John Stephens

On May 28, 1886, John Stephens borrowed a horse from his former employer, Charlie Whitefeather, and rode to the home of Anna Kerr, where he killed her and her son, Louis Winter. He then rode to the home of Dr. James T. Pyle, attacking and killing him and seriously wounding his wife. The incidents occurred near Bartlesville, Cherokee Nation.

Evidence at the scene pointed toward Stephens. When he was arrested, Stephens, who was Black, had Whitefeather’s horse.

Though no motive for the killings was established, speculation centered on the possibility that Kerr’s husband, from whom she was separated and on bad terms, had hired Stephens. Mr. Kerr was arrested but never charged. There was also evidence that Stephens had been involved in a previous dispute with Pyles.

John Stephens was convicted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, and sentenced to death on October 30, 1886. He was hanged on January 14, 1887.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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