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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A tragic story unfolded during the Ritzville, Wash., trial of a 35-year-old laborer accused of murdering a young schoolteacher in the nearby town of Hooper.

The laborer was a drunkard and the son of a drunkard. He had served in the Spanish-American War and was discharged when his mind became unbalanced by drink and disease. He moved to Hooper and had become infatuated with the young schoolteacher.

The feelings were apparently not mutual. She had complained once that she was afraid of him.

One day, the man drank too much at a Spokane saloon, purchased a revolver, returned to Hooper, harassed several citizens by asking them if they had “anything against him” and then said he was going to the schoolteacher’s house.

Some neighbors became worried and went to the teacher’s home. They found her dead from a gunshot wound. The laborer sat bleeding next to her, with a self-inflicted bullet wound to his side. He asked the neighbors to “take an ax” and finish him off. They declined.

During the trial, “he looked constantly at the floor” and occasionally swung his head back and forth. His plea: insanity.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1791: The Bill of Rights went into effect following ratification by Virginia.