Tuesday, October 9, 2012


10/11/1923 - A train robbery in the wilds of northwest America goes wrong with tragic results.  Brought up poor, and poorly educated, in a remote section of Oregon, three lumberjack brothers, the D'Autremonts, twenty-three-year-old twins Roy and Ray, and youngest sibling, eighteen-year-old Hugh, come up with a get-rich-scheme ... pretend they are the Daltons or the James Gang and rob a train.  Their plan is simple ... isolate the mail car they want to rob by stopping the rest of the train in railroad tunnel, make off with an estimated $40,000 in cash and securities, and then use their outdoor skills to vanish into the local wilds.  Rookie outlaws, the robbery turns out not to be the simple exercise of the brothers' imaginations!

Riding the Southern Pacific #13, shortly after leaving the Siskiyou, Oregon station, the brothers, wearing heavy overcoats to hide the sawed-off shotguns (and Colt .45s) they are carrying, leave their seats and go into action.  Dropping into the locomotive cab, Roy and Ray command engineer Sidney Bates and fireman Marvin Eng to stop the train, positioning it so that most of the cars remain in the 3,000 foot long tunnel.  Stationary, Hugh than places a package of dynamite on the door of the locked mail car.  When the explosion takes place though, instead of gaining access to the funds they want to remove from the train, the blast creates a holocaust which roasts the car, and kills mail clerk Elvyn Dougherty.  Frustrated by what has taken place, when brakeman Coyl Johnson shows up from the rear of the train to find out about what is happening and can't help put out the fire, an irate Hugh shoots him in the head, killing the man instantly.  A murder the engineer and fireman witness, so in a snap decision, they are eliminated too, with Ray and Roy unloading their shotguns into the men.

                                                   The burnt mail car

Four men murdered for zero profit, the brothers flee, leaving behind only a pistol with its serial number filed off and a pair of overalls ... clues that the local authorities can do nothing with until the chief of the Southern Pacific's train police, Daniel O'Connell, decides to seek the help of an experimental crime lab in Berkeley, California run by a Sherlock Holmes like criminologist named Edward Oscar Heinrich ... soon to become known as the "Wizard of Berkeley."

                                                      Edward Oscar Heinrich

In two days, Heinrich's examination of the gun and overalls results in the break required to solve the case as he determines the clothing was worn by a left-handed lumberjack (the items belong to Roy) who has worked around the fir trees of Pacific Northwest that is white, between 21 and 25 years old, has medium light brown hair, was not taller than 5'10", weighed around 125 pounds and had fastidious habits ... deductions made by the size of the overalls, tree chips and Douglas fir needles found in the right-hand pocket, neatly cut fingernail slivers found in the seam of a pocket, and a hair fiber found wrapped around a button on the overalls.  And when Heinrich disassembles the pistol, he finds a second serial number inside the gun, along with locating a mail receipt tucked inside the bib pocket of the overalls.  The information is enough to put local police, train agents, postal inspectors, and officers of what will become the FBI on the trail of the in hiding D'Autremonts!

                                    A 1923 wanted poster of the DeAutremont brothers
                                                             Wanted Poster

The search for the brothers becomes one of the largest manhunts in criminal history ... more than two million circulars showing the killers are distributed to almost every city and town in the United States, foreign countries receive numerous wanted posters of the men, and a large reward is offered for information leading to their capture.  The hunt lasts for four years!  Leafing through some wanted posters, Sergeant Thomas Reynolds of the U. S. Army recognizes the face of a man he had served with in the Philippines named Brice, and Hugh is arrested in Manila and sent back to the States.  And when that arrest rekindles interest in the case, while reading a newspaper story about the train robbery, Albert Cullingworth of Steubenville, Ohio recognizes Roy and Ray as the Goodwin twins he has been working with at the local mill and they are soon caught.  All three brothers confess to the robbery and murders, confessions that save them from the hangman's rope.   Found guilty,  the three men are sentenced to life in prison at the Oregon State Penitentiary ... Roy will slowly go mad (it takes six guards to subdue him when he goes berserk in his cell), be given a lobotomy, and die in a mental hospital in 1983, Ray will be paroled in 1961 and serve as a custodian at the University of Oregon, dying in 1984, and Hugh will be paroled in November of 1958, dying three months later of cancer in San Francisco.  Wasted lives!!!!!!!!! 

                                                            The killer brothers

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