Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

William C. Chormicle and theCastaic Range War. Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1890.

Mr. Riley's Straight Story.
Which The Attorneys For Defense Fail To Shake.

The fourth day of the Chormicle and Gardner murder trial resulted in haste being made slowly as on other days, on account of the minuteness and long-drawn out character of the cross-examinations by the defense.

When the trial was resumed in the morning the first witness in the case, Jose Refugio Olme, was still on the stand. After a siege of a day and a half the defense still had some questions to ask. The line of queries was directed to the connection of W.W. Jenkins with the troubles in Castac Canon.

The witness stated that he was frequently at Jenkin's house, and also that George Walton worked there considerably.

For purposes of impeachment, Mr. Murphy read quite a number of questions and answers of the witness at the preliminary examination, claiming a variance between them and his present testimony, although there was no palpable contradiction.

Two photographs were exhibited to the witness. One of them was a front view of the Juan Leiva cabin, showing the windows from which the shooting is alleged to have taken place when the defendants killed Dolores Cook and George Walton. The photographs were identified by the witness, and he pointed out the position where the old Mexican and the little boy were sitting, at the end of the cabin, as the shots were fired.

Francisco E. Martinez was called and testified as follows:

"I live at Castac and knew Dolores Cook in his lifetime. He is dead. The day he died I don't know whether I was in the canon or not. I heard about the shooting. I was at Juan Leiva's house in the morning. I slept in the same house. I saw Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner there that morning, a little after sunrise. Mr. Chormicle came there first. I didn't see him do anything. He had a rifle-a Marlin rifle. Juan Burola and Juan Leiva were there also. There were other weapons there, on the inside of the house at the corner. It was a Winchester rifle. The Winchester was at the cabin the night before."

The two rifles were brought in and the Marlin rifle was identified as the one Mr. Chormicle brought to Juan Leiva's cabin. The witness then continued:

"Mr. Chormicle after bringing the rifle went to the lumber pile. I did not see him again while I was there. I don't remember when I saw him. Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner both came together from the direction of Gardner's house. Mr. Gardner had nothing that I saw; but Mr. Chormicle had two rifles. I saw a wagon there that morning. Mrs. Chormicle was there also. My brother was driving the wagon. Mrs. Chormicle was throwing the lumber out, and my brother assisted her. I don't remember what Mr. Chormicle and Mr. Gardner were doing. I don't know whether they had the rifles or not."

The witness was so reluctant to answer questions, and was so forgetful of the occurrences referred to that Mr. Appel tried to impeach him, which was not allowed in the manner in which counsel tried to do it. The examination was then resumed and the witness testified:

"I went to the Violin Canon. When I returned I found Juan Burola and Juanita Leiva at the cabin. I saw the body of George Walton west of the house. After being there half an hour I went to Mr. Jenkin's house."

Cross-examination: I did not see Mr. Chormicle and Gardner go to the house together. Mr. Chormicle came first. Juan Leiva was raising hog on the place. I did not see Cook. Walton was lying in the barley.

Thomas Riley, sworn: I remember the killing of Cook and Walton. I was at Castac on that day, close to the foot of the hill in sight of the cabin. I saw the smoke coming out of the windows when the guns were fired. Cook was in a buggy close by the shanty, and Walton was on a wagon passing by in the road in front of the cabin. I saw two men either fall or jump from the wagon. I saw a man in a buggy, and he also fell out on the ground. Then I saw a young man take hold of horse and lead it to the fence and hitch it, after which he ran on. He was being fired at until he was out of my sight, then I couldn't tell where he went to. The wagon remained close to where the shooting was done until it was taken away by other parties. I went up to the spot where George Walton lay dead. The wagon was about a rod south of him. It wasn't in the road. It was in the field or prairie. It was a trail, not a road. The wagon was turned around so that the kingbolt had come out, and the horses were standing there. I never had any acquaintance with Mr. Chormicle, except that I saw him that morning down where the lumber was piled. Cook and I were putting the lumber over the fence. Mr. Chormicle remained there only a few minutes, and went back up to the shanty. It might have been an hour after that that the shooting took place. I went right straight to Mr. Cook. He was kind of making a groaning noise, as if he was hurt. He couldn't get up, except raise his head. He was lying on one elbow. I turned him around, his head uphill. His head was lying away from the house. Walton was lying about twenty or thirty yards from the trail, and about a rod from the wagon; that is, fifteen or sixteen feet. Cook was lying below the trail two or three rods.

Mr. Chormicle, at the lumber-pile, said: "Gentlemen, I forbid you putting this lumber on this land." I asked by what authority. He said: "I own the land." I said: "Is that so?" He said: "Yes." I said: "I am not here to quarrel with anybody. If you are wronged, you have redress at the law." I moved two or three boards more, and then I stopped. I said: "If I was you I wouldn't move the lumber any more." He then turned and went back toward the shanty. I went away about a mile. I came back and saw nothing of any of them, until as I came back I saw the smoke coming out of the windows of the shanty. I heard two shots, close together. As near as I could see, there were two men on the wagon, and when the shots were fired, I saw them jump off the wagon away from the house. I saw one of them run back toward the buggy, turn back, and then run and catch the horse. Then I heard more shots, and saw something fall out of the buggy. Mr. Cook, I suppose, was in the buggy. That was the second round of shots when he fell. There were more shots fired; I should think five or six shots. They were fired from the house. There were two men ran out of the house, and I don't know whether the last shots were fired inside or out. They ran out and around the house, got on a horse and went up the canon on it. I can't tell whether they fired the last shot at the man leading the horse and buggy, after they came out or not. They were fired just about the time they came out. I examined Mr. Cook's body. I raised up his arm, saw where the ball went through it into his body. The blood was running out. It was his left arm. When he was lying on the ground he said he was very cold. I gathered up my overcoat and another and covered him up. I gathered up a pistol between the house and where the lumber lay from which they had come. It was between the fence and his body. It was about one hundred and fifty yards from his body. I picked up two saws, a spirit level and a buggy cushion. I looked at the revolver, a new-looking one. The loads were all in it, none had been fired. I gave the pistol to Jenkins after he had carried Mr. Cook down to his house. I put Cook in the buggy with the help of the old Mexican, Burola. He had been hobbling around with his cane, but he dropped his cane and helped me take his legs, as if he wasn't lame. I noticed that; he was scared, I reckon. The windows were open about eight or ten inches. The lumber was unloaded from the wagon, and Walton's body was put on it and carried to Mr. Jenkin's. When I went up to Walton's body I raised his hat. I didn't know him. I spoke to him, but he never answered. I started for Mr. Jenkin's then, asking the old man and boy to keep the hogs away until I brought some one. So I went down and found the horse at the fence, shot in the shoulder. When I was going down I met Mrs. Jenkins and a hired man. They went up and unloaded the lumber. They came down with the wagon, and we went back and brought Walton's body. When I got to the house after the shooting the old man and boy were sitting at the end of the house on a box or bench."

This closed the direct examination of Mr. Riley, and Mr. Murphy spent the rest of the afternoon in trying to get him to contradict himself, but absolutely without avail. The witness was cool and collected, and replied to rasping questions in an imperturbable manner, which made them recoil on the head of counsel. All that counsel succeeded in doing was to clinch a number of statements made during the direct examination. The story of the witness and of Jose Olme were corroborative of the theory of the prosecution that the defendants shot down the deceased from inside the cabin. The cross-examination was extended to a great length, and was partially as follows:

Cross-examination: "I started from Mr. Jenkin's house that morning. I was going to build the house. I went up to look at some land, and get some if there was any that suited me. I had known Mr. Walton three years. I saw him in this city a week before, and he said there was Government land there. When Mr. Chormicle forbid me putting the lumber on the land he seemed excited. I don't know whether he was angry or not. There was green stuff growing where I found Walton and Cook; I suppose it was barley. I went up the mountain after Mr. Chormicle had told me not to pile the lumber, to look at the country. I can't tell you why I went away from the lumber. I went up on the Jenkins side of the fence.

"I saw another pistol that day. George Walton gave me one when he went down after the wagon. I laid it in Mr. Cook's buggy. I don't know why he didn't lay it there. He just handed it to me. At first I put it in my pants, then laid it in the buggy. If it had not slipped down in my pants I would probably have kept it."

The witness drew a diagram on the blackboard designating the points of the various things mentioned in his testimony, and particularly the point where he was standing on the hill when he saw the smoke come out of the windows. He was closely questioned by Mr. Murphy in regard to his facilities for seeing any of the front of the shanty. The witness insisted that he could have seen any one in front of the shanty from where he stood, and that no one was there.

The witness said that Walton told him to come up to Castac, and he would show him some land. He went up and went to Jenkin's house, where Walton lived. Walton took him across and showed him some land. He did not say it was Chormicle's land. The land showed Walton was at a bee ranch. Walton didn't tell the witness that he could have part of section 23. He didn't want it, anyhow.

When court adjourned for the day the jury was kept together for the first time, and will hereafter not be allowed to separate. The trial will resume this morning.

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