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Cigarette Butt Trick Elicits Killer’s Confession

A couple of cigarette butts helped solve a 1917 murder at the Spaulding Mill in Selma, Ore.

No one knew why a popular young employee at the mill, Bill McAllister, was shot to death.  Josephine County Sheriff George W. Lewis scoured the countryside around the mill for clues, but all his men found were two cigarette butts behind a tool shed. The sheriff surmised the killer smoked there while waiting for McAllister to walk by. 

Weeks passed with no hint of who the killer was or his motivation when a farmer told deputies his employee, Ralph Turpin, left the same day of McAllister's killing. Turpin was located in Klamath Falls and taken to jail, but he denied being the murderer.  In desperation, Lewis and District Attorney W.T. Miller tricked Turpin to confess.  Miller inked his own finger, then rolled it around one of the cigarette butts.  The sheriff told Turpin his fingerprints matched those on the butt and showed him the phony evidence.   

Turpin confessed that he thought McAllister got him fired from the mill, so he shot him for revenge.


Source:  McCarthy, Linda. "Murder At Spaulding Mill." A History of Oregon Sheriffs 1841-1991. Ed. R. Gess Smith. N.p., 22 Aug. 1998. A Place Called Oregon. Web. 12 June 2016. .

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.