Female Killers · Missouri

Woman kills slave owner for attempting to sexually assault her

June 23, 1855
Callaway County, Missouri
19-year-old Celia kills a slave owner after he attempts to rape her

Celia had been purchased by Robert Newsom when she was 14. Newsom raped Celia for the next 5 years, resulting in at least one illegitimate child.

On the night of June 23, Newsom informed Celia he would be visiting her later in the evening, and Celia informed him she would defend herself if he attempted to rape her again. Nevertheless, Newsom upheld his promise and visited her after his family had fallen asleep. Celia rejected his advances as she had promised, and used a stick “about as large as the upper part of a Windsor chair, but not so long” to club Newsom over the head in defense. After the first strike, Newsom made a motion towards her and she struck him a second time, killing him.

Celia spent the rest of the night disposing of Newsom’s body in the fireplace, using a stone to crush pieces as needed. Larger bones and bone fragments were hidden under the hearth. In the morning, she offered to pay Newsom’s 12-year-old grandson, Coffee Wainscott (alt. spelling Waynescot), “two dozen walnuts” to unknowingly scatter his grandfather’s ashes.

When Newsom’s family became concerned they could not find him, an investigation led to Celia who had made no attempt to flee. She initially denied any knowledge of Newsom’s whereabouts but, under accusations and threats, confessed to have killed him. She stated she had never intended to kill the man and had “only wanted to hurt him.” She was arrested and tried, though, because she was a slave, she was not allowed to testify on her own behalf. She was convicted of first-degree murder by an all-white male jury, many of whom had slaves of their own, and sentenced to death.

While awaiting her execution, her defense team wrote to the Supreme Court asking for review, stating Celia killed Newsom “to prevent a forced sexual assault.” The Supreme Court upheld the previous ruling and Celia was hanged on December 21, 1855.

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