Agenor Giron “…a son of A. Giron, a respectable and well known colored man of this vicinity, shot and killed a mulatto woman named Mary Hardy at her house in town…Immediately thereafter he turned the weapon upon himself, inflicting a serious though not fatal wound to his head, the ball having missed the brain…Jealousy was the cause of the…act.” Just another small story in the local Opelousas Courier newspaper of December 24, 1898. But, who were these people–a jealous perpetrator and a victim of violence–and what had actually happened?
On a cold night in December 1898 “…a notorious character named Mary Hardy…” was found dead in her room lying in a pool of blood from a pistol wound in her back and a bullet that had pierced her heart. Her lover, Agenor Giron, Jr. was lying at her side with a pistol ball in his right temple.” (Agenor Giron killed Mary Hardy full story St Landry Clarion 3.4.1899 pg. 3)
No one in the town of Opelousas thought it was an accidental shooting. Everyone naturally thought Giron would plead great provocation or perhaps momentary insanity but the plea he made at trial was that it was an accidental shooting. And his story seemed so plausible that nine out of the twelve male jurors wanted to acquit him. What the state did prove was that Agenor Giron, Jr. abandoned his wife “…and took up with the Hardy woman.” They had frequent quarrels and he made threats to her telling people that if Mary ever deserted him he would kill her and then kill himself. Some night previous to the killing he had shot a hole in a picture of a Saint that hung on the wall and he told Mary that he would do the same to her some day.
Mary Edmonia Hardy, who owned her own home in Opelousas, was interrupted at about 10 o’clock on December 21st when Agenor Giron, Jr. entered the house. Mary told him he could not sleep there that night and Giron heatedly said that he would kill her. Mary lived in her house with Eleanor Arceneaux and Mary’s son Lloyd (Lloyd Richard, son of Willie Richard). Mary and Eleanor left their house and went to visit Pamela Devilliers who lived in the neighborhood because Mary was trying to avoid Agenor. But he wouldn’t leave her alone. Mary went back home and he followed. She kept trying to get rid of him but he would have none of it. Eleanor Arceneaux later testified at the coroner’s inquest that Mary shouted “I’m the boss of my house!” and Agenor shouted that he would kill her if she didn’t let him sleep with her that night. Eleanor and Lloyd left the room while the shouting was going on and a little later they both heard a shot. They rushed back into the house and saw Mary lying on the floor with Agenor kneeling by her side and praying aloud. He yelled at Eleanor to go get help. Eleanor and Lloyd rushed to their neighbor Ida Scarborough’s house and when Ida returned with them she saw Agenor still praying and he told her not to interfere with him–to let him say his prayers. Eleanor, Ida and Lloyd left the room and about ½ hour later a second shot was heard. When a police officer reached the scene both Mary and Agenor were lying on the floor, side by side.
At his trial Agenor Giron, Jr. told a “pathetic and plausible” story saying that he went to Mary’s house that night, as usual, having celebrated Christmas week by firing his pistol in the air. He said he did not argue with Mary and that she was sitting down, implying that she was calm. He went to the sewing machine to get some cartridges to reload his pistol but the weapon was out of order so it was necessary to cock it for the cylinder to “catch.” When the weapon was introduced into evidence it proved to be as Agenor had said. He further testified that while cocking it to shove back the cylinder the hammer slipped from his thumb and the fatal shot was fired. In his anguish as his lover fell to the floor, he stooped over her and called to her to answer him, wiping the blood flowing from her mouth and nose. When he realized she was dead he decided to take his own life. After praying fervently, calling on God to forgive him for the crime he was about to commit, he put the weapon to his head and fired.
Agenor Giron was convicted at trial of manslaughter in the St. Landry judicial district court. At trial’s end he was granted a bond (bail) set at $2,500.
Having been tried and convicted, in 1900, Giron filed a motion for a new trial based upon the ground that the conviction was contrary to law and the evidence, but his motion was overruled. Before sentencing he made another application in the form of a petition to the Louisiana Supreme Court for a new trial based on one of the jurors, a Mr. Vatter, having said before the trial that if he were taken on as a juror he would find Giron guilty. A Mr. Louis Vanhille testified, among other witnesses, that he heard the juror utter the statement prior to trial. Louis Vanhille was a member of Agenor Giron’s extended family which, obviously, could be argued was not a disinterested witness. Apparently, Mr. Vatter the prospective juror had said “it would be a hanging scrape and if I got on the jury, I would be bound to hang him.” After much discussion one judge said that he had known Mr. Vatter for many years, he was an honest man and he didn’t believe Mr. Vatter would have formed an opinion before learning all of the facts and he “can have no motive in stating anything but the truth.” On the other hand ”Not so with the witness Vanhille, who is a first cousin to the accused.” The appellate court did find that Mr. Vatter had expressed an opinion of Agenor Giron’s guilt prior to him sitting as a juror on the trial. The appellate court found that the lower court had erred in not granting Agenor Giron a new trial “and it [was] therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the judgment appealed from be annulled, avoided, and reversed, that the verdict…be set aside…”
No evidence was found that Agenor Giron, Jr. was ever tried again for the murder of Mary Hardy.
Agenor Giron, Jr. descended from a well-entrenched Louisiana Creole family. Elie/Elias Giron of New Orleans was the son of Jean Giron and Jeanne Duranton, both of Bordeaux, France. On 10 May 1789 Elie married Marguerite Negrier of New Orleans. She was the daughter of Antoine Negrier and Magdalen Roche, both of Mosel, France. Marguerite and Elie had a daughter, Efrosina born 5 February, 1791. After her death on 29 August 1795 Elie married Victoire Bernard/Bernardi of New Orleans. Of this marriage was born Henri Giron in 1798, identified as a free man of color. At some point in his early life Henri moved to the Opelousas area and on 27 May 1856 he married Heloise Chenier, identified as a free girl of color from St. Louis. She was the daughter of Francois Chenier and Marcelite Chenier, born in Canada. Henri and Heloise had several children—the ones who figure in this story being Estelle who married Edgar Vanhille ( son of Eugenie Lessassier) on 28 September 1863 in Opelousas, and Agenor Giron pere (father) who married 29 Oct 1859 Estelle Auzenne/Ozenne of St. Landry. They had several children, Charles Joseph, Henry, Anna Aurelia and Agenor fils (son or Junior) born 1 November 1878. Agenor grew up to be a butcher like his father and, after the killing of Mary Hardy and his Supreme Court appeal, sometime before 1914 he moved to California and continued his trade there putting his tumultuous life behind him.
Mary Edmonia Hardy’s ancestry is less well documented and seems to have been characterized by the news media of the time as a “notorious woman” possibly because she had a child without benefit of marriage and may have been a somewhat flirtatious woman who let her assignations get out of control. She seemed a fairly independent woman of means but obviously was not astute enough to keep her reputation in check since reputations always had to be closely guarded if women were not to feel the sting of wagging tongues.
Sources: 1) ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov, Opelousas Courier, pg. 1, December 24, 1898; St. Landry Clarion, pg. 3, March 4, 1899; 2) GoogleBooks.com, “Reports of Cases Argued and Determined, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Volume 52 Part 1,” No. 13,286, pgs. 491 – 496, Library of the University of Michigan Law School, 3) Mary Hardy coroner’s report, #330, Coroner’s Book 1, pg. 37, Index #STL19432, St. Landry parish courthouse; 4) Conveyance Book M-3, pg. 294, St. Landry parish courthouse; 5) Succession of Mary Hardy, #6630, July 14, 1913, St. Landry parish courthouse; 6) U.S. Censuses 1850, 1880, 1900, 1910; 7) 1918 WWI Draft Registration; 8) 1941 WWII Draft Registration; 9) Southwest Louisiana Records, CHENIER, GIRON/GIROU, VANHILL/VANHILLE, vol. 6, pg. 129, pg. 250, vol. 7, pg. 195, pg. 461, vol. 9, pg. 163, vol. 12, pg. 189; RICHARD, vol. 22, pg. 357 10) Archdiocese of New Orleans Sacramental Records, GIRON, NEGRIER, vol. 4, pg. 144, vol. 5, pg. 186, pg. 282; 11)”Elie Giron v. The heirs of the late Henriette Perronneau, No. 2510, 24 June 1819, http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/9004; 12) Los Angeles City Directory (1914); 13) Creoles of Color in the Bayou Country, by Brasseaux, Fontenot, Oubre.