Levi Weeks was born in 1776 in Greenwich, Massachusetts. He moved to New York City in 1798 to work for his older brother Ezra.
Weeks was accused of murdering Gulielma "Elma" Sands, a young woman whom he had been courting. Elma disappeared on the evening of December 22, 1799. Some of her possessions were found two days later near the recently created Manhattan Well in Lispenard Meadows, located in today's SoHo near the intersection of Greene and Spring Streets. Her body was recovered from the well on January 2, 1800. Before leaving her boarding house on the 22nd, Elma told her cousin Catherine Sands that she and Levi were to be secretly married that night.
The trial, which took place on March 31 and April 1, 1800, was sensational. Through his brother's connections and wealth, Weeks retained three of New York's most prominent attorneys, Henry Brockholst Livingston, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton. Chief Justice John Lansing, Jr. presided on the bench, and future Mayor of New York Cadwallader David Colden was the prosecutor.
Although Elma was seen leaving with Weeks and a witness claimed to have seen Weeks making measurements at the well the Sunday before the murder, Weeks was acquitted after only 5 minutes of jury deliberation.
The public strongly disagreed with the verdict, and Weeks was ostracized by the citizens of the city, forcing him to leave New York. He eventually settled in Natchez, Mississippi, where he became a well-respected architect and builder. He married Ann Greenleaf in Natchez and they had four children. Weeks died in Natchez in 1819, at the age of 43. His Natchez residence, Auburn Mansion, is a National Historic Landmark.
In the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the song "Non-Stop" references the trial. However, Henry Brockholst was not mentioned in the song. Additionally, the trial's date is changed, taking place at some unspecified point before the Constitutional Convention of 1787, during the government of the Articles of Confederation.
The CBS Radio Mystery Theater episode of March 28, 1978, The Ghost In The Well, is about the trial and aqcuittal of Levi Weeks, as told by the ghost of Elma Sands.