March 31, 1893
Louis Lewis is hanged for the murder of his wife
The crime occurred on September 16, 1890. According to Annie Dillon, Louis’ employer at a dairy farm, she and another employee, Hattie Peck, were in a room talking with Louis’ wife Melinda Lewis when Louis entered in a “quarrelsome mood.” The two argued in front of Dillon and Peck with Louis stating Melinda “should never have the benefit of another dollar of his money again.” Melinda replied that, if Louis would not support her, she knew “plenty of men in town that would.” Louis was visibly angered by her retort and warned her not to repeat her words.
Louis drew a pistol from his pants pocket and shot Melinda in the head, the bullet entering one ear and exiting the other. While Dillon and Peck were still in the room, reportedly horrified by the murder, Louis left the room, went to the front porch, paused briefly, fired into the air, and fled.
A detective tracked Louis to a wooded area near Columbus, Georgia and shot at the fugitive, who then fell into a creek. The detective believed Louis had drowned and considered the case closed, though Louis was spotted in Alabama in 1891, arrested, and returned to Georgia to stand trial.
The first trial ended in mistrial, though Louis was retried the following week, convicted, and sentenced to hang. His defense attorney successfully appealed the verdict on the basis Melinda’s name was incorrect in court transcripts (she was named as Mirandy). Louis was tried a third time and, again, sentenced to hang.
The day before his execution, Louis made a statement declaring his innocence. He claimed that, on the day of Melinda’s murder, the couple had been joking together and were happy when Dillon called Louis out into the field to tend to the cattle. As he left, Melinda called to him to leave his pistol behind because it was wearing a hole in his pocket. Louis took the gun from his pants and set it atop the ice box, whereupon it accidentally misfired, fatally striking Melinda in the head.
Louis further claimed Dillon instructed him to flee the area so “the officers won’t get you,” and gave him $0.35 (worth roughly $10 today) to aid in his flight. She told Louis the balance of his wages — $14, or about $400 today — would be given to his brother-in-law toward the cost of Melinda’s funeral expenses. Louis, though reluctant to leave his dead wife, complied and fled into the woods.
According to the Macon Telegraph, “When Lewis started up the steps to the gallows, he almost ran but stumbled when half way up. He soon recovered himself, however, and climbed the remainder of the way with an elastic step.” He left no final statement.
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Georgia. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“He Died Game But Happy.” The Macon Telegraph. April 1, 1893
“Speaks in His Dying Hour.” The Macon Telegraph. March 31, 1893
“Only One More Day to Live.” The Macon Telegraph. March 30, 1893
“A Wife Murderer.” The Macon Telegraph. December 13, 1892
“Capture of a Murderer.” The Constitution [Atlanta, Georgia]. August 7, 1891
“A Cold Blooded Murder.” The Macon Telegraph. September 17, 1890