Addendum  |  Officers  |  Deaths  |  Introduction  |  Author

True Heroines
Police Women Killed in the Line of Duty Throughout the United States 1916-1999

by Dr. William Wilbanks
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Sample Narratives
#1 - Anna Hart, 1916
#46 - Sgt. Jacquelyn K. Sherrill, 1984

 Hattiesburg Mississippi Police Dept.
  Shot and killed during arrest attempt on Dec. 31, 1984


 Hattiesburg Police Detective Sgt. Jacquelyn Sherrill, 33, was shot and killed by a suspect who was being arrested by three other Hattiesburg officers on Dec. 31, 1984.  Her killer was convicted and sentenced to death.  Sherrill was the first woman officer hired by the Hattiesburg Police Dept., the first woman promoted to Sgt. and Detective, and the first woman killed in the line of duty in Hattiesburg and in the State of MS.

 Shortly before 4:00PM on Monday, Dec. 31, 1984, Det. Sgt. Sherrill, in plain clothes, and three uniformed male officers, Det. John Barnes and Officers Tony Davis and Steve Reid, were dispatched to a residence at 500 East Side Ave. in Hattiesburg to serve an arrest warrant on Noah Wheeler, 48, for "adultery, fornication and another charge involving a juvenile."  The affidavit for the warrant had been signed by Wheeler's aunt, Leona Denham of Hattiesburg, who charged that Wheeler had committed incest with her 20-year-old daughter resulting in her pregnancy.

 Wheeler had a history of mental problems and "run-ins" with the law that often necessitated his being "restrained" by officers.  His neighbors considered him to be "weird" and avoided him as he often threatened neighbors and had wrapped his entire house (and even outside fences) in plastic to protect himself from "bugs."

 The officers knocked on Wheeler's door and told him---through a latched screen door---that they had a warrant for his arrest.  Wheeler got angry, cursed the officers and told them "he'd die and go to hell first," and threatened to kill the officers.  Wheeler then suddenly burst thru the screen door ("like somebody shot him out of a cannon") and attacked Officer Reid.  Both Reid and Wheeler "went down" with Wheeler landing on his stomach on top of Reid.  Barnes jumped on Wheeler's back as Davis was holding his feet.  The two officers were able to get a handcuff on Wheeler's left wrist though he was "incredibly strong" as he resisted.

 Wheeler had his right hand under his chest.  Barnes and Davis tried to get his right hand out but "it wouldn't budge."  As Reid got up and kneeled by Wheeler he put one hand on Wheeler's left shoulder and one hand on his head in an attempt to "hold him down."  Wheeler, who had evidently seized Reid's service revolver without the knowledge of any of the three officers, suddenly fired one shot "glazing" Officer Reid.  He fired a second shot that hit the concrete between Reid's knees.  Reid "stumbled backwards" and Wheeler "extended his right arm to the side" and, "looking straight at her," fired a third shot that hit Sherrill in the chest as she "ran up" to the four men in an effort to help the three officers and said, "Is everything OK?"  As Sherrill was hit, she "grabbed her chest, tried to run and fell into a flower bed."

 Wheeler tried to fire a second shot but Barnes and Davis both "went for" the gun.  Barnes put his hand "behind the hammer to keep him from squeezing another one off."  Wheeler pulled the trigger again and the hammer "went into" Barnes thumb (he still had the scar 16 months later) but did not fire.  Barnes then "forced the gun out of Wheeler's hand" and he and Davis, after another "struggle," handcuffed him and put him in the car.

 Davis then radioed for assistance and the first officer to respond was Sgt. Sherrill's husband, shift captain Charlie Sherrill.  He ran up and "kind of picked her head up out of the flower bed," looked at her and said, "She's gone" as he "collapsed."  Ambulance personnel administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the scene and rushed Sherrill to Forrest General Hospital but she was pronounced dead on arrival with a gunshot to the chest.  An autopsy would later reveal that Sherrill died of a "destruction of the heart" as the bullet "destroyed approximately two-thirds of the muscle that controls the pumping of the heart."   A reporter later noted that "She died at the hands of a man whose children she had tried to help."


 Noah Wheeler, 48, of Hattiesburg was charged with first degree murder in the death of Det. Sgt. Sherrill and attempted murder in the wounding of Officer Steve Reid.  The Hattiesburg American reported that Wheeler, who was raised and educated in Hattiesburg, "excelled" in school and graduated from the old Royal Street School (later Rowan H.S.).  He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force but later began having "mental problems" after living in FL and becoming "involved in drugs."  He had been "in and out" of mental hospitals for several years but was always released after two or three months.  His mother (later) told police that he "should never have been released."  He was divorced and had two other children besides the daughter he was living with.  "All of his children served in the military."

 Forrest County District Attorney Glen White announced the day after the murder that he would seek the death penalty against Wheeler under a MS law that made the killing of a police officer a capital offense and punishable by death or life imprisonment.  Death sentences were rarely given in Forrest County as the last death sentence was in April 1980 in a change of venue case from Gulfport in which a man was convicted of murdering Gulfport Officer Buford Dedeaux.

 Four months after his arrest Wheeler was examined by a clinical psychologist and a staff neurologist at the state mental hospital at Whitfield who reported that he knew the difference between right and wrong at the time he allegedly shot Sherrill and was mentally competent to stand trial.

 The trial began in Brandon, MS (on a change of venue) on April 29, 1986 (16 months after the death of Sherrill), before Judge Dicky McKenzie with jury selection and lasted thru May 4.  Forrest County District Attorney Glenn White prosecuted the case and Kennie Middleton of Fayette, MS, was retained by Wheeler as his attorney after Forrest County Public Defender Jeff Stewart, who was a friend of Sherrill's, asked that he be excused from the case.

 Defense Attorney Middleton tried to withdraw as Wheeler's attorney during the trial as his client was not "co-operative."  Middleton asked the judge for a continuance so that further psychiatric tests could be conducted but the request was refused by the judge.  Wheeler took the stand in his own defense and claimed that he didn't have his hands on the gun when it fired and killed Sherrill but that Officers Barnes and Davis were holding the gun.  He then (in a contradiction) said that he and the two officers all were holding the gun as it discharged and killed Sherrill.  He denied that he intended to kill Sherrill.  The defense also contended that Wheeler was a paranoid schizophrenic and fought for his life when he mistakenly thought the officers were there to harm him when they came to his door.

 The jury deliberated only 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict of capital murder on Saturday, May 4, 1986. After a brief post-conviction sentencing hearing, the jury voted to recommend the death penalty because of three "aggravating circumstances" (that Wheeler "knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons," that the offense was committed to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest, and that the offense was committed to disrupt the lawful enforcement of laws) that outweighed the mitigating factors (that he had no prior felony record and his "mental condition").

 Judge McKenzie agreed with the recommendation of the jury and sentenced Wheeler to death by lethal injection. In July of 1989 Wheeler's sentence was overturned by the MI Supreme Court on the grounds that he didn't know that Sherrill, who was in plain clothes, was a police officer.  The state had argued that though she was in plain clothes, she had a holster, a gunbelt and a badge in her belt.   Wheeler was re-sentenced to life in prison but was to be eligible for parole in 15 years (the year 2000).  In 1998 he was still incarcerated at Parchman prison.


Jacquelyn (her birth certificate spelled her name "Jacquelynn" but she later dropped the final "n" and preferred "Jacquelyn") Kay Dole was born on March 22, 1951, in Oxnard, CA, to Harry F. and Helen B. Dole.  She was the second of three children (Sherry, Jacquelynn and Harry).

 Young Jacquelyn grew up in Hattiesburg and attended Camp Elementary School, Thames Jr. H.S. and Hattiesburg H.S., graduating in May of 1969.
She attended the U. of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg from 1969-1973 and became the first woman to graduate from the Criminal Justice program at that university in May of 1973.  The U. of Southern Mississippi now gives an award each year in Jackie's name to the Outstanding Woman in Criminal Justice.  Det. Sgt. Sherrill had made preparations to go to law school in the fall of 1985 at Mississippi College as she had a lifetime ambition to become an attorney.

 Jackie met Hattiesburg Police Dept. Sgt. Charles R. Sherrill in a criminal justice class at the U. of Southern Mississippi and the couple was married on Sept. 6, 1975, at the Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg where she was a member.  Their first child, Erica Lee, was born on June 30, 1981, and the second, Charles Robert, Jr., on March 17, 1984.

 After college Jackie worked as a security guard at a local department store for one year before she was hired as a police officer by the Hattiesburg Police Dept. on May 1, 1974, becoming the Dept.'s first woman officer.  She had served as an intern with the Dept. from June to Sept. of 1972 while a student at the U. of Southern Mississippi.

 In Sept. of 1983 Jackie Sherrill became the first woman officer promoted to Sgt. and Detective.  In 1984 she became the first woman law enforcement officer in MS killed in the line of duty.  She "left footprints for other women to follow as they moved through the doors she opened."  Her colleagues described Det. Sgt. Sherrill, a 10-year veteran, as an officer of "dedication" with "drive."

 As a detective Jackie worked rape cases and served as liaison between the police dept. and Youth Court where she investigated suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.  She "was called upon to answer rape calls day or night" and "took it upon herself to counsel sexual abuse offenders through the Child Sexual Abuse Task Force."

 She often spoke to civic and women's groups about rape and rape prevention and was also one of the primary "movers" in the establishment of the Hattiesburg Rape Crisis Center in April of 1983.  She "gathered facts and figures" and "hounded her superiors with that data" until they agreed to fund the center.  She visited other cities to see how such centers worked.

 Jackie Sherrill served as co-chairman of the Rape Treatment Crisis Center until her death.  She worked many hours while off-duty as a volunteer with the Center.  After her death, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center (formerly the Rape Crisis Center) established the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Award to Victim Advocates.

 On a personal level, Det. Sgt. Sherrill loved children and animals and spent much on-duty and off-duty time caring for both.  At Christmas she often used her own money to buy gifts for needy children she ran across in her work and often took in stray animals.  "Underneath her sometimes brusque" manner, Sherrill had a "soft and thoughtful heart." She used much of the money she made from off-duty security jobs to buy clothes and food for needy children.  A few days before her death she had bought a Christmas tree, decorated it, and took it to the family abuse center "so they would have at least a little bit of a normal holiday."

 Jackie Sherrill did the "little things" that people remember.  The day she was shot and killed she left a note on her husband's pillow that said, "I love you always.  Take care of yourself, love Jackie."

 Jacquelyn K. "Jackie" Dole Sherrill, 33, was survived by her husband, Hattiesburg Police Capt. Charles R. Sherrill, 37, and her two children, Erica, 3, and Robert, 10 months; her father and mother, Harry F. and Helen B. Dole of Hattiesburg; a sister, Sherry Dole, 35, of Hattiesburg; and a brother, Harry F. Dole, III, 30, of San Jose CA.  The Sherrill Family Education Fund was established by the Hattiesburg community to provide for the college education of her two young children.

 Ironically, the family of Jackie Sherrill had "quit worrying" about her safety since she had been promoted to Det. and thus her death came as even more of a shock.  She had assured her family that Detectives only arrived on the scene of a crime later and thus were not generally in "harms way."

 The funeral was held at the Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg on Thursday, Jan. 3.  On the day of the funeral flags flew at half staff, not only in front of city buildings but outside businesses and even at some private homes.  Hattiesburg's first "lady cop" was well known in the small city and her death was a shock to the community.  As the procession moved from the Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home to the church along Main Street, "pedestrians stopped walking and stood in the cold rain to pay their respects, some with hats held over their hearts."

 More than 1,000 persons attended the funeral including hundreds of uniformed officers from throughout MS, AL, and LA. Police officers from Laurel (30 miles from Hattiesburg) patrolled the city so all Hattiesburg officers could attend the funeral.  The audience included "family, fellow officers, prominent citizens and political figures" and included State Attorney General Ed Pittman, Hattiesburg Mayor Bobby Chain, Hattiesburg Commissioner G.D. Williamson,and Public Safety Director Dempsey Lawler.  The service, conducted with full police honors (e.g., honor guard) was covered by three television cameras and later highlighted on local TV news shows.

 Dr. R. Fred Selby, pastor of the Main Street Baptist Church, and Dr. John E. Barnes officiated at the service (Dr. Barnes had performed Jackie's wedding ceremony 9 years earlier in the same church).  The eulogy was "brief" and including a review of her many "firsts" (e.g., first woman officer, first woman detective, first woman officer killed in the line of duty).  The eulogy also included mention of her devotion to her family, the Dept., the community (e.g., her work with the Rape Crisis Center and charity work for children), and to animals.

 After the funeral service a procession of police cars escorted the hearse for the one mile from the church to Roseland Park Cemetery where a brief burial service was conducted.  The pallbearers who carried the casket from the hearse to the gravesite were fellow officers from the Hattiesburg Police Dept.  The graveside service concluded with a 21-gun salute, the presentation of the American flag from the casket and her badge to Capt. Charles Sherrill, and the playing of "Taps" by two buglers from the MS Highway Patrol.

 In 1998 the grave of Det. Sgt. Sherrill was located at the Roseland Park Cemetery in Hattiesburg, MS.  Her black marble monument read:

 MARCH 26, 1951
 DEC. 31, 1984

The marker includes a replica of the shoulder patch worn by Hattiesburg Police Officers.

 In 1998, the survivors of Jacquelyn Sherrill included her husband, (retired) Hattiesburg Capt. Charles R. Sherrill, 50;  daughter, Erica Lee Sherrill, 17, and son, Robert Sherrill, Jr., 14, of Hattiesburg; mother, Helen B. Dole of Hattiesburg (her father, Harry F. Dole, died on Jan. 22, 1988); sister, Sherry Dole of Hattiesburg; and brother, Harry F. Dole, III, of San Jose CA.

 In the fall of 1998 Erica enrolled in the Criminal Justice Program at the U. of Southern Mississippi (U.S.M.) in Hattiesburg just as her mother had in the fall of 1969.  In addition to a major in Criminal Justice, she is also participating in the Mississippi Police I-Cor School, also at U.S.M., a federally funded program designed to encourage higher education for police officers.  She was awarded the first Mississippi Police Corp scholarship at U.S.M.  This program, the first in MS, was scheduled to begin in Jan. of 1999.  Erica hopes to work in law-enforcement at the federal level.  Also, in 1998 Jackie's son, Robert, 14, was an honor student at Sumrall H.S.

 The name of "Jacquelynn K. Sherrill" is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial (East Wall, Panel 29, Line 1) in Washington, D.C..  Her police hat and photograph was featured in a display on women officers at the Visitor's Center of the national memorial.

 Her name is also inscribed on a monument in front of the Hattiesburg Law Enforcement Complex in Hattiesburg.  She is one of four Hattiesburg officers killed in the line of duty on a "Wall of Honor" at the Hattiesburg Police Department Law Enforcement Academy near the Municipal Airport and in the foyer of the Law Enforcement complex.  Her name is read each May at a local Police Memorial Service which honors Hattiesburg's four officers killed in the line of duty (Jessie James Everett, 1952; M.W. Vinson, Jr., 1952; David Anthony, 1973; and Jackie Dole Sherrill, 1984).  At the conclusion of the service each year the families of each of the four officers lay wreaths at the grave sites of the officers.

 On May 8, 1985, the Hattiesburg Community Center was re-named the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center.  A bronze plaque with her engraved photograph is displayed on the wall inside the Center.  The plaque reads:

 3-26-51 - 12-31-84
 Husband - Capt. Charles Robert Sherrill, Sr.
 Children - Erica Lee Sherrill, 6-30-81
        Charles Robert Sherrill, Jr.. 3-17-84
 Parents -  Mr. & Mrs. Harry F. Dole
 First Woman Graduate of School of Criminal Justice, USM, May 23,     1973
 First Woman Police Officer in HPD - May 1, 1974
 Founder and co-director of the Hattiesburg Rape Crisis Center
 First Woman Detective - July 26, 1983
 First Woman officer in Mississippi to be killed in the line of duty
 Jackie: A Friend to Every Person or Animal She Ever Met
 Erected in Loving Memory of Sgt. Jackie Dole Sherrill by City of      Hattiesburg, May 8, 1985
 Bobby L. Chain, Mayor, W.U. Sigler, Commissioner, G.D. Williamson,      Commissioner

* * * *

The Hattiesburg American published a tribute to Jackie Dole Sherrill on the 10th anniversary of her death, Dec. 31,1994, and the day was declared Jackie Dole Sherrill Day by mayor Ed Morgan.  The tribute included the following written by Erica Sherrill:


  I don't really remember much about the day my mother died, but I'm going to tell you what I do remember.
  I remember that I was sitting on the floor at the nursery school and my father walked in.  He was in his police uniform.  He said something to Ms. Faye, my teacher, and then he picked me up.  I think we went outside.
  Next, I remember this man in shorts, a T-shirt, and a cap.  He  opened the door of their patrol car.  Daddy and I sat down.  I think that he was still holding me.  Even though I was only three and a half, I could sense that something was wrong. The man in the T-shirt said, "You might as well tell her."  Daddy said in a choked up voice, "Honey your mother's been shot."  I think I went into shock after that, because all I remember is hugging my daddy tighter.
  The next memory I have is at the hospital.  I remember that I wasn't really sure of what was going on.  I remember being outside of the hospital. We were standing near a landing pad.  My Mimi and my Papa Dole got out of a helicopter.  I can't remember any more.
  I've been told stories about my mother and how kind she was.  Everytime we see someone that knew her, they tell me about how much I resemble her.  Then they tell me something nice about her, something she has done for them, or for someone they knew.
  I have a big picture of her in my room and every time I take a good, long look at it I feel sad and angry.  I feel as though I've been betrayed. I've felt this way all my life.  Every time I see one of my friends with his/her mother, I feel left out. It's as though a voice inside me is saying, "Why can't I be with my mother?  Why can't I go shopping with my mother?  Why can't I fight with my mother?  Why can't I tell my mother all of my problems and all of the good things that happen to me? Why?  Why?"  Then, it's like another voice answers, "You can't be with your mother because she was killed in the line of duty.  You should be proud of her.  Quit feeling sorry for yourself and just remember that she would be proud of you."
  I still love my mother and I miss her a whole lot.  Every now and then, I still go back to that day, long ago, when my dad said, "Honey, your mother's been shot."
 (by Erica Sherrill, age 13, of Hattiesburg, MS, for an eighth grade  class assignment)

 Det. Sgt. Jackie Dole Sherrill was a hero to her family and to her community in Hattiesburg, MS, even before her line of duty death.  She epitomizes the title of this book---she was and is a TRUE HEROINE!  Hopefully, thru this book she will become a hero to the entire nation.

SOURCES:  Hattiesburg American, Jan. 25, April 21, 1983, Jan. 1,2,6,8,10,20, 1985, April 29,30, May 1,2,3,4, 1986, July 6,7, 1988, Dec. 31, 1994, Sept. 10, 1998; The Jackson MS Clarion-Ledger, Jan. 2,4, 1985; The U. of Southern Mississippi Student Printz, Nov. 6, 1973, June 12, 1974; U.S.M. Update, Oct. 2, 1998; and records of Mississippi Dept. of Corrections for Noah Wheeler (#42647).
Barbara Sherrill (Jackie's mother-in-law) and Erica Sherrill provided most of the material for this draft with help from Helen Dole and Sherry Dole; Janet Braswell, a Hattiesburg American senior writer;  Hattiesburg Police Lt. Danny Rigel; Tyler Fletcher, chairman of Criminal Justice Dept. at the U. of Southern Mississippi; and Chief of Police Charles Sims and Officer Jeff Byrd of the Hattiesburg Police Dept.

#1  Anna Hart, Matron
 Hamilton County Ohio Sheriff's Dept.
 Beaten to death by an inmate on July 24, 1916


 Hamilton County OH Jail Matron Anna Hart, 45, was beaten to death by an inmate in an escape attempt on July 24, 1916, at the county jail in Cincinnati.  The inmate was convicted and executed seven months later.  Matron Hart became the first (known) woman law enforcement officer killed in the U.S.

 On Monday, July 24, 1916, Matron Anna Hart was on duty at the Hamilton County Jail in downtown Cincinnati.  The jail at that time was in temporary quarters in the north wing of the Cincinnati Workhouse while the courthouse was under construction.  Shortly after 5:00PM on that Monday, Matron Anna Hart was walking through the 5th tier of the jail that was "given over to negroes" when she was "waylaid" and struck on the head three times by an iron rod that measured 20 inches long and 1/2 inch wide and "wrapped in a bed sheet."  She was "ambushed" by a male inmate who had hidden behind a canvas curtain after he had "dropped out of line as the prisoners were marched to the dining hall."  The assailant "leaped out" from behind the curtain as Hart passed a bathroom.

 Hart "was on her way home" after working all day with the female inmates at one end of the 5th tier.  She had to walk through the male section to exit the jail since the elevator leading to the women's section did not work after 4:00PM when the electricity was shut off.  She thought that the 5th tier was empty since all the inmates had (supposedly) been marched to the dining hall.  "She had made the trip hundreds of times and never feared attack."

 The body of the slain matron was found 10 minutes after the murder after a male guard "rang a bell" several times for the matron to assist with a female inmate.  A search of the jail resulted in the discovery of  the body of Hart on the floor of the corridor on the 5th tier.  The mortally wounded Hart was taken to General Hospital but died of a fractured skull at 11:30PM (6 & 1/2 hours later) the same day.

 The discovery of the murder led to another bell which "summoned the guard" and the locking in of all the inmates.  The ensuing investigation led by Hamilton County Sheriff George F. Schott quickly focused on one inmate, Reuben Ellis, 26.  One inmate told investigators that Ellis had confided to him "that we was going to attack the matron, snatch her keys and make an effort to escape."  Another inmate said that he "saw Ellis run into the men's quarters and throw a bunch of keys into a barrel of sawdust."  When Ellis was confronted by investigators he "became unruly and had to be subdued with force."  Officials found that the murder weapon (the iron rod) had been torn from Ellis' bed by the "powerful negro."

 Ellis soon confessed that he assaulted the matron as part of a plan to steal her keys and escape from the jail.  He apparently planned to use her keys to unlock the elevator doors and descend through the shaft to freedom.


 Reuben Ellis (or Ellison), 26, "was awaiting trial for burglary."  On June 13 he was charged with the burglary of a home on West 6th St. and a search located a diamond "in his mouth" that caused him to "choke."   The Cincinnati Enquirer noted that Ellis had a "long prison record" including a 5-year sentence to prison in 1900.

 After initially confessing that he was the lone assailant, Ellis later "changed his story" several times and attempted to portray himself as a "pawn" in a larger plan to escape by other inmates.  In one of his several confessions, Ellis claimed that he lost a card game played to decide who would strike the matron and take her keys and he lost (leading to a Cincinnati Post headline, "Jail Matron's Life at Stake in Card Game").  Ellis repudiated the story of the card game shortly before his execution.

 Ellis also later claimed that another inmate, Arthur (or Henry) Brown (who earlier dropped out of line with him), participated in the attack on Matron Hart and struck the final two fatal blows after he just "knocked her out" to get her keys.  Ellis claimed that he tried to run away after striking Hart once but that Brown struck him in the face with the iron bar and then struck the final two fatal blows against Hart (officials did find a wound to Ellis' face indicating that he had been struck).

 However, the investigation into the murder apparently disregarded the attempt by Ellis to implicate and blame others as he was the only inmate charged in the murder.  The Enquirer reported that "nothing could be found that would incriminate the other negroes."  On July 27 a Grand Jury indicted (only) Ellis on a charge of first degree murder.  The Enquirer noted that the Grand Jury was "inclined to doubt" the story of Ellis that another inmate struck the fatal blow but indicated that the "investigation would continue" and "that more indictments might result."

 The trial for Reuben Ellis began on Thursday, Aug. 24, 1916 (just one month after the murder) in "Criminal Court" before Judge Alfred K. Nippert.  A venire of 12 men was selected from a pool of 72.  Assistant prosecutors Simon Ross and A. Marc Harris "did not make use of their peremptory challenges" but Defense Attorney Raymond Ratliff "challenged four men."  Several potential jurors were excused "because they said they were opposed to capital punishment" but a greater number were excused "because they said they had formed positive opinions as to the guilt or innocence of the accused."  Jury selection was completed on Monday, Aug. 28, and testimony began the same day.

 Few details on the trial were reported in the Enquirer which did, however, report on the "deadlock" of the jury on Wednesday, Aug. 30.  Defense Attorney Ratliff apparently "admitted in his argument" that Ellis had been proved guilty of first-degree murder but "asked for a recommendation of mercy" which would spare his client from the death penalty.  Ratliff argued that Ellis was a man of "low mentality" and thus "not wholly responsible for his act."  Prosecutors Ross and Harris "argued strenuously for the death penalty."

 The Enquirer reported that when deliberations began at 3:55PM on Wednesday, Aug. 30, all twelve jurors voted for a conviction for first degree murder but disagreed on whether the verdict should be accompanied by a "recommendation for mercy."  Seven jurors initially voted against mercy (thus for the death penalty) while five jurors voted for mercy (thus for life in prison).  On the next ballot four of the five jurors for mercy changed their vote leaving only one juror as a holdout for mercy.  The holdout, George Brauns, refused to change his vote over a period of two days even though placed under considerable pressure by the other jurors.  The holdout apparently had concerns as to who struck the fatal blows (Ellis or another inmate) and said he would "hold out until Christmas if need be."

 Judge Nippert declared a "hung jury" at noon on Thursday, Aug. 31, but "censured" the jurors before discharging them.  The Enquirer noted that the judge and the prosecution and defense apparently all expected a guilty verdict with no recommendation for mercy.  The judge, indicating that he was greatly disappointed by the failure to return the "guilty with no mercy" verdict, told the jury:
  This man said he was guilty of first-degree murder.  Did he show any mercy to the poor woman he killed?  His was one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in this county.  There have been 3,000 murders committed in this county since the last man was sentenced to death for murder.  How do you suppose we can clean up the criminal class under such circumstances?
  There has been a murder almost every day for the past month, and there has not been a man from Hamilton County electrocuted since 1895.
  If you can sit in this jury box and hear the testimony and then disagree you should be ashamed.  I would rather have had an acquittal brought in than a disagreement after such testimony as you heard.  You are dismissed.  (Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/1/1916)

 The Cincinnati Post and Cincinnati Times-Star reported that the hold-out juror (who was identified by name and address to readers) believed that mercy should be shown to Ellis because he had shown mercy to his victim in two ways in that he had (first) wrapped the iron bar with rags "so that he would not kill" and (second) he "spread out her arms and gave the body air after carrying her into the cell."

 The second trial for Ellis began (six weeks after the first trial) on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 1916, before Judge Nippert.  Ellis' defense attorney, Raymond Ratliff, again claimed that Ellis' confession indicated that fellow inmate, Arthur Brown, was responsible for the fatal blows against Hart as Ellis claimed he hit her only a "slight blow" which rendered her unconscious.  Brown "turned state's evidence" and testified against Ellis at the trial.  The Cincinnati Enquirer gave little detail on the trial but did indicate that the "proof was all against Ellis" and that Ellis not take the stand in his own defense.

 The second jury deliberated only 40 minutes on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 1916, before returning a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree with no recommendation for mercy (thus mandating a death sentence).  "By a strange coincidence," one member of the jury was also a member of the last jury in Hamilton County to return a first degree murder verdict without a recommendation for mercy in 1895.  Judge Nippert formally pronounced the death sentence on Saturday, Oct. 14, 1916.

 The Ohio Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence on Nov. 27, 1916, and the Ohio Supreme Court "declined to hear the case."  Gov. James M. Cox also refused an final appeal from Ellis' attorney for clemency.

 Reuben Ellis was electrocuted on Feb. 6, 1917, becoming the first Hamilton County killer executed since May 14, 1898 (a "gap" of almost 19 years---the longest gap in executions from Hamilton County from 1885-1963).  The Enquirer reported that when asked if he had any final words, Ellis "delivered a discourse of five minutes in length, completing his impromptu sermon by forgiving everybody in the world."  Ellis body was returned to Cincinnati for burial in Union Baptist Cemetery.

 The Enquirer reported that Ellis had a religious conversion while on death row and repudiated his early confession that implicated inmates Arthur (Henry) Brown and James Level.  He conceded before his death that he (alone) was guilty of the murder of Anna Hart and repeated his declaration of guilt for the murder in the five minute sermon he gave just before his execution.

 Inmate Arthur Brown, who testified against Ellis at both trials, was sent to the Mansfield Reformatory "for complicity in the crime."  Inmate James Level was given a prison sentence for carrying a concealed weapon.


 Anna Hart was born on Sept. 2, 1870, in Cincinnati OH to John and Mary McGinnis Hart.  She was the third of eight children (Ellen, Katherine Jane, Anna, William, Sarah H., Margaret, Theresa, and Joseph).  Her parents were both born in Ireland (her father in 1831 in County Sligo and her mother in 1837 in County Galway).  Her maternal grandparents were James and Bridgett McGinnis of Ireland.

 John and Mary McGinnis Hart had migrated to OH by (at least) 1861 as their daughter, Katherine Jane, was born on Dec. 27, 1861, in Cincinnati.  John Hart, 56, was listed as a "gardener" in the 1880 census of Hamilton County OH and was later a florist in Clifton (a Cincinnati suburb).  John Hart died on Sept. 10, 1909, in Cincinnati at the age of 78.   Mary McGinnis Hart died in Cincinnati in Sept. of 1902 at the age of 65.

 Little is known of the early life of Anna Hart other that she was single and worked earlier as a seamstress and dressmaker.  She lived with two of her sisters (Katherine Jane and Theresa) at a home at 349 Wood Ave. in Cincinnati.

 Anna Hart had worked as a jail matron for six years at the time of her death.  There is considerable evidence that Matron Hart was well-liked by the inmates at the jail.  The Enquirer reported that "other prisoners at the jail were heard mumbling threats against Ellis yesterday, as Miss Hart was well liked by them."  According to Sheriff George F. Schott:
 It is no wonder that the other prisoners in the jail are incensed at the murder, for Miss Hart had one of the finest characters I have ever known.  She was modest, refined, and most gentle, and had remarkable control of the worst class of prisoners.  She was a wonder in her work and yet she was so small that either of these men could have killed her with one finger.  (Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/27/1916)

 Two trusties at the jail took up a collection among the prisoners and "sent a floral piece to the matron's home" before the funeral.  Also, "many messages of condolence were received by relatives of the dead woman yesterday.  Several came from women whom Miss Hart had assisted to better lives, following their imprisonment at the jail."
The Enquirer reported that Matron Hart "was known to hundreds of jail inmates as the prisoners' friend."

 Anna Hart, 45, was survived (according to the Enquirer) by her "three sisters and a brother" though genealogical records indicate she was survived by four sisters (Ellen Hart Callahan, 59, Katherine Jane Hart, 55; Margaret Hart McKiernan, 46, and Theresa Hart, 38) and one brother, William Hart, 50.  The Enquirer also reported that Anna Hart "was a niece of County Treasurer Charles C. Cooper."  Probate records indicate that Anna Hart left an estate valued at $5,000 to her five siblings.

 The funeral was held in the form of a requiem high mass at the Church of the Annunciation in Cincinnati where "floral gifts were numerous."  Fathers Luke Callahan (a nephew of Anna Hart), James M. Kelly and John F. Hickey  officiated at the service.  "Hundreds of friends paid a last tribute" to Matron Anna Hart inside the church while the "throng outside the church" included "several women whom she had helped to better living during the six years she was matron at the jail."

 Burial followed at the New St. Joseph's Cemetery in Cincinnati.  No details were given in the newspaper on the burial service.

 In 1998 the gravesite of Matron Anna Hart can be located in Section 16 of the New St. Joseph's Cemetery at West Eighth St. and Nebraska Ave. in Cincinnati.  Anna's grave is marked by a flat stone that reads simply "Annie."  The family plot bought by her father in 1899 is marked by a small stone that reads "Lot 4, J. Hart, S. 17" and includes similar markers for "Joseph," "Theresa," "Sallie," "Mother," and "Father."

 Since Anna Hart had no children, she had no direct descendants in 1998.  However, several descendants of her siblings have kept her memory alive over the 82 years since her death.  Two of her grand nieces, Judy Driggers and Kelly A. Shannon, lived in Cincinnati.

 The name of Anna Hart was unknown to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., until 1998 when it was submitted to the memorial by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Cincinnati.  Previous to that time Mary T. Davis of Wilmington DE (1924) was considered by the memorial to be the first woman law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in the U.S.  Hart's name was inscribed (West Wall, Panel 12, Line 22) on the national memorial in 1999.

 A small brass plaque at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office lists the seven Hamilton County deputies killed in the line of duty and includes the name of Anna Hart.

SOURCES:  Cincinnati Enquirer, June 16, 1915, July 25,26,27,28, Aug. 31, Sept. 1, Oct. 11,22,27,28, Dec. 5, 1916, Jan. 5,17,25, Feb. 5,6,17, 1917; Cincinnati Post, July 28, Aug. 31, Oct, 4,11, 1916; Cincinnati Times-Star, Aug. 31, Oct. 11, 1916;  Murdered on Duty: The Killing of Police Officers in America by Samuel G. Chapman.  Springfield IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher;  Legal Homicide: Death as Punishment in America, 1864-1982 by Wm. J. Bowers. Boston: Northeastern U. Press, 1984;  Death certificate of Anna Hart and Katherine Jane Hart; Probate record of Anna Hart (#78762); Burial records at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Cincinnati OH; Data Sheet for National Law Enforcement Memorial; 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920 Ohio Census records of Hart family; Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction records of Reuben Ellis (#44873); and genealogical record of descendants of Anna Hart.
Most of the above sources were provided by Steve Barnett, Director of Community Relations for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Cincinnati OH.

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