the accused and Mrs. Leisure “with their heads together as lovin’ as two little kittens.”

They were unable, however, to secure a witness to the crime. This aided the defense, which called a large number of character witnesses before both counsels addressed the jury one last time. With two weeks of testimony to consider, the jury deliberated 6 hours before finding Leisure not guilty. No subsequent arrests were made in the case. James Harvey Leisure died in 1908.

from A History of Noble County, 1887-1987, by Roger Pickenpaugh, Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1988

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