On a stormy November evening in 1885, John Sharpless answered a knock on his door. Less than an hour later, he was found dead in his barn from a blow to the back of the head; his bloodstained hat lay next to him on the ground. A $3,000 reward for the killer sparked an overzealous bounty hunt across southeastern Pennsylvania, and numerous innocent men were arrested. Samuel Johnson--a local African American man with a criminal record--was charged. Despite the Widow Sharpless's insistence that Johnson was not the man who had come to their door, he was tried and sentenced to hang. Author Stephanie Hoover offers an in-depth investigation of the crime. From the events of that night and the mishandling of the investigation by a corrupt police force to the trial and conviction of Johnson and the efforts of the Quaker community to appeal the sentence, Hoover profiles a miscarriage of justice in Delaware County.
Stephanie Hoover is a professional writer and researcher specializing in Pennsylvania history, genealogy, and culture. She has written over 200 articles for local and national newspapers and magazines. She also owns and writes for Hauntingly Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Research.
The Killing of John Sharpless: The Pursuit of Justice in Delaware County