A Murder Victim Visited her Mother to Reveal Who Killed Her

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Zona and Trout Shue
Zona and Trout Shue
A young woman was murdered by her husband. Evidence about the apparition was inadmissible for the prosecution, but the defense attorney brought it into testimony.

Murder and Circumstances

Elva Zona Heaster married Erasmus, AKA Edward, Shue in 1896.

In January 1897, Shue sent a boy to the house to see if Zona needed anything from the store. She was dead.

George Knapp MD, coroner, was called to the house. When he arrived, he found Shue took Zona’s body upstairs and laid her out on the bed. He clothed the body in a high-necked dress and covered her neck and face.

While Knapp examined her, Shue cradled her head, sobbing. Knapp noticed bruises on her neck and tried to look more closely. Shue reacted so violently that he ended the exam and ruled it a natural death.

Zona’s body was taken to her parent’s home in a casket for the wake. Shue’s behavior was peculiar. He permitted no one close to the coffin and put a rolled cloth on one side of her head and a pillow on the other. When it came time to move the body for burial, some people noticed Zona’s head moved strangely.

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Zona Heaster Shue, murder victim
Zona Heaster Shue, murder victim

Mary, Zona’s mother, took the sheet from the coffin and noticed a strange odor. When she put it into water to wash it, the liquid turned red. The cloth turned pink. She boiled it to remove the stain, but it remained. She believed this was a sign that Zona was slain. She started praying she would get proof.

Zona’s Apparition Appears to Prove Shue Killed Her

According to Mary, Zona’s spirit came to her four times, waking her. She told her Shue broke her neck in a violent fit. Mary told prosecutor John Preston about this hoping he would re-open the investigation.

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Mary Jane Heaster, Zona's mother
Mary Jane Heaster, Zona’s mother

Preston interviewed Knapp who admitted he hadn’t been able to complete the examination. They agreed to exhume the body and perform an autopsy. Shue fought this, knowing he would be charged with murder, but lost.

The autopsy revealed Zona’s neck was broken. Shue was arrested, indicted for murder and incarcerated. He pled not guilty, repeating nobody could prove he was.

The Trial and Questions

The trial started in June 1897. Mary testified about the circumstances surrounding Zona’s death. Because Preston wanted her to appear rational and credible, he did not ask her about her daughter’s apparition. Testimony about the apparition was also inadmissible evidence for the prosecution.

Shue’s lawyer broached the ghostly issue to try to discredit Mary, a mistake. The judge had a difficult time excluding the apparitional evidence because the defense approached it.
Shue was found guilty. He received a life sentence.

House where the murder took place
House where the murder took place

There was an item in the Greenbrier Independent the same day Zona’s death was reported. A murder in Australia was solved because people claimed they saw the ghost of the victim, Fred Fisher, point to a creek where his body was found.

George Worrall confessed and was hanged. Years later, a dying man admitted he created the story about the ghost and convinced others who believed this and claimed they saw the ghost too. The man saw the murder and was threatened with death if he said anything so he concocted the story to bring Worrall to justice.

Did Mary read about this and consciously provide a similar story for justice? Was she influenced by the story on a subconscious level and believed she saw Zona’s ghost? Did she actually see the apparition?

Until she died in 1916, Mary never retracted her statements about seeing Zona’s apparition.