Judge Conley’s Madera County courtroom held a standing-room-only crowd on Nov. 18, 1914. The spectators, who lived in Grub Gulch, were furious at what cattleman John Shay was trying to do to his 78-year-old wife.
It all started when Shay decided that his wife was crazy. He went to Superior Court Judge William Conley and requested an official sanity hearing. Conley consented, and soon Shay had his wife in court.
Ostensibly, the problem lay in the bizarre behavior of Mrs. Shay, but at its core was the fact that she had a collection of jewelry that she kept in a trunk in her Grub Gulch home, and her husband wanted her out of the way so that he could get his hands on the valuables.
When the husband got on the witness stand at the sanity hearing, he told stories that did indeed suggest that his wife was possessed of a “deranged mind.” ...