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As It Was: Grand Jury Clears Uncle Accused of Killing Nephew

William Bybee of Jacksonville, Ore., was a popular, respected citizen.  Married with a wife and children, he owned a house and had twice served as sheriff.  The community was shocked when on March 27, 1886, he was accused of murdering his nephew Thomas Bybee.

William and Thomas were partners in a ranch in Waldo, just north of the California-Oregon border, where the previous year the nephew had shot the uncle in the leg.  Out on bail in March 1886, Thomas was found dead of a wound to the neck from buckshot fired from a shotgun similar to one Uncle William had been carrying the same day.  William was arrested and charged with murder.

The case grew complicated.  Thomas had been found clutching a shotgun his wife testified wasn’t his, and it appeared another woman planted false evidence against the uncle at the scene of the crime.  A young man suspected of previously burning down the nephew’s hen house was seen prowling around his property the day after his death.

A grand jury failed to indict William for lack of evidence.  His nephew’s death was never solved.

Source: Stallard, Barry W. William Bybee, His Life and the Money of His Time. Healdsburg, California, Amoruso Publishing, 2017, pp 2-8.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.