Napa County Sheriff David Dunlap and his investigators had been frustrated by evidence tampering but they persevered to uncover the motive and sequence of events leading to the January 5, 1899 murder of Alfred Cook.
Many theories regarding motive were offered by Cook’s large circle of friends while attending his Upvalley funeral. Apparently, Cook had lived and worked in the Oakville to St. Helena area for several years prior to his murder. Before Cook’s friends expressed their thoughts regarding motive, they all agreed Cook was well liked, affable and compassionate. But obviously, not everyone liked Cook. In fact, Walters hated Cook.
Based on the comments of his friends, the tragedy of 1899 began around 1895 when Cook worked at John Grigsby’s Oakville saloon. There, he frequently lent a sympathetic ear and gave counsel to a woman enduring an abusive marriage. Her name was Carrie Walters. Her husband, Jesse Walters, was the saloon’s property owner.
In retaliation, Walters falsely accused Cook of robbery and assault. Cook vehemently denied these claims during their frequent and heated arguments. Then in 1896, Walters made verbal and written threats declaring if Cook did not leave Napa County, he, in his official capacity as a deputy, would arrest Cook — or worse.
Shortly thereafter, Cook left Napa County. He drifted throughout the region but resided primarily in the San Francisco and Sacramento areas. As an additional safeguard, Cook called himself, “Al Doorman.” Yet he remained in contact with Carrie. They corresponded regularly by mail with Carrie assuming the alias of “Mrs. M. Fields.”
Although it was never verified or disproved, both Cook and Carrie said that they were distant cousins. Regardless of this possible family tie, Jesse became increasingly suspicious of her trips to Sacramento and San Francisco. As testified to in court, however, Carrie was never alone with Cook. She was either escorted to Sacramento by the Walters’s eldest son or stayed with and was chaperoned by Jesse’s niece who lived in San Francisco.
But Jesse’s jealousy and violent temper blinded him to those facts. Certain Carrie was unfaithful, Jesse enticed McKenzie with a $1,500 bribe to abuse the authority and funds of the local sheriff’s office to investigate.
McKenzie proceeded to interrogate postal workers about the “Doorman” and “Fields” addressed letters as well as postmarks and telegrams. McKenzie also seized a local photographer’s photo of Cook. McKenzie made several investigative trips to Sacramento and San Francisco on the Napa County’s time and dime, too. When questioned about these activities, McKenzie and Walters initially denied those charges until the evidence and witness testimony proved otherwise.
It was Carrie who unknowingly set the events of Jan. 5, 1899 in motion. Unaware of the secretive investigation and all of the information McKenzie and her husband had gleaned, Carrie asked McKenzie to hire her cousin, “A. Doorman.” Carrie told McKenzie her cousin, Cook, aka “Doorman,” needed a steady income to finance his return home to England. McKenzie was more than happy to oblige her request.
With that job offer, Cook returned to Napa on Dec. 30, 1898. When he disembarked the train at the Soscol Avenue and Third Street depot in Napa, McKenzie was waiting for him. Pretending to accidentally bump into Cook while supposedly there on some other official business, Cook’s “genial” employer casually walked Cook to a nearby hotel where McKenzie had paid for Cook’s room.
McKenzie also gave Cook the impression he did not recognize or have any prior knowledge of Cook. This deception lured and lulled Cook into a false sense of security which proved fatal for the Englishman.
Next week’s Memory Lane reveals the details of the trials and the fates of McKenzie, Jesse and Carrie Walters.