I was able to find, this morning, and from of all places the Auckland Star, an interesting bit on the case. The article was published on March 20, 1886.
Referencing Holden Dick’s murder of Shaw–“In his confession he narrated all the sickening details of the crime and took the Sheriff of Modoc County, (C.C. Rachford) and others, to the spot where the head of Shaw was thrown and where the skull was found. In his statement he implicated a white man, who died soon after the murder.” So here is the second reference I have found suggesting Dick beheaded Shaw, and the second hint at a murder for hire scheme.
The problem is, I don’t know the original sourcing of this Auckland Star piece, as it embellishes on the original Lassen Advocate piece, and the other reference I have is an entirely hearsay account. So, more work.
An unhelpful call into the Modoc County Sheriff’s department revealed that they do not have records stretching back to 1886. This seems spurious. I will be writing a letter directly to the Sheriff, and I would be very surprised if records don’t magically appear, or at least a willingness to help find them. If there is an account existing of the aforementioned event, I must have it; I want to know precisely what Dick said, and didn’t say, during his confession.
The first rule of investigation: a lie is as good as the truth.
“Murder books,” as the compiled record of a homicide investigation is referred, looked A LOT different in 1886 than they do now. I have read a two paragraph investigative account of a murder that took place in Santa Barbara, at a much later date, which accounts almost entirely for the historical record of the investigation.
Today’s murder books can run into dozens, and additional dozens, of three ring binders.
A second call, put into the Lassen County Superior Court, resulted in a much better response. Records exist back to 1894, though handwritten and bound. For a few bucks I can request any of them. I simply cannot wait to get my hands on the direct records of the trials of both Holden and Olivas, whatever they may amount too, and any subsequent records pertaining to the lynchings themselves.
The second rule of investigation: a lead, is a lead, is a lead.
Finally, a word on Sheriff Jeremiah Leakey, who was out dancing at the time of the lynchings. His death is reported in The Big Valley Gazette, on December 3, 1902, and it is noted of the man in his obituary that “He was in a measure deficient in the education of the schools, but he possessed a fine natural intelligence and a fund of quaint humor that made him a most entertaining companion. Young people and little children particularly found in Jerry Leakey a considerate friend and during his incumbency of the office of Sheriff, it was rare, indeed…that his buggy was not filled with them. To delight the little ones seemed to give him pleasure; and if there be one characteristic that would better entitle a man to a patent of nobility, we know not of it.”
Signs and wonderments, my friends, signs and wonderments.