February 10, 1904: The Murder of Jay Legg

Feb 10, 2020

On February 10, 1904, Sarah Ann Legg shot and killed her husband, Jay, in their home at Harden’s lumber camp in Clay County. Jay floated logs downstream on the Elk River to Charleston. On the day of the shooting, he returned home early and was fatally shot with his own rifle.

His wife, Sarah, the only suspect, originally claimed Jay had shot himself. At the trial, she changed her story, saying first she’d shot him by accident and then that it’d been in self-defense. Allegations of Sarah’s infidelity came up during the trial. Along with her evolving story, this helped convict her of murder. While in jail, she appealed her case, was retried, and was acquitted in 1910. The final decision left Jay’s mother, Susan, a bitter woman who believed justice had been denied.

The incident led to a popular West Virginia folk ballad, “The Murder of Jay Legg,” sung here by Dwight Dwiller.