After the opening statements to the jury by prosecuting attorney Fraser for the state and T. M. Seawell for the defense, and the introduction testimony began, Mrs. Luntz being the first witness. She stated on the night of July 23rd, 1902, while she was clearing up her kitchen work after supper, the dogs ran out and began barking and she stepped to the door, while her daughter, Malinda, stepped out into the yard, and a man rode up to the yard fence. He spoke and asked which way Mr. Lantz was. She recognized the voice as that of Bill Naves, and supposed that he had come to stay the night, as he frequently visited them. Mr. Lantz had lain down and was asleep, and Malinda went into the house, awoke her father, and told him that Bill Naves was out there and wanted to see him. Mr. Lantz went out to the fence in his night clothes and asked him what he wanted, and he said: “Nothing much.” Mr. Lantz then invited him to get down, and about that time she saw a flash and heard report of a gun, Mr. Lantz hollered and said he was shot. The man on the horse dashed away. The testimony of Malinda and Delia Lantz was essentially the same as that of their mother. Mr. Lantz testified that when he reached the fence he put one foot in the crack of the fence and place his left hand on his hip, asked Naves what he wanted and his answer was the same as stated by Mrs. Lantz, and while he was standing in that position, the gun was fired, inflicting a flesh wound in his left arm and some of the shot glanced his left side. He said that he never, at any time, saw the gun. He knew it was Bill Naves on the horse and made no effort to conceal his identity. When the gun fired, his horse whirled and dashed away. That the shooting occurred between 8 and 9 o’clock.
Myrtle Turnbo, a cousin of the defendant, testified that on the night before the shooting took place, Bill went to their house and got her father’s shot gun while he was away.
Andy Turnbo, father of Myrtle, and uncle of the defendant, testified on the night of the shooting he returned home from Pontiac at 10:40 o’clock and found Bill Naves on his porch, apparently asleep, and he stayed until the next morning. He said that it was between 7 and 10 miles from his house to the Lantz home.
Here the State rested and the defendant took the stand in his own behalf. Asked by the attorneys to tell all he knew about the shooting that occurred on that fateful night, he said:
“I will do that as best I can. In the year 1902, I made a crop at home with my mother, who was living on Uncle Newt Turnbo’s place. In the early part of June, I was over to Uncle Newt’s house and he began telling me about people killing his cattle. He said they were cut to pieces, shot, crippled, and killed because the people did not want them to run on the range, and that he begged them to let his cattle alone as he was old and could not look after them himself, but that his pleas had been disregarded. I said it looked like those people could be prosecuted for these acts, but he said that he had tried and failed, but that he had a scheme which he had been thinking of naming to me. I asked somebody ought to take a shot gun and give some of those fellows what they had been giving his cattle. A few days later, he asked me if I had thought about this matter any, and I told him I had not for I did not think he meant it. He said yes, he was earnest, and he thought I ought to help him out as he had been good to me, which he had. I told him I would think about it and he asked me if Bill Shaw would be all right to go with me. I told him I would have nothing to do with Shaw in a matter of that kind because I had no confidence in his keeping it. Uncle got mad and said he did not believe I wanted to help him, anyway. That ended the subject at that time. A few days later Bill Shaw came to our place and said uncle Newt Turnbo wanted me to come over. I went, and uncle was very angry. He told me to look at his cattle, some shot and some badly cut up. I asked him if he knew who did it. He said Tom Clark did it. I asked why he did not have Clark prosecuted and he said he didn’t have evidence. He said that Clark, Sam Frost, Hillhouse, and Jerry Jenkins were doing this killing and if they were run out of the country, it would stop. He said he had talked to Mr. Lantz who had told him he would look after the killing and report. He asked me again if I had made up my mind to help him. I told him I was already in trouble and couldn’t afford to do it. He said, “Bill, if I thought there was any hereafter about this, I would not ask you to do it, but I will see that you come out alright.” I again refused to go with Shaw, and uncle got mad and said that he had always stuck by me, was then on my bond but that I might now get another man to go my bond. I then told him that if he would get a man that I could depend on to go with me I would do what I could for him. He asked me how Sam would do, meaning his son. I said that Sam would be alright. Uncle then promised me that if I got to any trouble over the matter, he would stick to me and see that my brother was taken care of. Sam came to see me in a few days and we went out into the hills to several watering places but found no crippled cattle, but we saw Tom Clark in the woods with a gun. As we went home Sam said it looked like the old man was about right, which it was no use trying to get evidence and he asked me how my nerve would be on shooting a man. I told him I couldn’t tell as I had never tried it. He said he didn’t know whether he could hit one or not, so he practiced, shooting at trees a few times along the road and hitting his mark well. He then said, “Yes, the old man is right and some day we will go out and take a shot a piece.” I went out into the hills alone next day and found a wounded steer lying near Tom Clark’s place. He was nearly starved and I carried water in my hat to him to drink. In about a week Sam came up to his mother’s gate and called me out and said: ‘Well, what about our trip?’ I told him I had hoped he had forgotten it. He said he had not, but wanted to get it off his mind. I asked if it was coming off that night, and he said no-tomorrow night. So next evening I went up to Uncle Andy Turnbo’s and got his shot gun , and Sam and I met at the appointed place about an hour before sundown. He had some whiskey and we took two drinks a piece. Sam said that he had changed the plan, that it would be easier to track two than one, and that it would be best to separate and each go alone. He asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him it was immaterial. He said then that I could go to Tom Clark’s and Sam Frost’s and he would go to Hillhouses’ and Jenkins’. So I started out and got to thinking that Sam might not intend to carry out his part, and I came very near turning back. Then I thought of the way my uncle’s cattle had been treated and that if ever two men needed a taste of shot it was Tom Clark and Sam Frost. So I related my courage and rode on. When I got near Clark’s house I dismounted, and, leaving my pony, walked up to the house. It was after dark. I called, and a woman and a little girl came in sight. I asked to stay all night and she said she couldn’t keep me as her husband was not at home. I was glad to hear her say that and felt relieved. I decided that, as I could not get Clark, I would not bother Frost, either, so I started back, thinking that I might stay all night with Mr. Lantz, as he lived on my route home, and then I wanted to talk with him about this cattle matter. I rode up to the fence when Mrs. Lantz and one of the girls came out, I asked if Mr. Lantz was at home and the girl, saying he was at home, went into the house. It seemed to me that he was rather slow about coming out, and I wondered if he had become worked up over reports that had been circulated, and was fixing to come out prepared to give me a load of shot. When he did come out he walked right to me before speaking, and then he asked, and what seemed to me, a rather harsh tone, what I wanted, and , at the same time, I saw his left hand go to his left hip, and I thought he might be preparing, thought he might be reaching for his pistol. As he did that, I pulled back on the hammer of my gun, which lay across the pommel of the saddle before me, intending, if he brought a gun in sight, to shoot him in the arm. By taking a second look I saw that he had on only his night clothes and did not intend to harm me, so I started to ease the hammer of the gun back down when it slipped under my thumb and the gun fired My horse leaped a few jumps, and when I got him stopped, the women were screaming and I was afraid I had killed Mr. Lantz. I thought one I would go back, but I saw one of the girls come out of the door with a Winchester and I left. I had no desire to harm Mr. Lantz, and if I wanted to kill him I could have done so with the greatest ease. A short time after I had left the Lantz’s home I heard and gun fire and then I knew Sam was out. I went to Uncle Andy Turnbo’s house and was on the porch when he came home, as he testified, having in mind the chance to prove an alibi in case Lantz died. Ike Turnbo was the first to mention to me about the shooting. He said they were accusing me of doing it.’ That the people were all stirred and Pontiac was surrounded by men hunting me. I then decided to go to Oakland and give up to the sheriff of Marion county, which I did and was turned over to the constable to await preliminary hearing, being release on my own recognizance. While waiting for this hearing Sam Turnbo tried to get me to leave, offering to furnish me with money to do so; criticized me for giving up and asked me what I meant by killing Lantz? I told him it was accidental, and asked him what he meant b killing the Lantz’s boy? He said he did not intend to kill him. I waived examination and was turned over to the sheriff of Baxter county on the charge of killing Ike Lantz’s boy-taken to Mountain Home, lay in jail 14 months, was tried and acquitted. While in jail, there Uncle Newt Turnbo sent me tools with which to break jail and get away. I them back to him without using them. After my acquittal at Mountain Home, I was taken t West Plains, Mo., tried on the charge of shooting Jerry Jenkins, convicted, and had served three years in the Missouri penitentiary. I have told the truth and nothing but the truth here. I did not tell the truth at Mountain Home because I was on trial for my life, and did not want to say anything unfavorable to myself. I did not want to tell the truth at West Plains because I would rather suffer unjustly myself than untrue to my confederates when I thought they were still my friend. Since my imprisonment I have learned that they have turned against me, forsaken my mother, mistreated my sister, and I don’t feel under any obligations to shield them further in this matter.
In corroboration to the testimony of the defendant, Wm. Nelson testified that Newt Turnbo had told him about his cattle being killed, that he believe Sam Frost was one of the men who was doing the killing and he wanted to get someone to look after them as something had to be done.
H. H. Perkins testified that Dr. Sam Turnbo was boarding with him at the time the shooting was done. That he left his house on the evening before the shooting that night and was not at home at breakfast time next morning, although he came later. The above is the gist of the evidence produced in the case by both sides.
Naves can yet live down the stain upon his character and become a good and useful citizen.
The above article comes from the Yellville Echo. Naves was tried at Yellville last week by the Marion county circuit court.
End of Article
Bill Naves’ ordeal has taken him from a little place called Pontiac, Missouri, in Ozark County, to crossing the Arkansas line, and many other county lines in the Ozarks. Some would say he knew how to play the system, but others testify to his enduring innocence. Was his conversion in prison only a “Jail House Religion?” Though I am not offering stones to throw, I believe it was an interesting admission in Post #2. This is where he stated he had to lie in Mountain Home because he knew his life was on the line. Not only did Bill Naves cross geographical lines, by his own admission, he realized he crossed many moral lines.
I believe, due to our nature, we too have transgressed many lines in our lives. It may be easy to see the blatant faults of our neighbor, but it takes a greater courage and humility to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings. As we now let William “Bill” Naves rest in peace in our Ozark’s History, may we also make amends with our Creator and neighbor while it is still called “Today.”
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“Bill Naves Not Guilty.” Baxter Bulletin 6.34 (16 Aug. 1907) 3, 6, 8. Baxter County Microfilm Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Dec. 2009.