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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Investigators raise doubts that strychnine death was suicide

The mystery surrounding the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf, 22, continued to baffle investigators, The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 25, 1918. The newspaper also reported that marriages declined in Spokane County in 1918 but were on the way up since World War I ended. The death of Allan C. Varnon on a World War I battlefield the same month the war ended also was noted. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The mystery surrounding the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf, 22, continued to baffle investigators, The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 25, 1918. The newspaper also reported that marriages declined in Spokane County in 1918 but were on the way up since World War I ended. The death of Allan C. Varnon on a World War I battlefield the same month the war ended also was noted. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The mystery surrounding the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf, 22, continued to baffle investigators.

Several new developments raised new questions about whether it was murder or suicide. Would-be suitor William Delaney (now identified as H.M. Delaney) admitted that a letter found on his person after his arrest was not actually written by Kempf. It was a forgery, written by him.

In the letter, she supposedly begged him to come home to Spokane so they could get married. She also said she never wanted to see her sailor fiancé again and was going to send his ring back to him.

Delaney told police he wrote the letter because he was under flu quarantine in Idaho and wanted to submit it to authorities to show that he should be released to come to Spokane.

Meanwhile, another letter raised doubts about the detectives’ tentative conclusion that the death was a suicide. Her fiancé, Karl Reiniger, received a letter from her a few days before her death in which she expresses her love for him. She was looking forward to seeing him soon. It was signed, “From your loving Rose.”

Spokane’s commissioner of public safety said, “It does not read like one from a person with suicide in mind.”

The Spokane Daily Chronicle said that “sensational developments” of an unspecified variety were rumored within the next day or two.

From the flu beat: The Spanish flu epidemic was waning, but it continued to take a toll. Lois Major, 20, a mother of three small children, died at the city’s emergency influenza hospital.

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