Tunnel 13 on the Siskiyou Summit marks the site of the “last great train robbery,” in which four trainmen were murdered in 1923. A wreath over the tunnel entrance commemorates their deaths. - Bill Miller

The 'Wizard of Berkley' & the D'Autremont brothers

When ex-con Ray D'Autremont was asked in 1973 whether he was sorry for the murders he committed a half-century earlier, he paused, then dodged the question.

"A wise man once said that those who find comfort in regret should regret a great deal," said Ray. "I regret all the lamentable and unchangeable things in everyone's life, and that's all I have to say at this moment about regret."

Most Southern Oregonians are familiar with the story of "America's last great train robbery" in 1923, when twins Ray and Roy D'Autremont, 23, and their 19-year-old brother, Hugh, botched the robbery of a "Gold Train" that carried no gold, and murdered four trainmen on the Siskiyou Summit near Tunnel 13.

After that, the only thing the brothers did right was avoid being captured for nearly four years. They probably would have gotten away with it for the rest of their lives if it weren't for the meticulous "Wizard of Berkeley."

The "Wizard," Edward O. Heinrich, was a pioneer in using forensic science to solve criminal cases and a scientist working in a laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.

Local law enforcement officials were stumped. They had no idea who they were looking for, and they needed help.

The few pieces of evidence authorities had were sent to Heinrich, who in just a few weeks provided an amazingly accurate portrait of their fugitives and also gave them a name.

From the single pair of coveralls left at the scene and testimony of surviving witnesses, Heinrich could tell them their man was white, with light complexion and medium-brown hair. He had light-brown eyebrows, a mustache and was just about 5 feet 10 inches tall.

But that was just the beginning.

The man was a logger living in the Pacific Northwest, meticulous about his appearance and left-handed. He smoked, and when authorities caught the criminal, Heinrich said he probably would be wearing a new jacket and a bowler-style hat.

When Roy D'Autremont finally was caught, he was wearing the jacket, the hat and puffing on a cigarette.

How did Heinrich do it?

Dirt on the overalls was not oil or grease as the authorities had believed, said Heinrich. It was fir pitch from Douglas fir needles peculiar to the Northwest. There were wood chips and pine needles in the right-hand pocket of the coveralls. The man was left-handed because when gripping his ax with his stronger left hand and swinging, his right side pocket would face the tree and collect wood chips.

In the breast pocket of the coveralls he found fingernail clippings, mustache wax and rolled up cigarette butts, all indications, to Heinrich, of a vain man.

The ultimate clue was a registered mail receipt found deep in a pencil pocket of the overalls. Signed in Eugene by Roy D'Autremont, it was sent to Lakewood, N.M., where the brothers and their divorced mother had lived in 1920.

Although it would take a few more years, all the clues were there. Science would bring the brothers to justice.

Wizard Heinrich, also called the "Edison of Crime Detection," died in 1953. He was 72.

Reach writer Bill Miller at

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