A Murder in Loleta, Part 2

March 1, 2010

Continued from this post

James Casebeer was a 33 year old from Ohio who, by May of 1860, was farming 160 acres of “The Island” located between the Eel and Salt Rivers (between Ferndale and the Loleta Bottoms) in Humboldt County.  There was a house  on the property and he had made some small improvements, but at the time of his death Casebeer had yet to make any real money from his enterprise.   He lived alone and was, by newspaper accounts, a “peacable and unoffensive citizen”, the only living son of a poor and sickly widow living in Ohio.  Casebeer wrote his mother letters, but didn’t do it often.

He seems to have kept to himself.  Neighbors had noticed him missing, but supposed he’d gone away on business. No one investigated. 

In September of 1860, William Johnson, a barber originally from New Jersey, was out walking  when he discovered the body of his neighbor, James Casebeer.  The body was lying a short distance from his house, and appeared to have been dragged from where it was hidden in the brush.  Observers guessed that Casebeer had been dead about three weeks and the remains appeared to have been partially eaten by his dog.   Johnson noticed a deep cut on the back of Casebeer’s skull and found a hatchet nearby.  

Casebeer’s house was locked, but nearly empty of valuables.  Even the bedding was gone.

To be continued…