Thursday, February 7, 2008

At Last the Coroner's Inquest - Part 2


Henry F. Wayne

Much thanks to Sandra at the Pikes Peak Library in Colorado Springs.

Now don't get excited, I still haven't found the actual Coroner's findings or listing of evidence submitted. What Sandra did find for me was a brief summery of the Coroner's Inquest in the Colorado Springs Herald and I think it gives me some new things to chew on and more fuel for my WAGs and SWAGs.

El Paso County Coroner Leonard Jackson called only two witnesses outside of the
doctor who examined the bodies. Dr. E. L. McKinnie viewed the bodies at the
morgue and it isn't stated if he saw them in the context of the crime scene. He found that May Burnham was "the worst battered of any of the victims." She had been struck four times and he noted she was wearing a nightgown or a wrap. Nellie Burnham had been struck on the back of her head which was consistent with the finding she had been attacked while attempting to crawl over her mother's legs. The Burnham children were dressed in their underwear. Henry Wayne had been attacked while lying on his back and the frontal bones of the skull and facial bones were collapsed from the attack. Dr. McKinnie stated Henry had been the next "worst battered" of the victims. Blanche Wayne had been lying on her side when attacked and had been hit with the blade of the axe near her temple then was hit with the blunt end of the axe. No mention is made of the state of dress or undress of the Wayne's bodies.

Officially the Jury returned an "open verdict" which basically means they had no suspects and no idea where they were going to find some suspects. It is the last aspect of the jury's findings that intrigues me.

"[W]e further find that the killing of the above named persons was done with felonious intent."
I'm not a lawyer but I can Google. Felonious intent means the murders happened as a consequence of some other felony action. An example would be if a burglar was surprised by the homeowner and, while attempting to escape, struck the homeowner with a fire poker and killed him. The original intent of the crime was burglary, a felony, and as a consequence someone was murdered. According to Wikipedia, the current interpretation of "felonious intent" has been in effect since the 18th century so this is how the jury in Colorado Springs would have understood the finding as well.

So what might have been the “felonious intent” the jurors had considered? If you read that Wiki entry you will see what the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code lists as crimes contained in the Felonious Intent clause; robbery, rape or forcible deviant sexual intercourse, arson, burglary, kidnapping, and felonious escape. I can remove robbery/burglary from the list since it was well documented that items of value were left in plain sight throughout both crime scenes. Investigators originally thought an attempt to set fire to the Burnham cottage had been made but as I wrote earlier, the scorched curtains were explained by too much powder being used by a photographer, so arson is out. Felonious escape and kidnapping were not considered so that leaves rape and/or forcible deviant sex. This leads me back to my previous post where I proposed the bodies may have been posed or assaulted in some way after death. The jury seems to have considered something while listening to the evidence. This of course is all speculation. I can’t begin to be certain of anything unless I find an accurate description of the crime scenes somewhere but until such time, I will stand by my deductive reasoning and leave it at that.

P.S. The two other witnesses were Nettie Ruth and Anna Merritt. Pretty lean list considering all the speculation flying around the neighborhood. Why not Mrs. Evans who loaned out what turned out to be the murder weapon and supposedly heard a scream on the night of the murder? How about the mine worker who saw a man loitering in the area about midnight the same night? Wow. Even by the standards of 1911 criminology this case got botched badly.

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