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Friday, January 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago today in the Inland Northwest: Murder mystery on the banks of the St. Maries River

From the Nov. 19, 1919 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)
From the Nov. 19, 1919 Spokane Daily Chronicle (S-R archives)

A murder mystery emerged from the waters of the St. Maries River in Idaho.

The decomposed body of a man was found on the river bank, with one heavy stone tied around his neck and another tied around his waist. His hat was also tied to his clothes, “presumably to prevent it from rising to the surface and betraying the murder.”

The man’s throat had been cut from ear to ear.

Authorities were working on the theory that man was a Fernwood rancher who had mysteriously disappeared two years ago. The man had been carrying between $300 and $400 in cash when he disappeared. Little cash was found on the body, but in his pockets were two compasses, “such as are used by timber cruisers,” and a watch.

These might prove valuable in identifying the body, and the Fernwood rancher’s widow had been summoned for that purpose.

Authorities speculated that the man had been the victim of a “foul murder” for his money, and the body was thrown into the St. Maries River, a few hundred feet from where it was found.

A second murder, attempted: Sidney A. Wagner, “a pioneer Spokane transfer man,” was fighting for his life after being shot twice at his home on Fourth Avenue.

Charles W. White, the former husband of Wagner’s wife, was in custody for the shooting. Witnesses said White went to the Wagner home to get his 15-year-old daughter, who had spent the night there. Mrs. Wagner ordered White away, but he refused to leave.

Mrs. Wagner grabbed a revolver from her bedroom, but White wrestled it away from her. Sidney Wagner then intervened and attempted to take the gun from White. White shot him once in the chest and once in a grazing shot to the head.

Doctors said Wagner had a “fighting chance” of recovery.

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