Thursday, October 8, 2009

Murder on the Klamath

The big local news story in Siskiyou County is a Hatfield-McCoy story of feuds and unsolved murders going back at least to 1976, when the body of six year old Willie Cook was found in a barrel near Happy Camp. The case went cold until last year, when some locals started to talk. The participants are several Native American families. Of course, the white men who married into these families were likely also Hatfield-McCoy types. The Siskiyou Daily News has been carrying detailed stories on the trial. I feel compelled to follow this story because I think I knew the main defendant, Greg Nelson, in 1973, when he was in the Youth Conservation Corps crew in Somes Bar. (That is an employment and training program for high school age kids.) I also talked sometimes with an in-law of the the other main defendant, Susanne Aubrey Little, at the local bar. He would have a few beers and start running down the Forest Service, which was my employer. He said he was proud that his one non-Indian grandfather was a German, not a white man. . .
A third alleged participant, Joyce Croy, now deceased, was related somehow to Patrick "Hoody" Croy, who was convicted a few years back of murdering a police officer near Yreka. However, a bay area appeals court overturned the conviction on the grounds that we are all racist in Siskiyou County.
The prosecution's case seems to be floundering, with witnesses providing hear/say, contradicting their earlier statements, and admitting to long-term meth addiction. One informant said he had a psychic vision that Nelson committed the murder. The investigators are recalled to the stand to explain what the witnesses really meant. One of the investigators let slip that an elderly witness, Sylvina Logan, may be slipping into dementia. Logan's house burned down, and the prosecution claims it was set by Nelson because Logan talked to the prosecution.

However, as shaky as the prosecution's case may be, it looks like Nelson has convicted himself at least as an accessory to murder and a kidnapping participant, by admitting to being on the scene and transporting the victim. Susanne Little's trial will follow.
One other facet of the case is a defense attempt to blame the murder on "Jeeps" a Hoopa woman whose real name was Agnes Colgrove. She would have been a logical suspect, having been in an out of prison several times. Sam, one of my coworkers when I was at Willow Creek, was her neighbor. He said whenever he went away, he would ask Jeeps to watch his place. He figured if the biggest thief around was watching your place for you it should be pretty safe. But she hasn't been placed in the area at the time of the kidnapping and murder, and a number of witnesses do implicate the defendants in one way or another.
The press has followed the custom of not mentioning the race of the defendants, but it did publish photos, and most locals know. Actually Nelson looks mostly white, but a lot of downriver people claim Native American even if they only have one eighth.

So why is this my first blog post? My main interests are gardening, peak oil and fishing. I guess like many, I have a certain fascination with the dark side of human nature. And the subject of race and crime needs a healthy dose of sunshine and objectivity.

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