While I was searching for something else, I stumbled on this fairly horrifying story, published in the Schenectady Gazette, April 14, 1923. If you click on it you can see a larger copy. It says:
CHILD FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER
Montrose, Pa., April 13.—Four-year old Elmer Washburn, confessed slayer of Silas Payne, an aged recluse, was found guilty of murder in the second degree by a jury today. He will be sentenced later.
Young Washburn, it was testified at the trial, had seen Payne counting $2,000 in gold on numerous occasions at his shack near Montrose. The lure of the gold, the lad said, was too strong for him and he confessed that he had sneaked up behind the recluse and clubbed him to death. The gold was later recovered where Washburn told the authorities he had hid it.
Can that story be true? I didn’t have a chance to do any serious research on it. But I can’t imagine a four-year old child being able to club someone to death. Could it have been an error for “fourteen”?
Follow-up: Yes, it was an error. He was fourteen. I found it in the New York Times, November 2, 1922. Still a horrible story, but, sadly, much more believable.