the proceedings drew to a close, the defense introduced evidence
that only Victor Miller could have committed the crime, by
pointing out a footprint of a size six or seven shoe near the
body. Of all the witnesses who testified at the inquest and
who could have been near the site, only young Victor could
have worn that size shoe. Tom Horn’s shoe was considerably
larger, of course.
the courthouse and jail complex,
location of Tom Horn’s trial
and hanging. Right, Horn’s
(WY State Archives)
By the time Joe LeFors testified, even in the face of intense
cross-examination by Tom Horn’s lawyer, most of the
jurymen had largely made up their minds.
LeFors acknowledged in direct examination from Walter Stoll
that his conversation with Tom Horn had occurred in the morning,
starting around eleven o’clock, and that it had “perhaps” continued
in the early afternoon. He stated that Horn’s condition
was “sober and rational.”
When John Lacey commenced cross-examination, he tried to
have LeFors acknowledge that part of the stories he told
were yarns. LeFors feigned ignorance of the term “tall
yarns,” and tried to emphasize that most of the information
he had given Tom in their banter was factual, such as accounts
of the skirmishes he had had while working in Weston County.
He finally did admit that he had woven of a tale when he
had told Tom about having moved bands of sheep without the
consent of the owner. He added that he heard the story about
Horn having killed a Mexican lieutenant, and about having
been imprisoned and escaped. Lacey did not pursue that vein,
probably because it was not pertinent.
When the subject turned to the Nickell murder, LeFors generally
became vague. As Lacey probed to verify what Horn had said
about where the killer had been, LeFors acknowledged that
Horn’s comment was that he had been in the “big
draw to the right [south] of the gate.
LACEY. …Well, now in stating
how he supposed that the way the killing of Willie
Nickell happened, he said, “Suppose there
was a man in the draw, in the big draw to the right
of the gate, the draw that runs down to the main
creek, near Nickell’s house.” Is that
what he said?
LEFORS. Yes, sir….
Tom Horn braiding a
horsehair rope in the sheriff’s office (WY
As soon as Lacey became specific, asking for example about
whether Willie had run in “a southern direction,” LeFors
said that was his impression Horn meant that the boy had
run to the south. At the same time, he hedged, saying, “That
was the way I understood it, form the way he was pointing
off the paper he had.” It was not, however, from what
Horn had said, LeFors saying, “Not from that, Judge.
He had a piece of paper, and he was marking on it. From his
marks I thought that was the way it occurred.”
Turning to the assertion that Horn had run barefoot across
the country, LeFors was similarly hesitant, and acknowledged
he was not very familiar with the area.
asked the question, “You
had your boots on?” he said he was barefoot.
Why did you say, “You had your boots on?”
LEFORS. It would look kind of unnatural for a man to
pull his boots off when in a hurry to do a job.
LACEY. What was there about that particular country
that it looks like a man must have had his boots on?
LEFORS. There is nothing particular about it. I have
never been over that country except for twice.
LACEY. You don’t know it very thoroughly?
LEFORS. Not very thoroughly. I have only been over
it a couple of times.
Lacey then tried to gain a firm assertion that both Horn
and LeFors were spinning tales, with LeFors leading him on.
LeFors again was vague, and the effort was ineffectual.
were asked the question, “You
don’t know which of you told the biggest yarns.” Is
that correct? To that did you answer, “That
would be problematical?”
LEFORS. I think I did.
LACEY. Were you not asked this further question, “And
so what you said about killing people was not true?” And
to that didn’t you answer, “I was just
leading him on?”
LEFORS. I might have done that. I don’t know
as to that. I don’t remember.
Walter Stoll then began redirect.
He asked LeFors if Horn and he had had any conversations
about the killing before
the one in January. LeFors acknowledged that they had met,
but only twice during Frontier Days, and said that it was
always Horn who brought up the subject of the murder. When
it came to his attempts to induce the detective to throw
in with him, finger the party in the country and split
the reward, he retorted, “Never had any such conversation
as that at no time.”
Lacey had another opportunity to question LeFors. He asked
whether the deputy marshal had told Horn that he already
had evidence that would convict Jim and Victor Miller.
LeFors denied he had said anything of the sort. Lacey then
turned to LeFors’ interest in the reward money, Frank
Mulock, and LeFors’ relationship with Walter Stoll.
LACEY. You have taken a good deal
of interest in the case?
LEFORS. I have taken an interest in this way ?? the
defendant wanted to talk with me.
LACEY. I did not say how. I say you have taken an interest
in the case?
LACEY. You have taken an interest in this case, considerable
LEFORS. Well, I have been in the case at different
times. I have been asked by the prosecuting attorney
in the case ??
LACEY. You went to Denver and interviewed those witnesses?
LEFORS. Well, no ??
LACEY. Didn’t you go to Denver?
LEFORS. Two of the witnesses I never saw.
LACEY. You went to Denver to see one of them?
LEFORS. I don’t believe I did.
LACEY. Did you interview one in Denver?
LEFORS. I never interviewed him in Denver. Two of them
I never seen before.
LACEY. Do you not remember seeing either of them?
LEFORS. Only here in Cheyenne.
LEFORS. After this case started. I met Mr. Mulock and
this other gentleman. I forget his name….