A 20-year-old Milton man who attempted to extort money from his wealthy uncle in April 1909 foiled his own scheme when he lost his nerve and confessed that a kidnapping plot with himself as the victim was a complete hoax.
Sam A. Miller, president of the Milton nursery company and former mayor of Milton, received an unsigned letter declaring a mysterious “we” had kidnapped his nephew, Leonard A. Raup, and were holding him for $1,200 ransom. Miller was directed to take the ransom to a railroad track east of Milton at 11 p.m. on April 5, 1909, to a point where he would find a dim light. He was to deposit the money there and turn out the light, then return home to wait for his nephew’s release before reporting the incident to police. Failure to comply with the instructions would result in the burning death of Raup and also the death of Miller’s young daughter.
Miller immediately dispatched a copy of the letter to Umatilla County Sheriff Til Taylor, then withdrew the ransom money from his bank with every intention of complying with the kidnappers’ demands. Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Bert Wilson drove to the scene of the ransom drop to investigate. They returned to Miller’s house just before the kidnap victim appeared at 8:15 p.m.
Raup declared he left his boarding house April 3 and was on his way to town to buy tobacco when he was kidnapped by two Freewater men, who took him to a straw stack. He escaped, he said, while his kidnappers were drinking and playing cards.
But Raup’s guilty conscience got the better of him. He came up with the kidnapping scheme himself, wrote the ransom letter and hid for two days in a deserted house on his grandfather’s property. But a dust and wind storm the day of the ransom drop-off was too much for Raup’s nerves, he confessed to a representative of the East Oregonian during an interview.
Raup said he had found himself in a bit of a financial difficulty, and came up with a scheme to get money from his uncle to square his accounts. He had planned to skip town if the ransom scheme failed. He denied any intention to hurt his cousin, and said he intended to make a full confession to his uncle the night of the ransom drop-off but manufactured his escape story when he found law enforcement was already involved.
Raup was arrested by Sheriff Taylor and brought to the jail in Pendleton to await action of the grand jury. He pled guilty to attempting to extort money from his uncle on April 15.