On June 18, 1866, the body of 21-year-old Laura Foster was found in a shallow grave in Wilkes County, NC. Thomas C. Dula (Tom Dooley), a veteran of the Civil War, was tried, convicted and hanged on May 1, 1868, in Statesville, NC, for the murder. Dula had fled to Tennessee before the discovery of the body.
Controversy surrounded the trial and conviction. The trial was covered widely in national papers including The New York Times. Dula is reported to have said on the gallows, “Gentlemen, do you see this hand? I didn’t harm a hair on the girl’s head.”