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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: A ‘half-crazed youth’ shot two brothers in the face

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Two young Ephrata, Washington, farmers were lying near death after being shot by a “half-crazed youth.”

Lawrence Simmons was accused of approaching John and Herbert Reard at the Purdy ranch and shooting each of them in the face with a shotgun. Simmons, described as “mentally deficient,” was thought to have been in love with Miss Bertha Ashcroft, who was set to be married to Herbert Reard the next day.

Simmons approached Herbert while he and his brother were visiting Miss Ashcroft at the ranch. John Reard tried to intervene, but Simmons discharged the gun in his face. Then Simmons turned and shot Herbert in the face.

Simmons then fled to Soap Lake and “gave himself up at the sanatorium.” He was taken into custody.

John and Herbert Reard were both severely injured, with eye, jaw and brain injuries, but physicians believed there might be a chance of recovery.

From the military beat: A sergeant at Camp Lewis (Fort Lewis) made a shocking confession: He said he had been ordered by a superior officer to murder Major Alexander Cronkhite.

Sgt. Roland P. Pothier said he was approached by Capt. Robert Rosenbluth, who told him he wanted to “get Major Cronkhite.” When Pothier asked why, Rosenbluth said, “Because we want to get him out of the way.”

Pothier agreed to the shooting after Rosenbluth promised him “full protection.” Rosenbluth said he wanted Pothier to turn and shoot Major Cronkhite while they were on the maneuver grounds, and that Rosenbluth would rush over and tell everyone that Major Cronkhite had shot himself accidentally during target practice.

On the day of the shooting, “everything happened as scheduled.”

Except that Pothier, when hauled before a board of inquiry, confessed to the entire scheme. Both Pothier and Rosenbluth were then charged with murder.

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