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June 16, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XIV

Arson_14_Buckingham-Courthouse

Buckingham Courthouse.  Photo by Joanne Yeck

The Case of Charlie Forbes

Lastly, as part of the preliminary trial, the charges were heard against Charlie Forbes. The special report in the June 1, 1904 edition of The Times-Dispatch told how Edloe Spencer once again took the stand. He had arrested Charlie on the train between Prospect and Farmville and told the court:

I swore out the warrant and arrested him on suspicion. He came within one-half a mile of his kinpeople Saturday and did not visit them. He got on the train at Prospect. When I searched him, he had on his person two pocket knives, a pistol, a hundred and one dollars in money, and a ticket from Prospect to Norfolk.

Judge Crute, for the defense, rigorously cross-examined Spencer, suggesting that Forbes was induced to confess. Crute failed in his approach.

Another witness testified that an oil can was found in the tobacco barn. The prosecution set to work identifying this new piece of evidence.

According to the June 1st issue of the Appomattox and Buckingham Times, Charlie’s brother, Annis, was brought to the witness stand to testify against him:

The witness said he left Thursday morning at eight o’clock for Farmville. He got back about dark Friday. His brother had left when he got back. He has been in the habit of leaving this way. He is twenty-four or twenty-five years of age. Three years ago he stayed [away] from June to November. The fire that year in which father had $400 stolen from him occurred in April. He wrote to a sister while away.

As the questioning came to an end, it was becoming increasingly clear that much, if not all, of the initial testimony was circumstantial.

Still, the court sent all three cases on to the grand jury, releasing Dan Wooldridge on $750 bail. Janie Forbes, who saved her elderly father from the burning house, was present in the village but did not appear in court. She talked with her brother and Cliff Wooldridge spoke with his wife.

The Times-Dispatch closed this opening chapter of the trials by reminding its readers that this promised to be “one of the most sensational cases in the criminal annals of Virginia.”

A few days later, The Farmville Herald confidently noted: “Rumors of every sort fly thick and fast, but still, the truth will yet prevail and justice be meted out to the guilty.”

This remained to be seen.

Coming Next: Can you trust what you read in the newspaper?

Need to catch up? Click here for The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part I


 

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