History’s Mystery solved in Port Townsend: The killer was . . .

PORT TOWNSEND — The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but in the case of “The Brutal Beating of Capt. Henry Tibbals,” it’s taken 114 years.

But thanks to the persistence of Fran O’Brien and her daughter, Jere O’Brien Kenney, the case has finally been solved.

“We picked up all the clues except one,” said O’Brien. “We went through them and figured out who it had to be.”

The O’Briens, who are from Port Townsend, worked with Brianna Scheyer of Gig Harbor to solve this year’s History’s Mystery, an interactive drama based on a real crime that happened in Port Townsend in 1890.

Part of the Victorian Festival, it challenged amateur sleuths to interview suspects and collect clues to find out “who dunnit.”

“You had to hit all the clues and put them in order,” Scheyer said, “All the good clues came from the Learned girl years later.”

From newspaper accounts of the crime, the sleuths already knew that John Cunningham, played by Steve Evans, beat Tibbals, a saloon and hotel owner played by Lee Clark, and left him unconscious. The reports also said Tibbals’ second ex-wife and her father were present at the crime.

But who hired Cunningham to do the job?

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