Discrepancies Crop Out in Testimony of W. S. Estaver
DEFENDANT SAYS WHEN TWO MEN FIRED ON JOHNSON CAR HE FELL OUT AND WAS ROBBED OF $500
In the Main Estaver Adhered to Original Story
Despite several discrepancies, which he explained in various ways, William S. Estaver, charged in the superior court with murder in the first degree, on the stand yesterday, in the main adhered to his original version of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs. Anna C. Johnson, who was shot and killed at a lonely spot on the Ajo-Stoval road on the night of November 15, 1921.
Both in the direct and cross-examination, Estaver maintained that Mrs. Johnson was shot and killed by two men that fired into the car, and that, in returning the fire, he fell out of the machine and was robbed of about $500.
The discrepancies between his testimony given yesterday and the day before, and that which he gave at the coroner's inquest at Stoval, November 16, 1921, Estaver explained as arising from the fact that he had not eaten for two days and had walked 30 miles the night before; that at the inquest questions were asked so rapidly that he did not understand them perfectly, and that the transcript of the proceedings before the corner was faulty.
Estaver also assigned special reasons for varying in his testimony as to certain particular matters, and declared that there were certain questions of a personal nature that he had not wished to answer.
The defendant was on the stand all day yesterday, the usual crowd being in attendance. The direct examination of the defendant by John L. Van Buskirk, who, with K. Barry Peterson, is conducting the defense, was completed at about 11 o'clock in the morning.
County Attorney George R. Darnell then took up the cross-examination, which continued until adjournment. The county attorney said last night that his cross-examination of Estaver would probably be completed by noon today. Mr. Darnell is being assisted by Deputy County Attorney Ben B. Matthews. Judge Samuel L. Pattee is presiding.
With the announcement yesterday afternoon that the defense would not complete its case today, possibility that the trial would continue into next week loomed large. It is not believed that the rebuttal evidence, the judge's instructions and the arguments to the jury can be presented in two days.
Estaver admitted on cross-examination that Grace Gaynor, with whom he was traveling, was not his wife, but that they had registered as man and wife at the Hotel Rosslyn, Los Angeles, and at the New Cornelia hotel at Ajo. At the coroner's inquest in Stoval, the defendant had testified that he was traveling with his wife and that her name was Grace Gaynor, according to the transcript.
On the stand yesterday, Estaver said that his sole reason for wanting to return to Sentinel was to recover a black beaded bag belonging to Miss Gaynor, and that in the bag there was $600 of his money. The coroner's inquest transcript quoted him as saying that he wanted to get back to Sentinel to see whether a man to whom he owed $25 for towing him and actually received the money which the defendant said he had sent to him by a third person.
Estaver explained this discrepancy by saying that he did not wish anyone to know that he had lost money near Sentinel.
Asked by Mr. Darnell as to how the $600 had gotten into the woman's bag, Estaver replied that he placed it there as they were sitting in the desert, after their machine had broken down 18 miles from Sentinel. He said that he had been carrying the bills under the fold of his collar. When questioned by the county attorney as to where he had obtained the bills, Estaver testified that one of them he had gotten from a Detroit bank, the name or address of which he did not remember. Regarding the $100 bill the defendant's testimony was not specific.
On cross-examination Estaver testified that he had given a Chihuahua dog, which, from the testimony given previously, had been called "The Rat," to Grace Gaynor, and that she had sold it to Lila Lee the moving picture star. The dog was bought in Juarez Estaver said, and was sold to Miss Lee by Grace Gaynor because the latter could not take it with her on the train from Los Angeles to Jackson, Mich., where she had been summoned by the illness of "her boy, "the defendant testified.
Referring to his conversation at Rowood with Peter Johnson, husband of the dead woman, on their way to Sentinel, Estaver claimed that he did not say that his wife was waiting for him at Sentinel at the time.
Estaver testified that during the trip from Rosewood toward Stoval, Mrs. Johnson read the speedometer and was holding the watch.
Then without further preliminaries, County Attorney Darnell, snapped out:
"Now just tell the jury how the shooting occurred."
Instantly, Mr. VanBuskirk was on his feet with an objection to the form of the question. The objection was overruled.
"Mrs. Johnson had just been speaking about the harder road that we expected to find near the end of the road to Sentinel," Estaver began. "I answered that the road must have changed since I have been over it last, and that I didn't understand why the going was still so rough.
"Just then two shots were fired from the left side of the car. The man was either standing near the car or on the running board, but I think it was on the running board, because as he shot the car stopped and the man took a running step from the car that landed him three feet ahead of the car. Then he darted into the bushes. I took my gun from my hip pocket and fired two shots toward the spot. Mr. Johnson had fallen forward on the wheel. Suddenly there was one shot or perhaps two fired by a man on the right side, about 30 feet away, and a little ahead of the car. I fired in the direction from which the flash and the explosion had come. As I did so, the car started off again, I lost my balance, fell off the car and landed on my back and shoulders."
Asked by Mr. Darnell as to whether the gun that he took from his pocket was loaded at the time, Estaver replied that it was, saying that he had loaded it as the Johnsons and he will leaving Tucson.
The transcript of this part of his testimony at the coroner's inquest reads as follows:
". . . I reached for my gun in my hip pocket. When I left Tucson to start out on the desert, I had this gun. I always carry it in my traveling bag, and I had a package of cartridges there. The paper of the box broke, and they were wrapped up in my suit case in front of me. I opened the grip, took out three of them. I never carry my gun loaded. I got out my gun as quickly as I could, and as the car stopped and Mr. Johnson went down another shot came from the other side of the car."
Estaver testified that he did not have a good look at the man that was firing from the left side, but that he knew he was a heavy man. He said that when he fell, the man dragged him, pushed his face into the sand and took about $500 in bills from him as well as his watch.