• 57°

Writer searching for Goat Castle details

Karen Cox examines court records Tuesday morning pertaining to a lawsuit filed by Octavia Dockery against the Adams County Sheriff regarding her arrest in the Goat Castle murder case. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter/The Natchez Democrat)

Karen Cox examines court records Tuesday morning pertaining to a lawsuit filed by Octavia Dockery against the Adams County Sheriff regarding her arrest in the Goat Castle murder case. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter/The Natchez Democrat)

By Mary Kathryn Carpenter

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — A college history professor has turned Natchez upside down in her pursuit of clues to an unsolved mystery.

Karen Cox, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has spent the last two years digging up facts relating to the Goat Castle Murder to be used in a book she is writing about the case.

Cox faces one major issue in working to reveal the details behind this case and giving a face to the people involved. The murder happened more than 80 years ago.

Cox has turned to archives to extract clues that might explain what happened on Aug. 4, 1932, the day Jennie Merrill was shot and killed.

“I’ve had to do all sorts of local digging,” Cox said. “I’ve been through court records, city directories, photographic evidence and census records. Each time I find more information. Jennie, for example, didn’t really leave letters or anything, so I’m trying to piece together her story based on census records, deeds and newspaper articles she was in.”

What happened that night was determined through Emily Burns’ confession.

Burns was convicted of murder, and served eight years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, but was later pardoned.

Burns’ confession did not state that she committed the murder of Merrill; she was an unwilling witness and accomplice.

“I think it was a robbery gone wrong,” Cox said. “Emily Burns was forced to keep watch while George Pearls shot Jennie after trying to get money from her. Then George threatened her to keep quiet.”

Cox is not entirely concerned with what happened the night of the murder, but with the people involved.

Cox’s goal in writing her book is to shed light on the people allegedly present on the night of the crime.

“I am trying to place this case, these people, Natchez, in the context of the time,” Cox said. “I want to move beyond the sensationalism that this story caused originally to telling who these people really were. The book is about their personal histories as people and about the real facts of the case.”

The story of the murder made national headlines and was a popular topic for years after the crime was committed, Cox said.

Cox has most of the sources and information she needs for her book, but she has one more item to find on her historical scavenger hunt.

“It is really important to me that I find a photograph of Emily Burns,” Cox said. “Even if it is of her as an older woman. I just want a sense of who she was as a person.”

Mimi Miller, the executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation, has been working closely with Cox as she gathers sources and clues for her book and is happy that Cox took on the task.

“I think the important thing is that it’s not an isolated story about four eccentrics and a murder,” Miller said. “It’s a story about a time and a town. I’m very pleased that (Cox) undertook the project to tell this story. I think the right person is tackling the subject.”

Cox plans to have all of the facts together in time for her book to be published in two years.

“I’m a historian,” Cox said. “I can’t deal in conjecture. I have to dig into the records and get the actual facts. I am writing based on factual evidence.”

If anyone has any information leading Emily Burns, please contact Karen Cox at 704-258-6830 or kcox@uncc.edu.

BREAKING NEWS

Sheriff’s office investigating shots fired in Adams County Wednesday night

BREAKING NEWS

Natchez police arrested teen in Wednesday night murder

News

More donate to Children’s Christmas Tree fund

News

Murder investigation of Natchez native now streaming on Discovery+

News

Harbor Freight Tools excited to be joining Natchez community

News

Supervisors approve contract for new engineering firm

COVID-19

State reports new COVID-19 cases, deaths

News

Adams County seeks study for new fire stations

News

Jackson State band to perform in Biden inauguration event

COVID-19

Bailey appointed interim tax collector until November special election

News

Supervisors reappoint Phillip West to Natchez school board

News

Harbor Freight showing job listings for new Natchez location

COVID-19

Coroner: Two more people died with COVID-19 Sunday at Merit Health Natchez

News

CPSO deputy finds his dog shot in his backyard

News

Missing teen found

News

Former Natchez Mayor Butch Brown off of ventilator in Jackson ICU

COVID-19

State reports 1,606 new COVID cases and 40 new COVID related deaths

News

Natchez native pens third installment of murder series

News

Photo Gallery: ACCS student celebrates birthday with drive-thru party

COVID-19

State reports 2,680 new COVID-19 cases, 70 new COVID related deaths

News

Wreck on St. Catherine Street takes out pole

News

Merit Health nurse of 23 years dies with COVID-19 complications

News

Girl Scout cookie time is here for Adams County

News

Brookhaven woman linked to over 15 ounces meth arrested in Adams County