Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, part 3

2014-08-08T06:00:00Z 2014-08-09T13:03:12Z Tales from the Morgue: Deadly road trip, part 3Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Attorneys are paid to argue, so it should come as no surprise that they did just that when William Estaver's preliminary hearing continued. At least this argument didn't turn bloody.

A note from the Morgue Lady: Stoval is spelled either Stoval or Stovall in the articles from 1921 and 1922. The spelling presented here is the same as in the original articles in each instance.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday, Dev. 23, 1921:

 

Estaver Will Be Held for Court Trial, Justice Indicates

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EXAMINATION OF ACCUSED MAN IS NOT COMPLETED

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Attorneys Again Engage in Word Battle at Hearing

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Belief that the prosecution had established sufficient "probably cause," which, in the absence of further testimony by the defense, would warrant his holding W. S. Estaver on a charge of murder, was expressed to a representative of The Star by Justice Oscar L. Pease last night, following a stormy hearing in his court, during which "the short and ugly" was passed in the course of a tilt between the attorneys.

Estaver is charged with having slain Mrs. Peter Johnson, of Denver, while riding in an automobile driven and owned by Mr. Johnson, on the Ajo-Stoval road, on the night of November 15.

The preliminary hearing was continued to 10 o'clock, December 30, at the request of W. F. Timmons, of Yuma, who is representing Estaver.

"If I were called upon to rule at the present time, I could do not less than hold Estaver to the superior court," Judge Pease said. "However, it is impossible to say what evidence the defense will introduce when the case is resumed."

Attorneys Again Tilt

The word-bout between Mr. Timmons and County Attorney George R. Darnell, who, assisted by his deputy, Ben B. Mathews, represented the state, occurred when the former made a statement that there seemed to be conspiracy between the county attorney and other officers to conceal and suppress evidence.

"That statement is a lie," Mr. Darnell snapped back.

Judge Pease poured oil on the troubled waters, and for a time the angry billows subsided into mere billows.

Another squall came up, however, when the matter of a continuance came up. Mr. Timmons wanted the hearing continued to some time in January. Mr. Darnell stoutly opposed this sort of an arrangement, declaring that he and Mr. Mathews had other matters coming up in the superior court at that time, and that there was no reason for further delay.

The dispute regarding the alleged suppression of evidence by officers arose when Mr. Darnell refused to produce certain exhibits and other evidence demanded by the defense attorney. Mr. Darnell contended that the state should not be forced to divulge its complete case at this time.

"We have evidence that we have not brought out for the reason that we didn't want to put the county to an expense of $500 on the preliminary examination, to bring in witnesses from outside the county," Mr. Darnell said. "We shall have to bring these witnesses in when the trial is held on its merits in the superior court. We do not believe that the proper foundation has been laid for the production of these witnesses at this time."

Judge Pease sustained the position taken by the county attorney, ruling that the prosecution could not be forced to produce such exhibits until a foundation for such introduction had already been laid by connecting the exhibits with the crime. This foundation, Judge Pease said, so far has not been laid.

Mr. Timmons reported that he had been unable to get certain witnesses in Yuma county who had been summoned to appear, and gave that as his chief reason for being unable to proceed with the case. He also said that a preliminary examination in another case in Riverside, California, had taken up much of his time.

After his clashes with the county attorney, Mr. Timmons said that nothing personal had been meant, that such tilts are not uncommon in the heat of argument in an important case, and that if he had said anything that had offended Mr. Darnell, he apologized.

Accusing the county attorney of conspiracy to conceal evidence is likely to have offended him. However, anyone who holds a public office would be well advised to have thick skin.

Mr. Timmons did not quite get his way. He want the hearing to be continued to January, but it was completed at the end of December.

From the Star, Saturday, Dec. 31, 1921:

 

Estaver Is Refused Bail When Held for Superior Court
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DEFENDANT IS CHARGED WITH KILLING WOMAN

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Case Probably Will Be Tried at Ajo in February
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After one of the sharpest and most protracted legal battles ever staged in the justice court of the Tucson precinct, William S. Estaver, charged with the murder of Mrs. Anna C. Johnson, on the Ajo-Stoval road on the night of November 15, yesterday was committed to the county jail to face trail in the superior court, Justice of the Peace Oscar L. Pease declining to permit the prisoner to give bail.

County Attorney George R. Darnell, who with his deputy Ben B. Mathews, represented the state at the preliminary hearing, said last night that in the absence of any motion by the defense to have the case removed to Tucson, the trial would be held in Ajo, perhaps during the latter part of January or the first part of February.

The preliminary examination of Estaver was commenced in the justice court 20 days ago, being continued on two different occasions.

Yuma Men Called

At yesterday's session, which began at 10 o'clock and lasted until about 4 in the afternoon, the defense called a number of Yuma witnesses, whose testimony dealt chiefly with the tracing, step by step, of tracks which the defendant was said to have admitted were his own, from Stoval to the spot of the alleged crime, three and one-half miles east of the Pima-Yuma line.

H. H. Baker, county attorney of Yuma county, first took the stand, and told of his automobile trip from Stoval in the company of Sheriff J. M. Polhamus and Michael B. Hodges, of Yuma county. Mr. Baker testified that Estaver pointed out the stretch over which he had run for about 400 or 500 yards to overtake Peter Johnson, the dead woman's husband, who was driving the car at the time.

According to testimony previously adduced in the case, the Johnson couple had taken Estaver aboard their car at Tucson to permit him to join his wife, who, he was quoted as having said, was awaiting him at Sentinel. Estaver's car, according to an explanation attributed to him, had broken down west of Ajo. It was during this trip to Sentinel that Mrs. Johnson was killed and her husband seriously wounded.

Mr. Baker said he had nothing in his possession belonging to the defendant. The witness was on the stand about three hours, being examined minutely as to the details of the trip to the alleged scene of the shooting.

Tells of Autopsy

Dr. H. D. Ketcherside, also of Yuma, testified that he had held the autopsy over the body of Mrs. Johnson and had found two bullets in her head, one of which missiles, he said, was split. The bullets were of steel and of .32 calibre. The witness added that Mr. Johnson had been shot three times, once through the side of the face and twice through the body.

Sheriff Polhamus corroborated the testimony of County Attorney Baker as to the defendant's admission that the tracks leading to the alleged scene of the shooting were his own, and regarding the location, which, he testified, was marked by the tying of rags to nearby bushes. The sheriff said that a .32 Mauser gun was turned over to him by Southern Pacific Officer J. J. Sullivan, who brought Estaver into Stoval. The witness stated that he had found empty cartridges in the automobile.

County Attorney Darnell was next called to the stand by his "brother on the other side." Mr. Darnell admitted that he had in his possession certain grips, cartridges, a gun and a piece of glass, but that there was nothing to identify them with the case and that the objects had not been tagged.

Asks for Articles

Mr. Timmons then made a formal motion to have Mr. Darnell produce these articles in court. A long-standing legal campaign was renewed, Mr. Darnell having already refused to produce them at that stage of the proceedings.

Judge Pease announced that after taking into consideration his own duties and that of the county attorney, he did not believe that a committing magistrate could interfere with the prosecutor's method of trying cases.

Mr. Timmons then made a formal motion to have the case dismissed, contending that the state had failed clearly to establish both the county in which the shooting had occurred and the county where Mrs. Johnson had died.

Judge Pease ruled that under the Arizona law a committing magistrate was not concerned with either of these questions, which could be threshed out in the superior court.

"My duty is to ascertain whether a crime has been committed and whether the defendant was the man who probably committed it," the magistrate said.

Judge Pease accordingly ordered Estaver to be held to answer to the superior court, denying Mr. Timmons' request that his client be allowed bail. Sheriff Ben F. Daniels and Deputy J. Lew Tremaine then locked the defendant up in the county jail.

By late January, no date had been set for Estaver's trail. His attorney, Mr. Timmons, Withdrew from the case and another attorney was appointed to assist Estaver at his arraignment, at which he pleaded not guilty.

Estaver himself was unable to find an attorney so, in late February, Judge Samuel L. Pattee agreed to appoint two attorneys to defend Estaver based on the seriousness of the charges. A trial date was not yet set.

Next: The trial begins.

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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