The Frightening Murders at Lava Lake

Image via That Oregon Life

Image via That Oregon Life

Reanna Ventresca, Writer

In April 1924, the remains of Edward Nickols, Roy Wilson, and Dewey Morris were found under the ice at Lava Lake, south of Bend, Oregon.

In 1923, Edward, Roy, and Dewey stayed at a cabin close to Lake Lava. The cabin belonged to Ed Logan; a logger who lived in Bend. In exchange for staying there, they were supposed to look after Ed’s foxes that he was raising to skin.

Roy and Dewey worked for a logging company called Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company. It was also believed that they made moonshine on the side. Around Christmas time, Roy and Edward returned home to sell their furs of the animals they had caught. Wilson said to his mom that they would return in February. On January 15th, Allen Willcoxen stayed at the same cabin for a night on his way to Lake Lava. He reported that all the men were in good spirits and health. He was the last person to ever see them alive.

By April of the next year, no one had heard from the three. The people around town grew worried and sent a search party to find them. Owen Morris, Hervey D. Innis, and Pearl Lynes, who all knew the area well, went to search for them. When they found the cabin, it appeared as though it had been abandoned for months. A meal that had molded over was sitting on the table and magazines scattered the floor. Rifles, traps, and thick clothing were found inside. They went out to the barn and found a bloodied hammer, which was proof that something probably happened to them. They found food in the foxes’ pen, but the foxes were nowhere in sight. 

The next day, after no luck in finding them, Sheriff Clarence Adams, who was very familiar with the layout of Lake Lava, joined the search. The search party headed towards the lake. Once there, they found a sled that was covered in blood, human blood, and a small trail leading to the center of the lake. They noticed that a hole had been cut in the ice covering the lake and had refrozen. There also appeared to be human hair in the ice.

The following day, they cut through the ice and found that their worst fears were true. The bodies of Nickols, Wilson, and Morris floated to the surface, all wrapped in canvas. Nickols’ cause of death was determined to be a gun wound in his right shoulder and ear. Wilson had been hit with a hammer and shot in his left arm, and Morris had been shot in his side and his jaw had been shattered.

The next day, the scene was flooded with investigators and the suspicion immediately fell on the Lake Lodge employee, Lee Collins, who had previously fought with Nickols. The previous summer, Collins had been charged with theft. Investigators never found enough evidence to convict Collins, so he was let off of suspicion. However, Charles Kimzey, who had also fought with Nickols, had previously poisoned a man named Harrison and threw him in a well to die. Thankfully Harrison survived, but Kimzey was never found. Their suspect regarding this case was now Charles Kimzey. As word spread of the murders, the police found out that Kimzey had previously sworn to get revenge on Nickols for something he had done.

Despite many efforts, Kimzey was nowhere to be found. Police looked for Kimzey for four years. People reported seeing him in different places multiple times, but police were never able to successfully track him down. In years to follow, the case was slowly forgotten. However, in 1933, the case reopened, and the search went on for Kimzey. Kimzey was found on March 10, 1933, in Montana and was charged with a life sentence for attempting to murder Harrison. However, he was never charged with the murders at Lave Lake due to a lack of evidence. Citizens still believed that he was the murderer and were relieved that he was put behind bars. To this day, this case remains a mystery, and may never be solved.