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THE LIGHTHOUSE MURDER

The Solution to the Case

 

HOW TO BEGIN

The Assignment Letter from Christopher’s Curiosities states the goals for your investigation: identify the person who killed Horatio Pike and uncover the motive for the murder.  

 

The Start Here guide also indicates that you should observe the following protocols during your investigation: (1) solve the case by developing the most likely theory that is supported by the evidence, (2) accept statements made by witnesses or other sources of information as accurate unless they are contradicted by other evidence, and (3) if an inconsistency arises during your investigation, be sure to check it against the other available evidence.

Investigating the Case

The Thorn Lighthouse was built to help ships avoid wrecking on the dangerous shoals off Cavanaugh Key. However, two shipwrecks occurred in a relatively short time before the death of Horatio Pike. Are these shipwrecks related to Pike’s death?

 

An interview conducted by Finnegan Drake with a hermit living on Cavanaugh Key provides important clues. The hermit saw the merchant ship Morella wreck upon the shoals. He also stated that it was a dark night, and he couldn't see the beacon from the lighthouse tower. There is no reason presented in the evidence as to why the hermit would not have been able to see the lighthouse beacon if it was functioning properly. So we have to ask ourselves, was the lighthouse beacon even shining on that night? 

 

The hermit also stated that he went the next morning to salvage cargo from the shipwreck but it had already been stripped clean. Notes from the captain of the Morella provide a list of the cargo on board the Morella when it wrecked. This manifest will be important.

A Discovery

A website address found on a postcard in the evidence box provides important clues in the investigation. Going to the website reveals that during renovations to the second keeper's residence, workers found a cache of hidden items including three bars of silver and an antique sextant engraved with the name of the merchant ship Morella. Someone who lived in the second keeper's residence at the time the Morella sank went to great lengths to hide those items and conceal their existence from the others on the key. Workers also found a letter dated September 1853 that stated: "H - They have grown concerned that you are no longer trustworthy. There has been talk that someone has been taking things without permission. There are even rumors that you have considered going to the authorities. Exercise extreme caution.  - From a friend."

 

A Conspiracy

The Morella and the Mignonette were owned by a group of wealthy local families in partnership with Cavanaugh Mercantile Company. The newspaper reveals that the Morella was insured through Lloyd's of London, as was commonplace for merchant ships in the 1800's. Cavanaugh Mercantile Company was paid for an insurance claim on the loss of the vessel and the cargo, including 300 bars of silver, 120 casks of wine, and 90 bales of tobacco. These quantities are much higher than the actual number of each item of cargo as reported by the captain of the Morella in his notes. 

So what might we conclude from this evidence? The owners of the Morella and the Mignonette were engaged in a conspiracy to over-insure their ships and valuable cargos. A co-conspirator at the Thorn Lighthouse turned off the lighthouse beacon at the most opportune time, so that the ships were wrecked on the shoals. The conspirators subsequently recovered as much of the shipwrecked cargo as they could through salvage and they collected the inflated insurance payouts from their insurer.

 

The unfortunate fates of the Morella and the Mignonette are the result of greed and avarice. Second keeper Horatio Plate was a key member of the conspiracy.  As the light keeper who was actually on duty during the time of both shipwrecks, he had the opportunity to turn off the lighthouse beacon and induce the ships to wreck on the shoals. The silver bars and the sextant from the Morella found hidden beneath the second keeper's residence implicate Pike.  

 

The Murder of Horatio Pike

How do we determine who killed Horatio Pike? We begin by reviewing the circumstances of the crime and establishing the time of his death.

 

Finnigan Drake’s investigation notes give us the details about the murder of second keeper Hortatio Pike. Drake found blood on the floor of the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse tower. He concluded that Pike was stabbed by the killer in that room. Drake then found a partial handprint in blood smudged on the lens of the lighthouse beacon. He presumed Pike first clenched his hands to his wound, covering them in his own blood. He then placed a hand against the lens, either to steady himself or to turn and flee from his attacker. Drake also found blood on the catwalk railing outside the lantern room as well as on the ladder descending to the balcony on the service room level of the lighthouse tower. He surmised that Pike fled to the catwalk and down the ladder, trying to escape. A small pool of blood and smudges around it at the base of the ladder suggest that Pike fell at least part way down the ladder and landed on the floor.

 

A handprint on the railing of the balcony suggests that Pike was able to pull himself to his feet. The railing is waist-high to an average-sized man. It is from this position that Pike went over the railing and fell to his death. While it is possible that he fell over the railing due to his injured state, it is more likely that he was pushed by his assailant and his body weight carried him the rest of the way over.  In the fall, Pike suffered fatal injuries.

 

Time of Death

When did this gruesome crime occur? Horatio Pike's body was found at the base of the lighthouse tower at 10:35 pm by Elizabeth Yancey. Other than the killer, no one observed Pike’s fatal fall. However, the circumstances of his death provide an approximate time of death. A rainstorm on the night of Pike’s murder began at 9:52 pm. The rain ended at 10:23 pm. The evidence notes that Pike's body and his clothing were completely dry. If Pike had been pushed from the lighthouse tower before the rainstorm event, his body and his clothing would have been wet.  Therefore, Horatio Pike’s death must have occurred after 10:23 pm but before 10:35 pm, the time that he was found by Elizabeth Yancey. But who was the killer?

 

Ivana Albers

Ivana did not want to live on Cavanaugh Key, but had no choice when her husband, Claude Albers, accepted a position as caretaker of the lighthouse. She then blamed the death of her infant son or her husband and the lighthouse keepers, Horatio Pike and Shawn Yancey. This could provide motive for the murder of Horatio Pike.  However, Ivana had suffered a significant injury to her left arm, as evidenced by the physician's notes contained in the evidence. Given the state of her arm after that injury, it is not possible that Ivana could have carried out the acts committed by the killer and then rowed the rowboat from the workshop to Breakwater Point where it was found the next day with the murder weapon in the bottom of the boat.

 

Claude Albers

Claude was the person who found the rowboat at Breakwater Point and discovered the murder weapon, a kitchen knife, inside the boat on the morning after Horatio Pike was killed. Claude did not hide these facts or dispose of the murder weapon. Instead, he reported the discoveries to Finnegan Drake (who was investigating the murder) and kept the murder weapon. If Claude were the killer, he would not have reported these facts to Drake. On the contrary, Claude would have been motivated to conceal this information and dispose of the murder weapon.

 

The fact that the murder weapon was a kitchen knife from the second keeper's residence is also an important clue. This reveals that the murder was pre-planned and not an impulsive act of passion. The killer had to obtain the knife from the residence and bring it to the lighthouse tower to use it to kill Horatio Pike.

 

Anne Pike

Anne was the daughter of the victim, Horatio Pike. Anne did not fare well living in isolation on Cavanaugh Key, but was forced to return there after attending boarding school because she had no other options. In her interview with Finnegan Drake, Anne stated that since her father had died, she and her mother could finally move back to Forrest City and receive a pension and death benefit from the government. This could provide a motive for murder.

 

However, notes from Drake’s interview of Leopold Parker indicate that after Parker left the company of Bayliss and Yancey on the night of the murder, Parker found a note suggesting a romantic interlude at the old fishing camp on the key with a resident of the island. In the evidence is a photo with a note written on it revealing that Anne Pike was the person who went to the fishing camp that night with Leopold Parker.

 

The map of Cavanaugh Key shows the fishing camp is on the far west end of the island. It began raining while Parker and Anne Pike were at the fishing camp. When the rain stopped, they began walking back toward the residences. They had walked only a few dozen yards from the lighthouse tower was struck by lightning. We know from the keepers log that it stopped raining at 10:23 pm and the lightning struck the White House at 10:29 pm.  If Anne Pike was on the west end of the island when the rain stopped and the lightning struck the lighthouse, she could not have been present at the lighthouse to kill Horatio Pike.

 

Shawn Yancey

Yancey was engaged in an activity that placed him on the other side of the key far away from the lighthouse when Pike was killed. Mary Pike told Finnegan Drake that shortly before the rain began on the night Horatio Pike died, Mary was in her residence and heard someone yelling. A minute later she saw Shawn Yancey storm past her residence, heading in the direction of the cistern and the west cottage. He looked very angry and was carrying a shotgun. However, the evidence reveals that Horatio Pike was stabbed before he fell from the lighthouse tower, not shot. The interview of Leopold Parker also reveals that he and Anne Pike heard a shotgun blast to their south when they were leaving the fishing camp. In her interview, Anne stated that she went walking the next day after her father had died along the south side of the key past Secret Beach and came upon a patch that was covered in blood. The interview of Shawn Yancey provides a resolution of these strange facts. When Finnegan Drake interviewed him, Yancey was skinning a fox. He commented that the pelt was not in good enough condition to sell. 

The hermit also commented in his interview that the residents of the lighthouse had previously lost chickens to foxes that live on the island. We can conclude that Yancey observed a fox in or near the chicken house just before he was seen by Mary Pike storming off with his shotgun. He tracked down the fox and killed it, bringing the carcass back to his residence. Since Yancey was on the west end of the island when he fired his shotgun just after the rain stopped as stated by Leopold Parker, Yancey could not have been at the lighthouse tower to kill Horatio Pike.

 

Mary Pike

Mary was initially unhappy with being isolated on Cavanaugh Key, but grew to enjoy the solitude of her new life. Captain Bayliss stated that he observed Mary Pike sneaking around outside and very late hours more than once during his visits to the island. Whether Mary was engaged in an illicit rendezvous, or some other covert activity, he could not say. 

 

If Mary were engaged in an illicit affair, this could provide motive for murder. However, by all accounts, Mary Pike was inconsolable after the death of her husband and had been largely bedridden since he was killed. When Finnegan Drake interviewed Mary at her residence, she was disheveled and of quite poor appearance. Further, she appeared gaunt and ashen. These are not characteristics that would easily be saved by a murderous wife trying to conceal her guilt in a premeditated homicide.

 

Captain Bayliss

John Bayliss was the captain of the Ajax. Like the Morella and the Mignonette, the Ajax was owned and operated by a consortium of wealthy Forrest City families in partnership with the Cavanaugh Mercantile Company, the same groups that conspired to cause the shipwreck of those vessels, salvage their wrecked cargos, and defraud their insurer.

 

Bayliss visited the lightkeepers on Cavanaugh Key at least several times a year, often staying overnight on Cavanaugh Key after the Ajax delivered supplies. On the night of Pike’s murder, Captain Bayliss enjoyed a meal with the lightkeepers and their families and then a recital on the piano by Anne Pike. Afterward, the men in the group went to the east cottage to share a bottle of whiskey. Horatio Pike left that gathering just before seven to begin a shift in the lighthouse tower. Bayliss, Parker, and Yancey remained and played cards until a quarter past eight. The evidence is silent as to Bayliss’ whereabouts after 8:15 pm. Although we know that he was lodging in the west cottage, no one reports observing Bayliss after 8:15 pm. Bayliss himself stated that shortly after the lightning struck the lighthouse tower, he heard the screams of a woman, arrived at the base of the lighthouse, and observed the broken body of Horatio Pike.

 

What Captain Bayliss failed to mention was that he himself had climbed the stairs of the lighthouse tower, stabbed Horatio Pike with a bone-handled kitchen knife he took from the second keeper's residence, and then pushed Pike from the top of the lighthouse to his death below.

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