The Dramatic End of Belle Starr
Judge Parker was determined to lock up Belle Starr, and frequently had her hauled up before him to face various charges. In 1883, she and her husband were tried for horse theft, found guilty, and imprisoned for nine months. Once free, Belle resumed her outlaw ways, and Judge Parker resumed his quest to put her out of business. In 1886, she narrowly avoided another conviction, this time for robbery in addition to horse theft. It was still a bad year for her. On December 17th, her husband got into a gunfight with a lawman cousin of his named Frank West, and both were killed in an exchange of bullets. That was extra problematic for Belle, because her right to live in the Indian Territory had been based on her marriage to a Cherokee husband.
To continue to use the Territory as a base for her criminal ventures, she married another Cherokee, a younger relative of her deceased husband named July. It was a stormy relationship, and on at least one occasion, July offered an acquaintance $200 to murder his wife. On February 3rd, 1889, Belle was ambushed riding back home from a neighbor’s house, blasted off her horse with a shotgun, and finished off with another blast while she was on the ground. The murder was never solved, but there were many suspects. Within her immediate family, they included her husband; her son whom she routinely whipped and whom rumors speculated she might have had an incestuous relationship with; and her daughter, whom she had prevented from marrying the father of her child. Another suspect was a fugitive murderer who sharecropped on her land, and feared that she might turn him in.