Crime History: Farmer's head split by ax in middle of night

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe

On this day, Dec. 2, in 1900, John Hossack, a successful Iowa farmer, was killed in his bed from two blows with an ax in a case later immortalized in American literature.

His wife, Margaret, who had suffered cruel abuse at the hands of her husband, was accused of the murder. She was convicted, but the verdict was overturned. A second trial ended with a hung jury.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Susan Glaspell, who covered the case as a young newspaper reporter, fictionalized it in her one-act play, "Trifles," and a 1917 short story, "A Jury of Her Peers."

In 2008, The Library of America selected Glaspell's original newspaper article, "The Hossack Murder," for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.

-Scott McCabe

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