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100 years ago in Spokane: Prosecutor declines to charge suspect in strychnine death

The Spokane County prosecutor declined to charge H.M. Delaney in the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Jan. 25, 1919. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The Spokane County prosecutor declined to charge H.M. Delaney in the strychnine death of Rosa Kempf, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Jan. 25, 1919. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The strychnine death of Rosa Kempf would remain a mystery.

The county prosecutor declined to charge H.M. Delaney in Kempf’s death, citing a lack of evidence.

“After a careful consideration of his record, I can come to but one positive conclusion, and that is that Rosa Kempf died from strychnine poison, but whether the poison was self-administered, obtained by accident, or given by some other person with murderous intent, is still a mystery,” the prosecutor said. “And no evidence is yet apparent that can direct more than a suspicion toward anyone or impute to anyone a motive for the commission of such a crime.”

Prosecutor Joseph B. Lindsley refuted one of the prevailing theories – that Delaney was a spurned suitor who gave her poisoned candy after learning she was planning to marry another.

The prosecutor said that, to the contrary, Delaney was “on the most friendly terms of association with the deceased girl, her father and immediate neighbors” and was “welcome at the house.” He also said Rosa, her father and Delaney had all eaten from the same box of candy, indicating it was not the source of the poison. There was no evidence showing Delaney purchased or sought to purchase strychnine.

From the labor beat: The chances of a paralyzing general strike in Seattle and Tacoma continued to grow. Seattle’s building trades council announced its intention to strike in sympathy with the metal trades workers in the shipyards.

A federal “commissioner of conciliation” offered to mediate in the shipyard strike, but the consensus was that this offer “would not affect the situation one way or another.”

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