Friday, January 6, 2012

Escape Artist

From the San Francisco Chronicle, 5 June 1887, page 8. The original story appeared in the Knoxville Sentinel, which is the paper in which previous articles would have appeared. If anyone has more details of the crimes of this "desperado", please let me know.


Tennesseans Breathe Easier When He Is in Jail.

Knoxville (Tenn.) Sentinel.

All our readers have hear of the desperado John Leake, and will be glad to learn that he is again behind the bars of the Knox County Jail. Leake is a young man, but he has made a reputation as a fearless, desperate man, seldom equaled by any one in East Tennessee. He began his career in Sevier county, and for some time terrorized the citizens of that section. About a year ago he married a girl near Newport, in Cocke county, and since that time she has clung to him in all the trouble which he has brought upon himself by a career of crime.

After his marriage he drifted down into Knox county, and, last summer he was ensnared in the tolls of the law, and the last session of the Knox County Criminal Court sent him to the Knox County Workhouse to settle two or three fines for carrying a pistol. Two or three months ago this man and two others of whom he was the leader, broke away from the workhouse having overpowered the guard and forced other convicts to free them from their shackles. They made good their escape taking with them a shotgun and pistol which they took from the guard. The Workhouse Committee at once offered a reward of $25 apiece for the escaped convicts, and afterward the reward for Leake was increased to $50. It was known that Leake went toward Cocke county, and it was believed that he was with his wife in the neighborhood where he was married. All the time since his escape the Cocke county officers have been on the lookout for him, and the other morning Chief of Policer J.J. Atkins received a telegram from Sheriff J.L. Waters of Cocke county saying that Leake had been caught and safely caged.

Sheriff Waters and A.J. Williford of Newport came down with the prisoner, and his wife came with him. The prisoner was placed for awhile [sic] in the calaboose, and the Cocke county officers were seen at the City Hall. From Sheriff Masters we learn the following particulars of the capture:

For some time the Sheriff knew that John Leake was lurking about the neighborhood where he was married, making occasional excursions away and always returning when too closely hunter, or when he succeeds in making a haul somewhere. Repeated efforts have been made to capture him, but none were successful until yesterday morning. Last Saturday night Sheriff Waters succeeded in capturing the escaped convict in J.H. Greenwood’s tobacco barn, about one mile from Newport. The barn was watched all night, and about daylight the following morning Sheriff Waters and Mr. Williford, armed with shotguns, and W.A. Parton of Sevier county, armed with a pistol, went on him. Mr. Parton threw open the door and the other two sprang in and covered Leake with their guns before he could raise his pistol. The fellow faced the guns fearlessly and coolly fingered his pistol nearly a minute before he would put up his hands. The Sheriff had to speak to him the second time before he would raise his hands. Finally he said: “Well, you’ve got me; don’t shoot.” He was then brought out and taken to Newport, where he was placed in jail until this morning, when he was brought down to Knoxville.

His wife was at the City Hall waiting for her husband to be taken out of the calaboose. When asked if she would return to Cocke county, her eyes filled with tears and she answered that she did not know what to do. When the officers were ready she went with them to the door of the cell, and when her husband was brought out with handcuffs on his wrist, she took his arm and went with him to the jail.

Leake has a gunshot wound in his arm near the right elbow, and says he accidently shot himself. He told Lieutenant F.L. Hood of the police force that he used his pistol, butt down, in his hip pocket, and, in trying to draw it out he accidently fired it. He told Mr. Williford that he dropped his pistol on the floor and the shock exploded it and the bullet struck his arm. It is understood by the officers that he was shot several days ago as he made his escape from a house where he had been surrounded by men trying to capture him. The house was entirely surrounded, and Leak dashed out and escaped amid a shower of bullets, receiving only a slight wound.

He had been hunted like a wild beast since his escape from the Knox County Workhouse, and now that he is caught, everybody wants to put him where he cannot escape again. There are several charges against him in the Criminal Court, now in session, and the probability is that he will be tried on these charges and sent to Nashville.

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