State’s evidence portion of ‘Beck vs. State of Georgia,’ before Judge Estes, Rabun Superior Court, September Term 1885
In this partial court transcript, Eugene W. Beck is indicted for the murder of his wife, Ella Beck. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He was convicted for life at the state penitentiary, where he later died of blood poisoning while working in the coal mines as a convict in May, 1890.
On October 28, 1881, Eugene Beck went to the jail, and while there talked to the town marshal about some hogs belonging to one Wall that kept getting into his lot. He stated also that the dogs kept getting into his kitchen and asked the marshal to lend him his pistol, saying that he wanted to shoot some of the dogs.
The marshal said he did not want to lend his pistol, that he might need it. Beck stated that the marshal could lend it to him for that night, and this was done.
The marshal testified that about a week or ten days (or perhaps two or three weeks or a month) before the shooting, there had been dogs around Beck’s place; that Beck borrowed his pistol to shoot them; that the marshal heard a shot in the yard, and Beck said he had shot a dog; and that he returned the pistol the next day; that when Beck borrowed the pistol the last time the marshal thought him sober; that he had been drinking “right smart” for a month or so—kept pretty tight all the time—that is, drinking every day; that he did not see Beck drink but knew he was drinking; that there never was anything particularly wrong about him that the witness could see, and he did not know anything to the contrary of Beck’s transacting his business as any other business man would; that he talked pretty sensibly about the Wall difficulty, his conversation being connected, as witness thought; that when he talked about dogs his conversation was connected and sensible; that the witness saw nothing irrational about him and thought him perfectly sane; that he was getting considerably sobered up and all right and the witness would not have loaned him the pistol if he had not thought so; and that the impression on the witness’ mind when Beck was talking about the Wall difficulty was that he believed the witness had some charge against him, but such was not the case witness being after other parties concerned in it.
That night, Beck sat in his wife’s room and talked to her for some two hours about his mother’s having shot at a lady; nothing else was talked of. Miss Bailey, the sister of Mrs. Beck, was then in the parlor talking to a young man. Beck’s wife told him to go to bed. He said no, that he was going to the jail to see the marshal. He then sat down, pulled off his boots, lay on the bed “and went to sleep, or pretended to be asleep; he was snoring; his coat was off,” (as stated by a servant in the house who was a witness.)
Shortly after he retired, he waked up and said, “I wish you would not do so much talking,” and then went to sleep again, “or looked like he was asleep.” Mrs. Beck made no reply but worked on for a while; then undressed, said her prayers and went to bed.
In about ten or fifteen minutes after Mrs. Beck retired, Miss Bailey came in. She went to bed with her sister, the defendant being on her bed. She said, “Brother Gene (the defendant) is not asleep; he is looking at me.”
About fifteen or twenty minutes afterwards, Beck got up, put on his coat and boots, walked to the lamp, which was near the bed where the two women were, and turned it down. Mrs. Beck said, “Please, Eugene, turn up the lamp.” He turned the lamp so high, “it looked like the house was afire;” then jumped on the bed, held his wife down and shot her through the head, killing her.
He then turned to shoot the servant who had lain down, but had not gone to sleep, and who ran out of the door, but the pistol snapped. He then held the cover with his left hand; and with his right shot Miss Bailey, her head being under the cover, the ball entering her back and coming out at her breast, causing death.
He then ran out of the door jumped off the piazza and went to the jail. He ran into the room where the marshal was and said, “Captain, they have run in on me, and I have shot two of them.”
The marshal told Beck to give him the pistol, which the latter did. He said, “Don’t let them hurt me.” Hearing continued screaming, the marshal went out and learned that Beck had killed his wife and sister in law. Returning, he said to Beck, “Gene, you have killed your wife and sister-in-law!”
Beck replied, “Well, I have killed the best friend I have got.” In about fifteen minutes the sheriff came and locked him up. He did not resist. He had a little half pint bottle about half full of whiskey.
The servant testified that the defendant talked sensibly the night of the shooting; that she never heard any fuss between the husband and wife; that the latter taught school all summer and he worked on the turnpike a part of the time; that she was a good woman and “easy to get along with;” that about a month before the shooting she told her husband that if he did not quit drinking she was going home to stay with her father until he did quit, to which he made no reply; that Mrs. Beck and her sister had not packed their trunks preparatory to leaving—“there wasn’t a thing packed until that night that they was both lying there corpses.”
The servant stated also that at the time of the homicide, “he put on all his clothes, ready to run out, before he done anything at all.” Another witness, a doctor, testified that about ten days or two weeks before the shooting Beck told him about some dogs that had been bothering him, having got into his kitchen; that the witness let him have some strychnine for the purpose of poisoning them; that after the homicide he was present on the night of October 30 at a conversation between Dr. Bailey and Beck. The former asked the latter what was his motive for killing his wife and he replied that he did not know that he had the tremens.
Published in “Reports of Cases in Law and Equity Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Georgia, at Atlanta, Parts of October Term, 1885 and March Term, 1886, Vol. LXXVI,” by J.H. Lumpkin, reporter, The Franklin Publishing House, Atlanta,1888 Full court transcript here.