- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

WELSH, La. (AP) - Six members of a farm family were murdered in Jefferson Davis Parish in 1902 - slayings that have inspired a song and countless theories and remains the talk of the town.

“People still talk about it because this is where it all happened,” said Welsh Museum curator Mary Sue Lyon said. “It all happened in Welsh.”

Lyon grew up hearing stories about the slayings of 54-year-old L.S. Earll and wife, 50-year-old Mary White Earll, and their four sons, 26-year-old Ward, 19-year-old Fay, 17-year-old John 13-year-old and Lemmie. She became interested in them after going through old newspapers for the museum.

“People were shocked when it happened because this was a peaceful town,” Lyon said. “The law was worried they’d have a lynching when they tried to bring the suspect back, which is one of the reasons they wanted him locked up so quickly. They feared for his life.”

Interest in the murders recently surged with the release of Jim Bradshaw and Danielle Miller’s book, “Until You Are Dead, Dead, Dead: The Hanging of Albert Edwin Batson.” Miller discussed the book and her research on the case during a program attended by over 50 people at the Welsh Community Center.

Investigation into the murders began shortly after Valentine’s Day 1902 when a man with a facial scar claimed to be Ward Earll and tried to sell mules, horses and a wagon with a letter signed by Batson - later described as a possible suicide note - to a stable owner in Lake Charles. The man left the animals with the stable owner, but never returned.

Maude Earll later found her mother dead inside the home with her face bashed in. Her brothers were shot nearby and their throats slit. Her father was found a day later dead in a ditch outside the home covered with straw. Maude and a brother who was living with an aunt in the state of Iowa were the only surviving members.

Miller became interested in the murders after receiving an email from a man in England concerning a ballad called “Batson” and wanted to know more about the crime. Miller began researching the slayings and later teamed with Bradshaw to write the book.

“Whenever I started looking, I discovered (late author) Nola Mae Ross had already written something about it, but she had stopped before the second trial so there was more information needed.”

After researching the murders, Miller has her own conclusions some of which she was willing to share. Others she remained tight-lipped on.

“This young guy (Batson) died and probably should have never been accused of anything,” she said. “Ed Batson was at the wrong place at the wrong time and nobody would have thought of him if Maude had not mentioned he had a scar.”

Batson’s mother, Rachel, also believed him innocent and fought to prove his innocence and stop the hanging, Miller said. Batson himself claimed his innocence until the end, she said.

Miller said the crime scene was compromised by the public being allowed in; witnesses were not reliable; and those handling the case were incompetent. She described Batson as an “outsider and the perfect scapegoat” for the murders.

“Today that would not fly,” she said. “There was not enough evidence. It was all circumstantial because there was no evidence to show he was there. The only thing they had to go on was he had a scar like the man in Lake Charles, but the man in Lake Charles had a scar on the left. Ed had a scar on the right, but that didn’t seem to matter.”

Miller said she has her own idea of who the murderer was, but stopped short of revealing a name.

All six members of the Earll family are buried in a single grave in Oak Lawn Cemetery in Welsh. The house where the murders occurred was razed in the 1970s.


Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com

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