Colonel & Mrs Billings

11 August 2019

Thanks so much Sharon Murray and Susan Hearn Kirstein for your help with Myron E. Billings, what a fascinating man. He’d been wounded by shrapnel in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862 and had a considerable war record afterward.

But here’s something about his troubles later in life …

In December 1887, by then age 51, he was involved in a violent altercation with his former law partner Willis S. Kingsley (1862-1887), probably because he thought Kingsley was having an affair with his wife. There was also talk that Billings was trying to extort money from Kingsley. Both men were shot with the same revolver and Kingsley died.

There were no other eyewitnesses and Billings said Kingsley had shot him, then committed suicide, but he was charged with murder and convicted, in the 2nd degree, on 25 April 1888. He appealed the conviction, and was again convicted on retrial in Black Hawk County.

He appealed to the State Supreme Court in October 1889 and the next year his convictions were reversed, the Iowa Supreme Court ruling:

… But two shots were fired, being about four and one half seconds apart, both of which were from the revolver found by the side of the deceased; and but two balls were ever discovered, one in the head of the deceased and the other in the back of defendant. The deceased was a man of good physique, in the vigor of his physical manhood, and capable of preventing a deadly assault with a revolver placed against his face. Held, that the undisputed facts in the case being inconsistent with murder, but consistent with suicide, the burden was upon the state to overcome the presumptions arising from such facts with affirmative proof of the guilt of the defendant, and that the state having failed to do this, a verdict of murder in the second degree was erroneous.

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