Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sheriff Charley Brown: Chapter XVI

It was a wan, worn-out Charley Brown that finally arrived at the St. Vincent depot just as darkness fell. It had been January 3 when he delivered his prisoner to the Detroit penitentiary, now it was February 17.

The very day he arrived in Detroit he had come down with a high fever and an unshakable cold. He had spent over a month confined to a hospital room, most of the time comatose. He was being treated by a doctor whose talents, Charley suspected, were of a limited knowledge. He was subjected to constant hot mustard plasters, and of having his window open to admit freezing cold, fresh air. Gingerly, Charley reached as far down his neck as possible to relieve the itching left by the hot plasters. Having been abed for so long, and being fed only liquids, he realized it would be days before he would again regain his full vigor.

When the train fully stopped, he raised from his seat to remove his carpetbag from the high baggage rack. A sudden light-headiness, accompanied by a blacking out sensation, made him reach quickly to grasp the back of the seat. Hesitating momentarily to regaining his equilibrium, he turned to walk to the end of the car just as a blast of cold air rolled in from the now open vestibule door. Upon his reaching the exit, the porter, noting Charley's unstable walk, courteously reached to take his bag. Finally stepping down to the icy platform, Charley came face to face with Carl Gooding, the St. Vincent depot agent. Gooding reached out to take Charley's valise from the porter.

"Heard you were sick, Charley. I expected you back three weeks ago. John said you sent a note early in January, saying you were in a hospital."

"A touch of pneumonia, Carl. I was sick as the devil for a while, and for a few days lost touch with reality. I'm fine now, just a little rickety." He smiled, "A few square meals will fix me up."

"We wondered about you. Anyway, if you'll wait a few minutes I'll give you a ride over to Pembina."

Charley spied the mail and express carrier who was loading bags from the express car. "Maybe I can catch a ride with Leifer, the Icelander. He should be leaving soon."

"That's fine with me, but he hasn't any robes on his sleigh and it's mighty cold."

They walked to the mail carrier's sleigh where Gooding placed Charley's bag behind the seat. "Got a passenger for you Bjorn. Charley needs a ride across the river."

"Ya, sure. Yump on."

When the carrier's sleigh reached the top of the hill at Pembina, he drew his team to a stop. Charley thanked him, stepped off, and then turned toward his saloon. Entering, he was greeted profusely by old cronies and others who waved perfunctorily. Dropping his bag, he turned to John who hurriedly approached.

"You worried the hell out of me! It's been a month since you wrote. Why didn't you dash off a letter after that one telegram in early January?"

"I was just too sick -- darn near croaked according to the doctor."

"Well, you're going to be a lot sicker when I tell you the news. Highwater Bill has done it again! He's gone and arrested Frank LaRose for murdering that kid of Nancy LeRoque's.

"Be damned, he really did it?"

"He sure did, and furthermore, it's suspected Frank recently murdered his wife."

"When did all this happen?"

"Just a few days ago."

Charley looked stunned. "Bill wanted me to lock up LaRose, then leave him in charge of the jail, but I refused. He has it in his head that if he could get Frank into jail he could force him into admitting he killed Nancy LeRoque's daughter."

"Geez! You've had us all wild. Marguerite has been worried sick about you. She's stopped by several times and she's never stepped in the door of our saloon before. She said she expected you back weeks ago. Also your mother is concerned. She cornered me at Myrick’s store."

"John, I still feel shaky. Guess it'll take a few days to make me right. Now I suppose I'd better look up Bill and find out what's up."

"I'd rest easy tonight if I were you. Your rooms upstairs should be plenty warm. You can see Bill in the morning; nothing's going to change. Bob's watching LaRose at the jail. By the way, you have a new customer there. A darned slicker -- a lightning rod salesman who took money last fall and never delivered the goods."

"How did suspicion fall on LaRose after his wife's death?"

"Dr. Appel, at the fort, thought her sudden death peculiar. It seems he saw the woman the day before her death and found her in good health. Healthy people just don't kick off -- at least not overnight."

Charley bent to pick up his carpetbag. "If you don't need any help, I'm going upstairs and put something together to eat. Guess the trouble will still be there in the morning."

"You haven't been home for a month; your cupboard must be bare. Sit down and I'll make up something from the leftovers in the icebox. It'll only take a minute." He looked at Charley critically, "You know -- you really do look puny!"

As John began fixing a plate for Charley, he turned to add, "Captain Collins and Kneeshaw have both been looking for you. They want to set up an inquest. They'll be glad you're home since they'll need to call in a jury and clerk. That'll be your job to notify those involved. They'll need witnesses lined up, and I suppose much of it will take place at the fort. I heard Dr. Appel has already run an autopsy on Mrs. LaRose, but the results haven't been released. They're keeping everything under wraps until the inquest."

Charley ate little of the plate handed him. He found his appetite playing tricks. John looked at him sympathetically, "Just not hungry, Charley?"

"It looks mighty good, but I guess I'm just not used to solid food yet."

"How about a barley sandwich?" His partner moved to the beer tap.

Charley nodded slowly, "It'll be my first beer since December. Sure, I'll try a glass. They gave me a little brandy now and then at the hospital -- said it was to increase my appetite." Sprinkling salt into his beer, foam grew, gradually overflowing his glass. Morosely running his hand through his hair, he said, "Sure need a haircut."

John said, "I heard Kneeshaw wants to hold the inquest on Thursday, that's just two days away. He probably already knows whom he wants on the jury, maybe the county commissioners. Guess they're pretty well tied up; he may have to pick jurors from town."

Sipping his glass of beer Charley reminisced over his past suspicion of LaRose. The man was a braggart and bully, who in spite of being a married man, patronized the local whorehouses. He doubted Highwater Billwould be able to bluff LaRose into any confession. Moorhead had picked up his nondeplume some years back when betting on the height of water during a flood. He had driven a board in the ground that had an open knothole in the upper end, and had bet five dollars the water would rise high enough to pass through the knothole. He won the bet, but it was suggested by some that he had returned during the hours of darkness and driven the board deeper into the ground. Charley knew that Bill was an exceptional raconteur, but that on occasion he was known to stretch the truth.

He decided he would contact Kneeshaw the first thing in the morning, then ride out to the fort and consult with Doctor Appel. The coroner’s inquest required only a jury of three plus a clerk, but every possible witness who had knowledge of the case would have to be called for questioning. He knew LaRose had a son, a daughter, and sister-in-law, who would of necessity be called. Also any neighbors who had associated with Mrs. LaRose in her last hours might be important as witnesses. Finishing his glass, he waved negligently to his partner, picked up his bag and moved upstairs.

Upon arising the next morning Charley ate breakfast at the Pioneer Hotel. He was surprised to find that he was able to eat a substantial meal, more it seemed than he had eaten for days. Minutes later, he entered Bird's lumber yard to find Coroner Kneeshaw working on the firm's books. Kneeshaw was a man of slight build, with quick, nervous actions and inquisitive, peering eyes. He looked up at Charley through small steel-rimmed glasses. "Finally got home, eh Charley? I heard you were sick."

"Just home in the nick of time from what I hear. John told me you want to hold an inquest into the LaRose case tomorrow. There's not much time to arrange things."

"Plenty of time -- we can do it day by day. I have two willing jurors so far, George West and Lee Scribner, but we'll need a third. Willoughly Clark has volunteered to act as clerk during the inquest."

"Maybe I can talk John into serving. Business is slow and we've a spare bartender."

"Get him, then." Kneeshaw was rubbing the fingers of his pen hand. "We'll need all the witnesses involved, including his family and neighbors. Best you see Dr. Appel at the fort. He may have more ideas on how to proceed, or of any special witnesses we may need."

At the fort hospital Appel apprised Charley of his findings. "We'll need to ask Wilkens, the druggist, to appear. I'm told he prescribed medicine for Mrs. LaRose, at times. Also, I need to know if she suffered any convulsive fits or similar attacks. Perhaps you can interview her neighbors as to that."

"Why look into fits, or convulsions?"

"It ties in with the symptoms of strychnine poisoning."

"I guess we'd better hold the first day of the hearing out here in your dispensary. Will that upset your schedule? The jurors will want to view the body and hear your conclusions as to the poisoning."

"As far as I'm concerned, tomorrow will be fine. Lieutenant Walker also witnessed the autopsy; I insisted upon an officer being present."

"Great! He can testify too.”

Donning his buffalo coat, beaver hat and finally his heavy horsehide gloves, Charley added, "I'll line up as many witnesses as possible, but I believe the only ones essential tomorrow will be your medical department and Wilkens, the druggist. Kneeshaw says the inquest doesn't have to be done in one day, besides, some of the witnesses may not be readily available."

"Then let's plan on 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, in my dispensary. I'll have everything lined up and can show the jury the tests I performed. If necessary, and if the jury has the stomach for it, I'll do the tests again to demonstrate the presence of poison."

Leaving the fort Charley turned south on the stage road. He was thankful it was a mild and almost a windless day, knowing that by nightfall he would be totally exhausted. He had neglected contacting Marguerite this day and knew she would find out that he was home. He mused, she'll probably feel slighted.

He arrived back in Pembina at dusk, leaving his horse and sleigh at Mason's Livery. Walking through the alley he crossed to Geroux's Hotel, entering the lobby just in time to catch Marguerite putting on her coat. Apparently she had been working behind the desk and was about to leave for home.

"Done for the day?"

Startled, she whirled, dropping her scarf. "Oh, Charley! Where did you come from?"

"Have you eaten supper yet?"

"No, I was going to eat at home."

"Then why not take off your coat and we'll eat in the dining room. How come you're not working there?"

"I've had desk-duty today. Lucien has gone to Minneapolis. His wife is about to come downstairs to relieve me." She slid into his arms, thrusting her body tightly against him. Throwing her arms around his neck she gave him a fierce, clenching kiss. Finally breaking away she scolded, "That's for scaring me! Why didn't you write?"

Taking her hand he led her into the dining room, drawing back a chair to seat her. Sitting opposite, he shrugged his shoulders. "Ended up sick, but I managed to drop a short wire to John. From there on, I didn't know which way was up for over three weeks. Guess I was lucky though, I licked double pneumonia."

"You don't look too spry now. You're pale as a ghost." She looked concerned.

"Just got in last night, then had to go out to the fort on that LaRose case this morning, then south to interview neighbors for potential witnesses. Frank's inquest is set for l0 a.m. tomorrow and not much planning has been done."

"Is it true? Did that horrible man murder his wife?"

"Hopefully, that's what will be decided at the inquest. The hearing will be at the fort and I'll have to see that Frank is delivered there. At present, he's lodged in the jail."

She leaned forward to grasp his hand. "Charley, I missed you so darned much! I imagined every worst thing that could have happened to you."

Tears were forming in her eyes. Taking her hand, he grasped it gently, "John told me that you stopped at the bar and asked about me, said it was the first time you'd ever done that. I'll take you home after we eat. Better yet, would you like to see my new rooms? You've only seen them briefly." His eyes searched hers. "It could be risky."

The waitress appeared to take their order and Maguerite murmured, "Let's discuss it after we eat."

Charley already knew her answer; her eyes burned into his.

All that followed afterward, was full of fire and fury, and when finished, they both lay spent.

It was nearing 4 a.m. when Marguerite awoke. Charley lay in a deep sleep, totally exhausted. Donning her clothes she slipped down the stairs into the frigid winter night, deeming the cold walk home a small price to pay for the wonderful love they had shared.

It was late on the afternoon of February 18 when Charley's mother ran into Mrs. Mostyn at the Pioneer Bakery. "Eliza, have you heard? Charley has returned from Detroit. According to Bob, Charley was sick in the hospital there for several weeks."

"Yes, that's so, Mrs. Brown." Bob Young, the storeowner added, "I ran into Johnny Kabernagel late last evening. He said Charley came in on the late train. He also said Charley looked mighty peaked."

"Well, it seems I'm the last to hear the news," Eliza said bitterly. "He has always been independent, never telling me anything."

"You must have known he took that prisoner to Detroit just after the New Year."

Eliza was loath to admit that Charley had not contacted her since the Christmas dance at Geroux's "Oh yes, I'd almost forgotten that he was to deliver a man to prison." She realized in the past weeks that her scornful treatment of Charley in front of others at the Christmas party had backfired. She had driven a wedge between them that must be eased as quickly as possible.

Her correspondence with Josey had born fruit. She had agreed to make a long visit to Eliza in the early summer, bringing both children, George and Lucy. Eliza was well aware of the fact that a ready-made family might prove a hindrance to Charley, but as she remembered the children, they were both courteous and polite. Eliza was prepared to make any sacrifice to break up Charley's romance with that breed woman.

As she left the bakery she found herself smiling with satisfaction. She recalled Josey's beauty. Why, with the right push and tact, Josey would have him roped within days. She could imagine the look of surprise on Charley's face when they met. She would plan their reunion artfully, arranging parties and picnics, ever pushing the two together.

Cousin Eugene, although agreeable and friendly, was not to be counted on for support. He had obtained a quarter of land to the south and was now busy framing a shed on his town property. When she had scornfully mentioned the breed girl in passing, he had sagely advised, "Eliza, Charley will always be his own man. If you treat that girl as trash, you are being a bigot. It will drive Charley even more firmly toward her. As a matter of fact, I've met Marguerite several times and she seems to be a lovely girl. Outside of her being involved with Charley, I've not heard a disparaging word said about her."

By 9:15 on the following morning court members and witnesses crowded into Dr Appel's dispensary at the fort. Because of badly crowded quarters the court was moved to the second floor where the open wooden coffin rested across two sawhorses. Tables and chairs were set and Coroner Kneeshaw assigned the jury of West, Scribner and Kabernagle to his right. To his left he designated a witness chair with Sheriff Brown close by.

As Frank LaRose was escorted into the room by Deputy Moorhead, the coroner turned to Charley, "Please swear in the jury."

Glancing at the court audience, then toward the jury, Kneeshaw said, "This will be an informal inquiry to determine if the death of Mrs. LaRose is anything more than a normal death. Circumstances have indicated otherwise, so every effort will be made to learn the truth." He looked directly at the prisoner.

"Mr. LaRose, are you represented by an attorney?"

"Hell no! Don't need any, didn't do nothin!"

Kneeshaw raised his eyes giving him a withering glance. "Then I believe we'll call Mr. Moorhead. I understand that he went to your home, arrested you and escorted you to jail."

"Mr. Moorhead, will you take the chair to my left and be sworn in?"

Charley performed the ritual.

"Mr. Moorhead, will you tell me of the circumstances concerning your arrest of Mr. LaRose?"

Bill combed through his heavy beard with nervous fingers. "Well, the jist of it is, Captain Collins sent Lieutenant Walker to corral me -- I was at the St. Vincent elevator at the time. When I reported to the Captain, Dr. Appel told me that something was haywire about Mrs. LaRose's death. He asked me what I could do. So I arrested LaRose, charged him with murdering the LeRoque girl."

The coroner appeared confused. "What has the LeRoque girl got to do with the death of Mrs. LaRose?"

Bill turned to Charley with a guilty look, and then looking back as Kneeshaw, said brashly, "I figured it a good excuse for arresting him -- and I damn well figure he is guilty of killing that girl!"

Coroner Kneeshaw shook his head disgustedly, but ignored the inference.

"What problems did you have in arresting Mr. LaRose?"

"Not much, he argued, but we brought him in."

"You had assistance in making the arrest?"

"Yup, Ned Cavalier came along with me."

"I assume you lodged Mr. LaRose in the Pembina jail?"

"Hell yes! Oh! Sorry judge!"

"You may step down." Kneeshaw showed signs of being exasperated with Moorhead.

"Dr. Appel, will you please take the stand."

Again the oath was administered.

"What were the circumstances that made you call for the sheriff."

"At the end of January I examined the lady at her husband's request. I believe it was January 25. Mr. LaRose said his wife was not feeling well, so I went to their home late in the afternoon. She seemed thin and run down, but her heartbeat was strong and regular, also she had no lung congestion. She did have several bruise marks on her arms also a severe mark on her left cheekbone. I advised Mr. LaRose to take better care of his wife."

"Did you prescribe any medication for her at the time?"

"No sir. She didn't request any and I didn't feel she required any."

"Please continue."

"The next day I was informed that she had passed away. I worried that I had failed to detect something in my examination of her, but upon thinking it over, I became suspicious."

"What did you do about your suspicions?"

"I mulled it in my mind for a day or two then decided to inform Captain Collins of my concern. He concurred with my thoughts, sending Lt. Walker to contact Mr. Moorhead. Sheriff Brown was absent at the time."

Coroner Kneeshaw summarized: "Gentlemen of the jury, it was then that I was informed of the possibility that a criminal act had taken place. I ordered Mrs. LaRose's body to be exhumed and brought to the fort for examination."

Charley glanced over at LaRose; the man's head was bent back over the chair, his eyes closed. He appeared either bored, or feigning sleep.

"Dr. Appel, when you examined the body of Mrs. LaRose, what did you find?"

"That she had enough strychnine in her to kill far more than one person."

"And when did this autopsy take place."

"Not until several hours after the body arrived at the fort since the corpse was frozen solid when brought in. I conducted the autopsy with the assistance of my hospital steward and in the presence of Lt. Walker. I removed the stomach, liver and kidneys to run tests upon them. My reference for the testing, is my medical book on poisons. The results were positive -- strychnine poisoning, whether induced, or taken voluntarily. Incidentally, we were appalled to find other bruises on her body that had been concealed from us by her clothing."

Kneeshaw was drumming the fingers of his right hand as he stared accusingly at LaRose.

"You are positive this evidence of poisoning is conclusive?"

"Yes sir!"

"You may step down. Will the hospital steward please take the stand."

Immediately after Charley swore in Dr. Appel's assistant the coroner asked him to state his name.

"My name is Ira Hocking, sir"

"Do you concur with Dr. Appel's conclusion that Mrs. Larose died of poison?"

"Yes sir. I followed every test with interest, as I've never before had the opportunity to learn anything about testing for poisons. According to the procedure and tests the doctor performed, the results coincided with the manual. I believe the doctor is correct in his conclusion."

After the steward was excused, Kneeshaw beckoned to Charley; they conferred in an undertone. Charley suggested, "I believe Wilkens, the Pembina druggist, should be called next. He's here, and says he gave medications to Mrs. LaRose."

As Charley walked back to his chair, the coroner called out, "Mr. Wilkens, will you please take the stand."

The druggist held a notebook in his hand as he was sworn in.

"Mr. Wilkens, I understand that you prescribed some medications for Mrs. LaRose. Please inform us of the details and contents of those chemicals."

"I sent to her house ten powders in all, each consisting of about two grains of quinine and Dovers Powders."

"Could these be construed to possibly cause her death?"

The druggist smiled grimly. "Hardly. Even if they had been taken all at once they could not have caused death. Let me explain." He glanced at his notebook. "Dovers Powders consist mainly of Ipecac which is a tropical South American creeping plant of the madder family, a plant with small drooping flowers. The dried roots are used in treatment of laryngitis, bronchitis and chronic diarrhea."

Coroner Kneeshaw glanced at Dr. Appel who was nodding his head in agreement with Wilkens.

"Then you were treating her for cold symptoms."

"That is correct."

"Mr. Wilkens, you are excused. Mr. Frank LaRose, will you take the stand?"

Frank's head, which was resting back over the chair, suddenly flopped forward as he arose from his seat. He glared at Charley malevolently as he was sworn in.

"Can you explain anything as to the evidence presented? Can you explain Dr. Appel's statement that your wife died of strychnine poisoning?”

LaRose looked around the room angrily. "If she took something, I don't know a damn thing about it. I ain't done nothing wrong and you can't prove I did!"

The coroner waited hopefully for him to continue, but the prisoner sat morosely in the witness chair uttering no further word. After a long minute, the coroner asked, "Are you quite through?"
"Damn right I am!"

The coroner shook his head in disgust. "Then, you may as well return to your seat."

He turned to Charley, "Sheriff, we will continue this inquest tomorrow morning when I want you to have further witnesses available to the court."

He stood, "This court is adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, to convene in the Pembina County rooms.”

As Moorhead led his prisoner down the stairs he turned to speak with Charley. "Best you come and see our other prize bird at the jail."

Charley laughed, "I'll do that, I hear he's an authority on lightning rods and swindling."

Moorhead grinned.

Downstairs, in Dr. Appel's infirmary, Charley closeted with the surgeon. "How easy would it have been for LaRose to get his wife to take the poison?"

Appel looked directly at Charley. "You must have taken quinine during the late war. You must remember it's very bitter taste."

"I sure do! You mean he covered up the strychnine's acrid taste by mixing it with the quinine?"

"Well, wouldn't that be the only way? She was taking the quinine and Dovers powders in solution and he simply intermingled the poison. Moorhead never found any of the ten powders Wilkens was said to have prescribed for her."

Charley shook his head. "If that's the way he did it, he's a cold, calculating bastard. Still, it'll be up to the jury to decide if he's guilty."

"How do you feel about it personally?"

"I hate to say it, but I believe he killed her."

"I'll come into town tomorrow morning for the continuation of the inquest. I'd like to hear what his relatives have to say about the matter."

"Yes, and I'd better get out there to round up those people for tomorrow morning's session. It's almost a twenty mile round trip. Thank heaven it's been mild the past few days. Still, if a bad wind comes up with all that loose snow, travel will become impossible."

Returning to Pembina after speaking with relatives and neighbors of LaRose, Charley mused over the recent weeks. He had no forewarning of coming down with pneumonia, not even the slightest hint. The minor innocuous cough that developed had nearly done him in. The doctor had said if he hadn't been in top physical condition, he wouldn't have survived. It was just his luck upon returning home to be thrust into this mess with LaRose, complicated by the recent arrest of a swindler. He decided to stop at the jail when he returned to town, knowing the county commissioners would be concerned about the expense of keeping two prisoners locked up until the July assizes. He wondered how his father would have handled the situation. Probably wouldn't have bothered him in the least, Charley reflected, knowing well his father was a hard, bitter man.

After eating supper he entered the jail to find the night guard, Parker, adding wood to the potbelly stove. "When did you start your shift, Pete?"

"Started at six, until six tomorrow morning. Bob has the day shift."

Charley motioned to the prisoners behind the bars. "They behaving themselves?"

Parker began to grin. "The salesman is a bitcher, but I told him if he didn't shut up he'd get no supper. Frank's no bother, long's he's sober. He's sulking."

Looking through the bars Charley studied the salesman. "What's your name?"

"Thomas Murray. Are you the sheriff?"

"I am."

"You can't hold me, I'm a Canadian."

"According to what I'm told, you're being charged with fraud and embezzlement. You sold lightning rods and copper ground cable to a number of people, and then you ran off with their money. How do you explain that?"

"Ah, hell! I was going to deliver it all in the spring."

"I'm told you promised 30 day delivery last summer. I guess you're going to be a keeper until the court convenes in July."

Murray shouted in anguish, "My God! That's months away. You can't hold me until then."

"Unfortunately, the 3rd District Court, officiated by Judge Barnes, doesn't meet until then. The fall court session in Fargo is over so there is no bail available for you. Be thankful you're warm and being fed for free."

Turning to leave, Charley questioned Parker. "Who's feeding the prisoners?"

"The grub is coming from Winchester's Hotel. Jud is bringing it over himself."

"Good, but you be sure to count the eating hardware after each meal, and no booze for you, or them. No sleeping on the job either."

"Awe Charley, I know what to do. I've done it for years."

"Yes, but you know what happened to Pete Grant."

"I'm not as stupid as Bob. I wouldn't let myself get sucked in like that!"

Charley shook his head. He knew the low caliber of men he was forced to hire as part-time jail guards, because of the slim county budget.

Arriving at the county rooms a half hour before court was to convene, Charley began placing chairs.

Pembina CourthouseKneeshaw and Jud LaMoure were the first to arrive. Jud looked around the room critically. "Well, the new courthouse will sure be an improvement over this."

Kneeshaw began opening a cardboard file case, then said, "Trouble is, it won't be finished until next fall."

Charley said, "I believe we'll all be glad to move into new quarters. There will be private rooms on the ground floor for the county officials and a decent jail of two stories. That'll allow a means of separating the men and women."

"I've discussed the plans with the architect," Kneeshaw added. "The courtroom is to be 30 x 40, connected by two jury rooms."

"I'd better pick up LaRose at the jail." Charley consulted his watch. "It's nearing 10 o'clock. I'll have Bill sit alongside him."

As he was leaving the building, Captain Collins, Lieutenant Walker and Surgeon Appel arrived. After greeting them momentarily, Charley observed two sleighs drawing up near the door, others were already parked across the street. He noted members and neighbors of the LaRose family gathered together, apparently about to enter the building.

Promptly at 10 a.m. Coroner Kneeshaw called the court to order. Turning to the sheriff, he suggested, "It won't be necessary to swear in the jury again, just the witnesses."

In a low tone he added, "Call the Doctor to the witness chair."

“Will Doctor Appel please come forward."

After being sworn in by the sheriff, the coroner asked, "How would it be possible to conceal a poison such as strychnine from detection?"

Doctor Appel related his discussion with the sheriff as to the bitter quality of the poison, and of the similar bitter taste of quinine. He concluded, "Deputy Moorhead told me he searched the LaRose home diligently and found no trace of the quinine and Dovers powders. He did find a quantity of strychnine in an outside entry. Apparently it was to be used for poisoning wolves and coyotes. He has that container in his possession I understand."

Kneeshaw looked grimly at the jury. "Let it be known that there was strychnine on the premises." Turning to the doctor, he asked, "What are the symptoms of strychnine poisoning?"

"Severe cramping and repeated convulsions until death occurs."

"Are there any witnesses who attended her demise?"

"Yes sir. I understand the sheriff has found relatives who witnessed her death."

"Dr. Appel, you may step down."

Kneeshaw beckoned to Charley, to whisper, "Who's next?"

"I'd suggest Mrs. LaRose's daughter. She was present at her mother's death."

"Miss LaRose, will you please come forward and be sworn in?"

"You were present at your mother's death?"

The girl held a handkerchief which she clenched nervously, "Yes sir."

"Please relax. Tell the jury exactly what happened."

"Mother became sick after supper and began having cramps. Then they became like seizures, but she said they didn't hurt much. They kept getting worse and worse until she just curled up and died."

"After she became sick, how long was it until her death?"

Tears began to stream down the girl's face and she wiped her eyes futilely, "About an hour and a half."

"Did your Father send for Doctor Appel?"

"No, he said it was no use; the doctor was too far away."

"Did he ever hurt your Mother, abuse her in any way?"

The girl looked frightened as she locked eyes with her father.

"Please look at the jury," Kneeshaw instructed. "Now tell them if your Father ever abused your Mother."

Miss Larose seemed to suddenly gain courage, She stiffened up, defiant. "He struck Mother at times, without any reason. He even kicked her." She thrust her face into her handkerchief, and for moments the courtroom was totally silent. Lifting her head she seemed to gain a final strength, "He usually did it when he was drinking."

Kneeshaw could elicit no more information from the girl so she was excused. She was obviously terrified of her father.

Further witnesses, the son, sister-in-law and two neighbors who were present at her death were questioned. Each substantiated the brutal treatment that LaRose administered to his wife. Nearly all, including two neighbors, recalled the convulsions, which occurred before she died.

The inquest continued for the remainder of the week and on Friday, the jury, after being secluded for several hours, brought in a verdict to the effect that the deceased had died from strychnine poisoning by, or at the instigation of her husband.

At LaRose's request, the preliminary investigation was adjourned until March 9, at 9:00 o'clock, a.m. at which time further evidence would be elicited, pro and con. He informed them that he would have an attorney at that time.

Charley knew the investigation would be a formality, for nearly all the damaging evidence had been presented. It was the very next day when a fight broke out in front of Alex McLennen's Hotel that Charley became involved with a third prisoner who had a murderous reputation.