Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, Part 6

2014-08-13T00:00:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, Part 6Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

William Estaver was on trial for the murder of Anna Johnson. Her husband, who was wounded in the shooting that killed his wife, had testified for the prosecution and would now be cross examined.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday, April 14, 1922:

 

Johnson Weeps In Detailing to Jury How Wife Was Shot

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DEFENSE TRIED TO TEAR DOWN HIS TESTIMONY

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Is Quizzed for Three Hours About Shooting Affair

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With tears streaming down his cheeks and his voice choked with emotion, Peter Johnson, Denver contractor, yesterday told of the efforts his dying wife had made to speak to him a few minutes after being shot on the Ajo-Stovall road last November.

The dramatic recital was heard in the superior court where William S. Estaver, Detroit dentist, is on trial on a charge of murder in connection with the woman's death.

Mr. Johnson, who is a vigorous man of about 60 years, had told the jury that he had been shot twice in quick succession, once in the left cheek and the other time in the neck. His wife said to him, "That's what we get for being good to a stranger and helping him out," Mr. Johnson testified.

"Then he fired on her, and I grabbed back for him, but he was gone," the witness said.

Mr. Johnson testified that he drove on for about ten miles and then stopped his car. As he drove, he put his arm around the body of his wife, which was leaning on the right side of the seat, and drew it to him, and as he did so her lips moved as if she wished to speak again, but she choked, the witness said.

When he stopped the car the wife had passed away, Mr. Johnson continued. It was here that the witness broke down and wept.

Judge Samuel L. Pattee order the courtroom closed yesterday when all the seats had been taken and additional would-be spectators tried to crowd in.

The prosecution is being conducted by County Attorney George R. Darnell and Deputy County Attorney Ben B. Mathews and the defendant is represented by John L. Van Buskirk and K. Berry Peterson.

During his cross-examination by Mr. Van Buskirk, which lasted three hours, Mr. Johnson admitted that he had made certain erroneous statements in the preliminary examination before Justice of the Peace Oscar L. Pease, explaining that he had just gotten out of the hospital, where he had been confined two weeks, and that he "was under a nervous strain."

When the attorney for the defendant pressed Mr. Johnson for the number of minutes that had elapsed between the time the car stopped during the shooting and the time the machine started again, Mr. Johnson replied:

"I didn't measure minutes at a time like that. I got away as fast as I could, before that fellow could follow me and shoot me again."

"Where was the moon?" the defense attorney demanded.

"In the sky, of course," Mr. Johnson snapped back.

The defense lawyer asked Mr. Johnson whether he had not said, while on the operating table, at Yuma, that he did not know who had shot him and that he was in doubt as to what happened on the night of the killing.

Mr. Johnson denied this.

Mr. Van Buskirk then declared that a statement had been made by Johnson at the hospital, and called on the prosecution to produce it. As soon as Mr. Johnson left the stand, the state offered Mrs. Caroline Frauenfelder as a witness.

Mrs. Frauenfelder testified that she was a stenographer in the office of County Attorney H. H. Baker. She testified that Johnson made a statement in her presence and the presence of two doctors and others.

"What did he say?" the witness was asked.

The defense objected to the introduction of the testimony. A recess was called for a few minutes, while authorities were looked up. When court was resumed, the state announced that it withdrew the question to give the court additional time to consider the law involved.

Michael Hodges, a student at Leland Stanford Junior University, testified that he drove the car that took County Attorney Baker, the defendant, and a number of others to the scene of the killing, on November 17. He said that Estaver wore the same shoes that he had on when he came into Stoval on the morning of November 16. He said the only fresh tracks were those made by shoes that, according to the measurements taken, seemed to be Estaver's, and which Estaver admitted were his. The witness said that there was one deep indentation where the track started, to the left of the automobile wheel tracks.

Hodges testified that a piece of the windshield of the car was found half a mile nearer Stovall than the spot where the killing is said to have occurred.

Astronomer Testifies

Dr. Andrew E. Douglass, director of the Steward observatory at the University of Arizona, who testified that he had been an astronomer for 20 years, said that on the night of November 15 there was a full moon. A motion made by Mr. Van Buskirk that Dr. Douglass's testimony be stricken out because it was "incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial and because the witness had failed to qualify as an expert," was denied by Judge Pattee.

Dr. Douglass concluded his testimony by saying that there were no clouds that night, and that on the whole, he would "call it a brilliant night."

County Engineer Norman B. Conway of Yuma testified that on the morning of November 16, while he was driving from Stovall to Ajo, he noticed some fresh tracks. He did not know that a murder had been committed, but the tracks attracted his attention because of the fact that there was very little traffic over that road, he said. The engineer testified that he traced the tracks to the point where they began and wondered where the man who had made them came from.

Bruce Crouse, at present living in Douglas, but in November of last year employed as an automobile salesman in Tucson, said on the stand that Estaver, giving his name as Beck, had told him that he would like to get a car to take him to Sentinel, where his car has broken down and where his wife was waiting for him. Crouse told "Beck" that he had a friend who would let him have a car cheap, and Estaver inquired what kind of a car it was, according to the witness, who added that Estaver said he had a suit case with parts for the repair of a car. Estaver had a conversation with the auto service man in the witness's presence, and Estaver asked whether the car was in good condition, Crouse testified. The auto service man said that he would charge Estaver $80 for the trip, Crouse said.

"Didn't Estaver show you a card from the Detroit Automobile club?" Mr. Van Buskirk inquired.

"He did not," the witness replied.

Mr. Van Buskirk repeated the question with additional emphasis.

"I told you he did not," the witness retorted.

G. R. McGaw, a telegrapher at Sentinel, testified that he towed Estaver and a woman companion whom Estaver referred to as his wife into Sentinel from a point 18 miles from town. Estaver told him that he was a dentist with offices in Detroit, and the next day he told him that his offices were in Chicago, according to the witness.

"I looked at him and then he changed it to Detroit," McGaw said.

The witness testified that the fare from Tucson to Sentinel was $7.40.

As the woman got off the car when it arrived at Sentinel, she asked, "Have you got the gat?" McGaw said, adding that he did not know whether Estaver heard her or not.

On cross-examination, the witness said that the couple had a Chihuahua dog whose general appearance might have suggested a "rat." Effort was made to show that "rat" might have been confused with "gat" in hearing the woman's question.

The Morgue Lady is amused that the attorneys for the defendant want to have stricken from the record the fact that there was a full moon on the night of the murder. The objection was apparently because the witness didn't qualify as an expert, but wouldn't it be rather easy to determine the phase of the moon and the weather on a particular date a few months past? The Morgue Lady is no expert, but she knows a full or nearly full moon when she sees one.

It is also interesting that the defense asks the prosecution to produce the statement made by Mr. Johnson in the hospital, but the stenographer is put on the stand to relate that statement, the defense objects.

More testimony came the next day. From the Star, Saturday April 15, 1922:

 

Prosecution Will Complete Case Against Estaver Today

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CHECK IS MADE ON MOVEMENTS OF DETROITER

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Was Ordered From Auto Park Here Before Killing

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Because William S. Estaver, Detroit dentist, "went from tourist to tourist trying to get a ride to the west," William Knelange, custodian of the Tucson auto park, ordered him out of the park a day or so before the killing of Mrs. Anna C. Johnson, of Denver, Mr. Knelange testified in the superior court yesterday at the trial of Estaver, who is charged with murder in the first degree in connection with the woman's death.

After yesterday's session, court attaches said that no case tried in the superior court in years had attracted such crowds as have been in daily attendance during the Estaver trial. Yesterday, Judge Samuel L. Pattee [unreadable word] ordered Bailiff John Gardner to guard the courtroom door from the crowds that sought entrance after the seats had all been taken and after the aisles were partly occupied by standing spectators.

County Attorney Darnell announced last night that the state would probably complete the presentation of its case by this afternoon. He is being assisted in the prosecution by Deputy County Attorney Ben B. Mathews, while the defendant is represented by John L. Van Buskirk and K. Berry Peterson.

Pat Holland, deputy sheriff of Yuma county, testified that he was with the party of County Attorney H. H. Baker that visited the scene of the killing on November 18; that he noticed the tracks of a small car which had backed off the road a distance of 100 yards, and that he also noticed human tracks, some of which were made with a large shoe and some with a small one. In his opinion, the witness said, the tracks were not older than three days.

County Attorney H. H. Baker, of Yuma county, testified that shortly after Estaver had been placed in the county jail at Yuma, the defendant was taken to the morgue where Mrs. Johnson's body lay.

The prosecutor gave an account of a statement that Estaver is said to have made in the county attorney's office in the presence of Miss Caroline Frauenfelder, the stenographer, and Deputy County Attorney Thomas Molloy. Estaver was warned at the time that anything that he might say would be used against him, the county attorney knowing at the time that Estaver had employed two lawyers, W. F. Timmons and Attorney Kelly, of Yuma, the witness said.

Mr. Baker testified that Estaver related that two men had fired at the car, one from each side of the machine, the one on the left side jumping on the running board and firing two shots. Estaver said that he had fired two shots at the man, that the latter fell off, reappearing in front at the left of the machine and firing two shots while in that position, according to the witness.

The man on the right side, according to Estaver, also fired twice, County Attorney Baker said, adding that the defendant said he was dragged from the car by the man who had fallen off. Later, the Yuma prosecutor continued, Estaver said that he himself had fallen off the car.

Mrs. William H. Johnson, for 13 years the proprietor of the St. Francis hotel, of Phoenix, said on the stand that the defendant, whom she identified, was a guest at the hotel on November 11, arriving at about 5 p.m. in the company of Elmer Becker, Mr. and Mrs. Powhatan, and the couple's daughter. A sheet from the hotel register was identified by Mrs. Johnson who also identified the name "August Pick" as having been written by the defendant in her presence.

Mrs. Johnson said that the party came in dusty and dirty from travel, and that they left two days later, Sunday, November 13. Later, she said she received a telephone message from Tucson, asking her to forward some travelers' checks made out to William Estaver to the Willard Hotel, Tucson. This call, she said, was received on the afternoon of the day that the party left her hotel.

The witness said that she cleaned up Estaver's room personally, and on examining the linen found a black folder containing for travelers' checks, made out to William Estaver.

She said that she received a second telephone call on the following morning, asking her to send the travelers' checks to general delivery at Tucson.

On cross-examination, Mrs. Johnson said that if the defendant, who was to stand up so that the witness might have a better look at him, have been wearing puttees while in the court and the same suit that he had on at the time he was a guest at her hotel, she "could positively swear that he was the same man," but that, as it was, it looked to her "to be the same fellow."

William Knelange, of Fremont avenue, custodian of the Tucson auto park, testified that on November 13 or 14 he had to order Estaver out of the park "because Estaver was going from tourist to tourist trying to get a ride to the coast." Estaver told him that he had come to Tucson by train, but that he wanted to go on by auto, that he showed a picture of himself and of a woman he said was his wife in a car somewhere in the desert, that he said he had come in to get repair materials for the machine, and that his wife was waiting for him.

On cross-examination, Mr. Knelange said that Estaver at that time had on puttees and a light coat, and that he believed he was wearing the hat that defendant had with him in court yesterday. Estaver was wearing a short mustache at the time. The defendant is clean shaven now.

When pressed by counsel as to whether he was positive that Estaver was the man he saw at the park, Mr. Knelange declared that he was "certain" the defendant was the man.

H. A. Plumley, a photographer at Yuma for four years, identified pictures of bullets and enlargements of photographs of bullets that had been introduced in evidence, as having been taken, developed and printed by him. He testified that the bullets photographed by him were those which Dr. C. E. Rooney of Yuma had constantly under his supervision and in his possession, and that Senator A. J. Eddy of Yuma was present at the taking of the photographs. Mr. Plumley declared that the negatives were developed without any alterations, etchings, pencilings or marking of any sort. The witness said he had not brought the negatives with him, but that he would mail them to the clerk of the court.

Hotel Man on Stand

Carey S. Cox, proprietor of the Willard hotel, Tucson, testified that Estaver occupied room 28 on the night of November 14, under the name of J. C. Beck. He said that Peter Johnson inquired of the witness regarding Beck, and that when Estaver came in, he, the witness, took Estaver to the door of Johnson's room, that Johnson opened the door and invited "Beck" to step in.

On cross-examination, Cox was asked whether Mr. Johnson was anxious to get in touch with Estaver that evening, and the witness said that he was. Asked whether Johnson was glad to see him, the witness replied that Mr. Johnson seemed "friendly."

Mr. Cox stated that the next morning, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and Estaver left in the Johnson car, the man and wife occupying the front seat and the defendant the rear seat, where a roll of bedding had been placed on the right side.

C. E. Middleby of Denver testified that on November 14 he was passing through Tucson en route to the coast, and that at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Estaver came up to him while he was sitting in his car in front of the post office, and asked him whether he was on the way to the coast. The witness said he answered that he was, but that he was not going for two or three weeks. Estaver said that he had come in to get some repair materials from El Paso, his car having broken down 28 or 30 miles west of Ajo, his wife waiting for him at Sentinel, according to the witness, who added that Estaver told him he was from Detroit. The defendant was wearing a Norfolk jacket at the time, had on a hat like the one he had with him in the court room, and that he wore a short mustache, Mr. Middleby testified.

Elmer W. Toney, in charge of Brown's hotel at Sentinel between October 1 and November 15, testified that on October 22, Estaver and a woman registered at the hotel as man and wife, and that they had a roadster which had broken down and which they left at Sentinel for repair. Mr. Toney said that on November 14 and 15, there was no woman there registered as Mrs. Estaver, and that the woman who had been with Estaver on October 22 was not there.

On cross-examination, Mr. Toney said that at Estaver's request, a cardboard box was sent in the car when the machine was shipped to Los Angeles after being repaired.

O. F. Hicks, county agent, employed by the Pima county board of supervisors, and under the direction of the county attorney's office, testified that the capacity of a Mauser .32 was nine shots, eight in the magazine and one in the barrel. He exhibited a Mauser gun, No. 293,504, and testified that last Wednesday he gave a cartridge that had been shot by him to County Attorney Darnell. He produced two other cartridges in court.

Deputy County Attorney Ben B. Mathews testified that he gave Agent Hicks three of the cartridges that had been delivered to him by Sheriff J. M. Polhamus of Yuma county, as cartridges taken from Estaver when arrested.

County Attorney George R. Darnell testified that he had received the cartridge from Agent Hicks and that he gave it to Mr. Mathews. The prosecutor also said that he examined Senator Eddy as to this cartridge, which was the last one shown the senator during his direct examination a few days ago.

The state didn't complete its case that day as the county attorney had predicted.

The Morgue Lady searched her memory — and confirmed with a dictionary — for puttees. They are long strips of fabric wound around each leg from ankle to knee.

Next: More state witnesses and some love letters.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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