July 13, 2013

Man Injures Wife, Kills Mother-in-Law in Front of 6-Year-Old Son, Pulaski, 1906



[March 2, 1906] -


Mother-in-Law, Wounded Wife and Tried to Kill Officers. Desperate Deed of Somerset Man.

[Special to the Leader.]

SOMERSET, KY., March 2. -- Otis Gragg, an employee of the railroad, living in South Somerset, shot and killed his mother-in-law, Mrs. J. C. Bowman, and seriously wounded his young wife this morning about 8 o'clock.

After the killing the murderer crossed the street to his mother's home where he was arrested by officers, one of whom he wounded in the hand while resisting. He is now in jail, but claims to have no recollection of the deed. [1]


[March 3, 1906] -


Latter Instantly Killed But the Former May Recover From Wounds


(Special to The Herald.)

SOMERSET, Ky., March 2.--The town was thrown into great excitement about 9 o'clock this morning when a telephone message to police headquarters stated that two women had been killed in the south end of the city by Ottis Gragg, the victims being his wife and mother-in-law, Mrs. Bowman, who resided with him temporarily.  The crime was committed at the home of Gragg on South Depot street, and in a busy portion of the city, and when the neighbors rushed to the scene, attracted by the shots and screams of the women, they found a sight ghastly enough to sick the bravest.

Lying across the bed where she had fallen was Mrs. Bowman, aged about sixty years, with the blood oozing from a bullet  hole just under the eye, where the shot had taken effect, killing her instantly, while prone on the floor lay his young wife with blood flowing from her shoulder and side where the shot had entered her body, breaking her [....] her collar bone.

Gragg Resists Officers.

Gragg left the house as soon as he had committed the crime and went to his father's house some little distance away, where Chief of Police Elrod and Camden found him.  Here another struggle occurred, and Gragg fought the officer desperately, they having considerable trouble in securing their own lives from the weapon which had already brought such havoc.

Mrs. Gragg is still alive and there is some hope for her recovery, but she is unable to give any coherent account of the shooting or throw any light on the matter.  There were no witnesses to the tragedy, and Gragg himself is in no condition to give a rational statement relative to the matter.  He said he was a ruined man and begged the policemen to kill him while they were on their way to the jail with him.

Had Been Out of Work.

Gragg is a young man of about thirty years and had been in the employ of the railroad company, but had not been working for some little time, and the officers who had a warrant for his arrest on a charge of carrying concealed deadly weapons, were under the impression that he was located somewhere in the far West.

The pistol with which he committed the crime is a 38-calibre, automatic late pattern with magazine, and was loaded with steel-jacketed bullets.  The Coroner will hold an inquest over the body of Mrs. Bowman today.  Gragg is in jail here, and it is not yet known just when he will be given a hearing before the court.  [2]


[March 4, 1906] -



(Special to The Herald.)

SOMERSET, Ky., March 3. -- Mrs. Ottis Gragg, who was fatally shot by her husband yesterday as told in The Herald yesterday, remains in a very critical condition and reports are to the effect that there is now very little hope for her recovery. The shock of witnessing the killing of her mother by her husband augments the critical condition she is in.

Her mother, Mrs. J. C. Bowman, who was killed at the time Mrs. Gragg was shot, was taken to Burnside, her former home, for burial today. Gragg was brought before County Judge Barnett today and next Tuesday was set as the date for an examining trial.The tragedy has created considerable excitement, but there is no fear of mob violence. [3]


[March 6, 1906] -


Otis Gragg, a young railroad man of Somerset, Ky., shot and instantly killed his mother-in-law after badly wounding his wife.  Whisky is said to have been behind the tragedy. [4]


[March 9, 1906] -

Mrs. Gragg Improving.

Mrs. Ottis Gragg, who was dangerously shot by her husband after he had forced her to take a drug for the purpose of killing her, is slowly improving at the Somerset hospital and there is now some hope for her recovery. Gragg is to have been given a hearing yesterday, but it was deferred until Saturday. [5]


[March 14, 1906] -

Gragg Bound Over.

Otis Gragg, who killed his mother-in-law and severely wounded his wife several days ago, was given an examining trial before Judge Barnett, and was held over on the charge of murder without bail.  The chief and probably the only eye-witness to the horrible scene is the little six-year-old son of the accused, whose testimony at the examining trial developed the facts as told heretofore, that Gragg shot his wife while she lay in bed in a stupor from a drug which he had compelled her to take, and then shot and killed his mother-in-law.  He will probably be tried at the coming term of court, which convenes next Monday. [6]


[March 20, 1906] -

The examining trial of Otis Gragg, for the murder of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Bowman, and attempted murder of his wife, was held at Somerset before Judge Barnett. He was held without bail. [7]


[December 8, 1906] -


SOMERSET, Ky., Dec. 7.--In the Circuit Court the case of the Commonwealth against Otis Graggs, charged with murdering his mother-in-law and shooting his wife, was continued until next term.  The regular six weeks term of court will close tomorrow. [8]


[March 27, 1907] -


Otis Gragg Found Guilty by Pulaski County Jury.

SOMERSET, Ky., March 26.-- The regular six weeks term of the Pulaski Circuit Court has adjourned and a special term, which will consume four weeks, has been called.  The grand jury which was reconvened in extra session after its regular adjournment returned quite a number of indictments, some of which, it is understood, will create a sensation when they are made public.

Otis Gragg, who was tried for the murder of his mother-in-law and the attempted murder of his wife, was sentenced to three years in the penitentiary.  The killing occurred about one year ago in this place, when Gragg shot his wife, who fell to the floor apparently dead, and his mother-in-law ran into the room when another shot from his pistol killed her instantly. [9]


[April 13, 1909] -

Gov. Willson set the stamp of his disapproval upon emotional insanity and what is called the "unwritten law" when he refused to grant a pardon to Otis Gragg convicted of manslaughter in Pulaski county and sent up for three years for manslaughter. He killed Minerva Bowman, his mother-in-law. He shot his wife in her presence, and when her mother rushed to save her a second shot killed her. The plea was that Gragg was not in his right mind. [10] 


[June 2, 1909] -

Refused Pardon.

Emotion insanity and the unwritten laws were disapproved Saturday when Governor Willson refused to grant a pardon to Otis Gragg, convicted of manslaughter in Pulaski county, and sent to the penitentiary for three years for the killing of Minerva Bowman, his wife's mother.  The plea in the case and the reason for asking for a pardon was that Gragg was not in his right mind at the time he fired the shot.  He had discovered that his wife was unfaithful and shot her, in the presence of her mother.  Mrs. Bowman rushed forward to try to save her daughter and the second shot from Graggs revolver, which was aimed at the wife, struck Mrs. Bowman, killing her instantly.  Gragg claimed that he was not in his right mind at the time of the shooting.  Regarding this plea and in refusing the pardon Governor Willson says:

"I take no stock in this emotional insanity.  He practically condoned his wife's sins and came back to her twice or more and finally drew a pistol which he carried habitually and shot his wife and accidentally shot her mother." The Governor says the verdict of the jury was merciful and he sees no reason for interfering.--Somerset Journal. [11]


[1] "Killed." Lexington Leader, Lexington, KY. March 2, 1906. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[2] "Shoots Wife and Mother-in-Law." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 3, 1906. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.

[3] "But Little Hope For Mrs. Gragg's Recovery." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 4, 1906. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

[4] "Kills His Mother-in-Law." The Bourbon News, Paris, KY. March 6, 1906. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069873/1906-03-06/ed-1/seq-3/.

[5] Excerpt from "May Harness Power of Cumberland Falls." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 9, 1906. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

[6] "Gragg Bound Over." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 14, 1906. Page 3. Genealogybank.com.

[7] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. March 20, 1906. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1906-03-20/ed-1/seq-2/

[8] "Gragg's Case Continued." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. December 8, 1906. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

[9] "Killed Mother-in-Law and Gets Three Years." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. March 27, 1907. Page 2. Genealogybank.com.

[10] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 13, 1909. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1909-04-13/ed-1/seq-1/

[11] "Refused Pardon." The Adair County News, Columbia, KY. June 2, 1909. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069496/1909-06-02/ed-1/seq-2/.


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