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December 26, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part LXIV

arson_64_forbes-free

The Long and Winding Road

On March 17, 1905, The Times-Dispatch prepared their readers for the next chapter in “The Famous Forbes Case,” reminding them that Charlie Forbes’ trial was to start on Monday in the Prince Edward County Court and recapping the case, in brief.

Then, on March 21, 1905, a headline in The Times-Dispatch announced:

CHARLIE FORBES IS A FREE MAN

Jailed since late May of 1904, having survived typhoid fever in the Buckingham County jail, Charlie Forbes’ case was swiftly concluded in the Prince Edward County Court. According to the newspaper:

Indictments No. 3 and 9 were nolle prosequied by the Commonwealth and on the other seven indictments against him he was tried and declared “not guilty” in each of them.

The same disposition was made of all the cases against E. C. Wooldridge.

In the two cases which were nolle prosequied the Commonwealth, of course, reserves the right of reindicting. It is understood that both Forbes and Wooldridge will leave the State, as their presence is not desired in the old neighborhood where they lived.

The crowd in attendance to-day was not large, and there was no excitement. A sense of general relief is experienced that these cases have been disposed of.

There may have been a general sense of relief among the public when the Commonwealth declined to further prosecute; however, could the Forbes family really forgive and forget the extensive damage done to John S. Forbes property? What about the indictments against Dan Wooldridge? The Forbes family and the public remained puzzled as to a motive behind the crimes.

Was the investigation of Elkin Agee and Tom Ferguson, two of the men previously accused of robbing the Forbes’ home, as the possible arsonists deep enough? Having spent time in the penitentiary, they had reasons to want revenge on John S. Forbes and his family. What happened to the projected testimony of Governor Montague, with whom Cliff Wooldridge appeared to be on friendly terms, and Officer Marshall, of the penitentiary?

~

Once Cliff Wooldridge was found not guilty and there was no new, direct evidence against Charlie Forbes, it is unsurprising that the cases were dropped. A jury was not going to hang two or three men on circumstantial evidence.

Charlie Forbes may or may not have left Buckingham County, as predicted by the newspaper. In 1910, E. Clifford Wooldridge was still living in Buckingham, adjacent R. D. Forbes, and raising his many children. It seemed, yet another Buckingham County crime just drifted away from the headlines.

Coming Next: A Surprise Ending

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

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