Graverobbing in Chattanooga
Chattanooga Times, november 1894


Chattanooga Times thursday, 29 november 1894, p5

Circumstantial Evidence Strong Enough to Convict.
The Case to Be Prosecuted Vigorously for the Welfare of the Community.

The Accused Bound Over for Trial at the Circuit court - A Sexton Who Promises to Keep the Grass Green and Flowers in Bloom Over an Empty Coffin.

Yesterday morning the cases against County Sexton P.J. Hale and ex-assistant Sexton Jones for grave robbery were called in the court of 'Squire hill on Seventh Street. The prosecution was ready with a dangerous array of witnesses in addition to those introduced at the trial of Jones and Hurst a few days ago, but the defense, after being closeted in the back room for some twenty minutes announced that the case would be waived to circuit court. Attorney McLean said in waiving examination that the case had been tried once already and the defendants discharged, and he was sure that the present trial would result in another dismissal of the case. He thought someone would probably swear out warrants again for the defendants and wished to avoid the trouble incident to such proceedings. Attorney Trewhitt, for state consented to allow the case to be waived, and did not examine any state witnesses.

The fact that the assistant attorney gas associated with him Mr. Chamblee indicated that the prosecution will be vigorously pushed, and with the evidence secured there can be but little doubt as to the result of the trial in circuit court.

Mrs. Ida Devaughn, the sister of the man who was last interred in the field among the list of the stolen bodies, made the following statement yesterday for publication:

"My brother, Charlie Goven, died a week ago last Friday, and I was making arrangements to have the body interred in the Citizens' Cemetery when Mr. Gale came to me and my brother and begged me to have the interment at the potters' field. He seemed very anxious to have this done and said that if I would consent he would take the body to the cemetery, furnish a grave and bury it free of charge. I was well raised and have a respect for the dead; therefore I could not, and would not accept his offer. Finally I told him that I would have the body interred in his cemetery, but gave him money to secure a hearse and one carriage, which he did. The funeral took place a week ago Saturday.

"At the cemetery Mitchell, the assistant sexton, pointed to the grave next to my brother's and said it had been robbed and

He Knew Who Had Done It.
He said that he would watch my brother's grave carefully and report to the officers if the body was stolen. He told me then about the arrest of Jones and Hurst which Hale had denied to me the day before, when I questioned him about it.

"I worried about the robberies until I had no peace and Monday I went to the cemetery and asked Hale where Mitchell was. He said that Mitchell was not on the grounds but I saw him through the woods and called him to me. He said that Hale knew he was there as he had just left him. This lie told by Hale about Mitchell's whereabouts decided me, and I asked him to open the grave. He said there was no use; that the body was just as I had left it, and tried to make me change my mind about opening the grave. When he saw that it was no use he consented to have the grave opened, and Mitchell got a spade and threw out the dirt. While the digging was going on I watched Hale. As the spade struck the coffin he lowered his head and would not look me in the face again. When the coffin lid was found open and the body gone, Mitchell turned to Hale and said; 'Now you made me out a liar in court.

Who's the Liar Now, You or Me?'
Hale never said a word, but kept his face hid. He then tried to pacify me in every way. He said he would pay the expenses of opening the grave and sod it nicely. He said he would put new flowers on it and keep it green. That would not work, however, with an empty coffin, and Tuesday I had papers served on him and Jones."

The husband of the prosecutor in the case is an employee of the Cincinnati southern shops, in the blacksmith department. He said:

"Hale came to the shop the Friday before the investigation was made, and loafed for some time. I called him and asked him if he wanted to see me. I then asked him if it was true that my brother-in-law's body had been stolen, and he said it had not, bur was there just as it was left. He said the reports published in the papers to the effect that Hurst and Jones had been arrested were lies. He said the reports were published by parties who wanted his place as sexton. I then told him that my wife was alarmed and I would have to have the grave opened and the matter investigated. He begged me not to do it, and said the body was all right, and not a flower even had been disturbed. He told me that it would cost something to open the grave, and he did not want to have me, as his friend, to go to the expense of opening the graves. He kept begging me and promising that he would plant flowers on the grave and keep it in good order if I would promise not to have it opened. That only made me decide to open it no matter what it cost. We went to the cemetery Monday and opened it. My wife has already told you the rest.

"On the day of my brother's death Hale came to my home and asked what I intended to do with the remains. I told him I would bury the body in the citizens cemetery. He begged me to bury the body in his place, and said if I would do it he would pay all the expenses. I did not know why he could afford to pay the expenses, but think I do now. I told him the proposal to pay all the expenses was not right, and let him bury the body in the cemetery, but paid the expenses myself. I want to know why he was so anxious to have the body buried there and why he begged so hard to persuade me to give up the idea of opening the grave, and I want to know why he hung his head like a scared dog when the coffin was found, and I will know."

Although the evidence was not introduced before the justice as recorded, there is no longer any doubt that one of the most villainous schemes ever suggested.