What to Tell the Judge About the Murder…

El Paso Tribune April 10, 1890

The post “Murder in Juarez, Trouble in El Paso” has proven to be  popular over the past year and a half since I published it.  You can see in one of the comments that a relative of one of the principal characters in the story has found it.  Margie has sent me a lot of information on the murder and subsequent trial that she has found, and I intend to put her research skills to good use here, as well as the efforts of Mom’s and mine to uncover and transcribe all the personal family letters relating to the situation.

In this post I am publishing my transcription of an old newspaper article from April 10, 1890, 8 days after the murder of my great-grandfather Cavitt in the city of Juarez.  I kept the format of the newspaper as much as possible, including misspellings.  Ellipses replace holes in the actual newspaper.

Who fired first?

Daily El Paso Tribune

Thursday, April 10, 1890

Who Fired First

Sensational Theory of the Bolton-Cavitt Killing.

The Defense Foreshadowed

“I don’t care what they say about Cavitt’s not having fired first, and his pistol not having been drawn, and all that.  I believe he fired the first shot, and I shall always believe it.”

Such was the declaration of “Doc” Bolton immediately after the killing.  Such was his declaration in the Juarez jail last Sunday to two TRIBUNE reporters, in presence of Judge Crosby, H.R. Wood, and Mr. Lewis of Hearne, a brother-in-law of Bolton.  Yet the undisputed facts do not warrant Bolton’s statement.  Cavitt fell with a cane in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  His pistol was in his waitband [sic], under his vest, which showed no signs of an effort on his part to draw the pistol.

How, then, is Bolton’s assertion to be accounted for?

In one of two ways:

First, Bolton is mistaken; or,

Secondly, neither Bolton nor Cavitt fired the first shot.

Who did fire it then?

That is the question.  By diligent inquiry the TRIBUNE reporters have picked up bits of fact and rumor and theory that lead to the conclusion, with almost absolute certainty, that the theory of Bolton’s defense will be this:

The first shot was fired, not by Bolton or by Cavitt, but by a third party; and that Bolton, hearing the shot and being unable in the darkness to tell just where it came from, was justified by the language that had passed between him and Cavitt in supposing that Cavitt had opened on him, and that thereupon Bolton shot in self-defense.

Now for the evidence.

The official post mortem examination on the body of S. H. Cavitt, held by Doctors Saminiego and Castilo, showed the following facts:  The bullet which was the immediate cause of death, struck deceased in the left side, passed through the left lung, then through the heart, then through the right lung, a portion of the liver, and went out on the right side.  It was undoubtedly the bullet from a 44 calibre pistol.  It had first passed through a pocket containing some papers, a scrap of which was found in the wound.

The second wo…………………… showed  that the bullet……………………………. at the right of the small………… the back and passed out through the bowels.

The third wound was a flesh wound in the left side just below the arm pit.  It is positively certain that the last two wounds were caused by shooting from behind the deceased, which would indicate that the shots were fired after he had turned and staggered into the street.  Thus, the first shot fired was the fatal shot.

Who fired it?

The TRIBUNE has it from reliable authority- namely one of the surgeons who were present at the examination- that the wound through the bowels and the flesh wound under the arm need not necessarily have proved fatal.

Therefore, if Bolton did not fire the first shot, he was not the murderer.

But how can the question whether he fired the first shot be settled?  Right here is where the legal fight will be made.  If it can be demonstrated from

The Caliber of Bolton’s Pistol

And the track of that first and fatal wound that the ball was not fired from Bolton’s pistol, his defense is impregnable.

A Significant Statement

“There is one fact in regard to the killing that I have not yet seen published,” said a friend of Bolton to a TRIBUNE reporter.  “It is the fact that Cavitt and Clayton were on bad terms.  It is alleged that Cavitt had threatened, some time before the Juarez tragedy, to kill Clayton.”

Whether the above statement be true or not, it indicates that Clayton will not occupy second place in the judicial drama soon to be presented.  He will stand alongside Bolton as one of the three actors in the tragedy, each of whose actions there and theretofore demand searching investigation.

Finally, another significant fact is the assertion of Bolton that Clayton was some little distance from him when the firing began.  This would go a long way to establish a theory of the defense that Clayton, not Bolton or Cavitt, fired the first shot.

Mrs. S. H. Cavitt, widow of the deceased, and J. B. and Clarence V. Cavitt, his brothers, arrived in the city by the T. and P. train this afternoon.  They have come to look after the prosecution of S. H. Cavitt’s slayers and to take charge of his property interests in Mexico.