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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A heartbreaking tableau was discovered in a tidy mountain cabin north of Murray, Idaho: the bodies of a 74-year-old man, Charles Kell, and his aged wife, whose corpse was arranged carefully on a bed and “banked with flowers.”

It was a murder-suicide pact, made after the couple concluded they had no other option. According to detailed notes and letters left in the cabin by the man (written in German), Kell had been cast out by his family in Minnesota following a legal dispute and he “made himself a hermit” in Idaho. His wife had recently come to join him.

However, “the bleak mountain scenery and rainy weather preyed on her mind, till, as the two concluded, she was going insane.” He was not well, either.

He wrote that he had not slept for 14 days.

He wrote to his children and asked them to take their mother back home but had received no answer. 

So they agreed on a plan. He fired two bullets in her brain, cleaned her wounds, folded her hands across her body, and covered her hands with flowers from his extensive gardens. He rested her head on a pillow made of flowers.

Then he fired a bullet into his own brain, “having done everything in my power to bring sleep to her.”