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Looking back: Gun thieves, fire at firework factory and murder suspect escapes jail

Looking Back

IDAHO FALLS — EastIdahoNews.com is looking back at what life was like during the week of May 2 to May 8 in east Idaho history.

1900-1925

POCATELLO — Burglars broke into a hardware store and stole 13 revolvers, The Pocatello Tribune reported on May 5, 1902.

The robbery happened at Norman Belcher’s store on East Center Street in Pocatello. Officers believed the burglary was “committed probably just before daylight” and “there were not less than three men mixed up in it.”

“They broke out a front window, went in and took the revolvers,” the article explained. “Very probably one man watched the policeman, one waited outside and a third man gathered up the revolvers and passed them out to the man waiting at the door.”

The stolen revolvers were valued at $150 total. The robbery wasn’t discovered until Belcher arrived to open his store in the morning.

1926-1950

IDAHO FALLS — A fireworks factory caught fire once again, according to The Rigby Star.

The fire followed an explosion at the Intermountain Fireworks Company, south of Idaho Falls on May 5, 1935. The fire resulted in “severe arm, head and face burns” to William Blaser. Several hundreds of dollars in damage was done to buildings and contents.

“The fire, believed to have been set by small children, spread to buildings of the company stored with explosives, remnants of a large stock that was almost completely destroyed about two years ago by fire and explosions that claimed the lives of four people,” the local paper said.

The fire “leveled” three of the four buildings that remained from the disaster two years prior.

1951-1975

BURLEY — A “young war veteran” standing trial for the murder of his mother escaped from the county jail, the Idaho State Journal announced on May 8, 1952.

Searle M. Ward, 25, “hacked his way through a jail cell wall, dropped one story through an unused elevator shaft (with a mattress to protect himself) and escaped … about 2 a.m.”

Cassia County Sheriff Saul Clarke ordered a five-state alert for the Idahoan.

“It was believed that the only weapons the prisoner had were two butcher knives, which were reported missing from the jail kitchen,” the Idaho State Journal mentioned.

Ward was ordered to face a murder charge despite testimony by state psychiatrists who said during a preliminary hearing that Ward was insane.

He was arrested in Arizona on March 4, 1952, by a state patrolman who found the body of Ward’s mother “stuffed in his car trunk.” The woman had been shot twice with a .22 caliber rifle.

“A panel of 174 prospective jurors was all but exhausted during the first three days on Ward’s trial,” the article stated. “County Coroner Vern McCullough was directed to call up an additional panel of 32.”

1976-2000

PRESTON — A 17-year-old Preston man was found dead in his submerged vehicle after it was pulled from Bear River.

The Preston Citizen said on May 6, 1976, David Eames, apparently drowned after his vehicle went off the Oneida Narrows Road. He was last seen at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night when he asked his parents if he could take their 1962 Dodge pickup. The truck was found the following afternoon.

“Franklin County sheriff’s department officials said the vehicle was apparently speeding when it went off the narrow, private road maintained by Utah Power and Light Company, and into the river,” the paper explained.

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