March 5, 2008

Herbert Wagner

The following is a report taken from the front page of The Watauga Democrat, dated Dec. 30, 1926. It is a description of the events surrounding the murder of Earl Moody and Deck Byrd by Herbert Wagner, husband of Minnie Lee Ella Coffey. Filmore Coffey was the son of Austin and Mary Blalock Coffey:

Earl Moody and Deck Byrd Slain by Herbert Wagner

Christmas Day Tragedy at Foscoe in Which Two Young Men Meet Tragic Deaths Shocks Whole County; Slayer Held in Greensboro Jail; County's First Double Homicide

For the first time in the history of the county of Watauga, a double murder occurred on Christmas Day, when Earl Moody, 22, and Deck Byrd, 40, met their death at the hands of Hubert [sic] Wagner at Foscoe, in the vininity of Shulls' Mills. The young men were all natives of that section.

According to the best available information, Herbert Wagner (familiarly known as "Hub") had just returned from West Virginia where he had been employed for some time, in order, that he could be with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Judson Wagner, during the holiday season. He arrived at the home on Friday night and on Saturday morning in company with some of the good citizens of the community enjoyed target practice neaby for a short time and the friendly Christmas spirit was manifest. According to witnesses, Wager had taken a few drinks of whiskey but apparently was not intoxicated. However, his friends noted that before they had finished their sport he drifted away, going on the railway to a point a short distance away where Mr. Filmore Coffey conducts a mercantile business. There he met Earl Moody. A few words were passed between the two, after which Wagner is alleged to have said, "I'll shoot you, d__ you." And he did, firing five shots all with deadly effect. Then the assailant walked to the side of the little store building, dropped the empty shells from the still smoking revolver, reloaded and proceeded a short distance up the railroad tracks, where he met Deck Byrd, who was starting for a rabbit hunt. Byrd inquired of Wagner what had happened at the store. Wagner is said to have told him he would kill him, too, and shot him down. After he fell two more bullets were sent crashing through his brain.

The killer then proceeded to the home of his father. Mr. Harrison Byrd, father of the last boy slain, demanded that he be held until it was possible to move him to the jail at Boone. A party of citizens of that section, led by Mr. Filmore Coffey, surrounded the Wagner home and finally succeeded in capturing Wagner, who was held in the depot at Foscoe. Deputy Sheriffs A. L. Gross and P. C. Wyke hurried to the scene and brought Wagner to Boone and lodged him in jail, where he was guarded during the night. Sunday afternoon he was taken to the Guilford county jail at Greensboro for safe keeping, where he will be held, awaiting the next term of Watauga superior court which convenes the last Monday in March.

The slain men were interred at Foscoe Sunday afternoon, many friends and relatives being present. They were known as good citizens, thoroughly honorable and their death brings sadness to many friends throughout the county. Moody is survived by a wife and one child, while Byrd leaves a wife and three children.

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