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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Strychnine poisoning case grows compilcated as second ‘sweetheart’ shows up

Miss Rosa Kempf, 22, told a physician the night she died that she had not taken poison, but had eaten some “bitter candy” given to her by William Delaney, who claimed to be her “sweetheart,” The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 21, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Miss Rosa Kempf, 22, told a physician the night she died that she had not taken poison, but had eaten some “bitter candy” given to her by William Delaney, who claimed to be her “sweetheart,” The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 21, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Miss Rosa Kempf, 22, told a physician the night she died that she had not taken poison, but had eaten some “bitter candy” given to her by William Delaney, who claimed to be her “sweetheart.”

An autopsy revealed that she died of strychnine poisoning. Delaney was being held for questioning in the case, but there was still some doubt about whether it was a case of murder or suicide. Police were trying to find out whether she, Delaney, or anyone else connected with her, had purchased strychnine recently. Police had found little motive for either murder or suicide.

Several odd twists in the case had come up. Police now suspected that a letter from Miss Kempf found in Delaney’s possession might have been a forgery. In the letter she asked Delaney to come back to Spokane because she was in some sort of “trouble.” It was not, they said, in her handwriting.

Meanwhile, another man who said he was her “sweetheart,” showed up in Spokane. He was Karl Reiniger, a sailor in the Navy in Seattle, and he said he had been engaged to her for three years and planned to marry her after New Year’s. Miss Kempf’s father confirmed that she intended to marry Reiniger. Reiniger had to be restrained from confronting Delaney in the police station.

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