Edwin B. Stephens
Edwin Stephens
Background information
Born ca. 1868

May 24, 1905(1905-05-24) (aged 36)
San Rafael, California, United States

Cause of death Suicide
Parents Isaac Stephens
Spouse(s) Phosa Stephens
Attack information
Date May 24, 1905
5:15 a.m.
Location(s) San Rafael, California, United States
Target(s) Family
Killed 6
Weapon(s) .32-caliber revolver

Edwin B. Stephens was an American who killed six members of his family in San Rafael, California, United States on May 24, 1905, before committing suicide.[1]


was the son of Isaac Stephens, was a college graduate, married at an early age Phosa Porter, a member of a prominent family from Clermont County, Ohio, at one time worked for Dunham, Carrigan & Hayden, a hardware firm in San Francisco, was despondent, when they were on the verge of starvation his wife's father sent them money, used them to buy a small chicken ranch near Ross Valley station, bought incubators and studied scientific poultry raising, expenses for raising the chickens left them with little money for food, Stephens became moody and dissatisfied, started brooding about his hardship, his wife tried to comfort him to wait until the chickens had grown, contrary to her husband she still retained her hopes and was happy.

In the time prior to the murders family became afraid of him, [2]

Married his wife 14 years prior to murders, around 1891, family had barely enough food for several months prior to murders, Mrs. Stephens refused help from neighbours despite their problems [3]

in 1894 worked at the Stephens-Miles Electric Company in Cincinnati.[4]

Once had to camp in San Anselmo,[5]


was about 35, a former book agent, later worked as a salesman for a rubber goods company and as a bicycle salesman in San Francisco, failed in both probably dued to his health issues, had a chicken ranch in Ross Valley, In 1901 had been operated for appendicitis, suffered from great pain since then, also was afflicted with dyspepsia and insomnia, had financial worries, in the time prior to murders acted strangely, frightening his family, lived in Portland, Oregon, came to California one and a half years prior, eight months prior to murders Mrs. Stephens received money from relatives, bought chicken farm with it.

killed family with revolver shot them in the head, while lying in bed, emerged from home and fired at passing milkman, pursued him for several hundred yards, firing, then stopped, shot himself in the chest and head. Children were aged 1 to 11 years.

That morning shot his wife and five children, then fired at milkman, then committed suicide by shooting himself twice. Wife and three children died at the scene, tow other children died the same afternoon in hospital. [6]

Spent the night in a cot on the verandah, the next morning, May 24, took a five-shot .32-caliber revolver, shot his wife in the temple, shot his son Herbert in the head, lying beside her, turned against his baby-daughter in the cradel, shot her in the face, went to children's bedroom, shot Josephine and Maud lying in one bed in the head, then shot his son Edwin. murders occurred at Mount View near Ross Valley Station, shot his family in their sleep, Josephine and Herbert were brought to Gruettner Sanitarium in San Rafael where they died several hours later. After murders, at around 5:40 a.m. he rushed out into street, approached, shoutet at Linden Butterfield, a milkman, and John Lutz passing by on a waggon, when they stopped he fired at them, but missed, when they drove off he pursued them for 300 yard, then shot himself in the chest and when this wound proved non-fatal, again in the head. Butterfield notified sheriff Taylor about the incident, when they drove back, they found a healer named Joseph La Chance who had just discovered Stephens' body. La Chance went to notify the family about his death, found bodies. He then called the sheriff who came to examine the crime scene. Two children were still alive, doctor called, taken to hospital. bodies taken to morgoue in San Rafael, White powder was found in the room of Mrs. Stephens, leading to suspicions that vicitims may have been drugged. [2]

Coronial inquest came to conclusion that he had committed the murders in a fit of insanity. [7]

Murders occurred at Kentfield, California [8]

Murders committed around 5:15 a.m.[5]

In total 11 shors were fired, according to a family friend Stephens underwent operation on the head some time prior to murders and acted strangely since then, arrived in Berkeley five years prior, lived there for a year, then a year in Pacific Grove, then to Ross Station, where they bought Hart cottage in Willow avenue, Stephens had options for several lots in the area for 18 months, which had expired on May 23.[9]


  • Phosa P. Stephens, 32, his wife
  • Josephine Stephens, 12, his daughter
  • Maud Stephens, 8, his daughter
  • Edwin Stephens, 6, his son
  • Herbert Stephens, 4, his son
  • Phosa Stephens, 14 months, his daughter


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