Bio: Riggs, Mr./Mrs. Ernest (Murdered - 1929)

Contact: Robert Lipprandt 

Surnames: Bradford, Crosby, Jones, Linbow, Nohs, Peterson, Riggs

----Source: The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) 08/27/1929

Clark County Woman Shot by Brother, Dies

Illinois Man Blames Sister and Family for Domestic Troubles; Man Wounded While Protecting Daughter.

Greenwood, Wis., - Aug 27 - In a violent rage, because, authorities believe, he thought his sister and her family we responsible for his domestic difficulties, Paul Peterson, 26, Waukegan, Ill., shot and killed his sister, Mrs. Ernest Riggs, 40, and critically wounded her husband, at their farm house eight miles west of her last night.

Escapes in Auto

Peterson escaped in his automobile and is believed to have headed south towards Illinois. Wisconsin and northern Illinois authorities were searching for him today.

Peterson and his wife Florence have been estranged for several months, authorities said, and about a month ago Mrs. Peterson filed suit for divorce at Waukegan. Reports from Waukegan today were that Mrs. Peterson, in fear of her life, had disappeared.

Pointed Gun at Niece

The shooting occurred about 9 o’clock last night. Peterson, who had been visiting with his sister, suddenly entered the kitchen flourishing a pistol. He pointed the weapon at Mrs. David Jones, 19, Mrs. Riggs’ daughter. Riggs quickly stepped in front of her and the bullet pierced his abdomen, officers were told. He then fired at Mrs. Riggs, shooting her through the heart. He attempted to shoot the pistol again but it jammed. His weapon useless, he rand from the house and escaped.

Others in the room at the time of the shooting besides Mr. and Mrs. Riggs and Mrs. Jones, were two younger children of the Riggs’ and Mrs. Jones’ husband.

In Marshfield Hospital

Riggs was taken to a hospital at Marshfield where it was said his wound likely will prove fatal.

Sheriff William Bradford was notified and a posse searched for Peterson in the neighborhood throughout the night. He may have reached Illinois, where at various times he had worked as a farm expert, the sheriff believes.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones, until recently live with Peterson and his wife at Waukegan, but left there after the couple became estrange. Mrs. Jones said today she believed that Peterson thought she was responsible for his domestic troubles.

Parents Offer Aid

Peterson’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hogan Peterson, live at Fairchild, about 10 miles southwest of Greenwood. They came here today to offer the Riggs family whatever assistance they could, and called at the hospital at Marshfield where Mr. Riggs was taken.

Mrs. Peterson expressed the opinion that her son would never be found alive and declared liquor was responsible for his act.

Plans were made this afternoon in an effort to save Riggs’ life.

Obituaries for Ernest L. and Grace Irene (Peterson) Riggs

----Source: The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) 10/19/1929

Sister Slayer Will be Tried Next Week

Neillsville, Wis., Oct. 19 - Paul Peterson, confessed slayer of his sister and brother-in-law, will go on trial for the double murder in Clark county circuit court here on Tuesday.

Peterson has been confined in the county jail here since he shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Riggs at their farm home near here. He has refused to discuss the slaying other than to say he was insane when he shot.

The accused man will go on trial as a sane person, three alienists having reported him sane. The alienists wee appointed by Judge E. W. Crosby of the 17th judicial circuit to examine Peterson. The appointments were made at the suggestion of District Attorney A. W. Nohs.

----Source: The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) 10/26/1929

Peterson Takes Stand in Own Defense at Neillsville

Neillsville, Wis., Oct. 26 - In a desperate effort to escape the shadows of life imprisonment which hangs over him for the slaying of his sister and brother-in-law, Paul Peterson today took the witness stand to tell his side of a story which has aroused the entire countryside.

Divorced Wife There

In the crowded courtroom where standing room was at a premium, was Peterson’s divorced wife. Her presence was unknown to anyone but the members of the families involved in the case and the prosecution.

The defendant tried to refute the testimony of the state’s chief witnessed, Ruby Jones the defendant’s niece, and her husband, David Jones, both of whom were eyewitnesses to the shooting of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Riggs at their farm home near here Aug. 26.

Places Blame for Trouble

Peterson testified that the Joneses lived at his Waukegan, Ill., home for a month and a half as man and wife before their marriage. He blamed them for the marital troubles which finally resulted in estrangement between him and his wife.

Peterson said he occupied a two room house in Waukegan and for some time Ruby and David Jones, Carl Linbow, Peterson and his wife and child and his brother lived in the two rooms.

Arouses Countryside

The witnesses charge that his niece had live with her husband before their marriage visibly around the country folk who packed the courtroom. The parents of David Jones said they would make a determined attempt to have Peterson’s divorce wife testify as to the falsity of the testimony.

Peterson was on the witness stand when court adjourned this noon for a recess.

----Source: The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) 10/29/1929

Find Peterson Guilty of 1st Degree Murder

Slayer of Sister, Brother-in-law, Whom He Blamed for Marital Difficulties, Faces Life Term.

Neillsville, Wis., Oct 29 - Paul Peterson, slayer of his sister and brother-in-law at their farm home near here4 Aug. 26, today was convicted of first degree murder by a jury which returned its verdict at 10 a.m. after deliberating since yesterday afternoon.

Life Term Likely

Judge Emery Crosby will pass sentence later. Unless the judge rules otherwise, Peterson automatically draws a life imprisonment sentence.

Peterson’s trail began October 21 and throughout the proceedings the defense tried to prove that the slaying was not premeditated. Premeditation fixed the penalty at first degree murder.

The defendant shot and killed Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Riggs at their home following an estrangement with his wife. Peterson blamed the Riggses and Mr. and Mrs. David Jones, his niece and her husband for his marital difficulties and testimony during the trail indicate that he was out to “get” them.

Weakened by Verdict

Peterson bowed his head as the jury foreman intoned the words which will send him to the state penitentiary for life. He, too, had expected a second degree verdict and he appeared weak when he heard the decision. Later, when he was accompanied to the jail cell by the sheriff, however he straightened up.

The jury was charged late yesterday afternoon. Last night it came out for further instruction. The jury desired to know the difference between the penalties of second degree murder and third degree manslaughter. Judge Crosby sent the jury members back without giving them this information, informing them that they were suppose to tender a verdict and not pass sentence. The jury was locked up for the night at 11 p.m.

----Source: The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, WI) 11/02/1929

Clark County Man Sentenced to Life

Neillsville, Wis., Nov. 2 - Paul Peterson, convicted last week of killing his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Riggs, today was sentenced to life imprisonment in Waupun prison by Circuit Judge E. W. Crosby. Peterson will be taken to Waupun tomorrow.

The only comment Peterson made was to Sheriff William Bradford, “It wasn’t right,” he said. Only the man’s immediate family was present when sentence was passed.

Peterson, according to witness at trial, first attempted to shoot his niece, Ruby Jones, 20, and her husband David, at the Riggs home on the night of Aug. 26. When Riggs interfered, Peterson shot down both Riggs and his wife. He accused his relatives of causing his separation from his wife, who recently divorce him.

He will spend each Aug. 26 of his sentence in solitary confinement, the court said.



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