Research—can’t live with it, can’t write a book without it. Actually, I love doing research. It’s where all the tidbits of past lives are brought into the present.
While scanning articles about Penryn via the website cdnc.ucr.edu (Californa Digital Newspaper Collection), the column entitled “The Mysterious Disappearance” come up in the list of write-ups concerning Penryn.
I love a good mystery, and this mystery occurred in Penryn, in 1873. I made a note of the particulars, ignored the rabbit trail, and continued on with the task at hand.
Six months or so later, I picked up my notebook to view the dates, places, and people of my research. And there it was, the unsolved case of the disappearance and murder of thirteen-year-old Vina Coates.
After pulling up all the data available on the newspaper website, my Sam Spade intuitiveness kicked in. I analyzed the known facts of the case. I speculated. I mused. I pondered. And finally came to my deduction of who killed this young teenager.
How about you? Can you find the same conclusion? Let me give you the facts of the case. Then, put on your Sherlock cap, examine the clues, and send me your verdict along with the reason why the person or persons murdered Vina.
March 8, 1873, Saturday,—Vina Coats disappears
March 18, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
The Mysterious Disappearance—Up to last evening nothing had been heard from Miss Coats, the girl who mysteriously disappeared between Penryn and Newcastle last Saturday. It is suspected that her brother knows what has become of her, and an effort will be made to compel him to own up. Two wood-choppers working in the vicinity from where she disappeared are also suspected, and will probably be arrested.
March 20, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
Out in Force—We learn that between 200 and 300 people were out yesterday between Newcastle and Penryn, in search of Miss Coats, the girl who so mysteriously disappeared about two weeks ago.
March 21, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
Still Missing—he grand search for Miss Coats, which took place near Penrvn Wednesday, was totally unsuccessful. It is now thought that she came or was brought to Sacramento.
March 24, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
Body in the River— About 11 o’clock on Saturday morning three boys saw floating down the Sacramento River, past the foot of II Street, the body of a woman, which passed so close to the shore that they could see that it had red hair, cut short, a calico dress and white underclothing. They did not tell any men of what they had seen for more than an hour afterward, and, although there was some slight search made then, nothing has been seen of the body since. It will probably, however, be caught before it reaches Freeport. Possibly it is that of Miss Coats, the young woman who disappeared about two weeks ago from near Newcastle.
March 29, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
The body of Miss Coats, 13 years old, who disappeared from her father’s ranch in Placer County four weeks ago, was found yesterday in a shaft, where it had apparently been thrown and covered with an old sack and a quantity of brush.
March 31, 1873—Sacramento Daily Union
The Coats Mystery—At Gold Hill, Placer County, Justice Clow of Newcastle held an inquest Saturday upon the remains of Miss Vina Coats, whose mysterious disappearance, together with the finding of her body last Friday, have heretofore been referred to. A number of witnesses were examined, but there was not sufficient evidence obtained to warrant making any arrests. The jury returned as their verdict that deceased came to her death at the hands of some person or persons unknown. A dispatch gives the following details: There were no marks of violence on the body. When found her hands were tied together in front. Her wearing apparel was much torn and disordered, and a sack was drawn tightly over her head and tied down at the waist. The general opinion is that the girl was suffocated. The theory that she had been outraged and then murdered is not credited, as a physician of Auburn made an examination of the body and found no evidence whatever to substantiate that view. A resident of Gold Hill thought he recognized the sack as the former property of the girl’s father. Many incline to the opinion that the father committed the crime, and that after its commission the excitement caused his death, he having been subject to heart disease for some years.
The Rabbit Trail
Coates, Claibourne Monroe, 1868 25-Apr Placer Herald–Claibourne Monroe Coates, age 39 yrs., near Virginia, Placer Co., p. 2:5–Death
Coats, C.M., 1873 15-Mar–C.M Coats, age 43 yrs., Newcastle, native of TN., p. 3:4–Death