Jun 16, 2016

Winnemucca, Nevada's murder history

Winnemucca, Nevada is a small town located in the northern part of the state, approximately two-and-a-half hours northeast of Reno. It's a sort of picturesque little town, with a lot of money made from the mining industry. However, the Norman Rockwell-like appearance can be deceiving. This high-desert town has numerous connections with serial killers -- both notorious and obscure. It's also been the setting to more than one horrifying act of homicidal violence, as well as a destination that has been visited by more than one violent criminal.

Like every historic town in the United States, Winnemucca's distant history has its dark spots. One of the most infamous moments of great bloodshed in this region is also a huge part of U.S. history: The Battle of Kelley Creek. This notorious massacre took place in 1911, between Shoshone Native Americans and U.S. officials, over the murders of four police detectives. Ultimately, nearly a dozen people died in a horrifyingly bloody "battle."

In the year 1962, a 24-year-old Indiana man named David B. Niccum was arrested in Winnemucca -- along with a 16-year-old African-American girl. The girl's race made headlines at the time of the arrest because Niccum, a white man, had professed his love for the teenage girl during a time when interracial dating was absolutely taboo. However, it wasn't their interracial relationship, or even the difference in their ages, which got them arrested. In fact, David B. Niccum and his teenage companion were on the run from police from the state of Indiana. Just days before their arrest in Winnemucca, Nevada, Niccum coldly murdered three of the teenage girl's family members: Her mother, her father and her blind, elderly aunt. All three family members of the 16-year-old girl were shot to death. When the unlikely couple was arrested, the teenage girl told police that she was abducted against her will by the 24-year-old man. Come to find out, Niccum had attended bible study classes in her home, which is where he developed an unhealthy obsession with the teen. No reports have ever touched up on exactly why the man and his teenage captive were in Winnemucca.

During the late 1970s, a man known as "The Hermit," was arrested on accusations that he murdered three different people. In fact, the murders were committed over a span of at least two different incidents, making the man named Ronald Bristlewolf a serial killer. "The Hermit," was a well-known character who lived in the desert outside Winnemucca, Nevada. Up until he was arrested for the three murders that he committed, he was known by miners in the area as a strange and quiet man who was "afraid of guns," and who befriended wild horses in the region. Little did the miners know, however, Bristlewolf was actually a former mental hospital patient who was not afraid of violence. Among the man's three victims were a married couple and another Winnemucca resident by the name of Peter Cachenaut. His final victim's headstone can still be found in the Winnemucca Cemetery.

In 1982 a man by the name of Claude Dallas [pictured above] was arrested just north of Winnemucca, where he had been hiding out as a fugitive from justice. Dallas was wanted on accusations that he murdered two law enforcement officers in the state of Idaho. Not only did the man choose Winnemucca as a location to hide from authorities, he decided to bury the body of one of his victims in the same area. That homicide victim was Bill Pogue, a man who had once served as the chief of police for the Winnemucca Police Department. It's not known if Claude Dallas was aware of all the ties to Winnemucca that existed between he and one of his victims, but it could all just be coincidence. He was convicted of manslaughter in the same year of his arrest, but the self-styled mountain man and so-called "folk hero," escaped from prison in 1986 -- four years after his conviction. He was apprehended approximately a year later, and was placed in a more secure prison. Ultimately, Claude Dallas was released from prison in 2005, and has not since reoffended.

In 1987, notorious serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells strangled one of his numerous victims near
Winnemucca, Nevada. Her name was Stephanie Stroh, [pictured right] a young college coed who had been hitchhiking across the U.S., during a break from her studies. Sells claimed that he picked up Stroh near Wells, promising that he'd drive her to Reno. However, he actually took her somewhere around Winnemucca, where he assaulted and strangled her to death. The prolific serial killer has claimed that he encased her body in concrete and disposed of it, but she has never been found. Could she be somewhere in the desert wilderness surrounding Winnemucca, Nevada? Or was Tommy Lynn Sells blowing smoke? This horrifying murder wasn't Sells's only connection to Winnemucca. He also lived in the town for a short time, and even worked for a roofing company here.

In 2003, a Winnemucca/Golconda man was brutally murdered by his own wife, and the woman seemed to evade justice for approximately 12 years before she was finally arrested. Fifty-year-old James Erwin was stabbed repeatedly in the chest with a carving knife. His wife, 57-year-old Pam Erwin, wielded the weapon that took his life. When she was done murdering the man, she and a male accomplice attempted to encase his body in concrete before burying him in a shallow grave. After being interrogated just this year, Pam Erwin admitted to her role in the disappearance and death of her hubby, and she led authorities to where they could locate his remains.

Famed killer and pathological liar Jodi Arias made a stop in Winnemucca just hours after she violently murdered her former lover Travis Alexander. She was at the Flying J station, where she presumably gassed up and got snacks for her little road trip after killing Travis. It's kind of fascinating to imagine that she could have destroyed or disposed of evidence while traveling. Could some of that possible evidence be in Winnemucca?

The community of Winnemucca once encountered a female spree-killer. Elko woman Elizabeth Powell was convicted of more than one murder associated with her addiction to drugs and the lifestyle that surrounded her drug use. In a span of one or two days, the 33-year-old woman (in 1998) shot a woman to death in her Grass Valley home, all over a feud they had over a stolen knife. Following the murder of the Grass Valley woman, Powell and a male accomplice kidnapped a man by the name of Curtis Moss. Moss was transported by the murderous duo just outside Winnemucca on Highway 95 (going toward Paradise Ranchos). It was there that Elizabeth Powell relished in shooting the man to death over nothing more than a drug debt. Curtis Moss was made to run while the 33-year-old woman pumped him full of bullets from her handgun.

Do you know of any murderous history surrounding the Winnemucca area? Sound off in the comments section!
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