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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: Kidnapper fleeing prison on train captured in Starbuck

Cleopus Viens was serving a potentially decade-long prison sentence for kidnapping when he jumped a freight train outside Walla Walla. Authorities were waiting for him in Starbuck. (S-R archives)
Jim Kershner

Cleopus Viens, an escapee from the state pen at Walla Walla, was nabbed by the town marshal of Starbuck and was headed back to jail.

Viens, whose first name was variously spelled as Cleopus, Cleophus and Cleophas, had hoofed it into the Touchet-Wallula hills after he snuck out of prison while working in the kitchen. He then backtracked and jumped onto a freight train at Wallula.

Some railroad guards apparently saw him, however, and they wired ahead to Starbuck, where the train was headed. The marshal was waiting when the train arrived.

Viens was serving a five-to-10-year term for kidnapping Catherine Pluym, 12, and leading authorities on a chase for days. The pair were eventually found in Elk River, Idaho.

The Spokane Daily Chronicle reported that “the girl in the case has been corresponding with Viens” in prison.

From the medical beat: Dr. J.B. Anderson, the former city health officer who guided Spokane through the most serious medical crisis in its history — the Spanish flu epidemic — was himself seriously ill.

He was enduring a bout of ptomaine poisoning, and had been sick for three weeks. At one point, his “recovery had been held in doubt by attending physicians.” Yet it appeared he was now out of danger.

Anderson had moved to the west side of the state after being named the state health commissioner, and he was currently living in Seattle.