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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Spokane: A boy testified that his mother had beaten his 8-year-old sister to death, but the only court proceeding to come of the bombshell was a divorce

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

A divorce hearing in Spokane Superior Court included shocking and gruesome testimony that implicated a woman in the death of her daughter six years earlier.

G.L. Hobbs had brought divorce proceedings against Pearl Hobbs, with both sides charging cruelty.

When son Paul, 17, took the stand, he said the cruelty was entirely from his mother.

He said when he was 11 and his sister Nellie was 8, his mother became angry at Nellie for failing to wash the dishes to her satisfaction. He said his mother dragged Nellie by the hair into the bathroom and beat her severely.

The next day, Nellie went to school but became sick in the schoolroom. She died the next day.

Paul said he told his father that Nellie had “fallen out of a swing,” because his mother threatened him with similar punishment if he told the truth.

Paul also testified that his mother had once held Nellie to the floor and poured boiling water from a kettle over her, and once cut her tongue with scissors. He also said she had beaten him with “a lead-filled whip until the whip wore out.”

During her son’s testimony, Pearl Hobbs screamed, “I can’t stand it!” and had to be carried out of the courtroom “in a hysterical condition.” During his subsequent testimony, “the wails of the mother in the antechamber could be heard throughout the building.”

Earlier, Pearl Hobbs had testified that she “had never touched the children except to whip them with a thin lath.”

The judge granted the divorce and gave custody of the surviving four children to the father.

The Spokane County prosecutor said he could take no action on the accusations made at the hearing, because the events had occurred too long ago, and outside of Spokane County.