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Pearl Bryan: chapter six continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

I've dealt more fully with the accusations against George Jackson below. For the moment, suffice to say that Scott Jackson had every incentive to lie about this particular testimony, that he offered no evidence to back up his claims, and that his version of events is impossible to square with the independent evidence. For all these reasons, no-one was inclined to believe him.
As Jackson and Walling were riding towards Alexandria, their mothers were both travelling there too, anxious to bring what comfort they could to Scott and Alonzo's final few days.
Sarah Walling knew that a plea for clemency from Pearl's family might yet convince Governor Bradley to save her boy's life. She begged Pearl's mother to let her come and visit the Bryans' farm, and Susan Bryan agreed to give her a hearing. Lottie Miller, the CE's ambitious young society editor, got wind of the visit and persuaded Sarah to let her tag along incognito. As far as Pearl's mother was concerned, Lottie would be no more than Sarah's supportive friend. Susan never suspected the truth, and Lottie got her scoop.
"Mrs Bryan greeted them hospitably when the pair called at her home, even inviting them to stay overnight when a storm arose," the CE crowed 50 years later. "The mothers comforted each other, and wept in each other's arms. Mrs Bryan acknowledged that the death of Walling would not bring back her daughter and expressed the belief that Jackson, not Walling, was the real offender in the crime. Reporters from other papers sniffed something new was stirring but, before they could track down any clues, [Lottie] had telegraphed her story to the Enquirer." (45)
Even after this touching meeting, the Bryans declined to interfere in the execution plans. Sarah had no more luck with Scott Jackson who - despite what she said was an old promise to save her son - told her he had no more to add to his earlier accounts. A few days later, Mabel Stanley called at Jackson's cell to ask him once again what had happened to her sister's head, but she got an equally stony reception.

Jackson now said Pearl had been killed by George Wagner, a Cincinnati doctor

Governor Bradley issued his final denial of Jackson's appeals on March 12, reconfirming that the March 20 execution date would go ahead. Told of this news, Jackson simply said, "Is that so?" and then relapsed into silence. Next day, Bradley granted Walling a brief delay, bumping his execution back to March 24, but then recanted a few hours later and restored the original date. Even by the standards of death row, that seems like a particularly cruel trick to pull, but Walling was unmoved. "Four days sooner or later would not have made much difference," he shrugged.
You'd guess from those remarks that both men were now utterly resigned to their fate. In fact, they made one final attempt to save themselves by issuing a joint "confession" just 48 hours before their double hanging was scheduled to begin. This time, they claimed Pearl had been killed by a Dr George Wagner, who then had a house in Cincinnati.
"It is alleged in the confession that Pearl Bryan was placed in care of Dr Wagner by Jackson, and that while she was in the doctor's house, she took a drug which Jackson had bought for her on a prescription written by the doctor," the next day's New York Times reported. "The drug killed the girl.
"Soon after her death, it is alleged her body was placed in a hack and taken into the country where, in the presence of Jackson and Walling, her head was cut off by Dr Wagner. It further is alleged that the doctor put the head in a satchel and carried it away. Jackson and Walling say they do not know what ultimately was done with the head." (46)
This failed to explain why the two men had never mentioned Wagner before, why the forensic evidence showed so conclusively that Pearl's head had been cut off while she was still alive, or why Jackson - not Wagner - had been seen carrying Pearl's satchel around Cincinnati with every appearance of it having a severed head inside. It was consistent with the story Trusty told in court, but he'd already been convicted as a perjurer anyway, so that didn't count for much.
Dr Wagner himself, now confined to a lunatic asylum in Eastern Kentucky, told police and reporters he did not know Scott Jackson, Alonzo Walling or Pearl Bryan. "I was not at home when the tragedy was committed or when the body was found," he said in the same day's NYT.
"I was at the home of my father-in-law, William Herndon, in Jessamine County. I went to Jessamine County in the latter part of January and returned to Bellevue, a very sick man, on Monday or Tuesday of the first week in February. I know absolutely nothing about this case. Pearl Bryan may have been at my house during my absence, but I never heard it mentioned."
Bellevue here presumably means the psychiatric hospital in New York. It may be that Jackson was aware of Wagner's breakdown, and tried to take advantage of his fragility by retrospectively blaming him for the crime. The other possibility is that Wagner really was involved somewhere on the periphery of Pearl's murder - although not her actual killer - and that Jackson had avoided mentioning his name so far only because he knew Wagner's role would implicate him too. But all this is pure speculation. All we know for sure is that Governor Bradley studied the new confession, declared it hopelessly inconsistent with the other evidence, and confirmed that tomorrow's joint execution would go ahead.