Lake County History, Chapter 113: The White Cap Murders, Part 4

The men in the posse stared at the bleeding corpse with interest. The dead man was dressed in what was meant as some sort of disguise. He looked like he had dressed for Halloween. His arms were covered in red sleeves, burlap sacks were sewn around his body and his legs, and there was a white paper mask over his face. Later, as they searched around the tavern grounds, the officers found more white masks made of flour sacks with holes cut for the eyes. Near the barn, sixty feet from the tavern, they discovered a small tin lard bucket filled with tar and a cat-o’-nine-tails whip lay next to the bucket.

Habishaw continued his explanation.

“When I came inside the room, a chair was lying on its side, and a Winchester rifle was leaning on the chair.” Remembering the sight, he added, “The stock was covered in blood.”

One of the men in the posse was a new resident to Middletown, a physician, Dr. Roland Hartley.

At the trial, Dr. Hartley testified, “The fatal shot to the dead man on the porch came from a gunshot wound in the heart. The shot had been fired from behind. I found a bullet, which might have been a 44, laying loose in the dead man’s clothing.”

Later after the inquest, it was found that the dead man had been killed with a .22 caliber bullet. The spent .44 caliber shell casing, found in the dead man’s clothing, had been used as a whistle by McGuyer, one of the ringleaders, to give the signal to the other raiders for the charge into the tavern room.

Dr. Hartley testified, “The injury to McGuyer was a large wound. The bullet entered at a point below the left shoulder blade and directly into his heart.”

Despite reams of testimony and evidence, the identity of the person that had killed Guyer was never discovered. Hartley continued his recital at the trial.

“I found Mrs. Riche lying on the bed. Her clothes were open, and there were five wounds; one in her side and one above the right shoulder. Her general condition was severe depression. I believed she was about to die. I asked the District attorney, who was also in the room if he wished Mrs. Riche to make an ante mortem statement. He replied that it was not worthwhile to bother her.”

Mrs. Riche suffered four days before she died. There was great sympathy and concern over her murder, and, according to the ‘Calistogan’, October 15, 1890, her funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Middletown. People praised Mrs. Riche; she was brave to the last. Tearing the mask from one of the bandits gave a clue to the guilty parties and helped to identify them.

At the trial, Dr. Hartley testified about the results of his autopsy on Helen Riche’s body.

“Four balls entered her body. There were six bullet wounds in all. The fatal wound was the bullet that penetrated her left lung, causing eventual suffocation. All bullets were from a .22 caliber pistol.”

Dr. Hartley added one important observation that caused some consternation in the courtroom.

“All of the bullets had ranged downward.”

His testimony implied she had been shot while she was lying on the floor.

The Middletown Independent’s headline and text the next day reported;


‘Lake County has a good reputation for law observance, its county jail being usually empty… There is no disguising the truth. The fair name of our county has been colored with odium by this terrible affair…’

Next episode; The Trial Begins


To enjoy and learn more about Author Gene Paleno’s books

visit Gene’s website; http://genepaleno.com/

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

error: Content is protected !!

Your Cart

Cart is empty.