Texas Bob Travels

Austin Weekly Statesman - 15 November 1883

The Hooper Murder Trial

Full Report of the Evidence – The Appearance of the Defendant

The celebrated murder case of The State of Texas vs. W.H. Hooper(1), on trial in this county(2) , on change of venue from Hays county, was called yesterday. All the forenoon was spent in getting a jury. Both the state and the defendant exhausted all their peremptory challenges and a large number were excused by the court for cause. About 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon twelve men were sworn. After the jury had been sworn one of the elect twelve discovered that he had misunderstood the court in regard to his question about his prejudice to capital punishment. He had answered he had none and he affirmed that he could not consent to give his voice to hang any man. Here was a fix. The jury was not qualified to sit and the judge held that he had no power to excuse him and put another juror in place; nor had the court authority to discharge the whole jury and call a new one. The court suggested that he, the district attorney, might nolly pros(3) the case and he would remand the defendant to another grand jury. Then the question came up if the empaneling of a jury did not put the defendant in jeopardy, and if under the constitution he could be indicted again. The muddle was fixed all right by the defendant in open court, consenting to have the juror discharged and another put in his place. Another juror was obtained and the trial began.

The first witness for the state was David Lynch, who testified: I live at Kyle – know defendant and knew Echolls. He was killed in Kyle the 27th day of last June. Did not see the killing. I was justice of the peace at the time and I held an inquest over the body of the deceased. Defendant was arrested and preliminary examination had before me. Deceased was found in a dying condition in front of his shop on the sidewalk. I had the jury to examine him after we put in his own house or shop-he had expired. When I saw him he had a pistol shot in his right side; that wound was the cause of death. At the examination the defendant was there with his counsul [sic]. I think his attorney was Judge Walters. The evidence was reduced to writing. There was a Mexican sworn, Emanuel (a barber). He had a shop second door after the killing (paper shown witness). I recognize the writing shown me as the evidence of the Mexican. He is said to be dead.

Cross-examined – Deceased had been living at Kyle but for a short time – perhaps not more than two months. The Mexican had only been there a short time. He could not speak English and had to have an interpreter when his evidence was taken. My impression is Mr. Franklin, district attorney, wrote down the evidence of the Mexican, and one Goldbeck interpreted the evidence. He is a German. I don't know about the correctness of Mexican's evidence as written down. He is said to have gone to New Braunfels. Goldbeck is now in Kyle.

Cross-examined: I don't remember whether the oath was interpreted to the Mexican or not. Do not remember that his evidence was read over to him after he gave it. The interpreter frequently hesitated in his manner of interpretation.

At this point the court adjourned.

The defendant is a young man about thirty or thirty-five years of age(4) , with a mild, blue eye, a light florid complexion and a light mustache. He has a high, well-shaped forehead, and his manner is that of a gentleman. He walked into the court room with a firm, quick step and took his seat by his counsel without the least evidence of nervousness. He seemed deeply interested in all that passed, but beyond that, there was nothing peculiar in this manner. Twelve witnesses were sworn on the part of the state and as many more for the defense and the trial will, in all probability, take several days. Judges Walters and Hutchinson, of San Marcos, of Austin, are the defendants counsel.

William Howell Hooper

William Howell Hooper
d. 03-Jun-1929


The trial of the Hooper murder case was resumed again yesterday morning and occupied the time of the court all day. It will take another day to get the evidence in, and perhaps a day to argue it. The evidence yesterday was as follows:

Mr. Roy was the third witness for the state and the first one examined yesterday. He testified as third witness for the defendant as follows: Live in Comal county. I knew the Mexican barber. He is now dead. Knew nothing of the size of the barber shop. He died in January of 1883.

Cross-examination: I saw him dead. It was thought he was poisoned, as some poison was found in his room. Suppose he suicided. I had seen him the day before. I do not know of any friend of his in New Braunfels or that he ever had one there.

Mr. Pfeuffer was the fourth witness for the state. He testified: I live in New Braunfels and have for twenty years. I knew the Mexican barber and that he died in January 1883. His name was Merimon. I think he was sixty years of age.

Cross-examination: H was clean shaved except a mustache, which was gray; he had grizzly hair; I was frequently in the part of town where he had his shop. He was a low-hung set man, with what we would call fair complexion or olive color. I do not know where he came from.

Mr. Miller was the fifth witness for the state. He testified: I have lived in New Braunfels for thirty years. I knew a Mexican named Merriam, a barber. He had been there about a month before he died, which was on the 6th of January (witness gave same description of the Mexican as the last witness) I never saw any scars or pox marks on his face.

A.J. Cook was the sixth witness examined on the part of the state. He testified: I live in Kingsbury and know defendant. I knew deceased when I saw him, but I had no acquaintance with him. I don't remember how long I have known the defendant; have been in Kyle; was there in June 1882; in regard to the shooting the first I saw was Eckles passing me some seventy-five yards from where he was killed; as he passed I noticed he had a pistol in his hand going towards his saddle shop; he went to his door and here paused and raised his pistol and presented it; I could see the defendant's hand and arm thrust out of the deceased's shop; he fired his pistol and Echols fired and fell back and flourished his pistol over himself as if trying to fire it again. Defendant then coked pistol and placed it to Eckles' breast, and reached over him and took Eckles' pistol from him and threw it out into the street; he then got off Eckles, who was shot in the right breast. Eckles died alone. Hooper stood around there until I left. This occurred about 9 o'clock a.m; had not seen Hooper that day before. I think there was a Mexican barber shop adjoining Eckles', and I think the Mexican was there that day.

Cross-examination: There were two shots fied in all; Echels fell at once when shot. The shots were fired close together. It appeared close to me but I might be mistaken. I cannot tell certainly that the pistol was fired with the hand I saw thrust out of the door towards Echles or out of his other hand. I saw smoke about that time. I heard there was a row up there and for that reason I watched Eckles with the pistol. He stepped up on the platform about three steps before he got to his own door in front of the Mexican's barber shop; I was on the awning; Wm Steele was with me; we came to Kyle together; from the time Eckles passed us with the pistol the shooting occurred as quickly as he could walk up to the place where the shots were fired; Mr. Martin picked up Echels pistol in the street; it was half-cocked; deceased began to fall as his own pistol went off.

Re-direct – The way I saw the shooting, Hooper fired first; though men often differ as to such facts and do not see them alike; it is usual to walk on the plank walk; the direction Eckles went he walked on the ground.

Wm Steel was the seventh witness for the state. He testified: I live in Kyle and knew Eckles by sight; was in Kyle at the time of the shooting. (Witness then gave an account of the shooting just the same as the last witness, except he said Hooper came out of the shop before he fired. He also testified to finding a shot in Eckles ceiling.

Cross-examination – When Eckles passed he had a pistol openly in his hand with the muzzle down; there was no scabbard in sight; I had received information he was mad, and was going to kill somebody, and I watched him; he stepped up on the platform about the corner of his shop, and walked up south of the door and raised and presented his pistol in at his door and the firing commenced; the shots were so close together I could hardly discover their difference.

Mr. Wright was the eighth witness for the state. He testified: I live in Kyle; know deceased; saw him in Kyle the day of the shooting. He went away and came back by me with a pistol. I looked towards the depot, heard a pistol and saw smoke come out of his shop. (He gave an account of the shooting the same as other witnesses). As Eckles walked up the street for the pistol Roach asked him where was going and what he was going to do. He made no reply. Roach asked him when he came if he was going to hurt or kill somebody. He made no reply. When the firing occurred the smoke come out of the door.

Cross-examination: -- Echols seemed to be in a hurry when he was first going away.

Mr. Colger was the ninth witness for the state. He testified: I know defendant by sight; was in Kyle the day of the shooting; saw the deceased going up the street with a pistol; heard report, turned and saw the smoke coming out of the shot; defendant seemed to present his pistol at deceased as often as twice and Eckles pushed it away.

W. B. Sloan was the tenth witness for the state. He testified: I know the defendant and the deceased; I saw them together on the morning before the difficulty, about three-fourths of an hour before it occurred; I did not see the difficulty; had a talk with the defendant; he was on the sidewalk; had nothing in his hand.

Manuel Maria Miramon, the Mexican barber, being absent from the courtroom and reported dead. His written testimony as taken before the coroner's jury was submitted. He said in substance as follows -- I was standing in the door of my shop in Kyle at the time Echels was killed. The man was killed in the door of his own shop. He was killed by defendant. While I was in the door of my shop I heard the voices and the revolving of a cylinder of a pistol in the room of the deceased. The deceased was not in the room at the time. The defendant was in the room before the shooting occurred and before the deceased got back to his shop two men came out of this shop, one walked in the direction of the hotel and the other opposite. They left just before deceased got to his shop. I saw the deceased come from the direction of the hotel. He had a pistol in his hand. When the pistol fired the deceased did not have his hand up. His pistol went off as deceased was falling. The defendant came out and jumped on the deceased and took the pistol from him. Don't know how far he was from the door.

Mr. Lynn was the first witness for the defendant. He testified: I saw the whole affair. Eckles jumped up and said, "What do you mean by thoroughbred?" I told him nothing wrong, and was willing to apologize if I had said anything wrong. Hooper then interfered and kept him from cutting me with his knife, which he had in the meantime drawn. We proposed to settle the matter and shook hands across the table. Then he drew his knife and order ne to go out of his house. I agreed and then went out. As I went out he said he would swim in some man's blood, and that d---d soon, and asked Blume to stay in his house until he came back. Blum refused. Then he asked defendant, Hooper, to stay and he agreed to remain. Eckles then came out the door and said "I'll fix d—n you." I went into Martin's saloon. He started in the other direction. I was in Martin's back room when the shooting was done. Did not see Eckles more till he was shot.

Cross-examination—Deceased asked me to his shop. I told him I did not have time, but afterwards Mr. Blume and I went down and he asked us in and to take seats. We sat and during our conversation got to disputing and he got mad. Then Hooper came in and in a friendly way remonstrated with Eckles not to have a difficulty; that I meant no harm. He then asked me what I meant by a word thoroughbred, and said he allowed no man to insult him in his own house. I told him I had not intended to insult him, and was willing to apologize, etc.

Mr. Flume was the second witness for the state. The evidence of this witness was in corroboration of the last, giving the same account of the origin as he.

Mr. J. B. Carpenter said: I reside near Kyle; I remember the killing of Eckles by Hooper; I saw the smoke from the last shot; I was sitting on the platform near the hotel, and fronting it; there was nothing to obstruct my view of the shooting; I raised my head and looked, and saw the smoke from the last shot. I went out of the door; two shots were fired; the last shot was fired just as I raised my head, and Eckles fell after the second shot. Mr. Eckles was standing near the door sill when he was shot; I did not see a pistol in his hand; I saw it after it was picked up; the first time I saw it, it was after it was thrown on the streets; I could not see a man inside the house; Eckles cloths were powdered; I did not examine the wound; Hooper was standing on the door sill; I think the last shot was fired by Hooper; the smoke came from Hooper's pistol and covered Eckles shoulders; I don't know if there was time between the shots for the smoke of the first shot to disappear. I did not see Eckles until he was shot; do not know if he passed me on the streets. Mr. Hooper and Mr. Tim Martin are brothers in law. I knew Mr. Eckles when I saw him; I don't know that the smoke I saw was the combined smoke of two pistols; think it was from Hooper's pistol; I was about sixty yards from the shooting; the smoke was visible a very short time; the man's falling attracted my attention and I did not notice the smoke afterwards; defendant remained near him; when I went to deceased he was lying near the door; near his feet lay his saddle knife; when Mr. Eckles fell Mr. Hooper threw the pistol of Mr. Eckles into the street; I saw a bullet hole through the ceiling; I know M r. Blume; I did not see him until after the shooting; the two men were very near each other when the shooting began, not further apart than two or three feet; when I got to where Eckles was I saw Hooper's hand, and it was power-burnt; he was holding it up as if in pain.

Mr. Barber, sheriff of Hays county, states: I was in Kyle on the day of the killing of Eckles; I saw a pistol on a street; I don't know who picked it up—one barrel had been shot—I or some one from my order. I saw that Hooper's hand was power-burnt; I don't think that his hand was blistered; he held a pistol in his right hand; when I saw the pistol it was half cocked; I examined Hooper's hand—seemed to be made from powder. I think Mr. Hooper was drinking. I was in the hotel when the shooting occurred; Mr. Blume came and told me that there was about to be trouble on the street, and to go down and stop it; I had a prisoner and could not go at once; I got Mr. Lynch to hold the prisoner, and about this time I heard shooting. Mr. Hooper's pistol had one ball fired from it. Don't know the size.

Miss Sadia Martin was sworn and said: I knew Mr. Eckles well; I was on the gallery and saw the shooting; my attention was first attracted to a loud voice; I looked and saw Mr. Hooper have hold of Mr. Eckles pistol and heard two shots; I ran up stairs.

Cross-examination – I was on my father's gallery when the shooting occurred; I was down stairs on the front gallery, near the street, when I first saw Mr. Hooper; he was holding Mr. Eckles pistol by his left hand; Mr. Hooper was in the door and Mr. Eckles on the sidewalk; I saw the second shot fired; I saw all of Mr. Hooper's body when he shot; he was standing in the door of Eckles shop. When the second shot was fired Mr. Hooper was on the platform. My father came through the house while I was standing on the gallery. He went through the dining room, passed me, before the shots were fired. I did not see my father come down. Went up the stairs after the shooting and my father come down. He was up there when I went up. I went on the gallery to get a drink of water and I was drinking water when the first shot was fired.


The Hooper Murder Trial Ended - The Balance of the Evidence

The case resumed yesterday at 9 o'clock, Thomas D. Martin was the first witness examined. He testified: I know the Mexican Merimore; his age was forty, and he was badly pox-marked and had a large scar behind one of his ears – not certain which one; he looked a little older than he was, and a person would take him to be forty-four or forty-five years of age; At the time of this affair he wore his hair short, and did all the time I knew him.

W. B. Wallace was the next witness. He testified: I knew the deceased and I know the defendant. I saw the deceased on the day he was killed and just before the shooting took place; I saw him at the time he went for the pistol; he went into a hardware store past me to his shop, where the shooting occurred. I heard some one ask him, as he was going along, who he was going to kill, or if he was on the war-path, to which he made no reply. This attracted my attention; more particularly so as he was walking faster than his ordinary gait.

At this point the defendant rested his case.

Re-direct evidence – R. H. Evanlove was called in rebuttal and stated: I know the deceased and I know the defendant; I saw deceased in his shop one hour before he was killed. I took him to be at work at the time. I saw nothing unusual. After the defendant was arrested and examination had and habeas corpus had been issued, upon which a hearing was and the defendant admitted to bail, and after the indictment was found and the capias(5) was issued and placed in my hands as deputy sheriff, I went to Kyle and found the defendant on horseback. He had arms at the time. I told him I was after him. He replied all right, and down from the horse, and asked permission to talk to Tom Martin, his brother in law. We all went into Martin's room, and there had some conversation. Martin said he would go with us to town, meaning San Marcos. I went to get a hack to take us to town, and when I returned Hooper was gone out of Kyle. I think that was about 11 o'clock a.m. He came back that evening, however, and went with me to San Marcos to court.

Here the evidence closed and both parties submitted the case without argument. At this point we desire to make a slight correction in the report of the testimony of Maj. W. O. Hutchison. The report of his evidence read as if he stated that the translation of the Mexican's testimony on the preliminary examination was not correct. His evidence was that he did not understand the Spanish language and therefore, could not state of his own knowledge whether it was correct or not.

The charge of the judge was the usual charge in a murder case defining the several degrees of murder and the law of self-defense. The jury retired about 11 o'clock a.m. and only took one ballot, which was of course "not guilty." They returned in less than ten minutes.

After the verdict was read and the judge had announced to the defendant that he was free, he arose gracefully and bowing to the judge was congradulated by his counsel. While this was going the jury had retired from the from the jury box to the body of the house and the defendant walked back to where they were and shook the hand of each member of the panel. He left the city for his home yesterday a much happier man than he had been since the day when his unfortunate encounter Eckles deprived him of his liberty and put him under the bar of the law.

Foot Notes:

(1) William Howell Hooper – b.16=Feb-1860 – d. 03-Jun-1929

(2) Travis County, Texas

(3) Nolle prosequi – (nolly pros) It is a phrase used in many common law criminal prosecution contexts to describe a prosecutor's decision to voluntarily discontinue criminal charges either before trial or before a verdict is rendered.

(4) W.H. Hooper's actual age at the time of this trial was 23.

(5) Capias: a writ or process commanding an officer to place a person under civil arrest in order to answer a charge. (arrest warrant)


The Austin Weekly Statesman. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 13, No. 11, Ed. 1 Thursday, November 15, 1883, newspaper, November 15, 1883; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth277920/: accessed April 1, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .

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