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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Churchgoing schoolteacher caught in blackmailing, kidnapping scheme

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the identity of the blackmailer. He was a pioneer resident of Deer Park, member of the Methodist Church and former schoolteacher. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the identity of the blackmailer. He was a pioneer resident of Deer Park, member of the Methodist Church and former schoolteacher. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

A.L. Porter, secretary of the Western Retail Lumbermen’s Association in Spokane, was shocked to receive the following letter:

“Dear Parents, if you are wishing to keep your son, whose picture is in the Sunday Review, you can do so by coming through with certain requests I shall make in the future. … Should you refuse … your son will disappear, and should this note be published and police investigation follow, we will get your son …”

It went on to say if any of the gang was “hung for it,” there will always be “one of us left” to exact revenge. It was signed “Gang 4567890.”

The son was Lemoyne Porter, age 9. The father immediately took the note to authorities, who advised him to await developments. A second letter soon arrived demanding $3,000 and ordering Porter to take the cash to the men’s restroom on the third floor of the Peyton Building and place it behind a mirror.

Police rigged up an electrical signal bell that would alert them when the mirror was tampered with. The officers went into hiding in a nearby office and waited.

At 5 p.m., the bell rang and officers rushed the restroom, guns drawn and arrested a man with the envelope in his hand.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the identity of the blackmailer. He was James D. Neaville, 42, of Deer Park, member of the Methodist Church and former schoolteacher.

He would later tell officers he was driven by his “inability to earn sufficient money to support his wife and six children.”

Porter, who had never met the man, was unsympathetic.

“I think it is the dirtiest thing a man can do,” said Porter.

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