21 year-old Martha James is murdered while riding on a Southern Pacific train
between Seattle and Los Angeles.
4 am, while Martha slept, she was attacked. Other passengers heard her scream,
"My God, he's killing me!" A Marine private, sleeping in the compartment
above Martha, heard the commotion and awoke to see a man running down the train's
aisle. He found Martha with her throat cut, blood was everywhere. The private
tried to chase after the man, but lost him.
got on the train at its next stop, Eugene, Oregon. Faint traces of blood were
tracked to the observation platform at the back of the last car. Assuming the
attacker must have jumped off the train from there, the surrounding area was searched
but nobody was found. Detectives decided to interview everyone on board the train
as it continued on to Los Angeles.
prime suspect was an African-American cook that the Marine private had encountered
during his initial search for the attacker. The cook, Robert E. Lee Folkes, was
found to have a record of sexual attacks. Folkes claimed that he had never even
seen Martha James, however it was revealed that he had, earlier, mentioned to
colleagues that she was 'the best looking woman on the train'.
managed to find the knife he used and the blood stained uniform he wore during
the attack. Folkes received a death sentence in Oregon and in January 1945 he
went to the gas chamber.