The Murder of Francis E. Staley: Part 6

We’ve talked about guns, we’ve talked about travel, we’ve delved into ancient newspapers, and the evolution of the story of this murder. Let’s talk about suspects. After all, any good mystery story has a cast of characters. Here’s the rundown of the people suspected and perhaps not suspected for the murder of Francis E. Staley.

But before we begin, do go back and read the other five parts to this story and come up with your own ideas. Then be sure to comment and let me know– after all, I’m no detective.

Part 1| Part 2| Part 3| Part 4| Part 5

Suspect #1: Thomas Graves

Suspect #2: John Smith


Also, weirdly enough, I haven’t been able to find much more about Thomas Graves and John Smith. (Doesn’t the latter just sound like an alias? It’s basically untraceable from a genealogy standpoint unless it’s the John Smith of John Smith and Pocahontas)

Aug 16 1877 article release of graves and smith

There’s no mention of how the accused ‘satisfactorily accounted for their whereabouts at the time of the murder. We’ve already proven that it’s a pretty fair ride for them to have been seen in the area of Staley’s home at dusk (which was after 8 pm that night). Not knowing the lay of the land back in the late 1800s, I can’t say for sure that there wasn’t some kind of attraction nearby, but I doubt it a little.

In any case, the Mayor (?) found both these men not guilty.

Interestingly, a fair amount of research went into discovering the identity of the third man. {Thanks to my neighbor, Missy Goins, for all her work in breaking open this case 😉 Know, fair reader, when I say ‘I’ with regards to discoveries about this case, I mean ‘she and I’}

Suspect #3 (who you will notice is not named in either of the above newspaper articles)

Greenbury Thompson (also sometimes spelled ‘Green Berry’ or ‘Greenberry’.


First off, did you catch the snooty little comment against the sheriff? I’ve found some other articles that I’ll share with you later– seems that Sheriff Lewman was not a nice fellow. Or at least the paper wanted its readership to believe that.

Also, secondly, Missy discovered that, according to the Illustrated Historical Atlas of Putnam County Indiana 1879, James Stone served 2 terms as sheriff from 1872-1876.  Moses Lewman followed him as sheriff in 1876 and was still sheriff in 1879.  We think it was likely that Stone still was an arresting officer in 1879 and so there’s no big policial cover up when it comes to Stone being sheriff and then suddenly not holding that position a few days later.

So, what do you think? Can the testimony of a drunk criminal be trusted? I’ll do some more digging and get back to you soon!


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