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November 28, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part LVI

Arson_34_Wooldridge

Cliff Wooldridge Takes the Stand

On January 8th, The Times-Dispatch reported that Cliff Wooldridge had taken the witness stand the day before in his own defense. He was questioned for nearly four hours. His testimony reinforced and repeated the facts as he had given them during the July trial in the Buckingham County Court. Approximately 100 ladies were present, a testament to the case’s broad appeal. The correspondent wrote:

Though at first nervous, he made a good witness. The prisoner is in bad physical condition and appears haggard and worn from his long confinement and the nervous strain incident to his tedious trial….

He explained in a plausible manner many of the statements he had made both before and since his arrest, and which are now being used against him.

Wooldridge denied having said or stated that the shoes he wore at the time of his arrest made the tracks at the fire. He denied much of Edloe Spencer’s testimony, and also that he ever attempted to break jail.

In explanation of his conduct in regard to his objections to the giving of the medicine to John S. Forbes, prisoner said he advised that they had better not give the medicine. He did not recall moving the bottles of medicine – possibly might have touched them.

The first time the prisoner had seen Charlie J. Forbes, who is jointly indicted with the prisoner, since the fire was in the Farmville jail. Prisoner had not seen him since Wednesday before the fire….

The prisoner said he did use violent language to James H. Forbes and [this was] because he had been accused by the Forbes of doing the burning.

“When a man makes a grave and serious charge like that, I suppose it would raise an angel in heaven much less a man.”

After a recess of five minutes the direct examination of the prisoner was resumed by Mr. Flood. Prisoner said to Edloe Spencer, who made the arrest:

“I suppose you have a warrant?”

Spencer’s reply was: I know you too well to come without a warrant.

(As a matter of fact prisoner was arrested without a warrant.)

~

In the course of Wooldridge’s testimony, he clarified his comment about a premeditated fire; it was based on seeing Elkin Agee and Tom Ferguson in the neighborhood. They were the men sent to the penitentiary for robbery and arson committed at John Forbes home some years before. Wooldridge also denied having told Jim Forbes that he held the whole matter in the hollow of his hand and that he was in a “bad fix” about the fire.

In short, Cliff Wooldridge denied most of the testimony against him. Edmund Hubard’s cross examination was strenuous, but resulted in no damaging admissions by Wooldridge.

Witnesses for the defense also included Walter Forbes, a nephew of John S. Forbes. Unsurprisingly, this witness contradicted several others who had been brought to the stand by the prosecution. G. W. Scott, a detective connected with the National Detective Agency of Richmond and one of the men who investigated the Forbes site, was also called to the stand. Again, he stated that Cliff Wooldridge was “zealous” in assisting him in the investigation.

Coming next: In Defense of Husband and Father

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

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