She was slaughtered while walking home along a country road in Rural Hill, Mississippi. Her murder leads to an overturned conviction, an acquittal, two more murders, and a trial that would divide the community. The local paper bred chaos and sensationalism, the truth was forgotten and 109 years later we still don’t know who killed Janie Sharp.
Peninnah Janie Sharp was born on April 14, 1892, to William and Martha Sharp. They had a large family with eight children. Janie was well-liked in the rural farming community and was an excellent dressmaker. On July 21, 1910, Janie helped her mother clean up the dishes from the noon meal before setting out to town. She walked the mile and a half to the local post office and then continued to the general store. She was seen leaving the store around 3 pm, but she never made it home.
By nightfall, the entire community was worried about the 18-year-old and several local men created a search party. Armed with torches they searched well up into the night until they finally broke up with a promise to resume searching in the morning.
Along the way home, Janie’s brother, Lee continued his search. He looked along the west side of the road and followed the ravine that leads down to the water. Around 2 am, a gruesome sight confronted him. There laying half-submerged in the muddy water was his sister. Her throat had been slashed from ear to ear. Several stab wounds were under her chin and she had suffered severe blunt force trauma to the head. The sight caused her brother to faint. I can’t imagine how horror-stricken the poor brother was after witnessing such a sight flickering in the light of his torch.
Lee Sharp began to scream for help and ran to find his father. William came and removed his daughter from the desolate site and carried her home. William Sharp suffered from palsy. The thought of this disabled father stumbling through the darkness trying to carry his child home is heart-wrenching, but this story is just beginning.
The next morning a crowd gathered including Sheriff Hull. The crime scene was examined and told a terrible tale. According to the footprints in the area and the strewn belongings of Ms. Sharp it appeared she put up quite a fight. Two to three areas looked as if a terrible scuffle had taken place and it looked like poor Janie had escaped her captor more than once. Who could have such a thing?
No one had noticed any strangers in the area and suspicions immediately fell on a local boy named Swinton Parmenter. Some say he was acting strangely during the search. Others say he had a thing for Janie, but nothing could be proven. Did that matter? No. Before nightfall, Permenter would be surrounded by a lynch mob.
This tale is far from over. There will be a trial, actually two trials, a conviction, and an acquittal. Two more suspects will be named, and the investigator who found them will be brutally murdered. Swinton’s brother will be killed, and all the while a local paper will stir up a lynch mob. Unfortunately during all of this, the truth will be lost in t
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Winston Web News Article (There is a series of eight articles on this site. Only the first article has been linked. I encourage you to read them all if you have time)
You can read more about this case in Murder in Rural Hill by W. McCulley.
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