Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and the
Castaic Range War.

Los Angeles Times.
June 1, 1890.

Jangle In The Canyon Over An Attempt To Jump A Claim.

Yesterday the Chormicle and Gardner murder case, now on trial before Judge Cheney, was resumed, and Jose Olme, the Mexican boy, first witness in the case, was turned over to the defense for cross-examination. He was kept on the stand all day and his knowledge of the murders was thoroughly probed by Mr. Murphy. He stuck exceedingly close to the main features of the story as told on his direct examination, varying somewhat on some minor details, and showing evident signs of fatigue from his long siege in answering questions.

There were quite a number of spectators in attendance who seemed to be very much interested in the case, nearly all of them remaining at both morning and afternoon sessions. The defendants are very quiet in their demeanor. They sit close by their attorneys and rarely change their positions or show any traces of their feelings. Both are intelligent and respectable-looking men. While Mr. Chormicle's hair is turning gray, his co-defendant has coal-black hair and flashing eyes, and is a good-looking young man. When Jose Olme was called to the stand he testified in answer to some preliminary questions by Mr. Murphy that he is 20 years of age and was born in this country; that he cannot speak good english, and can read and write but little in Spanish. He said he was a brother-in-law of Dolores Cook, who, with Mr. Walton, was killed February 28th last by the two defendants. He said he lived at Cook's house at the time of the shooting, and was working for him, but got no wages. Upon being asked his feelings toward the defendants, he said: "All the feeling that I have is that my brother-in-law was killed. I can't say that I have anything against them except the killing. I have engaged no one myself to assist the District Attorney in the prosecution."

Q.: What did Mr. Chormicle say when he first came out of the house that morning-at the first quarrel?

A.: I don't remember his first words.

Q.: Tell what you do remember.

A.: He cursed Mr. Walton, who answered in the same way. Those were not the first words. I think he said first to Mr. Walton that he had already told Mr. Walton two or three times not to bring any lumber on his land. Mr. Walton said it was his lumber and he could do with it as he pleased, and he would take it to where he was going to build his house. I don't remember very well what passed, but that the lie was passed.

Q.: Don't you know that Walton called Chormicle a liar and other things?

A.: I don't remember.

Q.: Don't you remember Walton calling Mrs. Chormicle names?

A.: No, sir; I did not here him say anything about her.

Q.: Did you here all that passed between them?

A.: No, sir; because I don't here very well.

Q.: In one ear or both?

A.: One.

Q.: In what language did they speak that morning. Chormicle, Walton, Cook and yourself?

A.: In English-all between Chormicle and Walton. I spoke in English, Cook only spoke two or three words, and in English.

Q.: Now, how came Walton to get off the wagon?

A.: He did not get off before Chormicle came out.

Q.: How long did he stay on the wagon after Chormicle came out?

A.: Only a short time. Chormicle was nearer the wagon than the house. The wagon was eighteen or twenty yards from the house. Chormicle was about seven or eight yards from the wagon when Walton jumped off. He came near, and then retired before Walton jumped off.

Q.: What did Walton do when he jumped off the wagon?

A.: He struck a blow at Mr. Chormicle.

Q.: He had to run some little distance?

A.: He walked. I don't remember whether it staggered Mr. Chormicle or not. I did not see him pull any of Mr. Chormicle's beard out. I was not interested in the fight. I got off the wagon. I did not run to separate them, but told them not to fight, that there was no necessity for it. Cook was in his buggy, about fifteen or sixteen yards behind the wagon. He was there during all this fracas. He got out of the buggy and stood by it.

Q.: You are certain he did not come up to Chormicle?

A.: Yes, sir.

Q.: Did you see any pistol with Mr. Chormicle?

A.: Yes, sir. I saw it first at the gate. Mr. Chormicle had it. I saw it first when Mr. Chormicle dropped it from his sleeve. When Mr. Walton struck him it dropped. I suppose it was in his sleeve. I don't remember where Mr. Chormicle was standing at the time. When the pistol dropped Mr. Gardner came out of the house with a cocked rifle. I picked up Mr. Chormicle's hat and handed it to him. He picked up his pistol and pointed it in Walton's face two or three times.

Q.: Where was Walton when the pistol was pointed?

A.: Standing by him.

Q.: Was Walton striking at him?

A.: No, sir. The pistol was about a foot from Walton's face. Mr. Walton backed away, and got on the wagon. Then Mr. Chormicle took hold of the horse's rein, having his hand in his pocket on the pistol. When Mr. Chormicle had the pistol pointed at Walton he was abusing him. Whatever Chormicle would say to Walton, the latter would answer back in the same way. Cook didn't have a word to say during this time. Chormicle put the pistol in his pocket after he had pointed it at Walton.

He took hold of the left horse; one was a dark bay and the other a white one. He took hold of the dark one. Just as we started he took hold of the horse and stopped them. Mr. Walton told him to let go. He refused, and Walton jumped from the wagon; then he let go. Walton jumped one side of the wagon. He went toward Chormicle, who let go. Walton told me to go on. Chormicle remained there abusing Walton.

Q.: Did Walton have a pistol?

A.: Yes, sir; he had a pistol. A large navy Colt's revolver was shown the witness, and he identified it as the pistol Walton had.

Q.: Where did he have it?

A.: In his waistband. It was in his waistband.

Q.: Well, how do you know?

A.: Because I saw him when he drew it.

Q.: Where?

A.: He took it out when we were at the first load of lumber-unloading it. He handed it to me and told me to put it in my waistband and carry it. I don't know why. I never had been in the habit of carrying a pistol.

Q.: Didn't you see it at the time of the first scuffle at the house?

A.: No, sir. Walton made no threat then, nor did he show any arms. He did not draw it when he jumped off the wagon.

Q.: Did he have his hand on his pistol that day, when he first quarreled with Chormicle?

A.: He might have done so, but I did not see him.

Q.: When did Mr. Gardner come out of the house?

A.: When Mr. Walton Struck Mr. Chormicle. I don't know how long Mr. Chormicle had been out there. I can't say how long we were all before the cabin. I don't think it was over ten minutes. When he came out, Mr. Walton and Mr. Chormicle were not doing anything.

After recess the cross-examination of the witness was resumed. In response to questions he said:

"Mr. Gardner stood near the door at the first quarrel, and Chormicle took a position about ten paces distant, about one pace from Walton. Before they came out the door was partly open, and as they came out it was pushed further. The wagon was about twenty paces from the house. I was seven or eight paces from the house when Gardner came out. Cook was about twenty or twenty-five paces from the house. I was doing nothing, was standing there. I walked up there because I wanted to. When I saw Gardner the rifle was cocked. He came out with it aimed at Walton, the butt against his shoulder."

Q.: Do you know James Heffner, who lives at Elizabeth Lake?

A.: I know him. (Heffner coming in.) I have known him for some time. I remember meeting him at the St. Elmo Hotel in this city. About the first Monday in March. I don't remember seeing his father. I remember a few words with him.

Q.: Did you not then, in talking about the first trouble, say that Mr. Chormicle did not have any pistol at the first scuffle?

A.: I did not say a solitary word about that.

Q.: Did you say anything at all about that first fight?

A.: He asked me who had killed Cook. I told him Chormicle and Gardner.

Q.: Is that all you said?

A.: That is all I remember.

Q.: Did you in the afternoon of the same day, at the Vienna Buffet, have a conversation with Heffner and another, when you said the same thing?

A.: I did not say anything more than I have stated.

Q.: You say you went in a gate; do you no who put it there?

A.: I don't know.

Q.: You speak of Juan Leiva's house. Don't you know Mrs. Chormicle owned it?

A.: Juan says it belongs to him, and I know no other owner. I have never seen Mr. and Mrs. Chormicle live in it, and have seen Juan Leiva. I met Mr. Walton at Mr. Jenkin's house that morning. We got the wagon at Mr. Jenkin's house. There was no other way to get the lumber on the land except through the gate. I helped haul some lumber before that day-another day. The lumber was at the gate, on Mr. Jenkin's side of the fence. We hauled it to the place where Mr. Walton was going to build his house. It was the same lumber we hauled the day of the killing. It had been brought back and thrown on Mr. Jenkin's side of the fence. We had to drive through some volunteer barley to get to the trail to go by the cabin. It didn't hurt the barley any.

The witness was shown a large navy colt's revolver, and identified it as belonging to the deceased, Dolores Cook, and testified that he saw it first upon the day of the trouble, either at his house or after he died. "I did not see it on him at the time of the first quarrel," he continued. "It belonged to Dolores Cook. I saw that one and the one Walton gave to me at the lumber-pile. I saw no third pistol. I don't know whether Walton had another pistol or not. I don't know why he gave it to me. I never had carried a pistol before that way."

Q.: Did Walton say he intended to drive nails in that cabin with that pistol?

A.: If he had such intention, he did not say so.

The witness further testified that the first trip with lumber was made about 9:30 o'clock in the morning. The second trip took about an hour. The lumber consisted of lumber put together; the sides of a cabin.

"I can't say whether the horse's heads were directly toward the house or not when I saw the windows open," continued the witness. " We had not reached the road yet. We were looking toward the house. The horses and wagon were right on the road when I heard the first shot."

Q.: Did not Mr. Chormicle come out of the house before any shot, and tell Mr. Walton to go away with his lumber before any shooting?

A.: No, sir. He did not come out of the house.

Q.: Don't you know, as a matter of fact, that there was no firing from the inside of the house?

A.: No, sir.

Q.: And you state under oath that Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner were inside the house when the shooting took place?

A.: Yes, sir.

Q.: You saw them, did you?

A.: Yes, sir. I saw them inside the windows. The ends of the guns were protruding five or six inches.

Q.: How long were you looking at the windows before the fire blazed out?

A.: One was before the other. When the first shot came I did not have time to think much about it. I did not care to look.

By the Court: How wide open were the windows when you say you recognized the defendants?

A.: About two or three inches. They are of glass.

Q.: Who shot Cook?

A.: Mr. Gardner. It could not have been Chormicle, because I saw Gardner shoot him.

By the Court: What became of the man and boy sitting at the corner of the house?

A.: They remained there.

The witness was still further interrogated about his movements after the shooting, and described the manner in which he ran to the fence and got away, the last bullet fired after him striking near by as he was getting through the fence. He then ran to "Bill" Jenkin's house, nearly a mile distant.

The defense had about concluded its cross-examination when court adjourned until Monday morning, at which time the trial will be resumed.

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