Dr. William A. Brooke, the 55-year-old county coroner, began organizing the inquest into the death of Sarah Coburn. The inquest would take place inside the Coburn home in Pescadero in the afternoon, hours after her body had been found.
Dr. Brooke was a familiar face. The native Californian had arrived on the Coastside about 1900, as a physician employed by the Ocean Shore Railroad. The Ocean Shore’s plan was to compete with the Peninsula’s Southern Pacific, laying a “parallel” set of tracks on the isolated Coastside, from San Francisco to Pescadero and south to the resort of Santa Cruz.
By the time of Mrs. Coburn’s murder, the Ocean Shore was nearing bankruptcy, set back financially by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake & Fire as well as insurmountable engineering problems in the vicinity of the unstable Devil’s Slide area.
While poking around the Coburn house, Dr. Brooke happened upon Sarah’s Will in Wally’s room. To Dr. Brooke, the legal document appeared as if it had been typed on an ancient machine. Dated February 19th or 27th, 1919, the typed Will had been signed by Sarah Coburn–and witnessed by local residents. He recognized all their names.