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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Whitman County: Could a father-son duo have been behind a string of bank robberies? Officials were considering it

Nov. 23, 1963 --Nation Mourns. Man Charged With Murder of President. A gunman assassinated President Kennedy from ambush Friday with a high-powered rifle. Nearly 12 hours later, a 24-year-old man who professed love for Russia was charged with murder. The charge was filed against Lee Harvey Oswald, 24. Officers said he was the man who hid on the fifth floor of a textbook warehouse and snapped off three quick shots that killed the President and wounded Gov. John B. Connally of Texas. As the shots reverberated, blood sprang from the President's face. He fell face downward in the back seat of his car. His wife grasped his head and tried to lift it, crying,
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

After an “epidemic” of area bank robberies – some involving gunfire – heavily armed posses were scouring the area around Rosalia, Washington, for a likely suspect.

They were seeking Joseph W. Cress, owner of the Appleway Tailor Shop and an ex-convict who served 10 years on a murder rap in Walla Walla. They believed Cress and an unnamed accomplice attempted to rob the Whitman County National Bank in Rosalia.

They roused a cashier, W.O. Palmer, from his sickbed and forced him to walk with them toward the bank. On the way, Palmer broke and ran, “shouting for help.” Palmer’s son Alfred, 16, rushed out and fired on the robbers, which caused one of them to shout, “Dad, I’m hit!”

The robbers then ran to a Ford getaway car and sped out of Rosalia, shooting as they went. One bullet grazed Alfred Palmer’s throat, and another struck the arm of a Rosalia telephone office manager.

Later, the getaway car was found wrecked and abandoned in a wheat field. The car had apparently missed a turn at high speed, crashed through a fence and rolled several times. Inside the car was a suitcase bearing the name “J.W. Cress, Appleway Tailor.” The auto license was registered to Cress. When police contacted the Cress home, his mother said he had “left home before dinner last night and has not returned.”

Authorities were perplexed by the fact that one robber called the other “Dad.” It meant that it was either a father-son robber gang, or else a younger man used the word “Dad” as a nickname for an unrelated older man.

This was just one of four bank robberies in the past two days, and police believed that there might be “several organized gangs of yeggs (safecrackers) operating in this territory.”

The Whitman County sheriff advised small towns in the area to post armed watchmen – “cool-headed men, experienced in the use of firearms” – to guard banks and stores.