Aaron Whitney was a resident of Lawrence County, Arkansas. On the night of August 26, 1842, his body was found “at the Stuart Place” on the Black River. Based on the coroner’s examination, his death was ruled suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An administrator bond was purchased on September 6 by several men, John S. Ficklin among them, who were charged to make an inventory of his assets within sixty days. Ficklin submitted his completed inventory on September 19, in which he judged the total value of Mr. Whitney’s assets was $1000 and identified five legal heirs. Among Whitney's assets were two Negro children: Ann and Henry Clay.
At some time during this process, Aaron’s widow, Sarah Whitney (also known by her maiden name, Crutchfield) became the object of suspicion. On September 1, James M. Whitefield (Aaron’s son by his first, late-wife, Rachel) appeared before G.W. Glasscock, acting justice of the peace in Randolph County, and swore under oath that he “verily” believed that his father had been murdered. On “the second Monday of October” (October 10), William Thompson, foreman of the grand jury, returned a formal indictment against Sarah for, in the words of the prosecutor, “willful murder,” saying that she was “moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil.”
Several witness testimonies are also on file. Some key items include the following:
- George Kerry said that around 10pm on August 25, he was awakened by several others and told that Mr. Whitney had shot himself. When he arrived at the place, he found Whitney lying in his bed with blood and brains on both sides of the pillow, but none on his hand or the muzzle of the gun.
- John Lindsay said that Mrs. Whitney claimed he was waving the gun around, scaring her, and she feared for the children.
- Mary McCarroll said that she had a conversation with Mrs. Whitney while she was in custody. Mrs. Whitney claimed that Mr. Whitney had poisoned his first wife, Rachel, that everyone, including the Doctor, agreed, and she was afraid of meeting the same fate.
The October 14, 1842 issue of the New York Tribune says that Sarah managed to escape from police custody and that the sheriff was offering $150 for her capture.
Records at Powhatan SP do not say what became of this matter.