“THE LAST SCENE!” trumpeted the Flesherton Advance on December 11, 1884. “Cook Teats [sic] Launched into Eternity.” The paper carried a long report on the execution of Cook Teets, hanged at the Owen Sound Gaol on December 5, 1884, for the murder of his new and very pregnant wife, Rosanna Leppard.
The case caused a sensation in the small farming community at the time. Teets undoubtedly had access to strychnine, which had been used to poison his wife, and he had taken out a $4,500 insurance policy on her life, payable to him in the event of her death. But he and his wife were living apart at the time of her death; he with his mother and she with hers. He did not have the opportunity to administer the fast-acting poison in the crucial early morning hours when Rosanna took ill and died. Additionally, Teets was completely blind and would have had difficulty in administering the foul-tasting poison without arousing suspicion.
Newspapers of the day hinted that someone else might easily have taken advantage of the blind man to murder Rosanna and have the blame pinned on him. Suspicion fell on her disreputable and seemingly disturbed mother, who had access to her daughter that night and had threatened her in the past.
The case against Teets was based on what many in the community claimed was very flimsy circumstantial evidence. But in spite of a request for mercy from the jury and petitions for clemency from both residents of Grey County and members of the Ontario bar, Teets went to the gallows.
Was Cook Teets innocent?
He went to his death steadfastly protesting his innocence, and there is enough doubt swirling around the case to suggest that he was, in fact, wrongfully accused and wrongfully convicted.