Marshal Bent Burnett, Shot at Haleyville
Submitted by: Robin Sterling
While some articles mention his first name as Brent and Bent, his actual name is Bentley McFarland Burnett.
From the Cullman Tribune, September 11, 1908
City Marshall Shot at Haleyville. While taking a prisoner to the city calaboose Marshal Brent Burnett, of Haleyville was shot and instantly killed there Saturday night at about 8 o’clock by Jeff Blanton.
Mr. Burnett was on duty and had a man under arrest when Blanton ran up behind the officer and told Burnett twice to turn the prisoner loose, but the officer walked on with the prisoner. Blanton fired a pistol and the ball struck Burnett in the back of the head, ranging to the right cheek. The officer fell dead immediately.
Mayor Curtis immediately telephoned for Sheriff Williams, of Double Springs, and Blanton is under arrest. Mr. Burnett was an excellent officer and a good citizen.
Note: Jeff Blanton was a former Deputy Sheriff of Winston County.
The Mountain Eagle, September 9, 1908:
Jeff Blanton Kills Officer Brent Burnett. Dead Man Was the City Marshall of Haleyville. A special from Haleyville to the Birmingham Age-Herald, dated 6th tells of a tragedy which took place at Haleyville Saturday night as follows: City Marshall Brent Burnett was shot and instantly killed here last night at about 8 o’clock by Jeff Blanton. Mr. Burnett was on duty and had a man under arrest when Blanton ran up behind the officer and told Burnett twice to turn the prisoner loose, but the officer walked on with the prisoner by the arm. Blanton fired a pistol and the ball struck Burnett in the back of the head, ranging to the right cheek. The officer fell dead instantly. Mayor Curtis immediately telephoned for Sheriff Williams of Double Springs. Blanton is under arrest and will be well cared for until the sheriff arrives. Mr. Burnett was an excellent officer and a good citizen.
The Mountain Eagle, September 16, 1908:
Two Sides To Haleyville Killing. Blanton’s Preliminary Trial Comes Up Next Tuesday. Public Opinion Divided. The Tragedy, However it May Have Occurred is Deeply Deplored. Town Marshall B.M. Burnett was shot and killed Saturday night by Jeff Blanton. The killing occurred about 8 o’clock near the public well. As usual, it is difficult to obtain a statement of the facts and circumstances leading up to and surrounding the killing that would be generally accepted as correct. Therefore, we would not undertake to publish and vouch for any such statement. It seems that there had been some differences between the men several days prior to the killing, which, probably was considered to be settled and passed. It seems that there was some excessive drinking and disorderly conduct immediately preceding the killing. We have not understood, however, that Blanton was in any way connected with this misconduct. It is said that he was at home up to just a short time prior to the killing; that he had just come downtown and was in conversation with a man or men. We understand that Blanton says that while he was engaged in conversation, Marshal Burnett came up in a very excited condition, with a pistol in one hand and a club in the other, and assaulted him; that he tried to explain to the marshal that he had been guilty of no misconduct; that the marshal refused to accept any explanation, but referred to past personal grievances and continued the assault, dropping his pistol into his pocket and endeavoring to wield his club. Blanton says he grappled with the marshal in an endeavor to avoid the blows, that in the scramble the marshal resought his pistol, when he (Blanton) gave him a push, drew his own gun and fired. Burnett was killed instantly.
We have heard another statement, which might be said to represent the other side. According to this account, the marshal’s little boy came to him and told him that a certain squad of men were talking about him—the marshal. (Another statement is that the little boy complained that he, himself, had been mistreated by some person or persons in the squad). That he had his little boy point out the crowd, and that he was in the act of arresting another man, when Blanton fired and killed him. Blanton’s friends say that there are circumstances corroborating his statement that he killed in self defense. When the trouble occurred those who were standing nearest the scene ran off. If they have made any statement we have not heard of it. Blanton’s preliminary trial is set for next Tuesday morning before Judge Curtis at Double Springs—Winston County News.
The Mountain Eagle, September 30, 1908:
Jeff Blanton Admitted to Bail. Slayer of Haleyville Marshal Released on $7,500 Bond. Jeff Blanton, who shot and killed Town Marshal Burnett, had a preliminary trial before Probate Judge John S. Curtis at Double Springs last week, and was granted bail in the sum of $7,500. He readily made the required bond and was released from custody.
The Mountain Eagle, April 7, 1909
Jeff Blanton Comes Clear. Is Tried at Double Springs and Acquitted of the Charger of Murder. Jeff Blanton, of Haleyville, was tried at Double Springs last week on the charge of murder of Town Marshal Burnett, of Haleyville, and acquitted. The jury said the defendant was justifiable in shooting and killing Burnett, which took place at Haleyville sometime last year. Mr. Blanton has many relatives and friends in Walker county who will be pleased to learn of his exoneration.