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100 years ago in Spokane: McNutt murder trial begins with visit to supposed crime scene

The prosecutor wanted the jury to see the scene of the crime, and the judge allowed it over defense objections. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
The prosecutor wanted the jury to see the scene of the crime, and the judge allowed it over defense objections. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

After the first day of testimony in the McDonald siblings’ murder trial, the jury was escorted out of the courtroom and into the Wolverine lodging house, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported.

Why? Because that is where the McDonalds bashed in the head of their business partner, W.H. McNutt, following a violent dispute, according to the prosecution.

The prosecutor wanted the jury to see the scene of the crime, and the judge allowed it over defense objections.

Prior to that field trip, prosecutor Joseph Lindsley had laid out his case against Marie, Fay and Ted McDonald. These were Lindsley’s main points:

  • That McNutt owned the Wolverine building, and the McDonalds were operating it as a lodging house.
  • That the McDonalds had also arranged to construct a building on land McNutt owned at Scotia, near Newport.
  • That in previous days, neighbors at the Wolverine had heard loud disputes between McNutt and the McDonalds, and Fay McDonald had once brandished a hammer and threatened to strike him in the head.
  • On the fateful day, McNutt was observed going into the Wolverine, where occupants heard “a commotion” in one of the rooms.
  • That things suddenly became quiet, and McNutt was never seen leaving the Wolverine. His car remained parked outside at least until evening.
  • That the McDonalds had in fact murdered McNutt in a Wolverine room, , took the body out the back way and drove it in McNutt’s own pickup truck to the farm near Scotia, according to the prosecutor.
  • That they buried him on the farm and started a bonfire over the site to obliterate any signs.
  • That pieces of Wolverine carpet were found with the body.

The prosecutor did not detail which of the siblings was responsible for which actions – a point that might assume greater significance as the trial proceeds.

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