“Love is often gentle, desire always a rage.”Mignon McLaughlin
After their arrest and conviction for the courtroom outbursts of 1888, Althea and David Terry were not shy about their rage toward Judge Fields. During transport to Alameda county jail, Althea repeatedly said she intended to kill the judge. And David went so far as to invite a newspaper man, Thomas Williams, to conduct an interview while he served his sentence, announcing his intention of slapping the judge, and “…if Judge Field resists, I will kill him.” That interview, published in the San Francisco papers, and subsequent letters David Terry wrote other newspapers, made the couple’s rage unambiguous.
As the train headed north, at each station, Marshal Neagle stepped off to observe who was boarding the train. At about 3:00 a.m., when the train paused in Fresno, California, Neagle saw Althea and David Terry boarding. The Marshal immediately informed Judge Field, who was asleep in his compartment. The cantankerous old judge grunted, “Very well”, before adding, “I hope they have a good night.” With that Judge Field went back to sleep, and Neagle sent a telegram ahead to Lathop, to notify the railroad agent there, that there might be trouble in the morning.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In the morning of Wednesday, August 14th , the Los Angeles train pulled into Lathrop (above). Judge Field was determined to have breakfast, and he and Marshal Neagle were the first two admitted into the dinning room, escorted to their seats by the restaurant manager, Mr. Stackpole. A few moments later, Stackpole guided Althea and David Terry past the two men to seats at a nearby table. Under Stackpole’s nervous eye, there was a moment of tension, before Althea whispered to David, and then proceeded to quickly leave the restaurant and return to the train.
Right on cue, while the smoke still hung in the air, and the witnesses’ ears were still ringing, Althea reentered the dinning room. She shrieked and Stockpole, who was following her closely, grabbed her handbag. In the bag, the manager found a loaded pistol. Althea began to scream for vengeance, and fell upon her husband’s body. Marshal Neagle was convinced she used her body to shield her removal of David’s bowie knife. But whether she did or not, when Terry's body was examined later by local police, no weapons were found.
The dead man had lived most of his life in Stockton, the next stop north on the rail line. The suddenly widowed Mrs. Terry was thus surrounded by friendly officials, who arrested Judge Field and Marshal Neagle for the murder. The governor immediately ordered Justice Field, a member of the Supreme Court, released without bail, before his arrest became a “burning disgrace” to California. The marshal however was transported to jail in Stockton.
Judge Fields telegraphed the Marshals’ office in Stockton, which immediately notified the U.S. Attorney General, “David A. Terry grossly accosted Justice Field at Lathop station this morning and was shot dead by my deputy.” Shortly there after, Sheriff Thomas Cunningham of San Joaquin County was served with a writ of habeus corpus, to deliver Marshal Neagle to the Federal Court in San Francisco.
In 1892, four years after David Terry’s death, Sarah Althea Hill (Sharon) Terry was committed to the Stockton State Hospital for the Insane. She was 33 year old, just about the right age for the full onset of schizophenia. Althea lived within that institution’s walls for the next forty-five years. She died at the age of 80, appropiately enough on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1937. And then they got her name wrong on the tombstone. If I was the guy who carved that, I would keep looking over my shoulder.
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