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Scott County, Virginia


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The Kingsport Times


Victims of Quarrel Over Land

Above, Will Frazier, who was shot and instantly killed by John Barnett on September 20, last, is shown with one of his five children, the eldest of which is about seven years old. Inset, his father, Creed Frazier, sheriff of Scott county, Va., from 1920 to 1924, who died in a Bristol
hospital a few hours after he and his son were shot about three miles west of Clinchport, Va.

Relative of Barnett's Wife is Chief Witness in Scott County Court

Ely Sons, Step-Father of Barnett's Wife, Recounts Testimony Given Yesterday Afternoon in Trial of John Barnett For Dual Murder


J. H. and Amos Irvin Give Graphic Description of Shooting on Sawmill Property Owned By Them—
Large Crowd Continues
to Swarm Court Room

Times Staff Reporter

GATE CI1Y, \7a., Jan. 20 —Ely Sons, step father of John Barnett’s wife, eye witness of the fatal shooting of Creed and Will Frazier the afternoon of last September 20, for which Barnett is on trial in Scott County circuit court, assumed the witness stand and told practically the same story as that told by other witnesses yesterday afternoon.

     Sons is the fourth of the witnesses called by the prosecution in weaving its web of damning evidence against Barnett. J. H. and Amos Irvin, on whose property the sawmill was located, where the shooting took place, told in graphic detail yesterday afternoon what transpired before the tragedy and how it took place. C. C. Palmer, Sheriff of Scott County, at the time the double murder took place, also testified yesterday.

Scene of Shooting

     The shooting took place at a sawmill about four miles west of Speers’ Ferry. The Fraziers had been engaged in operations there and Sons was working in the mill at the time. Testimony has developed that the tragedy had its inception in a quarrel between Will Frazier and Barnett over the division of timberland on which the Fraziers were logging. The two parcels of land adjoining each other and the boundary line was in dispute. Barnett grew incensed over a comment Will Frazier made about him, testimony developed.

     Sons assumed the stand and testified that he had first seen Barnett about 1:00 o’clock of the afternoon that the Fraziers were killed. He said, "I heard John say to the Irvins and Will Frazier, "Is there a G—d—man here that, wants to die? If he don't want to take back what he said about me, I'll kill him before the sun goes down."

Makes Motion at Will

    Sons continued; "He then made a motion at Will with the gun he carried as if he were going to kill Will then. I walked out of the mill and he turned the gun on me. I stopped and talked to him and tried to stop him from causing trouble. I mentioned his children and he said, G— d— the children to h___. If he don't take back what he said about me I’ll kill him before the sun goes down. By God, I mean it.

     Then, Sons said," Roy and Will Frazier left and John went and sat down on a log near the barn. I went back to work in the mill. All the rest of the testimony given by Sons was a direct corroboration of that by the Irvins.

     Amos was the first witness when court opened at 9:30 o'clock this morning. His testimony was a review of what he said yesterday. He described again the location of all parties at the time of the shooting, stating that the Irvin residence directly overlooked the scene.

     Sons continued his testimony, saying, "I went back to work in the mill. It was making a lot of racket but after awhile I heard shots. Somebody hollered. As I raised up I saw John standing by the barn door and smoke was coming from his gun. Will was running toward his father who was on the ground. John shot again and Will fell. Roy fell behind a rock and John shot at him. Roy put his hand up over the rock and then John shot at him again."

Describes Same Scene

     Amos Irvin described the scene again. "The Fraziers came along the paling fence toward the barn. Creed was in front with a gun over his shoulder. Will was walking right behind him. Roy and Mahone were walking close together, about ten feet behind Will. I saw John run toward the barn. He had his back to me. The gun was to his left shoulder.

     He testified that he had seen a pistol laying on the ground about six feet where Roy Frazier was when the shooting started. He also stated that he had seen pistol holsters on all of the Fraziers but there were no guns in them.

     Attorneys for the defense asked him if he had not seen shot gun wads lying on the ground between where Creed and Barnett were standing. He replied, that he had seen some pieces of paper that looked like gun wads but he could not swear that they were.

Emphatic denial of saying after the preliminary hearing that he was tied up with the Fraziers at the time and he would be free later to tell more was made by Irvin when the defense questioned him about the alleged statement.

Ask About Will

     Sons said that when John stopshooting, that he had gone to where Creed Frazier was laying and heard him say, "I threw up my hand and told him not to shoot." Frazier then made some remarks about guns and ask "Is Will killed?"

     Sons testified that he had leaned over Creed and took his pistol from his holster and seen that none of the shells in it were fired. He the pistol to the Irvin house for safekeeping and then returned, finding a pump shotgun and old muzzle loading shot gun laying near the scene. He said that he had taken them all to Irvins' house. He then turned Will on his back and saw that there was no pistol in his holster.

     All witnesses so far have said that Barnett approached the fallen men as if he intended shooting them again, saying, "If they haven't got enough, I'll give 'em more."

Describe Killing

    Two eye witnesses to the fatal shooting, which occurred on the afternoon of last September 20 at a sawmill about four miles west of Spear's Ferry, described in graphic detail yesterday what had transpired.  They were J. H. and Amos Irvin, owners of the mill.

     C. C. Palmer, Scott County sheriff at the time of the slayings, also testified at the session of court yesterday afternoon when it was reconvened at 2:00 o'clock to begin the actual hearing of the trial. The jury was not completed until shortly after 1:00 o'clock.

     Before the adjournment at 1:00 o'clock the defendant was arraigned on the charge of murdering Creed Frazier and entered a plea of not guilty. It was pointed out that if Barnett does not get the supreme penalty for the murder of Creed Frazier, he will then be placed on trial for the murder of Will Frazier.

First Witness

     J. H. Irvin took the stand at 2:20 o'clock and stated that he first saw Barnett on the day of the tragedy shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon. The witness stated that he, his son, Amos, Will Frazier and his younger brother Roy Frazier, Charles Good, and Sons, the step-father of Barnett's wife, were working at the sawmill when they saw Barnett approaching. The latter was carrying a gun in his hand and had a pistol stuck under his belt, according to Irvin.

     "John appeared to be desperately mad," said Irvin. "I had never seen him that way before. When he came to within several feet of us, he said: 'Is there a G — d — here that wants to die?" Amos, who was near Barnett, remarked that he didn't want to die. All the time John appeared to be attempting to raise his gun to his shoulder. He kept repeating: 'Don't come close to me.'

     "Soon Amos persuaded John and Roy Frazier to come up to the house. I talked to John and told him what an awful thing murder was and for him to think of his and Willie’s wives and children. I pleaded with him to put up his firearms and for he and Willie to talk the matter over peacefully."

"He’s A Coward"

     "John said he would agree if Willie would take back something he had called him. I started to get Willie and Roy Frazier to come up by my side and waved to Willie, who immediately broke into a run. I came back and told John that Willie had gone, whereupon John said. 'Oh, yes, damn him, he's a coward. But this don't settle it. I'll go to his house and kill him this evening. I further warned him.

     "Barnett then asked for a pencil and paper and he drew a diagram of the disputed land and said to Roy: 'You tell your daddy that he had better not cut timber beyond line,' which he indicated.

"Fraziers Approach"

     "About three o'clock, I was sitting on the porch and John and Amos had taken seats near the barn, when I looked along the fence and saw the four Fraziers, Creed, his two sons, Willie and Roy, and his brother, Mahone, approaching. Barnett turned and saw them and ran behind the barn door. He was in plain view but I couldn't see the Fraziers. John fired once, and I saw Willie run into sight and then dodge back again. Three more shots were fired. The fire was directed toward the Fraziers. After the second shot I saw Roy dash into sight and then, crouch behind a rock and hold up one hand. The third shot missed the rock about one inch.

     "When the shooting had subsided, I walked out and Creed Frazier was lying on his back, with one knee raised. Thirteen feet behind him, lay Willie on his face. Creed was still alive and was moaning, 'Oh, God.' Several others, among them my son, reached Creed first.

     "Barnett then came over to where Creed was, lying and some said "he’s fixed to shoot Creed again." I walked out to John and said, "you’ve killed Willie and just a good as killed Creed, and now I'd take that gun and leave. He disappeared within few minutes."

"Think Creed Had Gun"

     Irvin described the bullet wound on Creed Frazier and in answer to a stated: "I didn't see Willie carrying a gun, but I think Creed had one." He further testified that he smelled liquor on Barnett’s breath.

     In answer to a question from defense attorneys, Irvin said that he saw a pistol lying on the ground near the rock behind which Roy Frazier had sought shelter. He that he did not see Roy and Mahone Frazier when they left the scene. He was on the stand one hour and 40 minutes.

     Ex-sheriff Palmer followed the elder Irvin to the stand and described Barnett's surrender at Speers’ Ferry bridge and told of the kind of weapons that were surrendered to him. The rifle was a 45-90, a very high-powered weapon, said Palmer, and the pistol was a 32-20 Smith and Wesson. Both weapons and shells were introduced by the prosecution as evidence. Barnett surrendered voluntarily, he said. Palmer was on the stand 40 minutes.

     Amos Irvin's testimony was more complete than that of his father's, but materially was the same. He quoted John Barnett as saying when he first came to the sawmill: "I'm going' to kill Will Frazier in five minutes if he doesn't take back something he called me."

"Damn The Children"

     Irvin said that when he pleaded with Barnett to avoid trouble, Barnett exclaimed: "G— d— the little children, I'm going to kill the ___ ___ ___ before the sun goes down."

     Eli Sons, Barnett's step-father-in-law also pleaded with John to go home, it was testified. A short while later, during the scene at the Irvin home, Amos said that Barnett held up three fingers and counted: "One, two, three; either Will Frazier or I will go to hell before the day is over."

     Amos Irvin then described the events leading to the appearance of the four Fraziers, recounting what his father had already testified.

"Barnett, Don't Shoot"

     I heard Creed Frazier say, 'Barnett, don't you shoot.' Barnett who had jumped behind the barn door, raised the gun to his shoulder and fired. Creed fell and yelled for Willie to run and instead, the latter ran back towards his father. Roy jumped behind a rock and begged Barnett: ''John, don't kill me; you've killed my daddy and brother; you told me you were my friend. Don't shoot anymore.' to which Barnett ' replied. 'Yes G-—d you, .why did you come back here with them. He fired a third shot and this missed the rock about an inch, Roy dodging just in time. The fourth shot went wild. 'I ran to Creed, who was speaking. He asked if Willie was dead. I told him yes. ‘I wish it had been me a thousand times instead,’ was Creed’s, reply. I don't see why in the world Barnett did this. Barnett came near and Creed moved.

     His gun still in his hands, Barnett said: "If he hasn’t got enough and goes to wiggling around, I'll give him some more. I'm not a damned bit scared or excited. I done just what I told him I'd do."


     At this juncture, 5:15 p. m., Judge E. P. Carter called an adjournment until 9:30 o'clock tomorrow morning.

     During the entire proceedings, Barnett, appearing fresh despite his four months in jail, sat behind his counsel and appeared very much interested, in the proceedings. He is 28 years of age. When he entered the court room today he was wearing a bright blue jacket, hair neatly combed and was smooth shaved. His aged father, Thomas Barnett, sat beside him. At one occasion, when Amos Irvin referred to Eli Sons' as Barnett's "step-father-in-law," the defendant laughed. He is being carefully watched during the trial by Sheriff H. W. Culbertson and deputies.

     Wright S. Cox, of Gate City, leads the defense counsel. He is being aided by D. E. Kennedy, of Wise, and J. D. Carter, of Duffield.

     Assisting Commonwealth's Attorney J. F. Sargent in the prosecution are: 0. M. Vicars, of Wise, S. H. Bond and S. W. Coleman, of Gate City.

Lengthy Trial

     According to the best of predictions, the entire remainder of the week will be taken up with the trial of the single indictment. It is doubtful if the prosecution evidence will be completed today.

Home ] Up ] Court House ] Court Houses Changes ] Scott History ] Trading ] Gateway ] W. D. Smith ] Murders ] School Board ] Shoemaker Fire ] Shoemaker Remembered ] Highlights-1957 ] McConnell Mill ] Creed Frazier ] Creed Dies ] Barnett Hearing ] Frazier Funeral ] Barnett Trial-Day 1 ] Barnett Trial-Day-2 ] [ Barnett Trial-Day 3 ] Barnett Trial-Day 4 ] Barnett Trial-Day-5 ]