Mon, Feb. 17

Verde Heritage 1905: BLACK HILLS; Photograph of Mysterious Death

"JEROME, May 28. --- Three Mexicans, Chono Mirenda and wife, and Mr. Sanchez, were arrested yesterday in connection with the death of George Smith, who was found dead about 2 weeks ago. They will be taken over to Prescott this afternoon by Deputy Sheriff W. S. Owen."

"Ever since the body of Geo. Smith was found by the side of the trail leading to the Iron King [Equator] mine, the officers have been convinced that he was foully dealt with, notwithstanding the verdict of the coroner's jury that he had come to his death by exposure and heart disease, and they have been quietly at work ever since on the case."

(Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner; Prescott; May 31, 1905; page 8.)

"The officers claim to have collected some very strong evidence against these people. ... The strongest evidence against them is their own confession to certain facts, which would seem to prove they have a guilty knowledge of the crime. The ring which Smith was known to have worn when last seen by his friends, was sold a few days ago by one of the men now under arrest." ...

"It has been claimed by the officers working on the case that this same gang are responsible for the death of a stranger whose skeleton was found hanging on a tree about a year ago near the same place where Smith was found dead. These people live about 6 miles from Jerome, near the Copper Chief mine, and make their living by packing wood to the different mining camps on burros."

(Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner; Prescott; May 31, 1905; page 8.)


"The story of the death of George Smith, whose body was found in the hills near the Iron King [Equator] mine several weeks ago, and whose remains were buried in Jerome, now develops into a very plausible murder tragedy."

"Briefly stated, Smith, who was a mine foreman, and who had been in Jerome for several weeks without indulging in drink, finally gave way to liquor, and indulged in a protracted spree. He was unfortunately one of those who cannot drink moderately, and after many days of dissipation, he was in a condition bordering on delirium. Despite all efforts of his best friends, which practically included the whole of the Jerome business community, he continued in this way until he was almost insane."

"Finally he determined to go to the Iron King mine, where he was well known, and try to get in condition to go to work. While en route on a freight wagon, he fell from the seat, and the old man was unable to lift him back into the conveyance. The driver notified a Mexican family living nearby, and told them to take care of him."

"This was the last seen of Smith as living. Three days later his body was found in the rocks, lying in a heaped-up unnatural position, and later the remains were buried in Jerome."

"By reason of a friend of the dead man having a penchant for taking pictures he took a Kodak with him when he joined the searching party, and succeeded in getting an excellent picture of the dead man in the exact position in which he was found. This was Smith's friend, William Haskins, an ex-engineer on the narrow gauge railroad, and the peculiar position in which the body was found as shown by the photograph is what first led to a suspicion of foul play. Officers then took up the matter and began a careful investigation, resulting in the arrest of Chindo Mirenda and his wife, a hired man named Jose Sanchez, and a witness known as E. Purana. These four were last night brought under arrest from Jerome, and lodged in the county jail."

"Because there is yet much evidence to be secured, and that undue publicity might interfere with this work officers familiar with the case have little to say about it. However, as near as can be learned, the officers believe that Mr. Mirenda killed Smith, basing their assumption upon what Sanchez told his friend Purana about the trouble."

"This evidence is in effect that Smith came to the cabin of Mirenda, after falling from the wagon, and upon being told there was no room in the place in which he could lie down, insulted the woman. This led to the husband taking a hand in the argument, which finally resulted in blows. In this encounter it is thought Smith was killed by a blow on the head, probably with a club, and that his body was later carried on the back of a burro to the spot where it was found."

"The actions of the hired man, Sanchez, who the day following the alleged killing, left the employ of Mirenda, compelling him to go to Iron King to get money with which to settle, together with what Sanchez said to Purana about the trouble, led the officers to make a thorough investigation of the matter. Those who best knew Smith and his ugly, quarrelsome disposition when under the influence of liquor, can readily understand how he could enrage Mr. Mirenda, and how a chance blow may have killed him. The first impression when the body was found was that he had died from exposure, but the talk and actions of the man Sanchez, put the officers on the trail for some evidence of a crime having been committed."

"Sanchez remained away from the Mirenda camp nearly 3 weeks and it is surmised that, hearing nothing of any trouble on account of the death of Smith, he returned to work believing all was safe. An official investigation had no sooner been commenced than a ring was found in pawn in Jerome, left by Sanchez, which it is thought can be proved beyond a question of doubt, to have belonged to Smith."

"Careful inquiry made last night shows that the 3 suspects do not yet know what charge is to be made against them. They offered no resistance when placed under arrest, and have said nothing whatever about the case. Purana, the witness, was placed under arrest to make sure he would be in attendance when needed. Deputy Sheriff Wes Owens was in charge of the quartet of prisoners when the train reached here [Prescott] last evening. With him were deputies Johnson and Merritt."

"Without adding to what is already known of the case, officers intimate that there is further evidence to be secured which will prove Mirenda's guilt beyond question. It is further believed that Sanchez, the employee of Mirenda, did not tell his friend all he knew of the tragedy, and that when arraigned he may give all the facts of the killing. The photograph taken by Smith's friend, showing the body lying in a heap as if dropped on the rocks like a sack of grain, will probably cut some figure when the case comes to a hearing."

"It is not improbable that the remains of Smith may be disinterred and a postmortem examination held in the hope of finding a fracture of the skull or face bones, to prove the facts of his mode of death."

"There are many minor incidents connected with the strange death and burial of Smith which, now that murder is suspected, may lead to corroborate the more startling points in the matter. One of these is the condition of the man's neck, which showed that a handkerchief may have been twisted about it to strangle him, in the event of the blows struck not having been fatal. His neck was swollen and creased in a way to suggest such a possibility. One of these is the condition of death."

"So far as could be learned late last night, the 4 Mexicans will be kept in jail and closely guarded, while the official department makes a careful search for further evidence. Mirenda and his wife are both about 35 years of age, and have been conducting a wood camp in the vicinity of Jerome for the past 6 years, delivering their wood with a burro team which belongs to them. Sanchez is a comparative stranger in the county, and had worked for Mirenda but a few months. Purana, the witness, is a laborer, and is quite well known among the people of Jerome and Iron King."

(Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner; Prescott; May 31, 1905; page 6.)


"The alleged murder of Geo. Smith in Jerome seems destined to become a series of surprises. Mirernda, who, after being brought here from Jerome, confined in the county jail for several days, and then released, has again been arrested --- this time alone, his wife being allowed her freedom for the time being. Mirenda was re-arrested yesterday by Deputy Sheriff Merritt upon information telephoned here from Jerome by Assistant Prosecutor Pattee and Under Sheriff Neagle, both of whom are at the copper city assisting Deputy Owens in securing evidence."

"All the Prescott officers are advisedly cautious in talking of the case, but it is known that new developments in the case have required that Mirenda be kept in confinement away from the scene of the alleged crime. A quiet tip received yesterday from Jerome points to the fact that the county officials are not to have entirely fair sailing in securing evidence, of which they are now so industriously in search."

"It has developed, so it is reported, that a clique of Mexicans of which Mirenda is a member, have taken a hand in the matter, and that the search for evidence is now being balked in odd and mysterious ways that point to this lot of people being at work in the interest of the suspected men. It is supposed that the second arrest of Mirenda is to prevent him from getting in close touch with those friends rather than because of any new proof of his guilt."

"Mirenda ... exhibits a stolid, unconcerned manner all the time, and when he was arrested yesterday for the second time, behaved in the same cunning, quiet way he has shown from the first. The most clever attorneys in this section admit they have always failed to get a plain, straight statement from" such men. "In the search for proof in this case every clue seems to lead to a mass of contradictions from which every possible effort is being made to get at the truth." ...

(Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner; Prescott; June 7, 1905; page 6; from Thursday's Daily.)

"SUSPECTS RELEASED: Evidence in Alleged Smith Murder Insufficient to Convict."

"The alleged Smith murder in the Jerome district has ended in nothing more than suspicion. As a result of the visit of Assistant District Attorney Pattee to Jerome, the suspects, who have been held at the county jail, are now at liberty, and it is announced that there is not sufficient evidence of the crime to justify further investigation, and no ground of sufficient importance for holding the suspected parties until the next session of the grand jury."

"Those in Jerome best acquainted with the facts connected with the strange death of Smith assert their belief in the theory of foul play, but despite a most careful investigation the evidence needed to justify holding the suspects could not be secured."

(Weekly Arizona Journal-Miner; Prescott; June 7, 1905; page 2.)

See: The Verde Independent; "1904: BLACK HILLS; Mysterious Death;" June 29, 2016.

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