Just 150 miles north of Ardenwald, in a little cottage just outside Rainier, Washington, Archie Coble, formerly of Topaz, Missouri, was just starting his life with his brand new wife, Nettie. Nettie was about 10 years younger than Archie and said to be quite attractive. Archie worked in
Rainier at a general store as a clerk and had to start his way into town very early, following the nearby railroad tracks into town. On the night of July 10, 1911 it was a full moon. Archie set his alarm clock for midnight so he could begin his day. Archie did not make it to work that morning.
I have only mentioned this case in passing. I now want to go into a bit more detail about it. I told you before that I am not certain about the link between Ardenwald and the rest of the “Midwest Axe Murders.” But I have more information about the Coble crime scene that makes this particular murder very intriguing to me. When the bodies were discovered on Tuesday night, the back door of the cottage was open. The bed in the front room where the bodies lay was tucked into a corner. Archie slept on the outside and was lying on his back. Nettie slept on the inside against the wall and was lying on her left side, facing the wall. So what are the similarities here?
First, the disposition of the bodies; both lying in bed with sheets pulled up over the victim’s heads. Archie had been hit once or twice and I’m not certain how many blows Nettie absorbed. Archie had a cotton handkerchief placed on top of his face. Nettie was positioned slightly down off her pillow and lower in the bed. The position was believed by investigators to suggest she had awoken and made an attempt to evade the killer’s axe. If you want comparison see here. Left out of the news reports was the fact that Nettie had been “criminally assaulted” which would have occurred postmortem (see here and here).
Another, similar element was an oil lamp. On top of the lantern glass were smears of blood, indicating the killer had handled the chimney after the attacks. Was this to remove the chimney in order to look upon the scene by the flicker of a dim, open flame? The murder weapon was a double bitted axe and had been placed on the bed cover. The crime was described by investigators as “cleaned up” which, while vague, indicates that little bit of OCD inherent in serial killers. The killer apparently exited the cottage through the bedroom window as indicated by shoe prints found in the soft soil outside the window. In a “tent house” located behind the cottage was found a bloody newspaper which either means the killer went into the tent after the murders to look around or went there to go to sleep. I’ll get into the suspects in another post. So was this a random act of violence or the second (or first) in a series of bloody murders?