Bio: Meyers, Julius (Convicted of Murder – 1918)
Contact: Ann Stevens
Surnames: Meyers, Wickham, Rush, Sturdevant, Baker, Crosby, Perry
----Source: Neillsville Times (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 6/20/1918
Meyers, Julius (Convicted of Murder – 15 Jun 1918)
On Saturday morning the case of the State of Wisconsin vs. Julius Meyers, charged with murder, went to the jury at Black River Falls. The case was tried in Jackson County by Judge Wickham of Eau Claire on a change of venue. The case went to the jury about 11 o’clock Saturday morning and after about four hours deliberation the jury returned a verdict of murder in the first degree. In his charge to the jury Judge Wickham had ordered them to either return a verdict of murder in the first degree or return a verdict for acquittal. Judge Wickham gave the counsel for defense fifteen minutes in which to make pleas for a new trial, overruled the motions and sentenced Meyers to life imprisonment at Waupun. By this time Meyers has already started his long term of punishment.
Meyers was charged with the murder of his wife, carrying the body to the basement of his home and then setting fire to the house to hide the evidence of his guilt. The evidence against the defendant was purely circumstantial, but it was of the strongest nature and such that public opinion generally was against Meyers. In the trial District Attorney Rush was assisted by L.M. Sturdevant of Eau Claire and John Baker of the Attorney General’s office at Madison. Mr. Rush had strong evidence against Meyers and he took no chances of overlooking any point that would convict the defendant of the crime. Meyers was defended by E.W. Crosby of this city, assisted by H.M. Perry of Black River Falls.
The state showed in their evidence substantially as follows:
That Mr. and Mrs. Meyers lived near Chili and that on Thanksgiving night they took an auto trip. Returning to their home it seemed evident that they had engaged in a quarrel, with the result that Meyers had struck his wife with some blunt instrument, fracturing her skull, and supposedly completing the murder by kicking her in the head. He then carried the body into the cellar, deposited it on the floor and then went back upstairs and set fire to the house. Possibly an hour had elapsed after their return home, when neighbors saw flames issuing from the house. Even at that time it was stated that it might have been possible to enter the lower floor of the house and that a short time previously Meyers could have saved his wife from the burning house had he made the effort. But Meyers had not made any effort and when neighbors arrived at the fire he was found in the yard and exhibited but slight signs of emotion over the tragedy. When arrested, Meyers told many conflicting stories, in one of which he claimed that he had left the house and gone to the barn and there fallen asleep and only aroused when the house was almost burned down. He also claimed that valuable papers which had always been kept in the house and which were found by the sheriff and district attorney in a granary, hidden in a barrel, had been given him by his wife to take to the bank and that he had hidden them where found. The papers had blood stains on them, the presence of which Meyers explained in the statement that when his wife had given them to him, she had scratched her hand slightly and that the blood had dropped onto the papers. A blood-stained pillow slip was also found in the cellar of the house where the body was found.
That the murder was not premeditated seems to have been the general belief, and that the murder resulted from a quarrel and in the heat of passion for which he will pay the penalty of life imprisonment.
The defense put up a strong fight for Meyers and presented a very plausible theory to the jury, but not plausible enough to clear the defendant, who throughout the trial seemed jovial and contented and certainly without grief. Mr. Crosby’s theory was that Mrs. Meyers had started into the cellar for some reason or other, carrying a lighted lamp. That she had been overtaken by a fainting spell and had fallen head-first into the cellar. She had struck her head first at a turn in the stairway and later on the floor of the cellar, which injuries accounted for the fracture of her skull. The lighted lamp had set fire to the house and Meyers knew nothing of the accident until he returned from the barn and found the house in flames.
At only one time during the trial did Meyers display any emotion. When physicians displayed the wedding ring as that taken from the finger of the dead woman, he broke down and cried. Further than that, he exhibited but little emotion. The head of the murdered woman was exhibited in court as evidence of death from the blows of a blunt instrument. Only Meyers knows if he is guilty of the crime for which he pays such extreme penalty, but with the strong evidence against him, it seems very evident that conviction was just and the penalty deserved.
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