Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hell Hath No Fury: The Strange Fate of Anna Schrader

Theresa Griffith Kennedy (the main author of this piece) and I have been working on this Anna Schrader/Torso Murder case for some time.  If you've been following the podcast Murder By Experts you already know some of the story.  Here is a little more and there is more coming. Hope you like it.
The apartment house (3rd from right) where Anna Schrader lived in 1930.  When someone fired a shot through the window she called the police, but they decided a "potted cactus" had fallen from the balcony above and came through the window.
            In 1946 Portland, the population had swollen to ten times its pre-war size, and was on the move.  The shipyards along the Columbia River laid off workers and River City entered the long, slow economic decline of the post-war period. Portland industries, which had always depended on transient workers, were contracting. Many of the transients were moving on, but a large portion of them were staying in place and looking for other work.  The city was bigger and more crowded than it had ever been. Violent incidents, murders and disappearances were all rising, and in such a volatile population it was easy to get lost in the shuffle.
            One of the women lost in the shuffle was Anna Schrader, an aging beauty who had been well-known to readers of the Oregonian in the pre-war period but had faded from public view over the last decade.  By 1946, now a widow in her early sixties, she had lost the refined Irish beauty that had long been one of her claims to fame.  Her reputation damaged by scandal and a long, bitter battle with the Portland Police Bureau and its former chief, Leon Jenkins, Schrader had become socially invisible.  In the spring of 1946, with Jenkins coming out of retirement to replace ailing chief Harry Niles, Schrader sensed she was on the verge of a comeback, but fate stepped in and altered her narrative. 

On April 5, 1946, her sixty-third birthday, a small ad appeared in the classified section of the Oregonian providing the only documentation of Anna Schrader’s odd disappearance.  The ten-word ad reading “Anyone knowing whereabouts of Ann Schrader please write Y502, Oregonian” would run three times over three weeks. The terse request would become the final epitaph for one of Portland’s most controversial, troublesome and flamboyant characters.  There is no record of who placed the ad, nor any record of any responses it may have received and no record that the police ever investigated the disappearance.  It is likely that a missing persons report was filed with the Police Bureau, as Anna Schrader had many wealthy and influential friends. She had even been close to several police officers, some of whom were still on the force, but corruption and rivalries diffused the proper focus of the Police Bureau and the new chief, Leon Jenkins, had far more reason to celebrate the disappearance of his least favorite Portlander than to get to the bottom of it.  As a result, Schrader, who hadn’t received significant public attention in more than a decade, simply faded away; her disappearance unnoticed, uninvestigated and forgotten.
Leon Jenkins was Police Chief from 1919-1933. When Harry Niles, his successor, fell ill in 1946, Jenkins came out of retirement to become chief again for more than a year. In this picture he is celebrating his birthday with a blackberry pie.
             Anna Schrader was born Anna Tierney on April 5, 1883 in the tiny town of Madelia, Minnesota.  The rural community had approximately 500 residents when she was born, didn’t even have a school until 1935 and still has fewer than 3,000 residents today.  Schrader’s father, Timothy Tierney, was an immigrant from Ireland who lost his wife to an early death, leaving behind seven grown children in the old country.  Her mother, Mary Rickart, more than twenty years younger than her immigrant husband, was from a pioneer family, and born and raised in Minnesota.  Schrader grew up with two older sisters, none of whom had formal education, but all of whom could read and write and were known for their sparkling Irish beauty.
Little is known of Schrader’s early life.  She was married at age eighteen to a man named Farney and came to Portland before 1910, nine years later.  Schrader arrived in the Rose City during a wave of female immigration that brought more than 7,000 young women per year to town, looking for careers or for husbands.  Some of them, like Louise Bryant, Portland’s most famous woman journalist, and Lola Baldwin, Portland’s first female police officer, found career opportunities and settled in, establishing roots.  Others, like Madge Wilson, found only tragedy.
Anna Schrader, whose allure and physical beauty drew the attention of many men, eventually found a husband.  In May of 1915 she married Edward Schrader, a railroad employee who rose to the position of Yard Master before his death in 1941.  It appears a hardworking husband was not enough for Anna Schrader; she wanted fame and social prominence.  And like many women before and after her, she found Portland’s society, with its unspoken class system and firmly closed ranks, difficult to enter.  That didn’t mean she wouldn’t try though.
            Naturally competitive, Schrader threw herself into political and social work, organizing her neighborhood for the Republican Party during the Presidential election of 1916.  Her candidate, Charles Evans Hughes, lost the election and Anna Schrader marked the occasion in her typical flamboyant fashion.  On December 25, 1916 the Oregonian reported, “Mrs. Anna Schrader will don her swimming suit and swim in the Willamette River as part of an election bet.”  She would be remembered for decades as a popular swimmer and for her activities with both the Republican Party and the YWCA.
Anna schrader was born in a small Midwestern town. She came to Portland in 1910 (at the age of 27) to escape a bad marriage.
            The attractive Mrs. Schrader, now in her thirties but already shaving seven full years off her age, was attracted to and had a fascination for tall men in uniform.  Soon after coming to Portland she was the Fire Department’s candidate for Rose Queen.  In those days, before the High Schools took over selection of the Rose Princesses, every community group had its own candidate.  Groups would raise funds by charging a penny a vote and Rose Princesses got a great deal of publicity.  It was during her campaign for Rose Queen that Anna Schrader met a strapping young policeman named Bill Breuning.  It would take a few years for their relationship to develop, but Portland would never be the same afterwards.
            William “Bill” Breuning was a powerfully built man, standing six feet one and weighing 235 pounds, who worked as an ironworker before joining the Police Bureau in 1914.  Breuning was recognized as a professional and competent officer, popular with his fellow officers and sought after for his ability to speak Yiddish; a necessary skill in the immigrant neighborhood of South Portland.  After returning from Army duty during the Great War, Breuning was promoted to sergeant in 1920 and lieutenant in 1926.  The married officer with the promising career began an affair with the attractive Mrs. Schrader in 1921.
            The two lovers met regularly at several downtown hotels, including the historic Cornelius hotel on SW Alder Street. Breuning then arranged for Anna to be hired as a “private detective” as a clever cover for their affair.  Sometimes Breuning and Schrader would meet at her northeast Portland home for dinner and sex, and on more than one occasion these trysts resulted in a “near miss” when Edward Schrader returned home early from work and Breuning was forced to make a hasty escape through the back door.  Despite the danger, the relationship seemed to fill the needs of both partners.  Breuning, with two children and a devoted wife in southeast Portland, had a passionate and beautiful lover, who was always eager to please him.  And Anna Schrader had a strong fantasy life in which she hoped she might upgrade her husband from a hardworking railroad man to the prominent police lieutenant decked out in his spiffy uniform, cap and gun belt.  Her dreams of upward social mobility were fueled by the affair and in time, she started planning to marry her lover, Bill.
            At the start the affair may have seemed like the perfect arrangement for Bill Breuning.  With his lover conveniently married he may have felt that his own home and family were safe.  As the affair progressed, though, Schrader began to pressure him to leave the wife he said he didn’t love and marry her.  This pressure soon began to tell on the relationship and after 1925 emotional and even violent scenes became commonplace between the two.  The prevailing social constructs of the time would have prevented Breuning from ever considering abandoning his wife and young children for a childless woman who had been married twice already.
            The human issues involved in the Schrader/Breuning affair appear as timeless and predictable as the melodramatic plots of the silent films that were so popular at the time; issues regarding what constitutes decent conduct and who is ultimately punished for attempting to break up a home with small children involved.  As many women before her, Anna Schrader must have realized she would never get what she wanted. Lt. Breuning would never leave his wife and children to give her the social station or romantic and sexual excitement she seemed to crave.  Schrader had to have realized, too, that she had been fooled and used into the bargain.  That bitterness must have been all consuming for her, as her later behavior seems to suggest.  Her intense love for Bill Breuning soon turned to hatred, as she brazenly informed the Oregonian reporters.
One of the very few pictures known to exist of Anna Schrader appeared in the Oregonian in 1929 during the sex scandal that accompanied her breakup with lover, Bill Breuning.
             By 1929 the relationship had deteriorated completely.  After several emotional and violent scenes Breuning withdrew and cut off all contact with his lover.  Schrader’s work as a “private detective” working for the police bureau had given her access to information that could be explosive if it became public and had also kept her in contact with other officers who became her friends and allies.  Breuning, in an effort to protect himself and discredit Schrader, began a rumor campaign blaming her for the affair and implying that she was emotionally unstable and a seductress.  Anna Schrader had been rejected and physically abused, but the rumors and the attack on her reputation were the last straw.  In August she borrowed a pistol for protection, from another police officer, and waited in her car in front of Breuning’s southeast Portland home.  She wanted to spur a confrontation with her ex-lover in order to “square” with him and get him to “take back” rumors that had “ruined her reputation” as she claimed.
            The following day (August 24, 1929) headlines in the Oregonian trumpeted, “Woman’s Bullets Miss Policeman. W.H. Breuning Victor in Sidewalk Scuffle.”  The confrontation had not gone well for Anna Schrader.  Confronting Breuning in front of his house she had drawn the pistol and threatened him with it.  Breuning grabbed the gun and during the struggle it discharged twice, not striking anyone.  Breuning threw Schrader to the ground, dropping on her with both knees and breaking her ribs in an effort to restrain her.  Breuning then called for the paddy wagon and Anna Schrader was carted off to jail, charged with “intent to kill with a dangerous weapon” and one of Portland’s earliest and biggest sex scandals had begun.
            Anna Schrader defended herself from her jail cell, “sobbing uncontrollably” and exposing her long-term love affair with Lieutenant Breuning.  She claimed that she had not intended to kill him, but only took the gun for protection because of his brutality in the past.  She said that the gun went off accidentally when he attacked her.  Breuning counter-attacked by publically repeating rumors he had been spreading, portraying Schrader as the aggressor, an alluring chippy, who had forced him into an illicit sexual affair, against his better judgement. He and his friends on the police force also appear to have tampered with evidence in an attempt to cover up the affair; visiting several downtown hotels where the couple had met, bullying desk clerks and unceremoniously ripping pages from the hotel registers.  The Oregonian and its readers loved the scandal; lurid story after lurid story, all with screaming colorful headlines, appeared in the paper for nearly two years.
            Edward Schrader, despite his humiliation, resolutely stood by his wife, urging her to bring assault charges against Breuning and suing the lieutenant himself for “alienation of affections” as a result of the affair. Schrader, realizing that her reputation had already been damaged beyond repair, decided to raise the stakes a notch.  In a momentous phone call to the Oregonian newspaper, she threatened to “rock Portland” by exposing a system of bureau-wide corruption within the police force.  She had worked as an informant and “private detective” for the bureau for nearly eight years.  During that time she had made many contacts and gathered a great deal of specific evidence on corruption and police involvement in the illegal liquor trade, all conducted of course, during the years of prohibition.
            The Breuning/Schrader scandal created harsh consequences for both parties.  Bill Breuning, who had enjoyed a promising career, was eventually dismissed from the force for “conduct unbecoming a police officer” in 1930. The loss was a devastating blow. It was the first in a series of scandals that shook Mayor George Baker’s administration, leading to his decision not to run for re-election in 1932.  Police Chief Jenkins tried to protect his boss and the bureau by sweeping the mess under the proverbial rug, but the public, hungry for salacious details wouldn’t let it rest and the vindictive Anna Schrader was happy to feed their hunger for scandalous misbehavior.  Jenkins tried to claim that it was Breuning’s conduct of being involved in an adulterous affair that led to his discharge, but it was clear Breuing’s most serious crime was in simply getting caught.
Anna Schrader never made good on her promise to deliver the evidence and her public charges were received skeptically by most Portlanders, who considered her nothing more than a fallen woman.  Mayor Baker was still very popular at that time, having served as mayor for over a decade, and Leon Jenkins’ reputation was considered spotless.  Schrader brought her charges to the public, with a series of rousing speeches, public appearances and radio talks, but Breuning’s charges of Schrader’s emotional instability were believed by many and Schrader’s emotional style of communication with others seemed to confirm them.  Schrader also received several threats, some she would claim were attempts on her life as well as documented violent attacks.
            On one memorable occasion during the Recall Election of 1930, three women, at least one of whom was employed in a downtown brothel/speakeasy, heckled Schrader during a speech in St Johns and then the woman and her two girlfriends viciously kicked Schrader in the shins repeatedly before all three women were hauled away by the police and later arrested.  When a gun was fired through the window of Schrader’s northeast Portland apartment on Ross Street, the police investigated and determined that a “cactus plant” had fallen from the upstairs balcony and come through the downstairs window – an unlikely occurrence, if it was possible, given the layout of the building and the law of gravity.
            Schrader participated actively in Recall Elections against George Baker and members of his administration in 1930 and 1932.  She testified about police corruption to a Multnomah County Grand Jury, pursued lawsuits against Breuning and the Police Bureau for false arrest, and acted as her own attorney on her false arrest case against Breuning.  During Breuning’s appeal of his firing to the civil service board, at which Schrader was present, John Logan, president of the board told her to “sit down and shut up,” and had her ejected by a matron when she refused to comply.
Schrader eventually won the suit against Breuning, receiving only a paltry token-award of $250.  Breuning, unemployed and bankrupt probably couldn’t pay.  George Baker declined to run for re-election, after barely surviving the recall in spring, 1932 and Schrader briefly became a candidate for mayor. She spoke among a group of candidates in a crowded election meeting at the United Artists movie theater on SW Broadway.  Then mysteriously, in 1930 Schrader began having a series of unusual car accidents and alleged burglaries at her home that may have been warnings.  Combined with the heckling and violent attacks Schrader had endured, she and her husband probably feared for their lives.
By 1936 Schrader had faded from view and entered a prolonged period of social invisibility.  Researchers can only speculate why she never gave her evidence, which she allegedly kept in a diary or a journal.  A pay-off seems likely, but many feel that Schrader was “unbribable” and not willing to be “shut up” for any amount of money. Yet shut up she did, most likely in fear of continued attacks against her life and that of her husband.  Edward finally passed away, from unknown causes in 1941 and still Anna Schrader kept her silence.  Bootlegging continued, Oregon’s restrictive liquor regulations still provided an incentive to avoid taxes and regulations and the powerful gangs that ran drinking, gambling, drugs and the sex trade remained unwilling to be regulated.  Those establishments still had full compliance from the city government, now under the control of Baker’s protégé, corrupt mayor Earl Riley, and in 1949 and 1950 Mayor Dorothy McCoullough Lee would receive some of the “Anna Schrader” treatment herself.
On April 12, 1946, right in the middle of Earl Riley’s reign, the first Torso Murder package was found floating in the foul waters of the Willamette River.  That same day saw the second appearance of the “whereabouts” add in the Oregonian requesting information on Schrader.  Some of the open and enduring questions of the Torso investigation are: how long had the victim been dead when the body parts started turning up; and what true age was the Torso suspected of being.  It seems significant that the first package appeared at least two weeks after Anna Schrader was last seen alive and well in Portland.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department and Oregon State Police, who investigated the Torso Case, were diligent, professional and thorough in tracking down and ruling out dozens of missing women, but they have never considered the possibility that Anna Schrader may have been the Torso victim.  Even today, nearly seventy years later, authorities are skeptical of the idea.  No one knows who the real Anna Schrader was. No one considers that if she was the Torso victim that fact alone would lead directly to some very specific suspects.  She has become part of a forgotten past. No one cares about Anna Schrader. 
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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Poor Madge

In Hidden History of Portland I describe the wave of young women who came to Portland in the early part of the twentieth century. The Lewis and Clark Exposition of 1905 brought about 1,600 young women to the city, seeking their fortune. By 1907 there were more than 7,000 a year coming to town. Many of them found opportunities here that were still not available to women in other parts of the country. For example in 1900 3% of American doctors were women, but in Oregon it was 9%. Mayor Harry Lane led the country in appointment of women to public office and women like Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Dr. Marie Equi, Lola Baldwin and Louise Bryant were able to make successful careers in Portland. Most women didn’t find such great opportunities though and some of them didn’t survive.
The 1905 Lewis and Clark Expo drew about 1,600 young women to Portland looking for a new life. By 1907 more than 7,000 a year came here. Portland Police Historical Society.
We don’t know where Madge Wilson (aka Madge Doyle and Nellie Doyle) came from. She might have been a Portland girl or she might have come to town looking for a new life. What we do know is that while the Lewis and Clark Expo was in full swing in the summer of 1905 she was already working with John “Jack” Doyle a drug addict and pimp who worked hotels in downtown Portland. Doyle got his girls hooked on opium and used their addiction to keep them in virtual slavery. Madge, like many of Jack’s girls, took his last name as if they were married. In July Madge and Jack were arrested while smoking opium in bed with two other men at F.A. Clark’s “fashionable” rooming house at SW Fourth and Salmon, across the street from the city jail. Clark called in a complaint of burglary when he found money missing from his room. Suspecting the “peculiar” lodgers who had checked in that day he had the police pay them a visit. Madge was undressed and smoking opium when the police opened the door. Two of the men were “in a stupor,” but the third climbed out a window before being apprehended. The men gave obviously false names, but Madge Wilson, claiming she was 21, was booked under her real name.
Little Egypt was the first "exotic dancer" to reach widespread popularity. She performed her dance of veils at Expos and World Fairs all over the country including the Lewis & Clark Expo. Portland Police Historical Society.
Henry Hose came to town for the Expo. He was a soldier in Company K of the U.S. Tenth Infantry. The Tenth had recently returned from combat duty in the Philippines and were in transit through Vancouver Barracks when they were tapped for parade duty at the Expo. Military parades were a popular form of entertainment at the time and after three years in the Army Hose had done plenty of marching. It isn’t clear whether Hose served in the Philippines, but the Tenth Infantry served several combat tours during the Insurrection so it is likely that he did. We can’t say for sure whether Hose suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, an unknown and unrecognized illness at that time, but he was certainly suicidal when he checked into the Winchester House, a large wooden transient hotel on the corner of SW Third and Burnside, where Dante’s is today.
Third and Burnside has always been a dangerous intersection, but in 1906 it was also a very popular intersection. Across the street from the Winchester House in one direction was the Sailor’s Union Hall. In the other direction was Ericson’s famous saloon. The Winchester House was a crumbling old building that catered to Portland’s poorest residents. I wouldn’t say it was Portland’s first “skid road” hotel, but it was an early one. Hose, recently discharged from the Army, did what many visitors did in Portland – he blew all his money on a drinking spree. He was down to his last quarter when he woke up on October 19, 1906. Madge Doyle, “neither attractive nor peculiarly bad looking” according to the Oregonian, was in bed with him. Madge and Henry had spent several days together; she was very helpful in getting rid of his money. When he showed her the quarter and said he wanted to have breakfast she demanded that he spend the money on a quart of beer for her.
It wasn’t just thirst. Madge told him that “there was a man once who spent everything he had on her and went hungry.” She said that if Henry cared for her he could do no less. Henry Hose seemed to have a very romantic imagination as he recounted his crime. He described a doomed love for a tragically flawed woman who couldn’t return his love. He claimed that she goaded him into killing her before he slashed her to death with a straight razor. How she welcomed the blows without fighting and the only reason he didn’t kill himself immediately was the razor broke. He demanded that the state hang him and finish the suicide pact. Evidence didn’t really match Henry’s story though. Deputy Coroner Arthur Finley testified that Madge was choked and hit on the head with a beer bottle and only after she was unconscious was her throat slashed with the razor.
The Oregonian liked to dramatize these cases and point out simple minded morals. Henry Hose participated fully, playing the sympathetic fallen man led to violence by a fallen woman. While there was no actual corpse-kissing as in the murder of Professor Herbert, the following year, Henry Hose kissed the photo of his victim and claimed to be haunted by dreams of her at night. The morals were: Vice is bad. Drugs are bad. And young women need to be protected from predatory men. Did you think the War on Drugs was something new?
Hose went to the gallows before Christmas and Madge Doyle was soon forgotten, but her story played out hundreds of times in that neighborhood. “Lover” TaToruelle of the 1920s and Stormy Jean Duncan in the 1940s continued to use drugs to enslave young women into prostitution from that very same corner. Jo Ann Dewey, the young woman who was abducted and murdered in 1950 was a frequent visitor to Burke’s Café, located directly across Burnside from the Winchester House. My new book, with JB Fisher, Portland on theTake tells more about it.

If you found any value or interest in this article I hope you will read my books. I also hope you will visit my site at Patreon.com where you can see my work displayed in a very interesting way and offer direct support. Thanks.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dark River



The Torso Murder Case became one of the oldest and deepest of Portland's unsolved mysteries.

           In the spring and summer of 1946 several packages containing the dismembered parts of a woman’s body were found in the Willamette River. The Torso Murder Case, as the Oregonian called it, became one of Portland’s longest and deepest mysteries. Not only was no suspect ever identified, the victim was never identified either. For nearly seventy years police, reporters and murder buffs have only been able to speculate about the identity of the woman who was tortured, beaten over the head and cut into pieces before being thrown into the river.
            While working on my latest book – Portland on the Take written with JB Fisher – I came across someone who coincidentally disappeared sometime early in 1946.  Her name was Anna Schrader and she was one of Portland’s most interesting characters. A competitive swimmer and socially prominent Portlander, Schrader worked as an undercover agent for the Portland Police Bureau and a private detective. Married to a local railroad executive, Schrader carried on a long term affair with police Lieutenant William Breuning.  Schrader’s affair with Breuning ended in a violent confrontation in 1929, creating a scandal that ended Breuning’s career and Schrader’s work for the Police Bureau. Schrader, who was a highly emotional woman, swore revenge against the Police Bureau and Chief Leon Jenkins and devoted the next few years to exposing corruption in the police force and in Mayor George Baker’s administration. She was involved in at least two recall elections and ran an aborted campaign for mayor in 1932. Along the way she made a lot of enemies, some of whom might have wanted her dead.
The affair of Anna Schrader and William Breuning ended in scandal in 1929. Schrader devoted several years to exposing the corruption of the Portland Police Bureau and the George Baker administration.

            I asked Theresa Kennedy Dupay, a talented historical researcher, to look into the life and activities of Anna Schrader to help me evaluate whether or not she could have been the victim in the Torso Murder Case. Dupay has done a great job of finding information on Schrader and has even managed to get access to some of the investigative files kept by the Clackamas County Sheriff, who reopened the unsolved case in 2004. Dupay and her husband, ex-homicide detective Don Dupay – author of Behind the Badge in River City – have become intrigued with the possibilities that our new investigation offers.

            I am intrigued by the possibilities too, so I have been preparing a ten episode podcast – Murder ByExperts -- to present our theories and investigation. One of the problems with trying to solve such an old case is that none of the people who are investigating it are aware of the situation in Portland in 1946, so this series will concentrate on the historical setting as much as the crime. Here is the first, introductory episode. Please give it a listen and then let me know what you think. 
http://murderbyexperts.podomatic.com/
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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

I Should Have Killed Him Then Part 3

Dear Loyal readers,

            Here is he eagerly awaited conclusion to Theresa Kennedy Dupay’s study of the 1941 Johnson-Chase shootings. Theresa is a very thorough researcher and I am always glad to have her help here at the Slabtown Chronicle. This story is put into its historical context in my new book Portland on the Take now available from the History Press. -- JD Chandler

Captain H.A. Lewis, who investigated the shooting at the East Precinct, detailed the various times Lt. Johnson had cause to suspend Blaine Chase, but chose to do nothing. It seems apparent that Johnson was avoiding some kind of possible confrontation that he knew would explode if he did exercise his authority and power over Patrolman Chase, his onetime partner of the 1920's. Ultimately, Johnson's avoidance of Chase's blatant disregard for protocol forced Captain Lewis to order Johnson to suspend Chase. Johnson was instructed to suspend Chase because Johnson was Chase's immediate superior and any form of discipline would have to come from him. Captain Lewis also ordered Johnson to inform Chase that the suspension had really come from him, and not Johnson, as if that admission might ameliorate the sting of the suspension. Tragically, it was still Johnson who had to approach Chase the week before the crimes, to inform him of the suspension that would take place, knowing as he would that Chase would explode in a fury. It seems inexplicable why anyone in the bureau would have forced these two men to work together, given their past history, which most of the older rank and file had to have been aware of.
Captain Lewis, a native of England, had signed on with PPB in 1911. The bureau was much smaller then, Lewis had to have been more than cognizant of the betrayal Chase had suffered at the hands of Johnson back in 1922. And yet in the following excerpt from his written report to Chief Jenkins, Lewis ignores the real issue regarding the true motive for Chase’s attack on Johnson and offers a superficial reason as to Chase's longstanding bitterness and resentment.
“During the past nine or ten months his continued absence without leave has grown to the point that I instructed Lieutenant Johnson to take some action. When he spoke to Chase about it, Chase flew into a rage and accused the Lieutenant of picking on him. This was about the middle of March. I told Lieutenant Johnson to tell Chase it was my order that the next time he was A. W. O. L. he would be suspended for three days and that if he was not satisfied I would file charges against him. Upon receiving this information he again flew into a rage at Lieutenant Johnson and accused him of discriminating against him, although he knew this was my doing. However, the Lieutenant saw fit to overlook the matter again and let it ride until Chase deliberately absented himself for three days without so much as a phone call. I instructed the Lieutenant to suspend him for three more days. When this was done he flew into a rage and bawled the Lieutenant out with the result that I did file charges against Chase and told him that I would personally appear against him with the hope that the Disciplinary Board would teach him a lesson. He appeared to have no resentment toward me particularly but evidently blamed the Lieutenant for all his trouble and worked himself into the frame of mind which ended in the shooting. I have no doubt that Chase's general physical condition, and the fact that he was always surly and bull-headed under any restriction or discipline, contributed largely to the breaking down of a mind which, in my opinion, was never restricted by any self-discipline and was never exceptionally strong. This is my conclusion and my reason for same and I am inclined to think that this is the only motive there was behind the shooting. (Official Police Report, 1941).
The Lewis report seems surprisingly obtuse and overly simplistic. Chase resented Johnson merely because Johnson was obeying orders from Captain Lewis to suspend him and for no other reason? Unlikely. Johnson went out of his way to avoid causing trouble for Chase, despite his repeated absenteeism and tardiness. And yet, Chase did not resent Captain Lewis, who was the individual in power who was actually behind the suspensions. Why would Chase blame Johnson or direct so much resentment to him, if he were only angry because of professional differences, such as a disciplinary action of suspension due to absenteeism?


Lt. Johnson’s affair with Chase’s young wife was at the heart of the conflict. It appears that this kind of infidelity was not uncommon at PPB, as during the same general time period, there was another affair that ended up becoming well known. Though this controversy was apparently short lived and nothing came of it, it was a cause for concern. In Frank Springer's 2008 memoirs, he makes mention of an officer that was getting death threats from another officer due to an affair, which took place in the early 1940's. Officer A had had an affair with officer B's wife and there was a lot of threatening and worry over the husband who wanted to kill the offending officer. This situation was handled correctly. The two men working the same relief were transferred to different precincts and eventually the bad feeling between the two died down.
The reality is, if a patrolman could so easily discover the truth of what had transpired between Chase and Johnson during the 1920's, in the way that Patrolman Frank Springer had, why would Captain Lewis not know those very titillating and scandalous details of the 1922 affair himself? The written report by Captain H. A. Lewis seems like a blatant whitewash, designed as a personal attack on Chase's character and on his intelligence. It’s clear that Chase was burnt-out with police work, in poor health and may have been frustrated with certain aspects of the command structure but there is no evidence that he was a bumbling idiot either. The personnel file indicates Chase was skilled as an “excellent hunter,” a fisherman, farmer and overall outdoorsman. He had worked as an Express Messenger and was described by one man who had been involved in a motor vehicle altercation with him as “a clever driver.” To be proficient in all of these things one must possess and maintain a certain level of intelligence and savvy. No, there was far more than just a resentment of authority or discipline at the core of Chase's grudge against Phillip Johnson. Far more.
Frank Springer recalled the aftermath of that day in May 1941, “Chase then got into his car and he drove about 25 miles out to a little farm where he grew up. Then he shot himself. It was a murder-suicide. It was written up in the True Detective Magazine, and they titled the article, “The Mad Mutiny of the Kill-Crazy Cop.” Nothing could have been more wrong than that. All the stories about the both of them were wrong. I've told the truth of it,” (Springer, 2008).
After Blaine Chase shot Lt. Phillip Johnson, leaving him to die less than 10 minutes later, and fled in his black coupe, he drove to Clackamas near Barton and Logan, Oregon, where he'd been born and raised. Just beyond the Barton Bridge, chase sat in his car, alongside the Clackamas River. Who knows what he did there? Did he rage to himself? Did he replay the killing in his mind? Did he remember his young bride Venola, during their short-lived happiness? Did he recall the day they were married and exchanged their wedding vows? He would have been 37-years-old then, Venola only 18.
It is possible and even likely that he wept, bitterly recalling all the various losses he'd experienced in his life, and wondering in dismay, what it all meant, if anything. The detectives suspected he'd be heading to Logan. Word must have gotten around that he still had family there and that it meant something to him, as he'd been raised there and went there regularly to fish and hunt with family members and friends. Blaine Chase would go to the one place he'd been the happiest in life, before he had headed off to the big city, to try his luck so many years before.


Less than 300 feet from the ramshackle homestead he'd been raised in, and five hours after he'd murdered Phillip Johnson, Chase ended his life, shooting himself just behind the right ear with his Smith and Wesson .38 service revolver. The bullet exited his skull and became lodged in the top portion of the car. The detectives Nelson and Abbot had been looking for him in the Clackamas area for hours, since 6:00 am, along with a Lt Pat Moloney. Was it possible Chase knew they were in the area, searching for him? Was it possible he heard the distant wail of their sirens as they combed through the Logan/Barton areas? Chase locked himself in his car, locking both doors and forcing the police to break into it later, to gain access to his deceased body. He would not make it easy for anyone. He would rebel up until the very last. When they finally did break into the car, they found his service revolver still gripped tightly in his right hand, his body slumped over in the front seat.
What can we learn from the story of Patrolman Arthur “Blaine” Chase and Lt. Phillip Raymond Johnson? Is there a lesson to be learned in this story somewhere? At a time when police officer's did not have a union or a pension, (or any form of emotional or psychological support to help them process the burn-out and inevitable heartache associated with long-term careers in police work) the necessity and habit was for officers to continue working well past retirement age and physical ability. This had to have led to feelings of frustration, helplessness and depression among the older rank and file. Johnson had been a man pushing 70-years-old and was still working the graveyard shift to support himself and his wife, Sarah. Chase was a thrice married, 57-year-old, burnt-out policeman in poor health with no other marketable job skills and no way to support himself other than police work. Both men were loved by others though, and considered valuable human beings with numerous friends and relatives who cared deeply about them. Both men were also imperfect, infallible and highly flawed.
Perhaps the best lesson to be learned from the story of Blaine Chase and Phillip Johnson is that sometimes it’s best to steer clear of other men's wives. Sometimes it's best to consider that a young couple needs the time and the space to grow together, unencumbered by the desires and intentions of others who may choose to callously interfere. Along that vein of thought, what would history have to record had Phillip Johnson never pursued young Venola? Would she and Chase have developed a strong marriage? Would Venola have matured into a responsible and loyal young wife and would the 19-year age difference between her and Chase, have ultimately made any kind of difference? Would they have had children? Would they have been happy? These are questions that can never be answered.
Epilogue: After fired police officer, Arthur “Blaine” Chase killed Lt. Phillip Raymond Johnson, May 9th, 1941, he fled Precinct # 1 and drove to Logan Oregon. “This being a wooded country and the birthplace of Chase.” There, he quickly visited his “nephew” Arthur Wood, who was actually seven years older than Chase, and of whom Chase was extremely fond. Arthur was the son of either his older sister Edna or a much older half-brother and had been a source of friendship for Chase for many years. Chase pounded on the front door of the house, at about 4:00 am, and ended up waking his nephew and wife out of a sound sleep.
Chase had emptied out his Apartment and a storage unit less than a week before and had given all his possession's to his nephew Arthur and his wife. This included an “outboard motor boat” and all his other possessions, including furniture, clothing and other odds and ends.
That morning, he informed his nephew that $2,000 in “insurance” money would be given to a Mrs. Mary Robinson of Portland, Oregon, at $100 per month. He explained that if anything happened to her, then the remainder of the money would go to Arthur Wood and his wife. Mrs. Mary Robinson was a “friend” and providing for her once Chase was gone must have been extremely important to him.
When asked by his nephew Arthur, why Chase was leaving his billfold and ID cards, he told his nephew that he was “detailed on a job that he couldn't have any identification on him,” but that he would keep in touch. He also told his nephew Arthur that his doctor had diagnosed him with “heart trouble” and that he had told him he was “liable to die at any time” because of it. Because of this new condition, Chase explained that he had left Arthur and his wife $500 each, which they would inherit at the time of his death through the family attorney. He explained to them, (and had the week previous) that this was the reason he was giving them all of his possession's, guns, furniture, money and his boat. That he wanted to prepare for his eventual death and give them all of his worldly possessions.  It is noted in the police report filled out by Lt. Pat Moloney that...“Mrs. Arthur Wood is the Ex-wife of Arthur Chase.” Venola.
Chase left his nephew's home around 4:30 am, leaving behind the colt .45 automatic weapon he'd used to kill Johnson and several other guns. He kept in his possession his Smith and Wesson .38 special, policeman's service revolver. This was the same gun he'd carried for the twenty three years he'd been a street cop with the Portland Police Bureau, working the dangerous, mean streets of Portland. After changing into a set of clean clothes, Chase walked out to his black Buick Coupe, in front of the house. It is reported that Chase sat in his car, unmoving, for about ten minutes before finally heading east, driving to that ridge, overlooking the Clackamas River. After reaching his final destination, and less than 300 feet from the home he'd grown up in, about a half a mile from his nephew's home, Chase sat in his car with the .38 in his hand. After the sun came up, in the morning, between 8:00 and 9:00 am, Blaine Chase put the gun to his head...
                                                                     ****
Johnson lay dying for several minutes on the floor of that back office in Precinct # 1 on SE Alder Street. He was in pain and “groaning” as Officer Cook placed a white pillow beneath his head, called for the ambulance and attempted to comfort him, all while Johnson slowly bled out. When Johnson could still speak, before he became unconscious, he remained silent and said nothing. Even when officer's Cook and Turley gently questioned him, he looked at them with lucid eyes and refused to speak. What was he thinking, as he lay there, knowing he was going to die? Johnson must have learned that Venola had married another man in 1934, after carrying Chase's surname for thirteen years, as a single woman living alone. And he must have learned that that man was indeed Chase's own nephew, Arthur Wood.
What had happened in those long thirteen years before Venola remarried? Had Blaine and Venola continued to see each other, secretly perhaps? Had they attempted to reconcile, only to fail? Johnson must have learned through the incestuously close police grapevine that Venola had married her ex-husband's nephew, Arthur Wood. How could that kind of information remain unknown to him?
Did Johnson blame Chase for his final course of action? Did he understand his hatred? Did he indeed forgive Chase? Or did he regard the final attack as nothing more than belated justice? Perhaps a simple accounting of something familiar, that he felt deserving of in some way? Something unexplainable that he could never fully sidestep or avoid.
One thing is clear. Blaine Chase was capable of forgiveness and of love. He was able to forgive his former wife Venola and not only wish her well with his nephew in their new married life, but also to provide for her too. It is likely that Chase had maintained contact with Venola for years in fact, after they had separated. And he cared enough for her and for his nephew to give them all he had acquired in his life; which included furniture, a valuable boat, cash and his very last stitch of clothing.
But what existed in Chase's secret heart is what finally motivated him to kill Johnson. Love for Venola and despair over her loss. Johnson had destroyed his initial happiness in life. He had stolen away from him and sullied his new, young wife which led to a scandal that Venola apparently struggled for years to overcome.
Mrs. Venola Katheryn Woods lived for another 39 years, after the murder/suicide of 1941. She died in 1980 in Puyallup Washington at the age of 77. She had worked as a telephone operator, beginning her career with Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1922 and retiring in 1965 from Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone after 43 years employment. She was a member of the Telephone Pioneers of America and the Order of the The Eastern Star, a Freemasonry organization. There is no record that Venola ever had children. She was survived by only two sisters at the time of her death.
Like her former lover, Phillip Raymond Johnson and her former husband Blaine Chase, Venola died in early May, leaving behind unexplained secrets and questions, only she would ever fully understand.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Ms. Mary Hanson and Mr. Brian Johnson of the Portland Archives and Records Center of Portland Oregon for their generous help in locating and copying complete personnel records and other documents that helped in the writing of this profile. Most particularly, I would like to thank M. Emily Jane Dawson, from the Multnomah County Public Library for her generous and supportive assistance in helping me with important research. Being able to obtain accurate information, dates and documents has made the writing of this profile much more interesting, historically relevant and factual. To these people, I offer my sincere gratitude. -- Theresa Kennedy Dupay.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Should Have Killed Him Then Part Two

Theresa Kennedy Dupay, the Slabtown Chronicle’s newest guest blogger, has a flair for historical research and dramatic storytelling. Here is the second part of her study of the murder of Police Lieutenant Phillip Johnson. This case is also featured in my new book with JB Fisher Portland on the Take. I hope you like it. – JD Chandler


Well-known and beloved, retired Lt. Frank Springer was hired in 1938 by the Portland Police Bureau. In 2008, retired Springer sat down and in a 4 hour taped interview, revealed many surprising elements about his 35-year-career with PPB. As a young patrolman Blaine Chase was one of Springer's early trainers. With twenty years’ experience in police work, Chase showed Springer the ropes of how police work was really done; how to be safe, what to do and what not to do. Frank Springer was known as a perceptive and observant young patrolman in those early days and it’s not surprising that Springer would easily discover certain details about Chase and his earlier history at PPB that other officers would apparently fail to unearth. Springer described Chase as a “good trainer” but as a man whose career had passed him by. According to Springer, Chase was a man who was troubled with “severe depression” and “bitter resentment” over an old grudge that he could not seemingly part with. Springer also claims that the atmosphere at Precinct # 1 was generally quite “tense” as the two ex-partners were assigned to work the same shift, and “... neither man would speak to the other.” (JD Chandler, 2014).
Frank Springer was a rookie when he met Blaine Chase. The two men remained friends until Chase’s suicide in 1941. Courtesy of Portland Police Historical Society.
Springer goes on to recall the incident, “Sometimes you get a sixth sense, policemen will talk about that. This is an instance where I had it. My partner and I had gone into the station to get some gas for the car and then left and had only gone ten blocks, when we get a call to return to the station (East Precinct, 7th and Alder Street) because there had been a shooting. I turned to my partner and said, “I bet Chase has shot the Lieutenant!”And where in the world that came from, I have no idea at all. It just came as a flash. So, we went back there and we were the first car there, because it was our district.”(Springer, 2008).
Three days before the shooting, Springer remembers that Blaine Chase called on him and his wife Jerri at their family home for an unexpected visit. After some small talk, Chase offered Frank Springer a valuable rifle that he claimed he no longer wanted to keep. Springer was surprised and flattered by the gesture but refused to accept the rifle, probably because he could see it was expensive and that it would be inappropriate and opportunistic to accept it.“Incidentally, I told you that I worked with Chase a couple of nights. He was a lot older than I of course, but he was a good trainer. About three nights before the shooting, he came over to the house, first time he'd been there and he visited with Jerri and I [sic]. He went out to his car and got a rifle and a fishing pole and brought them in and he said, “Here, I want you to have this.” And I couldn't imagine what in the world he was giving that to me for, because he hardly knew me. But I argued with him and said, “I can't take a rifle like that, I don't know anything about rifles.” And he said, “Well, I thought you might like it” and I said, “I'm sorry but it’s not for me.” And I said, “I'm not a fisherman either but my wife likes to fish.” and he gave the fishing rod to her. It was a nice salmon rod; I still have it up in the attic. Looking back, he must have planned the murder-suicide, or else he wouldn't be giving away his possessions like that.” (Springer, 2008).
Only hours after the shooting, an all-points bulletin went out to local police stations. This information was broadcast and rebroadcast to all the state police stations. “5:25 AM. WANTED FOR THE MURDER OF LT. JOHNSON, EX-OFFICER ARTHUR B. CHASE, 57 YRS, 5 FEET 9, 200 POUNDS. BLUE EYES-LT COMPLECTION. PARTLY BALD, GREY AROUND THE TEMPLES. WALKS WITH A SLIGHT LIMP. WEARING WHEN LAST SEEN, A DARK GREY SUIT, RED TIE WITH SMALL FIGURES, WHITE SHIRT, REDDISH BROWN OXFORD SHOES. DRIVING A 1939 BUICK COUPE, BLACK COLOR. HE IS WELL ARMED, HAD WITH HIM A .45 AUTOMATIC, A .32-20, A .38, A .25, A SHOTGUN AND A RIFLE.”
Blaine Chase was the subject of an intense manhunt in the hours after he shot Lt. Johnson. He was a rogue cop and he knew he wouldn’t survive long if he was caught. Courtesy of Portland City Archive.
All major roads in the city were blocked and every available officer was out and looking for Arthur “Blaine” Chase at various checkpoints throughout the city. Police went from car to car as people tried to go about their daily business within and without the city limits. In the teletype, Chase was described as an “Ex-Officer.” He was the enemy. He was wanted for murder. As a seasoned street cop, Chase must have known that were he to be captured, he would likely be shot and certainly at the very least beaten severely for having killed, in cold blood, someone as well-regarded as Lt. Phillip Johnson.
Chase had to have understood that aspect of police culture. He also had to have known his life was essentially over and there was no place to hide. As all police in the city were searching for Chase, the first place they chose to look was his most recent apartment, in a string of various apartments and hotels across the city where he lived. In his apartment, detectives found that he had cleaned out all of his personal effects,” with not much left behind. They found only an “old, dirty Mallory hat,” an empty quart bottle of whiskey, a pair of women’s black leather gloves and a discarded crime novel by writer Ellery Queen. The novel found in Chase's room may have been the 1941 classic, “Ellery Queen and the Perfect Crime,” as it was very popular that year.
The detectives spoke to the manager and discovered that Chase had hired a moving truck to remove the contents of a storage locker in the basement less than a week before. They also wondered what happened to his expensive boat and whether it had been moved out to one of the local rivers. The manager was unaware that Chase had for all intents and purposes moved out of his apartment. While detectives searched the Chase apartment, they discovered through the manager that Chase had three women friends with whom he associated. Eleanor Sallard, Vivian Morris, who called on him weekly, and his favorite of the three, Mrs. Mary Robinson. The police couldn’t make contact with any of the women and no further mention is made of their attempting to contact or question them at a later date.
Perhaps most revealing is the testimony of one Special Officer, Frank J. Parker, a close friend and regular associate of Chase. In Parker's sworn statement, recorded May 9, 1941, the day of the killing, he admited that he and Chase were “good friends” who “associate in our spare time, as well as during working hours.” Parker went on to explain that two days before the killing he and Chase drove around together, as they both worked the same special officer beat. “He rode around with me for a while and during the conversation he told me that he thought [the Lieutenant would not press any charges against him] because of some trouble he and Johnson had had some time back. With reference to this trouble he stated that he should have shot Johnson at that time. I asked what he meant by that and he just passed if off with a shrug.” (Official Officers Report, 1941).
Lt. Phillip Johnson had a long relationship with Blaine Chase. It was reported that Chase regretted not killing Johnson years before. Courtesy of Portland City Archive.
What could Chase have been referring to? Why would he feel he had something over on Johnson that would prevent him from ever being disciplined for his chronic lateness and absenteeism? Was Chase really that angry at a superior officer for suspending him for being late from oversleeping due to drunkenness? And did Chase really feel that death would be a worthy or equal punishment for such a misdemeanor? Or was it something else that fueled Chase's hatred of Johnson? Something more personal perhaps?
At one point, toward the end of his 2008 interview, Frank Springer, finally revealed the long forgotten truth about Arthur “Blaine” Chase and what fueled the hatred he felt for Lt. Phillip Johnson. On September 15, 1921 Blaine Chase, a respected policeman with 3 years on the job, age 37, married Venola Katheryn Pierce, a telephone operator from Boise, Idaho in Vancouver. In Chase's personnel file, Pierce is listed as 19-years-old at the time of their wedding, but according to US Census records, she was only 18, having been born June 20, 1903. Chase had already been married and divorced twice before. His first wife was Maud Godbey, whom he married December 30th, 1904, at the age of twenty. He is reported to have left her after four days and that “They were divorced in Judge McBride's Court at Oregon City, April 20th, 1908.” He then married Helen Fanno Britton in October, 1913 with no divorce date given in the PPB personnel file.
Considering his desultory history with his prior wives, who were both around his own age, it is very possible that Venola was a pretty young girl with whom Chase was very much in love. Something changed that status though; something from an unexpected source. Chase and his new wife were married about a year, when 48-year-old Phillip Raymond Johnson, Chase's then partner, began to secretly pursue Venola, beginning an affair with herShe fell hopelessly in love with Johnson and left her husband soon after the affair began. As soon as Venola left Chase, Johnson promptly dumped her, abruptly ending the relationship. Apparently, Johnson was interested in the illicit sex an affair would provide him, but not interested in dealing with the inconvenience or embarrassment of a very young, adoring wife.
Blaine Chase’s ill-fated 1921 marriage to Venola Pierce was at the heart of the fatal dispute he had with his ex-partner, Lt. Phillip Johnson. Courtesy of Portland City Archive.
“The story actually starts way back, 20 years before, when the Lieutenant, Phil Johnson and Chase the patrolman, were partners. Johnson got to fooling around with Chase's wife and Chase's wife fell in love with Johnson and so she divorced Chase to marry Johnson. When the divorce was final, Johnson says, “No way, I never meant it to go like this!” Now Chase could live with the divorce but he was still in love with his wife and he couldn't live with her being dumped like that. So, the bitterness started. Years went by and by some stupidity in the chief's office, they put those two on the same relief. I had worked with Chase a couple of nights and Johnson was our Lieutenant and they never spoke. The friction grew and Chase came to work late one night and Johnson suspended him. For a suspension to take place, you had to have a hearing, so the morning that the hearing was set, (May 9, 1941) Chase came into work about 3:00 am and he had two guns [sic]. He came into the station and he started shooting at the Lieutenant. Johnson went into the back room where the desk Sergeant was and he dropped to the floor and got behind a desk. Chase followed him in there and killed him. There were bullet holes all over the station. Incidentally, it’s a photography shop now and the bullet holes are still there.” (Springer, 2008).
Springer claims that Chase still loved his wife and was furious with the insult of Johnson dumping her. But why would Chase be so angry at the idea of an insult like that? Perhaps it is because the insult of Johnson not marrying Venola and essentially abandoning her would contribute to a loss of reputation and community respect that Venola could never recover from. This was after all 1922, during prohibition and other forms of social and cultural repression were the accepted norm. The scandal that Venola had allowed or even encouraged to happen to her marriage might have ruined any future prospects for her. Perhaps Chase understood this and perhaps that is why he was so angry when Johnson eventually threw her away. Venola and Chase ultimately did not reconcile, though it was well known how much he continued to pine for her, grieving her loss. Even if he'd wanted to, taking Venola back would have made him a laughing stock with his buddies on the police force and his pride would likely not have allowed that.
Other Oregon state records indicate Venola married again, after her divorce from Chase was final. In 1934, vital statistics records show that Venola Katheryn Chase married Arthur Wood on June 22, 1934, in Multnomah County. Not only did Chase lose his young wife to duplicity and infidelity, to a man he may have considered a friend and his partner on the job, but he lost her forever when she remarried another man. This was something that clearly festered within Chase's mind and contributed to a huge level of rage and sorrow as the years passed and he was unable to create any other manner of personal happiness for himself.
It’s likely also that Chase felt inferior to Johnson in other ways too. Johnson was a charming, well-mannered Southern gentleman. He was college educated and a healer, having completed a degree as a licensed Chiropractor. And unlike Chase, Johnson was able to advance through the ranks. As Chase attempted to go on with his life, becoming an “excellent hunter” and “fisherman” who often went out on fishing and boating excursions, he was not able to recreate the kind of happiness he'd once had with young Venola. He never married after this third marriage failed and though he did associate with women in intimate relationships, he kept them at a distance, continuing to live alone for the remainder of his life.
As time went on, Chase must have realized he'd never be promoted the way Johnson was. His resentment and envy for Johnson must have become all consuming. It would have been easy for Chase to blame Johnson for all his troubles, heartache and bad luck. And that obviously, is indeed what happened. Chase became increasingly more disillusioned with police work, and more hardened to the job. He became chronically ill, often calling in sick and simply not showing up for work for two and sometimes three days at a stretch, without calling in his absences, which was of course, the expected protocol.
The absenteeism could have been due to his well-known problem with alcohol, but also must have been a form of rebellion. To go A.W.O.L without so much as a telephone call to his supervisor's had to have been a blatant act of aggression on his part. He was testing his luck, and seeing exactly how much he could get away with. Also recorded in the Chase personnel file is that in June 1937, Chase broke one of his legs, which left him in a constant state of pain for several months. This probably made the drinking even more necessary, if only to alleviate the pain that contributed to a mild limp in his gait. By 1939, the leg was reported to have healed, though Chase still walked with a discernible limp. There is currently no record of the cause of the injury in his personnel file, which probably means he broke his leg in his off hours, and not while on duty.
Experts in criminal causation generally claim that the taking of a life usually occurs after a person has experienced one or more forms of traumatic and bewildering loss. And Chase certainly had, in a multitude of ways. According to Oregon Census records, in about one year, Chase's despised mother Clara (the one who had married at least four men) passed away July 23, 1940, while in her late 80's and living in California. There is no indication that Chase took any time off to attend her funeral. Then his father, Edward Chase died sometime in early 1941. In one year, Chase lost both parents and was then fired from a long and demanding career as a beat cop. When comparing his life to Johnson's, it must have seemed that Johnson had it all. He had college degrees, was a high ranking official in the police bureau, was well-liked and had been happily married for several years with a loving wife named Sarah, waiting at home every night. Their marriage date in 1928 is listed as July 5th, Johnson's very birth date.
What did Chase have? Nothing apparently. He'd lost it all. He'd lost his reputation, his job and most of all he'd lost the young girl named Venola, not only to an affair but also to another marriage. Venola would always be the young, pretty wife he had loved and lost. She would never age in his mind, she would always be that pretty girl; the one who got away. There was no way Chase could go back in time and change things. All he could do was change the future. And he would. He would make certain of that. The seed of revenge must have begun germinating in Chase's mind years before he actually began preparing to act on it. The desire to even the score must have started out slowly and then as he became more desperate, more ill, and more lonely and disenfranchised, must have become an all-consuming, full-time fantasy life that he courted.
An official report by Captain H.A. Lewis, submitted to Police Chief Harry Niles on May 10, 1941, gave an extremely negative appraisal of Arthur “Blaine” Chase. The report was critical of Chase’s professionalism, ability and overall character. In addition it presented a motive for Johnson’s killing. In the report, Lewis stated, “In regard to the recent tragedy in which Officer A. B. Chase shot and killed his immediate commander, Lieut. P. R. Johnson, I have given this matter considerable consideration and have investigated it from all angles as far back as when these men came to this precinct. In this way, I have come to the conclusion that A. B. Chase had grown so resentful toward any authority, or discipline, or criticism of himself or his actions that he allowed it to prey on his mind to the extent that it became, in a way, a sort of mania. In the belief that the Lieutenant was unfairly riding him he made up his mind to “get even” and took this way of doing it.” (Official Police Report, 1941).
Lewis went on to detail the fact that Chase’s behavior had become more and more intolerable since the injury to his leg in 1937. “He seemed to think that no one had any right to tell him anything and resented any criticism or orders from any one. At that time he was in rather a bad way. His leg was in a cast and he complained of more or less pain at all times.”(Official Police Report, 1941).
Theresa Kennedy Dupay has thoroughly investigated this case and will present her final conclusions in Part Three of I Should Have Killed Him Then, coming soon at the Slabtown Chronicle.