Murder Victims in the California Legislature

For the purposes of this post, I’ve excluded the folks who 1) died in duels, 2) were killed in military engagements (although Crabb was shot after surrendering and could probably be counted) or 3) were killed by law enforcement in the regular course of their job (Terry, looking at you).

1) Alexander P. Crittenden – After a seven-year extramarital affair, Crittenden was shot by his jealous lover in front of his family in 1870. A full write-up can be found here.

2) John Yule – Most likely brutally murdered in Placerville in 1888.

The Story of the Strange Disappearance of John Yule

Placerville, April 23d. – El Dorado county, during the past week, has been the scene of considerable excitement, owing to the mysterious disappearance of John Yule, ex-Speaker of the Assembly and a well-known old-timer of this and Placer counties…

After leaving the mine, dressed in his ordinary clothes, Yule wandered into a saloon near by kept by Jack Burt, a noted resort of disreputable characters. Here he succumbed to the captivating smiles of one of the frail inmates.
Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 59, Number 52, 24 April 1888

The Vineyard House

3) Robert Chalmers – 1881
Starved to death after his wife chained him to a wall in their basement for two years. We talked about it in more depth in an earlier article, but allegedly his ghost still haunts the site.
Location: Vineyard House, Coloma, CA

4) Leo J. Ryan – 1978
During a visit to check on the welfare of constituents who had moved to Guyana, Ryan was killed by cult members shortly before the mass-suicide at Jonestown in Guyana. Two years before Ryan was killed, the Jim Jones and his followers at the Peoples Temple were given a legislative resolution by State Senator Milton Marks, praising them for their “steadfast support of the Constitution and encouragement of responsible citizenship” and ” diligent and devoted service to and concern for their fellow man.” Oops.
Location: Port Kaituma Airstrip, Guyana

5) John C. Bell – 1860
Covered in an earlier article, after an argument escalated into Bell attempting to shoot another Assemblyman, Bell was stabbed to death on the Assembly Floor. A grand jury later found that William H. Stone (the stabber) had acted in self defense.
Location: Assembly Floor, California State Capitol

Magruder Massacre Site

6) Lloyd Magruder – 1863
Magruder was murdered in his sleep by the four men he had hired to protect the 90+ pounds of gold dust (valued today at $1.8 million) that he had earned selling goods in the northern mines. Three of the four were hung for the crime in 1864.
Location: Magruder Corridor Wilderness Road in Idaho

7) Isaac B. Wall – 1855
Wall was murdered in the Salinas Valley near Chualar (in Monterey County), while transporting money he had collected as Customs Collector for Monterey.

Murder of Hon. Isaac B. Wall.

The following telegraphic dispatch, received yesterday afternoon by Hon. M. S. Latham, conveys the melancholy intelligence of the murder of Hon. Isaac B. Wall, Collector of Monterey…
To Hon. M. S. Latham —
Sir: Hon Isaac B. Wall, the Collector of the District of Monterey, has been killed on the road to San Luis Obispo. A messenger has this moment brought news that his body was found on the roadside, about thirty miles from here. No particulars have been ascertained. But he is certainly murdered.
Daily Alta California, Volume 6, Number 282, 12 November 1855

Location: Near the Salinas River at Limekiln Creek near Gonzales, CA

8) Thomas P. Blue – 1903
Blue was shot and killed while trespassing on his neighbor’s land. His son was also killed in the gunfire.
Location: Little York, CA

9) James. A. Banks and  George W. Leihy – 1866 and 1867
Banks and Leihy were killed in “indian attacks” in Arizona and Nevada.

Murder of James A. Banks by Indians.

Unionville (Nev.), August 4th. James A. Banks, Speaker of the Assembly of Nevada, second session, was murdered by the Indians last Thursday evening. Banks and two others were fishing about one mile from Camp Winfield Scott. Banks started up the creek, and as he did not return search was made for him, when he was found about three hundred yards above the fishing-ground, with a bullet-hole through his breast and his bowels cut out.
Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 33, Number 5102, 5 August 1867

10) George R. Moscone –  1978
Three years after resigning from the State Senate to become Mayor of San Francisco, Moscone was assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White after he refused to appoint White to a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors.
Location: Mayor’s Office, San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco, CA




  1. […] Vineyard House in Coloma) has reportedly been haunted by the ghost of Chalmers. There were the murder victims of the State Legislature, most notably John Yule and Lloyd Magruder (who was murdered in his sleep by men he had hired to […]

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