Lake County History, Chapter 115: The White Cap Murders, Part 6

Not all of them could come up with the bail money. Those that couldn’t pay the bale, as the recorder states; ‘were detained until further notice by this Court.’

Costs for witness travel and food expenses were high in 1890. Miss Rose Francis, witness for the People, was paid $21.00, and John Bunch, for Napa County, was paid $16.50. There were six others, all witnesses for the People. Each was paid $21.00 for their expenses.

Present to defend the accused men were B.F. Staley, the Defendant, and his Council, J.M. McDougal and Rodney F. Hudson, Esquire. All being present in the jury box, Fred Bennett identified the accused:

“When the masked men rushed into the saloon, I recognized Arkarro when Mrs. Riche tore off his mask. I ran for the bedroom to get a pistol with men following me, shooting as they ran. I tried to hold the door against them. They were too much for me. I jumped out of the window and got away in the darkness.”

“I reached a small knoll where I stayed until I heard the shooting die down. I came back and helped Mr. Riche get his wife into the bedroom on the bed. On my way to town, I stopped at the Habishaws. I asked Mrs. Habishaw to go to Mrs. Riche and see if she could help. Habishaw and his wife said they would. Then I rode on in town to get a doctor and sound the alarm.”

What was still missing in the drama was a motive for the crime. The man who suggested a possible motive was the second witness for the prosecution, Thomas Habishaw. After he repeated Bennett’s brief visit to his home, he gave his opinion.

Habishaw said, Fred Bennett and Staley were not on friendly terms. Bennett owned a piece of the Bullion mine, which adjoined the Bradford mine. Staley was interested in the Bullion Mine, and he and Bennett had argued over boundary lines between the two mines. Later, they had a fight. Bennett knocked Staley down.”

The plot thickened. It was common knowledge that Bennett had thrashed several of the raiders. They all hated him. Testimony was given to say that Blackburn wished to get ‘even’ with Bennett, and Blackburn was the man that originated the idea of the raid.

Habishaw added, “There was never any intention to injure the Riche’s. The raid was aimed solely at Bennett. Blackburn said, ‘We’ll flog him well, give him a coat of tar and feathers, escort him to the County border, and order him never to set foot in Lake County again.’”

Other testimony brought out McGuyre’s grudge against the Bennett and Riche. McGuyre’s grudge grew out of a quarrel over Riche’s cows. Riche’s cattle had wandered over to McGuyre’s place, and McGuyre stoned the animals to drive them home. As the trial unfolded, it appeared all the raiders bore grievances of some sort against either Bennett or Riche… or both men.

The State calledJ.B. Prebble was called as a witness. Prebble had some knowledge of the building and the grounds around the Camper’s Retreat roadhouse. After being sworn, he was used as a witness to show the location and the grounds and the buildings and the different rooms of what was known as Camper’s Retreat. The site of the crime was owned and used as living quarters by the Riches.

Prebble’s occupation or the reason for his source of knowledge of the Camper’s Retreat is not mentioned in court records. After the State had him describe the grounds and buildings of the Camper’s Retreat, he was cross-examined by Hudson, the defendant’s attorney. No record of his questions was found in the court record. However, one small point emerged from Prebble’s testimony. An Insurance sign on J.W. Riche’s house had bullet holes in it. The sign was offered into evidence as an exhibit to demonstrate the great number of wild shots fired that night.

Next episode; The Raiders are Questioned


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.

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