25. An Unsolved Murder
After her release from prison, Belle Starr resumed her outlaw ways, and Judge Isaac Parker resumed his quest to put her out of business. In 1886, the dangerous bandit queen narrowly avoided another conviction, this time on robbery in addition to horse theft charges, but it still turned out to be a bad year for her. On December 17th, her husband Sam Starr got into a gunfight with a lawman cousin of his named Frank West, and both were killed in the exchange of bullets. Belle’s 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 her deceased husband named July.
It proved to be 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 while riding 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 quite a few 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.