William Bales visited brother-in-law Burney Bayless on October 4, 1908. He didn’t say a word as he entered the house in Johnson City, Tennessee. Bales carried an ax. He found Bayless in the kitchen and put the axe in his head. Bayless was killed instantly.
Bales’ wife was at the house to visit her sister, and he then turned the axe on her. She ran, but he chased her into the yard. He hit her twice with the axe, once in the arm, and again on the head. He broke her arm and crushed her skull.
Bales didn’t flee, and remained so enraged the police had to physically restrain him. He was arrested and taken to jail, where he still tried to fight. There was no other option than to bind him with rope.
They bound him and left him alone in the cell. They hoped silence and isolation might calm whatever irrational rage he suffered from. They checked on him some time later, but rather than find answers, they found he’d hung himself.
Mrs. Bales died on October 5, and was buried the grave with her husband. Despite being twice his size, at 300 lbs., the couple had been devoted to one another since their marriage. No one ever found a reason or motive for William Bales’ rage. The authorities assumed it was insane jealousy.
Burney Bayless left a wife and six children. He was an officer of the Washington County Court.