Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Jury Finds Willits Housewife Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder After Gunning Down Her Husband—MendoThrowback


Combing newspaper archives, MendoFever will work hard to provide a MendoThrowback every day of the calendar year to remind residents of days long gone.  This is the 2nd in our historical examination of Yokum’s crime and we will continue to revisit this unforgettable Mendocino County murder case.

29-year-old Imogene Yokum exits a Mendocino County Courthouse elevator accompanied by jail matron Sarah Mason preparing for the opening day of her murder trial. She stands accused of the shooting death of her 32-year-old husband after an argument [Picture from the Monday, February 6, 1956, of the Ukiah Daily Journal]

66-years-ago today, Imogene Yokum, a 28-year-old Willits housewife, and mother of four, was found guilty of second-degree murder after a jury deliberated her culpability for approximately two hours facing. As a result of the verdict, Yokum could spend up to five years in prison.

On December 6, 1955, housewife and mother-of-four grabbed a 30-30 caliber rifle and fired one shot, severing her husband’s jugular, and killing him almost instantly. This crime reportedly occurred in front of guests two guests during a night of drinking

An article in the Ukiah Daily Journal’s February 9, 1956 issue written by Glenn Erickson provided an overview of the day the Yokum verdict was announced at the Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah.

The trial took only three days and Yokum’s defense attorney John Golden argued that Yokum’s firing of a gun at her husband was the result of multiple occasions of physical and emotional abuse.

While the verdict was read, Yokum reportedly “waited stolidly for the verdict, lips pursing, arms folded and hands over her eyes as though breathing a fervent and silent prayer.” Once she was found guilty, Defense Attorney Golden said he would be moving for a retrial before Judge Hale McCowen on that day.

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Before the jury began their deliberation, Judge McCowen provided an overview of the potential verdicts in the case. The jury actually returned after an hour to review their options which was “taken by supporters of Mrs. Yokum that the jury would perhaps reduce the charge to manslaughter if it did indeed find the dark-haired and attractive Willits housewife guilty.”

In closing arguments to the jury, the District Attorney described to the jury how the rifle was shot at “the eye and shoulder level” leading investigators to believe it was not an accident.

Defense Attorney Golden reminded jurors of a “barroom battle between the Yokums in which her hand had turned a pool table over onto her foot, breaking it.” The night Mrs. Yokum’s husband died, the two were reportedly arguing over whether their children should attend Sunday School, and he said, “I’ll take them (the children) down to the barroom and turn them loose before I’ll let them go to that church.”

Previous Coverage

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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