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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago today in Spokane: Jailed jewelry thief was suspect in deadly Mississippi train robbery

From the March 7, 1918 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)
From the March 7, 1918 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)

A postal inspector and a fingerprint expert went to the jail in Davenport to question C.H. Lea, the “yegg man” (safecracker), lying wounded in jail after a botched jewelry store robbery.

The inspector took a look at Lea and had a flash of recognition. He recognized him from a photo of a “desperado escaped from the penitentiary at Jackson, Miss., where he was serving a life sentence for train robbery.”

The inspector said, “Why, you are wanted by the government men!” and accused him of being an escapee.

Lea said, “Hah!” and retorted that he had never been wanted for anything in this part of the country.

The inspector said that was true, but that Lea was wanted for “a job way down south somewhere.” After that, Lea refused to answer any more questions.

Further investigation indicated that Lea was arrested under the name of Albert J. Lewis for robbing a mail train and killing the baggage master in Mississippi. He was sentenced to life, but escaped in 1916.

Before that, he had been convicted in 1908 for a mail train robbery in North Dakota and served out a term in the federal prison at Leavenworth.

The postal inspector showed photos of “Albert J. Lewis” to Lea’s acquaintances in Spokane, and “all immediately recognized Lea.”

Lea would, “in all probability,” be returned to Mississippi to finish his life sentence.

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