CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — 126 years ago, Elva Zona Heaster Shue, wife to Erasmus Stribbling Trout Shue was found dead in her home from what was initially ruled natural causes. The following trial would make U.S. history.
According to The Monroe Watchman via West Virginia Archives and History (WVA&H), Elva was found dead in her home in Greenbrier County by a local boy that Erasmus had sent to ask her what she wanted from the market. Erasmus and doctors quickly arrived after being notified, but Elva was unable to be resuscitated by a doctor and was requested to “desist from further examination” by Erasmus.
Elva was placed in a dress with a high stiff collar and taken to a nearby cemetery where she was buried with an uncertain cause of death.
According to The Greenbrier Independent via WVA&H, in the weeks following Elva’s death, Mary J. Heaster, the mother of the late Elva, claimed that she had a vision from the spirit of her daughter claiming that “she told me that her neck was squeezed off at the first joint.”
Following this testimony, Elva’s body was exhumed for a post-mortem examination to attempt to verify a cause of death. Upon examination, it was found that the body had a crushed windpipe and a broken neck, likely caused by strangulation, according to greenbrierwv.com.
The jury only took an hour following Mary’s testimony to return with a verdict of murder in the first degree, sentencing Erasmus to the state penitentiary for life. He would later die only after 3 years of serving his sentence due to the flu epidemic of 1900.
Greenbrierwv.com says that a motive was never found but that Erasmus had a history of a hot temper and one account claims that he had abused one of his previous wives.
A state highway marker was erected to commemorate the case noting that it was the “only known case in which testimony from ghost helped convict a murder.”