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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: After 15 years, a woman’s deathbed confession seemed to solve a baffling murder

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

A 15-year-old Spokane murder mystery may have been solved after a deathbed confession in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In 1906, Reno Hutchinson, general secretary for the Spokane YMCA, was gunned down at the corner of Seventh and Howard. Police could find neither a suspect nor a motive.

Hutchinson was well-liked and had no enemies. He had just disembarked from a streetcar when two shots rang out from a dark place. Police dropped the case after a year of frustration.

Now, a Vancouver, B.C., man came to Spokane police with a remarkable story. He said a dying woman had confessed to him that she had killed Hutchinson. She allegedly told the man, a close confidante, that she had come to Spokane in 1906 to kill a different man, who had caused her to lose thousands of dollars in a business transaction. She waited near his house and, when her victim got off the streetcar, walked toward him and fired the fatal shots. She did not realize she had mistaken Hutchinson for her intended victim.

After the shooting, she immediately jumped on a train and left for Vancouver. Only later, when she read in the papers that someone named Reno Hutchinson had been shot, did she realize her mistake.

She lived with the secret for years, but as she died, she decided to come clean. She asked her friend to tell the truth after she died. That’s how her confidante found himself telling the story to a Spokane police captain.

The captain admitted that verifying the story might be difficult after all of these years. But detectives who worked on the case said it was the only plausible explanation they had ever heard for Hutchinson’s death.

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