WANTED: Roosa Family Murderer, $1,000 Reward

On December 26, 1864, Warren County’s Roosa family experienced a crime so heinous that it resulted in the first and only execution to take place in the County’s history. Mrs. Roosa, her children, and their farm hand were all fast asleep in their beds on that cold December evening. Their slumber was short lived when an intruder with an ax began attacking them room by room. The farm hand, Jesse Couzens, was the first to suffer blows from the murderers ax followed by Mrs. Roosa and three of her young children. Only one child, 7 year old Jeanette, managed to remain unharmed by hiding under her bed covers. All of the victims were found dead the following day except for Mrs. Roosa, who had survived multiple ax wounds to the head.

Due to the lack of evidence and no suspects, Warren County residents were fearful for their lives. These circumstances led Warren County Commissioners to offer an official reward totaling $1,000 for the capture of the murderer or murderers. This reward is one of the first documented in the Warren County Commissioners Minute books. Following a lengthy investigation that included multiple suspects, Samuel Coovert was convicted and sentenced to death. Although he asserted his innocence up until his death, Coovert was hanged on August 24, 1866, for those crimes committed against the Roosa household. County documents, such as case files and commissioners minutes, have been utilized by many researchers who continue to tell this gruesome tale, including a book titled Murder Most Foul: Massacre in Warren County written by Robert L. Drake, 2009.

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Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 208 from 1864

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Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 209 from 1864

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Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 252 from 1866

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About wcrcarchives

The Warren County Records Center and Archives was dedicated in honor of the former Warren County Recorder, Edna L. Bowyer on June 22, 2001. We offer on-site records storage, records delivery, records retention and disposition management, records management training, document imaging, and microfilming services. View all posts by wcrcarchives

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