After Andrew Thompson died of wounds inflicted by Ivan McKay in a gun fight on West Main Street in early October 1927, McKay admitted his guilt. He told the police that he, Thompson, and friend Si Davis had been drinking bootleg whiskey prior to his being set upon by Thompson, who beat him and knocked him down while the men were at the Sunnyside Garage. He also admitted to shooting Thompson after Thompson again assaulted him while he was walking along West Main Street.
On March 6, Pettis County Coroner W. G. Jones convened an Inquest, a legal hearing required in cases of violent or suspicious death. Much of the testimony given at the Coroner’s Inquest held on Oct. 6 contradicted what the guilty man had confessed.
Walter Hunt, the garage employee who had given McKay and Thompson permission to stay at the
Sunnyside Garage overnight, testified that he had left Thompson, McKay and Davis about midnight. He said none of the men had been drinking.
Wm Bergman and D. R. Johnson, waiters at the Terminal Hotel at 120 West Main Street, noted seeing Thompson and Davis after midnight, but agreed that neither of them was drinking. They did not see McKay. Their testimony was confirmed by Bon Berry, an express agent also at the hotel. The three men denied hearing Thompson make any threats against McKay.
Thompson’s brother Robert testified that he had been with Andrew earlier that evening, but that he heard of his brother’s death at 212 East St. Louis Street from George Larm, a taxi driver, who called him there. Robert Thompson said that Larm had not heard Thompson make any threats against McKay.
Larm, however, denied calling the house on St. Louis Street.
The denials of previously presented information continued, however, with the Davis’ testimony. He said that the men had taken a ride during the late evening hours. When questioned as to whether they had stopped on South Ohio Street, he first said he wasn’t sure, but then emphatically denied stopping there. He did admit to finding a bottle of whisky in the car and drinking some, but said he did not think the other men were drinking.
Davis testified that he and Andrew Thompson had driven back to the Terminal Café to eat. When Thompson was leaving the café, McKay shot him. Thompson stumbled along the street, shouting that he had been shot. Davis failed to mention that Thompson had attacked McKay.
Police Officer Press Moffit, the last witness to testify, noted that he had heard the shot and ran to Thompson’s car, then near West Main and South Osage. He and Davis put Thompson into the car and drove to the police station, then to the hospital.
After the testimony was completed, the jury quickly decided that Thompson died as a result of being shot by McKay. Prosecuting Attorney E. W. Couey was to decide whether the charges would be or second degree or first degree murder. On Oct. 11, Couey filed first degree charges against McKay and denied bail.
On November 9, a hearing was held. McKay and his attorney A. L. Shortridge appeared. The charges were reduced to second degree murder and bond was set at $10,000. The trial was set for the January term of the Circuit Court.
Next week’s column continues the story of confused and contradictory testimony.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.