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Sunday, January 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Talk of suicide in strychnine case ‘all bosh,’ safety commissioner asserts

The city’s public safety officer was quick to quash rumors that a girl’s death by strychnine might be suicide. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The city’s public safety officer was quick to quash rumors that a girl’s death by strychnine might be suicide. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane commissioner of public safety John H. Tilsley hotly disputed the conclusion of some city detectives that the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf was a suicide.

“This talk of suicide is all bosh,” said Tilsley. “That girl was undoubtedly murdered and I do not mean to drop the case so easily. … No good reason has been given why this girl committed suicide. I can easily understand, in the light of things as far as they have developed, how she could have been murdered. Spokane has had too many unsolved mysteries in the last eight or 10 years, and I do not think we should add Rosa Kempf’s name to that list, or try to justify our failure by calling it suicide, until every possible clue has been run down.”

The early suspect in the case, William Delaney, was still being held by police, but on a prior check forgery charge, not on a murder charge.

Tilsley said Rosa Kempf’s sister reported that Delaney approached her before his arrest and “said he wanted to confess.” She never had a chance to talk to him, though, because he was arrested shortly thereafter. Tilsley intended to interview the sister.

City detectives, meanwhile, said that they still had one or two points to clear up before closing the investigation.

From the school beat: The Spokane School Board anticipated the reopening of schools in the new year, and approved a new calendar that called for school to run from January 6 to June 13.

To make up for dozens of lost school days because of the flu closure, every school day would be a half-hour longer. Also, there would be only three vacation days during that period.

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