Jimi Hendrix Clara McCarty Captain Robert Gray Anna Louise StrongAnna Louise Strong Bailey Gatzert Home WWII Women Pilots
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Donate Now! Book Store Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6805 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Outlaw Mike Donnelly is captured at Sedro-Woolley (Skagit County) on January 6, 1911.

HistoryLink.org Essay 9924 : Printer-Friendly Format

On January 6, 1911, Mike Donnelly (1882-1963) is arrested in a Sedro-Woolley rooming house for the murders of Justice of the Peace Audley A. Galbraith Sr. (1850-1911) and Winslow B. Stevens (1865-1911) at Acme in Whatcom County. The previous afternoon, January 5, Galbraith and Stevens had attempted to arrest Donnelly and his partner, "Slim," for pilfering two pairs of logging boots from a shipment consigned to the Key City Logging Company. A gunfight ensued.  Galbraith died at the scene and Stevens dies the following day in a Sedro-Woolley hospital. Donnelly, although gravely wounded, will eventually recover. “Slim” escapes and will never be found. Donnelly will be tried and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Washington State Penitentiary. He will escape twice, make two unsuccessful escape attempts, and spend three years in solitary confinement, before being granted executive parole in 1923. Within weeks of his release, Donnelly and fellow parolee Robert Ford alias Noah Arnold (1892-1924) will be arrested in Bonner County, Idaho, for first-degree murder and robbery. Both plead guilty to the murder. Donnelly will receive a second life sentence and Ford is hanged at the Idaho State Penitentiary in December 1924.

Stealing New Logging Boots

The Key City Logging Company of Bellingham had a logging camp on the South Fork of the Nooksack River, approximately two miles southeast of Saxon in Whatcom County. The camp foreman was Winslow B. Stevens, age 45, an experienced lumberjack and timber cruiser from Snohomish in Snohomish County.  On Thursday, January 5, 1911, Stevens was informed by an agent for the Northern Pacific Railway that the morning train had delivered a shipment of logging boots for the company store to the unmanned freight depot at Saxon spur.  Stevens called Ole A. Nesset, a local farmer, scheduled to deliver a load of vegetables to the camp that afternoon, and asked him to bring along the case of boots.  On the road to Saxon, Nesset saw two transients walking north toward Acme, each carrying a pair of new logging boots.  One man was black, well over six-feet tall and well built; the other was white, short, and slender.

At the Saxon freight depot, Nesset found the shipment had been broken into and some of the boots stolen.  He loaded the crate into his wagon and brought it to the camp. Stevens called the general store at Acme and asked the proprietor, Fred Zobrist, if he had seen the two transients. Zorbrist said they had just left his store with a few food items and had seen them walking toward a nearby shingling shed to eat lunch. Stevens asked the merchant to send someone over to the shed; he was coming to recover the company's property. John Neff volunteered to entertain the transients until Stevens arrived and took along a bottle of whiskey to share. He was accompanied by 16-year-old Fred Rothenbuhler.

At approximately 3:00 p.m., Stevens and Nesset arrived at Acme in a horse-drawn wagon. While Nesset went to tie his horse to a hitching post, Stevens went to look for the stolen boots. At the store, Zorbrist pointed out the shingling shed where the transients had gone and Stevens asked Acme's Justice of the Peace, Audley A. Galbraith Sr., age 60, to arrest the thieves. Galbraith was unarmed, but Stevens was in possession a .32-caliber revolver. 

Gunfire in the Shed

Upon entering the shed, Stevens picked up the stolen boots and Galbraith told the transients they were under arrest. The small, white man immediately drew a gun and began firing at Galbraith who fell to the floor. Stevens pointed his gun at the large, black man and ordered him to surrender.  Instead of raising his hands, however, he drew a revolver and Stevens shot him in the abdomen. He returned fire and hit Stevens in the back. The two transients escaped from the shed, ran down the railroad tracks, climbed a steep logging road and ducked into the woods. Hearing the gunfire, several Acme citizens armed themselves to pursue the desperadoes, but they had already disappeared from sight.

With the departure of the two men, Stevens and Galbraith made their way back to the general store.  Galbraith, holding his hand to his chest, said he had been seriously wounded.  Zorbrist told him to lie down, he would summon a doctor. Galbraith lay down on the floor and died.  Meanwhile, Stevens had gone over to the wagon, handed Nesset the logging boots and then collapsed.  Nesset assisted him to Zorbrist's store where he was cared for until the doctor arrived.  Stevens had two sons, Jerome, age 21, and Kirke, age 19, working at the logging camp. They took him to a private hospital in Sedro-Woolley run by Dr. Charles Morris Frazee.

Whatcom County Sheriff Spencer B. Van Zandt dispatched deputies from Bellingham to organize posses for a manhunt.  Guards were posted to watch likely escape routes and detain anyone who looked vaguely suspicious.  Skagit County Sheriff Charles W. Stevenson traveled from Mount Vernon with his celebrated bloodhounds, Mike and Brady, to track the fugitives. As it turned out, it was an exercise in futility.

The Wounded Fugitive

At dusk, the two fugitives sneaked down the hillside, boarded a slow-moving freight train and hid in an empty boxcar.  They disembarked at Sedro-Woolley, made their way to the Grays Harbor lodging house and rented a room for the night, the black man using the name Charles Robinson and the white man, Ben Lowe.  On Friday, Lowe cared for his partner, bringing him food and water. But when Robinson became much worse, Lowe asked the landlady, Julia Kelly, to summon a doctor. Lowe then quietly slipped out of the rooming house with his knapsack and disappeared from Sedro-Woolley. Kelly telephoned Dr. William A. Dorsey at Saint Elizabeth Hospital and he arrived a short time later. Dr. Dorsey determined the man had been badly wounded and notified City Marshal Jasper Holman.

Robinson told Marshal Holman that he had fallen onto a railroad spike and didn't want a doctor. But with posses searching Whatcom and Skagit Counties for two cold-blooded killers, Marshal Holman was naturally skeptical.  He contacted Sheriff Van Zandt in Bellingham and said he had likely found one of the Acme killers.  Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff Wallace Coleman was dispatched to take charge of the suspect.  In the meantime, Robinson was moved to Saint Elizabeth Hospital and placed under guard.

Death of Winslow Stevens

On Friday afternoon, Snohomish County Sheriff George B. Deering arrived at Sedro-Woolley by train, accompanied by Stevens' wife, Grace, and his 18-year-old daughter,  Enola.  Having been assured by Dr. Frazee that his father wasn't seriously wounded, Jerome Stevens returned to Acme and joined the manhunt while Kirke stayed at the clinic with the family.

Late Friday afternoon, however, Stevens took a turn for the worse and two surgeons from Saint Elizabeth Hospital, Dr. Dorsey and Dr. Menzo B. Mattice, were called into consultation. They determined the bullet had traversed Stevens' lower abdomen and peritonitis had set in. He died at 9:30 p.m.  A funeral service for Winslow Burdett Stevens was held in Snohomish the following week with interment at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery.

Mike Donnelly's Near-Death Experience

Sheriff Deering had been searching for a large, black man named Mike Donnelly who robbed the White Front Saloon at Sultan on December 24, 1910, and wounded City Marshal Roy Norton in a running gun battle. The patient at Saint Elizabeth Hospital matched Donnelly's description and Sheriff Deering went to take a look.  Although he persisted in denying his identity, the man was definitely Mike Donnelly. He had worked in a logging camp near Sultan for over a year and was well known in the community. Sheriff Deering informed Donnelly that he was about to die and even if he recovered, he would be hanged for murder, so might as well confess.

Believing he was on his deathbed, Donnelly admitted he had shot Stevens while his partner, whom he knew only as "Slim," had killed Galbraith.  Donnelly maintained, however, that Stevens shot first and he was acting in self-defense. Thomas J. Morrow, Justice of the Peace at Sedro-Woolley, was summoned to the hospital and recorded Donnelly's dying declaration under oath. Later that night, Dr. Dorsey and Dr. Mattice operated upon Donnelly and removed the bullet. The slug had entered his side, perforated his intestines in several place and lodged in the peritoneal cavity. The surgeons believed the patient would not last the night as peritonitis had set in and there was little chance of recovery.

While Donnelly lay in the hospital slowly dying, he talked freely about his background.  Donnelly said he was born on April 3, 1882, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His mother was black and his father a white Frenchman.  Donnelly claimed he had never been married and had not been in contact with his family in several years. He came to the West Coast in 1907 and ranged from Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, B.C., working mostly as a logger, but was not adverse to theft or robbery if he needed money.

On Saturday, January 14, 1911, Dr. Dorsey announced that Donnelly was making a miraculous recovery from his bout with peritonitis and could be released within a few days.  Monday morning, January 16, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Frank W. Bixby filed an information in Superior Court charging Donnelly, alias Charles Robinson, with one count of first-degree murder, punishable by death under Washington state law.

On Sunday, January 8, 1911, a funeral service for Audley Anderson Galbraith Sr., a Whatcom County pioneer and a prominent political figure, was held in the Presbyterian church at Acme, officiated by Reverend Beveridge K. McElmon. Galbraith was buried in the cemetery at Saxon.

Looking for Slim, Locking Down Donnelly

Meanwhile the search for Donnelly's elusive sidekick continued.  To stimulate interest, the Whatcom County Board of Commissioners authorized a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of "Slim" for the murder of Galbraith.  In Olympia, Governor Marion E. Hay (1865-1933) announced the state was adding $250 to the pot.  And the Galbraith family added another $500 bounty, bringing the total to $1,250.  Throughout the northwest corner of Washington and lower British Colombia, Canada, scores of transients and vagrants were detained and questioned, but none could be identified as the fugitive, "Slim."

On Thursday, February 2, 1911, Donnelly, still suffering from his near fatal wound, was released from the hospital, brought to Bellingham by train, and placed in an isolation cell at the Whatcom County Jail.  Although he was barely able to stand, Whatcom County's newly elected sheriff, Lewis Athelbert Thomas (1853-1938) wanted Donnelly in a place where he could be closely guarded.  On Saturday morning, March 11, Donnelly appeared before Superior Court Judge John A. Kellogg, and pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder.  Judge Kellogg appointed Bellingham attorneys William P. Brown and Thomas D. J. Healy to represent Donnelly and set the trial for May 1, 1911.

Donnelly's Trial and Conviction

The trial began on Monday morning, May 1, 1911, with jury selection that took almost two days to complete.  Although the state was not demanding the death penalty, the questioning of prospective jurors centered on their views regarding capital punishment.  At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a jury of 12 men was impaneled and sworn in.  Deputy Prosecutor Howard C. Thompson then made his opening statement, outlining for the jurors the state's case. It was based upon Donnelly's sworn confession that he shot Stevens, and testimony from two men who witnessed the gunfight. 

However, there were problems with physical evidence directly linking the defendant with Stevens' murder. The alleged murder weapon, a .38 caliber, pearl-handled revolver, recovered from Donnelly at Sedro-Woolley, was missing from evidence. And the bullet that caused Stevens' death hadn't been removed from his body, and its caliber was unknown.

On Wednesday, May 3, 1911, the prosecution called some 30 witnesses to the stand who testified about the events surrounding the shooting incident at Acme. There were few interruptions by the defense and the trial proceeded at a rapid rate. Over the objection of the Attorney Brown, Donnelly's confession was introduced into evidence and read to the jury.

At 4:00 p.m., the prosecution rested it case and Attorney Brown gave a brief opening statement.  He maintained neither Stevens nor Galbraith were law enforcement officers, neither man had witnessed the alleged crime, and the attempt to arrest his client without a warrant was patently illegal. Stevens brandished a gun and shot first; the defendant was only defending himself. The testimony of John Neff and Fred Rothenbuhler, the two eye-witnesses, corroborated Donnelly's statement that he acted in self defense. Donnelly, the only defense witness, took the stand and testified in his own behalf.  On direct examination, he told a credible version of the shooting incident. He repudiated any statements he made at the hospital when he thought he going to die, explaining was delirious with pain and didn't know what he was saying.  On cross-examination, he admitted using an alias to conceal his true identity and telling lies to protect his partner.

On Thursday, May 4, 1911, Judge Kellogg delivered his instructions to the jury followed by lengthy closing arguments by the attorneys. The case went to the jury at 5:00 p.m.  After deliberating for three hours, the jury found the defendant guilty of second-degree murder, punishable by a sentence of 10-years to life imprisonment at the Washington State Penitentiary. Everyone seemed pleased with the verdict, especially Donnelly who thought he was going to be hanged. Attorney Brown advised the court there would be no appeal in the case since the death penalty was not at issue and his client had no funds. 

The defense filed a motion for a new trial on Monday, May 8, for the purpose of completing the record and officially closing the case. On Thursday, May 11, Judge Kellogg denied the motion for a new trial and sentenced Donnelly to the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. On Monday, May 15, traveling penitentiary guard John A. Level took custody of Donnelly and four other convicts at the Bellingham railway station and boarded the train for Walla Walla.

Mike Donnelly's Escape

During his confinement in the Whatcom County Jail, Donnelly had been a model prisoner. However, Sheriff Thomas knew he was dangerous and an escape risk and had him closely monitored.  After three months at the Washington State Penitentiary, an opportunity suddenly presented itself and Donnelly absconded. 

On Tuesday, August 15, 1911, Walla Walla had a furious dust storm that blew down trees, caused electric power outages and reduced visibility to near zero.  Donnelly was employed at the jute mill when the storm hit and it became so dark, the convicts had to stop work and the guards locked them inside the building. Donnelly found a ladder, climbed through a window into the yard and scaled the outer wall. 

There was a massive hunt for the fugitive, but he had disappeared into the Blue Mountains.  After four weeks on the run, Donnelly was captured on September 13, 1911, by the Beaverhead County Sheriff in Dillon, Montana, and returned to the Washington State Penitentiary. It was later discovered he had also been arrested in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on a vagrancy charge and had spent five days in the city jail.

Mike Donnelly's Second Escape

On Wednesday, November 5, 1913, Donnelly escaped from the penitentiary once again. After dinner, he slipped undetected from cell block number two in the center of the prison compound, dashed across a 100-foot open area without being seen and made his way to the rear of the hospital where there was a blind spot. He leaned benches against the penitentiary wall, reached the top and dropped to freedom on the outside near the warden's residence.  Guards searched for Donnelly with bloodhounds, but he had vanishing into the night. The penitentiary offered a $50 reward for the fugitive, dead or alive.

Donnelly was captured on Thursday night, November 20, by two Union Pacific Railway detectives near small town of Mosier, Oregon, on the Columbia River, 170 miles east of Walla Walla.  While being transported to Hood River, however, Donnelly managed to escape once again by leaping off the railroad speeder (handcar) down a steep embankment into the thick underbrush.  The detectives fired into the bushes and searched the area, but he managed to slip away in the darkness. The following morning, Donnelly turned up at the section foreman's shack near Bridal Veil, 37 miles west of Hood River, and forced the railroader to cut the manacles off his wrists.

On the Lam

On Thursday, December 10, 1913, Donnelly engaged in a gun battle with Lewis County Sheriff's Deputies near Toledo, Washington. He escaped, but an unidentified companion was shot and killed. Donnelly headed north and several old acquaintances reported seeing him at various locations in Snohomish County.  Sheriff Donald McRae, believing Donnelly responsible for several burglaries and armed robberies in the county, pursued every lead, but Donnelly remained elusive. 

Finally, on Tuesday night, February 10, 1914, an informant recognized Donnelly walking along Hewett Avenue in downtown Everett and notified police headquarters.  Chief Thomas J. Kelly, expecting a gunfight, dispatched a large squad of officers to arrest him.  Donnelly tried to resist, but was overpowered before he could draw a weapon. He was found in possession of three handguns, a pocket full of ammunition, a hunting knife and $680 in gold coins, stolen in the recent holdup of a saloon at Sultan. Donnelly said he intended to organize a gang of outlaws and led Sheriff McRae to a large cache of stolen firearms and ammunition he had accumulated for the purpose. On Saturday, February 14, traveling penitentiary guard Benjamin Ludlow escorted Donnelly, chained and wearing an Oregon boot (a heavy iron shackle attached to the ankle and foot), back to Walla Walla on the train. 

Third Try Not a Charm

Two months of confinement without privileges, however, did nothing to break Donnelly's spirit.  On Sunday, April 26, 1914, he and two other "bad prisoners," George Miller and Richard Livingston, made a desperate attempt to escape from the penitentiary.  During the evening exercise period, Donnelly, who was confined to his cell, began shouting for help.  When turnkey Oliver Connick responded, Donnelly told him there was an inmate in the cell above, attempting to hang himself.  As Connick started up the stairs, Livingston confronted him with a hand-made knife and demanded his keys. Adelbert B. Clark, age 24, a trustee working in the turnkey's office, came to Connick's assistance and struggled with Livingston. Miller, lurking nearby, joined the fray and knocked Connick and Clark unconscious with a blackjack.  They took the jailer's keys, sprung Donnelly from his cell and locked the unconscious men inside.  The three convicts then gained entrance to the property room, exchanged their prison garb for civilian clothes and climbed onto the roof of the cell block, intending to let themselves down with a rope and head for the blind spot behind the hospital.  Guards in the wall towers spotted the escapees, however, and started shooting.  Unnerved, the men immediately surrendered.

On Wednesday night, October 11, 1916, Warden Henry Drum, acting on an inside tip, thwarted a wholesale attempt at a prison break.  Before the dinner hour, guards initiated a frisk of the inmates working in the jute mill and immediately began finding a variety of weapons. They found Donnelly in possession of a two-foot-long steel shank concealed down a leg of his trousers.  Eight other convicts were found in possession of hand-made knives, slingshots, and blackjacks.  According to the informant, the prisoners, most serving life sentences, planned to make the break during the motion picture show in the chapel, by taking the unarmed floorwalkers hostage. Mike Donnelly was fingered as the ringleader.

Mike Donnelly on Parole

For reasons unknown and against all odds, Donnelly was granted executive parole on April 25, 1923, by Washington State Governor Louis F. Hart (1862-1929), based on the recommendations of Warden John W. Pace and the state Board of Prison Terms and Paroles.  Within two months of his release, Donnelly was in custody in Bonner County, Idaho, charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

Upon his release, Donnelly had joined forces with parolee Robert Ford alias Noah Arnold (1893-1924), age 30, and roamed throughout northern Idaho and western Montana robbing and pillaging.  Like Donnelly, Ford was distinctive in appearance, black, five-feet-eight-inches tall, and well built. He had been paroled from the Washington State Penitentiary on January 4, 1922, after serving five years of a 20-year sentence for manslaughter. 

On January 4, 1917, Ford had killed Harry A. Agee (1885-1917), age 32, a barber living at the Yorozuya Hotel, 655 Main Street in Seattle's International District.  Agee caught had Ford in bed with his common-law wife, Mable Bell, and was coming after him with a straight razor when Ford shot him with a gun.  Ford pleaded guilty and was sent to the Washington State Reformatory at Monroe. But he was transferred to the state penitentiary at Walla Walla when authorities learned he had served time in Kentucky. The 1920 U.S. Census lists Noah Arnold (alias Ford), working as a weaver at the Washington State Penitentiary jute mill with Mike Donnelly.

Partners in Crime

At 9:30 p.m. on Monday, July 16, 1923, in Hope, Idaho, William A. Crisp (1873-1923), age 50, and James G. Campbell, postmaster, were in Crisp's pool hall and hotel store, preparing to lock up for the night, when Donnelly and Ford came to the door, seeking to buy a loaf of bread.  After being admitted, the outlaws drew guns and commanded Crisp and Campbell to raise their hands.  Both men immediately obeyed, but as Ford was lifting Crisp's pocket watch, a family heirloom, he resisted.  Ford shot at Crisp three times with a .45 caliber Colt's revolver, hitting him once in the abdomen.  When Crisp fell to the floor, Donnelly turned and tried to shoot him in the back, but his gun misfired.  Campbell then began struggling with Donnelly and was knocked senseless by the butt of Donnelly's gun.  The bandits grabbed the bank-bag, containing the day's proceeds, ran out the door and vanished into the night.

Campbell received medical attention for a scalp laceration at a local clinic.  Crisp, gravely wounded, was rushed 92 miles to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane for emergency surgery.  But the bullet had perforated his liver and intestines and there was nothing surgeons could do to stop the bleeding.  His wife, Josephine, was as his bedside when he died early Tuesday morning. Crisp was taken back to Idaho and buried at the Hope community cemetery

Capturing Robert Ford

Meanwhile, Bonner County Sheriff William H. Kirkpatrick posted guards at all bridges, stations and crossroads with instructions to stop and identify every passerby. Early Tuesday morning, he organized 150 volunteers into posses and began hunting for the two desperadoes with bloodhounds.  At daybreak on Wednesday, July 18, three deputies watching the Pack River Bridge, eight miles northwest of Hope, saw two men come out of the trees and start across bridge. When ordered to halt, the men jumped into the river, leaving their knapsacks and guns behind.  The deputies fired rifles at the suspects as they climbed out of the water and ran into the underbrush.  At least one of the men was wounded as evidenced by a blood trail leading from the riverbank into the woods.

On Wednesday, July 25, 1923, Ford was captured by Special Agent Harry T. Holz aboard a Great Northern Railway passenger train en route to Spokane.  He had received a teletype at the Sandpoint train depot from Conductor Lewis A. Bruckhauser that a suspicious person had boarded at Colbert. Holz boarded the train at Priest River, found Ford and took him into custody without incident. Ford was taken off the train at Newport and driven to the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint. An angry mob spirited Ford away and convinced him to confess by hanging him from a tree limb for several seconds and threatening finish the job if he didn't tell all. Ford not only confessed to shooting William Crisp, but also numerous other recent crimes including the robbery of a bank in Plains, Montana and the holdup of the Pend Oreille Hotel at Sandpoint, during which Sheriff Kirkpatrick was wounded. Ford said Donnelly had sustained minor bullet wounds on his forehead and left wrist during the escape from Pack River and had been hiding in a shack on a farm near Selle.

Capturing Mike Donnelly

Sheriff Kirkpatrick concentrated his search efforts around Selle, but Donnelly had moved on.  At 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, 1923, Priest River City Marshal Frank W. Pleas, acting on a tip from a railroad signal operator at LaClede, caught Donnelly attempting to sneak cross a railroad bridge half-a-mile east of Priest River.  He claimed his name was Ben Clay, but with wounds to his forehead and left wrist, he was clearly the fugitive everyone was looking for. Donnelly was taken directly to Sandpoint and lodged in the Bonner County Jail.  Hearing rumors of a lynch mob gathering, Sheriff Kirkpatrick had Ford and Donnelly secretly moved to the Kootenai County Jail in Coeur d'Alene to forestall any violence.

On Wednesday, August 1, 1923, Bonner County Prosecutor Allen P. Asher filed a complaint in Probate Court, charging Donnelly and Ford with first-degree murder. A preliminary hearing was held in Sandpoint at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 7, before Probate Judge Marvin Davis who heard testimony linking the defendants to Crisp's death.  Postmaster Campbell recounted details of the robbery and shooting and identified Ford and Donnelly as the perpetrators. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Davis bound the defendants over to Idaho District Court for trial and ordered them held without bail.

Non-Jury Trial

There was no trial, however, as Attorneys Oscar J. Bandelin and Axel T. Aronson, appointed by Idaho District Court Judge William F. McNaughton as defense counsel, persuaded Donnelly and Ford to plead guilty to the charge of first-degree murder at arraignment and throw themselves upon the mercy of the court.  The attorneys said public sentiment was running high and they would be sure to hang, if left up to a jury to decide. 

A non-jury trial, to determine punishment, was held on Friday, September 14, 1923, before Judge McNaughton. Prosecuting Attorney Asher began testimony at 11:00 a.m. and finished by 3:00 p.m. There was little cross-examination by defense counsel and few objections. Testimony was taken to provide transcripts for any appeals to the Idaho Supreme Court in the event the court imposed the death penalty.

Attorney Bandelin, representing Donnelly, took no part in the proceedings, advising Judge McNaughton that he was present in response to the court's order, but would remain mute.  Attorney Aronson, representing Ford, was more interested in his client's fate. He briefly cross-examined Campbell, the state's chief witness, and objected to the admission of Ford's confession and many of the exhibits.  Neither defendant took the witness stand to testify.

The trial continued on Saturday morning, September 15, 1923 with a short closing argument by Attorney Aronson urging life imprisonment for the defendants rather than death.  Judge McNaughton then sentenced Ford to be executed at the Idaho State Penitentiary on November 1, 1923, and Donnelly to life imprisonment.  "The lives of those criminals who hold life cheaply are likewise held cheaply by the state," Judge McNaughton said to Ford. 

In committing Donnelly, he said: "You, Donnelly, have gone as far as you could without taking a human life, and so the court will go as far as it can without taking your life" ("Negro Gunman to Be Hanged," The Spokesman Review, September 16, 1923, p. 1).  Afterward, Sheriff Kirkpatrick turned the prisoners over to traveling penitentiary guards for the long train ride to Boise.

Ford's Hanging and Donnelly's Life

Ford's execution date was vacated when Attorney Aronson appealed the case to the Idaho Supreme Court.  Ford was seeking to change his plea and be granted jury trial, but on August 2, 1924, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence.  An application for a rehearing was denied on September 30, 1924. Attorney Aronson then filed a petition with Idaho State Governor Charles C. Moore (1866-1958), but his request for executive clemency was denied.  Ford (identified as Noah Arnold in penitentiary records and on Idaho Death Certificate No. CN-47932), was hanged at the Idaho State Penitentiary at 12:20 a.m. on Friday, December 19, 1924.  He was buried in the graveyard behind the penitentiary.  It was the first execution in Idaho state since 1909.

The old Idaho State Penitentiary (1872-1973), reputed to be a hard place to serve time, housed Idaho's worst criminals in its maximum security block.  Donnelly, with his prodigious history of breakouts and violence, was deemed incorrigible and never given the slightest opportunity to escape.  On Monday, January 18, 1943, the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole granted Donnelly, the institution's oldest inmate, a conditional release. The parole was supported by Warden C. Van Clark, but was unjustified in the opinion of Governor Clarence A. Bottolfsen (1891-1964). 

Donnelly stayed in Idaho, as per conditions of his parole, and raised goats. Because of his criminal record and reputation, he continued to have minor brushes with the law, but was never returned to prison.  Mike Donnelly died on Wednesday, August 28, 1963, at age 80 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Kohlerlawn Cemetery in Nampa, Idaho.

Sources:
"Two Men Shot Down at Acme," Bellingham Herald, January 5, 1911, p. 1; "Victim of Shooting Tells Story," Ibid., January 6, 1911, p. 1; "Wounded thug Confesses to Acme Murder," Ibid., January 7, 1911, p. 1; "Galbraith Funeral Will Be Held Today," Ibid., January 8, 1911, p. 9; "Donnelly Now Living in City," Ibid., January 9, 1911, p. 5; "Donnelly Will Soon Be in County Jail," Ibid., January 15, 1911, p. 2; "Donnelly Is Charged With First Degree Murder," Ibid., January 17, 1911, p. 4; "State Offers Reward for Galbraith Murder," Ibid., January 18, 1911, p. 2; "Galbraiths Offer $500 Reward," Ibid., January 23, 1911, p. 3; "Donnelly Is in County Jail," Ibid., February 4, 1911, p. 3; "Mike Donnelly Blesses He May Escape Gallows," Ibid., February 18, 1911, p. 1; "State Seeks Evidence Against Donnelly," Ibid., April 14, 1911, p. 7; "Confession of Murder Is Faced by Donnelly," Ibid., April 30, 1911, p. 11; "Mike Donnelly Is on Trial for Acme Murder," Ibid., May 1, 1911, p. 1; "Jury Finally Selected in Donnelly Case," Ibid., May 2, 1911, p. 1; "Witness Tells of Double Murder," Ibid., May 3, 1911, p. 1; "Donnelly Case in Hands of Jury," Ibid., May 4, 1911, p. 1; "Mike Donnelly Is Found Guilty of Murder," Ibid., May 5, 1911, p. 1; "Donnelly Now Admits Sultan Holdup," Ibid., May 7, 1911, p. 10; "Late Local News -- Motion for New Trial," Ibid., May 8, 1911, p. 3; "Mike Donnelly Is Given Maximum Sentence," Ibid., May 11, 1911, p. 1; "Five Prisoners Begin Trip to Walla Walla," Ibid., May 15, 1911, p. 3; "Galbraith's Murderer Escapes Prison," Ibid., August 15, 1911, p. 3; "Posse and Hounds Pursue Suspect," Ibid., August 16, 1911, p. 1; "Donnelly Is On Way Back to Pen," Ibid., September 14, 1911, p. 1. "Mike Donnelly Escaped From Prison," Ibid., November 6, 1913, p. 8; "Donnelly Makes His Getaway," Ibid., November 22, 1913, p. 6; "Mike Donnelly Captured," Ibid., February 11, 1914, p. 6; "Donnelly To Be Taken Back Under Guard," Ibid., February 13, 1914, p. 1; "Mike Donnelly in Big Prison Plot," Ibid., October 12, 1916, p. 7; "Admits Killing Barber," Ibid., January 9, 1917, p. 1; "Donnelly Leads Desperate Break," The Seattle Times, April 27, 1914, p. 4; "Find Ugly Weapons on Nine Convicts," Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 12, 1916, p. 13; "Negro Gunmen Shoot, Rob Two," The Spokesman Review, July 17, 1923, p. 2; "Say Negro Is Hope Murder," Ibid., July 27, 1923, p. 1; "Bandit Admits Series of Crimes," Ibid., July 28, 1923, p. 1; "Capture Second Negro Bandit," Ibid., July 30, 1923, p. 1; "Bandits Spirited from Mob," Ibid., August 1, 1923, p. 1; "Bandits Held Without Bond," Ibid., August 8, 1923, p. 1; "Slayers Get Sentenced Today," Ibid., September 15, 1923, p. 10; "Negro Gunman To Be Hanged," Ibid., September 16, 1923, p. 10; "Negro Murderers Stoical," Ibid., September 17, 1923, p. 10; "Noah Arnold Hangs Today for Slaying," Twin Falls Daily News, December 19, 1924, p. 1; "Oldest Inmate Released," Twin Falls Times-News, January 19, 1943, p. 3.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Crime |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




Mike Donnelly (1882-1963), Washington State Penitentiary, May 15, 1911
Courtesy Washington State Archives


The Bellingham Herald, front page, January 6, 1911



Robert Ford (1892-1924) Washington State Reformatory, May 9, 1917
Courtesy Washington State Archives


Oregon boot, prison shackles
Courtesy Lane County (Oregon) Sheriff's Office


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org