The story of Orville Gibson, a Newbury farmer whose frozen body was found in the waters of the Connecticut River on March 26, 1958, has remained controversial for over half a century. The investigation into Gibson’s death and the subsequent trials and acquittals have made the case one of Vermont’s most famous murder investigations.
In his new book on the case, retired judge Stephen B Martin of Barre offers the fullest account of the events leading up to the victim’s disappearance and death, including the individuals involved, and the expert testimony that was brought to light during the court proceedings. The story, he points out from the start, is one of conventional wisdom and how it is created, then overthrown. Where were the investigators with open minds? Why did they twist the facts to suit their theories instead of relying on observation to draw inferences based on what they observed?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Problem at Thor Bridge bears a striking similarity to the Gibson case. In Martin’s view, the murder of Orville Gibson could have been solved without arousing controversy by a detective of intelligence and method like Sherlock Holmes.
Judge Martin’s new book Orville’s Revenge: The Anatomy of a Suicide, will be presented to the public at a booksigning here on Thursday, November 6 at 6:30 pm in the Milne Community Room. The book is dedicated to the late Richard E Davis of Barre, the distinguished trial lawyer who handled the Gibson case. Davis’ son Richard E Davis Jr will provide the introduction. Judge Martin will read from the book and explain the details of the case. He will show how Davis was able to convince the jury that a man who had been found in the river with his hands and feet bound had been able to commit suicide.
A sixth generation Vermonter and a 1959 graduate of George Washington University Law School, Stephen B Martin practiced law with Richard E Davis in Barre for 10 years. In 1970, while he was a member of the House of Representatives, he was elected a Superior Court Judge by the Vermont Legislature. In 1985, the Vermont Supreme Court appointed him to the post of Administrative Judge for the Trial Courts. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1998.
Copies of Orville’s Revenge will be available for purchase at the booksigning, courtesy of Next Chapter Books of Barre. Light refreshments will be served and the event is free and open to the public.