Norman Carlson to Present on Shearman-Davis Murders

The Fenton History Center’s lecture series begins Wednesday, April 12, 2023 at 1 p.m. with Norman Carlson presenting on the Shearman Davis Murders. Norman has provided the following introduction to the talk:

“The first murder in the Town of Busti. The first unsolved murder in Chautauqua County history.

December 15, 1894. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood was attending a funeral in Lakewood for a tragedy plagued elderly farm couple. They had been killed December 7 when hit by a train in Lakewood. Frail Laura Shearman could not attend the funeral. Her daughter, 46 year old widow Cynthia Davis had stayed home with her. When the family returned, they found both women brutally murdered by multiple blows to the head. Nearly everyone who was not attending the funeral was a suspect. Suspects ranged from the closest relatives to strangers, at least 30 in all. The community was gripped by fear. The story was carried by newspapers all over the country including the New York Times.

The investigation was a shambles. At the time, Busti had no police force. The county sherriff had no deputies. No sensible immediate precautions were taken. Finger printing had not come into use. No one could tell if blood was human or chicken.

The coroner’s jury met eight times and on April 9, 1895 declared the crime was committed by person or persons unknown. A colorful former Congressman obsessively pursued the investigation on his own. After his death, his son continued the project until February, 1897.

The suspects and the investigation included some bizarre people and events: a science fiction effort to extract images from the victims’ eyes, an hysterical Salamanca prostitute, and a multiple married rouge daughter.

Forty six years later, one of the suspects, by then elevated to Supervisor of Busti, was involved in another almost equally bizarre crime.”
The Lecture series is free for Fenton History Center members.

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