1974 Jury Acquits Axe Killer

While  the name Spott is important when discussing Yurok tribal  and Del Norte history in general, there is one story about the Spott name that remains folded in history. It’s the brief story of Seeley Lane Spott’s death at the age of 33.

Brief because only a few news articles mentioning either man. This includes one in which  Seeley pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended license and was placed on probation for one year, while a 10-day jail sentence was suspended as well as pleading guilty to a charge of disturbing the peace and being fined $125 for the offense in December 1969.

Seeley disappears from the public record until January 9, 1974, when he was killed sometime between 4-5 a.m., that Wednesday morning, having been stuck in the head with a small, long-handled chopping axe. His body was found, at 8 a.m., in the street near his home on Nickel Avenue in Crescent City, by a 10-year-old girl on her way to school.

Arrested the same day at his Roy Avenue home only four blocks away and held for  murder was an unemployed logger, 22-year-old Antone ‘Tony’ F. Martin Jr.  Del Norte County Sheriff Tom Lowry said the departments investigation revealed that a heated argument occurred at Spott’s home before the slaying.

Less than three-months later and after a three-week trial, a Del Norte Superior Court jury acquitted Tony of the axe slaying om March 30. His defense attorney James McKittrick had contended the death of Seeley was an act of self-defense.

According to retired Del Norte County Sheriff’s detective Richard Williams, in his 2007 book, “Mass Murder, The Ship Ashore Killings,” McKittrick later shared after the trial an insight about Tony “as being cold inside without any real regrets or feelings about his ax murder of Sealey (sic) Spott.”

Tony died July 18, 2003, at the age of 53 in Hillsboro, Oregon following a bicycle accident. He was living in Grants Pass, Oregon at the time.

Born October 28, 1951, in Corvallis, Tony was a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was a logger and construction worker, and labored for several years at the Portland shipyards.


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