Missouri · Momento Mori and Post-mortem Photography

Family killed following argument over saddle

October 12, 1906
Near Licking, Missouri
20-year-old Jodie Hamilton kills five members of the Parsons family following an argument

Hamilton had argued with Carney Parsons (alt. spelled as Carrie or Barney) over a saddle which Hamilton had found on a wandering horse and had not attempted to return to its rightful owner. Parsons threatened to turn Hamilton in to the sheriff in order to convince him to sell the saddle as the Parsons prepared to move out of town. Hamilton unhappily agreed but rage filled his mind and he decided to confront the Parsons as they made their way out of town.

Hamilton later claimed that while he was of sound mind during the killings and was responsible for his actions, he originally had no intention to kill the family. When he confronted Parsons’ wagon on the road, the men quarreled violently, scaring Minnie Parsons and her three sons: Jessie, 5; Frankie, 3; and Edward, 1. (Some newspapers at the time erroneously state their ages as 11, 4, and 1.)

During the argument, Carney, still seated in his wagon, drew a knife and raised it to attack Hamilton. Hamilton in turn shot at Parsons with a shotgun, wounding his leg and shattering the gun. Hamilton used a piece of the broken gun to bludgeon Carney, issuing a fatal strike to his head. Minnie struggled with Hamilton and was also struck with the gun barrel for her troubles, though she was not immediately killed.

The young boys were the next victims, crying in confusion and terror. Hamilton struck each with the gun and sliced their throats with the knife Carney had pulled on Hamilton. Minnie, clinging to life, clutched Hamilton’s leg and was finished off with a blow from an axe.

To conceal the murder, Hamilton pushed the family’s wagon into a nearby river after taking some of their possessions, stole the Parsons’ mule, and went to his fiancé’s house to bring her to church. During church service, a member of the congregation spoke of the discovery of the murder to another member, and the news spread quickly during the sermon. Hamilton hurriedly excused himself after hearing the news and fled to nearby Houston, Missouri where Parson’s mule was recognized and police were alerted. Police questioned Hamilton who freely confessed to the murders, was tried and sentenced to hang, and rejected any offers for leniency or appeals. He was executed on December 21, 1906.

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