William Binns (Execution of)
William Binns and livery-man T. P. Edwards were both, according to reports, “sustaining criminal relations” with a Black woman named Caldonia Crook (also referred to as Dora or Dona Cook) in Monticello (Drew County). On June 23, 1879, Edwards “was found speechless and dying” in Crook’s eastern Monticello home, his skull crushed and cheekbone shattered. A bloody axe was found in the room.
Local authorities thought Binns a likely suspect in the case, and when he was found wearing bloody clothing and “utterly failed to give any satisfactory account of himself,” he was arrested, as was Crook. Both were charged with murder.
Binns obtained a change of venue to Bradley County, where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. Crook, too, was convicted and sentenced to be executed; it is unclear whether they were tried together.
Binns unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Arkansas Supreme Court and was scheduled to be hanged on June 11, 1880. Governor William Read Miller commuted Crook’s sentence to twenty-one years in prison, “there being doubts of her willing complicity.”
Binns continued to claim his innocence up to the date of his death, and he “showed great coolness on the scaffold” before a crowd of about 1,500. The trapdoor was opened at noon on July 11, 1880, and Binns “died of strangulation; his struggles being fearful and his breathing being heard forty yards from the gallows for some time after the drop fell.”
For more information:
“Beins [sic] Butchered.” Arkansas Gazette, June 13, 1880, p. 1.
“Execution of a Murderer.” Indiana State Sentinel, June 16, 1880, p. 1.
“Horrible Murder.” Arkansas Democrat, July 7, 1879, p. 1.
“Will Be Hanged.” Arkansas Gazette, May 19, 1880, p. 8.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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