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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Police solve chicken house murder mystery after another victim survives shooting

Bert Wilson, a convicted criminal and moonshine dealer, shot himself in his East Riverside Avenue shack, using the same .22 caliber revolver that police believe he had used to kill J.F. Olson in a chicken shed on a deserted farm outside of Cheney earlier in the year, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Dec. 24, 1920. The newspaper also reported that Spokane's Second Church of Christ, Scientist, was planning to build a $60,000 church building at Spofford and Post in north Spokane. Also, the first public Christmas tree in Spokane since 1916 was erected in front of The Spokesman-Review office at Monroe and Riverside.  (Spokesman-Review archives)
Bert Wilson, a convicted criminal and moonshine dealer, shot himself in his East Riverside Avenue shack, using the same .22 caliber revolver that police believe he had used to kill J.F. Olson in a chicken shed on a deserted farm outside of Cheney earlier in the year, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Dec. 24, 1920. The newspaper also reported that Spokane's Second Church of Christ, Scientist, was planning to build a $60,000 church building at Spofford and Post in north Spokane. Also, the first public Christmas tree in Spokane since 1916 was erected in front of The Spokesman-Review office at Monroe and Riverside. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Police believed they had finally solved the Chicken House Murder Mystery – and the perpetrator took his own life when he realized that the police were on his trail.

Bert Wilson, a convicted criminal and moonshine dealer, shot himself in his East Riverside Avenue shack, using the same .22 caliber revolver that police believe he had used to kill J.F. Olson in a chicken shed on a deserted farm outside of Cheney.

Police had been searching for Wilson after he apparently lured another man, Tom Sherman, to a remote location using the same methods he used to lure Olson to his death. Wilson drove Sherman to a spot southwest of Spokane and, with no warning, came up behind Sherman and shot him behind the ear.

This time, however, Wilson’s luck ran out. The bullet did not kill Sherman. Sherman grabbed the gun, tossed it aside and escaped. Sherman then went directly to police, reported the incident and gave a full description of his assailant, described as “crippled.”

Police believed they knew exactly who the assailant was, because the description perfectly fit Bert Wilson, whom they had arrested before on various charges. In August, Wilson had been shot in the leg by police when he tried to escape, causing him to walk with a limp.

Investigation also showed that Wilson had hired a car from a Spokane garage, matching the description of the car that was used to take Sherman southwest of town. Wilson had also hired a car from the same garage on the day of Olson’s death.

In fact, police suspected that Wilson might be responsible for more murders.

“What we want to know now is the extent of the fiend’s operations,” said a detective. “We will probably never know how many deaths he has caused. Whether he killed entirely for money, or whether his desires for money was coupled with a fiendish desire to murder, we will probably never know.”

Sherman was recovering well from his head wound, and was “still carrying one of the bullets from the little revolver in his head.”

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