Not Innocent: The Murder (part 1)

February 17, 1955 was one of those Oregon winter nights when the skies are clear and the temperature falls below freezing. It was a Thursday evening. At about 10:30pm, Emmanuel “Mannie” Kellerhals and his wife Connie went to bed. Their bedroom was in the front of their house, facing the Silverton-Stayton Road, known today as the Cascade Highway, which leaves the southwest corner of Silverton, then turns and runs almost due-south to Sublimity and Stayton. It was quiet except for the ticking of their clock and the occasional car passing on the road.

Mannie was already asleep, but between about 10:45 and 10:50pm, Connie heard a car drive up fast and turn into their neighbor Ervin Kaser’s driveway almost directly across the road. She heard another car drive up and stop, and then a car door slam. That was almost immediately followed by the shocking sound of a rifle shot just outside their house, which awakened Mannie. They both leapt from their bed and rushed to the window and looked across the road towards Ervin’s home where they could see Ervin’s car, sitting in his driveway, with the headlights and the inside dome light on. But just then there were three more shots, which drew their attention to a place about 50 feet to their left, where muzzle flashes seemed to come from about the height of a car window, and a car’s headlights were shining. The shots seemed to come just about as fast as you could lever in another shell. Immediately after the final shot, the driver stepped on the gas and the car sped off past them to the south. As the night was quite light, they could tell it was a dark colored car and a fairly late model. Both tail-lights were on and widely spaced, as on the more recent car models. Looking back across the road, they could not see anyone in or around the car, so they thought Ervin had gotten into the house.

Approximate map of farms and homes in the Evergreen District at the time of the murder.

They went to the kitchen and tried to call Ervin, but after several failed attempts, they called Ervin’s brother Melvin who lived just south of Ervin across an open field, telling him that they thought someone was shooting at Ervin. Melvin called the Silverton Police, reaching Constable DePeel, and then Melvin went over to Ervin’s, where he discovered Ervin’s body in the front of the car.

 

Ervin Kaser’s body in his car

Constable DePeel notified the Marion County Sheriff’s office, then drove out to Ervin’s house. The Sheriff’s office sent out a call over the Sheriff’s radio network, which was heard by Silverton police officers Yates and Bethschieder who immediately drove out to the scene. All of these officers were familiar with Casper Oveross, his marriage problems, and that he blamed Ervin Kaser for breaking up his marriage. So, they left the scene almost immediately, driving back into Silverton to notify the Silverton Chief of Police, R. R. Main, and to start searching the town for Casper Oveross.

Melvin Kaser’s wife Cloreta quickly spread the news of the shooting to the family, and Calvin and Harvey Kaser both soon showed up at the scene. Calvin remembered:

When Ervin was shot, Kellerhals called Melvin, and then Cloreta called us. Then I got dressed and went out. I just parked along side the road and walked up to the car. Of course, the Sheriff’s Deputies were there, but no one stopped me. I didn’t open the car door, but when I walked up the lights were still on, they hadn’t gone out. He was sitting in there dead. I can see him yet today, his hand was down here, and his head was back and his eyes were half open and his mouth was open. It was obvious he was dead. I stayed around there for a while, then came back home. We didn’t go down and tell Mom about it until the next morning. Harvey was up there, too, by that time. He said, “What’s the point of going down and waking her up. Let her sleep, she can’t do any good.” Harvey and Melvin went down the next morning and told Mom. It hit her pretty hard, did it ever, it worked on her so bad, that she got so that she wouldn’t even sit in the living room in the night time. She’d sit in the hallway with just one little light in there. She figured if someone had shot Ervin, someone would come and shoot her, too. When you came in the front door of our folks’ house, the dining room was on the right side, and the living room was on the left. Right in the middle was where the vent came up through from the furnace in the basement, and there was a doorway that went into the hallway. It wasn’t a hallway, it was a cloak room, but we called it the hallway. It had five doors going out of it, one upstairs, one into the kitchen, one into the bathroom, and one into their bedroom. It was just a square room. The whole front of the house was one big room, and we called it the living room and the dining room, and it went clear across the house. From the front door, you walked straight across this room, and that’s where this cloak room was, and when company came, that’s where we hung their coats. It must have been an eight by ten room. And that’s where she would sit all evening. All she had was a straight backed chair and a card table and one light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

 

Ervin’s car, driver side, where the four bullets struck, looking SOUTH. The roof of the house of Ervin’s brother Melvin is just visible through the windshield.

The Investigators – The murder was investigated by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance and cooperation of the Oregon State Police in Salem and the Crime Laboratory at the University of Oregon Medical Hospital in Portland, with some initial assistance from the Silverton Police Department. Since Melvin Kaser first called the Silverton Police Department, they were the first to arrive on the scene only 10-15 minutes after the murder. There was no police report from officer DePeel in either the County or State files, but below are most of the reports that cover the immediate events.

NOTE: These reports were written over the following several weeks, as the officers investigated and as they took the time to write up their notes from their notebooks. I’ve corrected occasional spelling errors, but have tried to leave the reports pretty much “as was” in order to not influence the content and to convey the “sound of the time.” Errors in spelling and grammar are quite common in these reports. Names are frequently spelled in several different ways, and occasionally an entirely wrong name is used (claiming that Harvey did something when it was actually Melvin, calling Harvey’s son Jack instead of Jeff, etc). I’ve corrected some of the name spellings, but not all of them. As always with memories, times are frequently uncertain and different people (and sometimes the same person) report things as happening at slightly different times. As with everything, read the police reports with an open and aware mind, and keep a pinch or two of salt at hand.

Looking WEST at the windshield of Ervin’s car. The Kellerhals house is visible in the background across the road.

Silverton Police Officer James D. Painter:
11:05 PM 2/17/55

At the above time and date the writer was informed that one Ervin Kaser of the Evergreen district had been killed by gunshot wounds by persons unknown. The writer and officer Bethschieder contacted one of our informants in a effort to get a line on who might have had a reason to murder him. The person contacted informed us that a very likely suspect would be one Casper Oveross who lived in the Holland Apt’s on N. Second Street in the apartment furthest from the street. The writer and Officer Bethschieder went to the Holland Aparments arriving there at 11:17 P.M. The writer knocked on the door a number of times and received no answer. The light was on inside of the apt, the key was in the lock on the outside of the door and there were newspapers put under the curtains inside in such a manner that it was impossible to see inside. The writer left Bethschieder at the Holland apt’s and went to the police station to pick up and get orders from Chief Main. Chief Main told the writer to lay in on the Oveross place. The writer knowing that the Holland Apt’s are gas equipped began to worry that Oveross might be committing suicide this suspicion was strengthened by the fact that there were paper over all the windows making observation into the house impossible. The writer, Officers Bethschieder and Yates entered the Oveross apt. at 12:15 A.M. 2/18/55 The writer looked in all the rooms of the apt and found them empty. The writer made a visual search of the place noting, a small box about 3” by 8” sitting on the drainboard by the sink, containing about three 12 gauge green shotgun shells and two 30-30 rifle bullets with various other odds and ends such as nails screws etcra etcra. There was not any weapons in sight in the apt. At 1:55 A.M. The writer again returned to the Oveross apt. with Sheriff Denver Young and party. The writer noted that the box containing the shotgun and rifle shells was not on the drainboard, looking for the box the writer found it in the cupboard. The writer took two cartridges (30-30)*** put them in a paper bag along with another 30-30 shell, found under the couch, and placed the bag on the table informing the Sheriff of its contents. The shell taken from under the couch was different from the others in that it was pointed instead of blunt nosed and appeared much newer being real shinney. The writer also noted a shotgun in Oversoss’s bedroom which had not been there on the writers first visit. The writer observed Sheriff Young take a empty rifle cartridge out of Oveross’s green plaid jacket and also removed the three loaded shells from the bag on the table and place them in his pocket. End of report.
***These were the two cartridges that were in the small box.

Looking NORTHWEST, the home of Ervin’s mother Sarah Kaser is just visible past the hood and windshield.

1 March 1955, State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman:
Contacted City Officer James Painter, Silverton Police Department, who stated he had heard information of the shooting of Ervin Kaser when it came over the Sheriff’s office radio network, and he and Officers Yates and Bethschieder had driven out to the scene of the shooting and Special Deputy DePeel was there with several other people. He stated they three returned to Silverton almost immediately and called the Chief of Police and gave him the information. He stated from his previous knowledge of the situation that he and the two other officers started looking around Silverton, Oregon for CASPER OVEROSS. He stated this was shortly after 11:00 PM and he is not sure of the exact time, but would place it around 11:10 PM. He stated it was around 11:15 PM when they checked at the Town House Tavern and contacted Jerry Hoyt and told him of the shooting. He stated OVEROSS was not in the Tavern at that time. He stated they then drove down to the cabin of OVEROSS to check there and arrived at the cabin approximately 11:20 PM, but found no one at the cabin. OVEROSS’ car was not parked there. He stated they drove around town but could not find the Oveross car. He stated when they checked the Oveross cabin there was a light on inside and there was newspapers over the window. They knocked on the door and failed to receive an answer, but the key was in the outside lock of the door. They stated they watched the cabin for awhile and seeing no activity decided to check inside thinking possibly there was someone in there and trying to commit suicide with gas as the cabin was equipped with gas stoves. He stated they made a hurried check and there was no one inside. The front door of cabin was not locked. They stated they looked for firearms inside the cabin and failed to find any type. They did observe a box on the drainboard of the sink which contained three (3) live 30-30 shells and it was apparent this box had been left there just recently as it was placed normally where the dishes and other kitchen utensils would be placed. They stated they didn’t molest anything and then left and Officer Yates remained in vicinity to watch for OVEROSS and the other two officers went back uptown to look for Oveross. Officer Painter stated they returned to the cabin when the Sheriff and other officers picked up Oveross and in checking the cabin again they observed the shot-gun and understood it was found by the shower room leaning up against the wall near the shower curtain. He stated definitely that the shot-gun was not there on their first check of the cabin as he had moved the shower curtain to see if anyone was in the shower. He stated the box on the drainboard had been moved and was placed in the cupboard nearby as if it had been replaced in its original position.

Officer Painter stated he didn’t keep any notes of his activities that night of the times of his movements, but a check with the radio log at the Sheriff’s office would show the time he checked in with them, with car #30. he stated the first person he thought about when he heard KASER had been shot was CASPER OVEROSS as he was acquainted with the situation and knew of the threats Oveross had made but not in his presence.

Looking NORTH, Ervin’s house is visible over the car’s windshield, and the house of his neighbor to the north, E. M. Peer, is visible through the driver’s window.

Silverton Chief of Police R. R. Main:
10:55 PM  17 Feb 1955
At the above time and date the writer received a call at my home 336 Hill Street Silverton from the Officer on shift James D. Painter at about 11:13 PM Thursday February 17th, 1955 that one Ervin O. Kaser living on Rt 3 Silverton had been shot to death at his home two and one half miles south of Silverton. Painter informed me that Sheriff Denver Young had been notified and was on his way over to Silverton. The writer asked Painter to radio Denver to stop at the station and pick me up which he did. Denver arrived in Silverton at about 11:40 PM. Denver and the writer drove direct to the scene of the crime. When we arrived we were met by Harley DePeel, Richard Boehringer. Constable Harley DePeel informed us that he was the first Officer on the scene and every thing you see here is just the way he found them, that no one had touched the car or moved anything on the grounds. Ervin Kaser 1949 plymouth sdn was sitting in his driveway about 50 or 60 ft. from the highway with all the lights on including the dome light. Kaser was dead at the time we arrived was laying on the floor board of his car on the opposite side of the driver. There were four bullet holes through the car which looked as tho they were fired from a 45 degree angle.

There was evidence gathered at the scene of the crime which led us believe we should question Casper (Cap) Oveross. There was a call put out over all cars to be on the watch for the car driven by Oveross and his home in Silverton was being guarded by Officers. A short time before 1:55 AM a call came over the air that Oveross had arrived at his home at the Holland Apartments apt 6 on north 2nd street Silverton. Sheriff Young, State Police Officer Dunn and the writer arrived at Oveross apartment at about 1:55 AM. Knocked on Oveross door and was admitted by Casper Oveross. After entering the apartment the writer stepped by Oveross to a doorway of the two rooms and took a look in the bed room and noticed a 12 gauge Winchester shotgun leaning against the wall next to his bed. The writer examined the gun, found it with shells in the magazine and one in the barrel. Oveross was questioned as to his where abouts in the past evening. He stated the forenoon he did target practice at Virgil Huddleston’s mill on the Silverton Salem highway. We then drove to Huddleston home 1502 Bethany St. Silverton arriving there at about 2:38 AM. Left there at about 2:50 AM and drove to the mill where we saw the 30-30 Oveross fired that morning. Left there at about 3:00 AM and drove to the Kaser Home. The writer sat in the car with Oveross while Dunn and Sheriff Young talked with other officers at the scene of the crime. Left there at about 3:50 AM and drove to Salem. Oveross was questioned by Deputy Shaw, Officer Dunn, Sheriff Young and myself. Left Salem at about 6:00 AM for Silverton arriving in Silverton at about 6:30 AM.

That’s the extent of reports from the Silverton police, as the Marion County Sheriff Denver Young quickly took over the investigation, with the assistance of the Oregon State Police. The majority of the investigation was done by Sheriff Denver Young, Sheriff’s Deputies Amos O. Shaw, John T. Zabinski and Richard C. Boehringer, State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman, and State Police Officer Private Lloyd T. Riegel. State Police Officer Private Robert W. Dunn also assisted in the investigation for the first couple of days. Laboratory work was done primarily by Dr. Homer H. Harris, M.D. and Mr. Ralph Prouty of the Oregon State Police Crime Laboratory.

18 Feb 1955, Deputy Richard C. Boehringer:
The writer while on regular patrol February 17, 1955 received a call by radio to proceed to just south of the Evergreen School on the Silverton-Sublimity highway, the dispatcher stated a man had just been shot. I arrived at the scene at approximately 11:25 P.M. which is Rt. 3 Box 115A Silverton, Oregon. On my arrival Mr. Harley DePeel Constable for the Siolverton district who had arrived a short time earlier showed me a body in a 1950 Plymouth sedan which was parked in the driveway of the above address the Plymouth was facing east. The body was slumped against the right front door of the Plymouth, on the front seat. Constable DePeel stated to me that the name of the person in the car was Mr. Ervin Oren Kaser who lived at the above address.

I at this time called the dispatcher requesting the Sheriff to come to the scene which was done.

Mr. E. Kellerhals who lives directly across the highway from the above address at Rt. 5 Box 115 stated he had heard four shots which sounded like rifle shots at about 10:55 P.M. At that time he attempted to call by phone the Ervin Kaser home but received no answer, fearing something was wrong Mr. Kellerhals called Mr. Melvin Kaser who resides at Rt. 3 Box 114 Silverton who is a brother to Ervin Kaser, Melvin Kaser arrived at the Ervin Kaser home and he called Constable DePeel to the scene who in turn called the Sheriff’s Office.

The scene was left as I found it until the arrival of the Sheriff at which time he took over the investigation. I was detailed to remain at the scene until such time as I was relieved. Coroner Leston Howell arrived at the scene at 12:55 A.M.

I was relieved of duty at the scene at approximately 11:00 A.M. 2/18/55 with orders to bring the 1950 Plymouth to Salem for storage, which I did.

18 Feb 1955, Sheriff Denver Young:
At 3:30 A.M. This date the writer in company with Deputy Sheriff Shaw, Silverton Chief of Police R.R. Main and State Police officer Robert Dunn arrived at the Marion County Sheriffs Office with Casper Oveross of Silverton Oregon.

It was the purpose to question the above person in respect to his whereabouts during the evening of February 17, 1955 during which time Ervin O. Kaser was shot to death in front of his home at Rt. 3 Box 115 Silverton.

Subject Oveross came into the office voluntarily however after arriving at the office he asked to contact his attorney Norman Winslow. He was told that he could call Winslow later if he still wished to but if he had not done any thing wrong he had nothing to contact an attorney for. Subject was talked to in the officers room on the first floor of the Courthouse.

Oveross refused to answer any questions other than to say that he had already told us where he had been on the previous evening, and that he had never owned a 30-30 rifle. To all other questions he would only reply that we would have to ask his attorney, or reply in some manner entirely irrelevant to the question asked.

At 5:30 we discontinued any attempt to question Oveross and at 6:00 A.M. returned to Silverton with Chief Main and to the scene of the shooting at the Kaser residence.

The cabins/appartments at 716 N Second Street in Silverton, where Cap Oveross was living when Ervin was shot. Cap’s cabin was #6, the farthest one away in this picture.

19 Feb 1955, Sheriff Denver Young:
VICTIM: ERVIN OREN KASER, Route 3 Box 115A, Silverton Oregon 49 yrs, 6-0, 160# Brown, blue eyes.

DATE OF CRIME: February 17, 1955 Approximately 10:50 or 10:55 P.M.

PLACE OF CRIME: Driveway of Kaser residence at Rt. 3, Box 115A, Silverton, approximately 2 miles South of Silverton on the Silverton-Stayton Highway. It is about 200 yards So. Of Evergreen School on East side of road.

DISCOVERED BY: EMMANUEL AND CONNIE KELLERHALS JR. who live across street from Ervin O. Kaser, and who phoned the MELVIN KASER home immediately south of the victims home.

MODE OF OPERATION: Victim was shot with rifle, fired by assailant unknown, apparently from another automobile parked in the highway about 75 or 80 yards North and west of the victims car. Victims car was heard to drive into the driveway of his home by Mrs. E. KELLERHALS, and immediately afterwards she heard another car drive up and stop on the pavement. Upon hearing one shot both she and her husband jumped out of bed and looked out of the window. Immediately 3 more shots were fired, the blasts of which could be observed coming from the car parked on the roadway. Immediately after the three shots the car accelerated the motor and sped down the road towards the south. (refer to statement of Mr. & Mrs. Kellerhals)

PROPERTY STOLEN: none

ACTION TAKEN: Writer was notified by the Sheriffs office at 11:23 P.M. 2/17/55, that there was a possible homocide near Evergreen school (information from Constable DePeel) Writer asked desk to notify Deputies Shaw and Zabinski to proceed immediately to scene and Deputy Sheriff Boehringer had already been ordered there to stand by. Writer arrived at above scene at 12:10 A.M. February 18, 1955, after picking up Chief of Police R.R. Main in Silverton on the way. (Refer to other reports on continuation of investigation)

SUMMARY: Ervin Oren Kaser was shot and killed in his car in front of his home by assailants at this time unknown. Assailant apparently pulled up behind Kaser from the direction of Silverton and after stopping his car on the main roadway, fired four shots all of which penetrated through the doors and window of the KASER car. One of these bullets entered the body of Kaser, killing him almost immediately (see Dr. Homer Harris report of the autopsy). After firing shots assailant sped southward in the direction of Stayton. Bullet recovered from the body of the victim appeared to be of 30-30 Cal.

Report dated 19 Feb 1955, State Police Officer Lloyd T. Riegel:
The writer contacted Deputy Sheriff John Zabinski at 6:10 A.M. [EK_NOTE: Feb 18th] at the Silverton police station in Silverton, Oregon. At that time the preceding information (contained in Officer Dunn’s report) was related to this officer and the officer received a tentative plan of what he was to do the remainder of the morning. Deputy Zabinski and this officer were directed by Sheriff Denver Young to attempt to locate the weapon used in the shooting of ERVIN OREN KASER. This officer and Deputy Zabinski were also advised to check the cabin of CASPER OVEROSS for any weapons or any other evidence that might pertain to this case.

At 8:55 A.M. Deputy Zabinski and this officer searched the cabin of Casper Oveross. The only weapon found in the cabin was a model 97 Winchester pump 12 guage shotgun. The cabin was quite disorderly. All the clothing, pockets of the clothing, suitcases, cabinet drawers, shelves, mattresses, beds, bedclothing were searched for any evidence relative to a gun or ammunition capable of being fired in a hand weapon. There was no evidence found other than the above mentioned 12 guage shotgun and two shells for this gun.

Information was obtained by Deputy Zabinski and this officer that Casper Oveross would make frequent trips to the old home place, located on Powers Road, about five miles east of Silverton. It was further learned that the old home place was owned by Casper Oveross’ brother, Henry Oveross, who resides at 514 S. Water St. in Silverton, that the farm at the present time is unoccupied. Deputy Zabinski and this officer proceeded to the home farm, which is the third property on Powers Creek Road south of the Silverton-Marquam highway. The writer and Zabinski were unable to gain entrance to this place so the adjoining house was checked relative to any activity about the farm place during the night. In the adjoining house, just north of the Oveross home farm, is Edward Shubert and his wife. Mrs. Shubert is the sister of Casper and Henry Oveross. Also contacted at the Shubert residence was Henry Amundson whose wife is also a sister of Casper and Henry Oveross. These people were questioned at quite some length relative to any firearms that Casper Oveross has owned or presently owns. It was learned from Edward Shubert that Casper Oveross at one time owned a 32-40 Wincsheter model 94; however, it was believed that he had sold this weapon some time ago. He also stated that Casper owned a 12 guage shotgun, believed a model 97 Winchester, at one time. He stated that they had hunted together several times but that neither of them could recall what type of weapon he used, or could they recall whether the weapon he was using was his own or a borrowed weapon. They further stated that Casper Oveross had gone to eastern Oregon on a deer hunting trip this last season and that he had shot a deer. They were unable to say what he had done with the deer, however, they assumed that he had placed it in one of the lockers in Silverton. The two sisters were questioned relative to Casper Oveross and his general attitude. They stated that Casper Oveross had always been a very level headed, friendly, more or less carefree type fellow, that he had taken quite a lot from his wife, Ethel Oveross, before he had become roiled enough to sue for a divorce. When the officers attempted to question these subject further as to what they had meant when they said he had taken “quite a lot” the officers were unable to pin the subjects down as to exactly what they meant. They stated that they had never seen Ethel Oveross with another man, that everything they knew had been strictly hearsay, but they were sure it was true because it had been told to them by very reliable sources. However, the officers were unable to actually obtain any facts as to Ethel Oveross’ activities or any activities that had caused Casper Oveross to sue for a divorce.

Deptuy Zabinski and this officer then contacted the Montgomery Locker Plant in Silverton relative to a locker or the cutting up of a deer owned by Casper Oveross. No information was obtained at this locker. The Budget Market and Lockers were then contacted. It was learned at this locker that Casper Oveross had shot a deer in eastern Oregon and that they had cut the deer up and wrapped it. The deer had been divided between him and a Danny Gilliam, who supposedly had gone hunting with Casper Oveross. It was also learned that Bill Sprick had also gone on this hunting trip with Oveross and Gilliam.

Deputy Zabinski and this officer then contacted Ethel Oveross at her residence three miles south of Silverton on the Silverton-Sublimity road. Ehtel Oveross related that the Danny Gilliam referred to is Daniel James Gilham, age 19. Gilham is and has been the boy friend of the oldest Oveross daughter, Colene Oveross. Mrs. Oveross stated that Danny Gilham had accompanied Casper Oveross on this hunting trip and also Bud Sprick had gone on this hunting trip. She stated that she did not think that Danny Gilham had stayed for the entire trip as he had forgotten his deer tag and he returned home early. Ethel Oveross was questioned relative to any guns owned by Casper Oveross. She stated that she knew very little about guns but she did believe that he at one time owned some type of gun called a 30-40 but that he had sold this gun some time previous and she did not know whether he had purchased another gun or not. She did state that at one time Casper Oveross had a 30-30 ordered but whether he ever actually purchased the gun was unknown. She stated that he at one time had an old beaten up 22 rifle that stayed about the house for some time but as to its whereabouts she did not know. She further stated that he does have a large shotgun, make and kind unknown. She described the gun as one barrel with some sort of a gadget that you have to slide back and forth under the barrel to load it. When she was questioned relative to Casper Oveross, his general attitude, his general characteristics, and his mental condition, she stated that she knew very little about her husband, that she had been divorced from him for seven months. When she was confronted with the idea that she had lived with the man for twenty years and that it would be quite difficult to forget in seven months she would say nothing. She did state that she did not think that Casper Oveross was of the temperament to shoot a man and if he was wanting to come back with her that she could not understand why he would shoot a man, that she definitely would not take him back after he had shot a fellow. She was questioned relative to her activities the night previous to the shooting. She stated that she had been at home on the night of the 16th of February and that on the night of the 17th of February at approximately 7:30 P.M. She had gone to Stayton, Oregon. When questioned as to whom she went to Stayton with she stated that she had gone with Ervin Kaser and that they had returned home shortly after ten o’clock in the evening. She was questioned as to whether Casper Oveross had been very angry when they had received the divorce. She stated that he had not and that he comes back to the place at least once and sometimes twice a week to visit the children and her. She says there has never been a harsh word between him and the children or between him and her. She further stated that he was not a close father, that he had been good to the children and to her, but he had never been a real close friend of the children. While talking to Ethel Oveross Daniel James Gilham and Colene Oveross came into the house. Deputy Zabinski questioned this subject as to his going to eastern Oregon on a hunting trip last fall with Casper Oveross and Bill Sprick. Gilham stated that he had gone on the hunting trip. When Deputy Zabinski asked what type of gun Casper Oveross used and owned Gilham stated that he did not have to answer that question and that he would not answer that question. At this time the writer observed Gilham very carefully. Gilham became very white, very nervous and a surge of anger seemed to appear on the man. He sat down in a chair momentarily. Colene came in from the kitchen and told him that it was time for them to go and he got up and left in a 1950 Ford, dark green in color, Oregon 647-134. Ethel Oveross was questioned relative to Gilham’s attitude and why he had become so nervous. She stated that she had no idea why he became nervous and why he was taking the attitude that he had taken. She said that she felt that it was possible that he is just a boy and is quite flighty. She stated that he has always been high strung and very hot tempered.

Deptuy Zabinski and this officer then contacted CARL SPRICK, Route 1, Silverton, which is on the Marquam road cutoff to Mt. Angel. Carl Sprick stated that he had known Casper Oveross for several years, that he had never been a close friend of Casper Oveross because of the age difference; however, he did state that his brother, Bill Sprick, was quite friendly with Casper Oveross, that they had hunted together in eastern Oregon for ten or eleven years, that Bill would accompany Oveross when he took small trips and that Oveross would go to the Bill Sprick residence to observe television. Bill Sprick was then contacted relative to his activities and his knowledge of Casper Oveross. Bill Sprick stated that he has known Casper Oveross for twelve or thirteen years and that he has hunted with him almost every year for eleven years. When questioned as to what type of gun Oveross has Strick stated that he knew Oveross had a gun but he did not know what kind or the type it was. He was questioned relative to the gun being a lever action, bolt action, or a slide or pump gun. He stated that he had never noticed the gun, that it was Casper’s gun and he did not bother with the gun. He was questioned as to whether he knew if the gun was actually Casper Oveross’ or if it were a borrowed gun. He stated that he did not know this, that Casper had never told him and he had never asked. He was questioned as to whether Casper had used the same gun every year or if he had a new gun in the last year or so. He again stated that he paid no attention to the guns, that he just went hunting with him and he did not look at the gun, had never picked it up, admired it, or paid any attention to it in any way.

Information was then received that on the morning of February 17, 1955 Casper Oveross had done some shooting at a lumber yard just south of Silverton. This lumber yard was contacted by Deputy Zabinski and this officer. A “Rusty” Huddleson, operator of the yard, was contacted relative to Casper Oveross and his shooting a gun at the yard that morning. “Rusty” Huddleson stated that at approximately 9:30 or 9:45 Casper Oveross came to the lumber yard with a bill of lumber. He stated that he had taken a contract to finish the interior of a house and that he desired to have this bill of lumber figured before he gave a final figure on his completion of the project. Huddleson further stated that while they were in the office talking Casper noticed a gun on the counter. Huddleson told Casper that he worked on guns and repaired them, more or less as a hobby, and that he had been fixing this 30-30 for a fellow and he asked Casper if he would like to shoot a few test shots from it. Casper took the gun outside and shot four shots into a pile of lumber. The gun was brought back to the office, set in a corner and a 2×4 placed in front of the gun. “Rusty” Huddleson stated that the gun stayed in that place and was there on the morning of February 18 when he returned to the office, that he is sure that Casper Oveross could not have gotten into the office and taken this gun out and then returned it.

In effort to establish some time and location of the victim, Ervin Kaser, Deputy Zabinski and this officer checked the various grocery stores in the Silverton area for information as to his buying a sack of groceries which was found in the back of his car. Articles in the sack were those sold by the Safeway Store in Silverton, such as the Miss Wright bread which is only handled by Safeway. Safeway stores were contacted and they stated that they had stayed open until 9:00 P.M. On February 17, 1954. The two clerks on duty at the Safeway store that evening stated that they did not know Ervin Kaser and they were unable to state whether M. Kaser had purchased groceries at the Safeway store in Silverton or not.

Deputy Sheriff Shaw and this officer got together at the Silverton city police station at 5:30 P.M. On February 18, 1955 and compared notes and information previously obtained. At this time it was decided that George Hopkins who lived in the adjoining cabin to Casper Oveross would be the next subject to contact relative to any guns or ammunition owned by Casper Oveross. The Hopkins cabin was contacted and it was learned that Mr. Hopkins had not returned from work; however, Mrs. Hopkins related the information that some time shortly after 9:00 P.M. On February 17, 1955 she heard a vehicle drive up at the Oveross apartment. A man got out and went in the apartment, stayed for a short time, came out and got in his car and left. Mrs. Hopkins stated that she was unable to state whether this man was Casper Oveross or some other man. Mrs. Hopkins stayed up quite late that evening and she stated that she did not hear anybody return to the apartment before she went to bed near midnight. Deputy Shaw and the writer then proceeded to the area near the Daniel James Gilham residence, Rt. 5, Box 417, Salem, Oregon, Waldo Hills area.

At the entrance to the lane leading to the Gilham residence a Mr. Frank Sexton, Rt. 5, Box 418 was contacted. Mr. Sexton’s house sets at the intersection of the Gilham lane and the extension of State Street adjoining the Silverton Road. Mr. Sexton stated that he had gone to bed shortly after ten o’clock on the evening of February 17, 1955 and that he was not definitely sure of the time but he would state approximately 45 minutes later he heard the Gilham boy’s car turn from the main highway into the lane and go to the Gilham home. Mr. Sexton was questioned relative to if there were one or two vehicles and the manner in which the vehicles proceeded up the lane. Mr. Sexton stated there was only one car and that it had driven quite rapidly, but that was not unusual as the Gilham boy normally drove quite fast. He stated that he knew little of the Gilham family, that they had lived in this place for several years and that the boy had a step-mother as his mother had died several years ago. Mr. Sexton stated that Mr. Gilham was quite a respectable gentleman but he had never met or talked with the Gilham boy or Mr. Gilham’s wife.

Deputy Shaw and the writer then contact J. W. Gilham, father of Daniel James Gilham. Mr. Gilham was quite cooperative and stated that he did not know whether his son was implicated in this matter or not. He said that he knew that his boy was going with Colene Oveross and had gone with her for quite some time. He stated that he and his wife went to bed about 9:30 on the evening of February 17, 1955 and at that time his boy had not returned home. Some time after 9:30, exact time unknown, Mr. Gilham stated he was awakened by the sound of his boy entering the house. He stated that the boy came into the house and went to his room and went to bed, but he could hear nothing unusual and there appeared to be nothing unusual about his activity. However, he had not seen the boy or talked to him at the time he returned home. Mr. Gilham further stated that his boy owned a 30-30 rifle and to the best of his knowledge the rifle was in the house some place. He was asked if he would let us officers have this rifle so a ballistics test could be made of the gun. Mr. Gilham agreed that he would let the officers have the boy’s rifle; however, he would have to get the rifle and give it to the officers at a time when the boy was not at home. During the time Deputy Shaw and this officer were talking to Mr. Gilham the boy interrupted the conversation several times, calling his father out for telephone calls, and his wife, Mrs. Gilham, interrupted once stating they should be on their way to a grange meeting. At the same time Mr. Gilham was contacted Daniel James Gilham came to the door and acted very belligerent about the entire situation. He was at that time accompanied by Colene Oveross. They together, Daniel Gilham and Colene Oveross, stated that they had nothing further to say, that they were sick and tired of the officers pushing their weight around and that they felt we were taking advantage of them and accusing him wrongly. They stated that they had contacted their attorney, Bruce Williams, and had been advised by Mr. Williams to say nothing to any officer. This officer attempted to explain to Mr. Gilham that he had not been accused and that he was in no way attempting to be questioned by this officer. The only purpose for the presence of the officers was to determine if Mr. Oveross had borrowed a gun or whether Danny Gilham knew what type of weapon Mr. Oveross had. To this the Oveross girl spoke up and ordered this officer to leave the property and stated that if he did not they would contact their attorney, Bruce Williams, and have him come over and order us off of the property. Danny Gilham concurred with her statement, that he wanted us to leave the property; however, the owner of the property, Mr. Gilham, made no statements or gave no indication that he desired the officers to leave. However, the situation had developed with the conflict between the father and son and it was evident that no information could be obtained. These officers left with the understanding that they would contact Mr. Gilham at some time when his son was not at home and he would produce the rifle if it could be located.

Deputy Shaw and this officer returned to Silverton and contacted Silverton City Police Painter relative to information he had obtained on gunsmiths in the Silverton area. Painter stated that a I. A. Foster was the only recognized gunsmith in the Silverton area and it was possible that Mr. Foster may have worked on a gun for Oveross. Mr. Foster was contacted and he stated that he had never worked on a gun for Oveross and that to the best of his knowledge he had never seen or heard of Oveross having a gun; howebver, he would not say that Oveross did not have a gun. Several other people in the Silverton area, Mr. Bill Jones, Mr. Edgar Hobert, Mr. Hank Davenport were contacted relative to any information about Oveross of any guns he might own. These subjects admitted that they had hunted with Oveross but they had no knowledge as to what type of gun, size, make or description of gun used by Oveross.

Deputy Shaw and this officer next contacted Rodney Oster, 115 N. James St., Silverton. Mr. Oster stated that he had known Casper Ovross for his entire life. He further stated that he saw Casper Oveross between 9:50 and 10:00 P.M. On February 19, 1955. [EK_note: this date is incorrect; the actual date they’re discussing was Feb 17; this report was being written on Feb 19] Mr. Oster stated that he had gone to Shorty’s Tavern to wait for his wife who was bowling in the adjoining building. While at Shorty’s Tavern he had talked with Casper Oveross for a period of approximately ten minutes, this being between 9:50 and 10:00 P.M. During the conversation with Casper Oveross Oveross made the following statement: “My wife should be at a lodge meeting tonight but I suppose they are out together again.” “I have a friend in the state pen who is doing 99 years for killing his wife and her lover and I visited him just a few days ago.” Mr. Oster stated that shortly after this Casper Oveross left Shorty’s Tavern and at about approximately 10:30 P.M. Mr. Oster’s wife came into Shorty’s and they left together, going directly to the Town House and into the bar section. He stated they remained at the Town House until 1:30 A.M. On February 18, 1955. Several times while they were at the bar they were the only people in the tavern section. They stated that at no time between 10:30 and 1:30 did Casper Oveross come into the bar section of the Town Tavern. Mrs. Oster further stated that during between 10:30 and 1:30 she had to go to the restroom twice. In order to get to the ladies restroom it was necessary that she go through the restaurant section of the Town Tavern. The first time she went she observed two girls and a boy and girl sitting at opposite ends of the counter in the restaurant section. She stated that the girl was in her teens, the boy was approximately 6′ tall and a heavy dark complexioned fellow. She stated that she doubted if she could definitely identify either of these persons, boy or girl, again, but she stated that at that time Casper Oveross was not in the restaurant section. A the second time she went through the restaurant section Casper Oveross was not in the restaurant at that time, and it was very doubtful to both Mr. and Mrs. Oster that Casper Oveross had ever returned to the Town House tavern or restaurant section.

This ends the day of February 18, 1955.

The following information was obtained after midnight and on the 19th of February 1955:

This officer and Officer Shaw contacted the Gilham residence again. The Gilham boy was at home, his car was in the driveway, and no attempt was made to contact Mr. Gilham relative to the gun owned by Daniel James Gilham.

A check was then made with the Phillippi Motor Co. in Stayton in an effort to contact Ethel Oveross, who is a bookkeeper and office clerk for this motor company. It was learned that she had not worked since the morning of the incident and it was not known as to when she would return to work. The residence of Ethel Oveross was then contacted. Her daughter, Colene Oveross, stated that her mother had gone to Salem to purchase a new coat and it was doubtful if she would be back to Silverton before 3:30 or 4:00 P.M. that date.

Information was then obtained that Casper Oveross had moved to the home of his brother, Henry Oveross, at 315 South Water Street, Silverton. The moving of Oveross and his clothing from his apartment had been assisted by Roy Brown. It can not be determined as to what Roy Brown had actually done in the moving and as to how close a friend or what connection Roy Brown had with Casper Oveross. The best information that could be obtained revealed that Oveross had moved to his brother’s place approximately 7:00 P.M. On the evening of February 18, 1955. Continued checks were made throught the area in effort to obtain information relative to Cap Oveross and the gun or type of gun that he may use.

Information was then obtained from Sheriff’s Reserve Frank Shepard that he had learned that some time previous to this incident Ervin Kaser had forced himself upon a Marilyn Schaar, who lived near the Central Howell School, and that he had also contacted a man by the name of John Seems and attempted to sell his farm equipment to Mr. Seems. An effort to contact Marilyn Schaar was made, but no results. Schaar had not returned to her home late Saturday evening. John Seems was contacted and he revealed that about two or three weeks ago Ervin Kaser had contacted him offering to sell his tractor and farm equipment. When Seems had questioned Kaser as to why he desired to sell his equipment, Kaser stated that he was unable to make a living on the small place that he owned. Seems asked him what he intended to do if he sold his farm equipment. Kaser stated that he had no idea but would possibly leave the country. While talking to John Seems a Doctor Simmons and a Dick Carter were also contacted at the Seems residence. Carter is a member of the Sheriff’s Reserve in the Silverton area. Carter wrote a name on a piece of paper and handed to Deputy Shaw stating to him that if you will contact a man whose name is on the paper you may possibly obtain some information of interest. Deputy Shaw then showed the paper to this officer. The name written on the paper was Charles Hopkins. It was learned that Mr. Hopkins was a businessman in the Silverton area and had one time been the owner of the Marshall-Wells Store and had had considerable business dealings with Casper Oveross. Mr. Carter explained that he and Charles Hopkins were both businessmen in the Silverton area and that the general sentiment throughout the Silverton area was in favor of Casper Oveross and that any information or cooperation that they would be able to give us would have to be kept in the strictest of secrecy and they would desire any contacts be made after dark in a place other than their own residence if possible. Mr. Carter advised that he would attempt to arrange for a meeting with Charles Hopkins some time that evening. At this time Sheriff’s Reserve Frank Shepard was with us and he agreed to be the between man between Deputy Shaw and the writer and Mr. Carter and Charles Hopkins.

At approximately 6:00 P.M., 19 February, 1955, a meeting was arranged between Charles Hopkins, Dick Carter, the writer and Deputy Shaw. The meeting was arranged by Frank Shepard and it was to be at Dick Carter’s residence at 7:45. At 7:45 Deputy Shaw and the writer went to the Carter residence and contacted Dick Carter, Charles Hopkins and a Mr. Hanson. They stated that they realized that the police officers were having it difficult in the Silverton area to obtain any information and that they would be willing to cooperate as much as possible in locating information and relaying between the officers. Mr. Charles Hopkins stated that he had known Casper Oveross for several years and that Casper Oveross had done considerable business in his store, buying tools, paint, paint brushes and various things in connection with his carpenter work. He stated that approximately the last of September 1954, but just prior to the receiving of his divorce, Casper Oveross had told him that he and another fellow had layed in a field all night and had waited for Ervin Kaser to go to the Oveross home. Oveross stated that he and the other party, whose name was not given, had observed Ervin Kaser come from his home and go into the Oveross home. They stated that Kaser stayed at the Oveross home all night and had left there just before dawn. Casper Oveross at that time stated “I should have shot him right then, but I didn’t, but I still think that I will shoot him.” He also stated that he had a friend who is in the penitentiary for shooting his wife’s lover and that he had sometimes wondered whether it would actually be worth it or not but after thinking it over he believed that he should still shoot Ervin Kaser. At that time Casper Oveross related to Mr. Hopkins that he had a gun. He did not say what type of gun or what caliber but he did state that he had a gun. Mr. Hopkins stated that he was quite sure that some time during the day of Sunday he would be able to determine the exact type and kind of gun Casper Oveross owned. It was agreed that a meeting would be arranged between Officer Riegel, Deputy Shaw and the three above named gentlemen at a later time after they had had an opportunity to find the information that had been requested by these officers.

Continued checks were made throughout the day at the J. W. Gilham residence in effort to contact Mr. Gilham alone. Daniel Gilham did not leave home all day and it was impossible for these officers to contact Mr. Gilham for additional information or to get the rifle which belongs to Daniel James Gilham.

Continued checks were also made at the Oveross residence and up until 6:00 Mrs. Oveross had not returned home and it was doubtful that she would return home that evening.

The investigation will continue for additional information relative to the activities of Daniel James Gilham, Casper Oveross on the night of February 17, 1955. To date Casper Oveross has a period between 10:00 P.M., 17 February 1955, and 12:45 A.M., 18 February 1955 that cannot be accounted for. Daniel J. Gilham will not talk, will not cooperate with the officers in anyway, and will make no effort to give any explanation for his time or activities on the night of February 17, 1955. The last known place that Daniel James Gilham was was the Oveross residence. He was there sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 P.M., 17 February 1955. After that hour there has been no indication as to where Daniel James Gilham went, what he did, who he contacted or the exact time given as to when he returned to his home.

[That’s enough (too much?) for one post.  More to follow…]

Blogically Yours,
Everett

2 thoughts on “Not Innocent: The Murder (part 1)

    • Thanks for letting me know, Nancy! I’m sorry to hear of her passing, although I know she’d not been well. The full story is pretty convincing, and I’m planning on putting up more of it soon, but ‘truth’ is always a slippery thing…

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