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100 years ago near Cheney: Body of man shot in head discovered in chicken house

Marietta Skinner, 17, accompanied her father to an abandoned farm near Cheney and discovered the body of a man who had been shot in the head.  (Spokesman-Review archives)
Marietta Skinner, 17, accompanied her father to an abandoned farm near Cheney and discovered the body of a man who had been shot in the head. (Spokesman-Review archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Marietta Skinner, 17, accompanied her father to an abandoned farm near Cheney to fetch a cultivator and a load of fodder.

While her father was dealing with the cultivator, Marietta peeked into the chicken house and saw … a man’s hand “reaching out” of a mass of old newspapers and trash.

“It surely scared the wits out of me,” she said.

She screamed, ran out and fetched her father. The two investigated further and uncovered a dead body. To their horror, they realized that the man had not been dead for long – his body was still warm. They ran to a neighboring farm and called police.

Police discovered the man had been shot through the head. The body had not yet been identified, but police had two theories. One, that the man had been lured to the chicken house under the guise of looking over the property, and then robbed and murdered. The second theory was that he had been lured to the chicken house with the promise of buying liquor, which he was told was stored there. No liquor was discovered.

Marietta’s father had a theory of his own, suggested by the fact that the body was covered over with old newspapers. The murderer, he thought, was intending to return later that night to set fire to the newspapers, burn the chicken house down and cover up the crime.

“We should have stayed there all night,” said Marietta’s father. “I’ll bet anything we would have gotten the murderer.”

Police found some car tracks leading to the chicken house, but other than that, there were few clues.

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