Joseph Leslie gave his attentions to Mary Miranda Kaylor of New Lebanon, Ohio. Her mother, however, did not care for him and wanted to see her daughter date another young man in the neighborhood whom she did like. Joseph found out about this and it did not sit well with him. One afternoon, as he was in his upper room at the Horner’s Hotel, across the street from the residence of Miss Kaylor, he saw her return from a walk and then sit on her front porch and begin to sew. All it took was one bullet and Martha fell over and lived but just three or four minutes after receiving the shot. That was Friday, August 31, 1866.
Joseph denied the shooting but a six-shooter was found in his trunk with only one bullet discharged; burnt powder was found on the window. The neighbors had no doubt he was guilty and he was soon arrested and placed in jail.
On Friday, December 14, 1866, the Grand Jury handed down an indictment of murder in the first degree. The seating of a jury for his trial began in April 1867. It was a difficult jury to seat as most of the men interviewed had made up their mind that Joseph was guilty. The Daily Empire newspaper even wrote about the role the newspapers played in disseminating information to the public. “It seemed next thing to impossible yesterday, to get a jury on the case of Leslie… parties claiming to have made up their minds in relation to the case from what the papers had published regarding it.” They went on to say, “When newspapers publish full statements of such cases, it fixes the guilt or innocence of the accused in the public mind, and renders a subsequent trial a mere legal farce.”
During one questioning of a potential juror, he was asked if he had any “conscientious scruples regarding capital punishment,” but the man did not seem to understand the question. He was then asked, “Are you opposed to hanging?” and the man immediately replied, “No sir! The scoundrel ought to be hung up!” Evidently, he had read reports in the newspapers.
By the end of April, the trial had begun. Leslie’s defense team had witnesses testify that he was a quiet, law-abiding man that had served in the War. The Captain of his company testified that he was one of the best men under his watch.
On May 3rd, in just an hour and a half, the jury came back with a verdict of murder in the first degree for the shooting Miss Kaylor. Joseph Leslie did not move a muscle upon hearing the verdict nor did his face betray him. One of the deputy’s whom escorted him back to his jail cell said, “Joe, that’s hard!” in which Leslie replied, “Yes, that’s pretty heavy.” While it was thought that Joseph would swing from the gallows, he was sentenced to 10 years in the State Penitentiary.
In June 1881, Joseph had been living at the Soldier’s Home in Dayton and requested to be discharged on June 21st. In the early morning hours on June 27, he shoots himself in the stomach at a beer saloon on Jackson Street. It was reported in one newspaper that upon hearing that Mrs. Miller refused to marry him that he shot himself. Another reported that he couldn’t stand the warm weather. He refused to be taken to the Soldier’s Home and instead was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. He survived his wounds but soon succumbed by his own hands in December.
The headline in the New York Tribune read “A Murderer Commits Suicide” and the Dayton Journal headline read “The Final Act: In the Career of an Extraordinary Man.” The Tribune article was a three line snippet of news that called Joseph Leslie “a worthless character” who committed suicide. The Journal wrote a more comprehensive article giving the details of Joseph’s life including his military service.
Joseph Leslie was a member of Co. A, 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry under the command of Col. De Villiers in the Civil War. He served three years and was known as a fearless soldier and a very determined man. At a skirmish in Big Springs, Tennessee, the fingers of his right hand were mangled by a Minnie ball so that they hung to his hand by shreds of the skin and amputation was necessary. Unfortunately, there was no surgeon nearby so Joseph cut the dangling fingers off with his own pocket knife.
It was reported that Joseph’s behavior was often times erratic. He was a loner, not one to hang around with the other men in his company. At Shiloh and other battlefields, he dug holes in the ground and slept in them at night by himself. He was honorably discharged from the service and received a monthly pension of just $18.00.
Joseph Leslie died on December 29, 1881 of an opium overdose. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the City Lot at Woodland Cemetery on December 30, 1881.
You can visit the gravesite of Mr. Leslie and all of the other people on the History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder Tour at Woodland Cemetery by going to our Tour page and downloading our Woodland Mobile App.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio. It is the final resting place of the Wright Brothers, Erma Bombeck, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles F. Kettering, John H. Patterson, Gov. James M. Cox, George P. Huffman, George H. Mead, and Levi and Matilda Stanley, King and Queen of the Gypsy’s and more than 111,000 others who made it great in Dayton.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm and until 7 pm during Daylight Saving Time. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.