THE HEMPSTEAD MURDER.
The Dastardly Crime, which is Found Difficult of Investigation.
[Special Correspondence of the News.].
Hempstead, Sept. 30. — The murder of R. W. Finklea, which occurred about 4 o'clock Saturday morning, creates considerable feeling. Finklea had been engaged all night throwing poker dice for cigars and drinks with R. W. Crawford, Charley Pye and Ed Young, railroad agent, at Wheeler & Stoutenberger's saloon. A quarrel ensued between Crawford and Finklea, the former attempting to draw an improved Colt's 45-calibre pistol, when the latter remarked "I'm unarmed, but can whip you if you lay arms down." Crawford replied: "I'll give the pistol to Young." Young was sitting next to him.
Thus far all agree, but before the coroner's jury Crawford adds that as he was handing the pistol to Young to grapple with Finklea, some one behind him fired.
Wheeler told two stories under oath, one that he closed his saloon at midnight; that there had been no shooting there. His second statement, which was allowed and made by his request because he admitted the former was incorrect, was to the effect that, while in a front room behind the counter the pistol was fired; that very soon afterwards Young ran in and handed him Crawford's pistol with one chamber discharged.
Young stated that when Crawford attempted to draw the pistol himself and Pye started running toward the street he jumping over whisky barrels and emerging by a side door.
Pye stated that he ran behind the bar and out a latch gate; that Wheeler was not behind the bar; he and Young reached the street almost simultaneously with the crack of the pistol.
Young says he feared to remain during the pending melee because Crawford had only that night told him he meant to whip Finklea, and that if Crawford commenced shooting he (Young) would get shot, as Crawford had only a short time before attempted to shoot him. From the saloon Young and Pye went home. Thirty minutes after Young had retired to bed he was aroused by Crawford's knock. Opening the door, Crawford stated that he (Crawford) had killed Finklea and had caused his body to be carried to the pavement in front of Finklea's saloon; that he (Young) must go tell Pye to say that they left Wheeler's at 12 o'clock and all was quiet. Young hesitating, Crawford urged him to state he (Young) killed Finklea by accident, but neither proposition was agreed to and Crawford left.
About 5 o'clock Finklea's partner found him lying dead in front of their door. The ball struck Finklea below the right shoulder blade, passing through the heart and out above the waistband some three inches left from the center in front. Physicians assert that death was almost instantaneous. Consequently the body must have been carried or dragged across the street and railroad tracks, a distance of 110 yards, and left where it was found.
Public sentiment exculpates Young of the act, but ensures him for being in bad company and for not telling what he knew before being arrested. His past conduct has been irreproachable. While Crawford has killed one man prior to this and bears the reputation of a fighter, some think Crawford fired as Finklea turned to follow Young and Pye. Others that Wheeler, who was last noticed on a counter behind the card table, took the pistol, instead of Young taking it, and as Finklea leaned over Crawford in the scuffle, fired. Though no charge has been made against Wheeler, the latter believe has foundation in the range of the bullet and the fact Crawford's face is bruised as by a stroke.
Young and Crawford answered ready for examination to-day, but district attorney Booth asked a continuance to secure an important witness, by whom the impression prevails he can prove who carried the body across the streets. Young appears calm and satisfied that he will be exonerated, but fears injury from Crawford or his friends, after his release, and further trouble is generally apprehended, though there is no necessity, as no murderer or man charged with serious crime has been punished in this county for years.
"The Hempstead Murder." The Galveston Daily News, Wednesday, October 2, 1878, p. 4, col. 5.