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Jarman, Mary

The Daily Constitution
Atlanta, GA
November 15, 1896
Transcribed and submitted by: 

Jarman, Mary

Child Wife Innocent.

Paulding superior court has been engaged during the past few days in the trial of the case of the state against Mrs. Sallie Jarman, charged with murder.

The case is in some respects a most remarkable one. the defendant is a slip of a girl, a childish figure in short dresses, who only passed her fourteenth birthday last July. She looks less like a murderess than any criminal I have ever seen. It is almost impossible to believe that one with such an innocent looking face could be guilty of such a heinous crime. Her manner is gentle, her features delicate and rather pretty. She is the daughter of Mr. Nathan Barron, a prominent and substantial citizen of this county.

On the 22nd of last March she was until in marriage to William Jarman, himself only seventeen years of age. During the next few days the bridal couple divided the time between the homes of Mr. Barron and Mr. George Jarman, the father of the groom. On the 3rd of April while Mr. George Jarman and his wife had gone to Dallas, Sallie Jarman prepared the noonday meal for the family, which was very frugal, consisting of turnip salad, vinegar pie and coffee.

The seven members of the family who drank the coffee immediately became very ill, and commenced vomiting violently, from the old “Granny” Jarman down to little two-year-old Mary. They continued to be very sick for several days, but all finally recovered except little Mary, who died on the following Monday, after a great deal of suffering. The only persons who ate the dinner who were not made sick were Sallie Jarman and a baby grandchild of Mr. Jarman’s, who had not taken any of the coffee, according to the testimony of the state’s witnesses.

Sallie Jarman was sent by the old “granny” several hundred yards to a neighbor’s house for assistance and was gone for two hours, leaving the family in that helpless condition. She claimed in her statement, however, that she drank some of the coffee, and that she was sick on the way to the neighbor’s house, and this caused the delay.

Dr. M.U. Nix was called to attend the sick members of the family, and stated the symptoms indicated arsenical poisoning. Besides constant vomiting the symptoms consisted principally of redness of the eyes, the swelling of the face, feeble pulse and intense, burning thirst.

On account of the actions of the defendant, suspicion fastened upon her, as she prepared the coffee, and it was claimed by the state’s witnesses that she had procured a package of “rough on rats” from her father’s country store and put it into the coffee, although the testimony in regard to this was purely circumstantial.

There were various theories advanced to account for the violent illness of the Jarman family, the defense attempting to show that it might have been caused by the acid in the vinegar pie, which was cooked in a tin pan. The experts, however, testified that there would hardly be enough poison from this source to go around among so many patients, and do so much damage; for it was also testified that there were a great many chickens killed by it, and a hog and dog made very sick from eating slops in which the coffee had been thrown. Another theory of the defense was that the poison was kept there by Luke Jarman, another son; to put into his “blockade” whisky to make it “bead,” and that some had accidentally got into the coffee.

One very investigative witness by the name of McMeekin, after feeling the pulse of each patient, stated that he “differed” from the doctor and others as to the poison theory, and to demonstrate his conviction on the subject proposed to eat a portion of each article of food that the family had for dinner if Dr. Nix would treat him free of charge in case his demonstration failed to demonstrate. He did actually eat some of the salad and the vinegar pie, but allowed himself to be persuaded not to tackle the coffee.

Twelve days after the death of the child her body was disinterred and a postmortem examination made by Dr. W. C. Connally, of this place. The stomach and liver were sent to Professor George F. Payne, state chemist, who analyzed them. Both Dr. Connally and Professor Payne testified in the case that they found no traces of arsenical poisoning, but admitted that the poison could have been vomited so as to leave no trace, and yet enough have been absorbed into the system to produce death.

There seems to be an entire absence of motive if it be true that the poison was put into the coffee by the defendant. There was no evidence to show that she had any trouble with her young husband, but there was some testimony that she was very reluctant to leave her father’s house the day before the alleged crime to return to the home of her husband’s father, though this was denied by the defense and evidence offered to disprove it. The only plausible theory to account for her act, if guilty, is that she was trying a childish experiment and did not anticipate the disastrous consequences to her husband’s family; or else, she had found marriage a failure, and tired of her young husband, whose habits were not the best and thought this the quickest method to get rid of him and his family. There was some testimony offered by the state, but ruled out by the court, in reference to her actions toward her husband, which aroused some suspicion, although he was sick at the time the dinner was eaten, and drank none of the fatal coffee.

During the trial the defendant has been perfectly self-possessed and shown no emotion whatever. She seems to have no conception of the gravity of her situation; or else, conscious of innocence, she has no fear of the verdict. Her statement on the stand was well delivered and indicated no lack of intelligence. There are no marks of the criminal about her. After studying her child-like and apparently guiltless face, outside of the evidence, the conclusion is almost irresistible that she is innocent o

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