How a Ghost’s Evidence Convicted a Murderer – True Crime Story!

In July of 1897, Edward Stribbling (Trout) Shue was convicted of first-degree murder for strangling his wife and breaking her neck. Trout Shue’s trial, held in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, rested entirely upon circumstantial evidence that strangely proved Shue’s guilt—beyond a reasonable doubt—to jurors who were presented evidence from beyond the grave.

The “facts” included postmortem statements from Shue’s wife, Zona Heaster Shue, who was said to appear before her mother four weeks after death and reportedly told what truly occurred in her murder. It was the first—and only—time testimony from a ghost was admitted as evidence in a United States Superior Court trial, and it helped secure a conviction.

At 10:00 a.m. on January 23, 1897, twenty-three-year-old Zona Shue’s body was found by an errand boy. She was lying on the floor in their house, face down at the foot of the stairs, stretched with one arm tucked underneath her chest and the other extended. Her head was cocked to one side.

Trout Shue arrived home before the coroner, Dr. George Knapp, attended. Shue had already moved his wife’s body to their bed where he’d dressed her in a high-necked gown. As Dr. Knapp began examining Zona, Trout Shue exhibited overpowering emotions and cradled Zona’s head and her shoulders, sobbing and weeping. Dr. Knapp stopped his exam out of respect for the grieving spouse and signed-off the death to “everlasting faint”.

A traditional wake was held before Zona’s next-day burial and attendants noticed peculiar behavior from Trout Shue. When the casket was opened for viewing, he immediately placed a scarf over Zona’s neck as well as propping her head with a pillow and blanket. Shue then put on another spectacular show of grief and made it impossible for mourners to get a close look at her face.

Zona Shue was buried in the Soule Chapel Methodist Cemetery in Greenbrier County. Initially, everyone who knew the Shues accepted Zona’s death as not suspicious—except for her mother, Mary Jane Heaster.

Mrs. Heaster disliked Trout Shue from the moment they met, and she suspected foul play was at hand. “The work of the devil!” Heaster exclaimed. She prayed every night, for four weeks on end, that the Lord would reveal the truth.

Then, in the darkness of night, when Mary Jane Heaster was wide awake, Zona’s spirit allegedly appeared.

It was not in a dream, Heaster reported. It was in person. First the apparition manifested as light, then transformed to a human figure which brought a chill upon the room. For four consecutive nights, Heaster claimed her daughter’s ghost came to the foot of her bed and reported facts of the crime that extinguished her life.

Zona’s ghost was said to reveal a history of physical abuse from her husband. Her death resulted in a violent fight over a meal the night before she was found. Trout Shue was said to have strangled Zona, crushing her windpipe and snapping her neck “at the first joint”. To prove dislocation, Zona’s figure turned its head one hundred and eighty degrees to the rear.

Mary Jane Heaster steadfastly maintained her daughter’s ghost was real and Zona’s reports of the cause of her death were accurate. Heaster was so compelling in her paranormal description that she convinced local prosecutor, John Preston, to re-open the case.

Preston’s investigation found Trout Shue had a history of violence. In another State, he’d served prison time for assaults and thefts. He’d been married twice before—one other wife dying under mysterious circumstances. By now the Greenbrier community was reporting more peculiar behavior from Shue. He’d been making comments to the effect that “no one would ever prove I killed Zona”.

Combined with Coroner Knapp’s admission that he failed to conduct a thorough exam, Preston established sufficient grounds to exhume Zona’s body and conduct a proper postmortem examination.

Zona was autopsied by three medical doctors on February 22, 1897 with the official cause of death being anoxia from manual strangulation compounded by a broken neck. Bruising consistent with fingermarks was noted on Zona’s neck, her esophagus was contused, and her first and second cervical vertebrae were fractured. Anatomically, they’re known as the C1 Atlas and the C2 Axis which combine to make the first joint at the base of the skull.

An inquest was held, and Trout Shue was summoned to testify. Although he denied being present at the time of Zona’s death and bearing culpability, he was unable to establish an alibi and was considered an unreliable, self-serving witness. It was ruled a homicide and Trout Shue was charged with her murder.

Trout Shue’s first-degree murder trial began in Greenbrier Circuit Court on June 22, 1897. A panel of twelve jurors was convened who heard evidence from a number of witnesses, including Shue himself.

John Preston was reluctant to subpoena Mary Jane Heaster as a witness, fearing her ghost story would damage credibility. However, Shue’s defense lawyer opened that can of worms and called Zona’s mother to the stand. Evidently, it backfired.

This verbatim excerpt is from the transcript of Mary Jane Heaster’s testimony. It’s still on record in the West Virginia State Archives:

Defense Counsel Question — I have heard that you had some dream or vision which led to this post mortem examination?

Witness Heaster Answer — It was no dream – she came back and told me that he was mad that she didn’t have no meat cooked for supper. But she said she had plenty, and said that she had butter and apple-butter, apples and named over two or three kinds of jellies, pears and cherries and raspberry jelly, and she says I had plenty; and she says don’t you think that he was mad and just took down all my nice things and packed them away and just ruined them. And she told me where I could look down back of Aunt Martha Jones’, in the meadow, in a rocky place; that I could look in a cellar behind some loose plank and see. It was a square log house, and it was hewed up to the square, and she said for me to look right at the right-hand side of the door as you go in and at the right-hand corner as you go in. Well, I saw the place just exactly as she told me, and I saw blood right there where she told me; and she told me something about that meat every night she came, just as she did the first night. She cames [sic] four times, and four nights; but the second night she told me that her neck was squeezed off at the first joint and it was just as she told me.

Q — Now, Mrs. Heaster, this sad affair was very particularly impressed upon your mind, and there was not a moment during your waking hours that you did not dwell upon it?

A — No, sir; and there is not yet, either.

Q — And was this not a dream founded upon your distressed condition of mind?

A No, sir. It was no dream, for I was as wide awake as I ever was.

Q — Then if not a dream or dreams, what do you call it?

A — I prayed to the Lord that she might come back and tell me what had happened; and I prayed that she might come herself and tell on him.

Q — Do you think that you actually saw her in flesh and blood?

A — Yes, sir, I do. I told them the very dress that she was killed in, and when she went to leave me she turned her head completely around and looked at me like she wanted me to know all about it. And the very next time she came back to me she told me all about it. The first time she came, she seemed that she did not want to tell me as much about it as she did afterwards. The last night she was there she told me that she did everything she could do, and I am satisfied that she did do all that, too.

Q — Now, Mrs. Heaster, don’t you know that these visions, as you term them or describe them, were nothing more or less than four dreams founded upon your distress?

A — No, I don’t know it. The Lord sent her to me to tell it. I was the only friend that she knew she could tell and put any confidence it; I was the nearest one to her. He gave me a ring that he pretended she wanted me to have; but I don’t know what dead woman he might have taken it off of. I wanted her own ring and he would not let me have it.

Q — Mrs. Heaster, are you positively sure that these are not four dreams?

A — Yes, sir. It was not a dream. I don’t dream when I am wide awake, to be sure; and I know I saw her right there with me.

Q — Are you not considerably superstitious?

A — No, sir, I’m not. I was never that way before, and am not now.

Q — Do you believe the scriptures?

A — Yes, sir. I have no reason not to believe it.

Q — And do you believe the scriptures contain the words of God and his Son?

A — Yes, sir, I do. Don’t you believe it?

Q Now, I would like if I could, to get you to say that these were four dreams and not four visions or appearances of your daughter in flesh and blood?

A I am not going to say that; for I am not going to lie.

Q — Then you insist that she actually appeared in flesh and blood to you upon four different occasions?

A Yes, sir.

Q  Did she not have any other conversation with you other than upon the matter of her death?

A — Yes, sir, some other little things. Some things I have forgotten – just a few words. I just wanted the particulars about her death, and I got them.

Q — When she came did you touch her?

A — Yes, sir. I got up on my elbows and reached out a little further, as I wanted to see if people came in their coffins, and I sat up and leaned on my elbow and there was light in the house. It was not a lamp light. I wanted to see if there was a coffin, but there was not. She was just like she was when she left this world. It was just after I went to bed, and I wanted her to come and talk to me, and she did. This was before the inquest and I told my neighbors. They said she was exactly as I told them she was.

Now, whether jury members accepted Mary Jane Heaster’s ghost story as being credible, or if it made any difference to their interpretation of the facts, will never be known. And it’s on record the trial judge cautioned jurors about the reliability of circumstantial evidence:

“There was no living witness to the crime charged against Defendant Shue and the State rests its case for conviction wholly upon circumstances connecting the accused with the murder charged. So the connection of the accused with the crime depends entirely upon the strength of the circumstantial evidence introduced by the State. There is no middle ground for you, the jury, to take. The verdict inevitably and logically must be for murder in the first degree or for an acquittal.”

The jury was out for an hour and ten minutes before returning to find Trout Shue guilty of murdering his wife, Zona, in the first degree. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died of an epidemic disease three years later.

I’d love to travel back in time and be a fly on the wall during that deliberation. What they discussed in that sequestered room has long gone to the grave, but I find Mary Jane Heaster’s testimony about Zona’s fractured vertebrae to be downright spooky.


What about you Kill Zoners? From reading Mrs. Heaster’s evidence, do you find her credible? And, by all means, please share with us your true ghost stories!


Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective with a second career as a coroner investigating sudden and unexplained human deaths. Now, Garry’s come back from the forensic dead and has reincarnated himself as a crime writer.

Vancouver Island on Canada’s west coast is the haunting grounds for Garry Rodgers. In spirit, he maintains a popular blog at and he occasionally floats in and out on Twitter — @GarryRodgers1. You can find Garry’s flesh-and-blood crime writing works on leading E-tailers —Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Nook, and Google.

60 thoughts on “How a Ghost’s Evidence Convicted a Murderer – True Crime Story!

  1. Whoa, Garry, what an eerie tale.

    Twice I’ve had dreams where a dead loved one came back to talk to me.

    1. My father suffered a long, hideous fight with cancer. During his illness, every single night I had nightmares in which he was healthy and active but I knew the horrors that lay ahead for him. A few nights after he died, I dreamed we were standing in a street talking and he reassured me he was okay. Then a speeding car’s headlights bore down on us. I went to push him out of the way but he was already gone. I never had another nightmare about him.

    2. The family doctor who’d cared for me since I was four was ill and had closed his practice. I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks. One night I dreamed he and I were talking. He told me he was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to finish tasks he wanted to do. The next morning, I learned he’d died that previous night.

    There is too much we don’t understand to dismiss phenomena out of hand. But I don’t know if I could convict someone based on visions.

    • I’m with you on some phenomena being unexplained by rational science, Debbie. I’ve never had any personal experience with after-death weird situations, but I had a doozie happen just before two people died beside me in a shoot-out. That unexplainable event saved my life. Might be subject of a blog post some day.

      Sorry about your father’s struggle at the end of his life. We should all be so lucky as to pass painlessly in our sleep.

  2. This topic is a guilty pleasure of mine, Garry. Thanks for sharing this story.

    I have a story from Carey in northwest Ohio. It involves the Copley tombstone in Lutheran Ridge Cemetery. Dianah Copley died of strangulation in 1935. No murder charges were brought due to a lack of evidence. It was whispered, however, that Irvin, her husband, had killed her. Irvin’s life was fraught with bad luck after Dianah’s death until his death in 1953. He was buried next to her. The two of them shared a tombstone, which began to show the image of two people facing each other with the one on the right, who was Irvin, with his hands around the throat of Dianah, the one on the left. This naturally became quite an attraction. Efforts were made to remove the image but it kept coming back. The cemetery even went so far as to change the front of the tombstone. The image kept reappearing. The tombstone was finally reduced to a small marker and the image was lost. You can see a photo of it in this article

    but it’s not terrific. I saw it once in person and it was immediately obvious, a “holy shoot with the o’s dotted” sight.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Garry!

    • Shoot can be replace by a stronger noun, but we’re supposed to keep it clean around here. I clicked the link and read the write-up. It certainly makes the ghost story genre. As for the image, I copied an played with it at different scales, but I’m afraid it’s a Rorschach test to me. Could be, though. And Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Joe. Keep them comments comin’ in 2022!

    • I don’t know about those faces reappearing but I could see them clearly. Maybe someone etched them on, wanting the truth of her death to come out, but it’s spooky, nevertheless. It’s sad to think of your dad’s friend meeting such a horrible death though, as well as your dad believing he’d been cursed.

      Even if Mrs. Heaster’s ghost story was what got her daughter disinterred, the autopsy facts couldn’t lie. I’m sure it was that evidence that got her husband convicted. Too bad he died too soon into his sentence!

      Merry Christmas, everyone! I usually lurk, but Garry’s story was so compelling I had to comment.

  3. I don’t know about any ghosts testimony, but this guy was probably convicted because he had one of the worst defense lawyers of all time.

    First of all, he put his client on the stand. That’s almost always a bad idea. What we can infer about Trout, he wasn’t a sympathetic type guy. The jury obviously didn’t like him. An hour and ten minutes? That tells you all you need to know about the deliberations. And there’s just something fishy about a man named Trout.

    Even more puzzling is what the defense thought it could gain by putting the mother on the stand. The facts of the autopsy were established. Nothing in her testimony could have possibly affected that. And throwing shade at a grieving mother? Oh, the jury was sure to love that! The “testimony” of the ghost was obviously hearsay, but the prosecutor didn’t object, obviously enjoying the defense circling the drain.

    Plus, the defense lawyer exerted no control over the testimony. You don’t ask open-ended questions of a hostile witness and let them go on and on.

    Sheesh! This lawyer should have been found guilty of first degree incompetence. With that kind of help, Trout never had a ghost of a chance.

    • You’re a man of great words, Jim. Love the fishy trout pun 🙂

      Yeah, the first thing I thought of when I stumbled on this story is what kind of an idiot puts an emotional witness like Mrs. Heaster on the stand when the “evidence” does nothing but sewer his client. Same for putting the client under cross examination. Like, Trial Rule #1 – make the prosecution scrap for every inch of the field. Anyway…

      I’m not one to fall for ghost stories, but I still think it’s amazing that they exhumed Zona’s body based on her mother’s vision and found the broken neck. Doo-doo…doo-doo…

    • You had to go there with a fish pun. I guess that means you’re feeling better.

      I was on the jury for a rape trial, and the defense attorney not only put the defendant on the stand but allowed him to screw himself with his obvious lies. That was followed by his mother as a sympathy ploy. None of it worked. I was rather stunned at the poor defense by a former judge.

      • That coroner must have been a little sock-eyed after playing catch and release with Trout. “Everlasting Faint” Now that’s a creative cause of death I’ve never heard before.

        • “Everlasting faint” may have originated in cases of “positional asphyxia” in which a fainting person falls with the head flopped far back, below the body, constricting the airway. As a cause of death, everlasting faint sounds rather fishy.

  4. Hmm. Whether the ghost itself was a credible witness, I don’t know. But it seems her mother knew more about the crime than anyone would have without talking to the victim or the perpetrator. Just the fact that she’d died the way her mother claimed – when even the coroner didn’t know it – seems to show Mrs. Heaster as credible.

    If this were today, Mr. Shue would at least have been taken in for interfering with the investigation. He moved the body, dressed her to hide the cause of death, and interfered with the coroner’s assessment. And because of all that, the jury couldn’t see the scene of the crime. (I’ve learned that juries – at least sometimes – would be chosen the day of the crime and shown the body as it lay, since crime photography didn’t really exist at the time.) Today, the investigation wouldn’t have stopped at “everlasting faint”.

    Do I believe in ghosts? I believe there are things we don’t understand about death and the spirit. But I don’t think Shue was convicted on a ghost’s testimony. He was convicted because Mrs. Heaster had proved her knowledge of the crime, and had become a credible witness on that basis. It wouldn’t fly today, but as I said, today, the investigation would have been handled a lot differently, and Mr. Shue would have been suspect number 1.

    • Good morning, BJ. Great and well thought-out comment. I’m not sure of how the criminal trial process worked in that jurisdiction back then, but it was common for coroner juries to be immediately summoned and taken to the scene to view the body and make a deliberation on the spot – no waiting for the autopsy or lab results to come in in those days.

      Something that the Kill Zone crowd might find interesting is the structure of Coroner Acts. The death investigation business is pretty much universal in the “civilized” world with the same mandate and same laws. One section in coroner acts is that a coroner must “view the body” and makes it a serious offense for anyone to interfere with a dead body before the coroner has arrived and has a chance to do the “head-to-toe” on-scene examination before the body is removed.

      When I first started in the coroner service, smart phones weren’t a thing. I had to go to each and every death scene no matter how bad the weather or how tough the terrain. Then, along came the web-based video, and we quickly adopted the method of letting the cops at the scene shoot us some video so we could virtually view the body. Ain’t technology grand?

  5. Awesome tale, Garry! Yes, I believe her testimony.

    Dreaming of the dead started when I was in third grade, when a friend’s father came to me. He said, “Tell Marla I love her and I’m sorry I had to leave.” I told my mom, but she brushed it off at first. At school, my mother asked the teacher if Marla had arrived. The teacher said, “No. Her father passed away last night.” I’ve been dreaming of the dead ever since…

  6. Hmmm. Putting my author hat on here. Maybe the mother murdered the daughter by strangulation, and then concocted the ghost story to get back at the son-in-law whom she hated.

  7. Good morning, Garry. I’m not qualified to make any judgement of the credibility of Mrs. Heaster’s evidence, but it was an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.

    And (I’m boring this morning) I don’t have any ghost stories to share. Sorry.

    I do, however, want to thank you for all your interesting posts over this past year.

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Successful New Year!

    • When it comes to ghosts, Steve, my view is no news is good news. Nothing to bust, then no problems and no one to call. Glad you enjoy my posts, although I admit sometimes I tend to ramble on and on and on. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

  8. If ghosts could talk, I wonder what JFK and his brother would be telling us? Maybe some of the world’s major conspiracies would be put to rest that way.

  9. Good morning, Garry. This was a fascinating story! I’m far from a legal expert, but I agree with Jim that the Defense counsel did his client no favors whatsoever.

    I found Trout’s moving the body highly suspicious, as well as his apparently obvious attempts to hide any throat trauma and distract people from looking at her in the open casket during the funeral. As for Mrs. Heaster’s testimony, my own novelist’s speculation is that she believed she’d seen her daughter appear, and in the flesh, to tell her that her husband had murdered her. Was it her daughter? My own feeling is that that’s highly unlikely, but rather, Mother Heaster’s subconscious had put two and two together and she had a vision.

    I had one of mine own, in 2003, a few nights after my father died of a terminal illness. I’d been staying with him when he passed away, literally in my arms. I’d had real trouble sleeping for days afterwards. That particular night, I got out of bed, without my glasses and went into the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. I certainly resemble my dad, especially without my glasses, but for a long moment, my father looked back at me, faintly smiling. I suspect it was me seeing him in my own face, but it gave me a lot of solace nonetheless.

    Thanks, once more, for another great post and compelling read. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    • I think the circumstantial evidence, without Mary Jane Heaster’s ghost story, was enough to filet ole Trout. It was nuts to put him on the stand and open him to x-exam which I suspect set the hook on his demise. I still can’t get over how Mrs. Heaster was accurate on the vertebrae fractures but that’s what the record shows.

      Heartfelt story about seeing your father’s image, Dale. Cherish his memory and enjoy your holiday season!

  10. I’ve linked to your article on this story on “Huff Post,” many times, in various discussions of all things paranormal. It’s a great historical retelling. Even without a ghost story involved, a grieving mother is a powerful witness in a murder trial. The defense lawyer was an idiot.

    I’m sure anyone who talked to me and all my siblings and their significant others, all of us with Masters or Doctorates in various sciences and humanities, would be stunned to discover we all believe in the afterlife and ghosts. My dad died in 1981, and he’s been very active in our lives as well as being my niece’s guardian spirit. As a little girl, she talked about Grandpa Milford and things he said to her that she shouldn’t know although he had died a year before she was born. His last sighting by her was when she was in college and sick with the flu. He told her he was here to protect her and to wait for Mom.

    Since Mom died, she’s been giving advice to all of us. As a very clear voice in my head, she told me to double a donation check in memory of my Dad’s SIL and to give one of the vases she’s painted to my new SIL to thank her for loving my brother.

    And that’s just the parents. My animals make themselves known, too, and they continue to patrol my land and house.

    • Merry Christmas, Marilynn! Thanks for sharing this story. I forgot it was once on the Huff. That’s an interesting comment about folks with higher education levels tending to believe in the afterlife including ghosts.

      In my years as a coroner, I dealt with many, many grieving family members, and I was constantly quizzed about life after death… like I was supposed to be some kind of death expert. My pat answer was there are two parts to the human condition – the physical body and consciousness. When the body physically dies, it goes thought predictable phases where it transfers energy and matter. Ashes to ashes – dust to dust.

      But consciousness is a whole other world altogether. I don’t believe you can create or kill true consciousness – only change it like you can with bodily matter. I used the analogy that the loved one’s consciousness went back to where it was before they were born. I truly believe that, and there is nothing to fear about death.

      • It’s MY family full of Masters and Doctorates who believe in the afterlife and returning spirits because of my dad. Belief and lack belief in the afterlife and spirits tends to cross all cultural and educational boundaries.

  11. Wow, Garry. Loved this story…where do you *dig* them up from? Ha!

    I don’t seriously think ghosts can come back and talk to us, but who am I to make a judgment? We live in a strange, mysterious world, most of which even the best scientific minds haven’t figured out. And in this case, the mother’s story is too compelling to dismiss. If she hadn’t been stubborn enough to tell the story and stick to it, the broken neck wouldn’t have been discovered.

    The only real ghost story I have is that for about five years after my younger sister’s suicide, she visited me and harassed me about taking good care of our parents, my kids, to behave myself, and to make her proud. I don’t know if they were dreams born of grief and stress, or actual visitations.

    And now, 32 years later, I guess she’s happy with me, because she’s moved on and I’m finally able to put fingers to keyboard about that wretched time in my family’s life.

    Merry Christmas and a Productive New Year to you!

  12. Ghost stories which do the exact opposite of the Shue murder case are as interesting. KINDRED SPIRITS did an investigation of an inn where a murder had taken place and the victim had returned to point a finger at her son, and he’d been convicted of murder. The whole thing was a lie. The team did a bunch of historical research. Yes, the woman had died, but she’d tripped and broken her neck on the bricks in front of the fireplace. Other family members made up the story about the murder to vilify the son and take his inheritance, and later family members added a trial that never happened to the story. The poor man was hated by everyone for his whole life, and he was buried as a murderer.

  13. Groan… I guess I séance them more so than exhume.

    I’m truly sorry to hear of your sister’s tragic passing, Deb. My belated condolences. Consciousness fascinates me. It’s a field that has no real scientific studies done – probably because you can’t measure it, therefore you can’t fund it. I don’t believe a person physically returns from the dead, but I think it’s entirely possible that some form of consciousness exists after bodily death and telepathically transmits to a living being’s consciousness.

    In this case, my best explanation would suggest that eternal consciousness in Zona – call it her spirit – transmuted the vertebrae information to her mother so vividly that the mother envisioned the apparition. Either that or Mary Jane ingested some fermented preserves and got lucky.

    • I think also, Garry, that relationships, especially close ones, defy scientific explanation. Which is why I’ve always believed that my sister did find a way, on some level, to communicate with me. My faith informs me that people who die don’t just stop existing.

      My younger brother died in a traffic accident 5 years prior to my sister’s death, and I’ve never heard from him. But, we weren’t particularly close at the the time either. Go figure. It’s a wonderful life…

    • Studying consciousness from the human POV seems akin to navel-gazing. Creating consciousness (or even intelligence) is impossible. IMHO, the best we can do is emulate intelligence. Or stupidity.

      Jung said, “In each of us there is an ʘther whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves . . .”

      I believe this “ʘther” is conscious, autonomous, and semi-sentient. It is the creative center of the mind and occasionally speaks to of us via a portal such that Its ideas seem to be our own. There may exist another portal that the dead can access when allowed.
      J Guenther, MS ChE

      • Interesting Jung quote, JGA. Napoleon Hill’s success philosophy refers to Infinite Intelligence as being the source of all ideas and the universal consciousness connector to the human mind – mind, not brain.

        • Jung also said: “…The question arises: ‘Has the Unconscious consciousness of its own?’” –ETH Lectures, Pg 212 ff.

          The term “Unconscious” is flawed. “Subconscious” was abandoned a while back, but may be closer to the truth, if you regard it as indicating a consciousness underlying the intellect.

  14. Wonderfully creepy tale, Garry. My grandmother believed she had “second sight” and said her loved ones stopped at her bedroom door to say good-bye before they left this earth.

    • “Second sight.” Interesting term, Elaine. I heard a term once, “Advanced intuitive awareness.” There are certainly more things on earth and in heaven that we mortals can imagine. Merry Christmas!

    • I’d agree on that, Jeffrey. I was in a haunted house once where many people reported strange noises, eerie temperature changes, and a visual apparition escalating the staircase from time to time. I disappointedly overnighted there. The only thing going on was the guy in the next room snoring.

  15. An interesting tale, and one that tickles the brain cells of all lawyer types both presently and formerly occupied, myself being formerly and thankful every day for it.

    One wonders whether Shue might have pleaded benefit of clergy, appeared in a brown robe and properly tonsured, have recited the neck verse? It surely would not have been any stranger than this story.

    The discussion in chambers over the admissibility of the testimony must have been interesting indeed. I would say as a former prosecutor in a rural county that one might offer it to show the state of mind of the witness rather than the factualness of the testimony.

    Either way, the evidence as a whole was enough to give Shue the boot, so to speak.

    On the other hand the witness’ testimony was what is known as spectral evidence and it has a long and dark history particularly in the Salem Witch Trials and in the writings of Cotton Mather. There’s some interesting blog posts by Matthew Dorn on the subject which I have linked.

    What say you, James Scott Bell?

    Did Canadian courts ever have anything to say about the subject?

    • Eloquently put, my learned friend. What I wondered (other than why the defense counsel would dangerously call Mrs. Heaster to the stand) was why the judge allowed what is clearly hearsay evidence. Regardless if coming from a spectre or not, the statements were not made in the presence of the accused which is the foundation of the hearsay rule – i.e. the originator of the statements is not able to be cross-examined as to their veracity. I’m sure the hearsay rule was well in effect way back then.

      And thank you, Robert, for coming up with a Shue pun. The trout ones were getting a little wormy.

    • This was fun. It has been a good long time since I’ve delved into the peaks and valleys of the hearsay rules. I will say that I still remember the mnemonic device my bar review course used to help us remember the exceptions: Adem P. Bopp. (You can look that up on the internet.) That was forty years ago.

      I also recall that the most popular comeback to a hearsay objection seemed to be “State of mind, your honor!” It’s like a catch-all. How many lawyers (or judges, for that matter) really have a handle on hearsay is a good question, especially in the heat of battle.

      In any event, I don’t see a way around the hearsay rule here. The mother’s state of mind is irrelevant vis-a-vis the autopsy facts. And certainly the ghost, as the declarant, should have been cross-examined. And there was no proof she was “unavailable.” A seance could have been ordered by the judge!

      I’m giddy. Time to go watch an old episode of My Mother the Car.

  16. There are many exceptions to the hearsay rule, and some of them are so far out that they were probably established by a one-off case law ruling. Like, who ever recorded a dying declaration where the about-to-descend – in a free and operating mind – stated “I know I’m about to die.” *deeply sighs with fading breath and rolled -back eyes* “All is beyond mortal hope, and I must declare the butler did it…” Fade out.

    You’re a witty guy as well as an outstanding writer and teacher, Jim. I also wonder if you’re a joker as well as a smoker and a midnight toker. I googled Adem P. Bopp, and all I came up with was Bee Bop A-Loola lyrics and tons of stuff on the Big Bopper.

    My Mother The Car. Now we’re talking vintage. I had to google Dick Van Dyke, and I see the old bugger is 96 and still putting along. I’ll bet that old 1928 Porter from the show would bring a fortune on Barrett-Jackson. Even more than a Silver Ghost.

    • ADEM P. BOPP:

      1. A = “Admission” by a Party Opponent
      2. D = A “Dying Declaration” (Declarant Unavailable)
      3. E = An “Excited” Utterance
      4. M = “Mental” State
      5. P = “Prior” Testimony (Declarant Unavailable)
      6. B = “Business” Records
      7. O = “Original” Records.
      8. P = “Past” Recollection Recorded
      9. P = Against “Pecuniary” or “Penal” Interest (Declarant Unavailable)

      • Perfect evidentiary capture, Jim. You’re off the joker hook, but not the smoker and midnight smoker. After all, you’re a 70’s SoCal product. 😉

  17. Great post, as always, Garry Rodgers. I have work waiting for me in my desk, but once I started reading that court testimony, the words were so powerful and compelling I could not stop. There is a ring of truth to them after all these years. You could hear her sincerity with what she saw, what she prayed for and how it came to be. Yes, she knew her son-in-law was a monster and probably knew he killed her daughter, but the way she describes the apparitions at her bedside on 4 nights had a ring of truth. It just sounded from the words she used like something she couldn’t have made up. More like she was trying to describe something real but very fleeting. I have had a couple of experiences with people close to me when they left this life, enough to believe. Thank you for bringing it to us.

    • Nice to hear you enjoyed this piece, Margaret. I have no doubt Mrs. Heaster was telling exactly what she experienced. Whether it was real or an immense figment of imagination, I don’t know, but I’m convinced she was telling it exactly as she believed it. What I can’t get over is her describing exactly how the neck was broken. Truly a spooky story!

  18. I have had many brushes with the paranormal. Premonitions told me that two of my husbands would die early deaths, within months of the dreams.

    One evening while my second husband was sitting in his recliner, he went into a convulsion, and died. He was gone before paramedics could arrive. He was only 48. Coroner told me he had only seen one other death like this one in ten years. For unknown reasons, all the electrical currents in his body (not sure if I remember that right, something about two nodes on his heart) stopped, which stopped his heart.

    A month later, he appeared to me in a dream. I ran to him and hugged him. “Your death was just a bad dream.”

    He stepped back. “You have to let me go and move on with your life.”

    I shook my head. “How can I? You took my life with you when you!”

    He gave me a sorrowful look and disappeared.

    He was right. I was only 44 and still had a 16-year-old daughter to raise and a business to run. I couldn’t wallow in grief, unable to function. It took me a year to get past the worst of the loss, but after the dream, I did make more of an effort to rejoin the living.

  19. Very interesting story, Garry. You said you wished you could’ve been a fly on the wall at the trial…I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall when the daughter visited the mother…

Comments are closed.