It was a dispute over 20 feet of land. The Bixby family refused to budge for a highway-widening project. “Live free or die,” cried Steve Bixby, bespectacled and rigged out in camouflage and guns the day of the 2003 shooting in Abbeville, S.C. Bixby and his father, Arthur, are accused of murder in the fatal shootings of two law enforcement officers who were trying to seize the land on behalf of the State of South Carolina, reports the New York Times.
Now, with the opening Wednesday of Bixby's trial in the murders, this Old South town with its intense Confederate heritage is reliving the winter's day in 2003 when the reclusive Bixbys held off the local police for 14 hours, after the shootings of the two officers. The town is doing so gingerly. There were no supporters of the Bixbys on hand Wednesday. He is reviled in Abbeville, and the prosecutor had to pick his jury 160 miles away. On the other hand, symbols of resistance to central authority, some of the South's most hallowed, abound here, lovingly tended in the quaint little town billing itself for passing tourists as the “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy.”