I recently received an email from my relative, Kermit Ross, with the subject line, “Murder! . . . In Deming!”

Needless to say, that got my attention.

It seems Kermit, who now lives in Texas, but grew up in Deming, was researching his family tree when he made the startling discovery that his second great-uncle was the central figure in one of Hamilton County’s biggest murder trials.

Better make that TWO of the county’s biggest trials. Amasa J. Foulke was tried twice for the murder of his wife — once in 1874 and again, a year later.

Although newspaper accounts of the 1874 trial are no longer available, the results are well known. Foulke was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, due to irregularities with some of the jurors and Judge Hervey Craven’s opinion that the evidence was “not sufficient to sustain the verdict,” the judge granted Foulke a new trial.

Because the 1874 newspapers are missing, most of what is known about the murder comes from the Noblesville Ledger’s extensive coverage of that second trial, which was held in February 1875.

The basic story Amasa told ran like this:

In November 1873, Amasa, 25, his wife, Lucetta (consistently called “Lucette” in the Ledger,) 27, and their two young children had recently moved into a house near Amasa’s parents, a mile or so north of Deming.

On the night of November 16, Amasa awoke to the sound of a pistol shot and found two masked men in his home. He described one of the men as tall and the other as short and heavy-set.

As Amasa chased the men out of the house, one of them shot him in the arm.

Amasa then ran first to the nearby tollgate, then to his parents’ house. There he got on a horse and rode to Dr. Amos Pettijohn’s home in Deming. Amasa’s explanation for leaving his wife was that he had called out to her and, not getting a response, believed she was dead.

In fact, Lucetta, who’d been shot in the chest, lingered in agony for another couple of hours. Still alive and able to speak when Dr. Pettijohn arrived, she told the doctor she hadn’t seen who shot her.

By that time, a number of neighbors and relatives had gathered at the Foulke home and some of them went looking for “clews” to solve the crime. (I giggle every time I see ”clew,” but that was the accepted spelling of “clue” then.)

The search yielded nothing except Amasa’s “pocket-book” (wallet,) which was discovered lying in a nearby road. With no solid evidence of intruders, Amasa was charged with the murder.

Despite some discrepancies in the testimonies, the jury in the second trial found Amasa innocent. It wasn’t a popular verdict.

Amasa must have felt vindicated a year later when a man named Tom Barker, who’d served time for grand larceny, confessed on his deathbed that he’d killed Lucetta. Barker said he shot her because he was afraid she might identify him.

After the second trial ended, Amasa moved west. He married two more times and died in the Los Angeles area in 1934.

If you’d like more details about Amasa and the trial, see the Amasa J. Foulke pages on the website Kermit discovered, www.robbhaasfamily.com.

The second Foulke trial is notable for one other thing — during the proceedings the courthouse wall cracked to the point a collapse seemed imminent.

Although the public didn’t want to spend money on a new building, the incident helped convince the county commissioners to overrule the voters and replace the old courthouse with a new one in 1879 — the same courthouse still sitting on the square today.