The article began, “The four fugitives from Idaho, supposed to be the murderers of Lloyd Magruder … have failed thus far in their attempt to escape justice under that sometimes abused protection to society, a writ of habeas corpus.”
Their lawyer argued a host of technicalities, one being that “the Governor of a Territory had no right … to make a requisition on the Governor of a State.” He also pointed to various procedural issues in the preparation of the requisition itself, issues that – in his view – invalidated the document.
The judge, however, cited a variety of precedents and seemed inclined to deny the writ. The defense attorney hoped to delay a decision against his clients and “asked the Judge to suspend an opinion and regard this merely as an intimation of his views.”
Although the prosecuting attorney preferred an immediate ruling, the judge did agree to another hearing the next morning. The newspaper writer felt the judge would send the fugitives back to Idaho, although the defense would probably be able to force more delays.
The writer then devoted several paragraphs to what was known of the murders and the pursuit. Among other facts, he noted that the alleged killers were “well known individuals” in Lewiston, and Beachy knew they had boarded the stage while “answering to assumed names.”
Beachy had found various indications that something had happened to his friend Magruder. The Bulletin writer said, “All these circumstances taken together, it was deemed proper to pursue the men who had passed through Lewiston so mysteriously.”
Nez Perce County Historical Society.
During the subsequent chase, the pursuers found that the fugitives had changed their “traveling names” twice. They used new aliases to board a Columbia River steamer west of Walla Walla, and different ones to register at hotels in Portland. From there, the writer said, “They gave out that their intention was to go to Victoria, but took passage, instead, on the steamer which left Portland on Sunday morning, direct for San Francisco.”
Trial records later gave the names of the fugitives as David Renton, James Romain, Christopher Lower, and William ”Billy” Page. Even then, it was never clear that those were their real names.
At the time, it was thought that just three men had been murdered. The Bulletin article concluded, “In the whole record of crime, three murders more cold blooded, instigated only by a lust for the hard-earned gold of others, can scarcely be found.”
References: “The Murderers from Idaho,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (November 6, 1863).
Julia Conway Welch, The Magruder Murders, Falcon Press Publishing, Helena, Montana (1991).