Contributed by Lora Peppers
Ouachita Telegraph (Monroe, LA)
Saturday, January 20, 1872
Page 1, Column 2
A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY IN ARKANSAS!
SAVAGE MURDER OF A YOUNG LADY BY HER LOVER!
CONFESSION AND EXECUTION OF THE MURDERER!
We find in the Washington (Ark.) Telegraph a communication giving the details of a most barbarous tragedy near that place, it being no less than the murder of a young lady by the man to whom she was engaged.
The correspondent thus explains the means by which the murderer was discovered, the young lady's remains having been found in the woods terribly mutilated, without any proof to identify the criminal:
The jury of inquest continued to sit until the matter was thoroughly investigated. A main spring of a pistol was found where the murder was committed, and this was the clue that led to the detection of the fiend. The pistol that spring belonged to had to be found. It was proposed that every man who had that kind of a pistol in the neighborhood should produce it. Norwood having broken his pistol conceived it to be necessary to produce another one as it was known that he had one on the day of the murder. He therefore went to Murfreesboro, and borrowed one from a friend, and, when called upon, produced it instead of the one with which he committed the murder. But unfortunately for him, that same pistol had been in the neighborhood before, and was at once recognized as belonging to a Mr. Davis, at Murfreesboro, although he alleged that he had traded for it from a traveler, Mr. Davis was at once sent for and he disclosed the whole secret. After this was discovered to Norwood he made a full confession, which I give in his own words. He says:
Myself and Miss Holt were in the room together at Mrs. Nelsons, (13th,) she promised to send me a note. She had wrote me a note before that stating that she would send me another in a few days and tell me what she would do. I asked her to tell me then what her reasons were for putting it off. She told me she would send me an answer next morning. She told me there had been a great deal said about it more than I know. I asked her to tell me what it was but she would not tell me. She told me that she had told some of her people what she would do, but would not tell me. I asked her if she intended to marry me. She told me that she would do it if she could do it in peace. I came home and put up my mule and staid at home a little while, and then went down to the corner of Mrs. Nelson's field. Stayed there until she came. I walked to the road and spoke to her I told her I wanted her to tell me that evening what she had promised. She told me she could not tell me then. She become [sic] frightened when I came up to her. I told her to please tell me (several times) as I wanted to know then. She told me she could not tell me then. I, at that time was walking along side of her horse holding the bridle rein. I saw she was frightened. I told her not to be scared as I did not intend to hurt her (several times). She told me that she would tell on me. I told her I did not want her to do that, as I did not intend to hurt her at all. She hallowed a time or two. I saw that I had gone so far that I would have to kill her, or do something else, i.e. get out of the way. I drew my pistol out and she screamed. I told her I did not want to hurt her. She screamed and I walked around on the left hand side of the horse. She screamed at the time. I then shot her on the horse four times. She then fell off of the horse. I think I caught her as she went to fall. She was not dead then. She said the lord save me. Not being dead and lying on the ground, I cut her throat with my knife (I think 3 cuts.) I struck her several blows over the head with the barrel of the pistol. In striking her over the head I broke my pistol. I did no bite her hand. I then left and went through the woods close to the 16th section and crossed the road half way between our house and Mr. Nelson's field, and went to the creek and washed my hands, then came on home up the creek. I throwed [sic] the pistol in the woods near the 16th section field. Early on Dec. 14th I went and got the pistol and brough[t] it home and put it in the corncrib in the yard on the left hand side.
The victim of this foul deed is thus described:
Mary Tereca Holt was fifteen years of age on the last anniversary of her natal day. She was beautiful in form, in figure and in grace; possessed of inestimable virtues and devoted piety. Kind and gentle as a dove. She was idolized by her relations, beloved by her friends and admired by all with whom she became acquainted. Captivating in manners and disposition, loving and magnanimous, she was indeed the star of the social circle and the flower of the family. She was the daughter of Mrs. Harriet C. Holt and the youngest of them all.
The lover and murderer of Miss Holt had a common-place history which is thus noticed:
Robert W. Norwood was a young man of some 21 or 22 years of age, light complexion, heavy built, some 5 feet 8 or 4 inches high and would weigh about 140 or 145 pounds. He was rather prepossessing in appearance and had a high reputation in the community. He was of good parentage and the hosts of friends he had were loth [sic loath] to believe him guilty of so foul a crime.
Norwood's execution was summary as may be seen from the following:
After this confession was made, the infuriated populace were fully determined to lynch the fiend, but some enfluential [sic] citizens dissuaded them. He was placed under a strong guard of some twelve men, who were compelled to keep themselves secreted during the whole of Saturday night in order to save the prisoner from the hands of the citizens. On Sunday morning, about 11 o'clock, he was taken from the guard by about 100 armed men and hung to a tree, about a mile and a half from where he committed the deed. He was drawn up about fifteen feet from the ground and choked to death.
Back to Main Page