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A.K.A.: "The Nebraska Fiend"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 9
Date of murders: 1878
Date of birth: March 1836
Victims profile: Men, women and children
Method of murder: Beating with axe and flatiron - Stabbing with knife
Location: Kansas/Nebraska, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in Nebraska on January 15, 1879

Inside facts

The Omaha Herald, December 31, 1878

Transcribed and Contributed by: C. Anthony

Richards, the Kearney County Murderer, Gives for the First Time Full Details of His Crimes And a statement of the Motives Which Prompted Him in His Bloody Deeds

And Selects the Omaha Herald as the Vehicle Through Which the Confession Shall Appear

A Fiend Who Plans, Days in Advance, the Murder of a Helpless Woman and Her Babes Because It Would Make Matters More Pleasant for Himself and the Companion of His Lot

He Cooks a Hot Breakfast and Eats a Hearty Meal as Soon as the Bodies Are Out of the Way

A Character Without a Parallel in History or Fiction

On Saturday last Sheriffs Martin, of Kearney County, and Anderson, of Buffalo County, left Omaha with S. D. Richards, the self-confessed murderer of six persons.

A Herald reporter, who had an excellent assurance of obtaining the "inside facts." In regard to this deliberate contriver of cold-blooded butcheries, accompanied the parties West. Richards was still affable, but in answer to the inquiries of one reporter--there being several on board--remarked that he had already given full particulars to other papers and did not with to say anything further.

A brief running conversation followed but nothing new or specially interesting was elicited. It was evident to the by-standers that Richards, when he desired, could talk a good deal without saying anything.

The Herald reporter was convinced that nothing was to be gained by haste and therefore first found himself seated beside Richards as the train was approaching Fremont. At this station, the aisle and even the ground outside the car were thronged with spectators.

The Sheriff brought in a cup of coffee and substantial lunch for Richards and removed one handcuff, at which the crowd in the aisle started back to a respectable distance, while several gave the Herald man a look of pity at the imminent risk in which he was placed. Richards at his meal with relish and as the train moved on began conversing, evidently in a very good mood from what he had been in before.

He took occasion to mention that the Tribune reporter who interviewed him in Chicago was a gentleman, while the Times reporter was a man of no sense. "To my answers," said Richards, "he would say, 'Are you sure that is so' 'wasn't it this way,' or 'wasn't it that way" and I finally told him he knew so much more about these murders that the man who did them that he must have been there, and he might go ahead and write it up as he wished. I would tell him nothing more. I told him not to come too near the cell door or I would drag him through the bars and break him in two."

Richards talked along and soon the reporter was taking down from his own lips many details of his early life, and other answers to his questions.

"I have thought if I got into Kearney jail," said Richards, "of writing up a full account of my life. With exact dates of everything as far as possible. If you come and see me at Kearney tomorrow, when there is not such a crowd around, I can give you a great deal more complete story. I am not such a fool as that letter in the Chicago Times would make you think. It was written in a hurry and in a bad light, and they tore it all to pieces, left out shame, and fixed it up to suit themselves."

Outline Of Richard's Life

"I was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in March, 1836. My father removed from there when I was about two years old. He afterwards removed to Monroe, Noble County, Ohio, and we lived there two or three years, during the principal part of the war. He afterwards removed to Jefferson County, where I remained until about three years ago, when I came west.

My mother died Sept. 10, 1871. My father was a farmer. I did not attend school very regularly. When between 10 and 11 I went to school at Warren, where my father lived.

We afterward removed to the neighborhood of M. Pleasant, where I went to school at Oak Grove. The teachers were Jesse Lloyd, John Cubby, Richard Roberts, and Johnny Burrass. I was then stopping with Milton Peltis and fed stock for one or two winters. My last term was after my mother died, at Kenworthy Hoges.

I was from 16 to 18 years old. I believe I had the same of being a quiet, preachable man, and had no trouble with any one. I was well raised, stood in good society and went in good company; never drank and never played cards, and was never accused of any offenses of any kind. I stood in good society, and thought I was able to make most anything of myself.

I was handy at most anything, could work at most anything. I worked with a carpenter, George Walker, the last winter I was there, and helped him build a barn. For the past two years I have had no regard for anything. I jumped at anything that came in my way, no matter where it was or who it was. I had well considered the source of life and what it amounted to.

It was immaterial to me how things ended, but I never expected to be taken alive, and would not if I had been in the country, I was employed as an attendant in the Insane Asylum at Mt. Pleasant, ..., for nearly a year, and was attendant for one of the most violent wards in the house. That took away to some extent my feeling and sympathy for mankind. I could stand by a man and see him die with no more feeling than I would have for a hog.

When I left there two years ago I didn't care for anything and had no respect for human nature. When I first struck the western prairies the only companion I wanted was a good pair of six shooters.

I passed through Nebraska about the last of March, 1877; was five or six weeks in the State; stopped two days and a night in Omaha, and went to Denver, through Colorado, and back through Kansas. I was alone with the exception of occasional company for a day or two.

Reporter--Did your theory of life get you into any trouble on this trip?

Richards--Yes. I have never made any complete statement in this matter. I have mentioned one, the first of the six, which occurred near the Sand Hills, in the neighborhood of Kearney, and between the U. P. and B. & M. railroads. I then remained in Kansas until October, 1877, and traveled through Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Northern Illinois and Michigan, stopping a short time at different points. I had no trouble of any importance during this time.

Reporter--Did you have an idea of putting yourself on record as the most blood-thirsty murderer that ever lived?

Richards--I didn't have any definite idea of that kind. I always made up my mind that I was hard to beat at anything I put my mind to, in whatever direction it was; had a rather mean, contemptible disposition as regarded matters of that kind. Whatever I went into, good or bad, I would climb as high as any one, and went to the end of it, no matter what it took, even at the expense of taking blood, or risking my own life.

I remained in the State I named, until a year ago the coming January, when I came back through Illinois into Iowa and Northern Missouri, making a few short calls to friends in those states. I crossed the Missouri at Plattsmouth, stopped at Plattsmouth, Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Hastings, and all through this region.

I was twice arrested on false charges at Kearney, but the property in the second case was found with me. I declined to make any explanation and was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail and costs. I had a further undertaking in this and effected it and made some money out of it, and never regretted it. I was never guilty, however, of any mean offences, like stealing, and was never sentenced, except at Kearney Junction. They seemed to think in Kearney Junction that I was a pretty hard pill, but I was no small offender.

Reporter--Do you have any fears of lynching?

Richards--I never expected anything else for some time. I don't want to be lynched until my will is made and I have given my body to that cheeky Columbus, Ohio, doctor, who asked me for it when I was at Steubenville. He will be disappointed if he doesn't get it.

About trouble at Kearney I had all along expected there would be some attempt at lynching there.

I never expected to get out of the State alive when I started, and traveled openly and under my own name. I mad no false pretenses.

There were no telegrams sent down the Baltimore and Ohio R. R., and I could have gone right through to Baltimore before any telegram would have headed me off. I hardly thought Cap. Anderson would follow me, for he knew me, and knew that if he could get the drop on me he would have to shoot me to get me, and take his chances on my getting the drop on him. I would never have been taken alive with my arms.

When I came to Wheeling I left my weapons, as I wanted to make some calls and they would have thought I was a bad man. They all know what kind of a boy I was when I left there and my ideas of life then, and thought I was all right.

I knew, too, that my weapons, in making calls around, would be very much in my way. All my crimes were done when I was perfectly cool, and not through angry passion. It was not because I could not control my temper. I was thinking a good many of the same thoughts I am thinking today. I had an abject, and went at those things as deliberately as if I had been in a herd of stock, of as if it had been imposed upon me as a sworn duty.

Col. McNery

During the latter portion of this conversation a tall, fine looking man, with iron gray hair and whiskers, had stood in the aisle at the reporter's side, listening with keen interest to Richards' words.

"Will you allow me to ask him a word or two?" "Certainly." "Did you have no remorse after killing that woman and those little children?" "No, sir. They were nothing more to me than so many jack rabbits."

"You seem to put no more value on your own life than you have on that of others. Do you feel that way?" "It's a thing that has to come sooner or later. I don't care when. If a nickel would set me free and I didn't have it, I wouldn't ask any friend for it." This answer seemed to stagger the questioning and he walked back to a Pullman car, the bystanders putting him down in their minds as a clergyman. It was no clergyman, however, but Col. Moseby, Leader of the Confederate guerillas during the war.

At Silver Creek, Richards was accorded a full seat, fixed himself a pillow of his overcoat and slept "like a log" until he was awakened two miles east of Kearney to leave the train and take passage in a wagon for the rest of the route. It took a hearty shaking to awake the sleeper, and when awake and informed that a big mob had gathered at Kearney and that it would not be safe to take him there he advised the Sheriff to go on. As already narrated in The Herald he was safely lodged in Captain Anderson's stone palace.

Meeting one of the Sheriffs the next day The Herald reporter was informed that Richards had made a request that the reporter whenever he came be allowed to enter and talk with him.

The Murder Analysed

At 11:30 p.m. The Herald reporter, in company with Mr. John H. Roe, U. P. Land Agent at Kearney, visited the jail. Richards was in good spirits, saluted his visitors heartily, and a moment later was seated with them behind the iron bars. Until nearly 5 o'clock the party remained in conversation. Richards never allowing it to flag and frequently anticipating the inquiries.

During this conversation the visitors had an excellent opportunity to learn the peculiarities of Richards' character, which resulted in a firm conviction that there is not an insane trait about the man; that he was and is a cool, deliberating, scheming murderer, always working with a well-settled object in view, and at present absolutely without hope or fear.

He is a man of no ordinary intelligence, possessing a common school education, and accustomed not alone to interesting himself in men and events, but to studying the processes of his own mind, changes in thought and character, and the manner in which the latter was affected by various circumstances of his life.

He is a good reasoner, a fluent talker, uses on the whole very fair English, has a soft, melodious and well-modulated voice, a rare amount of personal magnetism over all with whom he is brought in contact, and is as lithe, graceful and stalwart a specimen of physical manhood as ever strode a prison cell.

His eyebrows are prominent and somewhat bushy. He has a clear, dark eye, good features, beautiful teeth, and is evidently somewhat vain of his influence over others. A constant smile plays over his face during conversation and it undergoes instant changes of expression. Considering that he is without a parallel in the numbers and cold-blooded audacity of his crimes, it is evidently appropriate that the smile should often disappear and give way to the glaring, desperate, hunted look of an assassin or an outlaw. It is appropriate and sounds well that a murdered should carry this mark of Cain on his brow, but with due respect to the opinions of others who think differently, The Herald reporter must state that this idea seems to be the production of a fervid imagination.

When quiet and thoughtful his face is not an unpleasant one. He has large hands and feet and large bones, his wrists requiring a larger handcuff, the sheriff states, than any man he ever had in custody before. The most startling thing about the man, in the eyes of all spectators, is the marvelous nerve which has enabled him to preserve a manner of coolness, absence of regret for any of his bloody crimes, and absolute indifference, through every circumstance which has occurred since his arrest.

When the party were in their seats the following Interview took place:

"Well, Richards, now that you are safe in Kearney jail, are there any other crimes you want to confess or any further revelations you desire to make public?"

"I will try to give you exact dates of the killing of the different parties. I don't want to give anything more away at present on any parties. I think I can help others by using my information in another way.

The information must come from me, for I burned up all my letters and valuable papers back at Mt. Pleasant before the eyes of the men who arrested me there.

If they had been good officers or had any sand, I had letters which would have taken them straight to several parties the officers are very anxious to find. There was a large amount of correspondence with different parties, some of whom left here last spring. I had among the bundle, too, papers on a bank in Cheyenne, which I received from other parties, and which were no good for me to present as any one. I had a big acquaintance and no extensive correspondence, both in the Southwest and Northwest with parties who got my name somehow and wrote me.

I know where Underwood and Harelson are, who escaped from jail here last spring, and if the Ohio officers had been smarter they could have had those men here as soon as I was here. I don't want to make outside parties any trouble, and I don't want to make Cap. (Sheriff Anderson) any. I could have reached some of my friends out here, and have had an attempt made to cut me loose, but I knew the result would be only a bloody battle with doubtful results. I could have got help to fight almost anywhere. Parties came into Steubenville, O., while I was under arrest, talked with me and offered to send telegrams for me. I could, if I wanted to, give away a good many men. I came here a year ago for a particular purpose. After the parties got out of jail I expected to be arrested for doing it.

"Was it your work?"

"I was more interested in the matter than anybody else. I looked at the jail and found out what the chances were. I won't tell you how it was done. I have expected my arrest almost any day for the last two years. Every time I struck the railroad I expected to be arrested. I saw detectives that are known all over the country at times when I felt pretty sure they were looking for me. I saw men that I had seen in Kansas, and in the Indian Territory. I met one detective I knew here last spring. He was not certain of me, but entered into conversation with me, and finally asked me where I had traveled. I told him he seemed inquisitive, and must be in a d___d hurry to get acquainted.

I have been spotted many and many a time, but I didn't hide myself or try to keep out of the way. I changed my beard, moustache, and side whiskers more or less, occasionally and changed my dress. I never layed down to sleep at night without thinking that I might be awakened by an officer with a warrant. I never expected to live to stand before the law, or I should never have made a statement. I knew this western country, and I thought I knew the people well enough so that I could be sure I would never live to get beyond Chicago. I supposed a gang would at least meet me as far east as that, and string me up. Well, it's only a matter of time, and one arrangement will suit me as well as another."

"Will you have any counsel?"

"What good would counsel do me? I shall tell the same story in court that I tell outside. Judge Goslin was down to see me this morning about the preliminary examination. Of course I can demand on if I wish, which must take place in Kearney County, but for some reason the officers don't seem to think it's very safe to take me there. I told Judge Goslin if I had $100,000 I would not turn a nickel to clear myself. I told him, too, I didn't think it was worth while to plead anything but guilty, and he seemed to agree with me. I told him he could do as he pleased about a preliminary examination; I didn't care for any and wouldn't ask any. He told me then there would be none, and this is the arrangement.

I have had the name all my life of being perfectly truthful and have never made any but a truthful statement of facts. You will find that what I have told regarding these matters is true. I have not since I came West allowed any man seriously to call me a liar. There are some epitaphs too, I won't allow a man to call me. I never had any grudges, and never killed a man because I had a grudge against him. If I had a quarrel with a man and happened to get whipped by him I was just as friendly to him the next day. I calculated that when anything serious came up I was fully able to protect myself. When I was traveling in Kansas a year and a half ago a couple of men met me one night and after parleying a little one; drew a revolver on me, and ordered me to hand over my money. I said, "I suppose that means a man may as well shove down his hand and get it" and in a second I had the drop on him and the other man rode away. The first man, as near as I can remember, stayed about where he was for some time.

The boys always thought in those days that I was a good man to "tie to," but I didn't court the company of rough men. I sometimes used to stand by and see fair play, sometimes took a little part myself, and they all knew I was a good shot and able to care for myself. I had some "el?'n tips," close calls, but which didn't amount to anything.

Two years ago next spring I got that big scar on my head, that you can feel running along the right side for a couple of inches. I was traveling with some Texas boys from the southwest when I received that blow. We were 75 miles northwest of Cheyenne. None of us knew where it came from.

When Captain Anderson searches my trunk he will find an old hat with four bullet holes in it. There were six of us traveling in south-easter Colorado together when that happened. We got into trouble, and I "bucked" against the rest of the crowd. I tell you there was a cloud of smoke around me for a minute. I have known several of the U. P. train robbers, and know the whereabouts of some now."

"What names have you passed under out here?"

"I took the name of F. A. Hoge first because I had a lady friend married, who was living near Kearney, and whom I didn't want to see. I was commonly known by the name of "Dick" and also "Dee," from my second initial. I registered at different times under the names, George Gallagher, D. J. Roberts, and Wm. Hudson, not all in Nebraska.

I received a great deal of correspondence under the name D. J. Roberts, and afterward under the names of J. Littleton and W. A. Littleton. I have a good many letters in my trunk received under these assumed names, of which the envelopes are burned.

"Will you give the dates, as you promised, of the murders of Peter Anderson, Mrs. Harelson and her children, and the young man in the Sand Hills?"

"I can after looking at a calendar." (Calender procured and consulted.) "I Killed Peter Anderson, Dec. 9, Mrs. Harelson and her family Sunday morning, Nov. 3. The young man at the Sand Hills I am not so sure about--it was the middle of March--about the time of the Kearney races--of a Tuesday morning. I have it. My birthday comes on March 18, and that day we compared ages. I was a few weeks the eldest. It was the next morning I killed him."

"Tell me the circumstances about this first murder in the neighborhood?"

"We had been traveling together two or three weeks. He was from Hastings, Iowa, son of a farmer who lives near there, and his uncle who has the same name as the nephew was a small lawyer and land agent of the B. & M. R. R. I can't think of that name. He was at this time going under an assumed name.

He said when he left Lincoln that he was not going by his own name any longer."

"Did his people know where he was?"

"I think not. He told them in the first place he was going to the Black Hills. He wrote to his uncle for some assistance but got no answer. He was a fellow without good education and a poor writer. I wrote several letters for him. This was the furthest west he had been. He was a first-rate young man and some struck on religious subjects. He got on that line sometimes, though he used some rough language in ordinary conversations--in explaining matters. He went from Hastings to Grand Island and was going to take the train there for Kearney, but I hear something that scared my suspicions and we crossed the river and started west on the south trail. We expected to strike the B. & M. Railcar near Lowell and take the train to Kearney, but we got too far west, found we hadn't time to get to Lowell before the train passed, and started on for Kearney. We got tired and camped that night, south of the river, and not a great way from the B. & M. Railroad. We built our fire, made supper, and arranged a place for sleeping. We had a buffalo robe, a couple of blankets, a satchel each, and he had beside a bundle of clothing. We slept there that night and in the morning woke up in good reason.

We had raised up in our blankets and had not put on our boots when I made some careless remark about a trifling matter. He says "That's a d___d lie." "It's a good thing you don't mean all you say," "I told him. "But I do mean it," he said "You don't want to mean it," I said; and he picked up his revolver and saying, "Here is something that backs all that I say," cocked it. I looked at him, and thought, "The fool acts as if he means to shoot," and skipping out my little 33 I plugged him one in the head. That was the first trouble we had ever had. Of course I don't know that he meant to shoot, but it looked like it. The fellow was about 20 years old. I pulled the buffalo out from under his head, and, taking the satchel, buffalo and blankets, started for Kearney, getting there just as the U. P. train got in and going in with the crowd that went from the train.

I went to the Commercial House and registered "F. A. Hoge, Denver." I was dressed as a herder throughout, with a big slouch hat. I told the man at the hotel I had been through Colorado and recently came from the Pacific coast. In those days I made it a point never to register the place I had come from.

I was then always thoroughly armed. At that time I had my 33 and a pair of six shooters. For most of the time the last two years I've had a 32-5 shot and a pair of six-shooters. I never carried less than a pair of six-shooters.

"Will you give me the details of the Harleson Murder?"

"I met Mrs Harelson at Kearney last summer under peculiar circumstances. Her man had got out of jail and she seemed to give me a good deal of credit for it. She asked a lot of us down to see her. I began a correspondence with her, under one of my assumed names. I don't want to give you the name, for it would bring other parties into this matter. She talked of letting me have the farm at different times. It was not of much value. I met her afterward at Grand Island, where she was canvassing for books, chromos, etc.

I got the money there, and I was to call in September and complete the arrangement. I sent another fellow to talk with her, and I finally came over to the place in October. I had calculated to take the place October 1, and things were so arranged. I was unable to get over until the middle of the month.

Mrs. Harelson was supposed to make her living by canvassing, but she didn't begin to do it. It was the money that I had paid her from time to time that kept her along. I thought best than to postpone the transfer until November 1. I was over the next week, and we fixed things up and it was arranged that she was to leave the following Monday.

She could not get her things ready to go then, and we put it off until the next Friday or Saturday."

"Where was she going?"

"She was going to Illinois, to visit friends there through the winter, and then was coming back to this place. You understand she was the kind of woman that it was not necessary for her husband to have a marriage certificate. I don't know that she was ever married to Harelson, and she gave me to understand that she was not. I was living with her as Harelson had been."

"When did you first think of killing them?"

"Eight or nine days before I did it. I had selected my companion for life, and I expected to bring her to this farm, for a while, at least. I saw that the arrangement was not going to be satisfactory, and considering the source of life, and its end, it struck me that it would be just as well for everybody if the whole family were of the world. I thought the matter over, thought of the best way of disposing of the bodies, the chance of discovery, and made up my mind the scheme was a good one.

If I was discovered to this, so I was liable to be discovered in the old matters, if I didn't do it. The neighbors all thought she was going to leave the country, and wouldn't know but she had gone as she expected.

We were up all night Thursday, October 31st, making preparations to go, Mrs. Harelson making clothes for the children and getting them ready. I was to take them to Hastings, where they were going to take the train. We were up nearly all night Friday night, and Saturday night until 3 or 4 o'clock Sunday morning. I had decided to dig a place for their remains as close to the straw stack as I could get, and watched for a chance to prepare it.

I expected them to use the straw from that side and scatter it over the spot. I had a watch, but it was not running, so we had no time piece, but it was between 3 and 4 o'clock when I went out to feed the mules. Then I took the shovel, a common railroad shovel, and commenced digging the hole. I am pretty handy with a shovel, and in half an hour I had a hole about 2 by 6 and three or four feet deep. It was in a place that had been ploughed for three crops. I had agreed, when Mrs. Harelson went to bed, to call her at half past 5 or 6.

I had everything ready to get a warm breakfast in five minutes, the grain was loaded and I was all ready to start for Hastings. I went into the house; found them all sleeping
soundly; got the axe and went at the job.

The statement that I dashed the baby's brains out on the floor, breaking one leg is not true. I killed them all as they were sleeping. Mrs. Harelson and the two oldest girls were in the bed together and the baby in the crib. I killed Mrs. Harelson first, then the second child, then the oldest one, and the baby last. There wasn't one woke and there was not a sound made. I only got blood on one blanket and on the pillow shams. This bedding I took out with the bodies and threw into the hole. I carried Mrs. Harelson's body out first, then the two girls at one trip and took the baby last.

If the baby's leg was broken by me it when I threw it into the hole. I picked it up, carried it out and threw it in as I would a log. I hauled in the dirt without being particular to put the yellow under dirt at the bottom, where it had come from. I presume that led to the discovery of the bodies when the neighbors were searching. I examined the house carefully, found I had left no spots of blood anywhere and that the ax was clean.

If any hair was found on a flat iron it was not human hair. I then straightened things up and cooked and ate my breakfast, and started for Hastings with my grain. Nothing would ever have come to light if I hadn't had that trouble with that Swede, Anderson."

"What kind of a house was this of Harelson's?"

"It was a sod house about 22 or 24 by some 10 feet, with one room. There was a place left for a partition which I intended to put in. Mrs. Harelson was to pay expenses for fixing it up. I would have been well barricaded if any trouble had come. I had two breech loading guns and three six shooters, 33 loads in all."

"What was you worth at this time?"

"I had about $1,200 when I went down to live with her. I destroyed a good deal of this when I burned the papers at Mt. Pleasant, but I still have the papers to the place.

I thought I was dead beat when I got down to $50. I have had as much as $2,500. I played cards a good deal and didn't back down for any of them. I made a good deal in the way out of the cowboys and greenhorns. I generally had a good roll of bills, carried them to my pocket, took them all out when I wanted to pay for anything, and felt able to care for them."

"How did you kill Anderson?"

"I never thought of killing old Anderson until it was done. I never poisoned or tried to poison him. That is not my style of takin life.

I heard he was telling the neighbors so and did not feel pleasant about it. When I met Anderson on the 9th of December he was ugly, and commenced calling me offensive names and accused me of trying to kill him. I slapped his face, and he started to get a big knife which laid on the table back of him. I didn't propose to give him a chance to use it, and seized a hammer which stood on the window sill and brained him."

It is impossible to go further into the details of the story as told by the murderer with the utmost sang frold, of his long drive with the liveryman, and the various incidents of his eastward journey.

One thing was definitely settled. Conductor Joe Beatty, who thought he detected Richards among his passengers, but was talked out of the belief by other passengers, visited the Kearney jail, hoping to find that he was wrong and the passengers right, but not so. Richards recognized him instantly, and Mr. Beatty was forced to admit that Richards came into Omaha with him.

The Herald reporter left Kearney yesterday morning, greatly indebted to Sheriffs Anderson and Martin for his long talk with Richards. Even in the extended space here given to the man's story many details have been omitted.

All the impressions he received during his long interviews with Richards confirm him in the belief that the character of this phenomenal murderer is without a parallel, calling the atrocities of a fiend with graces of manner and conversation which are exceedingly rare even among cultured people. There is no probability of any violence at Kearney. The law will undoubtedly take its course.


The Life Taker

The Omaha Herald, December 31, 1878
Transcribed and Contributed by: C. Anthony

He Is Landed Safe in the Kearney Jail

A Little Bit of Strategy on the Part of the Sheriffs to Avoid the Crowds

All Quiet in Kearney and no Disposition Shown to Get Up a Mob

Richards Still Smiling and Talking as if Killing People was no Worse than Killing Mice

Special dispatch to The Herald.

Kearney, Neb., December 28.--Stephen D. Richards, the murderer of nine persons, was safely jailed here at 9:45 p.m.

Sheriff Anderson and Martin received a dispatch east of Columbus, stating all quiet in Kearney. A later dispatch sent from a trusted Ireland, received east of Grand Island, stated a crowd was gathering.

Sheriff Anderson instructed his friend here to be in readiness for later advices, and afterward ordered a boy to meet him with a wagon two miles east of Kearney Junction.

The Deputy Sheriff, Lew Johnson, met the party at Buds station four miles east of here, and reported a crowd of upwards of two hundred assembled, with what object not known.

Conductor Kelley stopped the train at a point two miles east and Richards was taken off, still securely shackled and handcuffed and placed in a wagon waiting there. Sheriff Martin and Deputy Johnson accompanying.

Sheriff Anderson proceeded to Kearney and responded to rash and eager questions of the assembled crowd by stating that Martin stopped off with Richards at Grand Island, and would be along tomorrow. Much disappointment was shown by the crowd.

While Anderson was parlaying with the crowd and holding them, Martin landed Richards safely in jail. Various parties discussing the matter about town express chagrin at missing sight of Richards, but commending the action of the sheriffs. Richards manifested supreme indifference to his lot, was perfectly willing to be brought direct to Kearney Junction, and said he had as soon died one way as another.

Col. Mosby, of Confederate guerilla fame, was on the train and interviewed Richards at some length on his indifference.

Richards said for two years he had held his life of no account, and placed others at about the same importance as hogs. He talked almost continuously from Omaha to Central City, answering questions, was affable and courteous to all, and had a smile on his features constantly.

He talks of murders as openly and with as little concealment as of the most trifling matter. He insists that none of the last five were committed in passion, but with a motive which he will not reveal, and were planned deliberately. He promises revelations in a day or two on matters here which he has kept silent about, which he says will astonish the whole western country as nothing has for years.

The sheriffs believe him perfectly sane, and in possession of facts of vast importance. He slept soundly from Silver Creek until awakened to leave the train. All quiet here, and the crowd has dispersed.



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