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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Defense for dragging suspect claimed he couldn’t hear all the cries to stop

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 21, 2021

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

“Deafness” constituted the principal alibi of W.J. Van Skike, on trial for manslaughter after running down a widow on the street and dragging her under his car for 13 blocks without stopping.

The victim, Mrs. Kirkpatrick, screamed continually as she was dragged and died later of her injuries. Numerous onlookers and fellow motorists also screamed at Van Skike to stop. If anything, he sped up.

In the opening statement for the defense, Van Skike’s attorney said he would show that Van Skike had suffered a skull fracture years earlier causing total deafness in his left ear, and diminished hearing in his right ear, “making it impossible for Mr. Van Skike to hear anything more than ordinary sound.”

The lawyer also said they would show that visibility was bad on that dark and stormy evening and that Van Skike could not tell that he had hit a pedestrian and dragged her.

Van Skike did hear “other cars and shouts,” but he thought it had nothing to do with him and that possibly some other driver was drunk.

His erratic path was not to evade capture – other drivers were chasing him in an attempt to get him to stop – but because he decided on impulse to go visit a friend. He admitted he ran into a motorcycle. He later lied to officers about the route, because he was “fearful of being framed.”

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1973: The U.S. Supreme Court, in its Roe v. Wade decision, declared a nationwide constitutional right to abortion.

1997: The Senate confirmed Madeleine Albright as the nation’s first female secretary of state.

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