Family members agree. Joe Cress was an evil, violent man.
Next youngest to his brother, Bob, Joe was only 18 in April 1912, when he shot and killed Emanuel Steinke, a fellow laborer at Washington Brick & Lime’s Edgecliff kiln, because Steinke refused to hand over his bankroll. Sent to the state penitentiary in Walla Walla for second-degree murder, Cress was paroled in 1921.
In early 1923, he was shot several times while resisting arrest in Lincoln County. A month before his brothers were arrested for a Canadian hijacking incident, Joe Cress and an associate abducted a Rosalia banker and marched him toward the bank. After the banker’s son shot Cress, the robbers fled in their vehicle, which overturned on the road to Malden. Married that fall to Bob’s wife’s sister, Cress was arrested a year later in Oakland, where police, it is said, acted on a tip provided by his wife’s family.
Paroled again in early 1929, Cress was arrested in the fall for abducting a couple that was enjoying a moonlight drive on what is now U.S. 195. Intent on robbery and possible assault, Cress shot the man, trussed them up and, after splashing gasoline over his car, set the car on fire with them inside. The couple escaped, but the man later died of his wounds. This crime, not necessarily his first of that type, sent Cress back to Walla Walla. Including unserved time from previous convictions, he remained there until February 1958.
In an Aug. 31, 1929, letter printed in The Spokesman-Review, former Whitman County prosecutor W.L. La Follette called Cress “the most daring and dangerous criminal I have ever tried.”
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