Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The McGlincy Family Massacre

The Chase

After visiting the scene and hearing the statements of George Schaible, Sterrett, and a neighbor who had witnessed the last part of the massacre while crouching behind a hedge near the McGlincy home, Sheriff Lyndon began plotting ways to capture Dunham before he had ventured too far from Campbell.  While gathering men to go on the search, Lyndon also had notices sent quickly to sheriffs and law enforcement officials in the surrounding counties:

Wanted for Murder

Wanted Poster for James C. Dunham

James C. Dunham killed Colonel R. P. McGlincy and wife and four other persons about 12 o'clock last night, May 26th, at Campbell.  He escaped on a small buckskin horse, which he will probably soon abandon.  He is an expert bicyclist, and may be on a wheel. About thirty-two years of age, nearly 6 feet high, weight 165 or 170 pounds, dark hair and mustache, blue eyes, medium complexion; when last seen he wore black suit, cutaway coat, black soft hat, number nine shoes, sharp pointed toes.  Walks very erect; chin recedes when he laughs.  Wire all information to me at my expense.

            J. Lyndon, Sheriff

Sheriff Lyndon had a hunch that Dunham would flee to the south, so he sent men to investigate the town of Los Gatos and the Santa Cruz Mountains that lie directly south of Campbell.

Two days after the massacre, at an area called Smiths Creek, directly east of Campbell, two men named Oscar Parker and Everett Snell were walking near a local hotel when, according to the Mercury, "they espied Dunham on the trail.  His horse was moving very slowly, and was evidently almost worn out.  Dunham seemed not in the least inclined to avoid them, and when they came near, a conversation was begunwhich soon convinced the two men that they were talking to the man most wanted of all.

"Dunham must have put a whole lot of socks on over his shoes.  This precaution he had doubtless taken to either cover up his blood-stained shoes or he had discarded his shoes and employed the socks for warmth.  His face had been severely beaten and scratched.  These injuries he had no doubt received in the struggle with James Wells."

Dunham asked the men for a good route to the San Joaquin Valley, an area southeast of Santa Clara County, and the men told him that the quickest route was via Smiths Creek itself -- but wanting to delay his progress, told Dunham not to go that way, as there were a lot of officers in the area looking for cattle thieves and he might be mistakenly apprehended as a rustler.

"Well, I don't want any of that," Dunham replied.

The men pointed him toward a longer route that would take him up steep Mt. Hamilton, and Dunham stated that he might want to rest briefly at the hotel.  Snell then headed back to the hotel to call the sheriff, and Dunham asked Parker who Snell was.  When Parker told him, Dunham, having known Snell previously, panicked and said he would not delay and headed off toward San Joaquin Valley immediately.  Parker noted the direction he left and hurried back to the hotel.  When Lyndon and his men arrived a few hours later, they were able to direct them to Dunham's escape route.  The posse searched into the night, but Dunham had escaped them.

The search began again the next morning and, according to the Mercury, "[the posse] ran across the buckskin horse which Dunham had been riding and which he took from the McGlincy Ranch on the night of the murder.  The horse was found leisurely grazing.  About 40 yards away were found evidences of Dunham having camped there the previous night.

"Having found the horse, Sheriff Lyndon pursued their search with renewed energy.  Bloodhounds were let loose and they followed the trail of Dunham to Smiths Creek, but here it became apparent that Dunham had thoroughly soaked his feet, which prevented the dogs from further following his trail.

"While thus searching, about an hour after the horse was found, the posse heard a gun shot, which seemed to come from the canyon about a mile and a half distant.  They went to the vicinity where the shot was fired and made a thorough search to ascertain if Dunham had shot himself.  The first thought of Sheriff Lyndon was that Dunham had committed suicide, but this was soon dispelled after a thorough search for a body had been made."

In the ensuing weeks, teams of men would scour the San Joaquin Valley and follow various dead-end leads and supposed sightings of the murderer, including a wild goose chase led by a man with the colorful name of Wood Wadams.

An image of Dunham, with a hat and mustache

Every possible option was used in the manhunt, as the Mercury poignantly reported in early June that members of the posse went "to the McGlincy ranch and got the old family dog.  It is stated that this dog was a pet with Dunham and his only friend upon the place.  It is thought that if anything could find [Dunham] this dog, who would not desert his friend because he was a murderer, could do it."  Two days later the newspaper reported that the dog returned, unsuccessful.

The Mercury eagerly reported every aspect of the case, one day's headlines waxing hopeful ("Officers in Hot Pursuit of Dunham" and "The Murderer Will Surely Be Headed Off") and then the following day proclaiming defeat ("All Trails Lost" and "Dunham in Mexico").

Eventually, it became apparent to all that Dunham had successfully escaped and, while the case remained open, hopes of ever finding the killer of six faded.

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