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Scott County, Virginia


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The Kingsport Times




Mother of Defendant Weeps After Verdict

John Barnett, Found Guilty of Killing Creed Frazier, to Be Brought to Trial For the Murder of Will Frazier


Times Staff Reporter

GATE CITY, Va., Jan. 28.—John Barnett was sentenced to life imprisonment today in Scott county circuit court when the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree for the fatal shooting of Creed Frazier last September 20. In arriving at the verdict the jury deliberated but one hour and 21 minutes, the case being passed into its hands at 3:24 o'clock this afternoon and the verdict rendered at 4:45. The trial started last Monday morning.

     Creed Frazier and his son, will were shot down by Barnett on the afternoon of September 20 at a sawmill about four miles west of Speers Ferry, by J. H. Ervin, and which the Fraziers had been using, in logging operations. Separate indictments were returned by the grand jury and Barnett was tried first on the charge of murdering Creed Frazier. Following the verdict today, the prosecution indicated that the trial of Barnett on the charge of murdering Will Frazier would take place the latter part of the coming week.


     Immediately following the rendering of the verdict, counsel for Barnett made a motion that he court set aside the verdict and grant Barnett a new trial. Argument of the motion will probably be heard by the court the first of next week.

     Slight signs of emotion were shown by Barnett upon the rendering of the verdict. His wife and mother wept. His aged father left the courtroom shortly before the verdict was returned. The defendant's small son, who has nestled in his father's arms during a great part of the days of the trial, was present when the verdict was rendered.

     Burnett was arraigned in court last. Monday morning and entered a plea of not guilty of the charge of murdering Creed Frazier. Actual hearing of witnesses in the case did not begin until Wednesday morning, Monday and Tuesday being entirely taken up with the selection of a jury. Court was adtwice to summons additional veniremen from which to impanel the jury.

Number of Witnesses

     Beginning Wednesday morning one witness after another was presented by the prosecution until almost, a score, most of them eye witnesses of the tragedy, had told their story. Ali the witnesses presented by the prosecution told, practically without variation, the same story of what transpired before, during and after the shooting.

     The prosecution wove a damning web of incriminating evidence about the defendant, eye witnesses telling how Barnett, in terrible rage, had threatened and cussed Will Frazier earlier on the day, of the shooting; of how he had mowed them down with a rain of lead from a high-powered rifle as they approached him; and how he had stood over the fallen men and said, "G—d—him, if he starts wiggling around I'll give him some more."

     Evidence indicated that Barnett was incensed and in a terrible rage over remarks that Will Frazier is said to have made about him. Roy Frazier, brother of Will, things out with Barnett and got him to agree to an amicable settlement of their differences. He went after his brother and found him in the company of Creed and Mahone. The four then started back to the mill and as they came in sight of it, Barnett opened fire on them, fatally wounding Creed and instantly killing Will. Roy Mahone escaped the fusillade of bullets.

Slayer Surrenders

     Barnett gave up to Sheriff C. C. Palmer about an hour after the shooting, claiming that he had fired in self-defense.

     In summing up the case to the jury today, defense attorneys tried to impress upon the jurors the fact that Barnett was in fear of his life when he saw the four Fraziers approaching and that he was justified in shooting.

     The commonwealth completed the presentation of its case yesterday morning and the defense immediately began its rebuttal of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony. The defense completed its presentation of witnesses yesterday afternoon when the defendant was put on the stand to tell his story of the shooting. His story varied little from that of prosecution witnesses, except that he told just why he fired, claming that he was afraid that the Fraziers meant him harm.

     Both prosecution and defense presented their arguments to the jury today, the commonwealth contending that it had made out a case of first degree murder and asking that the jury impose a penalty commensurate with the crime, and the defense asking the jury for a verdict of acquittal on the grounds of self-defense.

     The defendant took the stand yesterday afternoon at 1:20 o'clock. He was on the stand one hour and 39 minutes.

     In his recital, Barnett denied many statements commonwealth's said he had made, especially those dealing with threats of his against the Fraziers. He was very calm throughout the entire examination and made a very good witness.

     "I am 30 years old. On September 20, 1927, I went to the sawmill at Amos Ervin's home that day for two purposes. Amos Ervin proposed a settlement between Will Frazier and myself and I was seeking an apology from Will for calling me a G__ d___ ____. My people and I had been mistreated by the Fraziers for a long time and I thought that that was just a little too much. I did not go there with the purpose of harming anyone.

Heard of Threats

     "I had been advised by different people that the Fraziers intended killing me. When I got to the mill, I saw Amos Ervin, Will Frazier and Jim Ervin. I walked toward them and told Jim I wanted to speak to him but warned him not come too close to me as I didn’t know anybody that was my friend that day. I then told Amos what will had called me and I had taken enough and I wanted an apology.

     Barnett continued his narration all the way denying threats he made and telling of Roy Frazier agreeing to get Will after Will had run off, and settle the differences. In regard to the shooting, he said:

The Shooting

     "I was sitting on a log near the barn and suddenly turned my head and saw Creed, Will, Roy and Mahone Frazier coming around the fence. Creed and Roy were carrying guns. I jumped up and ran to the barn, thinking I could go through and escape. When I reached the barn door I looked and Will Frazier seemed to be running in a direction to head me off. I knew I couldn’t get away then. All at once, it seemed that Creed Frazier moved his gun into a shooting position. I threw my gun up and as it went up, it fired. Creed fell and Willie who had turned and run past his father, fell. I fired once at Roy as he dodged behind the rock, he appeared as if he were pointing a pistol at me."

     As to his threatening to shoot Creed again as he lay upon the ground, Barnett swore that he thought Creed was reaching for a pistol and that he said "if he hasn't got enough, I'll give him some more."

His Reason

     "Why did you shoot Creed Frazier, Attorney Kennedy asked Barnett.

     "I knew it' 1 didn't shoot him he would shoot me," was the quick reply.

     Efforts of-the Commonwealth to cross the defendant in his testimony bore some fruit but the evidence added great weight to the self-defense basis on which the defendant attempted to clear himself.

     Joseph Barnett, uncle of the defendant, was called by the defense upon recommencement following noon recess. He said Creed Frazier had warned him to keep off the tract of land which the Fraziers claimed. Creed's words were, according to the witness: "Joe, don't let me catch you on that land or by G— you or I one will die. If Tom doesn't stop John from pulling up my corn, G—d—him, I can stop him." The commonwealth ask the witness several questions as to the weapons John had carried.

     Other witnesses offered by the defense were W. I. Pearson, who saw Creed Frazier on the day of the shooting, he testified that Creed appeared in a deep study; J. H. Sloan and John Pearson, who also testified about evidence concerning the disputed land. The defense closed at 3:50 o’clock.

     Defense attorneys were W. S. Cox, of Gate City; D. F. Kennedy of Wise; and J. D. Carter of Duffield.

     The prosecution was represented by J. F. Sergent, Commonwealth’s Attorney; S. H. Bond, S. W. Coleman, all of Gate City, and O. M. Vicars of Wise.


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