August 27, 1908
Charged with having assaulted his wife with intent to kill her last Thursday morning, W. A. Johnson, who lives near Buckner, Mo., was arrested yesterday afternoon and brought to Kansas City, where he was placed in the county jail. The arrest was the outcome of much investigation of the circumstances which surrounded the mysterious assault made upon Mrs. Johnson Thursday morning, and the result of Johnson's strange actions in his home since the morning of the assault.
From the beginning there have been few persons in Buckner who have not believed that Johnson knows more of the attempt to murder his wife than he gave out, and there has been much talk in Buckner of using mob violence.
When Johnson was arrested yesterday afternoon he was at the home of Clint Winfrey, two miles north of Buckner. He was taken there late Tuesday night at his wife's request, she saying she could not rest easily as long as her husband was in the house.
T. E. Beckum of Buckner was the arresting officer. When told that he was under arrest, according to witnesses, Johnson's face lost its expression. His hands and feet worked nervously and without evident purpose.
"You know your duty, Tom," he said slowly, without looking at the constable; "and you must do it. I am ready to go."
"Do you want to read the warrant?" asked Mr. Beckum, producing the paper.
"No, it is not necessary," answered the arrested man.
As the party, which consisted of Johnson, Beckum, Whig Keshlear and J. W. Hostetter, turned to go to the surrey, which was standing by the gate, Johnson hesitated and asked falteringly:
"Will I have to go to jail and spend the night there?"
Upon being told that such would be the case the suspected man almost broke down. He insisted that some arrangement be made whereby he need not be put behind the bars just yet. At Johnson's request Clint Winfrey and T. E. Beckum called up Prosecuting Attorney I. B. Kimbrell and asked him if it was necessary for Johnson to go to jail. Mr. Kimbrell promised that he would look into the matter after the prisoner had been brought to Kansas City.
On the way to Kansas City, Johnson spoke of his arrest but few times. On one occasion he requested that the warrant be read to him. After Mr. Beckum had complied Johnson muttered, "All right, all right."
Upon the second occasion, Mr. Hostetter had spoken of a neuralgia pain in his jaw and Johnson lifted his head from his hands and said:
"My heart aches far worse than your jaw, Hostetter, and it can't be cured."
The party drove into Independence from the Winfrey farm, passing wide of Buckner, since there had been much talk of mob violence. At Independence they stopped at a hotel for a short while and there Johnson was asked if his arrest was unexpected by him.
"It was a great surprise, and wholly unexpected," he said. "But I think I had better not talk just yet. If I was at home on the farm I would be glad to answer any question that you want to ask, but until I have talked with my lawyers I had better be quiet. I am not running on my ignorance, nor do I boast of my wisdom, but I think that I will be able to clear up a few things soon.
"Right now I can scarcely collect my thoughts, my brain is in a whirl and I have been under a great nervous strain for the last four or five days. "
Beyond these few remarks Johnson would say nothing. During the half hour that they were in Independence, Johnson remained standing, always shifting about in an extremely nervous manner.
From Independence to Kansas City the party rode on the electric car and all of the prisoner's conversation was in regard to the scenery through which he was passing. Not once did he refer to his arrest.
On East Eighth street between Highland avenue and Vine street is where the woman in the case lives. As the car reached Woodland avenue Johnson, who had been sitting on the north side of the car, crossed to a seat by the window where he could see the house as he passed. As the car reached the place Johnson looked up into the windows of the house until it had passed out of sight. He said not a word.
Mrs. Johnson is reported as failing rapidly. The physicians late last night stated that there was small chance for her to live through the night. Symptoms of meningitis have appeared and Mrs. Johnson has become delirious. The nurse and the women of the Johnson household are in constant attention. If she should die, the charge against her husband would be changed to first degree murder, and he would be held in the jail without bond. As it is, he hopes to furnish satisfactory bail this morning.
The arraignment and preliminary hearing will probably be this morning.
The people of Buckner soon learned of Johnson's arrest and most of them seemed to be greatly relieved, while a few thought that the action was a bit hasty on the part of the state. It was taken, however, at the indirect request of Mrs. Johnson, who, it is stated by a relative, greatly feared her husband.
It was given out yesterday for the first time officially that there had been much discord in the Johnson family for the past four or five years, but that none outside of the immediate family knew of the domestic troubles.
Johnson's endeavors to be released from the jail last night were without avail. As he walked into the jail he looked straight ahead of him and spoke to no one. After the cell door was locked he stood silently an gazed at the floor. Mr. Kimbrell stated last night that he could do nothing definite in the case until he learns of the condition of the man's wife. Johnson may be held without arraignment until tonight.
No visitors whatever are allowed in the Johnson house and every effort is being made by physicians to save the woman's life. Dr. N. D. Ravenscraft, who has been attending Mrs. Johnson since the night of the assault, said last night that Mrs. Johnson is worse than she has ever been since the attack. He expresses no hope for her recovery.