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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Man’s poisoning death brings dark history to light

 (Spokesman-Review archive)
(Spokesman-Review archive)

James Bayer, 31, was being held for questioning in the poisoning death of his father, farmer Peter Bayer.

The son, however, stoutly denied that he had anything to do with his father’s death at their Garden Springs farm.

No charges had yet been filed against James. Police and prosecutors were still pursuing three different theories. The first was that the father was murdered. The second was that he committed suicide. The third was that he attempted to poison his son and take his life at the same time.

The one thing authorities knew for sure was that Bayer’s death had been caused by strychnine poisoning. Bayer himself told a neighbor, just before he died, that he had eaten some poisoned soup. The city chemist was still analyzing the soup.

Prosecutors were sifting through some information that cast the father in a terrible light. James Bayer told police he was partially deaf as the result of a blow dealt him by his father in early childhood. His mother, asserted the son, died as a result of a beating by his father.

Police were also suspicious of the father’s actions in the days before his death. The father called the office of the city chemist “to make inquiry about the effects of different poisons.” This supported the idea that Peter Bayer had been contemplating poison.

The son also said his father had threatened to shoot him and then himself. James Bayer responded to this threat by hiding his father’s gun in the barn. James Bayer said he left home the next day, intending to “go east and never return.”

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