The Grisly 1897 Beheading in Williamston
One of Mid-Michigan’s grisliest murders happened in the seemingly quiet little town of Williamston.
The year was 1897.
Alfred and Martha Haney, along with Alfred’s 80-year-old mother Mariah, lived at 320 Elevator Street near the railroad tracks.
One fine morning, Alfred left for work, not realizing there would be trouble brewing at home. A few hours later, Alfred returned home for lunch…and he found it waiting for him. As he entered the dining area, there was his ‘meal’ for the day, sitting at his usual place at the dinner table: his mother’s head had been chopped off with an axe and put on a dinner plate, complete with silverware.
On the floor was the rest of his mother, up in flames; Martha had doused the body with kerosene and set it on fire. Alfred noticed Martha sitting serenely by herself in their bedroom.
Alfred got the heck out of there and went straight to the police. When police got to the house, Martha was not inside. Going out the back door, they found her digging a hole with her bare hands. Obviously having gone mad, Martha was put on trial and sentenced to spend her years at the Michigan Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
So what caused Martha to totally lose control and kill her mother-in-law?
The argument began when Martha replaced a picture of Mariah's dead husband with a photo of her kids. They got into a violent scuffle and Martha went completely bananas.....she grabbed an axe and KA-CHUNK. Martha later told authorities her own dead mother spoke and told her to kill the mother-in-law.
Rod Sadler’s excellent book, "To Hell I Must Go" tells the story in great detail. Rod took the title from a song that Martha would continually babble while sitting in her jail cell:
"O, I can't go to heaven,
To hell I must go.
Murderers don't go to heaven,
And that is where I'm bound to go."
Martha died not long afterward, on September 24, 1898. Her burial whereabouts are unknown.
The Haney house at 320 Elevator Street was burned down by the Williamston Fire Department in 1990.