Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Arthur Tillman and Mandy Stephens

Another chapter in Desperadoes of the Ozarks is about 22-year-old Arthur Tillman's murder of his lover, 20-year-old Amanda Stephens, in March of 1913 in Logan County, Arkansas, near the small community of Delaware. Perhaps I should just say that the chapter is about the murder case involving Arthur Tillman and Amanda Stephens, because there are people, even today, who question whether Tillman really killed Mandy and suggest that he was wrongly convicted. I think that such a claim is nonsense, because the circumstantial evidence against Tillman was overwhelming.
Briefly, the facts of the case were as follows: Tillman, as he freely admitted at trial, was having regular sexual relations with Mandy and she turned up pregnant. She had also gotten pregnant and miscarried three years earlier, and Tillman had been one of several young men who had had sex with her prior to her first pregnancy. This time she was pressing Tillman to marry her, but he had another girlfriend and did not want to marry Mandy. The couple, though, were seen together on the day Mandy disappeared. Confronted, Tillman claimed not to know where Mandy was and then left town. A few days later he came back and was seen looking into an abandoned well on a neighbor's property adjoining the Tillman family farm. The next day, Mandy's body was found at the bottom of the same well, with a rock tied to her body with telephone wire. By the time the body was retrieved, Tillman had again skpped town but was tracked down at Fort Smith a couple of days later and brought back to face murder charges.
At his trial, it was revealed that telephone wire exactly matching that used on Mandy went missing from a general store in the Tillman neighborhood on the same day Mandy went missing and that Tillman was seen by witnesses in the vicinity of the store. Mandy had been killed with shots from a .22 rifle, and testimony further revealed that Tillman's father had given away a .22 rifle a day or two after Mandy went missing. A doctor testified that on the day before Mandy's disappearance, young Tillman had come to him seeking a potion or medicine that would abort her pregnancy but that he told Arthur he had no such medicine. The defense, of course, attempted to explain all these circumstances as mere coincidence. The defense also tried to suggest that Mandy's father had killed his own daughter or that perhaps Tillman's father had done the deed. However, the prosecution in turn rebutted the defense's rebuttal.
Tillman's first trial ended in a hung jury, with eleven voting for conviction and one for acquittal. He was retried, convicted with a unanimous verdict, and hanged in July 1914.
This, of course, is just a bare-bones accounting of the case. For full details, you need to read the book. By the way, I'm having a book signing for Desperadoes at Half Price Books of the Ozarks on the Plaza Shopping Center in Springfield on Saturday, November 19, from 1-3 p.m.


Blogger jvkatzen said...

The coroner testified to dirt in Mandy's hands suggesting she went into the well alive.
Being well acquainted with the mind-set of small towns, I question everything everybody said. Arthur may have been a convenience. I can see why he'd run. Mandy appears to have had trouble keeping her knickers on.

April 28, 2014 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading over the court transcripts I haven't seen where Green Stephens gave away the .22. Interesting. I am interested in the testimony of Earl Bolden's relationship with her as with the other men that said they visited her. I had not realized she had tried to commit suicide the summer before. I wonder if she was an unstable young lady that was being taken advantage of by various men of the area. Reading the testimony at times I think, Yes, Arthur did it then other times I am not completely positive.

April 29, 2014 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

I suppose I would have to say I'm not completely positive either, but I think the fact that eleven jurors voted for conviction, even at Arthur's first trial, and that he was convicted on a unanimous verdict the second time around argues strongly in favor of his guilt. I'm not naïve enough to think that corruption, cover-ups, etc. did not occasionally occur, but I also strongly believe that the obvious answer rather than the marvelous one is usually the correct one.

May 5, 2014 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger John Blamey said...

Enjoyed reading this blog. I am a relative of Arthur. The man that spent six months in jail with him, Frank Tillman, was my great-grandfather. He was incarcerated because they didn't believe that Arthur, a small framed man, could have lifted Mandy with the rock around her neck and dropped her in the well, so they arrested my great-grandfather who was over sex feet tall and over 200 pounds. Anyway, he never would say what they talked about in jail, and when I was a kid my mother was researching trying to prove his innocence. (nobody wants to believe their family could be capable of such a heinous crime) and Papa Frank told her at that time that they indeed got the right man. Arthur confessed to him while in jail, told him what happened, and he carried that secret until 1977 when he told my mother to stop worrying so about it. Anyways, I would love to email you the particulars of that if interested. Again, enjoyed your writing!

April 3, 2018 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks, John. Yes, I'd be interested in hearing more of the family story about this case if you want to email me with the details. larryewood@mail.com

April 3, 2018 at 2:53 PM  

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