Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Coroner's Report

Dr. James Rufus Littleton, known by most as JR, was the coroner in 1910. When researching his life in 1910- I find that he was coroner on several cases. The last two:

Negro Infant Found in Cotton Field, Dead (September 26, 1910)

Alcohol Poison caused her death (December 16, 1910)
     Mrs. Nancy Anderson did not die from blow to head, Anderson states he did not strike her
             **sidenote: the only witness to this crime was the young daughter of the couple- no more than six years old. Bless that child and the woman she became.**

JR was a very busy man in 1910 as these are only 2 of the dozen plus deaths reported in the Augusta Chronicle for the year. Fast forward six years and JR will be elected mayor of the consolidated Summerville and Augusta. JR ran unopposed and followed the mayorship of Thomas Barrett, sr.-- the mayor during the time of Dr. Hickman's death.

Sometimes, you have to ask... who benefits the most from the death of a man.

Dr. Littleton died in 1925 and was a Master Mason (read: top of the Mason Food Chain). HIs funeral was carried out with Masonic burial rites as well as the rites performed by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Pause. Did I just say KKK? Yes. Yes, I did. When I saw this, I took a screen shot of the death announcement and sent it to a friend; editor if you will. And said, "WHY DO I FIND THIS SO DISTURBING??" As if, in my mind, people who upheld the law and oversaw things like life and death were above racism. Foolish me. No one is above anything, be it 1910, 1925, or 2017.

Littleton was survived by his parents, wife, two sons, one daughter, and two sisters: Mrs. Mamie L. Harison [sic], and Mrs. H.I. Niven.

But, we aren't here to read about JR, rather we are here to look at the coroner's report.

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Let's start with what we know:

Dr. Hickman is still very, very dead on February 4, 1910 when the report is released.

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Now, let's look at what the coroner's report says:

When Dr. Littleton was called to receive the remains, he found Dr. Hickman lying with a bullet hole extending from the back part of the head through the front. After checking the box of "Yes, he is dead and there's a bullet hole," He returned home.

Solicitor Reynolds requested that Littleton go with the undertaker and make further examination. Off he goes to Platt's Undertaker Parlors where he decided to actually look into the case slightly further.

He removed the scalp and examined the external parts of the skull.  Above the eye and under the skin was a small, round wound. In the bone was an opening of five-eighths to half an inch. Said another way, those measurements are .625 to .5 of an inch.

Calibers of bullets are measured in decimals of inches. Remember that.

In the back of Dr. Hickman's skull is an elongated wound looking as if it had been torn, known as speculum of the bone. In the front, the bone seemed to stick inward toward the brain. In the back, the inside of the wound was smooth, round hole while on the outside bones stuck out.

The skull was cracked on the left side of the head extending irregularly toward the back. This caused Littleton to conclude that he was struck after he was shot, probably with a sandbag. This is purely  hypothetical and is only the opinion of Dr. Littleton. Following this, he further examined the left hemisphere of the brain. Using a probe, careful not to disturb the course, he found that there was a clear wound entirely through the brain. The line of the bullet was exactly perpendicular.

When asked if it were possible that the bullet going through the skull caused the cracks, he said it was possible and that it has happened before- but it is his opinion that Dr. Hickman's skull was cracked by a blow and not the result of the pistol ball or of the fall following the gunshot.

Littleton was strongly of the opinion that Hickman had been shot by a professional thug operating under the theory of 'dead men tell no tales' and needed to confirm that the job was complete.

On the right side of the frontal bone (read: forehead) a bruise which perhaps had significance in the same direction or may have been caused in falling. In addition, there was a fresh abrasion on the back of the right hand, which led Littleton to believe that the body might have been dragged or moved. This theory is exacerbated by several new scratches on the gold band ring which Dr. Hickman wore on his right hand. {this also could have been caused by trying to remove the ring}

There were no powered burns on the body or around the wound, which indicates that the shots were fired farther than five feet away. After removing the vest from the body, the little clasp used to hold a watch fob in place was found- but the watch was gone.

It was Dr. Littleton's opinion that the bullet which killed Dr. Hickman was fired from a revolver not smaller than a .38 caliber.

Great, we have a bunch of words that amount to, what, exactly?

Dr. Hickman was shot facing his assailant above his left eye. The bullet entered through the front and exited out the back of his skull. There is a wound perpendicular to the path the bullet took. This is on the left side of his skull, which is further cracked. The bruise over his right eye is peri-mortem (happened immediately preceding death) and is of an unknown origin. The bullet made a hole that is equal to a caliber of .625 to .5, double the size of .38. It is believed that a sandbag was used after he was shot to confirm that the good Doctor is, in fact, actually dead. He was shot at a distance greater than five feet as there was no gun powder on his person or surrounding the wound.

Allow me to regale you with my master drawing abilities. 

On the top of his right hand is a small abrasion- no deeper than the skin- and there are new scratches on the gold band he wore on his right hand. Based on these two facts, it is thought that he was moved or the small possibility that these are caused by trying to remove the ring. The only thing taken from Dr. Hickman was his watch.

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And that, fair readers, is the coroner's report.

I find it interesting that they said he was hit with a sandbag. When talking to my dad about this, his first question was, "Where's the sandbag? Why would he have grabbed it?"

Of all the things taken from Dr. Hickman, why would the watch be it? Why would the watch, a gold monogrammed object be taken? It is identifiable and unique to Dr. Hickman, with his initials engraved on the side. Me? I'm going for the chain and the cash. Maybe the glasses if they were gold. You can keep the thing that has his name on it.

Was this a hit and proof of death was needed? The watch was on his vest and not something that would have been easily accessible.

Have you ever heard the expression that the building can be no taller than the crane? The same is true for bullet holes- if the bullet hole is 1/2 an inch, a 3/4 inch bullet cannot make that hole. On the other hand, depending on speed and distance- a smaller bullet, say a .38 cal can make a hole twice the size. But, it has to be traveling awfully fast and from an awfully far distance.

Two more things to note:
.38 cal handguns are accurate at about 5 yards, max. This was a kill shot, expertly made.
.38 cal guns were also the gun of choice for police officers.

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