The Maryland Ritual Murders
The First Harper Trial
The trial of the ‘gang of 12’ started in Harper on September 12, 1977. A few days later, two of the defendants, Joshua Brown and Teah Toby, were set free. Later they testified as State Witnesses.
During the trial Francis Nyepan told the court that he initially confessed to the killing of Moses Tweh at gun point and under cruel treatment from the Maryland County police, who, he said, arrested and mishandled him. ‘I was dragged, and given electric shocks on the tender parts of my body, and was made to cut grass with my fingers and later placed on ice when the agents put me on a drum of water with blocks of ice.’ Nyepan further alleged that he was arrested and charged with the killing of Moses Tweh as a result of a traditional juju ordeal that had been ordered by the then acting Superintendent of Maryland County, Nathan Barnes. (Sunday Express, October 16, 1977, p.3) Other defendants also complained of being maltreated, humiliated, tortured and said their earlier confessions were given and extorted under severe torture.
Police officers testified that James Anderson had obstructed police investigation of the disappearance of Moses Tweh. The Superintendent had ordered the release of two of the accused who had been apprehended by the police as suspects in the Tweh’s disappearance. The two, Wonplu Boye and Kotie Weah, had been released on July 3rd, the day of the night Moses Tweh was killed.
Newspaper reporting of the trial was abundant and each and every detail of the last days and even last hours of Moses Tweh were published. State witness Joshua Brown revealed in detail the gruesome ritualistic killing of the victim:
‘When I got in the yard (of Allen Yancy), I saw old pa Barclay and Kotie Weah who both came to the jeep and when Nyepan opened the jeep Wonplu Boye and Barclay held Moses Tweh by the hands and walked him to the lime tree in the backyard of Yancy. There Barclay and Weah spread a dark flexible material on the ground and sat Moses Tweh on it.
Brown’s and Toby's testimonies gave a full account of what had happened. According to their testimonies and those of others like the four Maryland County police officers, James Anderson had masterminded the kidnapping and murder, had given the money for the kidnapping, 500 dollars, to Nyepan en Seton who in turn gave the money to Tagbedi Wisseh who had arranged the abduction. Putu Dweh, Tugbedi Wisseh, Francis Nyepan, Philip Seton and Wonplu Boye kidnapped Moses Tweh. Allen Yancy had organized the ritual killing which was performed by ‘Chief Bojo’ Kotie Weah, with the assistance of Wonplu Boye and Thomas Barclay, whereas Nyepan had divided the parts taken from Wreh’s body. Nyepan’s girld friend Taryoneh had cooked for the victim and fed him during his captivity.
Anderson, Yancy et al. denied any involvement in the murder of Moses Tweh. The daughter of co-defendants Wreh Taryonnoh and Francis Nyepan, Laurine Nyepan, testified on behalf of her father and Beaufort Yancy testified for his father. Also Miss Marget Johnson testified for defendant Nyepan and said that the accused was at home on July 3rd, the night on which Moses Tweh was murdered, and that he never went out until the next day. Miss Esther Watkins, a witness for defendant Anderson, told the court and jury that she slept with James Anderson in the same bed on the night of July 3rd and that Anderson did not go anywhere that night (Sunday Express, October 23, 1977).
On October 26, 1977 the jury found all the defendants guilty. All the defendants were sentenced to death by hanging, but all but one (Wisseh) appealed to the Supreme Court.
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Source: The Liberian Age,
October 4, 1977 / back
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