The Times published a blow-by-blow of the preliminary hearing Wilson mayor E.F. Killette held over the homicide of Blanche Williams. Joe Goffney entered a plea of not guilty, but Killette found sufficient evidence to hold him over for trial in the Superior Court.
Joe Brodie testified first. Goffney, who was married, came with Williams to the house in which she lives. Brodie was in the back room when the shot rang out. Williams staggered out and fell to the floor. Goffney ran out, shouting that he had not known the gun was loaded. Brodie sent for Dr. Mitchner, who declared Williams dead.
Nellie Williams testified that Goffney and Blanche Williams had entered the house laughing and talking. She was in the next room lacing her shoe when she heard the gun fire and heard Goffney say, “I didn’t say a word — or I will kill all of you.” Nellie Williams ran out of the house with one shoe on.
Clifton Johnson also testified that Goffney and B. Williams entered the house talking and laughing. Johnson said he saw the gun on the center table when he entered and did not know to whom it belonged. (Neither Brodie nor N. Williams corroborated this, saying that as far as they knew there had been no gun in the house.) Goffney picked up the gun and said “let me see it.” Johnson’s back was turned to them when Goffney fired. Goffney did not say anything “out of the way” to Williams. The remark about “killing them all” came after the shooting. Goffney told them to get a doctor, then left the house. He gave Johnson the gun, who threw it away.
“Colored physician” William Mitchner testified that he found Blanche Williams on the porch dead. The bullet had struck her in the chin, breaking her lower jaw, and exited the back of her neck, possibly fracturing her spine. In his opinion, Goffney was standing directly in front of Williams when he fired, and the bullet’s trajectory was slightly downward.
Clifton Johnson was recalled to testify that he and Goffney were on the same side of the table, and he was behind Williams.
Goffney testified that Clarence Johnson carried concealed weapons. [Is this Clifton? Or a different man?] Clarence had placed a magazine and .32 cartridges on the table.
Officer Weathersbee testified that he and Officer Sikes asked Johnson for the gun, and Johnson said he had thrown it in the pea patch. Johnson admitted the gun was his, and it had not been found.
Clarence Johnson denied telling Weathersbee the gun was his. He did not own a gun. Goffney was mistaken when he said Johnson had pulled the gun from his pocket and that there had been a magazine on the table. Johnson works at an express office and borrowed a holster from a fellow employee. He did not borrow a gun. The holster is in a bureau drawer at his house. Mayor Killette interjected that the holster had been found between the bed[frame] and mattress in Johnson’s room. Johnson could not explain why he borrowed a holster.
Joe Lee denied seeing Goffney take a pistol from Johnson’s pocket. Apparently, Nettie Williams did, too. Johnson’s mother testified that he did not own a gun and had not brought one to the house the night of the killing.
Johnson’s lawyer F.D. Swindell argued that in the excitement of the moment, it was perfectly natural for Johnson to throw away the gun Goffney gave him. The only evidence that the gun was his was Goffney’s testimony, which was inherently biased.
The mayor was satisfied that Johnson had borrowed the pistol and bound him over as a material witness and for carrying a concealed weapon. He fined Johnson $75 and set his bond for $500. Goffney was sent to jail to await trial.
Wilson Times, 30 September 1921.
- Joe Goffney — Was Joe Goffney convicted? I have not found a follow-up, but the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists: Goffney Joseph tobwkr [tobacco worker] h 206 Manchester. This is likely the Joseph Goffney listed in the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: farmer Lemon Barnes, 51; wife Dollie Ann, 51; children Ida, 26, Lemon Jr., 20, Mattie, 17, Charlie, 15, and Howard, 12; stepsons Cornelius Neal, 11, Paul Goffney, 17, and Joseph Goffney, 15; and grandson Sylvester Barnes, 6.
- Blanche Williams — Per her death certificate, Blanch Williams was 24 years old; single; resided on Stantonsburg Street; and worked as a common laborer. She was born in Wayne County, North Carolina, to Wash Smith and Laura Williams, and Selena Craig of Goldsboro was informant. Her cause of death: “revolver wound of head (probably accidental).” [A 26 September 1921 Times article about the shooting reported that Williams was married and lived in Goldsboro, but had come to Wilson to work briefly in domestic service. She had planned to return to Goldsboro the week she was shot. She had been “going with” Goffney while in Wilson, and jealousy was believed to be at the root of the violence. Unnamed witnesses heard Goffney tell Williams, “If you go with that man, I will kill you,” as they walked to Joe Lee’s home. As Williams walked out of the house to return home, Goffney called her back in and shot her.]
- Joe Brodie — possibly Josephine Brodie listed in the 1922 city directory as a student living at 303 Mercer Street.
- Nellie Williams
- Clifton/Clarence Johnson — perhaps the Clifton Johnson listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as a porter living at 118 Ashe Street.
- Dr. Mitchner — William A. Mitchner.
- Joe Lee — possibly Joseph Lee listed in the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory as a factory hand living at 115 Manchester Street. [However, the 26 September Times article identified Joe Lee and Joe Brodie as the same person, a woman.]
- F.D. Swindell — lawyer Fred D. Swindell.
- W.A. Finch — lawyer William Atlas Finch.
- Mayor Killette — mayor Edwin F. Killette Sr.
- Officer Weathersbee
- Officer Sikes