The Mahoney Trunk Murder

This is one crazy story. Jim Mahoney was a former railroad worker from Milwaukee. In May of 1918 he was convicted of drugging and robbing a man in Spokane and sentenced to five to eight years in prison. Lucky for him, his mother Nora had been neighbors with then Washington Governor, Louis Hart and was able to finagle an early release. On December 23, 1920, Jim walked out of the pen and moved to Seattle to live with family. 

He was 36 years old. In 1920, Kate Mooers was 68. Her divorce from a doctor left her rich. She owned a small hotel in Belltown called the New Baker House at 1st and Bell. (It's now the Oregon Apartments.) She was also part-owner of The Sophia Apartments at 409 Denny Way, where she lived. (The building is gone and Fisher Plaza is there now. Several radio and TV stations broadcast from there.) She wore diamond jewelry and drove a big, expensive car. She was cranky, short, balding, and estimated to be worth at least $200,000. (2.3 million today) She was also known for being a serious tightwad. The New Baker House happened to be managed by Nora Mahoney and her daughter, Dolores Johnson. They maintained the rooms and collected the rents. 
Former New Baker House today
During a visit to the hotel, Kate Mooers was introduced to Nora's son, Jim. It would prove to be an ill-fated day. Following a short courtship, they were married in a civil ceremony on February 10, 1921, using a wedding ring borrowed from Dolores. The couple moved into Kate's apartment. Two months later, the Mahoney's started making plans for a belated honeymoon. They decided to take a month-long trip east, to Saint Paul and other cities. On Friday, April 15,1921, Kate went to her safe deposit box and withdrew $1,600. She then went to the Dexter-Horton Bank on 3rd and Cherry and purchased $460 worth of American Express Travelers Checks.
Dexter Horton building today
She told neighbors and friends that she and her husband were leaving on their honeymoon late Saturday night. The next day, the Mahoneys left their apartment and headed for a train at King Street Station at 303 S. Jackson St. Eleven days later, Jim Mahoney returned to Seattle alone. He explained to Kate's neighbors and friends that she had stayed back East and was planning a trip to Cuba with friends.
Train Station
He said he'd returned to take care of the hotel and would meet Kate later in New York City. Jim then filed a forged power-of-attorney with the King County Auditor, which gave him access to Kate's property. He emptied her safe deposit box, collected rents, and made several attempts to convert her properties into cash. He began living the high life, purchasing new clothes and jewelry. He also became the life of the party at local night clubs. All on Kate's dime. Needless to say, Kate's friends and family became concerned when she failed to return to Seattle, and Jim declined to say where she was. They'd received strange letters from Saint Paul bearing Kate's name but not in her handwriting. Jim always had a variety of excuses as to why she was still gone. Kate's nieces, Kate Stewart and Carrie Hewitt, suspected foul play. On May 3, 1921, Kate Stewart met with Seattle Police detectives and showed them the forged letters against samples of Kate's handwriting. She told them Jim had presented a typed letter to Perkins & Company Bank giving him authority to use Kate's safe deposit box. The letter was written on stationery from the St. Francis Hotel in Saint Paul and was dated April 23, 1921. It was signed with the name Mrs. Kate E. Mahoney. Kate Stewart didn't know how much cash and jewelry Jim had stolen but figured it was well over $30,000. The detectives opened an investigation. They discovered that on the evening of April 16th, Seattle Transfer Company was dispatched to 409 Denny Way to move a heavy trunk. The driver arrived at The Sophia at 10pm and picked up a steamer trunk wrapped in hemp rope and drove it to a houseboat at 1415 East Northlake Ave. (Now NE Boat St.) on Portage Bay. Jim helped him load the trunk into a white skiff. He told the driver he was taking the trunk to his houseboat, and rowed away into the darkness. The detectives interviewed the owner of 1415 E Northlake Ave. and learned that Jim had inquires about renting the vacant half of her houseboat. He said he wanted to do some fishing and asked where the deepest part of the lake was.
She also saw him roaming around the area on Thursday, April 14th. She said she'd been gone on Friday and when she came home Saturday afternoon, she'd found a note from Jim pinned to her door which said, "Have missed you twice. Hope the boat will be where I left it." A white skiff that said A. E. Howard & Son's Boat Builders was tied to a corner of the houseboat. Howard & Son's was only a few yards east of the houseboat at 1435 East Northlake Ave. (Now Jensen Motor Boats on NE Boat St.) Jim had rented the skiff for $4 a week.
Former Howard and Son's site
He never returned it but Al Howard retrieved it a week later near the houseboat, sunk in shallow water. The detectives also learned that on Friday, April 15th, Jim Mahoney and a woman claiming to be Kate Mooers-Mahoney, visited a notary public and requested a power-of-attorney authorizing Jim to administer her estate. The notary knew Kate Mooers, said it wasn't her and refused to notarize the document.
Former Buchman Hardware Site
A clerk at Buchman Hardware and Paint located at 408 Cedar, just around the corner from the Sophia Apartments, told detectives that on Saturday, April 16th, Jim Mahoney purchased 30 feet of hemp rope and 5 pounds of quicklime, which he charged to Kate's account.
Buchman's was in bldg in foreground, The Sophia was across the street.
This was the same day Kate was telling everyone that she and Jim were leaving for Saint Paul that evening. Jim had been under surveillance for three weeks and it looked like he was preparing to leave town. On Sunday, May 22nd, Jim was picked up for questioning  in front of his apartment. He had $25,000 worth of Kate's jewelry in his pockets. The next morning his attorney, Lee Johnston, filed a complaint that Mahoney was being held without charges and demanded his immediate release.
Diving diagram
Meanwhile, detectives were driving Mahoney around the city, asking witnesses to identify him. He was released when they returned to the jail but was arrested again for the forgery to Perkins Bank. Prosecutor's were convinced that Jim had murdered his wife, but needed to find her body. Divers began searching the bottom of the northeast end of Lake Union in Portage Bay. Detectives told them they were looking for a steamer trunk. On Monday, August 8th, the divers found an object floating near the bottom about 200 yards east of the University Bridge in Portage Bay.
Trunk was found in center of picture
It had been anchored to a large chunk of cement with a length of hemp rope. Although quicklime had eaten away the face of the corpse, it was positively identified as Kate Mooers-Mahoney. The coroner said she'd been poisoned with morphine, stuffed into the trunk while still alive, and had the left side of her skull crushed by blows from a heavy object. Jim Mahoney was charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday, August 10, 1921. He entered a plea of not guilty. His trial began on September 22nd. More than 60 witnesses took the stand.
Trunk is pulled up
Several of them identified Kate Mahoney's body and her personal effects found in the steamer trunk, while others documented Jim's movements in Seattle and Saint Paul. The main witnesses for the prosecution were Alvin Jorgenson, the Seattle Transfer Company driver who identified Jim Mahoney and the steamer trunk, and criminologist Luke May, the handwriting expert who declared Kate Mahoney's letters and signatures to be forgeries. The prosecution rested it's case on September 28, 1921. Defense attorney Lee Johnston claimed Jim had an alibi.
Mahoney outside court
He said the body found in the trunk wasn't Kate Mahoney and that she was alive after April 16th. He subpoenaed 27 witnesses, including Jim's mother, Nora and his sister, Dolores. As expected,  they all testified they had seen Kate after April 16th. Jim wisely chose not to testify in his own defense. A jury of eight men and four women found him guilty of first-degree murder and they voted to impose the death penalty. He was sentenced to hang on January 6, 1922. After several rejected appeals over an eleven month period, Jim Mahoney was hanged in Walla Walla at the Washington State Penitentiary on December 1, 1922. After funeral services at Saint Patrick's on December 11h, he was buried in an unmarked grave at the Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla. Kate Mooers-Mahoney is buried in Seattle. RIP