After many years in prision Curt Jett and Henry Youtsey obtained paroles in 1918. Jett planned to enter the ministry and expected to attend Wilmore College. Henry Youtsey, involved in the assassination of Governor William Goebel, planned to go to his farm.
Paroles Given Curt Jett And Henry Youtsey
Frankfort State Journal - November 13, 1918
Henry Youtsey, last of alleged conspirators in the murder of former Governor William Goebel, and Curt Jett, ex-feudist, serving two life terms for the assassination of J. B. Marcum and James Cockrill at the Breathitt County courthouse in 1902, were paroled last night.
Jett left the prison last night and went to the home of Robert Wells in Madison County. He will enter the ministry and will preach in the Methodist Church at Doylesville this winter. Next fall he enter Wilmore College.
Youtsey will leave today. He had no plans beyond going to the farm at Cold Springs, three miles from Fort Thomas, which his father left him eight years ago.
Youtsey was called into the office last night by Warden Phythian and informed of the board's action. He displayed no emotion; but expressed a desire to call on the board and the governor today to thank them. "They are the best the state ever had," he said with a smile. "I have positive proof of it."
During the conversation with Youtsey last night, the fact that Caleb Powers and Jim Howard were pardoned by Governor A. E. Wilson was referred to and the Goebel killing recalled. "I never shot a man in my life," Youtsey declared.
Trying To Help
"Of course, I am glad of my freedom. Of course, I am so glad to get away from prison that I can't express my feelings in words; but I'll look back with rather mixed emotions. I've tried to make the best of a bad situation by entering into the life of this old institution. I've been superintendent of the night school; I've tried to be helpful to the officers and to the prisoners; I've been stenographer to the warden, and I've acted as attorney for prisoners. I have helped 40 or 50 men prepare their papers.
"In fact, I've, maybe I bought not say this, I've tried to do more good in prison than Caleb Powers has done in congress."
It was Youtsey's confession about the alleged conspiracy to kill Goebel that led to the conviction of the others. He was 26 years old when he entered the prison 18 years ago. He had been for two years before the Goebel-Taylor election secretary to Auditor Stone and William Taylor, then attorney general.
Since his incarceration, Youtsey's wife secured a divorce and married again.
Curt Jett's Story
Curt Jett was a member of the Hargis clan in the Hargis-Cockrill feud. Once he was under sentence of death, but the Court of Appeals reversed the verdict and he accepted a life term without appeal. That was for the killing of Jas. Cockrill, July 20, 1902, near the courthouse at Jackson. He claimed an alibi, declaring he was in Hargis' store down the street. Cockrill was shot from the courthouse window.
That trial followed on the heels of his conviction with Tom White for the killing of Attorney J. B. Marcum at almost identically the same spot. They were tried first in Morgan County, the trial resulting in a hung jury. Then they were tried in Harrison County, on motion of the commonwealth, which represented that conditions were such in Breathitt at the time that a fair trial was impossible and disorder and bloodshed might result from the attempt to try them there. Jett is 42 years old and has been in prison 16 years.
Jett has been a model prisoner, leader of the Christian Endeavor and right-hand man of Chaplain Walter Q. Vreeland. In the night school both Youtsey and Jett were leaders. They are the oldest prisoners in point of service and the best. Not only are their records perfect, but they have assisted the prison authorities in maintaining discipline by establishing a sort of public sentiment inside the prison in favor of good order.
Jett's uncle, Will Jett, and Judge Alex Hargis came here to urge the parole.
A Reason For Parole
"A formal statement of reasons for the paroles will be sent to the Governor tomorrow," said Chairman Hines of the State Board of Control, who had been consulted and made acquainted with our views and the situation.
"More than any other prisoners these two deserve an opportunity to make good, and I have faith in their determination to do so. had it not been for the circumstances of their cases, no doubt both of them would have been free long ago. If there is ever any reason for paroling a prisoner it exists in both their cases. They have perfect prison records, and beside this, to my personal knowledge they have aided materially in establishing the best sort of discipline in the institution; not the brutal discipline of brutal coercion but a willing submission to the regulations. They have had a good influence on other prisoners, and their conduct has been so consistent through all these yeats that one cannot doubt the sincerity of it."
"Both came into prison young men, more or less the victims of influences surrounding them. Jett was reared in the feud atmosphere of those days and knew nothing else. Indeed, I presume it would have been different to keep out of it, reared as he was.
"Youtsey was the one man who told the truth about the Goebel assassination. He was young then, and swayed by passion and influenced by older heads. I am not palliating the crime of either, but the circumstances of their crimes were such as to furnish hope for their reformation in the course of nearly half a life time removed from the evil influence, more hope than exists in cases of crimes of much less note.
"Members of the last two or three legislatures, almost to a man petitioned for Youtsey's freedom. We never have had other cases in which so strong endorsements of their applications for paroles have been filed. Ministers, womens' organizations, and people in all walks of life have requested their parole. Never, I think, have the members of the board felt more secure in the justification of our acts of clemency than in these two cases."