A Whiskey Related Murder

Written by: Peter J. Gossett

Not so long ago, I was sitting and talking with my grandmother like so many times before. These conversations usually are of "old times" here in Winston County, and they usually turn up something I have never heard before. This particular conversation ended in talking of a long-ago murder. In 1958, my grandparents had a "hired-hand" who worked for them. The man’s name, who I shall call Vadis Shaw, was dying, and he knew it; he wanted to get something off his chest, and he told the story to my grandparents about what he did before my grandmother was even born. Vadis had a whiskey-still, like many other folks around here, and someone kept stealing whiskey from him. He vowed to find out who it was. Vadis carried a shot gun with him, along with some tobacco and papers, and climbed a tall tree. He sat and smoked for a long time (at least a day and night) until he saw someone stealing his whiskey. Vadis shot and killed a man who I shall say is Dave Leeny; he shot him in the head. Vadis told my grandparents that he placed Mr. Leeny’s body face down in a nearby stream and threw the gun in an old dug well. Being the researcher that I am, I started looking into the matter myself, and I turned up some interesting items. Vadis was never caught, and he apparently told this story to no one except my grandparents. Mr. Leeny’s death certificate states that he died of "shot gun wound to back of head". The Winston Herald told of the incident:

"[Dave Leeny] shot from Ambush."

"[Dave Leeny], a young married man, who lived about 4 miles southwest of Double Springs was waylaid, shot and killed by some unknown party or parties about 8 o’clock Monday morning... He was killed by a charge from a shot gun in the back of the head. The shooting occurred on a settlement road about half a mile from his father’s home, where he staid. He failed to return home or show up at the place of a neighbor, so a search party was instituted which resulted in finding his body where it had been drug and placed face downward in a nearby branch. From indications it is thought there were two or more connected with the crime, but Sheriff Aaron has not as yet found sufficient clues or evidence to justify arrest, but he expects to continue work on the case until the mystery is cleared up. His remains were laid to rest at Fairview Wednesday."