In October 1911, John Beal Sneed, the son of Joseph Tyre Sneed, Sr., placed his wife of twelve years, Lenora (Lena) Snyder Sneed, in Arlington Heights Sanitarium in Fort Worth after Lena confessed her infatuation with Al Boyce, Jr., to him. Sneed and Boyce had vied for Lena's affection when all three were students at Southwestern University in Georgetown. Sneed's action set off a bizarre series of events that symbolized the tenacity of frontier justice in West Texas in the early twentieth century. Less than a month after her incarceration, with the aid of Al Boyce, Lena escaped from the sanitarium and the pair eloped to Canada. Discovered in Winnipeg, Canada, the two were arrested by the authorities, who released Lena into the custody of her husband and her father, Tom Snyder. Initially, Lena returned to Clayton, New Mexico, with her father. She later returned to her husband. After abduction charges against Boyce were dismissed by a Fort Worth court in early January 1912, Sneed fatally shot Boyce's father, Albert G. Boyce, Sr., alleging that the man had assisted his son in breaking up Sneed's home. Sneed's murder trial generated intense interest all over the United States and parts of Canada. Newspapers carried the day-by-day developments. In Fort Worth, the trial produced controversy that led to violence. Four men were killed outside the courthouse, and women fought with hatpins in the courthouse halls and even in the courtroom. After failing to reach a verdict, the jury was dismissed and a mistrial was declared. The jury was split 7 to 5 for acquittal. After the murder of his father in March by a tenant farmer believed to be associated with the Boyces, Beal Sneed shot and killed Al Boyce, Jr., as Boyce was walking in front of Polk Street Methodist Church in Amarillo. Sneed had lain in wait for two weeks in a cottage across from the church, waiting to catch Boyce unaccompanied by his brother Lynn. After firing three blasts of his twelve-gauge shotgun into Boyce, Sneed walked to the courthouse and surrendered himself and his weapon to the Potter County sheriff. Juries acquitted Sneed for both murders, declaring that they were justifiable homicides. A flood of congratulatory letters and telegrams greeted news of the verdicts. But reporters from papers outside of Texas regarded the shootings as cold-blooded murder. When reporters demanded a reason for the acquittal in the murder of Al Boyce, Jr., the jury foreman, John D. Crane, responded by saying, "The best answer is because this is Texas. We believe in Texas a man has the right and the obligation to safeguard the honor of his home, even if he must kill the person responsible."
Sneed, reunited with Lena, moved to Paducah, where he owned a ranch and a cotton farm. He also engaged in land speculation that resulted in further troubles for him. In October 1922, a federal court found him guilty of bribing a juror in a lawsuit concerning a land deal. Judge James C. Wilson sentenced Sneed to two years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. In Sneed's absence, C. B. Berry, a Paducah groceryman and cotton raiser, shot and killed Wood Barton, Sneed's son-in-law, over a money dispute. Sneed, out of prison and dissatisfied with Berry's acquittal, retaliated by shooting Berry five times. Amazingly, Berry survived. Berry then responded by attempting to kill Sneed. Both men were found not guilty at their trials. Despite the acquittal, the Sneeds had worn out their welcome in Paducah, and their fortunes were low when they moved to Dallas. But Sneed recovered by investing in the East Texas oilfield. He and Lena lived in style in Dallas for more than thirty years. Sneed died of bone cancer on April 22, 1960. Lena died of heart failure on March 6, 1966. They are buried side by side in Hillcrest Cemetery in North Dallas.
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Dallas Morning News, January 14, February 8, 1912.
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Thomas H. Thompson,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 21, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
June 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 15, 2021
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: