Historical Details

Hat Creek Dateline: 1880/08/24

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 11/30/-0001

Messenger, Agent tried for murder charge.
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer

Shotgun messenger Boone May and special Agent William Llewellyn were tried for murder in the Feb. 3 death of Curley Grimes in Deadwood yesterday.

The defense built its case on the unacceptable nature of the deceased. Witnesses told of his use of many aliases, that he sometimes dyed his light mustache dark, and of his shooting abilities. Joe Johnson and Jack Nolan, who had combined efforts with Grimes in the Bone Creek, Neb. post office robbery, he had told Llewellyn that Grimes said he was going to the Black Hills to "make a raise" by robbing stage coaches.

Llewellyn also testified that the jaded government horses which he and May rode would have been no match for Grimes' pony. After the arrest of Grimes, several persons saw them as they returned to Fort Meade, but always at a distance so no one except May and Llewellyn could relate what happened after they left Morris Apel's freight camp.

To keep the prisoner's hands from freezing, Boone May had removed the handcuffs from Grimes after he had promised not to try and escape. The Special Agent also testified that on the trip to Fort Meade they had arrived at Erb's Bull Dog ranch after about seven hours. They were riding with Grimes in the lead. As he went around the house he reached down and picked up a sled stake.

Llewellyn noticed the unnatural movement and trained his shotgun on the prisoner. Grimes thereupon raised his hands and the intended weapon fell harmlessly into the snow.

It was about two miles from the Bull Dog ranch when Grimes made his brief attempt to escape. He had been riding about 20 feet ahead of the officers. He looked back, turned around and spurred his Texas pony off the trail. Grimes heard the command to halt but ignored it and the warning shotgun blast over his head. As Grimes' pony floundered in the two feet of snow both officers then shot and the prisoner fell dead in the snow.

The officers left Grimes as he had landed in the snow and continued on to Fort Meade. There they informed Lieutenant Scott that Grimes had been killed as he attempted to escape. The coroner from Deadwood was summoned, however the death had occurred on the military reservation and a question of jurisdiction arose. This delayed the inquest until. Feb. 11. By that time the body of Grimes had been buried by a detail dispatched from Fort Meade.

The inquest concluded that Curley Grimes' death resulted from shots fired by Boone May and William H. Llewellyn.

The late Curley Grimes was the only man that could have refuted any part of the testimony. The jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" without even taking time to leave the jury box to confer. Applause rang out on the crowded courtroom after the verdict was announced.

Information Sources: "Empty Saddles and Forgotten Names," by Doug Engebretsen; "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," By Agnes Wright Spring).

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