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 firstname.lastname@example.org