Murdered By His Wife

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Over the last decade I’ve been waylaid by a fascinating and provocative story involving love, betrayal, and murder that occurred during the Revolutionary war. I’ve thoroughly researched, written, and published it as nonfiction but still felt compelled to write it as fiction in order to provide Bathsheba Spooner’s voice.

Murdered by His Wife, (University of Massachusetts Press) is an historical account of a love affair and murder that took place near Worcester, Massachusetts during the American Revolution. Bathsheba Spooner was a noted beauty, mother of three, and ardent Loyalist caught in an abusive marriage. In early 1777 she took in and nursed a young Continental soldier named Ezra Ross. They became lovers, she conceived a child, and they both—along with two British soldiers—were found guilty in the murder of her husband, Joshua Spooner. When she sought a stay of execution to deliver her baby, the Massachusetts Council rejected her petition, and she was promptly hanged, though five months pregnant, before a crowd of 5000 spectators.

“Navas has produced a little gem—rock hard and glistening. Her story itself has great intrinsic fascination (sex, violence, betrayal, even a kind of ‘redemption’). But her telling of the story is best of all: so simple, so direct, so utterly compelling. In short, one feels a very gifted writer at work here.”
—John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive

Table of Contents & Appendix

Table of Contents
1. Unnatural Murder 1
2. By the Lot of Providence 5
3. A Bad Conjugal Example 14
4. Irrevocably joined in Marriage 29
5. Seduced from Virtue and Prudence 36
6. Burgoin People 45
7. His Time Is Come 58
8. The Hands of Justice 67
9. Petitions to the Council 82
10. Dreadful Scene of Horror 95
11. Remains 105
A.The Dying Declaration of James Buchanan, Ezra Ross, and William Brooks 111
B. Notes on the Trial of Bathsheba Spooner, 1778 Associate Justice Jedediah Foster 119
C. Minutes of Trial and Law Cases, 1777-1782 Robert Treat Paine 129
D. Indictment of William Brooks, James Buchanan, and Ezra Ross Associate Justice Nathaniel Peaslee Sargeant 135
E. Minutes in the Case of the Murder of Mr. Spooner Levi Lincoln 145
F. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing 154
G. Account of the Murder, Trial, and Execution from the Massachusetts Spy 155
H. Petition of Jabez and Johana Ross 160
I. Documents From the Executive Records, Revolutionary Council Papers, 1777-1778 163
Notes 169
Bibliography 185
Acknowledgments 191

Table of Contents and Appendix

Chapter One