Tales from the Morgue

Part 6

The trial for Robert Nardelli and Eddie Manciet on charges of aggravated battery began. As with the preliminary hearing, the testimony for the prosecution and the defense varied widely.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Tuesday, December 3, 1935:

EYE WITNESSES NAME NARDELLI AS TRIAL OPENS

Two Take Stand for State, Testify to Attack On Hedderman

JURY IS SELECTED

27 Sworn and Placed Under Ruling Barring Them From Courtroom

By FRED N. FINNEY

With two of the state's three eye witnesses through with their accounts of the alleged attack by Robert Nardelli and Eddie Manciet on Maurice T. Hedderman, Pima county civil deputy sheriff, the trial of the former owner of the Plantation night club got underway yesterday. Nardelli and Manciet, his headwaiter, are jointly charged with aggravated battery, a felony.

The morning session was needed to interrogate the jury and both the state and defense struck those not desired during the noon hour. The case is being tried before Judge Ernest W. McFarland, of the Pinal county superior court, Judge William G. Hall having been disqualified by the defense. Harry O. Juliani, chief deputy county attorney, and Odin B. Dodd, retained by Hedderman as special prosecutor, are representing the state. George O. Hilzinger and E. T. Cusick are defending Nardelli.

The charges of aggravated battery arose, according to the state's charge, early on the morning of August 31, when Nardelli and Manciet attacked Hedderman without provocation as the latter and two friends were leaving the Plantation after a short visit.

With 11 state's witnesses and 18 defense witnesses called, sworn and placed "under the rule" (that is, excluded from the court room) the trial got under way yesterday afternoon with Hedderman the first witness called by the state.

A graduate of Stanford and the University of Arizona law school, Hedderman testified that he has been employed as a deputy sheriff since January, 1933. On the morning in question, the officer stated, he, Mrs. Jean Bridwell and his house guest, Raymond Carlson, arrived arrived at the Plantation about 12:35 or 12:40 o'clock. Parking their car in the rear of the main building at the resort, Hedderman stated that the trio entered the building through a passage-way which passes the kitchen and thus into the bar room. Nardelli was standing by the bar, Hedderman said, and he started to talk to him when a youth came up and asked him (Hedderman) what was the matter with the sheriffs office. The youth stated that the place was run by crooks, Hedderman testified, adding that a "Crooked game was being run out there." Hedderman told the youth to come to the sheriff's office the next morning and he (Hedderman) would conduct the youth to the county attorney where he might sign a complaint against the Plantation if he so chose. Nardelli, who listened, walked away, Hedderman stated.

Mumbling

A few moments later, the witness said, Wallace Holliday, a waiter, and Manciet came up, Holliday saying something to Manciet and the latter mumbling. Appearing extremely excited, Manciet mumbled something at him, the witness said, when Nardelli walked up and asked "Whats the trouble?" Hedderman stated that he replied that he did not know, but that it appeared to be something about a glass. Nardelli spoke to Manciet and the latter walked away, still mumbling, Hedderman said.

Asking Nardelli what the fuss was about, the proprietor of the Plantation said "forget it" and invited Hedderman to have a drink. Hedderman accepted a glass of beer, he testified. They then talked for five or ten minutes, Hedderman said, Nardelli describing changes and improvements he was planning on making to the Plantation. Carlson, standing nearby with Mrs. Birdwell, then asked if they might not leave, and all started out by the rear way to Hedderman's car. Carlson and Mrs. Bridwell led, with Hedderman and Nardelli following, Nardelli's left arm slung across Hedderman's shoulders. On the way out Nardelli asked Hedderman how the political situation was shaping up, the witness stated, adding that he hoped Sheriff John Belton would be re-elected as he was the best sheriff Pima county ever had. At the car, Nardelli said good night to them, Hedderman said. Hedderman reached into his shirt pocket for the car keys and Nardelli hit him on the right side of his head "with some kind of an instrument." Out of nowhere Manciet appeared and hit him in the face, Hedderman said, adding, "it seemed like he gouged me with something, maybe a piece of pipe. I was knocked out."

Hedderman could not describe the object which he testified that Nardelli held in his hand, but appeared positive that Nardelli did hold something. He also could not account for Manciet's sudden appearance, save for being very positive of having seen him. He stated that, after being struck down, he was unconscious but had a hazy recollection of perhaps two more assailants. It was really the next day, Hedderman stated, before his mind cleared. One blow landed under his right eye, the witness stated, cutting through the flesh. Another blow was on the head, over the right ear.

Lists Injuries

The right shoulder was bruised and several front teeth knocked out. Since the attack the pupil of the right eve has enlarged to the diameter of the whole eye and he has been unable to see from this optic, Hedderman stated. This condition persisted for six or seven weeks. Recently there has been some marked improvement, and now, while the eye must be kept darkened, he can distinguish light, Hedderman said.

Under cross examination, conducted by Hilzinger, Hedderman stated that he next saw Nardelli three or four days later in the office office of William R. Misbaugh, attorney. Under rapid fire questions from Hilzinger, Hedderman denied retaining Misbaugh to sue Nardelli. The only thing said, Hedderman testified, was by Nardelli who asked Hedderman where he (Hedderman) was when he (Nardelli) hit him. Hedderman testified that he replied about 30 feet from the back door, after which Nardelli took his hat and left the attorney's office. Hedderman then denied an attempt to get money from Nardelli. He also denied that Nardelli had said that someone else had hit him.

Under a similar cross fire from Hilzinger, Hedderman denied that his physician, Dr. J. B. Littlefield, had said, three days after the fight, that his patient was getting along fine. He denied telling A. C. Gutherie, court house watchman, a day or so after the fracas that he didn't know who had hit him. (Gutherie is called as a defense witness.). To other similar questions Hedderman denied goings into the barn or garage on the rear of the Plantation premises, immediately after arriving there that night, and seeing Mike Montijo, Art Francis, Joe Dominguez and William Reams (defense witnesses).

Hedderman stated that in all, he was not at the Plantation more than 15 minutes, and that he was looking for a Bert Smith, upon whom he wished to serve a summons. Hedderman stated that he was not under the influence of liquor that evening. Prior to arrivng at the Plantation he, Mrs. Bridwell and Carlson had visited Cliff's Bungalow and the Blue Moon for short stays. At the former he had a beer, Hedderman stated, and at the latter a beer and a gin fizz—perhaps a second beer.

Near Closing Time

As he and party started to leave the Plantation, it appeared to be nearing closing time, the witness said, as the orchestra leader was so warning the guests. Prior to the attack, Nardelli was very affable. Hedderman said that he did not break a glass in any car. He added that he did not carry either gun or badge and that he had never seen Holliday before, and only since learned his name. Under additional cross examination as to former visits to the Plantation, Hedderman stated that his first trip was occasioned by a search warrant to seize slot machines, when he accompanied the then county attorney, Clarence Houston, and that he went there once with Sheriff Belton and later with Carlson.

Hilzinger then presented a bill, signed by "Hedderman" with a vague first initial, for $9.50 and dated dated January 1, 1934. Hedderman stated that the signature was not his, adding that he had worked that night at the sheriff's office and had not gone anywhere.

Raymond Carlson was next called. A class mate of Hedderman's and formerly city editor of the Miami Copper Belt, Carlson was visiting Hedderman at the time of the alleged attack and accompanied him that night to the Plantation.

Carlson stated that, after they had entered the bar room he noticed first a youth apparently of high school age, talking to Hedderman. Soon after Holliday and Manciet accosted him, Carlson said, Manciet appearing highly excited about something. Nardelli quieted the head waiter and bought them a beer. Preparing to leave shortly afterward, Carlson gave his version of the alleged attack.

Helping Mrs. Bridwell into the car, he looked across the hood and saw Manciet suddenly appear. Almost simultaneously both Nardelli and Manciet hit Hedderman and the latter fell, Carlson said. Nardelli hit Hedderman on the right side of the face or head, and Manciet hit on his back, the witness said. Running around the front of the car to lend aid, Carlson stated that both Nardelli and Manciet started kicking him and he fell when a boot found his groin. Stunned and in pain, he fell and was kicked again and again. Carlson stated that at least two others added kicks on his prostrate form. A moment later and all had disappeared.

Carlson arose and went to Hedderman whom he found unconscious and face covered with blood. With Mrs. Bridwell driving, they took Hedderman to the sheriffs office where Carlson said he left him and returned to the Plantation immediately with three deputies, Roy Manning, Gus Vasquez and Charles Velasco, being desirous of causing the arrest of their assailants.

Semi-Hysterical

He next saw Hedderman an hour later at the hospital where he was being treated by Dr. Littlefield, the witness said. Hedderman was in a semi-hysterical condition. Carlson watched over Hedderman at the latter's home throughout the night, after the doctor had finished his ministrations. Carlson also traced their activities that entire evening. They left Hedderman's home after nine o'clock, went to the sheriffs office, thence to the post office to post an airmail letter. There they encountered Mrs. Bridwell. Thence to Cliffs Bungalow, thence to the Blue Moon, after this to the Minerva cafe and lastly to the Plantation.

Under cross examination, conducted by Cusick, Carlson denied speaking in Spanish on the Plantation dance floor with Joe Domlnguez, a waiter. He stated that on arrival hearing the rattle of chips and asking Hedderman about this sound, Hedderman had said "Oh, that's the gambling." They did not go into the gambling room, however, the witness said.

Retelling the original rukus with Manciet and Holliday in the bar, Carlson stated that he went to Manciet and warned him to be careful in his conduct to Hedderman, reminding him that Hedderman was an officer. "I don't care what he is," Manciet responded, according to the witness. "He's going to pay for that glass," and, later, "I'm going to get him and I'm going to get you, too." Carlson stated that he did not know what the argument about the glass arose from.

Relating the positions of Hedderman, himself and the alleged attackers on the outside, Carlson demonstrated on his and Cusick's bodies, with Cusick saying, "O. K. but don't hit me."

Carlson stated that the attack was precipitated without warning. There was nothing untoward in Hedderman’s actions or conduct Carlson stated and he did not know that Manciet had a glass window in his car broken that night. Carlson stated that he saw no weapon or object in Nardelli's hand at the time Nardelli allegedly hit Hedderman, but did say that Manciet had some sort of an object in his hand. Carlson was not released from the stand and will be cross-examined further this morning.

Battle Assured

Significant of the fact that defense attorneys intend to put up a battle every step of the way, were many of the queries propounded to the jury panel yesterday morning, prior to final selections. Matters of possible bias and prejudice were very carefully gone into, especially by the Nardelli defense attorneys. In the instance of querying Clarence E. McElyea, member of the panel and a neighbor of the Plantation, attorneys got into a squabble when Hilzinger asked McElyea if he would be impressed by the fact that Mr. Mathews of the Arizona Daily Star wanted Nardelli to be convicted. Juliani objected to bringing in the Star, but Judge McFarland ruled that the potential juror might answer as to the Star's influence on his mind. McElyea stated that the Star, in its reports of this case, had not impressed him.

Victor Verite, university law student and close friend of Hedderman, was excused from service upon admission of bias in favor of the complaining witness, Hedderman.

An amusing incident took place early in the questioning of the panel. Hilzinger asked a series of prospective jurors if they knew Raymond Carlson, important state's witness, each time pointing to William H. Kimball, local attorney and associate of Ben C. Hill who was sitting in the court room waiting to see the judge. After having directed the attention of the court room several times to Kimball, each time eliciting smiles, Hilzinger discovered his mistake, apologized and stated that the state's witness and Kimball closely resembled each other.

The jurors who will try the Nardelli case are: Porfirio Leon, Joe A. Gonzales, Jesus M. Felix, Kenneth B. Cowart, Louis G. Bock, Charles L. Phillips, Gus P. Sutter, Willard Biggs, John Webber, Earl W. Emigh, Frank Daily and J. T. Gibbons, Jr.

Next: The defendants testify.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com

About Tales from the Morgue: The "morgue," is what those in the newspaper business call the archives. Before digital archives, the morgue was a room full of clippings and other files of old newspapers.