"The Arkansas Ghost", or the Man who Testified at His Own Murder Trial
In January 1929 a man named Connie Franklin moved to the town of St. James, Arkansas. He worked on a farm and dated local girl Tillar Ruminer. Then in March, he vanished. A bloody hat, which supposedly belonged to Franklin, was found by Bertha Burns, but, as there was no other evidence to suggest anything untoward had happened, the investigation fell through. A few months later Burns took the local sheriff to a pit of ashes near her home and suggested there might be evidence of Franklin’s murder there. Indeed, the sheriff did find bone shards and teeth.
After a delay of some months Franklin’s girlfriend also came forward with additional information. She told how she and Franklin had intended to marry and were on their way to see The Justice of Peace, on March 9th, when they were attacked by four men, who she named. While she had been carried into the woods and raped, Franklin had apparently been tortured, mutilated and burned alive. The men were arrested and a trial date was set for December.
Before the trial there were reports that Franklin had been seen after the date of his supposed murder. Things were complicated when it became apparent that a man named Marion Franklin Rogers, who had escaped from The State Hospital for Nervous Disease, had been going around claiming to be Connie Franklin. Both Ruminer and her father claimed, hesitantly at first but later with more conviction, that this was not Franklin, however, others in the community, including the men convicted, said that it was. A doctor was brought in and, after studying the man’s military and medical records, he determined that Rogers and Franklin were indeed the same person.
At the trial it was revealed that the bones and teeth were not that of a human and, after Ruminer recounted her account of events, all the while claiming Rogers simply could not be Franklin, Franklin took the stand to give evidence at his own murder trial. He told how he had argued with Ruminer because she wanted to postpone their wedding; he had told her that if she did not marry him immediately she would never see him again. She wouldn’t concede so he went away. He also explained how the story had its roots in a liquor war between the involved parties. After a farcical two day trial the men were found “not guilty” of murder Connie Franklin, or, indeed, Marion Franklin Rogers.
[Sources: Wikipedia | Image (unrelated bone fragments)]