The Nelson Woman and a Murder…

May 11, 2021

Months ago I did a post on the North Coast Journal article regarding old Eureka Police Dept. arrest records and the photo of one woman caught my attention. Something in her expression just touched my heart.

Humboldt County Historical Society/North Coast Journal

Her name was listed as Jenice Nelson and I searched old records and newspapers, but couldn’t find her anywhere. I eventually gave up, resolved to try again some day.

Coincidentally, as I was recently researching information for my upcoming OLLI class, I found Jenice and an explanation for the sadness so evident in her photo.

In 1930, Clarence King killed his common law wife Minnie McCoy and left her body by the side of the highway near Orick. King was caught and convicted, in part, thanks to testimony given by William Martell, who witnessed the couple fighting shortly before Minnie’s death. Martell was a business owner and lived with his wife Dorthea in Eureka.

Prior to the trial, Jenice (AKA Janice Murray) heard that Martell’s life was in danger- and warned him. Janice was a prostitute and Martell denied knowing her.  Janice was then arrested for prostitution, plead guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Many who talk about Red Light Districts do so in hushed, titillated tones but these ladies had a hard life- even when they tried to do the right thing. Very few would have taken their path, given any other choice…

Blue Lake Advocate, 5 April 1930