The final installment of the Edith Irene Wolfskill mystery

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Bernard Glashoff, an 18-year-old resident of Solano county, was walking through a dry creek bed on Sept. 19, 1929. Two months earlier the area had been subjected to an extensive search for Edith Irene Wolfskill, the heiress whose disappearance had captivated the state. By September, weeks had passed without any new information. Most people had given up the search, even after the reward was raised to $100,000. Glashoff was looking for the perfect stick to knock fruit out of a tree. What he found was a grisly scene that would put an end to the search for the missing woman, and launch an investigation into her death. The body was decayed, almost beyond recognition. She wore a pair of men’s overalls, and grass grew up between the strands of her long hair. An unscuffed pair of women’s shoes sat parallel to the body, as if placed there neatly. Glashoff immediately informed his father, who went to Sheriff Jack Thornton. When the body was identified, their suspicions were confirmed. It was Wolfskill. The search was over, but its result only lead to a string of unanswered questions. She was found less than a mile from her front door. Thornton, along with a private detective named M. A. Harris, insisted that the creek where the body was found had been searched over 50 times by hundreds of people. The Woodland Daily Democrat noted that searchers with dogs had walked the area for weeks. The family was baffled by the clothing that she was found wearing. A former nurse insisted that Wolfskill refused to touch other people’s clothing. Where was the dress she was last seen in, and where did she find a strange man’s outfit? A search began for the owner of the overalls and for Wolfskill’s missing dress and jacket. The overalls belonged to a local man who had worked on the property. He believed that he had misplaced them several months before. Wolfskill’s jacket was never located, but the dress was found hanging in her closet. This threw the family’s entire story about the day she disappeared into question. Law enforcement was also interested in the clean shoes found beside her. After the autopsy was performed, it was concluded that the woman had been alive for at least a week after she disappeared. If she had been wandering the hills for over a week, how could her shoes be unscuffed? Among the many discoveries that day, the only one that seemed to provide any explanation was a small, dilapidated cabin standing not far from where Wolfskill was found. The cabin sat just outside of the Wolfskill property, and was believed to have been empty for years. It was never searched after Wolfskill went missing. There was evidence that people had been living in the building. The cots against the wall looked slept-in, and one area had a pile of eggshells and food scraps. Words were scribbled across the walls. The handwriting matched the notes that Wolfkill would leave on fences and rocks as she walked the property. “Go to heaven,” one read. Ney Wolfskill, Edith’s brother, identified the body. He recognized her by her long hair and one gold tooth. From the day she went missing, Ney had insisted that his sister had died of exposure after wandering into the hills. After her body was found he changed his mind. “Don’t ask me for the basis of my new theory,” Ney told a reporter for the Oakland Tribune. “I have a very good one. I’m investigating it in my own way. When the proper time comes, I’ll make it public.” Matt Wolfskill, Ney and Edith’s brother, refused to speak to anyone. He returned from Los Angeles, where he had just begun a legal battle with Ney over the distribution of Edith’s share of the inheritance. Their father had stipulated that the remainder of Edith’s fortune should be split evenly between the brothers upon the event of her death. They had started fighting over what that meant weeks before her body was even found. Thornton and Harris both believed that Edith had been kidnapped. After the Solano coroner could not determine a cause of death, Thornton called in experts from San Francisco and Berkeley. They took samples of her clothing and from the grass that had grown around her. After weeks of research, it was declared that Edith had died from exposure. There was no evidence to prove foul play. There would never be a satisfying answer to the many mysteries that surrounded Edith’s death. The San Francisco Chronicle called the entire saga, “one of the most baffling cases in Northern California.” Glashoff, the young man who had found the body, collected the $100,000 reward from Edith’s bank. He had to hire a lawyer to retrieve it. The bank argued that because he had only found Edith accidentally, he was not entitled to the reward. In 1986, Glashoff’s wife told a reporter for the Vacaville Daily Republic that the event had affected her husband a great deal. “It was an ugly thing,” Wenonah Glasgoff said. Sheriff Thornton was never able to prove his theory that Edith had been kidnapped. He had believed it since the day she was reported missing, but the forensics of the time never found the evidence he sought. That didn’t mean that people agreed with the results of the investigation. There was a saying in the region at the time: “If you want to commit a murder, go to Solano county.” Read parts one, two, and three.]]>

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