My Posts

How a Ghost’s Testimony Was Used to Solve a Murder

By The Hyperhive


29 April 2024

Ghost testimony murder

©️ Freepik

Do you think a ghost can solve a murder case? Well, you will change your mind after hearing this story. The trial of Erasmus ‘Edward’ Stribbling Trout Shue for the murder of his wife, Zona, in 1897 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, remains unparalleled. This is the incredible story of how a mother’s encounter with her daughter’s ghost led to justice being served.

This article explores the fascinating and unusual case of Zona Shue’s murder, highlighting the role her ghost’s testimony played in convicting her husband. It delves into the events leading up to the trial, the testimony provided by Zona’s mother, and the eventual verdict.

The Discovery of Zona Shue’s Body

On the morning of January 23, 1897, an errand boy made a grim discovery when he found the lifeless body of Zona Shue. She was lying at the foot of the stairs in her home. Before the coroner arrived, Zona’s husband, Edward Shue, had moved her body to their bed. He had also dressed her in a high-necked gown, displaying overwhelming grief. As the coroner tried to examine the dead woman, her husband threw himself on her. This made the doctor stop his examination out of respect for the grieving husband.

Ghost testimony murder
©️ Zona Heaster Shue / Wikipedia

Furthermore, during the wake and subsequent burial, Edward’s behavior raised suspicions. He covered Zona’s neck with a scarf and prevented mourners from closely inspecting her body. Despite this, the death was ruled as natural causes.

A Mother’s Intuition

Zona’s mother, Mary Jane Heaster, was deeply suspicious of Edward but had no evidence to support her intuition. She prayed for the truth to come to light, and it did in the most unexpected way.

Ghost testimony murder
©️ Mary Jane Heaster / The Paranormal Guide

Four weeks after Zona’s death, Mary Jane claimed that her daughter’s ghost appeared before her, revealing the true nature of her demise. Zona’s ghost recounted a history of abuse at the hands of Edward. The ghost explained that she had been strangled during an argument over dinner, her neck broken at the first joint.

Mary Jane Heaster was convinced her daughter’s ghost had visited her, delivering chilling details about the violent end to her life. For four consecutive nights, Zona’s ghost appeared at the foot of Mary Jane’s bed, transforming from a glowing light to a human figure. Zona recounted a history of abuse at the hands of her husband, Erasmus ‘Edward’ Stribbling Trout Shue, and detailed the events leading to her death.

According to Zona’s ghostly testimony, an argument over dinner escalated into a violent confrontation during which Edward strangled her, breaking her neck “at the first joint.” Zona’s spirit even demonstrated the extent of her injuries by turning her head 180 degrees backward.

Mary Jane Heaster was unwavering in her belief that her daughter’s ghost was real and that Zona’s account of her death was accurate. Convinced of the truth revealed by the ghostly visitations, Mary Jane persuaded local prosecutor John Preston to reopen the case.

Ghost testimony murder
©️ Freepik

Reopening the Case

Moved by Mary Jane’s account, prosecutor John Preston reopened the case. Zona’s body was exhumed, and a proper postmortem examination revealed evidence consistent with the ghostly testimony.

Preston’s investigation uncovered Edward’s history of violence, including previous convictions for assault and theft in another state. Suspicious behavior and comments made by Edward further fueled suspicions within the Greenbrier community. It was found that he had been married twice before, and the death of one of his previous wives also died under suspicious conditions. Moreover, he was babbling around the town saying things like no one would ever prove I killed Zona.”


Coupled with the coroner’s admission of a botched examination, Preston had sufficient grounds to exhume Zona’s body for further investigation. The autopsy, conducted on February 22, 1897, revealed evidence consistent with Zona’s ghostly account: manual strangulation resulting in anoxia and a broken neck. Bruising on Zona’s neck, contusions to her esophagus, and fractures to her first and second cervical vertebrae provided damning evidence against Edward.

Summoned to testify, Edward Shue denied any involvement in Zona’s death but failed to provide a credible alibi, casting doubt on his testimony.

Mary Jane’s Testimony in Detail

Even though Preston was reluctant to call Mary Jane as a witness, the defense lawyer called her. They thought that her testimony would be in their favor. This is all that went down:

Defense Counsel Question – “I have heard that you had some dream or vision which led to this post mortem examination?

Witness Heaster Answer – It was no dream. She came back and told me that he was mad that she didn’t have no meat cooked for supper. But she said she had plenty, and said that she had butter and apple-butter, apples and named over two or three kinds of jellies, pears and cherries and raspberry jelly, and she says I had plenty; and she says don’t you think that he was mad and just took down all my nice things and packed them away and just ruined them.

And she told me where I could look down back of Aunt Martha Jones’, in the meadow, in a rocky place; that I could look in a cellar behind some loose plank and see. It was a square log house, and it was hewed up to the square, and she said for me to look right at the right-hand side of the door as you go in and at the right-hand corner as you go in. Well, I saw the place just exactly as she told me, and I saw blood right there where she told me; and she told me something about that meat every night she came, just as she did the first night. She cames [sic] four times, and four nights; but the second night she told me that her neck was squeezed off at the first joint and it was just as she told me.

Q – Now, Mrs. Heaster, this sad affair was very particularly impressed upon your mind, and there was not a moment during your waking hours that you did not dwell upon it?

A – No, sir; and there is not yet, either.

Q – And was this not a dream founded upon your distressed condition of mind?

A – No, sir. It was no dream, for I was as wide awake as I ever was.

Q – Then if not a dream or dreams, what do you call it?

A – I prayed to the Lord that she might come back and tell me what had happened; and I prayed that she might come herself and tell on him.

Q – Do you think that you actually saw her in flesh and blood?

©️ Freepik

A – Yes, sir, I do. I told them the very dress that she was killed in, and when she went to leave me she turned her head completely around and looked at me like she wanted me to know all about it. And the very next time she came back to me she told me all about it. The first time she came, she seemed that she did not want to tell me as much about it as she did afterwards. The last night she was there she told me that she did everything she could do, and I am satisfied that she did do all that, too.

Q – Now, Mrs. Heaster, don’t you know that these visions, as you term them or describe them, were nothing more or less than four dreams founded upon your distress?

A – No, I don’t know it. The Lord sent her to me to tell it. I was the only friend that she knew she could tell and put any confidence it; I was the nearest one to her. He gave me a ring that he pretended she wanted me to have; but I don’t know what dead woman he might have taken it off of. I wanted her own ring and he would not let me have it.

Q – Mrs. Heaster, are you positively sure that these are not four dreams?

A – Yes, sir. It was not a dream. I don’t dream when I am wide awake, to be sure; and I know I saw her right there with me.

Q – Are you not considerably superstitious?

A – No, sir, I’m not. I was never that way before, and am not now.

Q – Do you believe the scriptures?

A – Yes, sir. I have no reason not to believe it.

Q – And do you believe the scriptures contain the words of God and his Son?

A – Yes, sir, I do. Don’t you believe it?

Q – Now, I would like if I could, to get you to say that these were four dreams and not four visions or appearances of your daughter in flesh and blood?

A – I am not going to say that; for I am not going to lie.

Q – Then you insist that she actually appeared in flesh and blood to you upon four different occasions?

A – Yes, sir.

Q – Did she not have any other conversation with you other than upon the matter of her death?

A – Yes, sir, some other little things. Some things I have forgotten – just a few words. I just wanted the particulars about her death, and I got them.

Q – When she came did you touch her?

A – Yes, sir. I got up on my elbows and reached out a little further, as I wanted to see if people came in their coffins, and I sat up and leaned on my elbow and there was light in the house. It was not a lamp light. I wanted to see if there was a coffin, but there was not. She was just like she was when she left this world. It was just after I went to bed, and I wanted her to come and talk to me, and she did. This was before the inquest and I told my neighbors. They said she was exactly as I told them she was.

The Trial and the Verdict

With the evidence mounting against him, Edward was charged with Zona’s murder and his trial began on June 22, 1897.

Ghost testimony murder
©️ The Paranormal Guide

Throughout the trial, Mary Jane Heaster’s testimony about her daughter’s ghostly visitations captivated the courtroom. Despite attempts by the defense to discredit her account, Edward Shue was found guilty of first-degree murder by the jury. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died three years later while incarcerated.

The jury took one hour and ten minutes to discuss the case before finding Shue guilty. One can only imagine what they discussed about and how they came to that conclusion.

The case of Zona Shue’s murder remains a unique chapter in legal history. It’s the first and only time a ghost’s testimony has secured a conviction in a United States Superior Court trial. While the use of such evidence may seem extraordinary, in this case, it led to justice being served.

You may also like: Click if You Dare! These Are the Most Haunted Places in the US

The Hyperhive

Bzz! This busy bee is on a mission to make your reading experience as vibrant and colorful as a blooming meadow. 🐝