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100 years ago in Montana: Edith Colby, accused of killing Republican Party chairman, collapsed at her trial

 (Spokesman-Review archives)
(Spokesman-Review archives)

From our archives, 100 years ago

Miss Edith Colby took the stand in her murder trial – and high drama ensued.

At one point, she “bounded from the witness chair, ran to raise a window for fresh air, and fell in a heap beside the jury box.”

“The strain had become more than she could bear,” wrote a correspondent, attending the trial in Thompson Falls, Montana. The jury was excused while Miss Colby “recovered her equilibrium.”

More drama came when she narrated her story of shooting A.C. Thomas, the county Republican Party chairman. When she saw him on the street, she took her gun out of her handbag, and said, “Now you must apologize.”

“He sneered at me and doubled his fist like he was going to strike me,” she testified. “And I shot, but don’t remember how many times. I pointed the gun down.” At this point, she stood up and demonstrated how she pointed the weapon down. She did not think she actually hit Thomas with the bullets until the sheriff arrested her later that day.

Miss Colby also described her mental state the night before the shooting. She was so distressed that she got some chloroform to help her get to sleep, but it had no effect. She said she “did not sleep an hour” that night.

She had earlier testified that she “hadn’t been able to sleep for two years,” and she routinely used chloroform two or three nights a week to induce sleep.

She also told her life story in brief: She was Born in New Hampshire, came to Spokane six years ago, worked as a “copyholder” for The Spokesman-Review, was engaged to Dr. Hilscher and endured a traumatic breakup.

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