A Fiendish Murder: The Sad Saga of Charles and Susan Watkins

Time Period
1877 to 1924
Media Type
John Long

On April 22, 2020, historian John Long gave a virtual Banner Lecture that examined the trial of Charles Watkins for the murder of his wife, which was marked by threats of lynching, a fugitive manhunt, a disappearing witness, mistaken identities, claims of insanity, and a secret letter.

A drama played out in the mountains of southwestern Virginia in 1891 that attracted nationwide attention and held the citizens of the Roanoke Valley spellbound. It was a story of violence, bigamy, race and a quest for justice. In its day, the story was as closely followed as a modern televised murder trial. Despite the rapt attention of the public then, it has entirely faded from the history books--until now. John Long resurrects the truth of who killed Susan Watkins.