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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago today: Infamous murder case passes through Spokane

From the Aug. 17, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle.  (S-R archives)
From the Aug. 17, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

On the platform of the Spokane train depot, reporters descended on Dr. R.M. Brumfield, a Roseburg, Oregon, dentist who was manacled to an Oregon deputy sheriff.

Dr. Brumfield was accused of murdering Dennis Russell, a farm laborer in Roseburg. He was arrested in Calgary and was being extradited back to Oregon by train. The case had become a nationwide sensation. When Spokane reporters asked him about the charges, he denied them – but in a less-than-convincing manner.

“I had been sick for two weeks before this thing that you tell about happened,” he told reporters. “I hadn’t been eating much. I remember going out to dinner with Dennis Russell. I don’t remember anything of what happened after that, until I was in Portland. I stayed there for a couple of days then I went up to Vancouver, Washington. I don’t know how I got there. … My head seems to be clearing up now, and I am just beginning to remember all these things. It seems like it is all a dream, which I am just beginning to recall.”

The sheriff said that Brumfield at first insisted that he was Dennis Russell. Then he admitted he was Dr. Brumfield, but that he had “gotten it into his head that he was Russell.” Just a few hours earlier, when the customs agent asked him his name at the Canadian border, he replied, “Dennis Russell,” but then corrected himself.

“Something inside me seems to say I am, and yet I know I am not,” said Brumfield.

“He has shown very much the condition of a man who has been walking in a trance and is just waking up,” said the sheriff. “Of course, I am no judge of insanity. He may or may not be faking this apparent condition.”

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