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The murder of John Creed Conn, long attributed to the Sheepshooters of central Oregon, has at last been solved. News of the mysterious disappearance and death of a member of one of Oregon’s most prominent families was carried on the front page of the Oregonian for nine months in 1904, and the Prineville Review called it “One of the most sensational murders in the history of the state.” Conn vanished from the streets of the small town of Silver Lake where he owned a mercantile store, then seven weeks later his body appeared on a small sandy knoll located on ZX Ranch property. At last, the truth is told about the Conn murder, and the notorious Sheepshooters of central Oregon, in this carefully researched work of nonfiction.

The Sandy Knoll Murder, Legacy of the Sheepshooters is the first book to deal with the range war period in a historically accurate and factual way, and offers convincing evidence of the identities of the Sheepshooters and Conn’s killer. It is the result of six years of painstaking research that encompassed eighty other homicides and suspicious deaths of the period, Conn’s life and relationships, the circumstances of his death, and all that was ever written by and about the sheepshooters.

Conn’s lifestyle presented some challenges that the killer had to overcome if he wanted to pull off the crime. He had to eliminate the possibility of being seen; to leave no tracks or trace in the area around town; he would need to use his own gun and take it away with him so that it would not be found; he would kill fast to avoid detection; and do what he could to buy time to keep the investigators off of his trail. All of the planning that the killer put into making Conn vanish showed a high level of control and organization on his part. But, he did unwittingly leave some clues to his identity, and they could be traced like fingerprints through the ink of the newspapers of the day. Other clues were left like footprints in the soil surrounding the Sandy Knoll and in the behaviors that he exhibited there.

Considering all of the planning that went into the crime, the killer had to be aware of who Creed Conn was, and what the consequences of killing him would mean. Conn was the brother of a district attorney and a member of a politically prominent and well-connected family. He was a celebrity and a respected figure, and there could be no doubt that a massive man hunt and investigation would quickly ensue. It seemed certain that Conn was singled out and specifically targeted, and that meant that he had a relationship of some kind with the killer, that they were closer than mere acquaintances.

The writer has made every effort to adhere to the actual facts of the case, long-held as the legacy of the sheepshooters. The Creed Conn murder was then, and remains today, one of the most sensational in the history of the state of Oregon.

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