History Of The Knoxville Tennessee Murder Trial Of Maude Moore0
Throughout American history murder stories have emerged, some gained nationwide attention, while others were only mentioned on a local level. It is true that some murders, especially those committed by serial killers, will live on forever. One story that drew nationwide attention and was talked about for years was the murder of Knoxville’s prominent businessman, Leroy David Harth.
Maudene L. Moore (Maude) was born in Emporia, Kansas on July 6, 1893. Her parents to Barnard Vandevort Moore and Nellie S. Moore. When she was a young girl, Moore’s family relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee. She later attended the Knoxville Business College and worked as a stenographer.
On September 5, 1919, Moore agreed to loan Leroy David Harth, an acquaintance of five years, a pistol, but requested it be returned three days later. On September 8, Harth true to his word returned the gun to Moore and offered to give her a ride to the local train station. Moore accepted the offer, but instead of Harth driving straight to Maryville, he drove to an area near Bearden Hill.
According to Moore’s story, Harth was intoxicated pulled down his pants and asked her to perform “an unmentionable act,” which she refused. Harth “jerked” Moore out of the vehicle, slapped her in the face and threatened to kill her, a scuffle ensued and the pistol fell out of Harth’s pants pocket. After retrieving the gun, Moore fired on fatal shot into Harth’s body.
In early September, the preliminary hearing of Maude Moore began before Squire W. M. Sellers in the Knox County criminal court room. The courtroom was filled to capacity, while others packed into the hallways waiting to catch a glance of Moore. She was released on a $10,000 bond
Moore’s then-boyfriend, Martin Hunter, was also arrested in connection with the murder. He was charged with an accessory before and after the fact and transported to the Knoxville jail. Chief of Detectives O’Connor claimed said detectives did not have any evidence to connect Hunter to the homicide. But, he did meet with Moore on September 9, the day after the shooting.
Counsel for the prosecution, Baxter Lee, said he would seek to prove that Hunter, a recently discharged soldier, and Moore had planned to rob Harth and leave Knoxville.
Moore pleaded guilty to killing Harth stating “I shot him, because I believed he would have shot me if he had obtained the gun first, for he had threatened to kill me if I didn’t get out of the car as he had demanded that I do.”
Moore said she had the bruises and marks to proof her story. She went on to say that after she obtained the gun, she pointed it towards Harth and fired. “I saw him stagger away and when he had run a short distance he fell heavily in the road, but managed to rise again and staggered farther away and out of sight. I didn’t hear him saying anything. I was too excited to hear. Immediately, I jumped in the car and attempted to start it and get away from the scene. The self-starter wouldn’t work.”
Moore said she began walking to Knoxville, which was a distance of 12 or 13 miles. She said she hid in the woods whenever a vehicle passed on the road. She went directly to Asylum Avenue, where Hunter had a room. From there she walked to Gay Street and Vine Avenue, where she caught a 7:30 a.m. Sevierville Pike car.
“No one noticed me with the least suspicion. I suppose it was because my name had not at the time become known in connection with the tragedy, Moore said.”
Hunter and Moore traveled to Cave Springs in South Knoxville and remained there until she surrendered to authorities on September 9.
Moore stood trial for first-degree murder of Harth in December 1919. She was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years in prison. However, the judge granted her a new trial, so she could be tried on a lesser charge of second-degree murder. The trial was set to begin on July 27, 1920, but Moore was nowhere to be found.
Detectives caught up with Moore in August 1921 in Tacoma, Washington. She was going by the name “Helen Hope” and had married William R. Stubbs, a proprietor of a hotel and former law enforcement official. Moore was extradited back to Knoxville. Her bondsmen said Moore’s capture saved them $10,000 bonds, which would have been forfeited on September 1.
On December 10, 1921, a Knox County jury returned a verdict of not guilty after only a six-minute deliberation. Moore said she was the happiest woman in the world and would be leaving Knoxville the following day to join her husband.
“ I shall live a better life hence-forth. It was a terrible thing to do, but I had to do it,” Moore said.