atm-logoWas Tom Horn really guilty of the murder for which he was hanged?

Scott Duvall
Appleton, Minnesota

Tom Horn was hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on November 20, 1903, for the ambush killing of 14-year-old Willie Nickell. The debate on his guilt or innocence is still going on.

Dean F. Krakel, author of The Saga of Tom Horn, believed Horn did shoot Nickell in a case of mistaken identity. In Tom Horn: Blood on the Moon, Chip Carlson argued that Horn most likely didn’t kill the boy.

Horn “confessed” to the killing when lawman Joe LeFors got him drunk—and had a stenographer hidden to take down Horn’s statement. Such evidence wouldn’t be allowed in today’s courts. In fact, in a mock trial held in 1993, the jury acquitted Horn.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.

If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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