Wound inflicted by Virgil Atwell Causes Death of Eric Rush

Thursday, April 7, 1921

Billie Rush, 13 years old, son of Lee Rush, a resident of Jim Henry township, was fatally stabbed between nine and ten o'clock on Sunday night by Virgil Atwell, 17 years old, son of R.J. Atwell, a prominent farmer of eastern Richwoods Township.

Young Atwell, who is a nephew of County Superintendent H. M. Atwell, has been teaching school in the Jim Henry school district during the past winter. It appears that he had experienced considerable trouble in the management of the school with some of the larger pupils, including the deceased, and as a result some bad feeling had arisen between the teacher and some of the larger boys of the community.

On Sunday afternoon some of the young people of the vicinity had gathered at Ephriam Rush's among the company being Virgil Atwell, Elsie Rush, Archie Rush, 15 years old, a brother of the deceased, William P. Winters 28 years of age, and others. During the afternoon it appears that the three boys last named, together with two or three others who were present had prepared a written notice advising young Atwell to leave the party by 5:30 o'clock that evening. This message was delivered to Atwell by Winters. The party continued until nine o'clock at which time Elzie and Archie Rush and Wm. P. Winters left the Ephriam Rush home and started up the road toward their home. According to the information we have, about twenty minutes thereafter young Atwell started to Lawrence A. Schulte's, his boarding place, in the same direction the other boys went. All were walking. It appears that after leaving the Rush home, the three boys had loitered along the road until Atwell came along. An altercation then arose, and it was during this fight that the cutting occurred. The deceased died in the road before help could be summoned. The deceased died in the road before help could be summoned. The post-mortem examination by Dr. Kouns showed four wounds to have been inflicted, all on the left side of the body, the fatal wound being inflicted in the upper part of the left leg, where an artery had been severed. Atwell claims that he was assaulted by the other boys and that he was compelled to use the knife in self-defense. Funeral services were held for the deceased at four o'clock Monday evening, interment being at Rush Chapel graveyard.

The preliminary hearing will be held before Squire Geo. Evers, at Charleytown on Monday, April 11, and bond has been given by Atwell in the sum of $500 for his appearance at that time.

This unfortunate affair seems to have been the result of a feud between the young school teacher and the older boys of the community and it indeed is a sad and unfortunate ending for all concerned.


Justice Court Decides It was Case of Justifiable Homicide

April 14, 1921

The preliminary hearing in the case of the State of Missouri against Virgil Atwell, charged with the stabbing to death of Elzie Rush, as detained in the last issue of the Autogram, was held at Charlestown on Monday. The hearing was held before Squire Geo. Evers, of Jim Henry township, who called in as an associate, Squire John Ferguson, the veteran Justice of the Peace of Richwoods township. In proceedings of this kind, the law provides for the calling of an associate justice to assist in the examination. After haring all of the testimony, and the examination of Many Witnesses, including the defendant, it was decided by the magistrates that the wounds were inflicted in the necessary defense of the defendant's own person, and he was therefore discharged from custody.

The evidence showed that the deceased, his brother Archie Rush, Willis Winters, and some other boys of the community had written and delivered a notice to the defendant advising him to leave by 5:30 p.m. on the Sunday of the trouble. This note was delivered while a party of young people were gathered at the E.D. Rush home. About nine o'clock the deceased, his brother and Willie Winters left, going in the direction of their home; about fifteen minutes afterward, the defendant left by himself for his boarding place at Lawrence Schulte's, in the same direction. About ten minutes after leaving, he came up to where the other three boys were in the public road. The evidence showed that the deceased started to quarrel with Atwell, accusing Atwell of having made certain threats and statements, which the latter denied having made. Young Rush then threw off his coat and started toward Atwell, and during the fight which ensued, the fatal cutting was done. Four wounds were inflicted in the lower part of the body. The fatal wound severed the large artery in the front part of the left leg, the other three wounds being only flesh wounds of slight import. The cutting was done with a small pocket knife, the blade of which was less than two inches long.

All of the parties mentioned are less than twenty years old. The defendant had taught school during the fall and winter and had had trouble with the larger boys in the management of the school. It appears that the sad ending grew out of the trouble at the school. When the boys attempted to either run the teacher out of the neighborhood, or punish him in some other manner.

The State was represented by Prosecuting Attorney H. L. Donnelly, and the defendant by W. S. Stillwell.

 Increase Font Size  Decrease Font Size