Rossi case: The proximate instigation

Rossi Post 2.3:  What did Rossi encounter when he returned home that compelled him to shoot Clarence Dahlquist?  Frankly, I’m struggling with how to write up this section of the Rossi story.  In the process I’ve now (below) more or less completely rewritten this post.  I beg the reader’s forgiveness!  This is a work in progress, and I’m still trying to figure out exactly how best to offer it to you.  There’s a lot of material to integrate.

— See Roster of Rossi posts

Rossi Herman house - 1916 - UofI

Herman and Mabel Rossi’s home on Cedar St. in Wallace; Herman had the home built for Mabel in 1906, the year they were married (PHOTO CREDIT:  Barnard-Stockbridge collection, Special Collections & Archives, University of Idaho Library)


First, I think, another cautionary word to readers is in order:  What follows is a kind of composite account of the Herman Rossi’s return to the City of Wallace and to the home he shared with his wife, young Mabel.  I’ve compiled this account from three main sources: namely, Rossi’s own testimony at his trial, Ruth Melville’s testimony, and attorney John P. Gray’s opening statement to the jury.  The three speakers were not always entirely consistent regarding the details.  Moreover, newspaper accounts of what each speaker had to say differed too.  This is variation on two planes!  I’ve done the best I could to pull together these disparate sources into a single plausible storyline.  But the result, I’m afraid, is inevitably going to be open to dispute.  Let the reader therefore beware.

Herman J. Rossi returned from Boise to Wallace on June 30th – it was a Friday, although Rossi, from the witness stand, said he couldn’t recall what day of the week it was.  For some reason (which I don’t know) his return trip to Wallace had taken him to, or via, the neighboring town of Osburn.  He’d then come by car to Wallace, accompanied by “Jas. A. Wayne” and Walter H. Hanson, arriving around noon.  Rossi went directly to his office to attend to “urgent business matters”; there, he “spent one of the busiest afternoons of his life.”  So preoccupied was he that he didn’t telephone his home.  At about six p.m. he started for home.  Before leaving the office, however, Rossi asked Abe Wyman, his office manager, “how things were at [his] home.”  Said Rossi from the stand:

He told me that there had been some drinking and that he understood they had been raising hell.  I asked him who had been there.  He replied that he did not know all of them but had been informed that Dahlquist had taken booze to the house.

Rossi then, accompanied by a “Mr. Brainard,” walked the few blocks down Cedar St. to his home at Cedar and Third Streets.  He entered the house alone and he at first saw no one.  He then found Ruth Melville in the kitchen and asked her where Mrs. Rossi was.  She said upstairs.  Rossi proceeded upstairs.  There he found the bedroom’s door open and a wrenchingly dissolute scene therein.  The glass in a picture frame on the wall had been broken, the bed’s brass bedstead had been “bent down,” and his young wife was lying atop the bed in a drunken stupor.  She wore a sleeveless silk nightgown that “hung low.”  Rossi noticed “a black mark about the size of a dollar on her neck above her left shoulder.”  This was the first time in their 10-year marriage he’d been confronted with the definite probability of infidelity on Mabel’s part.  He rushed to the bed, now becoming aware of more marks on her neck and body.

Rossi insurance and Elks temple - UofI

Herman J. Rossi’s insurance office, downtown Wallace (PHOTO CREDIT:  Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, Special Collections & Archives, University of Idaho Library)

Rossi’s grabbed his wife and demanded to know who had been with her.  He slapped her, and she begged him, “Daddy, don’t hit me.”  Rossi repeatedly demanded she give him a name.  Finally, Mabel relented.

“Gabey Dahlquist has been here,” she blurted out, “but if he did anything to me, it was while I was drunk.”

In the melee, Rossi tore her gown from her and proceeded to try to throw her out of the house.  Ruth Melville by now had come up to the bedroom.  She intervened.   The outraged Rossi then turned his anger on the maid.  He seized her by the throat and implored her:

“Ruth Melville, I thought you were my friend.  Why did you permit my house to be outraged?  Why did you not call in some of my friends?”

For her part, Melville responded, “Mr. Rossi, I am not mistress of your house.  I’ll quit, now, but you mustn’t strike her.”

Rossi then asked Melville how long “that cur” had been in the house.  Melville replied, “Two nights and a day.”

Further enraged, Rossi then turn his hostility once again back to Mabel.  This time she managed to elude Rossi,  she slipped into a room and barred the door.

Rossi then, in a daze, went downstairs to the kitchen and seated himself at the kitchen table.  Melville asked if he’d like some coffee, but he didn’t seem to hear her.  She poured him a cup and he gulped it down, unheedful that it was fresh from the fire and very hot.  She filled his cup again and he drained it again.

Rossi then left his home and headed for downtown, seeking a confrontation with Gabe Dahlquist.

Melville asked him where he was going.  Rossi muttered something in reply that she couldn’t make out.

Such, more or less, were the events that immediately preceded the shooting.  I think.

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3 Responses to Rossi case: The proximate instigation

  1. ronroizen9 says:

    Comment to readers: I realized this morning that I need to completely rework this post and its coverage of Rossi’s return to his home. When the revised version is completed you’ll see why. Like I said, this is a work in progress. Thanks for your patience. — Ron

  2. Charley Birschbach says:

    Herman’s picture shows a “manly” man What does the “femme fatal” Mabel look like?
    Juicy story needs more pics.

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