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Troisville E. SYKES





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Self defense? - The victim owned a famous house of ill-fame
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 3, 1883
Date of birth: ???
Victim profile: Kate Townsend (his mistress for 25 years)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Status: Acquitted by a jury on February 1, 1884

The New York Times


the motive for a crime

a murderer acquitted


The Kate Townsend Will

The Monroe Bulletin

Wednesday, November 14, 1883

On the 3rd inst. Travesville Sykes killed Kate Townsend, his mistress, in New Orleans.  She owned a house of ill-fame on Basin street and was wealthy, having as much as $200,000 in her own right.  Sykes' demand for money gave rise to the quarrel that culminated in the tragedy.


"My name is Kate Townsend. I have no father or mother living, and have no forced heirs.  I do hereby give and bequeath to Mr. Travesville Sykes, of this city, all the property, real and personal, which I may die possessed of, hereby constituting him my sole and universal legatee, and in case of death of said Travesville Sykes, I do hereby give and bequeath to Mrs. Stephen Sykes, his mother, and to all her children, all the property, real and personal, which I may die possessed of.  I do further constitute and appoint the said Travesville Sykes my testamentary executor; and, finally, I revoke all wills or codicils which I may have heretofore made."

The will is signed by Kate Townsend, E. Fulton, A. Robert, W.A. Bienvenue and A.E. Bienvenue, and bears date the 19th of September, 1872.

The question now disturbing the legal mind of New Orleans is, can Sykes inherit from her?

Civil Code, 1481: "Those who have lived together in open concubinage are incapable of making to each other, whether inter vivos or mortis causa, any donation of immovables; and if they make a donation of movables, it cannot exceed one-tenth part of the whole value of their estate."

Those who afterwards marry are excepted from this rule.  It is possible that Kate Townsend and Sykes were married, and if so, that incapacity fails.

But there is another.  Article 1559, Civil Code, reads that donations are liable to be revoked or dissolved for "the ingratitude of the donee."  Art. 1560 says revocation on account of ingratitude can take place "if the donee has attempted to take the life of the donor."

Article 1561 authorizes the suit for revocation by the heirs of the donor against the donee within a year after the death of the donor.

Sykes has applied to the court to probate the will, and has gone so far as to mortgage a portion of the property to secure counsel to defend him against a charge of murder.  It was a most shocking crime; the woman was stabbed with a large dirk knife nine times. Sykes' plea is self- defense, but his wounds are so trifling that a child could have inflicted or an infant borne them.  If the law can be construed to excuse such a crime and reward such a criminal, then it will be high time to change it to something more consonant with the ideas of advanced civilication.

NOTE: The Monroe Bulletin, Wednesday, February 6, 1884 page 2, column 1 says that Troisville Sykes was acquitted of the murder.


A murderer acquitted

Troisville Sykes set free by a considerate jury

The New York Times

February 2, 1884

NEW-ORLEANS, Feb. 1.--The trial of Troisville Sykes for the murder of Kate Townsend, his mistress, came to an end to-day by the jury bringing in a verdict of "Not guilty," and the accused man was turned loose.



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