Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia
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KINGSPORT, TENNESSEE, FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 1928
STATE REST CASE IN BARNETT TRIAL
Beginning of Defense Testimony Adds More
Interest in the Trial
OneWitness Is Tangled in Cross Examination
PROSECUTION WITNESS STATES BARNETT
Blackburn Flannery, Ferryman, Says Barnett Told Him He
Fired the First Shot and That Fraziers Did Not Shoot—Creed's Son Is on
Times Staff Reporter
GATE CITY. Va., Jan. 27 — The commonwealth completed the introduction of prosecution witnesses this morning at 10:05 o'clock and rested its case against John Barnett, charged with the murder of Creed Frazier and his son, Will, last September 20. Barnett is being tried for the murder of Creed Frazier first, separate indictment having been returned in the double murder.
Following the completion of testimony by Roy Frazier, brother of Will and son of Creed Frazier, in which he told a tale of dire threats by Barnett—of Barnett's unreasoning rage and enmity toward Will—and finally of the manner in which Barnett shot them down without warning as they were approaching him, the commonwealth rested its case and a recess was called to allow the defense time for the preparation of their case.
Two Defense Witnesses
Before the adjournment of court at noon the defense placed two witnesses on the stand. They were John Sloan and Marshall Frazier, of Appalachia, no relation of the slain men.
Sloan testified that he had seen what he thought were shotgun wads laying between the place where Creed fell and where Barnett stood.
Frazier said that he had come down to Gate City to see about buying some property from Creed but that when Creed had offered to sell him the disputed tract, he had refused to buy. During the conversation they had, he said that Creed had threatened Barnett's life.
When cross examined by the prosecution, Frazier said that the conversation with Creed had occurred in Gate City shortly after Christmas. He was positive of this fact, although the Fraziers were killed three months before Christmas. However, his testimony went down in the court records of the case. Its credibility may be questioned later.
Attorneys for the defense indicated that Barnett would be placed on the stand in his own defense some time this afternoon.
A Simple Recital
Roy Frazier took the witness stand at 10:10 o'clock and for the next forty minutes held the courtroom spell bound with his simple recital of the details of the tragedy and what had transpired before it. His words were unfaltering and the defense failed to pick any flaw in his testimony upon cross examining. His story was by far the clearest of any yet presented and gave a better insight into the cause of the fatal shooting and just how it came about.
The story as told by Roy in his own words is as follows:
"On the day of the shooting I first saw Barnett at the mill at about twenty minutes after one o'clock. He and Amos Ervin were seated on a log near the barn. Will was standing at the lumber dock as I drove the truck into the mill yard. I stopped at the lumber dock and asked Will what the trouble was."
"He told me that Barnett was mad at him and had threatened to kill him."
"We started walking toward the sawmill and at the same time John and Amos started walking toward us. Amos was pleading with him and they stopped twice. They came around the mill boiler and then John threw his rifle on Will, saying, "G__ d___ you, I'll kill you if you don't apologize."
Talked With Barnett
"I got Barnett to talk it over with me and tried to reason him out of feeling so bitter. He explained about the controversy over the land and said that Will had made a derogatory remark about him that morning on the ridge and that he would have to apologize or be killed."
"Amos and I then got John to go up on the porch with us and Amos tried to show him that the whole matter could be reasoned out and settled without any bloodshed. He asked John to think about his and Will's wives and John said "G__ d___ the children to h___! If he don't apologize I'll kill him before the sun goes down."
"While we were talking Barnett said, "Forty dollars could have settled this at one time." 'He was referring to the dispute over the timber land. "But now money can't settle it."
"I mentioned to him that my daddy had offered his uncle $75 in settlement of the disputed land and that it had been refused. Barnett didn't say anything about that."
"We started back toward the mill, where Will was standing. Will started to walk away as we approached him and I waved my hand at him, motioning him to go on out of the way because I was afraid Barnett would shoot him then."
"When we got down to the mill Will was out of sight and John said, "Yes, G—d—him, he's a coward. I'll kill him before the sun goes down if I have to go to his house and call him out and shoot him."
"Holding up his hand Barnett counted three fingers, saying, " One, two, three, just as sure as that makes three, I'll kill him."
"I started talking to Barnett again and he said to me, Will has aggravated me a long time and I'm going to have it out with him. After a little while I got him to cool down a little bit and told him that I thought that I could talk to dad and Will and get everything fixed up."
Unable to Agree
"I told John that I would have dad and Will meet him at the sawmill in the morning and that they wouldn't have guns if he would agree not to. He wouldn't agree to this and wanted me to bring them to the house but I told him that I couldn't ask them to come on to his possessions when they were quarreling."
"Then I talked it over with Amos and we persuaded John to see dad and Will at the mill that afternoon. He said that he would wait 20 minutes while I went and talked to them and saw if I couldn't get them to come and settle the dispute with him."
"Mahone and I found dad and Will about a half mile up the hollow from the mill. I told them that John had agreed to talk the trouble over with them if they would come back to the mill then. I also told Will that there would be no trouble if he went to John and apologized first, as John had told me to tell him this. Dad approved this plan and we started back toward the mill."
"Dad walked in front because he wanted to be there in case there was any trouble when he met Barnett. He thought that it would be better for him to talk to Barnett first. Will followed him and Mahone came after Will. I walked beside dad talking to him until just before we got in sight of the mill and then dropped back with Mahone."
"As we came along the fence in sight of the mill, John saw us and ran behind the barn. He ran out by the door of the barn and throwing his gun to his shoulder he fired once. Dad fell. Will ran past dad and dad called to him to run, that John would kill him. Will turned and ran back and Barnett fired again, Will falling on his face. I dived behind a rock and John fired twice at me."
"I called to John to stop shooting, that he had told me that he was my friend and had promised not to cause any trouble. I said, "You've killed Will and just as good as killed dad."
He said, "G—d—you, what did you bring them back here for?" "I answered that he had told me to.
"The crowd gathered and I went to dad and put my hand under his head. I told him, when he asked me, that Will wasn't dead. I didn't want to worry him."
"John came to about fifteen feet of dad. I thought that he was going to kill me." He said, "G—d—him, if he gets to wiggling, I'll give him some more."
"Then John went up the hollow and Amos followed him."
Roy closed his testimony by stating that he had a pistol when the shooting began but that it had been thrown out of his pocket when he dived behind the rock.
Cross examination by the defense failed to alter his testimony in any way. He said that he didn't know whether or not Will had a gun and that he didn't see any gun near Will after the shooting.
When court convened this morning at 9:30 o'clock, Amos Ervin was recalled to the stand and some parts of his testimony of the preceding days of the trial reviewed.
Enoch Arrington, one of the sawmill hands, corroborated without deviation other evidence that has been given by eye witnesses of the shooting.
Blackburn Flannery, aged and gray bearded ferryman at Speer's Ferry testified that after the shooting he had ferried Barnett, Charlie Robinett and Bill Falan(sic) across the river and that he had asked Barnett who had fired the first shot. He said that Burnett replied, "I did." He then said that he had asked Barnett if any of the Fraziers had done any shooting and Barnett had answered, "No."
Eleven More Witnesses
When court reconvened yesterday afternoon the commonwealth introduced eleven more witnesses. Their testimony corroborated, with three exceptions, that of witnesses who had testified previously. The conflicting evidence centered about the number of guns and kind that were found on the scene of the shooting after the tragedy had been enacted. One witness stated that he picked up three firearms—two shotguns and a pistol;
Mrs. Amos Ervin testified that two shotguns and two pistols were brought into her house after the affray; others stated, that there was only one gun and one pistol and even others that there was only one gun.
Feeble attempts to break down the chain of damning evidence being woven by the prosecution, were made by the defense in attempt to prove that Barnett shot in self defense. However, all prosecution have been positive in their statements of hearing Barnett threaten the Fraziers numerous times prior to the shootings and have described in graphic detail how Barnett stood over the fallen Fraziers and threatened to shoot them again if "they didn't have enough."
Morgan Seymore, another eyewitness and employee at the sawmill, was the first witness yesterday afternoon. He stated that after the shooting, Barnett said: "I'm a law abiding man and will I not try to get away." He further testified that about a month previous that Barnett had said to him: "Before the Fraziers finish cutting timber they will all be killed."
Mrs. Amos Ervin, who from the window of her home witnessed part of the scene that was enacted on the day of the murders, took the stand. She heard four shots fired and saw William and Creed Frazier fall. She stated that after the shooting, four weapons, two pistols and two guns, were brought into her home, Eli Sons bringing the pistols. However, she could not recall who brought the guns.
William and Mark Falin, youths who were loitering about the sawmill on the day of the tragedy, also testified, corroborating previous evidence.
Evidences of threats made by Barnett against the Fraziers on July 25 was offered by Lee Head and his wife, Sarah, who reside about one and one-half miles from the Ervin home.
Head, in a very dramatic tone, stated: "Johnnie Barnett came to my house on July 25 and told me that he and his Uncle Joe were going to run a timber line and if Creed Frazier come into the line either they (the Barnett's) were going to kill the Fraziers or the Fraziers were going to kill them. Head said that he remonstrated with Barnett and the next day, Head testified, he told Willie Frazier of Barnett's threat.
"There are two tracts of land," said Head. "One is called the Peggy Barnett tract and the other the Phoebe Barnett tract. It was the Peggy Barnett tract that was being disputed."
Charles Robinette, to whom Burnett surrendered shortly after the Fraziers were shot, followed Lee Head to the witness stand and following a recital of the shooting, told of Barnett's surrender. On the way to Speers Ferry, where Charles Palmer, then sheriff of Scott County took charge of Barnett, the following conversation took place.
"I did some good shooting didn't I" asked Barnett. "Yes, better than I could have done," replied Robinette.
"Well, I should have,' I have been practicing a long time," said the slayer.
Mahone Frazier was the next witness. He saw Barnett between seven and eight o'clock on the morning of September 20, while he was working in the woods. Barnett, with gun in hand, came up to him, Mahone said, and stated:
"You've been cussing me for pulling, up your corn. You've got to take back what you said. What were you, Creed and Willie doing back on the ridge the other day".
Mahone testified that he told Barnett they were planning to log in that tract, to which he said Barnett replied:
"If you log it I'll shoot your heart out, G — d — you."
"I intend to log it if I live," Mahone said he stated.
Barnett held him there for nearly an hour, Frazier said, and before he left, Barnett said: "I'm going to kill you, Creed and Willie in forty days."
In the afternoon, Mahone said, Roy Frazier came for him and the two started for the sawmill and on the way met up with Creed and Willie going the same way. They intended to go down and make peace with Barnett, Mahone said. Creed and Willie each had a gun, he testified. The gun Willie carried belonged to Amos Ervin and that Willie borrowed it for protection from Barnett, Mahone stated. He then told of their approaching Barnett and of the shooting, during which he crawled over a stone wall at the Ervin home. Mahone said he thought, he felt a bullet strike his jacket. No attempt was made by either of the four to use a weapon. He witnessed events following from a window in the Ervin home and went to where Creed had fallen after Barnett had surrendered.
Dr. J. M. Dougherty, Jr., Gate City physician, who went to the scene of the murders and examined the body of William Frazier was the next witness. He described in detail the wound on Willie Frazier's body, tracing its course from where it entered seven inches below the shoulder in the back and its exit from the breast. Both the wounds on Creed Frazier and on William Frazier were sufficient to produce death, he said.
Hoyle Head, timber cutter, testified that Barnett had threatened to kill him on the morning of September 20. This testimony however, was ruled out of the record by Judge E. P. Carter, presiding, over the objection of prosecution attorneys.
John Parrott, Kingsport, Tenn. police officer, who went with Geo. Frazier, brother of Creed, and at that time officer at Kingsport, to the scene of the tragedy shorty after its occurrence, told of examining the Fraziers' guns at the Ervin home. There were two weapons, a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver and a shot gun and neither had been fired, he said.
At the completion of his evidence, court adjourned.