“In 1896 Napoleon Russell settled in 60-24 in a log cabin on the tote-road running through that township. Nearby on the shore of a lake lived John Bacon, alone, and farther down the lake was the cabin of Peter McKenna, known as ‘One-eyed-Pete’. Pete because he had lost one eye. One-eyed Pete had a bad record. He had the reputation of stealing from his neighbors. It was said that he would shoot the locks off settler’s cabins and he would go in and help himself. Bacon, having missed flour and other household necessities, naturally suspected McKenna, and the two were not friends.
One Sunday morning, the Russell family wishing to go to Grand Rapids, Russell asked Bacon to look after his property until their return, a matter of several days. A couple of days later, neighbors passing Russell place found that the house had been burned to the ground. Arriving in Grand Rapids, they notified the owners, who hurried out to the homestead and confirmed the bad news.
In the debris and ashes some bones were found and were taken by the coroner to Grand Rapids, together with a match safe and a knife, both known to have been the property of Bacon. Under the bones had been found an unburned piece of cloth which was identified as goods from Bacon’s mackinaw coat. Still further confirming the identity of the victim, the key of the Russell chicken coop was found with the remains. One-eyed Pete was at once arrested and charged with the murder of John Bacon.
To prove that a person is guilty, the state must first of all prove that a murder has been committed, and therein lay the downfall of the prosecution. The jury found that the evidence of Bacon’s death was not sufficient to convict, and One-eyed Pete was freed.
Shortly after the verdict was returned, McKenna was talkative drunk, and knowing that a person cannot be tried twice for the same offense, he talked frankly and openly. He said he had passed the Russell homestead on Monday morning and seen Bacon there splitting wood. They got into an argument and he claimed that Bacon attacked him, whereupon he shot Bacon in self defense. Then, he said, he dragged the body into the Russell house, piled wood around it, soaked the premises with kerosene oil, and set the building afire.
His garrulity brough quick action on the part of the officials. He was immediately arrested on a charge of burning a building with a human being in it, convicted, and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of seven years.
The Great Northern Railroad had alid some script of Mckenna’s claim in 60-24, which was covered with valuable pine and was suspected of being underlaid with iron ore, and while he was in jail the title of the claim was settled. McKenna sold the timber for $1,950, one half of which immediately went to pay the expenses of his defense and settle the title to his property. The balance McKenna received on his release from prison, and, not knowing what to do with it just then, he instructed it to a friend of his by the name of Steve Hicks. Hicks absconded with the money, and shortly afterward was himself in trouble, charged with the murder of Sam Christie.”
– page 56