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Valley of the Shadow

Valley Virginian: August 26, 1869

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(Column 01)
Summary: Munsey will deliver an oration in the Methodist Church on Friday. He comes with a reputation for eloquence and graceful oratory.
Funeral of Young Scherer
(Column 01)
Summary: The funeral of Jacob Scherer proved "highly flattering to the memory of the young man and gave evidence of the high estimate he was held in by all classes of society." The procession left his house escorted by the Augusta Fire Company. "A long cortage of vehicles and a procession of people of all sexes and classes followed. The melancholy affair has made a deep impression upon our community."
(Names in announcement: Jacob Scherer)
Tribute of Respect
(Column 01)
Summary: The Augusta Fire Company prints a tribute of respect upon the death of Jacob Scherer, a fellow fireman.
(Names in announcement: J. W. Waters, W. R. Morris, J. W. Smith, J. M. Hardy, B. F. Fifer)
[No Title]
(Column The Homicide of Jacob Scherer)
Summary: This lengthy article recounts the story of the killing of a young man and the subsequent trial of the accused killer for murder. As the story unfolds in the courtroom, evidence mounts that the accused--Stanley--fired the weapon that ended the life of Scherer, a young Stauntonian. The question presented to the court is whether the accused was justified in this killing. Circumstances suggest that Stanley was indeed threatened by the unlawful entry of several men, including Scherer, into his house, where not incidentally, "questionable" acts were taking place. While the defense argues that Stanley killed only in self-defense, the prosecution maintained that Stanley acted in haste, and then fled the scene for fear of prosecution. Intense debate between counselors, some of the most prominent in Staunton, creates great interest among Staunton's citizenry.
(Names in announcement: Jacob Scherer, Ginnie Sorrel, John B. Scherer, John M. Stanley, J. T. Parent, Mayor Allen, Justice Pierce, Clinedinst, Anderson, James BumgardnerJr., Hugh Sheffey, J. B. Baldwin, George Cochran, Dr. B. B. Donaghe, Dr. Fauntleroy, James O'Brian, Robert Campbell, James Hess, Henry Hyer, Col. M. G. Harman, Augustus White)
Full Text of Article:

A fatal occurrence took place at a house on Market Street, in this city, on Saturday night last, which threw a gloom over the entire community, and has caused much excitement up to the present time. We shall relate the particulars as far as they have come to our knowledge.

The house in question, it seems, has been occupied by an octoroon by the name of Ginnie Sorrel and has been the resort of loose characters, who at times annoyed the neighbors by their obscene language and indecent exposures. A number of young men associated themselves together for the purpose of breaking up this nuisance by driving the inmates out. They organized and determined to catch the girl Sorrel and duck her in the creek, and also, as it appeared in evidence, to administer the same cold bath to her paramour, if occasion required it. With this object in view, they repaired to the house between the hours of eleven and twelve at night with their faces blackened and otherwise disguised, and without any kind of offensive weapons. Three of them went to the rear of the building, while the others remained in front. They knocked at the door, and were asked from within by a female voice, "who is there?" One of them pushed the door and it opened. A woman then screamed murder, and fled. The party entered, and were in but a few moments when in the pitchy-darkness the flash of a pistol accompanied by a report, revealed the fact that Jacob Scherer, (son of Mr. John B. Scherer) was shot. The perpetrator of the deed immediately made for the door followed by the wounded man who, after running about ten yards, fell, and never spoke afterwards. The man that fired the pistol escaped over the yard fence. Scherer's friends gathered round him, and attempted to move the body towards his father's house close by--but the unfortunate young man died before they had reached the street.

The crowd which by this time had become great, immediately made a rush toward the house of John M. Stanley, which they surrounded, with the intention of preventing any one from escaping until a warrant could be issued. Chief of Police, J.T. Parent, armed with a warrant issued by Mayor Allen charging Stanley with the killing of Scherer, in a short time demanded admission to the house. When the door was forced open, Mrs. Stanley endeavored to oppose the officers of the law. She affirmed that her husband had come home earlier than usual, and that he was then in bed. This, however, did not deter the officers, they pushed forward and found Stanley with a pistol in his hand; this Parent got from him--although the prisoner observed that he had a right to protect himself from a mob. He said that he knew nothing about the affair, and could prove an alibi. It was afterwards shown that the pistol, which was a four barreled repeater, had one empty barrel. Stanley was arrested and lodged in jail. The evidence brought before the Coroner's inquest held at an early hour in the morning charged John M. Stanley with being the perpetrator of the dead.

On Tuesday morning the case was brought before the court of Magistrates acting as an examining court.

The Court House was crowded, and there appeared to be no small amount of excitement among the people. Justice Pierce, Clinedinst and Anderson, appeared on the bench, the former presiding.

James Bumgardner, Jr., acting Commonwealth Attorney and Hugh Scheffey, Esq., appeared for the State; and J.B. Baldwin and Geo. M. Cochran, Esq'rs, for the prisoner. The grand jury occupied their seats.

The first witness examined was Dr. B.B. Donaghe, who testified as to the nature of the wound, assisted by Dr. Fauntleroy, having by request of the coroner, performed an post mortem examination showing that the ball had entered between the forth and fifth ribs shattering the latter and taking an upward course passing through the lungs and heart and lodging under the arm.

James O'Brian was next called to the stand.--He was one of the party who entered the rear of the house. Got over the fence and knocked at the door--heard "Who's there?" from within.--Scherer pushed against the door, and it opened. Heard a female scream--went into the room which was quite dark. Saw by the flash of the pistol that there were more persons in the room besides himself; two, he recognized as Scherer and White; he could only see the form of the other, the person who had fired the pistol; knew it was Stanley. Scherer was stooping when the pistol was fired. As soon as he heard the report, he left the house. The man that fired the pistol ran out first, with the weapon in his hand. Scherer ran, or rather reeled after the assassin--and fell about ten yards from the door. The party were all disguised, with faces blackened. Scherer died without uttering a word. The examination of this witness was pretty close; he seemed pretty positive as to the identity of Stanley.

Cross-examined by Col. J.B. Baldwin, as to his connection with the trespassing party. Witness said there were ten or eleven in the party, that himself with Scherer and White were detailed to enter and seize the girl, and, if needs be, Stanley, who they supposed was in the house.

Col. Baldwin--Who did you receive your orders from--who was your captain.

Witness (hesitatingly) We held a meeting, and by agreement each was detailed for a certain duty. We only intended to have a little fun, and drive the people out of the house. At first we intended to duck the girl Ginnie Sorrel and Stanley too--but then, on reflection we thought we'd only punish the girl alone. We had no particular leader.

Judge Scheffey--Is Stanley a married man?

Witness--I believe he is.

Judge Scheffey--Who did he marry?

Here Col. Baldwin objected to the question as entirely foreign to the case under consideration; and a spirited debate took place between the two eminent lawyers as to the propriety of such testimony. G.M. Cochran also took part in the debate. The Court decided that the evidence was not admissible, and the examination proceeded.

White was then called to stand and questioned by the Commonwealth's Attorney and cross examined by the Council for the prisoner. He saw the woman and heard her cry "murder." In an answer to a question of the Court, he said he did not recognize any deadly weapon until the explosion, which was close to his ear,--the pistol was fired by a person whom he presumed to be Stanley. He was closely cross examined by Col. Baldwin. His general evidence was pretty much the same as that of O'Brian.

Dr. Fauntleroy testified as to the nature of the wound and the direction of the ball, which he produced with a piece of shattered rib.

J.T. Parrent, Chief of Police, testified as to the arrest of the prisoner--the finding of a four barreled repeater in his possession, and that one barrel had been discharged. The ball was tried and found to fit the discharged barrel.

Robert Campbell recognized the pistol as belonging to him. He offered it to Stanley for sale--who took it on trial.

James Hess identified the pistol as one that he borrowed from Campbell before Stanley had taken it on trial.

Henry Hyer identified the pistol as the one in the possession of Stanley--who requested him to show him how to load it, which he did. He also showed the mysteries of the fatal instrument.

An argument here arose between counsel as to the nature of the evidence produced by the Attorney for the Commonwealth; Col. Baldwin contended that all the witnesses that appeared before the coroner should be produced in this Court. Mr. Bumgardner, replied that he had caused the girl Ginnie Sorrel to be summoned, that he did not care to examine her, but that she was at the service of the court, if their worships wished to question her. The Court ordered her presence, but, at the suggestion of the counsel for the prisoner, she was set aside. After some discussion, the Court concluded to adjourn until five o'clock in the evening.

At 5 o'clock the grand jury again assembled, and the Court proceeded to examine Col. M.G. Harman, who testified to the ownership of the house where the homicide was committed. He stated that the premises were rented by Stanley, and the rent paid by bonds, with the exception of a few dollars.

Augustus White was called to the stand. He stated that Stanley had been warned as to the threatened ducking, unless he abandoned his vile associates. His testimony had a bearing on the character of the house. The testimony, &c., was strongly objected to on the part of the prisoner's counsel, who contended that as Stanley had rented the house, he was lord of the manor, and, no matter what was the business of the occupants, it was his castle, and he had a right to repel intruders, who, no matter what might be the morality of their trespass, were neither more nor less than "regulators," who under a disguise, had taken the law in their hands, and made themselves liable to be killed by the proprietor. Capt. Bumgardner and Judge Scheffey made eloquent replies to the speech of Col. Baldwin. Mr. Cochran made a spirited rejoinder.

During the examination the question as to the manner in which the case was to be decided by the Grand Jury, came up. The counsel for the prisoner contended that the magistrates sitting were to certify as to the nature of the case, and that the jury were to make out their indictment on their certificate. Counsel for the State opposed this mode strenuously, and some powerful arguments were used on both sides. The Court was adjourned until Wednesday morning at 8 o'clock.

At a quarter after eight the prisoner was brought into Court. The attorney for the Stare, Capt. Bumgardner, opened up with an able speech, laying down the law provided in such cases, and instructing the magistrates as to their duty, he spoke for about an hour.

Geo. M. Cochran, Esq., followed on the defense in a speech of about 85 minutes. He said that the Commonwealth's Attorney had failed in his opening argument to specify upon what charge he was prosecuting the prisoner at the bar. From the evidence adduced the prisoner was entitled to be discharged as prayed for by his counsel. Saw no grounds on which the learned gentlemen should argue that the sitting justices should not do so. That Capt. B. admitted the deceased was in the commission of an unlawful act. If the justices thought the prisoner had done anything against the law as had been shown by the testimony in the case, it was right that they should discharge him. Mr. Cochran's arguments were able and directly to the point.

Col. Baldwin closed the defense in an able and eloquent argument, reviewing the entire testimony, and declaring that under the law the prisoner was justifiable in committing the homicide

Judge Scheffey closed the examination in a powerful and ingenious speech of about two hours which was listened to with intense interest by the crowded auditory. The line of his argument was that the prisoner was in adulterous intercourse with the woman, Ginnie Sorrel, at the time the deceased entered the room, and that he was in no danger of bodily harm from the trespassers; but that Stanley had fired the pistol deliberately and "picked his man," and that his flight immediately after firing was proof that he knew that he had committed a felony, and that the justices were in duty bound to send him on.

A few moments after the closing of Judge Scheffey's argument, the presiding justices decided that from the evidence brought upon the Court, he was of opinion that the prisoner should be sent on to stand his trial before the Criminal Court; and he therefore remanded him to the custody of the jailor.

During the examination, the Court House was crowded to its utmost capacity, and the intensest interest was observable in the countenances of all. The old walls rang with the eloquence of past days, as the Counsel on both sides are men of fine forensic endowments. Every one of them paid a handsome tribute to the character of young Scherer, who was popular with all classes of our citizens.

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