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HORRIBLE & GRUESOME TRAGEDY NEAR WELSH

Crowley Signal March 1, 1902

Welsh, La., Feb 25 – of all the horrible tragedies ever recorded in this state in the past, the slaughter of the family of L.S. Earl, tow miles west of this city, is the most horrible and blood curdling.

Lying on the floor in the front room of the home of the Ward home, with their throats cut and skulls shattered are the bodies of the mother, Mrs. Earl, age nineteen; John Earl, age 17, and Len Earl age twelve.

Lying on a bed in the room adjoining is the body of Ward Earl, age twenty-five, with his head split wide open.

A short distance, probably one half mile westward, was found the body of the father L.S. Earl, lying in a ditch of water by the road, shot through the heart.

The guilt of this horrible deed has been fastened upon Ed Batson; a man who was has been employed by the Earl farm for the past year.  Batson is at large; the last heard of him he was at Lake Charles Saturday afternoon, where he represented himself as Ward Earl and was endeavoring to sell a pair of mules belonging to Earl.  This was what led to the discovery of the murder.  Batson endeavored to dispose of the mules to a Mr. Downs, who agreed to pay him $175 for the pair?  Saturday Downs telephoned to Paul Daniels to enquire if Earls was all right.  This finally reached the ears of Miss Maud Earl, a daughter of L.S. Earl, who works in the general merchandise of E.A. Bell, and aroused her suspicion, as she knew of no reason why her brother should dispose of his stock.  Then she recalled that she had no tidings of the family for several days, a most unusual thing, and at once determined to visit her home and see what the matter was.

Accompanied by a driver she reached the home of her brother, Ward, where the family resided, about 7 o’clock in the evening.  Her fears were heightened when she came in sight of the house and saw that it was closed and when she alighted from the vehicle and tried the doors only to find them locked her fright overcame her and she sank to the ground.  Seeing this driver came to her aid.  Finding all the doors locked he broke open the one leading into the kitchen and entered with Miss Earl close behind.  Both were struck by a horrible stench which apparently emanated from an adjoining room.  The driver found a lantern in the kitchen and lighted it, for it was beginning to grow dark.  He had an idea what lay beyond in the next room for the very air seemed heavy with tragedy, and he advised Miss Earl to allow him to go in alone.  This young woman would not consent to, however, and when the man pushed open the door she followed him in.

The garish light from the flickering lantern made the sight which confronted them all the more horrible.  They had entered the room where the bodies of the three boys and the mother lay piled in a heap, ghastly and horrifying.  Two of the boys had their throats cut and the mother, whose corpse had been brutally thrown across the bodies of her sons, was so mutilated that it was hard to tell by what means she had come to her death.  To add to the grim terror of the scene, rats had eaten the bodies and torn the flesh from their faces.  The floor was covered with dried and clotted blood.

The terrified woman and driver stood gaping at the veritable chamber of horror for a moment and then, to shut out the horrible sight, dashed into another room.  In this room lay the remains of Ward Earl, the eldest brother.  He had been shot in the head and his life blood crimsoned the coverings upon which the corpse lay.

The two living people among so many dead stayed to look no further.  The stout-hearted driver assisted Miss Earl, who was in a fainting condition, to his hack and drove like the wind to town where the story was told.  At first people could hardly believe it, but finally a party went out to investigate and found it true.  The news spread like wild-fire and the whole town was roused.  The fact that the elder Earl was missing led the people to believe he had been murdered, too, and searching parties at once set about to find his body.  It was not until this morning, however, that it was discovered.  Then one of the searchers came across it in a ditch about a half mile from the Earl homestead where the old gentleman had been living alone.  The body was covered with straw in an effort to conceal it.  A ragged holed in the breast told how Mr. Earl died.  He had been shot with bird shot and judging from the way he was shot were “bunched” the murdered must have stood close to him when he fired.

The people were so excited that for a time no thought was given the murderer.  No such crime had ever before disturbed the erstwhile quiet of this community and the citizens were aghast to think that a human being could perpetrate so foul a deed as the cold corpses that they had seen testified to having been committed under their very eyes almost.  But when the first horror of the thing wore off they began to ask each other who could have killed these people.

Then it was that someone recalled that Ed Batson was missing.  Putting this with the mysterious message that had come from Lake Charles about a man being there representing himself as Ward Earl and trying to dispose of the latter’s mules, they began to suspect the hired man and at once began to search for him.  He had flown, however and successfully covered up his tracks.  Nothing could be learned of him since he was seen in Lake Charles Saturday, although the whole country is being scoured in the hope of finding him.  If he is found and returned here there is no telling what his fate will be.  The citizens have lost the air of excitement they wore yesterday, but it is easy to see they are not going to allow this inhuman crime to go unavenged.

Batson’s motive for wiping out the Earl family is a mystery unless it was for the purpose of getting hold of the mules is preposterous for belief.  If he had any grudge against the Earls, or any one of them, it is not known here and his tigerish thirst for blood is beyond understanding.  Some are inclined to think the man became insane, being unable to believe he could have butchered his victims as he did had he been in his right mind.

The Earls were pretty well-to-do people and had the respect of the community in which they lived.  Everybody around here is anxiously awaiting developments in the tragedy and news from the parties who are searching for the murderer is south for eagerly.

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Lake Charles, Feb 26. – According to a telegram received at the sheriff’s office late yesterday afternoon, Ed Batson, the murderer of the Early family at Welsh, has been captured at Clinton, Mo.  Clinton is near the old home of Batson and the officers at that place had been cautioned to keep a lookout for him.

Batson will be brought back to this city and lodged in the parish jail.

Further evidence that Batson is the guilty party is a letter which he wrote while loafing around a livery stable in Lake Charles, where he kept the mules he stole from Ward Earl.  It shows conclusively two things: Batson either seriously contemplated suicide or wrote it for the purpose of throwing the officers off his track.  The letter was as follows:

P.D. Blantation, Welsh, La, December 19, 1902.

“To anyone who it thereof, I one Edwin Batson, hereby give my signature, to this date give my whereabouts to the public, or to any one who finds this slip of paper.  My name is Edwin Batson, was born in Atchinson County, Mo., April 8, 1881.  My father and mother, John and Mrs. J. Batson, live in these said places.  J., my father lives in Nodaway county, Mo.  My mother now Mrs. Joe Payne lives in Princeton, Mercer County, Mo.  My sister, Mrs. C.M. Vredenburg, lives in Princetown county, Mo., My brother J.M. Batson, I do not know where he is, but he that finds this will do the dead a justice by sending my mother or my sister word of my death and how it occurred.  This is all I request dear friend, so a long and happy life do I wish to you all.

Signed a rit x 2 .. y. 1- -(?) farewell, A. E. Batson, friend to all.  Ha! Ha! Bye, bye, I’m gone.”

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Welsh, La., Feb. 26 – another ripple of excitement was caused here last night by a telephone message from Lake Charles stating that Ed Batson, the murderer, of the Earl family, had been captured in Missouri.  There is much talk of what will be done with the man if he is brought back to the scene of his hideous crime, and there is but little doubt but he enraged citizens will carry out their threats if Batson is brought within their reach.

Coroner Watkins held an inquest over the bodies of the dead Earls yesterday and their remains have been interred in the Welsh cemetery.

Miss Maud Earl, the only surviving member of the family and the first one to find the dead bodies of her murdered family, is in critical condition and may not survive the shock.  She seems dazed to all surroundings and it may result in her mind becoming permanently unbalanced.

This town is much quieter today and business is gradually being resumed.

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