Monday, December 28, 2009

Open Letter To Legal Unit Director, NJ State Parole Board

December 19, 2009

Erik B. Anderson

Hackettstown, NJ 07840

Lisa Puglisi, Director
Legal Unit
New Jersey State Parole Board
P.O. Box 862
Trenton, NJ 08625

RE: Posthumous Pardon

Dear Ms. Puglisi:

I spoke to Ms. Carinne Rivers at length about my wish to apply for a pardon not for myself, but for James Titus, who was convicted of the murder of Tillie Smith here in Hackettstown in 1887. Mr. Titus died in 1952, but the Tillie Smith story remains a "legend" in Hackettstown. I am a historian and a sociologist. I am working on my own book about this case, and I just feel that it is time to pardon this man. It is the only right thing to do.

James Titus was found guilty because of the public pressure on the people of Warren County because of the extreme nature of the crime. Tillie was also raped, and in Victorian times, the entire community was gripped by a kind of mass hysteria that young Janitor Titus, a man whose father committed suicide when he was fifteen and  might be considered "mentally ill" today, was powerless to defend himself against.

Anyway, there is much more to the story. I hope to write my own book about it someday. In the meantime, Ms. Rivers told me that no one has ever applied for a posthumous pardon in the State of New Jersey before. It appears that there is no formal way to do it, and she referred me to you.

Do you think that the New Jersey State Parole Board can create a method to apply for a posthumous pardon on its' own, or do you think a legislative solution from the Assembly and/or Senate would be needed? I am willing to do what it takes to ensure that it is at least possible to apply for a posthumous pardon. James Titus' last remaining family member, a grand-daughter, died in 1997, but I am sure that it is conceivable that someday someone else will want to apply for a posthumous pardon for their own family member or friend in New Jersey. Obviously, there is a need for a method to apply for a posthumous pardon in teh Executive Clemency Unit of the New Jersey State Parole Board.

I left one message on your telephone after Ms. Rivers told me she talked to you about it. That was about two weeks ago. I will call again. I do not wish to be a burden on your organization. I hope you can see how developing a method to apply for a posthumous pardon would be beneficial to the citizens of New Jersey now and on into the future.

Have a pleasant holiday season.

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson

Friday, December 18, 2009

Assemblyman Titus Lasted Only One Term

I wonder what he said.
100 Years Ago - Indignation over statements made by Assemblyman titus

This clipping was found in the Titus File at the Hackettstown Historical Society. It was obviously published on May 12, 1986. The publication is not known. At least not yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"They mah hang me, but they can't hang my soul."

I found this in the archive at the Hackettstown Historical Society. It did not come with a source. I suspect this was printed in the Express-Times, but I really have no idea.
 100 Years Ago They mah hang me, but they can't hang my soul

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Warren Reporter Story - Free James Titus! - UPDATED

An image of James Titus,
who was convicted of the 1866(sic)
murder of Tillie Smith in Hackettstown.
Independence Township man leads charge to have Hackettstown man convicted of Tillie Smith murder pardoned -- nearly 150 years later
By Warren Reporter
December 06, 2009, 4:04PM

Story Written By Todd Petty

Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts, Hackettstown residents have been aware of the presence of Tillie Smith for well over a century. Murdered in 1866 (sic), Tillie’s name still elicits an impassioned reaction from local residents – it is a part of their dialogue, a part of their folklore, and a part of their history.

However, pieces of the story may still remain unwritten — there remains a specter of doubt regarding the involvement of James Titus, the man who was found guilty and sentenced to prison for seventeen years for Tillie’s murder.

One resident in particular from Independence Township, Erik Anderson, is determined to close the case once and for all. Anderson is working to have Titus pardoned for a crime that he does not believe that Titus ever committed.

“If you look at the case and if you read the trial documents, it’s really obvious that there is a ton of reasonable doubt,” Anderson said.



This article was on on December 6, 2009. I just discovered that it was printed on the front page of the Print Edition of the Warren Reporter (under the fold) on January 1, 2010! The title of the piece was shortened, the date of the crime was corrected and one or two other typoes were fixed.

I found this in the Hackettstown Historical Society already:

click on it for a better view

Not a bad way to start the new year!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Free James Titus Postcards

If you live in the Hackettstown Area, check the bulletin boards at the local convenience stores, banks, laundromats and other retail outlets. You might see one of these postcards.

Free James Titus Postcard

Free James Titus Apology Postcard

If you are in the Hackettstown area and you want some postcards, send me a note. We can work something out. I have about a hundred now. The supply is limited, but I can make more if there is a need.

Warm Regards

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

More postcards here and here.

Listen to the Free James Titus Radio Interview

WRNJ Radio

The interview can be heard on the Free James Titus Myspace Page.

Thank you, Joyce Estey for your enthusiastic comments ("most interesting mail [she has] received in a long time"), and everyone else who made this possible at WRNJ Radio, a Hackettstown Institution.

Free James Titus

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Friday, December 4, 2009

We Received an Executive Clemency Application

At first I thought it was a mistake. I have never been convicted of a crime, so I can't apply for Executive Clemency. The second page advised me "IT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY" to notify them of any address changes. It was scary to read that.

It was only after I was waiting on hold to speak to Ms. Rivers did I realize that the reason this was sent to me was probably because I wrote to the Governor about James Titus.

NJ Application for Executive Clemency Cover Letter
Click on Picture to see Larger Image

Unfortunately, Mr. Titus is not able to fill this application out himself. But, it is really great to have been heard, and to know that there is a formal procedure to get James Titus Pardoned for the heinous murder he did not commit 123 years ago.

I will keep this blog updated with my progress. Please do not forget to call the Governor before he finishes his term on January 19, 2010. That's more than a month, and it sounds like a lot of time, but as most of you probably know, it goes fast. Now is the time to Free James Titus!

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Press Is Interested in "Free James Titus"

Greetings Freedom Fighters:

On October 31, 2009, I sent a press release similar to this one to several media outlets, including the Star-Ledger, Express-Times, Daily Record and New Jersey Herald newspapers; History, Smithsonian and American Heritage Magazine: New Jersey Monthly Magazine; and, several radio stations, too.

Almost immediately, I got a call back from Joyce Estey of WRNJ Radio, who said the press release was the most interesting thing she had gotten in the mail in a long time. I did a five minute interview with her on the spot. You can hear that interview on the Free James Titus Myspace Music Player. If you have a myspace page, it would be awesome if you could add it to your player for a while. This issue really needs to get some attention. Governor Corzine is only going to be Governor for a little while longer. It is the right time for him to be considering pardons. Gov. Christie is a "law and order" guy, and a conservative. That's not a bad thing, but I feel that he doesn' t have much incentive to pardon James Titus right away.

Anyway, last Wednesday, I got a call from Todd Petty, a reporter for the weekly county newspaper called The Warren Reporter. He was very enthusiastic about it, too. I could tell by the way he wished me good luck at the end of the interview. If we succeed at this, it will be very exciting, so I don't blame him one bit.

I have sent updated press releases out to many other outlets, and I will continue to do many things to draw attention to the Free James Titus Movement, but I need your help. It seems so simple and obvious that anyone with the power to do so would pardon James Titus if he or she would just look at the evidence, but as you know, these things can get very complicated.

Please write and call the Governor. Please do it multiple times. Especially now. Tell your friends. Bring it up at an Amnesty International meeting. Bring it up in your history class if you're taking one. It's very important.

I will keep posting updates here. I know that people are interested in this. We need more than interest, though. We need more than speeches and outrage. We need action. We need a pardon for James Titus. It's simple. There is more guilt involved in buying a Big Mac at McDonald's than there is in pardoning his 123 year old murder conviction.

Thank you everyone who has helped so far. As long as I live, I will not give up the fight to free James Titus.

Have a blessed holiday season.

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weird NJ is Speechless!

by Erik B. Anderson - November 24, 2009

In late August of 2009, I wrote a lament poem about the Tillie Smith case and made it into a postcard that looks like this:

who raped tillie smith poem

I sent it to a number of people and posted it on a few bulletin boards around Hackettstown, where the Rape and Murder happened in 1886. The only response I got was from Weird NJ, which is a publishing phenomenon around Warren County.

It follows:

from Weird NJ to Erik

Mark S. says
"Hey Erik-
RE: Tillie Smith-
We've Never sent "Investigators" about the Tillie Smith murder to Hackettstown. You must be mistaking us with someone else!
Mark S."
After about ten days - on September 21, 2009 - I finally got sick of being scared whoever this guy is and his flip postcard, and I thought of something to write:

dear mark s. - sep. 21, 2009

And I haven't heard back from them since.

And this is why:

Not only do they send investigators to Hackettstown on their web site, they give them directions. The message below is copied directly from a page on


Centenary College is located in Hackettstown, New Jersey on Jefferson Street. Tillie Smith was killed in 1867. There is a memorial to her in Union Cemetery in Hackettstown, on Mountain Avenue.

Hackettstown itself is located off Exit 19 on Interstate 80. To reach the college, make a left off the offramp, and proceed four miles on Route 517 to the first stop light. Go straight through the light and look for Jefferson Street on your left (it’s the fourth or fifth left). You should be able to see the school from there. I hope I’ve been of some help to you.

- Letter via E-mail

The entire URL is

So, who is Mark S.? Does anybody know? Is it this guy?

Bueller? Bueller?

I am tired of ghosthunters and paranormal investigators coming around my town. It is scary. It is haunting. That's how I stand on the issue. How does Mark S. stand on the issue? Will he comment on this blog? Will he state publicly what his last name is? Weird NJ is a successful for profit publishing phenomenon that delights in scaring people, and they encourage their readers to go to towns where real people like me are trying to live peacefully. And they deny it when someone calls them out on it.

Shenanigans! That's right! I call Shenanigans.

Here is something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving: Halloween is a whole eleven months away.

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
The King of Funny Faces
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Something out of Oedipus the King, Part 1

But to condemn me like this, on mere suspicion,
Without any evidence! I can’t endure that!
It is unjust to condemn people with no good reason.
If mere supposition, unsupported,
Is all your evidence, you can call bad men honest
And decent citizens crooks and villains,
And justice will be done to none of them!
A reliable friend is a precious possession,
Worth a man’s life. Throw friendship away,
You destroy something living and irreplaceable.
The truth of this will emerge in time.
Time is the one incorruptible judge.
One minute is long enough to accuse a man.
To prove his innocence takes longer.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


From The Desk of: Erik B. Anderson                                                Contact: Erik - 908-979-3493


November 7, 2009 - Erik B. Anderson, a resident of Independence Township (NJ), today asked Governor Jon Corzine to pardon James Titus, the man found guilty of the 1886 rape and murder of Tillie Smith in Hackettstown. In the book In Defence of Her Honor: The Tillie Smith Murder Case by Denis Sullivan, it is written:

A careful reading of the trial transcript supports the argument that Titus' guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt. The state never proved that rape had been committed at the time and place alleged, let alone that Titus had committed it. (Chapter Eight; Page 124)
In his letter to the Governor,
Mr. Anderson wrote:
James Titus was a small, frail, young man. His father committed suicide when he was only fifteen. He was prone to what we would call panic attacks today….He was terrified. They were going to hang him! He was able to stay alive by signing a confession, but in exchange he had to serve nineteen years doing hard labor at the New Jersey State Prison. The Reverend who said a prayer at the “last public rite that will ever be offered to poor Tillie Smith” at the Union Cemetery, after it was all over, said: “We regret, O God, to-day that there has been so much leniency shown the murderer in this case (NY Times, Nov. 24, 1887).”

Reverends are supposed to be compassionate! That one wasn’t. Please be compassionate, President Governor Corzine!

The Free James Titus Movement is something that has been building up inside Mr. Anderson for a long time. “It’s just bizarre that whenever I hear anyone talk about Tillie Smith, they get real quiet and tell uncomfortable jokes. This is a rape and murder we’re talking about, not a Halloween legend. I’m tired of living in so-called Weird New Jersey,” he says. Expect an online presence: a petition, a blog, a MySpace page, a Facebook group and more. “A Pardon is something that should happen. It is plain as day that there was reasonable doubt. The fact it occurred over 120 years ago makes it even more imperative that a Pardon happen as soon as possible. The real killer is still out there. Why would anyone want to stop this?”

Every American Citizen Has A Moral Obligation To Circulate Petitions, Write Letters, And Do What They Can To Free James Titus.  *


Erik B. Anderson is a performing artist, a scholar and a concerned citizen. In 1996, he worked as an intern at the Chester County Historical Society Museum and Library when he was a Sociology major at West Chester University (PA). He won a debate with William F. Buckley, Jr. that same year. His other achievements include: visiting slave castles in Ghana in 1995; managing a Campaign Office in Hackettstown for Congressional Candidate Anne Wolfe in 2004; and, helping True Crime author Ann Rule (The Stranger Beside Me: The True Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy) in 2002.


Reasonable Doubt in the Warren Republican

The Front Page of the Warren County Republican (April 16, 1886) is currently on display in the front room of the Hackettstown Historical Society. It looks like this:

Warren Republican - H. Historical Society, November 2009
There is a lot of information on that one big page. Statements from witnesses are published. In the first column, it says this:
Miss Smith was a girl of remarkable physical vigor. Although her face was not comely, she had a beautiful form with magnificent shoulders and limbs. Her strength was a matter of comment among her fellow servants, and that she made a furious resistance is certain. She was overcome by the vise-like clutch of the hand upon her neck. That one man could have overcome her is not believed by those who know her. It is supposed that at least two were concerned in the crime.

So if one man could not have overcome her, how is it that James Titus, a scrawny little janitor, was found guilty and served almost twenty years doing hard labor for the crime?

I rest my case.

The Hackettstown Historical Society Museum is located at 106 Church Street, Hackettstown, NJ. The museum is open on Monday and Tuesday from 9:00-2:00pm; Wednesday and Friday from 9:00-4:00pm and Sundays from 2:00-4:00pm. It is closed on holidays. Special groups and other times may be accommodated by appointment.

When you're there, look at the calling card tray by the door. The calling card on top yesterday said Rebecca Titus. Go pay your respects.

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Monday, November 2, 2009

American Heritage Usage Panel Rules Against Hackettstown Historical Society

According to the Hackettstown Historical Society:

James Titus served 19 years for the 1886 murder of Tillie Smith before he was paroled by the Court of Pardons and released from prision on December 27, 1904. For the nearly fifty years that followed, he lived ironically, in Hackettstown, amongst the same neighbors and townsfolk who championed his conviction. James Titus died in June 1952 and is buried in Union Cemetery, Hackettstown. Unfortunately, no one will ever really know the truth about happened that fateful night or if justice was truly served.

Erik B. Anderson doesn't like it when someone says "no one will ever really know the truth," perhaps it's because he loved the X-Files so much in college. In the spring of 2009, he read on Wikipedia that:

The American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel found it unacceptable to use the word ironic to describe mere unfortunate coincidences or surprising disappointments that “suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly.”

So he wrote to the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. They ruled in July, but it took three tries to get this letter to him:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to Erik - 9-2-2009
Click on the image to read a larger version of the letter.

So there you have it, the use of the word ironically is "somewhat misleading" when the Hackettstown Historical Society uses it to refer to James Titus living in Hackettstown, among the townspeople who wanted to kill him, for nearly fifty years after he served his sentence. So I ask the Hackettstown Historical Society: Can they defend their use of the word ironically in this article?

Furthermore, what is so ironic about the building that Tillie Smith was allegedly raped and murdered in burning to the ground on Halloween night? The American Heritage Dictionary Editors think that statement is "somewhat misleading" too. Normally, one doesn't think of a historic society publication as being "sensational," but there it is. Right before your eyes.

Anybody want to buy a T-shirt?

Warm Regards,

Erik B. Anderson
Independence Township, New Jersey
Established 1782

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Guilty of mur..."

The chief justice arrived first, then Prosecutor Smith, and finally J.G. Shipman, whose back yard abutted on the courthouse. The jury was summoned and filed in solemnly, indicating what the verdict was likely to be.

Titus was brought in last, looking very upset and evidently suspecting the worst.

The clerk of the court spoke: "Prisoner look on the jury; jury look on the prisoner. Gentleman, have you agred on a verdict?'

The jurors anwered in unison: "We have."

"Who shall say for you?"

"Our foreman."

The clerk now turned to Formeman James Lake, and asked: "Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty as charged in the indictments?"

Perhaps it was the awesome realziation that his next few words were going to bring about another person's death that made Lake nearly gag as he tried to get them out. He struggled to control his voice: "Guilty of mur..."

But the strain proved more than he could handle, and he paused, choking on the word with a sob, then finally blurting it out: "...murder in the first degree." He then collapsed into his seat.

Titus received the verdict wihout emotion, and Shipman demanded that the jury be polled. Some of the members seemed so overcome by the emotion of the moment that they could not utter the word "guilty," and simply nodded their heads.

The trial was over. Chief Justice Beasley discharged the jurors after thanking them for their service, and the prisoner was returned to the county jail to await sentencing.

Sullivan, Denis. In Defence of Her Honor: The Tillie Smith Murder Case. Flemington, NJ: D.H. Moreau Books, 2000. ISBN 0-9662789-3-3

Titus' guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt

Perhaps the emotional force of the crime and the need to call someone to account for it proved in the end more persuasive than either side's arguments.
A careful reading of the trial transcript supports the argument that Titus' guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt. The state never proved that rape had been committed at the time and place alleged, let alone that Titus had committed it.

Consider this.

"Man's lust is a potent force," Prosecutor Henry S. Harris declared in the opening of a summation that went on to accuse Titus of sacrificing the life of Tillie Smith to it. Indeed lust is a potent force, but was thet state's position credible that Titus' lustful thoughts, evidenced by allegedly salacious remarks to Mead and others, foretold criminal activity? How many millions have made passing remarks of the same type and never followed them with an antisocial act? What minister has not had less-than-religious thoughts about a parishioner; what accountant has not considered embezzlement? Who can argue reasonably that the thought being the father of the deed extends, as a general rule, to crime?

Sullivan, Denis. In Defence of Her Honor: The Tillie Smith Murder Case. Flemington, NJ: D.H. Moreau Books, 2000. Chapeter Eight, Page 124

James Titus: These are all the remarks that I desire to make.

My counsel have said in my defense all that can be said. But I wish to make one or two remarks for myself. I have to express my regret that upon my trial I was unfitted both mentally and physically to be a witness in my own behalf. I am of a low and despondent turn o fmind at all times and this feeling coupled with the close confinement to which I was subjected entirely broke me down both in mind and body.
Since my trial, owing to the kind and gracious treatment of the sheriff allowing me freely to walk out in the corridor of the jail, I have been much improved in mind and body. And now I wish here to protest, before this court and before the world, against the conduct of the jury that tried me.
They tried me in my absence and falsely convicted me of a crime of which I declare here and now in the presence of this court and my countrymen who now hear me that I am not guilty.
And I most humbly ask the court to spare my feelings by sentencing me in as few words as possible, as nothing the court can say about the crime of which I am convicted can apply to me, as I solemnly repeat that I am not guilty of it.
These are all the remarks that I desire to make.

Then, turning to the chief justice and calmly folding his arms, Titus said, "I am now ready to hear the judgment of the Court."

Sullivan, Denis. In Defence of Her Honor: The Tillie Smith Murder Case. Flemington, NJ: D.H. Moreau Books, 2000.

James Titus's Wife Died Before He Got Out of Prison

Click on image to read Nettie Titus' obituary.

Rebecca Titus Was a Good Mother

She taught her son how to live for 95 years.

Click on picture to read obituary for Mrs. Rebecca Titus.

James Titus Lost His Father to Suicide in 1872

Click on picture to read article.

James J. Titus (1857-1952) - R.I.P.

Who raped Tillie Smith?

Who raped Tillie Smith?
Who killed her?
It wasn't Janitor Titus.
Was it one person or two?
Where did they go?
Did they rape again?
Did they kill again?
Why doesn't this concern anyone?

The historical society sells T-shirts that say:
got ghosts?
It's a great fund-raiser.
Weird New Jersey sends "journalists" to Hackettstown
They pretend they are Ghostbusters.
They play with toys.
They have fun.
They even get on television.

But who raped Tillie Smith?
Who killed her?
It wasn't Janitor Titus.
Was it one person or two?
Where did they go?
Did they rape again?
Did they kill again?
Why doesn't this concern anyone?

-Erik B. Anderson