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

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: A brutal double-killing inside Walla Walla’s penitentiary was the final act in a long criminal saga

 (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

The sordid saga of desperados S.P. Burt and Tom Walton ended in spilled blood inside the gates of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

The two convicts were marching in line from chapel when Walton produced a knife and stabbed Burt, his former accomplice, to death. Walton then attacked Burt’s cellmate, George McDonald, and stabbed him to death.

Walton was angry at Burt for “telling tales on Walton to McDonald.” Walton also blamed Burt for landing both of them in prison at Walla Walla.

The Burt-Walton story began years earlier when both were sentenced to life in San Quentin for murder. They escaped and made their way to Spokane, leaving a trail of burglaries and larceny.

In Spokane, Walton and Burt gave a ride to a young cafe waitress in their stolen car. She became alarmed at Watson’s reckless driving – and terrified about their intentions – and she leapt from the speeding car, suffering a fractured skull.

Deputy Cashatt gave chase and pulled over Burt, who was driving a second stolen car, near Rosalia, Washington. Burt produced a gun and shot Cashatt through the lung. Cashatt survived.

Burt and Walton were arrested weeks later in Iowa, following a nationwide manhunt. Burt was convicted of shooting Cashatt; Walton was convicted of burglary and auto theft.

Now Walton was being held in Walla Walla for the knife-killings of his two fellow prisoners. Walton did not surrender easily. A prison guard had to knock Walton down three times and rely on fellow prisoners to help subdue the blood-soaked convict.

An unrepentant Walton told Walla Walla officials that he “should have killed him before we left Spokane.”