Testimony of Dr. Nathaniel Moore Roan, M.D.
James Thomas Mitchell, Felix Roan, and Franklin A. Wiley were arrested in connection with the 1870 killing of NC Senator John Walter (Chicken) Stephens. At the probable cause hearing before a panel of justices of the NC Supreme Court Felix Roan's father, Dr. Nathaniel Moore Roan, M.D. (1803-1879) (see photograph) was called by the prosecution as a witness. His testimony provides the most detailed description of the scene of the killing. Dr. Roan described himself as a County Commissioner. However, he also may have been part of the coroner's jury.
Bench Warrant Cases Before Judge Pearson
Fourth Day, August 20, 1870
State vs. F. A. Wiley et al, charged with the murder of John W. Stephens
In Response to Questions by Prosecutor
Dr. Roan was sworn and testified; gave a description of the Court House building of Caswell, position of the various rooms and surroundings. Resides in Yanceyville, is one of the County Commissioners, was in Yanceyville on the day Stephens was said to have been murdered; went into the room with the jury of inquest on Sunday morning; saw the body; there was a small grass rope, nine feet long, doubled, drawn tightly round the neck with a noose; there were three stabs, one on each side of the windpipe and one in the breast. Saw the knife said to have been found near the body, it was nearly new, double-bladed, the largest blade about three inches long.
The body was drawn up, the knees toward the breast, placed in a gap in a pile of wood at the end of the room, as if it had been pushed down there, head resting back on the wood, the side toward the wall.
Has no doubt the murder was committed in the room; saw blood on the wood and on the wall as if it spirted on them. Saw blood on the window sill and a box under the window, and one drop which appeared brighter than the rest on the granite foundation. There was no blood on the floor except near where the body was found.
In Response to Cross Examination Questions by Defense
Am a County Commissioner, was applied to about 9 or 10 o'clock on Saturday night by Thomas Stephens and a colored man named Cook for permission to search the Court House for Stephens, gave the permission and went with them; there were a large number of persons about the Court House, especially near the room in which the body was afterwards found, mostly inside the iron fence, but some were outside.
In searching, thinks they went first to the Court room, not certain as to that; also looked through the rooms below, except the rooms of the Clark and Master [in Equity], and two others occupied as law offices.
Tom and Henry Stephens and Mr. Groom were in the company. When they came to the [room of the Clerk and Master in Equity] the Stephenses looked in at the windows by standing on a box which he had brought and placed for the purpose -- looking in at both windows by aid of candles. Saw no blood that night on the window; the box was brought some 30 or 40 feet; heard no one speak of seeing any blood; left the box under one of the windows.
Went back about 8 o'clock next morning, then saw blood on window sill and on the box, and the drop on the granite foundation; this was at the north window where the box had been left. The windows were down the night before, don't know whether they were fast, they are usually fastened by a stick over them. --- Was not present when the room was first entered on Sunday morning, went in with the jury soon after; saw no key.
Question by Defense: Have you been arrested about this affair? Objected to [and apparently not answered].
In Response to Questions by Chief Justice Pearson
The blood on the window sill seemed to have been left by the pressure of some bloody object, as a hand or foot, and the same of that on the box. Don't think the body could have been seen from the window.
In Response to Direct Examination by Prosecutor Resumed
We made no examination at the South window because of its height, some 7 or 8 feet from the ground -- it was Thomas Stephens and the negro Cook who asked permission to search the Court House, and I went with them.
In Response to Question by Justice Dick
The granite would not absorb the blood as readily as the wood, which may account for the fresh appearance of the drop of blood on the stone, but feels certain that the blood fell there in an uncongealed state; it struck the edge of the stone and divided, a part trickling down the face of the stone; thinks the action of the atmosphere would change the color of the blood more than anything else.
Source: Raleigh Sentinel (Raleigh, NC).