Murder Scene

January 17, 2019

It's not often you come across a photograph of your great-grandfather face down in the dirt with a bullet in the back of his head. It was taken by Edgar Mearns, a U.S. Army surgeon posted at Camp Verde in Arizona. He happened upon this scene soon after my great-grandfather, Andres Moreno, was gunned down by a lawyer named Knox Lee, who had been a passenger on the freight wagon Moreno was driving from Globe to Flagstaff in 1887. The two had quarreled. 

The photo was introduced at Knox's murder trial to refute his contention that he had shot my grandfather in self-defense, since the bullet was fired from above and behind. The photographer, Edgar Mearns, was also a naturalist of some renown whose papers (including this photo) are now in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Knox was found guilty -- not of murder as charged but of manslaughter, no doubt due to the fact my great-grandfather was Hispanic. Newspaper accounts of the murder and trial referred to him not by name but as an "old Mexican" (he was 47). Life was cheap if you weren't white. 

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