Mystery of murdered miner never solved

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“Old men’s prayers for death are lying prayers, in which they abuse old age and long extent of life. But when death draws near, not one is willing to die, and age is no longer a burden to them.” __Euripides (438 B.C.)

Clement S. Parks lived alone in an old two-story house on South Second Street in Cripple Creek in the winter of 1944. The building had 10 rooms but he kept to only three of them. He had arrived in the mining district in the heyday of 1896 and worked at the Portland for 32 years, but in 1928, his failing vision forced him to retire. His vision continued to falter quickly.

By 1944, as he had aged, he became increasingly more feeble and his sight had slipped so far that he could barely tell daylight from dark. In his eighties, the retired miner came to depend on the kindness and generous nature of his neighbors.

At least twice a week, his neighbor W. R. Thumback, an elderly man himself, would saunter by to help Parks in obtaining food and essentials, and with whatever the blind old man needed.

On the morning of Dec. 28, 1944, when Thumback came calling, his friend’s outside door was unlocked when he entered at 7 a.m. Parks, the harmless, old, blind miner that was not known to have an enemy, was found dead in his bed, shot once through the head.

Thumback had notified Mrs. A. W. Oliver, in charge of the Teller County welfare office, who in turn called A.C. Denman, coroner, who went to house immediately and found Park’s body still warm, according to a paper written for the Denver Westerners by Carl F. Mathews in 1962. Mathews was the former superintendent of the Bureau of Identification for Colorado Springs Police Department.

“Sheriff Cecil Markley and Police Chief Steve Playford said they had a murder mystery in which they found no clues. At the end of a day’s work on the case they had no idea who fired the shot,” wrote Mathews.

“Markley said an extensive search failed to reveal the presence of a gun, thus putting the question of suicide out of the question. In the hip pocket of Park’s trousers, which hung at the head of the bed, the officers found a wallet containing $445.

The bullet, a .38 caliber, had passed through the man’s head and the officers found it embedded in the wall. The shot had evidently been fired from the direction of the outside door. Parks was not believed to have had any money other than that in his pocket, the officers said, nor anything else of value… They said it would not have been necessary for anyone to kill him to rob him.”

According to reports, both officers said that while Thumback had been questioned at length, no suspicion fell on him. The Sheriff and the Police Chief made a thorough search of the entire building but nothing in fingerprints, tracks other indications had been found that would throw any light on the mystery. Markley said he could find no grounds for supposing that treasure of any kind was hidden in the old building.

A.C. Denman, coroner, held an inquest at Law Mortuary in Cripple Creek on Dec. 29 and reached the conclusion that Parks had come to his death by gunshot wound to the head, inflicted by a person or persons unknown, and that his death was felonious.

On Sunday, January 8,1945, Sheriff Markley said “everything is at a standstill,” in efforts to solve the case. According to all subsequent reports, nothing more was ever learned. To this day, there is no clear picture who, or why, someone would choose to shoot a blind, feeble, retired miner, more than eighty-years-old, in the head as he lay in his own bed.