A coroner’s inquest is “hastily convened” at the ravine. Though by the 1920s, citizens no longer assume the burdens of investigating crimes and maintaining order as they once did throughout the United States before the advent of police departments, in areas such as Pawhuska—areas on the edge of civilization—vestiges of these old systems remain.
Grann establishes the status quo in terms of policework during the time of Anna’s death—because there is no standard and few officials out in Pawhuska, there is the potential for corruption and botched protocol.
A justice of the peace and a group of jurors—selected from the white men who have gathered at the ravine—try to determine whether Anna has died by an act of God or man. Two doctors who often care for Mollie’s family—a pair of brothers named James and David Shoun—begin to perform an autopsy using primitive instruments and a makeshift table. They determine that Anna has been deceased for between five and seven days, and soon notice a perfectly round hole in the back of her skull—about the size of a .32-caliber bullet. The men realize that Anna’s death was an act of “cold-blooded murder.”
As Anna’s autopsy begins, everyone seems concerned and everything seems to be above-board, even though there are a great number of people present at the contaminated crime scene. This moment confirms that Anna’s death was indeed murder, increasing story’s sense of dread and tension.
In the 1920s—and especially in places like Pawhuska—“lawmen were then still largely amateurs,” David Grann writes. At the time of Anna’s murder, the Osage County sheriff was a “fifty-eight-year-old, three-hundred-pound frontiersman” named Harve M. Freas, who, according to rumor, was “cozy with criminal elements.” Freas allegedly granted not just leniency but “free reign” to gamblers and bootleggers in the area—men like Kelsie Morrison and Henry Grammer, notorious moonshine runners.
Grann establishes that in spite of the fact that Anna has been murdered in cold blood, securing justice for her posthumously is going to be difficult due to the rampant corruption and racism in the area.
When Freas hears word about Anna’s murder, he is already preoccupied with the Whitehorn murder, and sends a deputy to the ravine to collect evidence. The Shouns—the doctors—cannot not, however, find a bullet lodged in Anna’s brain, despite the absence of an exit wound. The only evidence the deputy is able to collect is a bottle of moonshine, which is assumed to be Anna’s. No one takes fingerprints, casts impressions of tire marks in the road nearby, checks Anna’s body for gunpowder residue, or even photographs the crime scene.
Grann uses the details he has gathered through his research to show that officials deeply mishandled the beginnings of the investigation into Anna’s murder—though lack of protocol could be to blame, corruption and the attempt to obscure the truth may also be the culprit behind such blatant bungling.
When Lizzie hears that her oldest daughter is dead, she plunges into a deep grief—she had already descended into poor health, and her fraught condition begins to worsen. Mollie throws herself into organizing Anna’s funeral, an exorbitantly expensive affair—undertakers at the time frequently charged the Osage unbelievable rates, gouging them and forcing them to pay sums which translate to nearly $80,000 in contemporary currency.
Grann adds in even more suspicion when he reveals that Mollie and her family were, in a time of grief, pain, and confusion, essentially extorted by the only people in town who could bury Anna. Racism and corruption abounded in Osage County, and this passage makes it clear just how insidious, ubiquitous, and accepted these forces were.
Anna’s funeral reflects a combination of Osage and Catholic traditions, yet due to the seriously compromised state of Anna’s corpse, certain rituals—such as face-painting and ornamentation—cannot be completed. As Anna’s coffin is lowered into the ground, her family recites Osage prayer-songs dedicated to Wah’Kon-Tah—the mysterious life force “around which the Osage […] structured their lives.”
Anna’s funeral pays homage to her tribal heritage, and her family prays to the life-force which structured their lives—even as their lives are descending into misery, chaos, and confusion.