Butterfield Overland Mail Stage Correspondence

As reported in the Daily Alta California, 6 November 1958


[We commence the publication of the first letters received from our Special Overland Correspondent,  Mr. J. M. Farwell. It will be seen that he refers to a former letter, written from Los Angeles but which has failed to come to hand.—Eds. Alta.]

 Fort Yuma, Oct. 21st, 1858.


From Los Angeles, on the same morning my last was dated, we came to Thompson’s rancho, (or Monte, 14 miles,) the next station. This rancho is situated in a beautiful valley, extending to the south and eastward, carpeted with its spring verdure. We were dragged along at almost railroad speed, and although the road was a perfectly level one, I was sometimes a little apprehensive of serious consequences.  This unbroken plain, or valley, continued until we had passed the San Jose rancho, 11miles farther, and on to the Rancho del Chino, 18 miles, all of which are way stations. Here is a very fine vineyard, containing several kinds of fruit, with abundance of grapes. We were soon on the road again,’ and at about 3 o’clock changed horses at Temascal, 21miles, and on to La Laguna, 16 miles, the latter over a rolling and somewhat hilly country, but fair road.  Here is a very beautiful little lake, some two miles long, and one in breadth. The road runs along by the lake beach, after leaving the station by which we came, about two miles. We arrived at Temecula, 21 miles, soon after dark.  At this place we procured a good supper, and were soon on the road again. The road, after leaving Temecula, is in many places very bad, and in this instance, the difficulty of traveling was somewhat aggravated by the misfortune that the driver who took us over it, had never been on this portion of it before. This was owing to the non-arrival of the eastern mail, which was overdue, and in consequence, the mail had to be earned on to meet it. The driver was very careful, and brought us through safely, though we were obliged several times during the night to get out of the coach to avoid the bad places. These places might soon be remedied, and I presume will be, as soon as they can be attended to. At about 12 o’clock, AM., we came to the next station, called Awander, (an Indian name) and from this place were until about 4 o’clock, A.M., in going 9 miles further, to Oak Grove, the road being still very rough. We then started for the Buena Vista, or Warner Rancho, 12 miles over a hilly country, one of which was very high and long, but having now met the regular driver over this portion of the route, he took us over it at good speed, and in safety. At about 8 o’clock A.M., we arrived at San Felipe. Here another driver took us, and here may be said commence.


The road which had for some time past gradually been rising, after some distance again commences descending, when we entered a narrow gorge, just wide enough for one wagon to pass the rock or ledge, on either side rising to a height of from 50 to 100 feet. It would seem as though nature had intended this for a highway, as it is the only place through this range of hills where a carriage could pass, or even a single animal. This pass is called the Devil’s Canon, is some four miles in length, and on opening into the valley intersected by the San Diego trail, over which the mail is carried to and from that place. 

Vallecita, 18 miles distant from the last station, is situated in the midst of a barren plain and mountains. It is a perfect oasis, containing plenty of grass and water, the latter being strongly impregnated with sulphur. This place we left about 3 o’clock, and arrived at Palm Springs about P. M., 9 miles. The road very sandy and heavy. This place takes its name from a species of palm trees which formerly grew here, and which within a few years were standing, as I saw the trunks as they lay upon the ground, and the stumps from which they were cut. The hills are within a short distance, and have the appearance of being suddenly broken off, leaving a square but furrowed front. It was bright moonlight while we remained here, and the beauty and singularity of the scene will not soon fade from my memory. I was not long permitted to enjoy this, for the coach was ready and we were off again. About 9 miles further we came to Carisa or Cane Creek. Here we found the water still more sulphurous in its taste. We were, however, obliged to fill some bottles with it for our own use, though the driver carries a supply, and so long as it lasts passengers are allowed free use of it. As the trip we now had to make was 32 miles in extent, we thought our course the proper one.


We left about half-past ten o’clock, P. M., and arrived at the Indian wells about five o’clock, A. M., 32 miles. There were formerly two wells here containing pretty good water, at least better than that last procured. Some few weeks since, a drove of cattle which had been driven over the plains, and which had become furious for the want of water, on approaching these wells, and smelling the water, rushed desperately to the brink, and though the leaders stopped, they were pushed in by those hindmost, and some twenty had been drowned. There being no means at hand to raise them out, this one was rendered useless, and subsequently, in a violent tempest, it was entirely tilled up. The other is fortunately sufficient for all purposes.


This storm referred to occurred some few days since, and in it two of the drivers, who had started from the station with the mails, on horseback, were so blinded by the effects of the sand, which was blown in their eyes, that they became separated and lost. They were not heard of for two days, when one came into the station in an exhausted state. The other succeeded in killing a bullock, which had been left on the desert, and drank his blood, which sustained him until the third day when he was found. It is said that his eyes glared wildly, and he bore the appearance of a maniac. He is now well again, and at his business. These tempests are said to be very rare.


At St. Alamo, the next station, we arrived at 11-2 o’clock, and were detained an hour or more. Here I learned from an Indian Chief of the Jocomba tribe, and an intelligent white man who has traversed these sands and mountains for many years, some curious facts, as they allege, in relation to the former condition of this desert.


The Chief says, that not many years since, and during his lifetime, the now barren plains were rich and fertile valleys. That he himself has planted and raised between this and the last station fine crops of vegetables, grapes and other fruits. This statement is corroborated by the white man above referred to, who says that he himself has seen the spot of ground spoken of, which has the appearance of having been tilled. He also says, that at present, near the foot of the mountains in the distance, the Indians of the Jocomba and Gaginga tribes still have fine gardens and vineyards, which they cultivate in luxuriant valleys, but the latter is small.  The Indians say that violent earthquakes have produced the present desert. This is again corroborated by the white, who says about five years since an alarming earthquake occurred, which it will be remembered by some was spoken of by the papers – when smoke was seen issuing from crevices in the earth, and the effects of which are visible at this day. The rains fall here at intervals very heavily, and fill the stream beds; these within two hours will be entirely dry, every vestige of water having entirely disappeared.


From Alamo we came to Cooksville, 26 miles, and thence to Pilot Knob, on the right bank of the Colorado, 9 miles from the last station and the same distance below Fort Yuma, where we now are, and waiting for the ferry to take us across the river. The road agent here has given me much information relative to the mines 17 miles from this place, in Arizona, on the other side of the river. Parties come in here frequently with small amounts of gold to sell.  As high as $40 to the hand per day has been taken out. We shall pass immediately through the diggings, and I shall endeavor to write further concerning them at some other point. At this place I have procured the first “square” meal since leaving Temecula.  Mr. J. L. Jaeger keeps a very good establishment here for the accommodation of travelers, and I recommend him to thus who may to en mutt for this place. One may obtain all supplies needed between here and the settlements at the east; but the less said about the price to be paid the better.

The boat is ready, and I must leave for the other bank of the river.

J, M.F.

Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two Horse Thieves Killed

 As reported in the Daily Alta California, Volume 3, Number 285, 15 October 1852

Later from the South – The Land Commissioners -Two Horse Thieves Killed – Political Nominations.

 Two Horse Thieves Killed. — Some ten or twelve days ago a large number of horses were stolen from Ignacio Reyes and Ricardo Veja, and these gentlemen with their servants immediately started in pursuit. On Friday, the 1st inst., they came upon two of the thieves at Aguanga, near Temecula, having still a portion of the stolen property in their possession. As the pursuers approached one of the thieves raised a rifle against them, which movement was met by a discharge of fire arms from Reyes and his party, and the two thieves were killed. It is unknown who they were, but Mr. Reyes thinks one was a native Californian, and the other a Sonoran. They had with them a woman and a boy which she called her son, and who were brought to this city by Reyes and his party. The woman made, a statement to a magistrate, and gave her name as Maria Josefa Higuera. She expressed ignorance of the names of the thieves, and said that she was with them against her will; that when she was washing near the Mission San Rafael, these men came up and compelled her and her son to go with them. When overtaken they were making for Sonora. Mr. Reyes recovered only eight of his horses, and five or six belonging to other persons.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Body of Colonel Craig Found-Arrest of the Murderers.

As reported in the Daily Alta California, Volume 3, Number 179, 28 June 1852

Later from San Diego – The body of Col. Craig found—-Arrest of the Murders.

By the steamer Oregon, which arrived yesterday, we received a copy of the San Diego Herald of the 22d inst. It will be seen, by the extract which we give below, that the melancholy intelligence of the murder of Col. Craig is now fully confirmed:

MURDER OF COL. CRAIG – BODY FOUND – ARREST OF THE MURDERERS! – The startling intelligence reached San Diego on the 10th inst; of the murder, on the desert, of Col. Craig, 3d Infantry, and Sergeant Bales, 1st Artillery, by two deserters from Major Heintzelman’s command at Camp Yuma.

It is stated by the military express rider, who gives this information that Col. Craig, accompanied by a Sergeant of the 3d Infantry, and by Sergeant Bales, of the 1st Artillery, who was detained by Col. Magruder, with a party to act under the orders of Col. Craig, as an additional escort to the Boundary Commission from this place to Camp Yuma, met on the desert the two deserters, at about one-third of the distance across from this side.

They were on foot, and armed with percussion muskets. The Colonel, taking with him the two Sergeants, pursued them for some miles, calling on them to surrender. At length they halted. Col. Craig look off his sabre, gave it, with his pistol, to Sergeant Bales, and dismounting, proceeded unarmed toward the deserters, offering to use his influence in their favor if they would return with him. The other Sergeant, in the mean time, seeing the Colonel’s mule stray off, went to catch it — heard a shot — turned and saw Col. C. fall, and at another shot, saw Serg. Bales fall. Before he could recover the Colonel’s mule, the deserters fired upon him, and he fled to camp. Nothing further was known. Col. Magruder, who was on the spot at the old town of San Diego when this news came, immediately sent native Californian couriers to all the Indian chiefs between this and San Gorgonia, (some one hundred and thirty miles,) ordering them to turn out their men and use every effort to apprehend and deliver to him, alive, these murderers, offering at the same time suitable rewards — the object being to establish a cordon of Indians from this place to San Gorgonia, so as to block up all the avenues from the Desert to the upper country. Subsequently, through tho promptness of Mr. Geo. McKinstry, at San Isabel, who had been communicated with by Major McKinstry, from the Depot here, a trace of them was obtained, and immediately an armed party of soldiers was detached by Col. M, by the coast road to Los Angeles, to intercept and get ahead of them; whilst another, two days after, was sent to follow up their rear. Trusty soldiers were at the same time sent to watch at night the bouts and shipping in the harbor, to prevent escape by sea : and the proper notifications were directed to be sent to the Sheriff’s of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara by the Ohio of Wednesday. The result was, that on the 15th inst. the murderers were delivered up to the Colonel at the Mission of San Diego, by Pablito Apiz, a chief of Temecula, to whom he had sent orders. They are now well secured, being heavily ironed and confined in strong and separate cells.

Their muskets and a knife belonging to Sergeant Bales were also delivered up by the Chief. We hope speedy justice will overtake these miscreants. It is said that Pablito showed much tact in capturing these men. He first bought their muskets and paid for them, then asked to look at their only revolver; and having got possession of it, coolly told them they were his prisoners. Upon showing a disposition to resist, fifteen Indians sprang up from “parts unknown”, and drawing their bows, threatened instant death, where upon they were put in the stocks by Pablito, and delivered up the next day, as above stated.

Since writing the above, we have been furnished with an extract of a letter, received by express from Camp Yuma. which destroys all hope of the existence of Col. Craig, and assures us of the safety of Sergeant Bales, who, it appears, was badly wounded, and confirms fully the above melancholy intelligence.

Saturday morning, while yet on the road, we met two deserters. Col. Craig, with whom I was riding at the time, rode in pursuit, taking two sergeants with him; and not wishing to use force, continued to follow them for several miles, talking and advising them to return. The deserters at length came to a halt, and said the thing must be decided without going farther. Col. C. then threw aside his sabre and handing his pistol to one of the sergeants, advanced unarmed toward them. When within a very few feet, they (the deserters) fired, one at Col. C, the other at the sergeant, who was further off. The Colonel fell without a word, and died in ten minutes — he was shot through the stomach. The sergeant was wounded in the leg, the same shot killing his horse, which fell with him, thus placing him also in their power. The other sergeant was catching the Colonel’s mule, which had strayed. After shooting the Colonel and first sergeant, they commenced firing on him. He seeing how matters were, turned his mule toward the train, leaving Col. C.’s mule to be caught by the murderers. He overtook one or two of the wagons, and changing his animal, came into camp with the news. A party was sent back immediately, with a wagon, who brought up the Colonel’s remains, also the wounded sergeant.

“Col. C. was killed June the 6th, about seven o’clock. We buried him at a camp where wells had been lately dug by Capt Davidson, (at ‘Alamo Muncho.’)

“The Indians last night came into the commission camp and took fifteen mules.”



Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Jurors Bring in Verdict Of Murder Guilt

As Reported in the Riverside-Enterprise – Saturday, October 31, 1936

John D. M’Neill to Pay Penalty for Killing of Wife at Temecula

 A jury of nine women and three men last night decreed that John D. McNeill of Temecula must forfeit his life on the San Quentin gallows for bludgeoning to death his wife, Mr. Melvey McNeill in their Temecula home on August 13 last.

At 11:15 p.m., almost six hours after they had retired for deliberations, the solemn-faced jurors filed back into Superior Judge O.K. Morton’s courtroom and gave to him the verdict requiring the state to execute the defendant.

 No Recommendation

 It was a verdict finding the defendant “guilt of the charge in the indictment” – a verdict without a recommendation, making it mandatory upon Judge Morton that he impose a death sentence upon the 52 year-old blacksmith and township deputy constable.

 The judge set the time of sentence for 10 a.m., Nov. 4 and ordered the defendant remanded to the custody of the sheriff.

 McNeill failed to rouse himself from his seeming indifference to the court proceedings even as Court Clerk W. G. Waite intoned the words of the verdict that, barring a reversal on automatic appeal required under the state law, will send McNeill to his doom at the penitentiary at a date to be fixed later by the court.  He sat slumped in the defendant’s chair, his head leaning slightly in his left hand.  He did not look at the jurors.  Me maintained this dejected pose almost without interruption throughout the trail except for an occasional brief whispered conversation with his attorneys, Russell S. Waite and John G. Neblett who conducted the eight day trial under appointment by Judge Morton to defend McNeill.

 Jurors Wearied

 The jurors faces appeared drawn and tired as they sat in the jury box during the brief proceedings that followed their return to the courtroom.  They plainly showed the stress and strain of the six hours deliberations with a man’s life at stake.

 Impassioned appeals to the jury by both prosecution and defense marked the closing hours of the trial.  Dist. Atty. Earl Redwine asked the death penalty in a fervent address to the jurors at the close of the day.

 Deputy Dist. Atty. John G. Gabbert who assisted in the preparation of the case and was associated with the district attorney in the trial, made the opening address for the state, chiefly summing up the evidence.

Attorneys Russell S. Waite and John G. Neblett for the defense declared McNeill acted in self defense in making the fatal attack.

Published in: on March 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

M’Neill Murder Trial Nears End As Testimony Almost Concluded

As reported in the Riverside Enterprise – Friday, October 30, 1936 

Temecula Blacksmith, Peace Officer Accused of Killing Own Wife, Again on Witness Stand; Scientific Facts Given by Psychiatrists 

With one part of his defense hard hit by the testimony of three celebrated psychiatrists, John D. McNeill, Temecula peace officer, last night believed to be within 24 hours of the time when his fate on a murder charge growing out of his wife’s violent death will be placed in the hands of the superior court jury. 

It appeared likely the case will be given to the nine women and three men in Superior Judge O.K. Morton’s courtroom late today.  The defense surprised courtroom observers when it case was rested after McNeill testified.  When court adjourned at 5 p.m., the prosecution was in the midst of rebuttal testimony. 

All three of the noted alienists – Dr. Victor Parkin, Dr. Fletcher Van Meter and Dr. Leo J. Adelstein – were called as rebuttal witnesses as the district attorney sought to disprove McNeill’s claim that he suffered a lapse of memory for the few minutes period in which his wife, Mrs. Melvey McNeill was beaten to death in the kitchen of their Temecula residence. 

Each of the expert witnesses testified that, in his opinion, McNeill is professing “pseudo-amnesia” and merely feigning loss of memory for the period in which the state charges he dealt fatal blows upon his wife’s head and body with hard-rubber rollers from a washing machine wringer. 

Each of the psychiatrists declared that McNeill’s memory for insignificant incidents occurring before and after the death struggle make his claim of loss of memory incredible.  Dr. Parkin declared that McNeill by his own statement disclosed he had a ‘guilty conscience” when he showed fear of his son, Johnny, when the latter declared he would kill the man who had beaten his mother.  He said this proved McNeill remembered the incidents of the period which he has left blank in his account of the tragedy. 

Defense Cross Examines

 Defense Attorneys Russell B. Waite and John Neblett cross-examined each witness closely on the possibility that McNeill has lost his powers of recollection of the incidents in those harrowing minutes of the struggle, perhaps due to the tremendous stress and excitement.  The witnesses said extreme excitement can produce confusion and poor recollection “but not true amnesia”.  The defense counsel pressed their point about loss of recollection, steering away from a claim of straight amnesia. 

During re-direct testimony under questioning by Attorney Neblett, the defendant made a half-way admission that he dealt the blows that brought death to his wife.

Near the close of questioning the attorney suddenly said: “Mr. McNeill you don’t deny you caused the wounds to your wife, do you?” 

“No”, came the answer in a hoarse whisper. 

“And you don’t deny that you have probably caused those wounds?”  Again he replied negatively. 

“And you don’t deny that you were the one who put your wife’s glasses on the sink and pulled out the drawers in the bureaus?” 

“No,” he said. 

Defendant Examined

At this juncture the defendant was turned over to the prosecution for re-cross examination. 

McNeill was the one witness in his behalf.  He was called to the stand Wednesday afternoon and his attorneys completed their direct examination early yesterday afternoon.  Dist. Atty. Redwine cross-examined for about half an hour, bringing out no new details about the defendant’s version of the tragedy.  He had testified that when he arrived at his home his wife was in an ugly mood over an insurance policy payment and threatened to kill him with a revolver. 

He said he picked up a wringer roller and threw it at her.  It hit her head.  He threw another and it struck her in the stomach.  She dropped the gun and came toward him.  He grappled with her, he said, and there his mind became a blank.  He remembered nothing until he “came to” as he stood in the yard.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

M’Neill Gives Testimony In Own Defense

As reported in the Riverside Enterprise – Thursday, October 29, 1936 

Defendant on Trail as Wife-Murderer Tells Of Fatal Event 

Claiming he acted in self-defense, John D. McNeill, Temecula blacksmith, yesterday admitted to a superior court jury here part of the deadly beating of his wife in their Temecula home on August 13, 1936, but could not remember administering the fatal blows because of a lapse of memory. 

McNeill, on trail for murder, told the jury he remembers throwing washing-machine wringer rollers at his wife when as he related, she threatened him with a gun.  But he declared he suffered a sudden stroke of amnesia at the point where the state claims he beat his wife fatally with one of the rollers. 

Pathetic Picture 

The defendant, who presented a pathetic figure as he gave the harrowing account of the tragedy, recounted his story under questioning by Defense Attorneys John Neblett and Russell S. Waite in Superior Judge O.K. Morton’s courtroom. 

Called to the witness stand as the first defense witness after Dist. Atty. Earl Redwine had rested the prosecution, McNeill presented in detail his accounts of the events leading up to the fatal beating. 

He said he went to his home about 12:30 p.m. after having obtained gasoline at the Smull garage in Temecula.  He carried the fuel home in a small red, gallon can which already has been introduced into evidence by the prosecutor. 

Says Was Threatened

 As he stepped into the house, he faced Mrs. McNeill who had his own service revolver leveled at him and was threatening to shoot him, he said. 

Believing his life was in danger, he picked up a washing-machine wringer roller lying on the wood box, he testified.  He said he hurled it at his wife and that it struck her in the stomach, but that she clung to the gun and continued to menace him with it. 

He then picked up the second roller, this time striking her in the head.  McNeill testified she dropped the gun and started toward him and that he started toward her. 

Memory Fails

 But there his memory suffered a lapse.  He said he remembered nothing more until sometime later he “came to” in the yard of the house. 

He testified he rushed into the house and found his wife lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor.  He fell to her side and grasped her in his arms, he said. 

Within a short time he heard his son, Johnny, coming home for lunch and ran to meet him.  He said he sent Johnny to obtain a doctor.  This testimony was in contradiction to the son’s testimony, the latter had said he alone thought of calling a doctor and the ambulance, and also had sent his father to notify officers. 

Evidence Presented

 One of the wringer roller is in evidence in the case.  It was smeared with blood when found by officers at the McNeill home. 

McNeill was still on the witness stand when the case adjourned last night and will continue his defense testimony today.  Following that he will be cross-examined by the prosecutor. 

Prior to the close of the state’s case, three witnesses were called by the prosecution during the morning session.  They were Mrs. Genevieve Ross, district attorney’s secretary who read shorthand notes of a statement by McNeill in which he denied the crime; Albert L. Kelley, district attorney’s investigator, who told of his investigation of the case, and Mrs. Fern Freeman who said all neighbors were absent on the day of the crime.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Boy Tells Of His Mother’s Tragic Death

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. 

On Cross-Examination 

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.

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Son Witness In Trial of John M’Neill

As reported in the Riverside Enterprise – Saturday, October 24, 1936

Temecula Youth Recounts Scene After Mother Fatally Wounded 

With his court appearance frought with pathos and drama, 18-year old Johnny McNeill yesterday was called as a prosecution witness in the superior court trial of his father, Deputy Constable John D. McNeill of Temecula on a charge that he fatally beat his wife in their Temecula home last August. 

The youth was sent to the witness stand by Dist. Atty. Bart Redwine at 4 p.m. and he was in the midst of his testimony when the court adjourned until next Tuesday morning. 

Defendant is Stolid

 Throughout his son’s testimony McNeill showed no emotion.  He looked at the youth infrequently, and sat stolidly at the defense counsel table as the prosecutor drew from the boy through questions his account of how he helped his dying mother as she lay on the kitchen floor of the Temecula home, wounded on the head and body by frightful blows.

 He was the second state witness to testify that the defendant had sought to give the impression Mrs. McNeill was beaten by robbers. 

Johnny said he came home for lunch and was met at a creek bridge near his home by his father.  McNeill told his son that someone had beaten up Mrs. McNeill.  Together they raced to the house. 

Tells Dramatic Story

The courtroom was deathly quiet as the youth told of the horrible sight that confronted him when he stepped into the kitchen.

 “I saw that mother was badly hurt,” the boy said, his gaze fixed on the ceiling as though seeing anew the harrowing events of that hour. 

“She was having difficulty breathing, so I worked her arms and manipulated her chest to help her breathing, and she seemed to be more comfortable.”  he said. 

“Did she say anything to you before she was taken to the hospital?” the prosecutor asked. 

“No, she didn’t say a word,” the youth replied slowly. 

Youth Makes Threat

 His testimony reached a sensational climax when he was asked by the district attorney if he had said anything to his father about what he would to his mother’s assailant.

 “Yes, I did,” he said, as a bitter glint showed in his eyes.  “ I would if I ever found the guy who did it, I would kill him.”

 He did not look at his father as he snapped out the words.  His father lowered his eyes.

 Johnny said that when he entered the home he had seen his father’s revolver in a holster on the dining room table.  After he made the threat against the unknown attacker, his father moved the gun to a bureau on a sleeping porch, putting the holster in the bottom drawer, and covering the revolver with a scarf on top of the dresser.

The youth said he found the gun and cocked it to see if any shells had been fired.  All were intact, he said.  He testified that Dr. J.D. Jatton of Fallbrook, who testified Thursday as to conversations with McNeill soon after the crime was committed, told him he should not have touched the gun.

 To Resume Stand

 Young McNeill’s testimony will be continued Tuesday. 

Earlier in the day, Deputy Sheriff Paul Pierce, one of the sheriff’s officers in charge of the investigation, completed several hours of testimony during which physical evidence in the trial was entered. 

He identified bloody washing machine wringer rollers as those he had found in the McNeill home.  He also identified bloody towels, women’s garments and rags which he had found about the McNeill home after he arrived there with Deputy Sheriffs F.F. Labrum and C.B. Worcester.  Some of the garments had been secreted in various parts of the premises, he testified.  Several photographs also were introduced during his testimony.

 Other witnesses called during the day by the prosecutor, chiefly for the purpose of fixing the time of the crime, were Charles T. Thompson, Frank H. Hall, Evelyn Otto, Ethel Ware, H.D. Smohl, C.P. Jones, Carl Amos, Leo Roripaugh, and Joe Martin. 

It appeared likely that the prosecution will need parts of two more days to finish its case.

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 10:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brutality Of Woman Killer Told To Jury

As reported in the Riverside Enterprise – Friday, October 23, 1936

Mrs. McNeill Choked, Beaten, Physician Relates at Trial

That John D. McNeill, Temecula blacksmith, blamed robbers for the fatal beating of his wife in her home at Temecula on Aug. 13 last, was the testimony of a witness yesterday afternoon in Superior Judge O.K. Morton’s courtroom where McNeill is on trial for his wife’s murder.

The testimony, considered of great importance to the prosecution, was given the jurors by Dr. J.D.  Jatton of Fallbrook, the physician who gave emergency treatment of Mrs. McNeill before she was taken to the county hospital where she died five hours after the beating.

Describes Wounds

Testifying on direct-examination Dr. Jatton said he was called to the McNeill home and found Mrs. McNeill suffering from head and body injuries.  He described how he bandaged the wounds and prepared her for removal to the hospital.  He said Mr. McNeill and his son, Johnny, were present during most of the time he was caring for Mrs. McNeill.

“Did McNeill, Sr., offer any explanation for the situation that confronted you?” Dist. Atty. Earl Redwine asked the physician.  “Yes, he did.” the doctor replied.  “He said robbers must have entered his home and finding Mrs. McNeill in their way, beat her.  He then said, Come on in here and let me show you how they left the house.”

Rooms Upset

“He led the way into the bedrooms of the house, and pointed out that drawers of bureaus were pulled out and that a trunk was open, with its contents scattered on the floor.  He mentioned there was an insurance policy there but I did not look at it.  The contents of the drawers were not disturbed; the drawers were just pulled out varying distances.”

Asked if he saw a gun in the house, Dr. Jatton said the revolver belonging to McNeill, a deputy constable, was in the bottom drawer of a chest on a screen porch.  This is expected to be a major point of the case as in statements to officers McNeill has indicated his gun played a big part in the fatal struggle.

Dr. Jatton said Mrs. McNeill did not speak a word during the 40 minutes he was in the house.  He said McNeill asked him if he thought she ‘would get along all right.”

Says Woman Choked

That Mrs. McNeill was choked besides being beaten over the head and on her body, was indicated by the testimony of Dr. Jatton.  He said there were scraped marks on her throat that could have been made by fingers.  A froth on her lips was seen by him as evidence of strangulation.

The physician, testifying in his first criminal trial, was extremely cautious and deliberate with is answers, weighing his replies at great length.  Defense Attorneys John Neblett and Russell Waite dismissed him with but one question:  “Could the froth on Mrs. McNeill’s lips have resulted from the broken ribs which she suffered in the beating?”

Dr. Jatton said persons suffering from broken ribs “do not ordinarily have froth about their lips.”

Other Physician on Stand

Earlier in the day Dr. James Farrage, resident physician of the county hospital where Mrs. McNeill died, described her fatal injuries.

Enlarged photographs of the body were entered for identification by the prosecutor.  They were tacked to a large blackboard in view of the jury box and then Dr. Farrage, using a pointer, explained the fatal injuries.  Returning to the witness stand, he recounted the injuries disclosed by an autopsy performed the day following Mrs. McNeill’s death.  Most of the blows, which the state charges were dealt with hard rubber rollers from a washing machine ringer, were inflicted on the woman’s head, the doctor said.

The gruesome pictures remained on the blackboard, which stood within three feet of where the defendant sat quietly at the defense table.  He kept his eyes turned toward the floor, evading the sight of the photographs.  He appeared to take little interest in the proceedings.

Witnesses Are Excluded

Superior Judge O.K. Morton, in whose court the trial is underway, ordered all witnesses excluded from the courtroom as the trial opened.  Departure of the witnesses left nearly 40 spectators, most of them from the home community of the defendant still in the courtroom.

Other witnesses testifying during the afternoon were Undersheriff Stephen Lynch, Mrs. Hazel Boller, of the sheriff’s criminal identification department, and Deputy Sheriff Paul Pierce, one of the three sheriff’s officers making the investigation.

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jury Chosen For Trial Of Temeculan

As reported in the Riverside Enterprise – Thursday, October 22, 1936

Nine Women Included in  List to Hear Testimony In Murder Case

Nine women and three men must decide the fate of John D. McNeill, Temecula officer, now on trial in superior court here charged with murdering his wife, Melvey, at their Temecula home last Aug. 13.

The jury was completed at 3:15 p.m. yesterday except for an alternate to be chosen after the court re-convenes at 10 a.m. today.  Six additional veniremen were ordered into court by Superior Judge O.K. Morton for today.  The alternate will serve as a ordinary juror but will not take part in the deliberations unless one of the talesmen is unable to attend the trial.

May Lock Up Jury

Whether the jury will be locked up during the duration of the trial is expected to be decided today by Judge Morton.  A motion to have the jurors placed in custody of the bailiff after the taking of the testimony is started was made by Defense Attorneys Russell S. Waite and John Neblett.  Dist. Atty. Earl Redwine did not oppose or approve the proposal and it was submitted to the court for decision.

The attorneys conducted one of the most meticulous examinations of prospective jurors heard in a criminal case here in years.  Questioning of the veniremen was started early Tuesday and ended only when the attorneys accepted the following 12 persons yesterday afternoon:  I.S. Kennedy, C. Mabel Gilman, Grace Long, Barbara Culver, Marie Bonnett, Ada Clark, Arthur W. Peters, E.J. Pollock, Florence Flaherty, Barbara Best, Alice Green and Hazel Stark.

Closely Quizzed

The prosecutor quizzed the prospective jurors closely on whether they had any compunctions against returning a death verdict, showing that the state will ask for the forfeiture of McNeill’s life.

In appeared probable yesterday that the case may last four or five days, extending the hearing into next week.  The state has subponeaed 60 witnesses and the defense is said to have summoned a large number.

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment