By Steve Crump
Bad characters are never in short supply in a frontier state like Idaho, but ours have been especially memorable. Here’s the best of the worst:
10. Weldon Heyburn (1852-1912), Wallace. Bribed Republican members of the Legislature $750 apiece in 1903 to elect him to the U.S. Senate.
9. James Jesus Angleton (1917-1987), Boise. This chief of counterintelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency spied on anti-war protesters and civil rights activists, thought Henry Kissinger was a Soviet spy and privately called Gerald Ford a traitor. And his paranoia — he was convinced there was a KGB mole in the agency — tied the CIA in knots during the height of the Cold War.
8. D.W. Scott, New York City. Real estate scam artist who in 1921 collected $3,000 each from 128 New York City families for 5,120 acres of godforsaken, waterless land at Roseworth in Twin Falls County.
7. Tie, David Renton, Christopher Lower and James Romain. Killed four men — three of them in their sleep — with axes in the course of a robbery in the Bitterroot Mountains in 1863.
6. Diamondfield Jack Davis (1879-1949), Albion. No, he probably didn’t murder the two South Hills sheepherders whom he was convicted of shooting, but he almost certainly killed other people. Points for style: Davis talked himself out of the Idaho State Penitentiary a little early by telling guards he’d whipped up some homemade dynamite.
5. Raymond Snowden, Boise. Idaho’s “Jack the Ripper,” convicted in 1956 of stabbing a Garden City woman 30 times and severing her spinal cord. Hanged the following year.
4. David Updyke (1830-1866), Boise. Ada County’s first sheriff — and a world-class thug whose exploits included a stagecoach robbery during which four passengers were gunned downed. Lynched by vigilantes near Rocky Bar.
3. Caleb Lyon (1822-1875), Lewiston. Idaho’s second territorial governor stole the state blind, taking — among many other things — $50,000 in federal money intended for Indian tribes. According to historian Randy Stapilus, Lyon claimed someone filched the loot from beneath his pillow in a railroad sleeper car while he was fleeing the state just ahead of the law — and angry constituents.
2. Harry Orchard (1867-1943), Wallace. He was a hired gun who blew up a former Idaho governor by attaching a bomb to Frank Steunenberg’s front gate, and the prosecution’s star witness in a sensational — if unsuccessful — effort to convict labor union leader Bill Haywood for ordering the hit.
1. Lyda Southard (1892-1958), Twin Falls. Who’s badder than Lady Bluebeard? Idaho’s most famous serial killer, Southard did in four husbands, a brother-in-law and a daughter by boiling flypaper to extract arsenic and then slipping the poison into her victims’ food. Southard did it for the insurance money, eventually pocketing $7,000 before being sent to prison for killing her fourth husband.