Well, there was much “desire” associated with Levy’s Alley occupants over the years. It became a well-known site of bordellos and independent entrepreneurial endeavors often associated with red lights. It was located where Boise City Hall is now located.
But we’re not going to address that unseemly side of Levy’s Alley today. We’re going to address the unseemly murder of Mr. Levy.
Davis Levy was well known in Boise for his monetary pursuits and for being miserly with his money. He had once been robbed of $80 by three men, but not before they literally put his feet to the fire to tell them where his money was. They stood him on the stove in his room until he gave in.
So it was assumed that robbery was the motive when on October 6, 1901, the Statesman headline shouted, “Davis Levy Foully Murdered” The newspaper made the most of the story, leading with, “Cold in death, the body of Davis Levy was yesterday found putrefying in one of the rooms of his Main Street block. The old man had been murdered by strangulation, a rope having been drawn about his neck and a gag forced into his mouth.” A more detailed description of the scene was provided and, as if that weren’t enough, a sketch of the room—complete with body—was included at the bottom of the article. Helpfully, I’ve included that below. You’re welcome.
Idaho Governor Frank H. Hunt issued an unusual proclamation related to the murder. It said in part,
“Whereas, It has been satisfactorily shown to me that he [Davis Levy] was the victim of a most atrocious and revolting murder committed by a person or persons unknown, and that the local authorities of the said city and county are unable to apprehend the murder or murderers,
Now, therefore, be it known that Frank W. Hunt, governor of the state of Idaho, by virtue of the authority in me vested, do hereby offer, on behalf of the said state of Idaho a reward of one thousand ($1000.00) dollars for the arrest and conviction of the murder or murderers of the said Davis Levy.”
Relatives of the murdered man put up another $3,000 to add to the reward.
On October 22, 1901 a man by the name of Joe Levy, also known as George Levy, was arrested for the murder in Baker City Oregon. That both men shared the same last name seemed not of interest to reporters at that time, though reports years later simply said that the two men were “related,” while other reports said they were not. It should be noted that Boise Police Chief B.F. Francis and Deputy Sheriff Andy J. Robinson arrested him. Really. Note that.
James Hawley presented the case for the state against Levy. Hawley would later find fame as a prosecutor in the Big Bill Haywood trial, and would also serve in future years as the mayor of Boise and Idaho’s ninth governor.
Witness after witness came forward to testify against Joe Levy. None of them had witnessed the murder, but they attested that he was acting strangely, that he held a grudge against Davis Levy, and that he had been nearby at the time. It was all circumstantial. Joe Levy, who was often described as “the Frenchman” proclaimed his innocence throughout the trial and long after he was sentenced to hang for the murder. Levy’s sentence was later reduced to life in prison.
There was considerable doubt about Levy’s guilt. One friend of the accused Levy, a Romanian immigrant named Bernat Edelberg, became so wildly adamant about Levy’s innocence that a judge declared him insane and committed him to the asylum in Blackfoot.
There was much concern that Boise Police Chief B.F. Francis and Deputy Sheriff Andy J. Robinson who had claimed the reward of $4,000 offered for his arrest and conviction had railroaded the man. Also of concern was the fact the Levy spoke little English and was not given a proper interpreter.
In 1911 there was enough pressure to review Levy’s sentence that the Idaho Board of Pardons agreed to give it a look. French authorities pleaded to have Levy pardoned. A letter signed by prominent citizens, and a petition signed by a large majority of businessmen in the city went to the board.
The Idaho Board of Pardons consisted of the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general. The governor was the same James Hawley who had prosecuted the original case. They voted unanimously to parole Levy on the condition that he leave the country.
So, George/Joe Levy left Idaho for France and lived happily ever after. No, I made that up.
Levy was pardoned in July, 1911 and shipped to Brussels. In September, the Idaho Statesman reported that he had been arrested in Portland on a charge of white slavery for bringing a French woman back to the U.S. for immoral purposes.
At the October, 1911 meeting of the Idaho Board of Parole the men who had so recently released Levy ordered him back to the Idaho State Penitentiary to serve the remainder of his life term.
But, federal authorities had custody of Levy, who was by then going by the handle “Blome the Tailor” and he had to face charges in federal court in New York. He was ultimately convicted of white slavery and sentenced to serve eight years in a federal prison in Atlanta.
Levy dropped off the face of the earth after that, as far as the Idaho Statesman was concerned, though the paper retold the story several times in succeeding years in their ___ years ago columns.