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100 years ago in Spokane: Serial killer nicknamed ‘Bluebeard’ prefers prison over asylum

 (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)
(Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)

“Bluebeard” Huirt, aka Watson, aka Holden, was sentenced to life in San Quentin State Prison by a Los Angeles judge – yet he was already angling for early release via the “insanity route.”

This despite the fact that the death toll among his former wives was now thought to be nine.

His attorney, J. Morgan Marmaduke, said he was initially prepared to fight “Bluebeard’s” case on an insanity basis, but he preferred that he be sent initially to a penitentiary instead of an asylum.

Why? Because that would keep him under the jurisdiction of California. Otherwise he would be compelled to face multiple murder charges in Washington.

“He does not want to go to Washington for trial,” said the attorney. “He feels that he would never live again through the ordeal he has gone through here the last few days. He knows that in Washington his life would not be spared, for the northern officials would be strangers to him. He knows that capital punishment is now in effect in Washington. He also knows that California penitentiaries are run under better conditions than northern penitentiaries.”

The attorney’s plan, apparently, was to keep him in San Quentin until free from further prosecution. Then he could be found insane, sent to an aslyum, and eventually released on parole.

One of his wives, Kathryn Wombacher of Spokane, was outraged by these machinations.

“Why should he be shown any mercy?” she asked. “He showed no mercy for those poor women whom he killed in the most fiendish manner. He was never insane and isn’t now.”

“Bluebeard” now claimed his true last name was Holden, adding to a lengthy list of aliases. He married most of his wives under different names.

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