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Florence times Friday Sept. 14th,1923

Shiners Dead in Gun Battle

John Butler and Eugene Pitts Killed after Regular Duel

Island in river Scene of fight
Officers get big still as consequence of fatal fight

A sensational tragedy occurred on one of the islands eighteen miles east of Florence last Friday when John Butler and Eugene Pitts both met their death in a pitched battle following a disagreement, presumably over moonshine distilling. Exact details of the occurrence cannot be determined, as the only other person on the Island was Will Pitts, father of one of the dead men. According to the investigation of the sheriff and his deputies the killing occurred when only three men were present and Butler shot Eugene Pitts three times in the body and once in the arm with a pistol, and attempted to make off in his boat, when he was shot through the body near the heart with a high powered hunting rifle, falling over into the water mortally wounded. The elder Pitts is understood to have taken the body of his son to the Colbert co bank of the river and turned it over to two Negroes through whom the news of the killing leaked out and officers set out for the island to seek the body of Butler, who was reported as being wounded by the man he killed after shooting him four times. After reaching the island the officers found the body of Butler lying in the water, near his boat , which was partially sunk. The body was taken to the Lauderdale bank of the river and his people were notified, they coming after it and taking it home where the funeral took place Saturday. The officers do not think it probable that Eugene Pitts, after being mortally wounded could have fired the shot that killed Butler and the fact that the elder Pitts cannot be located adds strength to this opinion. Butler has been known as a moonshiner for a long time, and had been convicted and served time for previous offenses, while the younger Pitts was under indictment and would’ve been tried t the next term of Colbert Circuit court for a similar offense. Knowing the records of the men engaged in the tragedy the officers returned to the island where they succeeded in locating the largest and most complete still that has ever been found in this section, it being of 180 gallons capacity, of copper, and with full equipment. It was brought to Florence and placed in the courthouse yard where it attracted a great deal of attention on Monday, large crowds assembling to inspect it. The officers who took part in the investigation were Deputies Clyde Bounds, J. O. Davis, and W. B. Copeland on the Lauderdale side of the river and Officers Cobb, Dempsey and Hollingsworth on the Colbert side.

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