Man charged in 1980 killing dies before going to trial - East Idaho News
Crime Watch

Man charged in 1980 killing dies before going to trial

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CHALLIS — One of Idaho’s oldest murder cases has come to a close as the man charged with the crime has died awaiting trial.

Walter Mason spent decades on the run after allegedly shooting and killing Daniel Mason Woolley in 1980 outside a small-town bar. Authorities finally found Mason in October 2019 living under the alias Walter James Allison, but Mason’s failing health over the past years had put any trial on hold.

A court document obtained by filed on Thursday by the Idaho Attorney Generals Office shows Mason died while in the care of State Hospital South in Blackfoot. The document does not detail the day or cause of death.

The shooting took place outside the Sport Club bar in Clayton, wounding one man and leaving Woolley dead. The remote town near the Salmon River had a population of 43 in 1980, and memories of Woolley’s death have become a local legend.

By the time authorities arrived at the bar, Mason was gone, and authorities were left with just a name.

As time passed on, a Texas woman found a Facebook post to help solve Idaho’s cold cases, according to the Associated Press. The woman noted the suspect looked a lot like her mother’s common-law husband, but with a different name — Walter Allison.

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She contacted Mason’s family and authorities. He was arrested at his East County, Texas, home and reportedly confessed to the 1980s killing of Woolley but called it self-defense, according to the AP.

Shortly after his extradition back to Idaho to face the charge of first-degree murder, a judge determined Mason’s health and lack of mental fitness made him unfit for trial and committed him to State Hospital South in Blackfoot. Mason never made it to an arraignment to enter a plea on the case.

Additional details about Mason’s death were not immediately available. will update this story once more information comes to light.

RELATED | Attorney: Due to age and health problems, Walter Mason may never face a jury trial