As reported by the Riverside Enterprise – Wednesday, October 28, 1936
Young McNeill Witness in Father’s Trial; Much Testimony Heard
A parade of prosecution witnesses told a jury in Superior Judge O.K. Morton’s courtroom yesterday that John D. McNeill, Temecula blacksmith and township officer, admitted to them parts of the fatal attack upon his wife, Mrs. Melvey McNeill, at their home in Temecula on Aug. 13 last. Among the witnesses were the 17-year-old son and a brother-in-law of the defendant.
But in the same testimony the witnesses disclosed McNeill’s probable defense – that his wife had infuriated him to a savage rage by threatening him with his own service revolver, apparently in some kind of dispute over an insurance policy.
Building Up Prosecution
Regardless of the likely admission of the crime by the defendant on the ground of self-defense, District Attorney Earl Redwine continued carefully to reconstruct the slaying, through testimony, according to the way he believes it was committed. All his evidence thus far has pointed to the defendant as the perpetrator of the slaying.
Two scientists testified for the prosecution yesterday afternoon, each furnishing strong testimony against McNeill. They were Ray Pinker, noted chemist and scientific investigator of the Los Angeles police department, and Dr. Leo J. Adelstein of Los Angeles, eminent amnesia expert.
The parade of witnesses, whose testimony fitted in a sequential pattern, was started as the prosecutor called to the stand Joe Martin, brother of Mrs. McNeill, soon after Johnny McNeill, 17-year-old son of the ill-fated woman, had been cross-examined by the defense.
Says McNeill Confessed
Mr. Martin testified that McNeill confessed to him in the county jail here on Aug. 19, six days after the fatal beating, that he had attached his wife with rollers from a washing machine wringer. During the previous six days McNeill had stoutly maintained that the crime was committed by prowlers.
Seymer L. Cash, deputy county coroner and shorthand stenographer, was then called as a witness. He testified that he accompanied three deputy sheriffs and McNeill to the McNeill home after the “confession” to Martin, and witnessed McNeill in a re-enactment of the slaying scene. He took down the statements of McNeill as he related the tragic struggle to the officers.
Through the testimony of Dr. Adelstein, the district attorney then presented further details of the fatal attack. Dr. Adelstein testified he talked with McNeill in the county jail here and heard from him his story of the struggle that ended in Mrs. McNeill’s death.
He said McNeill told him that his threatened him with a gun, that he threw a roller and struck her in the head; that he threw a second one that knocked her to the floor; that while she lay on the floor she abused him with foul language, and that he picked up one of the rollers in his right hand, held his wife with his left hand and then – but their McNeill claims his memory checked out on him, the doctor said. The defendant told the specialist that he remembered nothing after that until he walked into the house a short time later and found Mrs. McNeill in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor.
The district attorney did not question the witness as to the possible loss of memory by the defendant.
Others Give Testimony
Lloyd J. Boller, former deputy sheriff and now Palms Spring chief of police, testified as to parts of McNeill’s reenactment of the crime.
Redwine played his “trump card” next as he called to the witness stand Ray Pinker, the police chemist expert to whom the prosecutor submitted most of the physical evidence of the case for examination recently.
Pinker identified blood on the wringer rollers and elsewhere, but his most sensational testimony concerned overalls which McNeill is alleged to have been wearing on the day of the slaying. The chemist declared his microscopic examination of the garment showed splotches of blood which, he said, had struck the cloth with force.
Blood Stains Found
He said also there were spots of blood which had struck the overalls at an angle ranging up from the floor. Some of this blood, he said, was found under a small flap at the waist of the garment. The blood was in such a position as to prove it had shot up under the flap, he said.
During his testimony early in the day, Johnny McNeill brought tears to the eyes of jurors and spectators as he described how his mother, dying from the horrible beating administered to her five hours earlier, recognized him as he stood by her bedside in the county hospital.
Johnny had testified that when an ambulance arrived to take his mother to the hospital, he climbed into the rear of the vehicle and sat beside her on the trip to the hospital.
Sat Beside Mother
“Did she speak to you on the trip, Johnny?” the district attorney asked.
“No,” he replied.
“After you arrived at the hospital did she recognize you?”
“Yes. She was lying on the cot at the hospital. She opened her eyes and looked up at me. Then she reached out her hand and took hold of my wrist. She pulled me closer to the bed. Then she pulled me down until my face was close to hers.”
“Johnny, did your mother speak to you there?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes, she did,” was the slow reply.
“Take the witness,” the prosecutor said turning to the defense attorneys.
Defense Attorney Russell B. Waite launched into a cross-examination of the young witness.
Earlier, in the direct testimony under questioning of the prosecutor, young McNeill was near the breaking point when the district attorney questioned him about blood he saw on the floor, sink and elsewhere in the kitchen of the McNeill home and found his mother mortally wounded, lying on the kitchen floor.
He said he saw the blood on the floor, stove an sink.
“Does your father wear glasses?’ the prosecutor asked.
“Yes, he does,” the boy replied. “Did you notice anything unusual about them on Aug. 13?”
“Yes,” was the hesitating reply, “I saw a drop of blood on his glasses.”
The youth’s voice broke, as he choked back the tears, but he regained control of himself as the next question was put to him.
His answers to all questions were straightforward. He revealed an excellent memory for details and for statements made to him at the tragic scene.