The Fourth Woman: Chapter 10

As Jim and Susie and the other three conspirators raced back to the village, other’s also in on the killing, torched the medicine woman’s wickiup, her clothes and all her belongings so nobody in the tribe could use them. Her rattles, eagle feathers, shells, stones, animal skins and medicinal herbs all went up in smoke and by doing so, Winnescheika ghost could not return, seeking vengeance on the tribe.

They might have gotten away with it, but there was a witness to the execution. Winnescheika’s twelve year old niece, Lizzie Cinnibar Winap, who had followed her aunt to Jim’s camp.

She was peeking through a curtain when she saw her aunt nearly decapitated. She was so stunned and fearful, that she fled to the sagebrush and stayed there until late the next morning.

Eventually news of the killing reached Deputy F. M. Fellows, the Lovelock area’s only lawman and because none of those involved, including Winnescheika, were reservation Indians, the Indian Affairs Bureau took no interest in the killing one way or the other. It was left up to Fellows to send a wagon and several men out to retrieve Winnescheika’s body and arrest Jim, Susie, Jennie and the fourth woman.

After receiving the report of the Lovelock coroner the four accused murderers were bound over to the Grand Jury in Winnemucca. Three weeks later, on May 24, the same jury found sufficient evidence to bring Jim, Susie and Jennie to trial, but because she appeared in court with a baby at her breast, charges were never filed against the fourth woman in the case.

During the trial, the principal witness, an older Paiute who claimed to be a judge among his people, said that it had always been the custom among his people to ferret out witches and put them to death. Such persons, he said, often assumed the guise of a medicine man or woman and inevitably revealed themselves when their patients began to die and that in such a case it fell to the friends and relatives of her victims to kill her and dispose of the body.

He further stated that his grandfather told him that in years past the Indians, like the whites, burned supposed witches at the stake as well as stoned them to death on occasion.

When brought to the witness stand, all three of the defendants claimed that they thought their act was for the good of the tribe and professed an inability to under stand why they were being held in the white man’s jail. The jury met in the afternoon and returned a verdict of second-degree murder within an hour, a sign that although the killing was clearly premeditated, there were mitigating circumstances which precluded a “first-degree verdict which would have surely meant hanging at worst or a life sentence at best.

Two days later Judge Cheney sentenced the trio to ten years in the state prison, with their sentences beginning on June 22, 1891. Within months after their incarceration, Chief Naches and Captain Dave of the Pyramid Lake Reservation were petitioning Nevada Governor Roswell Keyes Colcord for their release.

They were later joined in the appeal by Paiute Chief Johnson Sides, the famous ‘United States Peacemaker,’ who in referring to witches said, “We kill ’em, now for the same reason the white the man killed ’em long ago.”

When the State Board of Pardons met the following year, they released the three on July 14, one year and 21 days from the commencement of their sentences. Winnescheika’s death would be the last execution of a witch in the United States.

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