Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Murder in Magna

Magna, Utah, is a town on the western side of Salt Lake County. It’s a working class town, where family names are apt to be Greek or Italian. A hundred years ago immigrants came to work for Kennecott, the company that owns the biggest copper mine in the United States. The town was on my school district route from 1980 to 1992, so I read this story from a true detective magazine with interest. A woman was killed in Magna. No murder is routine, but there wasn't much about this murder that would have gotten much attention. A white woman went into a boarding house with a “dark-skinned man,” an Indian or a Mexican. She ended up dead. In 1945 when the murder happened some bigots might have even said she deserved it.

And that's what struck me most about this article, published in 1950, the racist attitude that pervades the entire piece. As it says toward the end of the article, “Deputies Beckstead and Caldwell sighed with satisfaction and relief. ‘I had no idea there were so many Indians, Mexicans and Spaniards [sic] in Utah!’ grinned Caldwell, ‘nor that they all looked so much alike.’”

The hook for the whole story is a Navajo belief that one can tell a lie three times, but never four. Read the article from Chief Detective #2 for the reason.

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