The murder of Sheriff Dunlap

It started on May 5, 1935. James Westfall, a 77-year-old man, was bound and gagged and died alone in his home. Herbert and Otis McDaniels had gone to his home to rob him. Thinking he would be found, they left him unable to free himself. After the capture of the pair of murderers, people in Dolores, Montezuma and La Plata counties were so incensed that talk of lynching became common.

To secure the prisoners, they were taken all the way to Glenwood Springs. A week later Sheriff Wesley Dunlap and his deputy, Lem Duncan, headed off to bring the two back to Cortez. When they reached Placerville they chose to follow the river and go by way of Norwood and Dove Creek.

They had gone only a couple of miles when they came across an overheated car. Sheriff Dunlap stepped out of his car to see if he could help and left his revolver on his seat. Otis was able to grab the gun and ordered the deputy to get out and lie face down. While Herbert stood with his shackled foot on the deputy's neck, Otis turned the gun toward the sheriff. Thinking he could talk Otis out of the gun, Dunlap started walking toward Otis. Otis however aimed at the sheriff and shot. The first shot wounded him but Otis was not through. He stooped down and placed the barrel of the gun behind the right ear of the sheriff and pulled the trigger.

Otis then told the frightened deputy to take off as fast as he could back up the road. After retrieving the keys from one of the sheriff's pockets, the McDaniels brothers removed their shackles, jumped in the car and took off down the road. The manhunt covered Colorado, New Mexico and even the border into Mexico. On the first day, there were 300 men combing the hills around Placerville.

Rumors began to emerge, and on day two the men were seen at Dunton, Rico, Priest Gulch and down near Norwood. Knowing the men were armed and might even have a rifle with them, the order came out to kill on sight. On day five, men from Cortez, Rico, Dolores, San Miguel, Telluride and counties throughout western Colorado joined in one of the biggest manhunts ever staged in western Colorado.

The two brothers were finally found on day 22. They tried to give false names but were found out and easily handcuffed since they had no weapons of any kind. They were taken to trial and found guilty of first degree murder for the deaths of Westfall and Sheriff Dunlap. Otis was given an unconditional term of life imprisonment.

On Feb. 12, 1936, Otis walked to the death chamber and fourteen minutes later was declared dead. He was the fiftieth person to be executed in the Colorado prison. Adding to that number was Jim Stevens who murdered Lynn Dean.