The Crime, the Victims, and the Legacy


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Wanted poster for the DeAutremonts

On October 11, 1923, the attempted robbery of Southern Pacific Train 13 at Tunnel 13 in the Siskiyou Mountains ended with the murders of railway workers Sidney L. Bates, Charles O. Johnson, Marvin B. Seng and postal clerk Elvyn E. Dougherty. The investigation and four-year search for the suspects led to the arrests and convictions of brothers Ray, Roy, and Hugh DeAutremont in 1927. The historic case and its legacy are examined in this visual essay of records and artifacts from the Postal Inspection Service, Southern Oregon Historical Society, Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, and other archives and museums.

Timeline of Events

Noontime, 11 Oct 1923

Railway workers Sidney L. Bates, Charles O. Johnson, Marvin B. Seng and mail clerk Elvyn E. Dougherty are murdered during the attempted robbery of Train 13 at Tunnel 13. The perpetrators flee into the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon.

Evening of 11 Oct 1923

Southern Pacific Railroad Company issues the first version of wanted posters and offers $2500 reward for information.

Mid Oct 1923

Search continues for the suspects. Local law enforcement, the railroad’s Chief Special Agent Dan O’Connell, and US postal inspectors led by Chief Postal Inspector NW Charles Riddiford gather evidence from the crime scene and consult with forensic expert Edward O. Heinrich.

21 Oct 1923

Southern Pacific RR Company and US Post Office Department offer $4800 reward for information and issue the third version of wanted poster, which is the first to name the suspects Ray, Roy, and Hugh DeAutremont based on forensic analysis by Edward O. Heinrich.

21 Apr 1926

Tenth issue of wanted posters announces $15,900 reward for information about all three suspects.

11 Feb 1927

US Army officials apprehend Hugh DeAutremont in Manila, Philippines, where he was stationed after enlisting under the alias James Price. The tip came from Corporal Thomas Reynolds who recognized DeAutremont from the photo on the wanted poster at a post office.

11 Apr 1927

Twentieth version of the wanted poster contains updates for the search for Ray and Roy DeAutremont.

9 Jun 1927

The arrests of Ray and Roy DeAutremont in Steubenville, Ohio, are made following the report by Albert Collingsworth who knew them under the names Elmer and Clarence Goodwin.

23 June 1927

The jury in Hugh DeAutremont’s second trial finds him guilty of first-degree murder and fixes the sentence for life in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

23 June 1927

Ray and Roy DeAutremont change their pleas to guilty and are sentenced to life imprisonment in the Oregon State Penitentiary.