Thursday, March 13, 2008

The second murder in Oregon

I’ve decided I don’t know enough about Charlie Daniels (aka Charles Brown) to write a post of any significance so I will skip it and move on to a second Oregon murder attributed to the Colorado Springs Unsub by the Colorado Springs Gazette.

North of Portland and near the Washington border is the little town of Scappoose. Today the town is a bedroom community for the Portland metropolitan area and has a population of about 6,000. In 1911 there was a small community about six miles to the west of Scappoose known as Schnitzerville. It is here that Frank and Daisy Wehrman and their four-year old son, Harold, built a house. Frank was a baker in Portland and was only home on Saturday night and Sunday. Daisy and Harold spent their time in the little cabin and keeping up the small crops the family planted. Frank Wehrman left his wife and child for work on the afternoon of Sunday September 3. It was the last time he saw either of them alive. On September 6 a neighbor woman and her daughter went by the Wehrman cabin and found the front door locked from the outside with a padlock. Blood from inside the cabin had flowed from under the door and dripped onto the step. The windows where uncovered and the bare legs of Daisy Wehrman could be seen hanging, flat footed, over the side of the bed. For unclear reasons, the neighbor sat on the discovery for a day before going into Scappoose to tell the sheriff. Her explanation for the delay was she thought Mrs. Wehrman was sleeping and the blood was from a slaughtered chicken. Obviously she was either stupid or covering for someone (turns out is was probably the latter).

Upon entering the cabin the sheriff discovered Daisy Wehrman partially naked and still wearing her shoes and galoshes. Harold was lying in bed with her, also dead. Both had been shot at extremely close range with three .38 caliber shots each and Mrs. Wehrman’s head had been beaten with a hatchet. Sitting on the table was a package containing a curtain made from a flour sack and a wrapped newspaper. A bullet from Mrs. Wehrman’s .32 caliber pistol was picked out of the door frame near the head of the bed indicating Mrs. Wehrman had managed to fire a shot at her killer before being murdered. Skin was also found under Mrs. Wehrman’s fingernails and brown hairs were found clutched in her hand. A neighbor man named Pender was eventually convicted of the crime, after two trials, and sentenced to hang but later had his sentenced commuted to life. The evidence convicting him was non-existent and the primary reason for the conviction was based entirely on hearsay. I haven’t been able to confirm whether or not he was ever pardoned even though another man confessed four years later.

There is one tantalizing piece of connection here though; the Wehrman family was originally from Iowa. Remember the newspaper found on the kitchen table? It was probably a copy of the Eldora Herald sent from Frank’s hometown of Eldora in Hardin County, Iowa. The bodies of Daisy and Harold were shipped back to Eldora and buried in a single plot in the Eldora City Cemetery. Now I mention this only as a tease. Eldora is more than 200 miles away from Villisca and at this time there isn’t any reason to believe the Wehrmans ever set foot in that town. Besides, the man who confessed to the Wehrman murder wasn’t anywhere near Colorado Springs on September 17, 1911 making the connection between the two as tenuous as Villisca is to Lizzy Borden.

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