The Knifing of William James Brown

In the very early morning of December 29, 1916, Sergeant Mackey of Saskatoon was called to the John East foundry on the city’s west side, at the behest of the night watchman there. When he arrived, he found two women, “scantily dressed”, one of them barefoot. They told him they’d been attacked by their housemate, James Brown, and that while one had run off for help, the other (the young lady with the bare feet) had been forced to stab the man before fleeing the house.

Together, Sergeant Mackey and the shoed woman, whose name was May Hunter, walked back to the house on 115 Avenue C North. They found Brown lying on the bed in his underclothes, blood running from his side. He’d been stabbed in the left side, just above his tenth rib.

The Saskatoon Daily Star: Dec 30, 1916

The man was rushed to St. Paul’s hospital and the two women were taken to the police station. At approximately 3:30 a.m. on December 31, 1916, James Brown died from his injury.

The police held May Hunter as a witness, and her friend, Manilla Huston, on a charge of murder.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – Jan 6, 1917

A Coroner’s Inquest was held on January 2, 1917 and a preliminary hearing on January 3, 1917. Manilla was committed to stand trial, which began not long after on January 10, 1917 before Justice Elwood.

The star witness was May Hunter. She’d met Manilla in a cafe where she worked and had invited her to come and live at her house with her and her boyfriend, William James Brown. Hunter testified that she’d risen early on the morning of December 29th and while she was making the fire, Brown had brought a bottle of whiskey into the dining room and opened it with a knife, which he then left on the table. The knife was an 11 inch carving knife and very, very sharp.

Hunter felt that Brown had already been drinking too much and upon seeing it said, “another dirty bottle of whiskey in the house!” When he went back into the bedroom, she took the bottle and emptied it into the slop pail.

Learning what she’d done, Brown went into a violent fury, dragging her around the house before throwing her on the bed and choking her. Hunter cried out for Manilla, who was in another room, and she came in quickly to help. As soon as she entered the bedroom, Brown released Hunter and attacked Manilla instead. Hunter ran out, grabbed an axe and threw it at Brown, but it went over the heads of the struggling pair and fell near the stove. She rushed out again to find help. As she was returning she found Manilla lying in the snow in front of the John East foundry. She helped her friend inside the building, at which point Manilla told her, “I had to knife Jim.”

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Jan 4, 1917

The defense’s main job was to convince the jury that Manilla Huston had killed James Brown in self defense. She took the stand and told the jury that she hadn’t meant to kill him, only to hurt him enough so that he’d let her go and stop hitting her. “The knife was the only thing I could find to defend myself. He was stronger than I was and kept on hitting me ’til I got away. He was very drunk the night before.”

She went on to say, “I thought he was going to kill me. I picked the knife off the table and jabbed it into him.”

The knife was indeed very sharp, and it was explained that it would take very little effort for it pierce as deep as it did, six inches. Manilla Huston was only 20-years-old and Brown was admitted to be a heavy drinker, eating little and often asking May Hunter for money to get alcohol.

The defense argued that Manilla had no motive to harm Brown, she’d only responded to the call for aid by her friend. She did what she had to do, to defend herself from being killed or grievously injured.

Unfortunately, the jury didn’t see it that way and on January 10, 1917 she was found guilty of manslaughter with a recommendation for mercy. On January 12, 1917, despite the arguments on her behalf by her lawyer, who revealed that she was pregnant and shouldn’t be required to have her baby in prison, she was sentence to one year in the gaol.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Jan 11, 1917

The Children’s Aid Society took up her cause and sent appeals to the Minister of Justice in Ottawa, asking that her sentence be temporarily suspended until she gave birth. On May 17, 1917, word came that she’d been given a reprieve and had been sent to a detention home in Winnipeg. It’s unclear if she had to return to prison after having the baby, but I certainly hope not.

And that’s the story of the knifing of William James Brown in the westside of Saskatoon in 1916.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – May 17, 1917

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Dec 30, 1916, Jan 1, 1917, Jan 2, 1917, Jan 3, 1917, Jan 4, 1917, Jan 6, 1917, Jan 10, 1917, Jan 11, 1917, Jan 12, 1917, Jan 15, 1917, Feb 20, 1917, May 17, 1917

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

A Wedding and A Murder: The Killing of Jacob Schabaga

A Case for Mittens: The Shooting of Solomon Maddock

The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

A Wedding and A Murder: The Killing of Jacob Schabaga

The Regina Leader-Post – Nov 22, 1916

On the evening of November 21, 1916, Alex Krilozoski was hosting a wedding celebration at his home, 16 miles north of Vonda, Saskatchewan.

Plenty of people were in attendance and alcohol was flowing freely. Perhaps too freely, because the more it was consumed, the more evident the signs of trouble. According to the newspapers, two rival “gangs” were present at the celebration, and the more they drank, the more friction began to appear. Before long, a fight broke out outside the house between Jacob Schabaga (also spelled Alex Schabaga and Jowie Schebaga) and Fred Zadwormyz (also spelled Zadwornzy and Zeadwornj). The two had a longstanding feud and were known to be enemies in the community.

After the fight, Schabaga was standing in the hallway with his back to Zadwormyz while the wedding dance was in progress. According to witnesses, all of whom had been drinking, Zadwormyz, at the urging of his friends, struck Schabaga over the head with a piece of iron. Death was nearly instantaneous.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Nov 22, 1916

The next day, a Coroner’s Inquest was held, followed immediately by a preliminary hearing for Fred Zadwormyz. He was committed to stand trial for murder. His two friends, Peter Millar and Harry Halkocitch, were briefly held as accessories but weren’t charged.

The trial opened on March 20, 1917, before Justice Brown in Humboldt. The crown was represented by J. McCearer (also spelled McCarar) and for the defense was C.A. Irvine and H.A. Ebbels. Zadwormyz was only 17 years old.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – Nov 22, 1916

The defense team worked hard on behalf of Zadwormyz. They fought to get a statement allegedly made by Zadwormyz to the police while under arrest at Vonda thrown out. It was apparently to the effect that he’d hit the deceased at the wedding. They were unsuccessful and the statement was admitted.

Next, they brought a witness to the stand named Petro Wallidna, who stated that Harry Halkocitch had admitted to him after the preliminary hearing that Zadwormyz had hit the deceased, but he didn’t fall, so Halkocitch had hit him, then he fell and didn’t get up again.

Despite their efforts, Fred Zadwormyz was found guilty of manslaughter on March 23, 1917, with a strong recommendation for mercy. On March 24, 1917 he was sentenced to five years at the penitentiary.

Whether he struck the fatal blow or not, one thing is certain. None of them knew how to behave at a wedding.

And that is the story of a murder at a wedding near Vonda, Saskatchewan.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – March 24, 1917

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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: Nov 22, 1916, March 13, 1917, March 22, 1917, March 24, 1917

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

A Case for Mittens: The Shooting of Solomon Maddock

The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

A Case for Mittens: The Shooting of Solomon Maddock

On the morning of February 11, 1935, Solomon Maddock had a breakfast of bread and butter and tea, then left for the bluffs to chop wood.

He and his wife had moved to the Woodleigh district 29 years previous and currently lived on their farm, 10 miles north of Wapella. They had two sons and two daughters, and were considered to be of a well-to-do class, but had been thrown into poverty when Maddock bought a small farm which (unknown to him) was mortgaged. He’d become liable for the debt and the previous fall he’d sold his cattle and equipment. The funds had been put into a trust, with the family getting monthly payments of $18 to pay their expenses.

All of the children were grown and moved out expect for Gladys, their 34-year-old daughter, who’d never married. She did a large share of the labor on the farm, assisting her aging parents.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 25, 1935

On that morning, shortly after her father left to cut wood, she’d entered the bedroom of their 3-room farmhouse carrying a small rifle. When her mother asked her where she’d got it, she told her she’d borrowed it and was going to shoot rabbits.

Gladys left the farm on horseback, and a long time after, returned to say her father had been shot in the arm. She told her mother that she’d met him in the bush and he’d called her over and taken the rifle from her. “I told him to be careful as it was loaded. I started to ride away when I heard a sound like sticks cracking. I looked around and saw Dad shot.” She’d then gone for a man named Harry Klenman, who’d also been chopping wood nearby.

But Solomon Maddock wasn’t shot in the arm. When Harry Klenman testified at the Inquest, he described being fetched by Gladys Maddock and the two of them going to her father. He told the jury that he’d found Maddock crumpled over on his side, his knees bent, mitt-covered hands together at his knees, an axe handle clenched between his wrists and knees. The rifle lay on the ground on the right side of his body, about 18 inches away. He’d been shot in the right side of the head.

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 13, 1935

His body was taken to Wapella and an autopsy was performed by Dr. Frances McGill. A funeral was held on February 14, 1935 and just two days later, Gladys was arrested and charged with murder. The next day she was taken to Regina and then on to the Battleford jail to await her preliminary hearing.

On February 28, 1935, the jury at the Coroner’s Inquest brought in a verdict, stating that Solomon Maddock had died “as a result of a rifle wound inflicted by the act of a person or persons unknown.”

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 18, 1935

But was it murder? The police certainly thought so. Dr. McGill had found no powder marks near the wound on Maddock’s head and the bullet had passed through the brain in a straight line from right to left. According to Solomon’s family and friends, Solomon was left handed.

And then, there were the mittens. Apparently they were thick, heavy mitts. It seemed unlikely that he’d be able to pull the trigger on the rifle, and the police had done several tests with it and didn’t believe it was possible for it to have discharged accidentally.

On March 1, 1935, Gladys had her preliminary hearing before Magistrate W. B. Scott and was committed to stand trial at Moosomin.

The trial opened on April 23, 1935 before Justice G. E. Taylor. For the defense was A. T. Proctor KC and for the prosecution, H. S. Towell (also published as H. X. Lowell). Aside from Dr. McGill, Harry Klenman and the police, members of the Maddock family also testified.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 23, 1935

Mrs. Maddock of course testified to the events of that morning, but the prosecution also called on two of Gladys’s siblings, William, who lived about a mile away and Mrs. Archie Smith. While neither lived with their parents, they both testified that they’d noticed some slight friction between Gladys and their father when they visited.

William Maddock was convinced it hadn’t been an accident, given that his father wasn’t right-handed and was wearing mittens. He spoke of Gladys’s intense hatred for her relatives, pointing to the fact that she hadn’t spoken to him for a year, and in the case of their sister, two years.

The defense called on a doctor who’d examined her multiple times at the Battleford jail. He testified that Gladys had below average intelligence. He didn’t believe that she was capable of murder.

On April 24, 1935, Justice Taylor decided the case would not go to the jury. He dismissed the charge and Gladys Maddock was acquitted. He claimed the crown had not proven that the shooting wasn’t accidental.

“The man may have been watching a rabbit and leaned to the right to pick up the gun when it discharged. There were lots of twigs and shrubs around.” According to him, the evidence pointed “very strongly to misadventure.”

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – April 25, 1935

Gladys was released from custody and went home with her mother. But she didn’t quite manage to stay out of trouble. On May 22, 1935, she was convicted of assaulting her mother and was sentenced to two months in jail. Apparently, on the previous day, a quarrel had arisen between the two of them and she’d pulled her elderly mother’s hair and twisted her arms.

And that is the story of the shooting of Solomon Maddock. Was it murder? Or was the judge correct, and Solomon had simply fallen victim to a tragic misadventure? We’ll never know for sure.

The Regina Leader-Post – May 23, 1935

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Feb 12, 1935, Feb 13, 1935, Feb 14, 1935, Feb 15, 1935, Feb 18, 1935, Feb 23, 1935, Feb 28, 1935, March 1, 1935, Apr 23, 1935, Apr 24, 1935, Apr 25, 1935, May 23, 1935

If you’re interested in more historical true crime stories from Saskatchewan, give these a try:

The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson

The Suspicious Death of Thomas Gore

The grave of Thomas A. Gore in Tregarva Cemetery, according to

On the morning of April 3, 1914, Mr. Speers, of Speers Undertaking in Regina, and Sergeant Dubuque, of the RNWMP, left Regina with a casket wagon and made their way out to the Tregarva cemetery north of Regina. They were there to exhume the body of Thomas Alexander Gore.

Thomas Gore had been a wealthy farmer in the North Regina district, and after his death on the morning of January 8, 1914, the community had been flush with rumors that his death was not the result of natural causes. Because even though Gore had been in poor health for months, he’d only taken seriously ill about 12 hours before his death. Such a speedy demise seemed suspicious, and the word on everyone’s lips was murder.

Sergeant Dubuque was put in charge of the case, and following an investigation, the attorney general’s department ordered that Gore’s body be exhumed and an autopsy done.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 3, 1914

A Coroner’s Inquest began on April 14, 1914, and was presided over by Dr. Mclean. Dr. McCutcheon performed the autopsy and the internal organs were examined and tested by Dr. Charlton, the provincial analyst. When the inquest closed on April 16th, the jury was clear in their verdict. Thomas Gore died of strychnine poisoning.

The following day, on April 17, 1914, police arrested Thomas Gore’s widow, Elizabeth, and a sometimes helper on the farm named John R. Ford.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 17, 1914

The theory was that Elizabeth and Ford had an inappropriate relationship, and had conspired to kill Gore to both preserve Elizabeth’s standing in his will, as well as clear the way for them to be together. Thomas Gore had been between 47-48 when he died, while Elizabeth was 10 years younger. The couple had been married for about 16 years. John R. Ford was only 19-years-old at the time of his arrest.

A preliminary hearing was held for both Elizabeth and Ford on April 24, 1914. The same witnesses that testified at the Inquest testified at the hearing. There had been several people in the house when Gore met his end. Both Elizabeth’s mother and brother, Mrs. Freethy and Mr. Thomas (possibly Thorton) Freethy had been called to the house when Gore became ill. (No first name was given for Mrs. Freethy. Freethy was also seen spelled Freethey and Freetby)

Both gave the same story. At around 11:00 p.m. on the night of January 7, 1914, the Gore’s 14-year-old son, Audrey, had phoned and asked them to come over as his father was ill. When they arrived, Gore had just come out of a spell of convulsions. According to Mrs. Freethy, he didn’t have another until 2:00 a.m. At about 3:00 a.m. he had a severe spell of convulsions and after that, the spells came on at about an hour apart, until the last few when they increased. When she or her daughter talked of calling a doctor, he told them not to, telling his mother-in-law that it was no use.

This didn’t stop them from trying, however. Apparently, they tried to get the central line on the phone several times but it was down and wouldn’t go through. It was a stormy night, with snow and wind, making driving for a doctor impractical, as – according to Mrs. Freethy – they didn’t think it was serious.

At some point in the morning, they’d called their neighbour, John D. Ford (John R. Ford’s father), and asked him to come. He arrived at about 8:30 a.m. and told the court about finding Mrs. Freethy and her son, as well as Mrs. Gore and Audrey at the house. Thomas Gore was in bed. Ford went in and talked to him, and as they were chatting, Gore was taken with a convulsion that lasted about two or three minutes. According to Ford, Gore’s limbs grew rigid, his head drawn back as his muscles jerked spasmodically. Afterwards, he was unconscious for a short time. Ford told the court that Gore had five or six more convulsions before he died. In between, Gore talked with Mrs. Freethy, who sat beside him, holding his hand. When he died, it was shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the middle of a convulsion. Ford was bathing Gore’s head with cold water. He told the court that he’d seen Gore the previous evening at about 5:00 p.m. His wife had gone into town with the Gore family and they’d dropped her off back at home around that time. He seemed to be in fine health at the time and according to Ford, he was a man of cheerful disposition. He couldn’t think of a reason why he’d want to commit suicide.

Strychnine had been found in Gore’s stomach contents as well as in his kidneys by Dr. Charlton. The amount found was more than sufficient to kill a man. A test of Gore’s urine had also indicated strychnine.

But did he take it himself or was he poisoned?

When questioned about his son’s relationship with Mrs. Gore, Ford told the court that his son used to visit the Gore’s place quite often; too much, he thought. The previous summer he’d talked to his son about it, telling him to keep away from there. He thought his son was too thick with Mrs. Gore, although his son said there was nothing to it. He spoke to his son about staying away two or three times and by fall his visits were less frequent. As far as he knew, the last time his son had been over to the farm was about a month before Gore died, when he’d gone with his father to visit because Gore was sick. Gore had had a fainting spell and fallen and hit his head.

Around mid-February after Thomas Gore died, his son had gone to live at the Gore’s place. He was there for about four-five weeks. Ford told his son to stop going over there because it would look better.

Ford’s wife was also called to the stand. She told the court that Gore had complained to her multiple times about John going over there too often. She told her son to keep away. The last time Gore complained was about a month before he died. She was quite sure her son hadn’t been to the Gore’s for at least two weeks previous to Gore’s death.

On April 28, 1914, Mrs. Elizabeth Gore was committed to stand trial for murder, while John R. Ford was dismissed. Aside from rumors of impropriety, there was no evidence to suggest Ford had anything to do with Gore’s death.

On September 29, 1914, Elizabeth Gore’s murder trial began.

The Regina Leader-Post – Sep 30, 1914

She took the stand in her own defense and told the court that her husband had not been in great health since a serious illness many years before. In the past 11 years, he’d been able to work his farm for only two seasons, and found he didn’t have the strength for it. During the last year of his life, Gore had complained of growing weaker and had fainting spells. On November 8, 1913, he’d fainted and they’d called Dr. Ball, who treated him with aspirin, gastric sedative tablets and later, a drug called Nux Vomica, which contains a small quantity of strychnine.

She admitted that Ford had tried to kiss her once, but she’d stopped him and told her husband about it. She swore that there was no romantic relationship between them.

On the night before his death, Elizabeth testified that her husband had told her he would go to bed early, as he was feeling well and thought he’d be able to sleep. She told him it was a good idea and that she’d go to bed with him. He then said she might as well go to bed, that he was going to smoke a cigar first and she left him to smoke. After a while, he came in to their room and said if she didn’t mind he would go and sleep upstairs. She thought it must have been a good while afterwards, just as she was dozing off to sleep, that she heard him calling her. She went upstairs and he told her he thought he was going to be sick. She woke her son and got him to call her mother and together they got him moved downstairs.

Dr. Ball was called to testify and he verified that he’d been called on November 8, 1913 to treat Gore, who’d complained of being tired and weak and looked rather emaciated. He was having pains in his extremities. Dr. Ball diagnosed him with a faulty metabolism and an irritated condition of the stomach. On November 28, 1913, he analyzed a urine sample from Gore and believed him to be suffering from chronic interstitial nephritis, a form of Bright’s disease (a historical classification of kidney disease), for which he’d prescribed the Nux Vomica.

On the evening of September 30, 1914, Elizabeth Gore was acquitted. Although it was clear to the medical examiners that Thomas Gore had died from strychnine poisoning, there was no evidence to show that his wife was the one to give it to him, rather than himself. And so, she was free to go.

Did she get away with murder? Or did Thomas Gore take his own life? Only they would know for sure.

And that is the story of the suspicious death of Thomas Gore.

The Regina Leader-Post – Oct 1, 1914

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Regina Leader-Post: April 3, 1914, April 4, 1914, April 7, 1914, April 15, 1914, April 17, 1914, April 18, 1914, April 20, 1914, April 25, 1914, April 28, 1914, April 29, 1914, May 11, 1914, Sep 11, 1914, Sep 30, 1914, Oct 1, 1914

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more historical true crime from Saskatchewan, give these a try:

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson

Murder Near Vanscoy: The Unhinged James Alak

The Murder of Charles Bruggencote

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.

The Regina Leader-Post – Feb 27, 1913

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.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – April 26, 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.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – May 7, 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.

The Regina Leader-Post – Dec 5, 1913

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.

The Regina Leader-Post – July 15, 1913

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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

The Horrific Mothering of Hannah Hanson

The Tragic Death of Viola Erickson

*Content Warning: Today’s post includes the abuse and murder of a child. As this is a very upsetting topic, please don’t continue if this will cause you harm. Protect your mental health and join us next week for a new true crime story.

Let’s begin.

Photo by Pixabay on

On March 5, 1912, three-year-old Viola Erickson died. The next day, March 6th, her stepfather, Victor Erickson, was arrested.

Viola’s mother and Victor Erickson had not been married for very long; only since December of 1911. Viola was Mrs. Erickson’s daughter from a previous marriage. They lived on a farm two miles from Tompkins, a CPR town about 40 miles west of Swift Current. The home was described as happy for the first three weeks, but then the abuse of Viola began. Erickson would kick and beat her for no apparent reason. In her testimony at the preliminary hearing, Mrs. Erickson called these episodes his “crazy spells”, saying that otherwise he was good to the child. When asked if she interfered, she told the court that she tried to protect Viola during these attacks.

Whether or not Erickson was good to Viola outside of his “crazy spells” was irrelevant. If he was, he certainly wasn’t good enough, considering the extreme levels of abuse he was visiting upon the child. One witness, Albert Lett, told the court that about three weeks before her death, he saw Erickson beat the little girl without any provocation. He said he told Erickson to quit, and he did, but he was mad at Lett for telling him to stop.

Another witness, Gus Lofyren, had a similar story. He’d also gone over to the Erickson’s place about three weeks before Viola’s death. He’d seen Viola with her hands tied together, being beaten by Erickson. He’d been using his hands, Loyfren told the court, and it had gone on for about five minutes.

The Regina Leader-Post – April 1, 1912

Victor Erickson was committed to stand trial in Moose Jaw, and was taken to Regina jail. Apparently, at the time of his arrest, he’d told the arresting officer, Constable Salt, “I do not know how I came to do it, and did not know I had done it until my wife had told me. I expect to get a life sentence, but after putting in six or seven years I hope to get a petition for my release.”

His trial began on June 17, 1912. Although she’d testified against him at the preliminary hearing, Mrs. Erickson refused to testify against her husband at the trial.

Victor Erickson plead not guilty. His defense was that the myriad of horrific injuries to the three-year-old girl’s body were the result of a series of accidents.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – June 18, 2023

But that was definitely not the case. A bloody garment and a whip had been found hidden in the house at the time of Erickson’s arrest, and the principal witness at the trial, Dr. Kerr of Maple Creek, had a lot to say about Viola’s injuries. He’d been called by a Justice of the Peace to the Erickson farm on March 6th and found the little girl dead in bed. He did a cursory examination and then performed the post mortem on March 9th.

His discoveries are honestly too horrific to list here in their entirety, so I will only give you a short summary of a few of her injuries. She died from an injury to her brain, attributed to a large scalp wound on the back of her head. (On the morning of her death, Mrs. Erickson claimed her husband had shaken her so hard she lost consciousness.) Six of her fingers were blackened with frostbite, her face was cut and scarred. Her back was black and blue with bruises and there was evidence she’d been sat on a hot stove. There were scratches and cuts all over her body. Dr. Kerr found that one of her shoulders was dislocated and had been for some time, as there were no longer any indications of inflammation.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – June 19, 1912

It was clear that Viola’s injuries were not accidental. She’d been beaten to death. Erickson was found guilty of manslaughter on June 18, 1912, and the following day was sentenced to 20 years at the penitentiary. Chief Justice Wetmore, who presided over the trial, told Erickson that this was the worst case brought before him in his entire judiciary career. Erickson was quiet until he was taken to his cell after sentencing, when he broke down completely.

It’s unclear whether he served his full sentence or was granted a petition for his release after a few years, as he’d been hoping.

And that is the story of the horrific abuse of Viola Erickson.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – June 20, 1912

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Information for this post came from the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Winnipeg Free Press Prairie Farmer, the Saskatoon Daily Star and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: April 1, 1912, April 11, 1912, April 17, 1912, June 18, 1912, June 19, 1912, June 20, 1912, June 26, 1912

Interested in more historical true crime from Saskatchewan? Check these out:

Murder Near Vanscoy: The Unhinged James Alak

The Horrific Mothering of Hannah Hanson

The Beating of Gregory Homeniuk

Murder Near Vanscoy: The Unhinged James Alak

Terezia and James Alak did not have a good marriage. It was, to be frank, barely a marriage at all. James had moved to Vanscoy from the United States and purchased a homestead in the Hungarian settlement nearby sometime around 1906-1907. In 1909, he married Terezia, but just three weeks after the wedding, she left to work in Saskatoon. She then went to Outlook and then to Moose Jaw, where she gave birth to a child. In August of 1910, she returned to her father’s home and about two weeks later, Alak showed up at the door, asking to her to go back and live with him.

She told him no. He’d mistreated her and she wouldn’t go back. He told her that if she didn’t return with him, then someone would die that day, but her brother intervened and sent him on his way.

The following August, in 1911, Alak came around again. This time, she rejoined him, bringing some furniture and a cow. They got some chickens and a pig as well. But by September 11th, Alak was back to his old cruelty and Terezia left again, returning to her parents’ house.

Alak visited the house twice the following day, wanting Terezia to come home with him. She refused. A quarrel ensued but eventually he left. At this point, Terezia’s father, Luke Bugyik, decided they should go and get her things.

They went to the home of Andy Ader and asked him for help moving out Terezia’s furniture. When they showed up with the wagon at Alak’s home, he pleaded with them for Terezia to remain, but she refused. When he spoke about starting a divorce suit against her, she replied that she would give him satisfaction.

The furniture was placed on the wagon, and while Bugyik secured the cow, Terezia went to get the chickens. Alak asked Ader to help her catch them and the two went off, passing through some brush along the way. As they were walking, they heard a shot from near the house. They ran back, only to find Luke Bugyik lying against the wheel of the wagon with his head wounded. Terezia, realizing that Alak had shot her father, ran past the house, desperate to escape. Alak followed her, aiming the gun at her as she ran. He shot from about 30 yards, and she fell. Ader asked Alak why he’d done this as he walked past him, but he didn’t answer.

Ader pulled the still alive Bugyik to the side of the house and then… went home. As far as it was reported, it doesn’t appear he contacted anyone or raised any kind of alarm. Which is unfortunate, because, having shot his wife and father-in-law, Alak then walked the three miles to the Bugyik family home, crept up to the house and fired at Terezia’s mother, Elizabeth (or Erzsebert), through the window. He missed the first shot, but not the next as she ran into another room, catching her in the abdomen. When she tried to escape, he shot her again. Terezia’s brother, Luke Jr., was in Delisle that day.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Sep 14, 1911

Later that evening, Alak showed up at Ader’s house and gave him his mother’s address. He asked Ader to write to his mother and explain why he couldn’t visit anymore. He told Ader about going to the Bugyik’s and shooting his mother-in-law, and that when he returned to his place he’d found the old man alive, so he shot him again to finish him off. Ader told him to go to Saskatoon and give himself up.

It’s unclear if that was his intention or not, but word was sent to Vanscoy and the RNWMP were telephoned at Saskatoon. Officers Corporal Thomas and Constable Messina were dispatched to Vanscoy and on their way they met Alak on the road. At the time, they didn’t know what Alak looked like, but Thomas was suspicious to see a farmer on the road so late at night, so he called him to a stop and asked him where he was going.

Alak responded, “oh, a serious thing has happened.”

When asked what that was, he told them he’d killed his wife and in-laws.

They took him into custody and went back to his house. The doors were locked, the bodies having been taken inside either by Alak or some neighbours. Corporal Thomas was forced to climb in through the window, where he found Terezia’s body in a room to the east and Luke Bugyik’s body in another. There were pools of blood in the yard, about three yards apart, with a man’s hat lying by one of them. A basket of eggs sat on the ground.

Elizabeth Bugyik was still alive after her attack, although not much hope was held for her recovery, and she was taken to St. Paul’s hospital in Saskatoon. The bodies of Terezia and Luke were also taken to Saskatoon, while Terezia’s little child was placed with a neighbour.

Elizabeth Bugyik died of her injuries on September 19, 1911.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoeniz – Sep 15, 1911

An inquest was opened on September 14, 1911 and on September 15, 1911, Alak was committed to stand trial in Saskatoon.

The trial was held on October 3, 1911 before Justice Lamont. The prosecutor was Mr. Mackenzie and for the defense was Mr. McIntyre. Terezia’s brother, Luke, testified. Telling the court that Alak and his sister did not get on well. After she left him, Alak had terrorized their family. Their haystacks had been burned and two weeks before the murders, their barn was mysteriously set ablaze. Of course, the family had pointed to Alak when RNWMP had come out to investigate, but there wasn’t much in the way of evidence. Apparently, Alak had previously proposed to the family that if they would allow him to murder Terezia’s child, he would take her back. He didn’t believe the little girl was his.

This was corroborated by RNWMP, who said that Alak had told them he’d killed his wife because she’d been unfaithful, and that if they’d just let him kill the child, he wouldn’t have done this.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Sep 13, 1911

Ader, of course, testified, as did the coroner. Terezia had been shot in the back and had nine wounds in all from the shot, which had penetrated her lungs. Luke had a wound in his back as well as two in his head. There were powder marks on his shirt, showing that the shot had been fired at a range of not more than three feet.

Alak testified, telling the court that he didn’t think Luke Bugyik was any good, because “while he was at Prince Albert, the old man came to him as a witch and sat on his chest.” (This is a reference to an old European superstition – The Old Hag or Night Hag, which we now know is sleep paralysis, but at the time was believed to be a literal witch or supernatural being who sat on your chest while you were sleeping.)

James Alak was found guilty the same day and sentenced to hang at Prince Albert on November 28, 1911. It is unclear if any appeals were filed, but if they were, they were dismissed. He was hanged on the scheduled day.

Terezia and her parents, Elizabeth and Luke Bugyik, were buried in Saskatoon. Luke Bugyik Jr, told reporters he was going back to Hungary. He didn’t want to live in Canada anymore after what had happened. Terezia had another sister, Teeny, but it’s unclear if she stayed in Saskatchewan or went back to Hungary with Luke.

And that is the story of the senseless murder of Terezia “Tessie” Bugyik Alak and her parents, Elizabeth and Luke Bugyik.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Oct 4, 1911

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post and don’t want to miss future true crime stories, please subscribe! And don’t forget to share it with friends.

Information for this post came from and the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Sep 13, 1911, Sep 14, 1911, Sep 15, 1911, Sep 16, 1911, Sep 20, 1911, Sep 21, 1911, Oct 4, 1911, Nov 28, 1911

Want more historical true crime stories from Saskatchewan? Check these out:

The Horrific Mothering of Hannah Hanson

The Beating of Gregory Homeniuk

The Mystery of Mrs. Pengelly

The Horrific Mothering of Hannah Hanson

*Content Warning: This story includes the murder of children. If you will find this distressing, please take care of your mental health and skip this week’s post. Please join us again next Tuesday for a new true crime story.

Photo by Pixabay on

In 1919, Hannah Hanson moved with her two children, six-year-old Annie May and 9-month-old Olive to the farm of Ole Weflin, about 20-30 miles north of Maple Creek. She worked for him for a while as a housekeeper, but by June of that same year, Weflin had decided that Hannah and her children should be sent to a neighbour. So, he made the arrangements and on Tuesday, June 24, 1919, he went to his cousin’s farm nearby to borrow a rig and drive the woman and her children to their new destination.

When he returned, he found Hannah on the floor, dead. Six-year-old Annie was also dead and the baby, although still alive, only lasted a few moments. Two almost empty bottles of strychnine and one partially empty bottle of carbolic acid were found on the floor. The woman had killed her children and herself.

But this wasn’t the first time Hannah Hanson had killed a child in her care.

The Regina Leader-Post – June 28, 1919

Oswald Hanson was an easy-going, good natured Swedish man who had moved to Loverna, Saskatchewan from the States with his three children from a previous marriage. He had two daughters, Myrtle and Evelyn Ruth and a son, Glen.

It’s unclear when he married Hannah, but his son, Glen, was born in 1914, so it would have been some time after that. The couple got married and moved Oswald’s three children and Hannah’s daughter, Annie May, into a home about eight miles northeast of Loverna. It didn’t take long for tragedy to strike. On April 10, 1917, three-year-old Glen died, believed at the time to have been “tramped on” by his sister, Evelyn Ruth, who was about seven or eight at the time.

An inquest was held into little Glen’s death, with the verdict being that the boy had come to his death through strangulated hernia as a result of an attack on him by his sister, Evelyn Ruth.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – April 20, 1917

Evelyn Ruth was later committed to the hospital for the insane, but after a short time was found to be normal and released. It was around this time that suspicion began to grow around Oswald’s wife, Hannah.

Because, while Evelyn Ruth was considered normal by the hospital staff, around her stepmother, her behavior was odd. On one occasion, her father found phonograph needles in Evelyn’s ear. When he questioned her about it, she claimed she put them there herself.

At another time, Myrtle was given a large number of patent medicine tablets by someone and became seriously ill. Evelyn Ruth also took the blame on this occasion.

In the fall of 1918, Oswald and Hannah had become estranged. It’s impossible to say why, if it was the grief over losing his son or if Oswald had perhaps begun to grow suspicious of Hannah and her dealings with the children. If so, his suspicions were well founded.

On December 3, 1918, Hannah wrote a letter to Oswald filled with admissions of some of the horrible things she’d done to the children. She told him that she had been the one to give Glen his rupture, that she’d hurt Myrtle’s arm and whipped all the children (including her own daughter, Annie), saying she “whipped them sinful.” She had put the phonograph needles in Evelyn’s ear and made her eat lye and “made her do lots of things that was done.” She admitted that she’d often planned on killing the children and herself or burning them all up.

She closed the letter by telling him that in her heart she loved him and the children and she didn’t know why she’d done what she’d done. She couldn’t explain it. Finally, she apologized for losing him his only boy.

Now, it’s possible you’re wondering how she was able to go on and murder two more children, when she should have been in jail for murdering three-year-old Glen. Apparently, it was impossible to use the admissions Hannah made to her husband as evidence, on account of a legal rule in the Canada Evidence Act. The rule was to the effect that evidence from a spouse against their partner is inadmissible.

While she was still living in Loverna, she was prosecuted for ill-treatment of the children and sentenced to pay a fine. (Yes, a fine. Good grief.) When she refused, she was sent to the Prince Albert jail where she stayed for a short time before she decided to pay the fine and was released.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – June 28, 1919

In the early spring of 1919, Oswald sent his two daughters, Myrtle and Evelyn Ruth, to live with his parents in Ellingston, North Dakota, to get them away from Hannah. Under proper treatment, they gradually became more comfortable and were finally able to admit what Hannah had been doing, but only with the promise that Hannah wouldn’t be told what they said. They were still deathly afraid of the woman.

The Provincial Police had had their eye on Hannah since April of 1917, when Glen died, although they’d held back on doing much while she was pregnant with Olive. About a month before the final, horrible incident when Hannah ended the life of her children, they had submitted the file to Crown Prosecutor P. E. Mackenzie of Saskatoon to see if further charges were possible. It was found that the evidence was insufficient, as her husband was not available as a witness, to create more than a suspicion that she’d caused Glen’s death and mistreated the other children.

In the months leading up to the murder of Annie May and Olive, Hannah had been writing letters to Oswald, begging him to come back to her. Oswald had been called to North Dakota a few days before the murder and it was thought that she must have heard of his travels and come to the conclusion that he intended to pay no more attention to her.

Weirdly, the idea that she was insane didn’t seem to have ever crossed the minds of her husband, their neighbours or the police, although all admitted that she was violent, high-tempered and impulsive.

And that is the story of the horrific mother and stepmother that was Hannah Hanson.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – June 28, 1919

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post and don’t want to miss future true crime stories, please subscribe and share with friends!

Information for this post came from and the following editions of the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and the Saskatoon Daily Star: April 20, 1917, June 28, 1919

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

The Beating of Gregory Homeniuk

The Mystery of Mrs. Pengelly

The Brutal Murder of Florence Beatty

The Beating of Gregory Homeniuk

On June 13, 1919, Gregory Homeniuk passed away. Normally, this wouldn’t have caused much of a stir. He was an elderly man, a farmer living 12 miles southwest of Foam Lake. But it was the manner of his death that rocked the community. Gregory Homeniuk had been viciously beaten on June 9th and had died from his injuries four days later.

On the same day Gregory Homeniuk passed away, his son-in-law, John Kitzul, was arrested. According to newspaper reports, there was a longstanding feud between the two men, although there were no details given as to what the feud was about or why there was cause for bad blood between the two families. In some articles, journalists attested the fight was over some difficulties with a deal that had depreciated into violence.

A post mortem was completed the same day Homeniuk died. There’d been little hope for his recovery. Homeniuk had at least four broken ribs (in one article he was listed as having over 20 fractures to his ribs) and multiple deep scalp wounds.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – June 14, 1919

An inquest was held the following day and John Kitzul confessed through an interpreter. He told the jury that on the day of the fight he’d gone into his pasture to attend his cattle. As he neared the herd, he saw Homeniuk among the animals. According to him, Homeniuk had jumped into a bluff and started running. Kitzul chased him and overtook him.

“I caught him and hit him on the head with my fist. I knocked him to the ground. He tried to get up and I kicked him on the head or the side; I don’t know which. Homeniuk fell back and I kept on kicking him each time he attempted to rise. I kicked him five or six times. I kicked him so many times he was unable to get up.”

Kitzul went on to say that Homeniuk had pled for mercy and cried out for Kitzul not to kill him. He asked Kitzul for a drink of water and Kitzul obliged, going in search of a pail. When he returned, Homeniuk was gone.

“I was so mad when I hit him, I didn’t care if I killed him or not.”

(While Kitzul was off looking for water, Homeniuk had craled 200 yards to the house of a man named Yudenich and told him that Kitzul had beaten him.)

The Saskatoon Daily Star – June 17, 1919

Kitzul was charged with murder and given a preliminary hearing at Wynyard on June 18, 1919. He was committed to stand trial at the next criminal assizes at Wynyard and taken to Regina jail to await his trial.

The trial opened before Justice Bigelow at Wynyard on November 5, 1919. It lasted three days and on the evening of November 7th, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang on March 19, 1920. Kitzul was about 47 at the time. Homeniuk was listed as 75 in the newspapers, but according to his tombstone he was between 92-93 when he died. Both men had immigrated from Austria.

The Regina Leader-Post – Nov 8, 1919

Just before the day of his sentence arrived, John Kitzul’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. The Honorable C. J. Doherty exercised clemency when the facts of the case were laid before him, as well as the jury’s recommendation for mercy. He reportedly promised to review the case within a year or two in order to see whether further commutation of the sentence was feasible, but I was unable to find any news reports about whether Kitzul’s sentence was altered.

John Kitzul died in 1941 and was buried in the same cemetery as his father-in-law, the Dormition of Mary Ukranian Orthodox Cemetery in Wynyard. His wife, Kalyna Homeniuk Kitzul, died in 1952 and was also buried in the same cemetery.

And that is the story of the beating of Gregory Homeniuk.

The Saskatoon Daily Star – March 20, 1920

Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing so you don’t miss future true crime stories from Saskatchewan. Don’t forget to share this with friends!

Information for this post came from the website find a grave, as well as the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star and Regina Leader-Post: June 14, 1919, June 16, 1919, June 17, 1919, June 18, 1919, June 26, 1919, Nov 3, 1919, Nov 4, 1919, Nov 8, 1919, March 20, 1920

Interested in more historical true crime stories from Saskatchewan? Check these out:

The Mystery of Mrs. Pengelly

The Brutal Murder of Florence Beatty

The Bath Tub Murders

The Mystery of Mrs. Pengelly

On the morning of September 16, 1928, Fred D. Ross, a farmer near Lockwood, Saskatchewan, woke up to things feeling a bit strange. It was 10:30 a.m. and even though it was a Sunday, he was still a little surprised to see that no one was about.

He got up and made himself some breakfast, then went out to do the chores. As he entered the feed yard, he came upon a horrific sight. The body of Vera Pengelly, one of his employees, was lying by an oat stack. A rifle was resting loosely in her arms, her hands growing stiff around it, with the muzzle resting close to one ear. There was a bullet hole in her forehead, as well as another wound on her face above the gun shot.

Ross immediately went back to the house and got his two farmhands, Bob Smale and Vera’s husband, Albert (also saw his name listed as Borge and Borze). He took them down to see what had happened, then the three returned to the house to call the authorities.

The death was labeled a suicide and Mrs. Vera Pengelly was buried without an inquest. But her parents, Mr. and Mrs. I. E. Inger, were suspicious. To them, it didn’t sound like a suicide. They pushed for an investigation and on January 23, 1929, an exhumation of the body was ordered.

Vera Pengelly had been laid to rest in a cemetery in Foam Lake, near her parents. Her body was exhumed and on January 31, 1929, Dr. W. S. Lindsay performed an autopsy.

A Coroner’s Inquest was formerly opened on February 5, 1929.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Feb 7, 1929

Fred Ross testified, taking the jury through his waking late on that Sunday morning to finding the body and telling Mr. Pengelly. He said that when he told Pengelly about his wife, Pengelly did not show much distress or excitement, which he found odd. After Vera died, Pengelly left Ross’s employ and moved to Foam Lake.

Albert Pengelly of course testified as well. He and Vera had married in 1927 and were employed shortly after by Ross on his farm, eight miles from Lockwood. On the day in question, he and Smale got up at 5:00 a.m. to go duck hunting. They took shotguns, but it was too cold and they didn’t find any birds, so they gave up and returned to the farmyard at about 6:15 a.m. They did the chores, then returned to bed, some time on or about 6:35 a.m.

Pengelly and his wife shared their room in the farm house with Vera’s sister, Ethel. (In some articles, Ethel was listed as Albert’s sister, not Vera’s). When Albert returned to bed, Ethel remained asleep but Vera woke up. The couple talked about visiting some neighbours that day and as he started to fall back asleep, he noticed Vera sitting up as if she were about to get up. He coaxed her into going back to sleep with him and the last thing he remembered was that she seemed to be about to get up and had kissed him. The next thing he knew, Ross was waking him up to tell him about finding Vera’s body. He told the jury that he’d gone to the body and thrown himself before it, touching the arms.

He could give no reason for her suicide, but did mention that they’d lost a baby several months ago.

Bob Smale also testified, saying that Pengelly did not seem excited or emotional when informed of his wife’s death. He’d noticed blood on Vera’s face and left hand.

Ethel, Vera’s sister, had slept through everything. She testified that Vera had not been feeling well since the death of her baby. She said she often heard Vera saying that “if she did not care for Bert, her husband, so much, life would not be worth living.”

A neighbour, John Howat, testified. He said that when he arrived, the rifle barrel was about three inches from the woman’s chin. An eye was black. There was a bullet wound in the forehead and another wound as well. He said there was blood on both hands, and to him, it looked as though it had been rubbed there. There was blood on both arms, on her hair and her sweater. According to John, the scene felt wrong and he didn’t want to touch anything.

Dr. Hicks had been the first doctor to arrive at about 12:15 p.m. and confirmed that there was blood on her hands and that it looked as if it were rubbed there. There was a wound on the forehead and another on the back of the head under the hair, both of which seemed to have been caused by a sharp instrument but didn’t penetrate the skull. He and the other doctors believed these wounds occurred while she was still alive, but couldn’t say if they were before the gunshot or afterward as she fell.

The rifle that had killed Vera was a .22 caliber and belonged to Ross. Vera had used it before, when she went rabbit hunting with her husband. The police had found two plunger marks on the spent cartridge, indicating that the first attempt to fire the rifle had failed.

Dr. Lindsay testified as well, and stated that because there was a noted absence of powder marks anywhere on Vera or her clothes, he didn’t believe it was possible that she was the one who fired the weapon.

With all this information, the jury at the Coroner’s Inquest ruled the death a murder and the police began investigating.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Feb 8, 1929

There wasn’t a lot for the police to go on. There were some rumors of a frightful row at the farm that morning, but Ross and Smale said they’d never seen Pengelly and his wife argue. A man named Godfrey Thompson had been at the farm that morning and refused to go with the other men to see the body, because he didn’t want to get caught up in the matter. This rubbed some people the wrong way, and it was labeled as suspicious.

Despite the verdict at the inquest, the police never really believed that it was anything other than suicide, and by October 31, 1929, they admitted to reporters that due to the lack of evidence, they were no longer working on the case and had labeled it a suicide.

And that is the story of the mysterious death of Mrs. Vera Pengelly. Was it murder? Or did Mrs. Pengelly succumb to the grief over her lost child? Only she will ever know.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Feb 9, 1929

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post and don’t want to miss future true crime stories, please subscribe! Don’t forget to send it to friends!

Information for this post came from the following editions of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Feb 6, 1929, Feb 7, 1929, Feb 8, 1929, Feb 9, 1929, Feb 11, 1929, Feb 16, March 2, 1929, Oct 31, 1929

Want to read more true crime stories from historical Saskatchewan? Give these a try:

The Brutal Murder of Florence Beatty

The Bath Tub Murders

The Murder of the Bromley Five