In addition to believing in the existence of a “criminal type” who would devote his or her life to committing crime after crime, 19th-century psychologists also believed crime was a sort of “mania” that would repeat itself again and again. For instance, shortly after the Sedalia Democrat reported on the William Baker’s numerous assaults and his attempted murder of Randall Yocum, the newspaper noted that after one murder occurs, another murder in the same locality is likely to follow.
Just a short time after Miller shot Yocum, an attempted murder occurred in Cole Camp, and left a “young man, strong, robust a few days ago [lying] prostrate, awaiting the call of the death angel.”
The victim was Al Tucker, a “genial, jovial” man about 20 years old. He had been raised on a farm near Cole Camp and was well to the residents there as a “rather given to dissipation” and arguing when he had been drinking.
In 1875, Tucker was married to Lilly Rouse. They set up housekeeping on a farm about one-half mile outside Cole Camp. The couple quarreled frequently until Mrs. Tucker finally left her husband and his home on the farm and moved into Cole Camp to live temporarily with the family of James Leffler, whose wife was a good friend of hers.
Tucker reacted badly to his wife’s desertion, remaining on his farm to “brood over his troubles.”
One Friday he went into town where he encountered Leffler. Tucker told Leffler he wished to speak to his wife. Leffler agreed Tucker could come to his home to talk to his wife, but that Tucker must not quarrel with her.
Tucker came to Leffler’s house, spoke to his wife peacefully for a few minutes before becoming “excited.” He told his wife she must remove all her possessions from his farmhouse or he would burn the house to the ground. Tucker left Leffler’s house in a “high dudgeon.”
Tucker returned to Leffler’s house a few minutes later and told his wife he intended to kill two of the “best men” from Cole Camp and then leave the area forever.
Leffler witnessed Tucker’s tirade. He then asked Tucker if there were any objections to his accompanying Mrs. Tucker to the Tucker home to retrieve her possessions. Tucker agreed and returned to his farmhouse. Leffler and Mrs. Tucker arrived at the farmhouse a bit later and began to gather up her things. They loaded her possessions into a hired wagon and returned to Cole Camp.
While Mrs. Tucker and Leffler were unloading Mrs. Tucker’s possessions, Tucker came to Leffler’s house, approached Leffler from behind, and removed a butcher knife from his boot. He cursed Leffler using “every opprobrious epithet he could think of,” and moved toward Leffler, brandishing the knife.
Leffler defended himself by shooting at Tucker. One pierced one of Tucker’s lungs. Tucker was able to run about half a block to a neighbor’s house, where doctors examined him and said the wounds were likely fatal. Tucker’s wife was sent for, and the couple reconciled as he lay on his death bed.
Next week’s column examines the language used by the Democrat to describe the second murder in a small town near Sedalia in a week’s time.