Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. To learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column, click here.

Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: The arrest of a bad-check artist led to a major clue in the disappearance of a St. Louis couple

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

By Jim Kershner

The arrest of Roy Waters, alias Oleston, in Spokane gave new impetus to a nationwide search for a missing St. Louis couple.

Waters, a notorious bad check artist, made a visit to the Davenport Hotel and was arrested when he tried to pass a bogus check at the Wentworth Clothing Co. store in Spokane.

When police searched Waters, they found him in possession of railway passes belonging to Mr. and Mrs. H.G. Oates of St. Louis.

A month earlier, the couple had boarded a Northern Pacific train in St. Paul, en route to Portland. Since then, no trace of the couple had been found.

Waters claimed that some other man, identity unknown, had given him the passes. Spokane police were not exactly convinced of Waters’ veracity, since he was apparently a well-known liar. He told the people at the Wentworth store that he was the son of Louisiana oil millionaires, and he arrived here in his own $50,000 airplane.

Police believed he had been traveling around the country for three years passing bad checks, with remarkable success.

Waters changed his story while in jail, and claimed that he was an escapee from the Oklahoma State Asylum. He then “assumed an air of stupidity.” Police believe this was an act and that he was actually “an especially keen young man.”

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1981: President Ronald Reagan announced he was nominating Arizona Judge Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

More from this author