Executions · Kentucky · Newspaper clippings

Three men executed across Kentucky for three separate murders

February 5, 1892
Stanton, Henderson, and Irvine, Kentucky
Simpson Bush, Robert Charlton, and William Puckett are executed for various murders

Bush (22) was executed in Stanton, Kentucky for the June 23, 1890 murder of his wife, Annie Rogers Bush (20). The Bushes were sharing a hotel room with two other adults and their 4-month-old baby when, around 3 or 4 a.m., a shot rang out. The hotel owner rushed to the room to see Bush standing next to the bed, crying and stating he didn’t know what happened. His wife had been shot as she nursed her child, who was still latched on while Annie’s “brain [was] oozing out just back of her left temple.” At the foot of the bed was a pistol.

Bush was arrested and protected from a rapidly-forming lynch mob, though he was quickly convicted for the murder and sentenced to death. He eventually confessed to shooting Annie accidentally as he tried to remove the cylinder rod to clean and oil his newly purchased gun. Bush later recanted this confession, however, saying he did not kill his wife, accidentally or otherwise, but thought this version of events might better convince the governor to commute his sentence to life imprisonment. Bush suggested one of the men sharing the room, Alfred Smith, had committed the murder. Smith had recently paid Bush $10 to set fire to a tobacco barn, a plan which Annie was aware of. Annie and Smith reportedly didn’t not get along and Bush speculated Smith killed her out of fear she would “tell on him.”

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Charlton (19) was hanged in Henderson for the November 27, 1890 murder of his mistress, Minnie Haskins (25). Charlton had been gambling while playing craps, but lost all his money. He sent a child to ask Haskins for a dollar, which he promptly lost while gambling. Charlton sent his messenger back to the house to ask Haskins for another dollar, though she refused. Charlton borrowed a gun from one of his gambling acquaintances and went to his home to demand money again.

Haskins responded to the reiteration of the demand for money by gathering belongings as if to remove Charlton from the home permanently. Among the possessions was a pair of shoes she handed to Charlton which he immediately cut up with a knife. He then slashed Haskins’ face with the knife, knocked her to the floor, and shot her three times: once in the head and twice to the neck. Haskins died immediately.

Charlton was arrested and swiftly convicted. While he seemed at ease with his impending death (the hour of his execution, he reportedly said, “Tell [Sheriff] Hickman to hurry up”) he claimed on the scaffold that he had loved Haskins and had accidentally shot her three times.

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Puckett was hanged in Irvine for the November 4, 1890 killing of William Hall (54) whom he fatally clubbed during a drunken fight on Election Day. Puckett was with his adult sons, Ambrose and Tobe (or Tobias or Pleas, depending on the source), and attacked Hall after Ambrose alleged Hall had taken his knife. Ambrose hit Hall with a club, Hall retaliated by hitting Ambrose and knocking him to the ground, then Puckett struck Hall causing him to drop to his knees. Once down, the three Puckett family members beat Hall with clubs until they were forced to disperse. A doctor was called and, while the doctor was treating Hall, the Pucketts returned to “finish him.” The Pucketts were forced to leave again. Hall succumbed to his injuries the following day. The family fled and attempted to hide in the woods, but were apprehended.

Puckett’s lawyer offered a half-hearted defense stating his client was drunk at the time of the attack and didn’t remember killing Hall. The defense failed and Puckett was sentenced to death. His sons were each given life terms.

Sources:
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
“A Trio of Kentucky Murderers.” The Marion Daily Star. February 6, 1892
“3 In The Noose.” The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky]. February 6, 1892 (image source, via newspapers.com)
“Bush Must Hang.” The Courier-Journal. December 18, 1891
“He Will Hang.” Owensboro Weekly Messenger. November 12, 1891
“Bush Will Hang.” The Herald [Columbia, Tennessee]. October 30, 1891
“A Family Sentenced.” Nashville Banner. September 22, 1891

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