By Sam Behling
My Great Aunt Edna Pearl was born May 22, 1887 in Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa. She was the first born and only daughter of Charles Ellsworth Williams and Lydia Sarah Bell. On October 24, 1907, Edna married Raymond Gilbert Wean, by whom she had one child, Charles Raymond Wean.
My grandfather, Edna's brother Art Williams, died when I was a young child, so the only information I was able to learn about Edna came from Art's wife, my grandmother. She told me that Edna was married with a young son and that she suddenly had "run off with a baseball player to Washington where she was murdered!" My grandmother knew no other details, such as who had murdered Ednathe baseball player, her jealous husband, or someone else. Edna's body was brought back to Iowa for burial and, according to my grandmother, her parents never spoke of her again. I had no idea if this were a true story or family legend. Very early on in my genealogy research, however, I discovered that Edna was buried next to my great grandparens in Violet Hill Cemetery in Perry, Iowa in an unmarked grave, so I suspected there was indeed some scandal attached to my great aunt.
Early in 2007, I was contacted via e-mail by Edna's grandson, Doug Wean, who confirmed that his grandmother had indeed been murdered. And yes, she had taken up with a baseball player, although Edna did divorce Doug's grandfather first. Edna and the baseball player, Walter Thomas Mountain, were married July 28, 1913 in Spokane, Washington.
Doug was kind enough to send me the photo which appears belowthe first ever I had seen of Edna. This photo shows Edna with her first husband, Ray Wean. Doug also sent me an obituary which appeared in the hometown papers.
Perry Advertiser, Perry Iowa, Saturday, July 24, 1914: Mrs. Edna Williams-Mountain was shot and instantly killed by a demented man named Jacob Sentel, as she was waiting for the train at Pasco to bear her to her husband, W.T. Mountain, who was waiting for her at Pendleton where his last ball game of the season was to be played. It was between 6 and 7 in the morning and no one saw Sentel come near her or saw the shots. The sound of the shots were the first alarm to attract others to the scene where Mrs. Mountain then lay where she had fallen, lifeless. Two shots had been fired at her, both of which had took effect. One penetrated the heart, the other entered the body in the abdomen. Immediately following the death of Mrs. Mountain, Sentel turned the gun on himself, the bullet striking himself in the heart. The inquest was held Monday in Pasco and the verdict of the jury was that death was caused by gunshot wounds, inflicted by Jacob Sentel, insane. The funeral will be held at the Williams's home Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock, the Rev. J.M. Williams having charge of the service. Internment at Violet Hill Cemetery.
Shortly after Doug and I had found each other, we uncovered another obituary...actually the front page story...which appeared in a Pasco, Washington newspaper where the murder actually occurred. This one told a completely differentand more factualstory.
The Pasco Express Pasco, (Franklin County), Washington Friday 24 July 1914, Front Page
WOMAN MURDERED, MAN BADLY WOUNDED, MYSTERIOUS TRAGEDY DOUBLE SHOOTING IN TENT NEAR NORTHERN PACIFIC DEPOT EARLY SUNDAY MORNING—CORONER'S JURY BELIEVES JACOB SENTLE GUILTY
Last Sunday morning witnessed one of the worst tragedies Pasco has ever had. The result is that Ada Wilson is dead and Jacob Sentle lies seriously wounded by a shot through the abdomen.
Residents of the Eagle Annex, a hotel opposite the Northern Pacific station, were awakened by gunshots at 3:30 Sunday morning. The shots were also heard by employees in the N.P. lunch room. Only two shots were heard, the second followed by cries from the direction of a tent occupied by Sentle, a lunch room employee. Those hearing the cries hastened toward the tent and upon reaching it discovered Sentle writhing in agony on the ground just in front of the tent. He was calling for water, and on being asked what was the matter, said he had been shot. When asked who shot him he said he didn't know. Inside the tent, lying on the bed, dressed in night clothing, was the dead body of Ada Wilson. A lighted lamp was on the table and there was no evidence of a struggle, the posture of the woman's body indicating that she had been shot while asleep.
A phone call quickly brought Dr. O'Brien, who at once pronounced the woman dead. Three bullets had penetrated her breast and one pierced her leg. The gun had been fired at close range, as her clothing was scorched.
The physician immediately turned his attention to Sentle, who had lapsed into unconsciousness shortly after he had summoned help. He was taken to the Eagle hotel, where an examination showed that a bullet, fired from a gun held close to his body in front, had entered his abdomen about two inches below the breast bone and passed entirely through his body.
At the same time the doctor was summoned a call was put in for the police. In a very short time Chief Sevens and Coroner McDuff reached the scene. They found quite a number of men about the place and some of them admitted having been inside the tent. On examining the premises the officers found a note written with pen and ink, lying on the table in the tent. It read:
Wash. "Dear father and sisters:
But the most careful examination of the premises failed to disclose any weapon with which the shooting had been done. The absence of a firearm and the fact that Sentle, when first discovered had said he didn't know who had shot him, give an air of mystery to the affair.
The coroner took the woman's remains in custody and notified those of her relatives whose address he was able to learn.
The coroner held an inquest on Monday afternoon, the jury being Messrs. J. R. McKeand, H. Warden, W. W. Liggett, Art Herndon, J. H. Sylvester, and A. G. Wehe. The witnesses were questioned by Prosecuting Attorney Bready and Attorney Edw. A. Davis, as well as by occasional queries from members of the jury.
Several railroad men testified to hearing two shots and cries. Smith, a transient roomer at the Eagle hotel, aroused by the shots and cries, from the window of his room saw Sentle crawl from the tent and fall over on the ground.
Two women, associates of Ada Wilson in the underworld, testified to the identity of Ada Wilson, as to her relations with Sentle, and in regard to her plans, as told to hem by Ada Wilson herself, for leaving Pasco for the east on Sunday.
Walter T. Mountain, who claims to have been the husband of the deceased woman, arrived here Sunday and was called as a witness. He said he is a resident of Pendleton, a bartender by occupation, casually engaged as a professional baseball player. His acquaintance with Ada Wilson extended over a considerable period, their marriage taking place in Spokane, July 28, 1913. About six months later she left him and it was only within a few weeks that he had made any progress in his efforts toward reconciliation. Recently she had agreed to return to him and they planned to go east together.
From his testimony it was learned that the name Ada Wilson was a name assumed by the deceased. Her maiden name was Edna Williams and she was born in Perry, Iowa, where her parents still live. She was previously married to a man by the name of Weane, bearing him a son who is now about six years old and who, upon his parents' divorce, was awarded to the custody of the father. Weane has since married and is supposed to be in Portland. A considerable period elapsed between Mrs. Weane's divorce and the marriage which Mountain alleges took place a year ago. She was in Pasco at various times during this interval and was a well known habitue of the Tacoma avenue resorts. Mountain claimed on the witness stand that he was unaware of his wife's profligate career, but his name appears on the Pasco police blotter under date of March 25th, 1913, when he was fined $25 for vagrancy and Ada Wilson paid the fine.
Ada Wilson was 27 years of age at the time of her death.
The acquaintance between Ada Wilson and Jake Sentle, was of long standing. His infatuation for her and her influence over him became very great. Testimony tended to show that he spent a great deal time in her company, and is believed by many to have given her several hundred dollars in the past few months. At times he seemed to fear her, having expressed a desire to leave here and get away from the woman.
Last Saturday Sentle visited Ada Wilson two different times and was undoubtedly aware of her preparations for leaving Pasco.
No evidence of a disagreement was apparent, and Sentle promised, on his departure at 5 o'clock, to send a taxi for her early Sunday return. J. R. McKeand, foreman of the jury, reported that the jury in this case had found that Mrs. Edna Weane Mountain, alias Ada Wilson, had come to her death on July 19, by one or more gunshot wounds and it was their opinion that the shots were fired by Jacob Sentle.
This means that Jacob Sentle, if he recovers, will face a charge of murder.
That Jake Sentle committed the deed many of his friends refuse to believe. He is a man about 40 years old, has lived in or near Pasco for nearly 20 years. All his life he has been an inoffensive, industrious citizen. The greater part of his life has been spent in ranching or kindred pursuits. Some months ago he secured employment at the Northern Pacific lunch room, and seemed contented in his work. Sentle was a familiar figure to the traveling public as part of his work was selling box lunches to passengers on trains during stops here.
The only possible explanation for the act, if Jake Sentle committed it, is that his infatuation for Ada Wilson and her impending departure goaded him to desperation and temporary insanity, or perhaps the sense that he had been duped and defrauded drove him to a frenzy.
His father, Michael Sentle, lives on a ranch in the Horse Heaven district, and Mrs. Page and Mrs. Fred Schuneman of Pasco and Mrs. Brown of Kennewick are sisters of the accused. All the relatives have the unbounded sympathy of their many friends in this hour of suspense and sorrow.
So apparently, Great Aunt Edna was not the innocent young thing that her hometown newspapers made her out to be. Truth be told, she was a bit of a wanton woman. All of which certainly explains why my great grandparents never spoke about her and buried her in an unmarked grave. Sad that her "lifestyle" was so condemned back in her day, that she had to assume an alias to carry on her love affairs (note how similar "Ada Wilson" is to "Edna Williams") and tragic, too, that she lost her life at such a young age. Jacob Sentle, by the way, survived his self-inflicted gunshot wound and was sentenced to Walla Walla Penitentiary for murder later that same year.
Edna's Death Certificate - Cause of death: gun shot wounds in breast, "murder"
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