Judge McNaughton and the Boy Slayer

On November 26th, 1921, a 17 year old young man was brought before Judge McNaughton on the charge of murder.

Robert D. Ford, of Worley, Idaho, was born in Jonesborough, Tennessee on February 14th, 1905 to Walter Ford and Nancy Catherine Sifford. She went by Catherine. His parents either divorced or his mother took son Robert and daughter Rosa and abandoned the marriage. At some point she ended up in Idaho, where she marries Charles B. Smith of Worley. The marriage took place on January 20th, 1919 in Spokane, WA.

Side note: Interestingly enough, Catherine does state that she was a divorced woman, that this was her second marriage, but gives her surname as Dowell. A little further digging shows that on January 10th, 1918, at Spokane, she had married a B.W. Dowel, claiming that THIS is her second marriage! In any case, this marriage only lasted for 6 months, with Dowel claiming that Catherine threatened and committed bodily violence against him. He was granted a divorce. So, Charles Smith was actually Catherine’s 3rd husband. In 1929 Catherine actually got around to divorcing Walter Ford, her first husband. Robert’s mother Catherine died in Spokane, WA on January 27th, 1946, with the claim that she had been the wife of Fred Severin. I suspect she had only lived with him as a common-law wife, as no marriage record exists, and upon Fred’s death on February 11, 1942 at the Spokane County Hospital & Poor Farm, (where he had been living since as early as 1940 as an inmate) it is stated that he was a single man, not married or divorced. Additionally, while Fred was still alive in the County Hospital as an inmate in 1940, we find Catherine using his surname on the 1940 Census for Washington, and calling herself a widow! Catherine attempted to apply for his social security benefits. Fred was also over 30 years older than Catherine. I include this information about Robert’s mother as it might provide some insight into his personality and character.

On the night of November 21st, 1921, Robert Ford returned home late. His step-father Charles, in a fit of anger, struck him. Robert retaliated by shooting Charles four times and then slashing him with a knife. At the time of this incident Robert’s mother was pregnant with the child of Charles Smith, his step-father.

Death bed testimony was allowed in this case. The papers also reported that Robert showed a lack of remorse or emotion, and his mother at times appeared the same way. She seemed more upset over the fate of her son than the fact that he murdered his step-father. In the end, Robert was acquitted as a “juvenile delinquent” and allowed to go home. I wonder what Judge William McNaughton thought about this verdict?

Robert died November 27th, 1967 at Spokane, Washington.

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