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David Stain

Convicted of murder in Penobscot County, Maine, in 1888, David Stain and his co-defendant, Oliver Cromwell, were exonerated 12 years later after the key witness, David Stain’s son, recanted his testimony that his father had confessed to the crime.
At about 7:00 p.m., February 22, 1878, John Wilson Barron, a bank cashier, was found dead at the bank where he worked. Barron was gagged, his hands were tied behind him, his head was cut and bruised and several hundred dollars and a $500.00 bond were missing. Police did not find any physical evidence, nor did they have any suspects. The case was set aside as most of the residents of Dexter concluded Barron had committed suicide. Given the condition of the body, this seemed improbable to many, but those who believed in it pointed out the discovery of irregularities apparent in the bank’s accounts, which resulted in a loss of about $700.00, shortly before Barron’s death. It was also reported during the investigation that books of a partnership in which Barron was interested had not been properly kept. There was, however, no explanation for the disappearance of the money and the bond. Thus, the population of Dexter remained divided into two groups: The “suiciders” and the “murderers.” It remained so for years.
Ten years later, Charles Francis Stain, well known to the police of several New England communities, announced to authorities that a ghost had urged him to tell the story of the banker’s death, thus removing the stigma of suicide. He reported that his father, David L. Stain, and Oliver Cromwell, both of Medfield, Massachusetts, were guilty of murdering Barron. He said that he had been called to his father’s bedside shortly after the banker’s death and that, in a burst of hysteria, the elder Stain confessed that he and Cromwell had murdered Barron.
As a result, Stain and Cromwell were both arrested, brought to Dexter, and tried for murder. During the trial, 20 Dexter residents testified that they remembered seeing two strangers who looked like Cromwell and Stain 10 years ago—on the day that Barron was murdered. On March 3, 1888, Cromwell and Stain were convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life in prison. Their appeal, based on an alibi that placed them in Medfield on the day of the murder, failed.
Twelve years later, however, Charles Stain recanted his testimony. He explained that he was angry with his father because he had refused to give him $25.00 which was necessary to keep him out of jail for a minor offense. Stain had a history of false testimony.
On December 31, 1900, Massachusetts Governor Llewellyn Powers pardoned Cromwell and the elder Stain.
- Alex Jarrell and Dolores Kennedy
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1878
Age at the date of crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation