OF MARTIN BEGNAUD IN JAIL.
TWO YOUNG FRENCHMEN NAMED ERNEST and ALEXIS BLANC.
Our entire population too well remembers the atrocious crime that was perpetrated during the night of April the 22nd 1896 at Scott, and which deprived us of one of the best citizens of that locality, a man admired and respected by all who knew him, this excellent man was Martin Begnaud.
Monster assassins, with barbarous characters, and with hearts as blackened in iniquity with a craving for gold, having robbed from his family a loving brother, a loving son, so much loved by these.
With no pity, and without mercy, the incarnate devils plunged the death instrument 52 times in the body of their poor, helpless victim, and not satisfied with having him at the first blow, were frenzied and maddened at the sight of the flowing blood and they turned into enraged brutes, his blood they must have, and to the last drop.
God be praised however, the murderers are now in the meshes of the law, and swift, summary justice will soon be meted out to the monsters, and the wretches have now but to prepare for death.
This crime has been the source of many conjectures, two men thus far innocent, have lain in Parish dungeons for nine long months, clothing saturated with blood, and an instrument said to answer to the description of that used, it has been asserted to have been found among the effects of one of the accused, and with ever so many more et ceteras thereto. Even, the grand jury had found a true bill against these two parties. With the lapse of time, everything connected with the crime became shrouded in mystery ; every one seemed to be at sea when all of a sudden the inscrutable hand of an all just and all wise Providence, guided back to the scene of the crime, the two assassins who had been traveling far and wide over the world.
Friday night last, the 1st of January, two Frenchmen, brothers, by name of Ernest and Alexis Blanc, arrived at the small station of Scott, and betook themselves to the plantation of Col. A. D. Boudreaux where they had worked last year. These young men having worked together on this plantation, their sudden departure shortly after the assassination raised many doubts against them.
After much vain research to find their whereabouts, the task of locating them was given up.
Upon leaving the Parish they furnished as pretext that they had received $50 from their tutor in France, as as theirs was a hard lot at best here, thought to ameliorate their condition by going to New Orleans where they were promised employment by a friend living on Toulouse Street. However, upon inquiry, it was ascertained they never been to the place indicated.
As above stated, their sudden set off was looked upon as mysterious, and many were the conjectures raised against them.
They not even took the trouble or precaution to sell their share of the crop.
Two or three days prior to their departure these young men called at the office of Dr. Salles to have a day fixed for dental work, remarking that the price was no object to them, and that they wished to have first class work and material. The dentist was somewhat surprised at the mark of liberality on the part of men he knew to be in humble circumstances.
Immediately upon arrest, they were separated, one being placed in the Corporation jail, the other in the Parish jail.
This took place Sunday night. The day following, ex-sheriff Campbell, now an Atty-at-law called Sheriff Broussard, and Simeon Begnaud, called at the Corporation jail for an interview with Alexis Blanc (youngest of the two.)
Campbell propounded the question; "What have you been doing (unreadable words) ...dreaux?"
"First we traveled to New Orleans, then to St. Louis, where we secured some employment in a hotel, from then to Mexico and the West, and we have tramped back here."
"How much money did you have on leaving here.?"
"We had $50, sent us by two friends, Mesdames Norris and Fevre."
Thereupon he fell to thinking, saying of a sudden, - "have you seen my brother?" Having been answered in the negative, not one word thereafter could be gotten out of him.
"Very well" says Campbell, "we know enough to condemn you, we are willing to grant you more time for reflection, it is now 10:30 o'clock and we will return here by 12 o'clock."
"Very well," says he, "come back."
At this Sheriff Broussard, Campbell and Begnaud betook themselves to the cell of the older brother, who was taken out of jail and brought to the Court House.
The same questions were put to him. Give us an account of yourself since your departure. The same answers were made, with the difference they had been in France.
"As for the $50 we received these of a friend in two 20 and one green bank note of $10."
Campbell told him that he was lying, and promised him protection in case of a confession on his part. "Tell us where is the money?"
"We have spent it all" blurted out the man.
"Since you admit having spent all the money, relate to us how you killed Begnaud?"
"Being only day laborers on a plantation we had many hours of leisure, and employed this spare time reading.
"Through the courtesy of Mr. Charles Breaux, a neighbor, we secured the loan of a book treating the daring deeds of Jesse James. From reading this book originated the idea and our plans for the murder. Seeing how poor we were, and how difficult to otherwise better our situation, we made up our minds to emulate the examples inculcated by the book.
"With this determination we set about about the following as near as possible the precepts therein laid down, and which are to the effect that, as common day laborers, it were hardly possible to arrive at much in this world, less we resorted to the commission of crimes.
"For two nights we laid in wait round the store of Martin Begnaud with the idea to take his money, but met with obstacles to both occasions.
"The third night having repaired to the spot again, we found the store closed, with Martin Begnaud in the saloon of his brother only a few steps from his store we could with ease see all that was transpiring in the above saloon while we lay concealed in some tall weeds that grew in the vicinity of the store.
"From our place of concealment we could see all such as were leaving the saloon, but Martin Begnaud was the one we waited to see leave. At last this latter was left alone in the saloon with his brother, and was soon on his way to his store. Our intention had been to overtake and walk in with him, but he was in the store ere we could reach the door, which he had bolted; we feared to have missed our chance again, when one of us said, suppose we could ask him for a package of tobacco.
Upon knocking at the door, Begnaud asked who was there, the answer was, Ernest and Alexis Blanc. Begnuad opened the door. As you had just come in we thought likely you might open the door to give us a package of tobacco.
Certainly answered Begnaud laughing and opening the wide the door. Come in. The tobacco was near enough to Begnaud he could reach same without turning his back to us. Our intention had been to seize a hold of him at this juncture, but he having failed to turn his back we thought (unreadable words) again escape us.
It is getting on late says Begnaud jestingly, and it is about time I put you fellows out the store as I am sleepy. He accompanied us to the door, but my brother cast a look of reproach unbraiding our cowardice and I made up my mind to act. Says I, I thought I had forgotten something, we have not had any supper and am hungry, can you let us have a box of sardines? Why of course said Begnaud, come in and you may have all the sardines you please. Again thought our courage would fail us. I noticed my brother make several futile attempts to attack. While Begnaud was wrapping up the box of sardines, my heart beat wildly, as we walked up and down the store, watching one another. We were nervous and weakened, still we were ready to pounce onto our victim.
At this juncture, my brother picked up a mouse trap and asked Begnaud to explain the mechanism of it, which he did readily, after stepping out from behind the counter. Glancing at my brother, I saw in his eye that he had decided to attack, and we both drew our pistols simultaneously and covered Begnaud, saying, make no outcry or you are a dead man. What do you wish asked Begnaud, in a quiet tone of voice. Your money open your safe at once. Begnaud seemed to think were joking, but soon made up his mind to the contrary and opened the safe.
While my brother covered him with his pistil, I rifled the safe. I asked for the keys of the drawers but Begnaud answered there was no money. You lie says I, give up the keys at once. Without further parlaying we secured a rope with which we tied his hands behind his back. We then ordered him to walk to his bed, and then tied his legs as well. A handkerchief having been placed over his mouth and eyes, again I asked him where are your keys? In a small box to the right, said he through a gag. I found the key and the amount of money obtained was $3,100 and some odd dollars.
I killed Begnaud, my hand trembled. The triangular instrument burned my hand. I shut my eyes, held firmly the instrument, and plunged it into the heart, it went deep and met with no resistance. A deep sigh or groan was heard, and the poor man keeled over, dead. Again and again, I plunged the instrument, but he never once moved. We found sacks in the store which we used in carrying away the money.
The instrument used a a three cornered file, found on the premises at Col. Boudreaux, which we sharpened to a keen edge.
After the crime, the file as well as the box containing the money we secreted under a building in the yard of Col. Boudreaux. This box we buried awaiting developments.
For three weeks we laid our plans for this crime.
Ballain and Benton having been accused and arrested for this crime, we deemed ourselves safe from all suspicion, and decided to leave the country.
Campbell and Begnaud having apprised Alexis of the confession made by his brother, he also made a full confession, saying he did not care to live longer and that trouble and sorrow had been his only portion since he had taken Begnaud's money.
Ernest and Alexis have been transported to New Orleans, for safe keeping, and will be tried here this February.
The file has been found in the place indicated by the murders. The box also has been recovered and found buried, but suspended in a way that the paper money should not suffer from the dampness. The money they carried in belts around their bodies.
Ernest is 20 years, and Alexis 19 years of age.
Lafayette Advertiser 1/9/1897.
Lake Charles. - Jan. 6 - Parish prison inmates are not usually a happy lot but there is one man in the Lake Charles jail to-night, who is congratulating himself and clapping his long slender hands in pure delight. He is Gustave Ludovic Balin, arrested on April 24, 1896, charged with the atrocious murder in the little town of Scott, near Lafayette, on April 22 of the same year. He has been incarcerated ever since, under this charge, the officers having spirited away from Lafayette and brought here to avoid a lynching. Balin saw a copy of the Times-Democrat early this morning and read of the capture of the two French peasant boys, Ernest and Alexis Blanc, and of their having confessed to the fiendish work of murdering the bachelor storekeeper, Martin Begnaud. He read a little further and saw the account of his own arrest. Then it dawned on him that he would be free. He threw the paper in the air and he shouted for joy. A smile came over the pale lips that had been almost bloodless for nearly one year. At that moment there was a rush at the door and the sound of many feet. Balin was frightened. He thought it was a mob come to lynch him. But they proved to be friends. There were twenty of them, and they filed into the corridor shaking hands and congratulating him on his good fortune. When the Times-Democrat correspondent arrived he said:
Yes I'm glad. I always asserted my innocence, and could not see how they arrested me on such a charge. I was in Carencro the night the crime was committed. Scott and Carencro are miles apart. I was employ by Mr. Guilbeau, in Carencro, and did some oil painting for him. I was arrested on the 24th, two days after the deed, and placed the in the parish jail, where I was subjected to all the indignities possible. When arrested they searched me and found no weapon, and in order to prove that I did have not have any dangerous weapon whatever, I took my captors to my shop and showed my putty knife, which is a flat instrument and cound not harm a babe. I have been in jail for nine months now and can hardly realize my good fortune."
Gustave Ballain is a French artist and is 30 years old.
Benton arrived in Lafayette Thursday and Balin Friday afternoon to be released on bond.
Lafayette Advertiser 1/9/1897.
Blanc Brothers' Photographs.
Moss Bros. & Co., with their usual intrepidity for securing the public attention, have obtained for display, two splendid photographs of Ernest and Alexis Blanc, the self convicted murderers of Martin Begnaud. The photographs are on exhibition in a show window and one or more persons may constantly be seen standing at this window, studying the physiognomies of the two young fiends. Lafayette Advertiser 1/16/1897.
Pair Wrongly Indicted,
In the Murder of Martin Begnaud.
A mistake that needs ventilating, and wherein lies the safety or security of every man's rights, is the palpable error made by the Grand Jurors who returned a true bill against Gustave Ballain and Hamp Benton for the murder of Martin Begnaud.Personally unacquainted with these two individuals, we propose, to set forth the principle involved in their case and the dangerous precedent established thereby.
That grand jury is being roundly scored on all sides, for that which now appeals to the judgement of all, as having been high-handed, unwarrantable action on its part.
In the light of the late disclosures, these two citizens, their families, and their friends, in fine, the entire community it strikes us, have the right to demand of these inquisitor's the causes which led them to formulate a bill for murder.
Else, wherein lives the safety or freedom of any man, if one can thus be jerked up, on more suspicion thrown into a dungeon, and there months after months, to be left to endure untold moral suffering, let alone the physical punishment incident thereto such incarceration.
We submit, that the 15 men composing the said Grand Jury, owe it to themselves first, as much to the world how could they, in the face of the late developments, the self-confession of Ernest and Alexis Blanc, have fallen into the cruel blunder of finding true bills against two innocent men?
Thus far, the cause leading them into this error is concealed, the effect, notoriously inhuman.
Speak gentlemen, for "Tis better far, to be right, than to have-might"!Lafayette Advertiser 1/23/1897.
Martin Begnaud passed through here Wednesday, returning from St. Martinville where he had gone on business. Laf. Gaz. 2/15/1896.
THERE WILL BE NO LYNCHING.
All honor to the much excited and over-much exercised citizens of Lafayette parish.
The Blanc brothers - the cruel murderers of Martin Begnaud will not be lynched; ours is a law abiding people.
Upon all sides is heard the cry of "Let the law take its course." That's right! - Vengeance is mine saith the Lord, and our people fully realize the meaning of these momentous words.
These unfortunate benighted youths, actors of most heinous crime, will be granted a fair and impartial trial by law, and Dame Pic and others will learn to know that our population is not addicted to mob laws etc., but devoted to law and order. Lafayette Advertiser 2/20/1897:
Who doubts but that Ernest and Alexis will hang for their monstrous crime? No one; but all hands ask that justice be meted on to the young assassins in due form of law and with as little delay as is compatible with the common decencies of the law. Lafayette Advertiser 2/20/1897.
There was a great throng of people in town last Wednesday, attracted by the trial of the Blanc Bros.,for the murder the murder of Martin Begnaud, and much disappointment was manifested when it became known that the trial was postponed to next Thursday. The crowd of curiosity seekers remained in town throughout the entire day, distracting and enjoying themselves in various ways, nearly every one paying a visit to the popular, big store of Moss Bros. & Co. to buy some little thing or other they needed to bring home on their return. It was this circumstance that led some one to remark that the place of greatest interest after the court house.
Lafayette Advertiser 2/20/1897.
Fully two thousand people were in town Wednesday to attend the Blanc bros. trial, not having heard of the unexpected postponement. A good spirit was shown by all and a universal desire was held that the law be allowed to take its course.
On Tuesday the attorneys appointed by the Court to defend the Blanc brothers came into court and on motion, stating reasons, asked to be released from the case. Judge Debaillon took this motion under advisement, and at a special session in the afternoon, appointed Hon. C. H. Mouton of St. Martinville and Col. Gus. A. Breaux practicing at this bar to defend the prisoners, both gentlemen accepted the charge, and to allow sufficient time for the preparation of the defense the court set the case for next Thursday, Feb. 25th.
Lafayette Advertiser 2/20/1897:
In Memory of Martin Begnaud.
In the midst of life we are in death.
During the night of Wednesday the 22nd. inst. the soul of Martin Begnaud was wrenched from its "mortal coil" and sent before the judgement seat of God, and without one moment's notice, by the assassin's hand.
What sadness, this day, fills the heart of every man, woman and child who knew Martin Begnaud cut off in the prime of manhood, in perfect health, a most superb specimen of physical strength. So young, so noble, so brave, in fact he was every thing we are apt to admire and love in a man.
There is one poor, fond one he left behind whose anguish of soul passeth the understanding of man. The soul of that sad, venerable mother 7(?) (second digit unreadable) years of age of age, to-day, is scathed and scorched by the bloody work of the ruthless assassin's hands over the body of her darling son. In the depths and in the unbroken solitude of her shattered heart, this dear old mother now longs to join her beloved Martin beyond the tomb.
If the curtain were lifted, and one could look into the past lives of many of us would be revealed; the trials the sufferings, the temptations, the strife and the heroic sacrifices of this life, for many of us may never be known until the day when the leaves of the judgement book are unfolded.
For a period of 12 years, as the friend of the poor, by dint of tireless energy and economy this man of rectitude had amassed a handsome competence of this world's goods, and now red-handed friends have come and gone with his life blood and all. Several loving sisters and devoted brothers, their hearts bowed down in woe, survive top mourn over his cruel fate.
The funeral march started from the home of his childhood, a long imposing train of carriages, filled with sorrowing friends and acquaintances, followed the remains to their last home. A model of knightly courtesy, his sincerity, his integrity of purpose, and his superiority to all unfair consideration of this life, were the grand and ennobling attributes of Martin Begnaud.
We feel now on this occasion, how painfully inadequate is language in conveying our profound sorrow. The sympathies of the entire community go out to the family in their sad bereavement!
To the beloved brother of the deceased the writers own, ever kind and generous friend Simeon, our hand goes out to him in wails of compassion, and we bid him bear up bravely and forget not the cheering words of his Redeemer when He says,
So I Am with you always, even unto the End.
Lafayette Advertiser 5/2/1896.
From the N. O. Picayune;
Murder of Martin Begnaud.
Sheriff Broussard arrested a man named Ellias Ballin, who at one time lived with Mr. Begnaud, and who is regarded as a desperate character. The arrest was made in Carenro, and the prisoner is now lodged in jail at Lafayette. Ballin is a Spaniard, and passed some time as a quack doctor, but his principal occupation appears to be that of a painter.
Mr. Begnaud's funeral was held at St. John's Church, and the ceremonies were conducted by Father Forge. The church was packed to its utmost capacity by a sympathizing community. Father Forge took opportunity to address the people on the subject of the crime and administer the consolation of religion, as well as to impress wise counsel as to the duty of good citizens. The reverend father said:
"This large assemblage has congregated here, actuated by two sentiments; affection and regret for the victim of the most atrocious crime in the annals of this parish; second, a sentiment of protestation against so heinous a deed. Here lies before us the inanimate body of him you loved so well, stricken down in the prime of manhood by the foul blows of midnight assassins."
At these words the entire audience were melted to tears.
"Religion," said the reverend father, "is the basis of society and all good government. Take away this basis and human affairs descend into a state of revolution and anarchy. The evil deeds of men often go unpunished in this world and we cannot believe that crimes such as this shall fail to receive terrible retribution at the hands of a just God. This inherrant belief in future retribution of crimes and the uncertainty of human justice is one of the strongest grounds of the Christian religion. If this is not true there is no God. It is a foul blot on the fair reputation of the parish and every law abiding citizen could not help but feel a deep sense of shame that any citizen should be implicated. Should the villains be captured justice should be meted out by constituted authority and not by unlawful proceedings. If otherwise the people should rely upon the certain vengeance sure to be administered in the next world."
The earnest and eloquent words of Father Forge, combined with the impressiveness of the attending circumstances, made the obsequies an occasion of sublime solemnity. The good father himself was so overcome at times by emotion as to fail of utterance. The sound advice given will doubtless have a beneficial effect in allaying to some extent the intense excitement aroused by the crime and prevent any acts of violence should the officers uncover the crime and apprehend the fiends.
From the N. O. Picayune and in the Lafayette Advertiser 5/2/1896.