The Attempted Murders of C. D. Bennison and Leonard Warren

It was about 10:30 p.m. on July 15, 1913, and C. D. Bennison, owner of the Silver Moon Ranch just south of Manor, Saskatchewan, was putting his team of horses in the stable for the night. Out of nowhere, he was attacked by his hired hand, Lloyd Atz, who struck him repeatedly with a whiffletree, beating him to the ground. (A whiffletree is defined as “the pivoted swinging bar to which the traces of a harness are fastened and by which a vehicle or implement is drawn.”)

Bennison managed to struggle to his feet and staggered towards the house, but when he was within ten yards, Atz returned, beating him once again and leaving him for dead. But Bennison wasn’t dead. Once again, he struggled onward and made it to the house where he was taken in by his wife and Miss Wolfe, the hired help.

The women yelled for help, attracting the attention of John Procknow and his sisters, who were driving past. They went to the house and Procknow immediately barred the door. Atz returned to the house, trying to gain entry, but was unsuccessful, leaving soon after.

At this point, Miss Wolfe remembered that the other hired hand, Leonard Warren (also spelled Warne), was still outside somewhere. Miss Wolfe went out into the dark, looking for Warren, and finally found him near a straw stack, unconscious and with terrible head wounds. Alone in the dark, and despite the fact that he was one hundred and eighty pounds, she managed to carry him to the house sixty yards away.

Atz didn’t return that night and when Warren was recovered enough to speak, he told them he’d been viciously attacked by Atz, who battered him with the butt of a rifle. The rifle was found by the Royal North West Mounted Police when they came to investigate, the butt broken in two pieces and the barrel covered in blood.

The Regina Leader-Post – July 17, 1913

The police started scouring the country for Atz, and at one point it was rumored he’d escaped into the States. The police believed the attacks had been premeditated, because Atz had gone after Bennison while Warren was still in the field, rounding up the cattle, when they would be separated and more vulnerable.

Atz was found and taken into custody near Wauchope, Saskatchewan on July 21, 1913. He was a young man, only twenty-six, described as broad shouldered with light wavy hair, standing 5’8″ tall. He was taken to jail in Arcola to await his preliminary hearing, but while exercising in the corridor of the court house at Arcola he tried to overpower the guards and escape. He was taken to the Regina jail instead, where he would stay until his preliminary on July 28, 1913.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – July 24, 1913

He was committed to stand trial on two charges of attempted murder. His first trial, for the assault on Bennison, opened on December 17, 1913 before Justice Elwood. Atz refused counsel and conducted his own defense. He was described by newspapers as displaying “more than average intelligence.”

Dr. Christie, who testified to the injuries both men received at the preliminary, detailed Bennison’s injuries. (Warren had received nine bad cuts on his head and needed to go to the hospital.)

Bennison testified, describing the attack and telling the court that on two previous occasions Atz had talked about religion in a very eccentric manner. Bennison concluded that Atz was “crazy on religion” appearing to suffer from some kind of fanaticism. At one time Atz had also told Bennison that he’d been implicated in a murder in Spokane some years ago.

Lloyd Atz’s defense was simple. He told the court that the heat of the day had affected his mind and that he had no recollection of the circumstances of the crime.

When charging the jury, the judge pointed out that the evidence did not seem to substantiate the accused’s evidence (especially with his rash attempt at escape while in custody) and the jury agreed. They found him guilty and he was sentenced to ten years at the penitentiary. Given his conviction, the crown didn’t bother to proceed with the second attempted murder charge.

And that is the story of the attempted murder of C. D. Bennison and Leonard Warren.

The Regina Leader-Post – Dec 18, 1913

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: July 17, 1913, July 19, 1913, July 22, 1913, July 24, 1913, July 29, 1913, Dec 18, 1913

If you’d like to read more true crime stories from historical Saskatchewan, give these a try:

The Murder of Arnold Gart

The Murder of Sarah Mulvihill

A Fire Near Tisdale: The Suspicious Deaths of William Robson and Mary Swanson

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