From our archive, 100 years ago
Miss Edith Colby’s friends from Spokane continued to testify in her defense at her murder trial in Thompson Falls, Montana, yet they were not exactly testifying to her sterling character.
They were testifying about her shaky hold on reality, as part of her insanity defense.
“In talking, Miss Colby would never finish one subject before she had started on another, during the last year and half,” said Dr. Harriet Lacey, of Spokane. “Every time I met her, she seemed to be gazing into space, would go into hysterics and say: ‘I don’t know what I will do. I can’t sleep at night.’ She was very nervous and would become excited. I think her mind was diseased.”
One of her best friends, Mrs. Charles Whipple, said, “Once, when I called at her home, she threw herself on the bed, crying, began reading letters, said her head was bursting and she could not sleep. She had the headache and always complained of her head hurting her and of being worn out.”
Another acquaintance, Miss R. Drake, said she found Miss Colby “peculiar,” and was always either extremely quiet or extremely loud. Once, she visited her at the employment office where she worked and she “threw herself on the counter and began to cry and laugh and scream” for no apparent reason.
Other witnesses testified that her condition deteriorated after her fiance, Dr. H. W. Hilscher, at whose sanitarium she and her mother lived, broke off their engagement and married another woman. Mrs. F.A. Noteware said Miss Colby told her that “life was no longer worth living” and asked her if she knew “some short, quick way out of it.” Mrs. Noteware said there was never a doubt in her mind that Miss Colby was insane and needed a guardian – and that subsequent events proved her to be correct.
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