"The Story of Freeda Bolt"

Freeda Bolt main page | song & audio | newspaper clippings


Roanoke, Virginia, Thursday Morning, December 19, 1929--18 pages

Body of Floyd County Girl Is Found On Bent Mountain; Disappeared Last Thursday

Extensive Search Had Been Made for Freeda Bolt, 18, of Near Willis--Sheriff Locates
Body on Information Reported Given Him By Buren Harmon,
Held at Floyd in Connection With Case.

The body of Freeda Bolt, 18, of near Willis, Floyd County, who disappeared last Thursday night, was found at ten o'clock last night on Bent Mountain, eighteen miles south of Roanoke.

Discovery of the body was made by Sheriff Hilton, of Floyd, and two deputies who, acting on the reported statements of Buren Harmon, of Floyd county, who has been held since the girl's disappearance, that the body would be found beneath several logs, about thirty yards from the highway, where the highway makes a bend on the mountain.

Sheriff Hilton discovered the body about ten o'clock, and communicated with Roanoke county officers, who departed at eleven o'clock for the scene.

The body, fully clothed, was found in a secluded spot in the woods, and was in a fair state of preservation, Dr. G. A. L. Kolmer, Roanoke county coroner, said at 1:30 o'clock this morning, in a telephonic communication.

A heavy cord had been tied tightly around the victim's neck, but whether or not this had been used for the purpose of strangulation or to drag the body from the road to its hiding place, Dr. Kolmer and Deputy Sheriff J. L. Richardson were unable to say. Only a cursory examination was made this morning before the body was removed to the home of J. D. Willett, half a mile from the scene.

Arrangements were being made to remove the body to Salem, where an autopsy will be held today, Dr. Kolmer said. Whether or not Harmon will be turned over to Roanoke county authorities has not been determined, Deputy Sheriff Richardson said, since it has not been established just where the young girl met her death.

The girl, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Bolt, who reside about seven mile from Willis, had been boarding in Willis, while attending school. Telling friends she was going to be married, she left her boarding house last Thursday night and, according to her father's report to police here, she was later seen in company with Harmon, apparently headed toward Roanoke.

Harmon was seen in Floyd Friday morning, the father stated, but denied having seen the girl on the previous night. He admitted, it was said, that he had an appointment with her that night, but contended that the meeting never took place.

Since that time, Mr. Bolt had asked the aid of police in the principal cities of the State in helping to locate his daughter. It was at first thought that she probably had come to Roanoke, since Harmon had friends here. Search, however, was extended to Richmond and other cities.

Deputy Sheriff J. L. Richardson, accompanied by Dr. G. A. L. Kolmer, county coroner, and R. T. Hubard, commonwealth's attorney, of Salem, went to the scene, arriving there shortly after midnight.


The Roanoke Times

Roanoke, Virginia, Thursday Morning, April 17, 1930 - 20 pages



Sentence Passed and Slayer Immediately Started on Way for State Prison at Richmond - Physicians Found Harman Feeble-minded and to Be an "Extremely Dangerous Man."


By A. G. Smith
Roanoke Times Staff Correspondent

In a courtroom almost deserted, with scarcely a score of persons looking on, Buren Harman, who for nine days had been on trial for his life in Roanoke county circuit court, was sentenced at 5:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon to spend the remainder of his life in the penitentiary.

The dramatic and sudden end of this bitterly fought murder case came about through a compromise reached by opposing counsel after the regular court session had adjourned and the crowd of spectators had dispersed. The verdict carried out the recommendation of two recognized experts on mental disease, who spent the greater part of the day in making a thorough examination of the prisoner.

It was the opinion of the experts, as set forth in a written statement, that Harman is feeble minded within the meaning of Virginia law on the subject, and possesses the mind of a child eight years and eleven months old. They concluded also that he shows symptoms of dementia praecox in its early stages, and stated that he is "an extremely dangerous person."

In informing the jury of what the alientists had concluded, Judge Keister told them that a man of the mental capacity attributed to Harman is not criminally responsible for his acts. He asked that a verdict of life imprisonment be returned in accordance with the recommendation of the experts and the agreement of the counsel.

The verdict read:
"We the jury find the defendant, Buren Harman, guilty of murder in the first degree as charged in the within indictment, and fix his punishment at confinement for life in the penitentiary."

The prisoner heard the verdict with the same immobile countenance which has characterized his demeanor throughout the trial. He had previously learned his fate as one of his attorneys whispered in his ear the compromise which had been reached. A slight movement of the upper lip, followed a moment later by the faintest suggestion of a smile, were noted. That was all. After standing to hear sentence pronounced, the youth’s attitude as he left the court room was one of weariness, but there was no show of emotion.

Dr. J. S. DeJarnette, superintendent of the Western State Hospital at Staunton, and Dr. John H. Bell, superintendent of the State Epileptic Colony at Lynchburg, were the men whose conclusions brought the trial to its dramatic climax. Summoned as witnesses for the Commonwealth these two experts in mental diseases, arrived at the court house yesterday morning. After some delays caused by conferences of attorneys, they sought permission to examine the prisoner.

The motion of the commonwealth that they be allowed to examine the prisoner was granted by Judge T. L. Keister with the understanding that defense counsel would be present at the examination and that the doctors would be permitted to report their conclusions, regardless of the result of the inquiry. This in effect, gave the alienists virtually the status of a committee appointed to pass on the youth’s ability, and their report was later submitted to the court and to the attorneys on both sides of the fight. When they began their examination it was with the understanding that their findings would be presented to the jury from the witness chair, no matter which side their conclusions might help.

They were a long time in completing the examination. There were some delays when they began and after five hours in which only the prisoner, the two doctors, and three members of defense counsel were in Judge Kiesters’ office, word came that they were through at 4:50 p. m. Attorneys in the case were informed of the nature of their conclusions and the Commonwealth asked time for a conference. As it was near the hour for closing court for the day, Judge Keister instructed the bailiff to announce that court was adjourned until 10 a. m. today. This was done and the crowd, which had sat patiently through long

Richmond, April 16 - Buren Harman, 20-year-old-youth, was in Henrico county jail tonight, awaiting orders from the Roanoke county circuit court to begin his life imprisonment term in the Virginia penitentiary, following the conclusion of his trial late today on charges of slaying Freeda Bolt, his 18-year-old sweetheart, last December.

Harman, accompanied by Sheriff George R. Richardson, of Roanoke county, after a hurried automobile trip from Salem reported to the penitentiary shortly before midnight and was immediately transferred to the Henrico jail pending the arrival of formal court commitment orders.

Harman, described as "a dangerous man" by alienists at the end of his trial today, gave him no trouble on the trip which was uneventful, Sheriff Richardson said.

State prison authorities expected court orders tomorrow and the immediate beginning of Harman’s long term as an inmate of the prison.

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