On February 13, 1913, the body of Charles Bruggencote, an old Prince Albert Lumber Company employee, was found on a trail about three or four miles from the city. His face and head were cut and bruised, and his hair was a clot of frozen blood. He had a homestead near La Colle Falls and it was believed he must have been either on his way to or returning from an errand in the city when he was killed.
At first, they thought it might have been an accident; that he’d been violently kicked by his pony. But the injuries to his head were extensive and there was one other injury that didn’t fit the theory. His throat had been cut.
As police investigated, two clear suspects became apparent and it wasn’t long before they were arrested. Those men were Emery Kavich (also referred to as Emeri Koviach and Amery Koviach) and Louis Racz (also referred to as Lewis Ratz or Lewis Rotz). The two lived together in Kavich’s two-roomed shack in what was once a settlement east of Prince Albert called Goschen, before it was amalgamated into the city.
Each man flipped on the other, saying that the other man was the one to do the deed. They were both committed to stand trial and on April 24, 1913, the murder trial for Kavich began.
Racz was a witness at the trial. He’d told the court at Kavich’s preliminary hearing that at about 8:00PM on the evening of February 11th, he’d heard Bruggencote at the door of the shack. He was drunk and demanded that Kavich (who was in bed) let him in. After his demands failed to bring Kavich out of bed, Bruggencote broke in the door. Racz got up and went to Kavich’s door, where he found Bruggencote sprawled on his hands and knees, partly through the doorway. He pulled Bruggencote out into the yard and placed him in a sitting position. Kavich then came out in what Racz described as a ‘fighting rage’ and proceeded to secure a club that was about two feet long and three inches thick. He battered Bruggencote with it while he lay on the ground, beating him in the head. When he believed the man was dead, he told Racz that they should cut the body in two after it was frozen, then take it down to the river. Racz said no, and instead they both loaded the body on to Bruggencote’s sleigh and Kavich drove off into the open prairie.
At Kavich’s murder trial, Racz told the rest of the story. He repeated the beginning, saying that Kavich had battered in Bruggencote’s brains with a bludgeon while he was lying drunk in front of the door. The men had placed the body on the sleigh and Kavich had driven off into the open prairie, along an irregular trail. After he’d gone some distance from the shack, the body moved. Kavich took his knife from his pocket and cut the man’s throat. Then, frightened at the approach of a team in the distance, he set the horse along the trail out into the open prairie and went back to his shack to bed.
The motive given for the crime was that there’d been some improper relations between Kavich and Bruggencote’s wife.
Kavich testified in his own defense and told the court the exact same story, only with the roles reversed. According to him, it was Racz who’d done the bludgeoning and the driving of Bruggencote’s body out into the open prairie.
On April 25, 1912, Kavich was found guilty of being an accessory before the fact and was sentenced to hang on July 18, 1913.
Racz’s trial went much the same way and he was found guilty of the leading part in the murder on May 7, 1913 and was also sentenced to hang, on July 25, 1913.
Racz’s lawyers appealed on the grounds that the only evidence produced in court to connect Racz with the murder was the testimony of Kavich, and that the jury had not been cautioned against acting on that evidence unless they found it was corroborated in important particulars by other evidence, as the witness was an accomplice. The jury also should have been informed on the difference between manslaughter and murder. Their appeal was successful, and Racz was granted a new trial.
Unfortunately, Racz was found guilty once again on December 4, 1913 and was again sentenced to hang on March 16, 1914.
But neither man did. Kavich’s sentence was commuted on July 14, 1913 to life in the Prince Albert penitentiary and on March 9, 1914, Racz’s sentence was also commuted to life in the same penitentiary.
Which man actually committed the murder is something we’ll never know.
And that’s the story of the murder of Charles Bruggencote.
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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star, the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Feb 14, 1913, Feb 15, 1913, Feb 27, 1913, April 25, 1913, April 26, 1913, April 28, 1913, May 3, 1913, May 7, 1913, May 8, 1913, May 13, 1913, July 10, 1913, July 11, 1913, July 15, 1913, July 25, 1913, Dec 5, 1913, Dec 6, 1913, March 10, 1914
Looking for more historical true crime stories from Saskatchewan? Check these out:
The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson
Murder Near Vanscoy: The Unhinged James Alak
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