The date was May 23, 1907. The place was Lowell, Arizona Territory, a small community just outside of Bisbee. Around 6:00am, a shotgun blast shattered the silence of a quiet street near the Palace Livery Stables. R. G. McBride stood looking at George Cason lying in a pool of his own blood before turning on his heel and returning home. At first glance, it appeared to be a random act of violence. Why would this well-respected citizen walk up to George Cason and shoot him in a public street like a mad dog?
Residents of the neighborhood rushed out to see what was happening and found the macabre scene. The police were called and presently the fatally-wounded man was hauled away to the Calumet and Arizona Hospital. Doctors took one look at the man whose face was blown half away and told the police the victim wouldn’t last the day. Nothing could be done to save him. He would later die around 4:30 that afternoon.
Meanwhile, McBride was taken to the jail by officers. The man was stoic about the whole affair and it wasn’t but a few minutes later that Mrs. Hattie Lee swept into the place, announcing she was pressing charges against McBride. She swore she’d been an eyewitness to the crime and that McBride had assaulted Cason with the intent to murder him. She was unaware of Cason’s grave condition. For good measure, she charged Mrs. McBride with threatening to kill her. Mrs. McBride was consequently brought to the jail and arraigned after being told her rights. She was immediately released by posting a $500 bond. Mrs. McBride was not to be trifled with and upon her release, she turned around and accused Hattie Lee of arson and threatening to kill her. Judge Greer had his hands full with defendants that day.
Hattie Lee was hastily arraigned and remained in a cell in Bisbee since she was unable to post the $1500 bond required for her freedom. It was soon discovered, Mrs. Hattie Lee was at the center of the whole mess which had started back in November of 1906.
Hattie Lee was married to J. D. Lee. Both had reputations of violence. Neighbors regularly heard fighting in and out of the Lee residence. When J.D. was drunk, he was jealous, mean, and vicious. He may have been the same without the alcohol. Hattie was no slouch in a fight and the neighbors were heartily sick of the couple’s constant domestic battles. At some point, J.D. Lee went to Globe, Arizona to work, leaving Hattie to her own devices in Lowell. Upon returning home, November 6, 1906, J. D. found Hattie “entertaining” J. L. Davis. Grabbing his Winchester, J.D. killed Mr. Davis then and there. This led to Lee’s arrest for murder. He made bail and wasn’t arraigned until May 2, 1907 at which time he pleaded not guilty.
Although not certain, it seems likely that J.D. went back to Globe or somewhere out of town to work after he was released on bail. Hattie was once again in the market for a man and took up with George Cason. According to Hattie’s neighbors, George Cason was a man of despicable reputation. He was a drinker and brawler—a man of bad character, quite similar to J. D. Lee. He’d been arraigned on the charge of assault with intent to murder at the Tombstone courthouse the same day J.D. Lee had been there. The noise and fighting continued with Cason keeping company with Hattie, which appalled and angered the neighborhood. A few days before Cason’s murder, there was a ruckus at the Lee house. Two unidentified men and Hattie ran from the house, which was suddenly in flames. Arson was immediately suspected by everyone as the hose company came to put out the blaze.
From the time of Davis’ murder, Hattie was on a mission to see her husband convicted of murder. She wanted to be rid of him once and for all. Once she hooked up with Cason, they began a plot to ensure that conviction. R. G. McBride, her neighbor was to be a witness for the prosecution and she cajoled and pleaded for him to change his testimony. What exactly she wanted McBride to say isn’t known, but it would have meant he’d perjure himself. When McBride proved uncooperative, Cason and Hattie employed intimidation tactics against Mr. and Mrs. McBride which included threatening their lives. In apparent desperation, Cason insulted Mrs. McBride to terrible heights of profanity in public, which sealed his fate.
McBride had had enough of Cason, and he was determined to put an end to the reign of terror that morning of May 23rd. On the 24th, the coroner’s jury found that Cason had indeed been killed by McBride and his shotgun. Bond was provided for McBride upon the recommendation of the coroner’s jury. Hattie was able to get her bond covered and was released that day as well. She went to the undertaker to view Cason’s body and it was reported that she wept upon seeing him. The undertakers made inquiries as to next of kin in an attempt to get Cason out of town. After much telegraphing, a brother was finally located, who told the undertakers to bury his brother in Bisbee. He wasn’t coming to get him. The funeral was held at the Palace Undertaking Company on May 29.
It wasn’t until December of 1907 that two unusual murder trials took place in Tombstone. On December 7, McBride was finally tried for Cason’s murder. After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. R.G. McBride was a free man. After months of uncertainty, his life could go on.
On December 9, J.D. Lee stood before the judge to be tried for the murder of Jack Davis from the previous November. It took some time to empanel a jury due to a number of men who objected to the death penalty and others had already formed opinions about guilt or innocence. Finally, the trial got underway and the prosecution concluded its case in good time. Defense counsel, George Neale then asked the judge to have the jury excused while he argued a motion. The jury was removed and Neale made his argument to the judge that the prosecution hadn’t made its case and his client should be found not guilty. The judge agreed and the jury was brought back in. They were instructed to the shock of all present to bring a verdict of not guilty which they did.
Apparently, some of the prosecution’s witnesses had lapses of memory about the whole event, which makes one wonder about witness tampering and intimidation. However, it led to the happy verdict for Lee who was now living in Deming, New Mexico with Hattie. The expectation was that the trial would take the entire day, but now Lee could catch the train and make it home that night.
Hattie was counting on her husband's absence the evening of December 9, and invited yet another paramour to visit her while J. D. was safely in Tombstone. When J.D. entered the house, surprising the occupants, he found former Lowell resident, Jonas Harris carrying on with his wife. He’d warned Harris before to stay away from her according to reports. Pulling out his Colt .45, he shot Harris through the neck, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly. You cannot make this stuff up.
No further information has been found about the Lees and what happened after this particular murder. One can only wonder how many other men met similar fates after succumbing to the questionable and deadly charms of Hattie Lee.
Resources: The Tombstone Epitaph and the Bisbee Daily Review.