Not Innocent: The Investigation (part 13)

This brings us to the close of the investigation with the discovery of the rifle and the arrest and indictment of Casper Oveross.  It’s pretty obvious that the investigation had been winding down, with all the leads running out.  But then came Sunday, May 8th, two and a half months after the murder, and three young boys were, well, being boys…

May 5, 1955

Sheriff’s Deputy Amos O. Shaw:

GUNS: Writer on 5 May 1955 returned the following 30 Cal. Rifles to owners after completion of Ballistics, and having been released by Oregon State Crime Lab.

1- Calvin Kaser, Silveront (Obtained Receipt)
2- Melvin Kaser, Silverton (Obtained original rec.)
3- Wayne Moore, Silverton (Obtained Original Rec.)

ADD’T INFO.: Writer contacted Mrs. Wayne Moore, Silverton and received the following information relative to the Ervin Kaser, case.

Ervin was planning on Subpoena’ing Cap Oveross into Court to testify at his Divorce proceedings. Casper Oveross supposedly knew this thru Ethel. (It has been rumored that Ervin was going to use some of the information that Cap had supposedly dug up inferring that Ethel was aloose woman morally.)

Writer contacted HARVEY KASER, Silverton relative to a conversation between Harvey and Emanuel Kellerhals.

On 5-2-55 Harvey was helping Emanuel Kellerhals @ Manny, in the cultivations and exterminating of some Ragweed. Manny K. asked Harvey, have you heard any thing new on the case yet? (Reference to the Ervin Homicide)

Harvey said Nothing since Ethel took the Lie Detector Test.

Manny said I am surprised the Police hadn’t asked me to take the Test.

Harvey said. Well if you did it would make you out a Liar wouldn’t it Manny?

Manny Replied. I told Connie that if we ever took it, that would be the biggest lie if we said no we didn’t recognize the car.

Harvey said. Manny you know in your own mind whose car it was.

Manny replied. I knew immediately in my own mind whose car it was. I just couldn’t Testify as to whose car it was and maybe stretch an innocent mans neck.

Harvey said. Well how can he be innocent if he went up to Gilhams at 11:00 Oclock.

Manny Replied. I cant understand what he went up there for?

Harvey said. He went up to establish and Alibi, they always make one mistake some place.

Note; This conversation is Verbatum and as accurate as Harvey can recall at this time. He stated there may have been additional words or some thing that he cant recall at this time. But believed this to be a correct version.

May 8, 1955

Sheriff’s Deputy Amos O. Shaw:

DESCRIPTION OF ARTICLE FOUND: One 30-30 Caliber Winchester Carbine, Model 94, serial 1538797, the gun upon being handed to Officer was unloaded. Gun had appearances of mud, and rust in various places around Barrell and Breech. Gun was turned over to Writer at 3:44PM May 8, 1955. Turned over to Writer by LARRY WACKER, Age 12 yrs.

DATE FOUND: Gun was found as nearly as can be remembered at about 3:00 PM Sunday May 8 1955, Found by LARRY WACKER, Age 12 yrs., and Neil Beutler 11 yrs., and Ralph Beutler 8 yrs.

Other ITEMS: RECEIVED: Also turned over to Writer was a Live Kore Lock type 30-30 Cartridge, that the boys stated they had found in the Gun. (Writer Marked this and Identified it for future.)

Writer also received a Tape Recording made at Emmanuel Mennonite Church, at Pratum, Recording is voluntarily given by Boys finding the Rifle, Writers comments, and the Comments of Reverand Frank Harder.

PLACE FOUND: According to Statements of Boys the gun was found in what is called the Little Pudding River. This Stream runs between the Cornelius Bateson residence at Rt 5 Box 382, and neighbor on East, Albert Scharer, Rt 5 Box 383. Bridge according to Automobile speedometer is 6 tenths of a Mile East of Pratum School, District 50. Gun was found closest to East Bank, and about 24 feet North from base of bridge. According to boy the Butt of the rifle was sticking out of the Water about ten inches.

STATEMENTS: Neil Beutler, 11 yrs., Ralph Beutler, 8 yrs., Larry Wacker 12 yrs. all were with the parents over to John Rother residence at Rt 6 Box 520. About 3 pm. May 8th. the boys were on their bikes riding East. They were crossing a bridge over little pudding river and Larry Wacker said he was going under the bridge to see if he could find some fish. Neil, and Ralph Beutler waited for him on the bridge. Larry said he saw the butt of the gun sticking out of the water and thought it was a piece of an old toy rifle. He pulled it out, and took the gun up on the bridge. Worked the breech and extracted an empty cartridge, and a live cartridge jammed in the breech. One of the boys took the empty and threw it back over into the creek. The boys then took the rifle over to the Roth residence and with the help of their Father extracted the live cartridge. One of the parties there stated the Sheriff Office was looking for a rifle like that, on the Murder of Kaser. So the Sheriff Office was called and a deputy requested.

Larry Wacker did state to this Officer that he looked at the make of the Gun and it was a 30 30 Winchester, this was done prior to taking the gun up on the bridge.

SUMMARY: The rifle was given to Writer along with a Live Cartridge. A Tape recording was made and several pictures was taken of the scene. Cartridge, and Rifle was marked and identified for evidence. On May 9th writer and Officer (State Police) Lloyd Riegel took the gun and Cartridge into the Crime Lab. And turned them over to Ralph Proudy Technician. A receipt for Rifle with serial Number written on it was given Wacker.

Pudding River Bridge

Pudding River Bridge, looking west towards Pratum (so north is to the right), April 27, 2014.  Whether this is the bridge that was there in 1955, or whether the bridge has been rebuilt since then, I don’t know.  Cloreta Kaser told me once that this was the road she used to take most of the time when she went to Salem, and for decades after the murder, every time she crossed this bridge she thought about the rifle having been thrown off there into the water.

Pudding River Bridge

North side of Pudding River bridge, April 27, 2014. It’s probably about 40 feet vertically from the roadway down to the water.

Pudding River

Pudding River north of the bridge, April 27, 2014. The rifle was found about 24 feet north of the bridge, towards the right-hand (eastern) bank.

Pudding River

Pudding River, north of the bridge, April 27, 2014. The gazebo and road probably were not there in 1955, and undoubtedly the amount and type of brush along the banks was different.

State Police Private Lloyd T. Riegel:

At 7:00 AM 8 May 1955 [EK_NOTE: Must have been PM not AM] the writer contacted Deputy Shaw, Marion County Sheriffs Office and first observed a 30-30 Winchester Carbine, Serial number 1538797. This weapon is the same number as one of the two weapons found to have been sold to the Ames Hardware, Silverton, Oregon. The writer accompanied Deputy Shaw in taking this weapon to the Crime Labitory in Portland, Oregon where Ralph Prouty conducted a series of tests and reported that the test shots from this weapon and the bullet from the body of Ervin Kaser were fired by the same weapon. Ralph Prouty stated that a letter would follow.

The writer and Deputy Shaw then contacted Mr. Norris Ames at Hande’s Hardware in Silverton, Oregon relative to the book in which he recorded serial numbers of guns that he sold while owner of the hardware. A search for the third time was made of the old records stored at the Hande’s Store. The record of a gun sale to Casper Oveross showing the gun by serial number could not be located. Mr. Ames was questioned regarding the invoice found at the store and to the possibility of the two guns shown on this invoice being the only guns in the store at that time. Mr. Ames stated that it would be impossible to determine that at this time. Mr. Ames stated that he not only handled new guns but that he would purchase second handed guns of which there was no record kept until they were sold. He further stated that the actual recording of serial numbers of sold weapons was left up to the bookkeeper, Marion Zahler, now in Eugene. A search was also made of some records that Mr. Ames had taken to his home upon selling the business to Carl Hande. There was no record found that shows the serial number of the weapon.

State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman:

Sheriff Denver Young, Marion County Sheriff’s office, called writer on 8 May 55 at 6:55 PM and advised that three young kids had found a 30-30 rifle in Pudding River just east of Pratum where the county road crosses Pudding river. He advised the gun bore Serial number #1538797 and was one of the two listed in Officer Riegel’s report dated 1 Apr 55. He advised the gun was found about 3:00 PM on 8 May 55 and that his Deputy Amos Shaw had checked weapon and interviewed the three kids, one of who was, Larry Wacker, 853 Gaines Street, Salem, Oregon, and 12 years of age.

On 8 May 55 Officer Riegel and writer checked sales slips that had been picked up from Ames Hardware Store, Silverton, for any possible sales of rifles and writer found a sales slip to John ZOLOTOFF, Silverton, dated 3-26-49, showing purchase of 30-30 Winchester rifle, no serial number listed, with a price of $62.45. This was a charge sale and it was signed “STEVE ZOLOTOFF”. Writer caused a check be made with Steve Zolotoff, Silverton, who advised that he had purchased a 30-30 rifle from Ames Hardware store in Silverton, in March, 1949 and that the gun has since been in his constant possession and has never at any time been loaned to anyone. He stated he would gladly let the Police check the gun on Ballistics.

Statesman Newspaper, Salem, Monday, May 9, 1955:

PRATUM — The lengthy, discouraging search for the weapon used in the slaying of Ervin Kaser near Silverton last Feb. 17 may have ended Sunday when a 12-year-old boy pulled a .30-.30 rifle from Pudding River about a mile east of here.

Marion County Sheriff Denver Young, after examining the gun found by Larry Wacker, 853 Gaines St., Salem, said “There is a good possibility this is the murder weapon.”  Slugs found after Kaser was shot to death in his car by an unknown assailant indicated the weapon used was a .30-.30 rifle.

Site where the gun, a Winchester model, was found is approximately five miles by road from Kaser’s Silverton area farm home, scene of the slaying. Young said the rifle pulled from the river was “in pretty good condition” though indications were that it had been in the water for a considerable time.

The gun and cartridge were to be sent to the state crime laboratory at Portland for a check, Young said.

What might be a major break in the Kaser case came because young Wacker and two companions chose to make a playful trek from Pratum Road to the river in the vicinity of Pudding River bridge.  The companions were Neil Beutler, 11, and Roger Beutler, 8, both of Salem Route 6, Box 517.

The Wacker boy reportedly pulled the rifle from the river about 4 p.m. Sunday after spotting it sticking above the ebbed waters.  he told Young he ejected one empty cartridge.  One live cartridge was still in the chamber when authorities examined the rifle.

After making the find, Wacker and his companions ran back to the John Ross home, Salem Route 6, Box 520, where their parents were visiting.  Authorities then were notified.

Failure to find the murder weapon has been a major handicap in investigation of the case.  The sheriff’s office and state police, in efforts to find the weapon, had combed the countryside in a wide radius about the murder site.

Spot where the gun was found is about three miles west of Pratum Road’s juncture with the Silverton-Sublimity Road.  The site where Kaser was shot is on the Silverton-Sublimity route some two miles north of the junction.

Shortly after the Feb. 17 slaying one suspect was charged with the crime but a grand jury failed to indict for lack of evidence.

May 9, 1955

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

Received from Officer Riegel and Deputy Sheriff Shaw Marion County, one 30-30 carbine, Model 94 serial no. 1538797 in connection with the above case at 8:45 A.M., May 9, 1955. (2) 1 ENVELOPE CONTAINING A LOADED 30-30-Rem-??? cartridge from gun.

State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman:

On 9 May 55 Officer Riegel and Deputy Sheriff A. Shaw delivered the above weapon to Mr Ralph Prouty, University of Oregon Medical School, Crime Laboratory, and learned that it was definitely identified by the Laboratory as being the weapon used in killing above victim.

On 9 May 55, Sheriff Young and writer picked up 30-30 Winchester rifle, Model 94, Serial number #1541417, which was in possession of STEVEN J. ZOLOTOFF, Silverton, Oregon. He was shown the Purchase slip dated 3-26-49 and identified his signature thereon and stated he could testify to that being his signature, also that Mr Ames sold him the gun and wrote the sales slip out and at the time the gun was purchased on his father’s account, who was JOHN ZOLOTOFF.

A search was made where gun was found in Pudding river for possible 30-30 casings with negative results, a more concerted effort will be made in near future and if any are found it will be reported.

Sheriff Young and writer contacted Manny Kellerhall, who stated when he heard the shooting and looked out his bedroom window on night of 17 Feb 55, that his first impression of the vehicle parked in back of his truck and near his driveway and from which the shooting was coming from, was a Ford make vehicle and sedan type body. He stated after this first impression then he thought it was Cap’s car and wondered if that was him shooting at Kaser. He stated he remembers the round emblem on the front of the vehicle which is the type on a 50 or 51 Ford.

May 10, 1955

State Police Private Lloyd T. Riegel:

On 10 May 1955 the writer conducted a neighborhood check along the entension of Market Street. The check was conducted from Pratum east to the Silverton Stayton road, then across the cross roads from the Market Street extension to the State Street Extension then east along the State Street extension to the Silverton-Stayton road. This check was conducted in effort to obtain additional information relative to the 30-30 Winchester Carbine, serial 1538797, found in Puddin River near Pratum on 8 May 1955. There was no information obtained that could be connected with the person who might have thrown the rivle in the river. The name JACK HANSON was developed as being a possible subject that might have been travling this road at the time of night which is felt that the gun was disposed of. This subject will be contacted for any information that he may have.

[EK_NOTE: In the following paragraph, references to “JACK KASER” should be “JEFF KASER.”]

The writer then contacted HARVEY KASER, brother of the deceased, relative to his statement that he could find expended bullets in the field behind the OVEROSS residence. The writer and Mr. KASER spent considerable time digging for these bullets without success. The writer was given five shell casings, 30-30 Cal., that had been picked up in the OVEROSS field by HARBEY KASER’S son JACK KASER, age 10 years, during a time when CASPER OVEROSS was doing target practice. These shell casings have been in the possession of JACK KASER since they were found in 1954.

State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman:

Sheriff Young and writer on 10 May 55, delivered to Ralph Prouty, Crime Laboratory, one (1) 30-30 Winchester rifle, Model 94, Ser.1541417, which is the property of STEVEN J. ZOLOTOFF, Silverton, Oregon. This weapon is one of the two listed on INVOICE #M93738, from HIBBARD-SPENCER-BARTLETT Co, Evanston, Illinois, and directed to AMES Hardware Co, Silverton, Oregon, and dated Feb 23, 1949.

Mr Prouty advised he would compare the two empty 30-30 casings found on Casper Oveross’s property, refer to report by Officer Riegel, 19 Mar 55, with 30-30 Winchester Rifle, Ser.1538797, which was found in Pudding River and has been identified as the Murder weapon.

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

Received May 10, 1955 at 11:00 A.M. From Sheriff Young, Marion County and Sgt. Huffman, Oregon State Police a rifle, Model 94 Winchester, Serial no. 1541417 in connection with the above case.

May 11, 1955

State Police Private Lloyd T. Riegel:

On 11 May 1955 the Writer and Sheriffs Deputy Amos Shaw took these shell casings [EK_NOTE: the shell casings received from Harvey and Jeff Kaser] to the Crime Labitory. Ralph Prouty compared these casings with known casings from the gun found in the Puddin river and stated that four of the casings were fired in the gun in question and the fifth from a different gun. Mr. Prouty stated that additional checks would be made before the time they would be entered as evidence.

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

Received May 11, 1955 at 2:15 P.M. from the Crime Detection Laboratory a rifle, Model 94 Winchester, Serial no. 1541417 in connection with the above named case.

[Signed] Lloyd T. Riegel
[Signed] Amos O Shaw

[SIGNED RECEIPT]
Received from Marion County Sheriff Office 1-Rifle 30-30 Cal. Serial 1541417

[Signed] Mrs Steve Zolotoff

[EK_NOTE: These are receipts, for the trail of evidence, of Steve Zolotoff’s rifle being returned by the Crime Lab to the police and then from the police to Mrs. Zolotoff.]

State Police Sergeant Wayne G. Huffman:

*List of witnesses on above case and what they can testify to.

MANNY KELLERHALL
CONNIE KELLERHALL, Rte.3,Bx.115,Silverton, Both can testify as to Murder suspect’s car, type of vehicle, sound and general style of car and what they thought was make of vehicle, number of shots fired, position of victim’s car and Murderer’s car, also approx.time of murder, and their actions, calling of Kaser’s brother, Melvin.

MELVIN KASER, Rte.3,Silverton, Identify deceased, what he found when he went to deceased home, location of deceased’s car in driveway and also deceased’s background.

JAMES PAINTER, City PD, Silverton, Can testify to what he observed in Oveross’s cabin #6, no guns on first trip and shotgun last trip at Time suspect picked up for questioning (Sheriff Young, Officer Dunn, Chief Main, present) (Huffman’s report, 3-1-55)

ROBERT DUNN, State Police, Testify to statement of Oveross when first questioned, about him not owning a 30-30 rifle and selling 32-20 rifle, and denying being in area of crime scene anytime that night and being in taverns in Silverton that night. (Dunn’s report, 20 & 24 Feb,55)

DENVER YOUNG, Sheriff, What was found at scene of crime, statement of suspect, verifying Officer Dunn’s testimony, taking of Zolotoff’s gun to Lab, finding of spent bullett in Strawberry patch.

DANIEL J. GILHAM, Testify to suspects visit at 11:00 PM, 2-17-55, statement of suspect, “There was 3 slugs in Kaser”, “I want you for my witness” also observed suspect at Ethel Oveross residence at 8:00 PM and again drive by at 10:30 PM headed north toward victim’s house. (Huffman’s reports, 23 Feb 55 & 23 Mar 55)

MRS JENNIE GILHAM, Testify to time suspect arrived at Gilham’s residence, at 11:00 PM, 2-17-55, his actions, type of car driven, seen him cover something up in back seat, also subjects actions, (Huffman’s report 23 Feb 55.)

GERALD HOYT, Bartender at Townhouse Tavern, testify to suspect not being in Tavern until 12:45 AM, 2-18-55, also that witness OSTER & wife had left Tavern before suspect entered. (Huffman’s report,23FEB55)

RODNEY OSTER, Bartender, Mac’s Tavern, knows suspect, saw him at 9:35 PM, 2-17-55, at Shorty’s Tavern and talked to him about family troubles and can testify he was not in Townhouse tavern. (Huffman’s report, 23 Feb 55)

ETHEL OVEROSS, Her activities with deceased, suspects knowledge of these activities, suspects threats, when she left home 2-17-55 and time she arrived home, hearing the shots and hearing car go by that sounded like suspects. Suspects guns, when last seen, in Aug,54, where he kept them in house, also buying new gun and selling his other gun. (Huffman’s report,23 Feb 55 and 1 Mar 55, and Capt. Howard’s report,26 Apr 55)

ROBERT BARNES, Testify to threats suspect made against victim, also suspects movements at 8:15 PM, 2-17-55 and his actions when driving by victim’s house, also target shooting with suspect, (Huffmans report 23 Feb 55)

WAYNE MOORE, Type of gun owned by suspect, type of shells suspect used, knows suspect is good shot and quick in shooting. Was hunting with suspect about 2 years ago and had 30-30 rifle then, also knows suspect did some target shooting on his place, (Huffman report 23 Feb 55)

NOAH WENGER, Bought 32-20 from Cap, also borrowed Cap’s 30-30 rifle (new) to take elk hunting with him. This was in November, 1949.

CLIFFORD KUENZI, Can verify this hunting trip and Wenger borrowing gun and where.

FRANK DEDERICK, State Police, Eugene did some target shooting with Cap Oveross and also shot his rifle, a 30-30 Winchester similar to Sate Police rifles, around 1 Oct. 54.

HOMER BAILEY, Former clerk at Ames Hdwe. Co. can testify to scarcity of guns in 1946-47-48-49.

CHARLES HOPKINS, Threats by suspect as to shooting Kaser, the deceased – this was around 1 Sept. 54.

HARVEY KASER, Threats made by suspect- shooting Kaser (victim) (around middle of September 1954). Edith Kaser present. Empty 30-30 casings found by his son when Cap and Harvey were target shooting.

MARIAN ZAHLER, Sold 30-30 Win. Rifle to Casper Oveross. Can identify sales slip Ames Hdwe Store also account slip and invoice order for 2 30-30 rifles.

OFFICER RIEGERL AND DEPUTY SHAW, (1) Time of run from deceased home to David Gilham’s house, 5 miles – 5 min. 45 sec. (2) Shells to crime lab found on Cap Oveross’ place. (3) Murder weapon to crime lab. Found in Pudding River. (verify Larry Wacker’s testimony). (4) Shells, 30-30 casings from Harvey Kaser’s son to crime lab. 11 May 55. (5) Finding of sales slip at Harde’s Hdwe Co. – to Cap Oveross – purchase of gun. (6) Finding of invoice showing 2 30-30 Win rifles. Serial # 1538797 and #1541417. (7) Finding of ledger sheet – Oveross’ account.

SHERIFF YOUNG and SGT.HUFFMAN, Rifle Ser. #1541417 to Crime Lab. Huffman – finding of sales slip of purchase of above gun by John Zolotoff, 3-26-49. Young – What statements suspect made and what was found at crime scene.

DR. H. H. HARRIS, Medical testimony – cause of death and laboratory analysis.

MR. RALPH PROUTY, Photographs of crime scene- Ballistic tests of various rifles and murder weapon – Extractor marks fixing pin impressions of guns.

DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE RIEGEL’S list, Sales slip to Cap Oveross invoice record-to Ames Hdwe Co. Ledger sheet – payment records of suspect’s account.

LARRY WACKER, 12 yrs. – Finding of 30-30 rifle in Pudding River by bridge near Pratum & 2 other boys with him.

May 13, 1955

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

At 8:45 A.M., March 9, 1955 there is received from officer Riegel, Department of State Police and Deputy Shaw, Marion County Sheriff’s office the following items of evidence:

Item E-17 is a 30-30 carbine, Winchester model 94, serial #1538797. This item bears a Sheriff’s Office official evidence tag with the notation “May 8, 1955 Ervin Kaser homicide, Marion County Sheriff and State Police, serial no. 1538797. 30-30 caliber rifle Winchester.” On the opposite side of the tag is the signature of Amos O Shaw. Examination of this rifle reveals a heavy encrustation of rust around the muzzle and forward end of the magazine. Examination of the bore reveals the presence of much soft, red rust which extends for a distance of approximately 4 inches down the bore. This rust is removed by soaking with oil and gentle brushing. The remainder of the firearm is pitted with indications of rust. This item has the appearance compatible with that of a firearm submerged in water for an extended period of time. The action is operated, and found to perform in a satisfactory manner. Upon completion of the cleaning process, this item is test-fired in the laboratory, and found to function in a satisfactory manner. The test-fired bullets are compared with Items E-1 and E-2 of laboratory report dated March 2, 1955, and it is noted that the bore details consist of six lands and grooves of right hand twist. Further examination reveals that the microscopic details of the test-fired bullets are similar to those on Items E-1 and E-2, indicating that both items were fired through the bore of Item E-17. The test-fired cartridges fired in the chamber of this rifle are compared with Items E-20, E-22, E-23, and E-24, and found to be similar in microscopic details, which indicates that they were fired in this firearm. Removal of the butt plate and close inspection of other portions of this rifle fails to reveal any identifying marks other than the serial number, 1538797.

Item E-18 is a loaded 30-30 cartridge enclosed in a white envelope which bears the notation “May 8, 1955 AOS. Shaw. IKH. Live cartridge from 30-30 Winchester found by Larry Walker.” Examination of this loaded cartridge reveals that it is a Remington 30-30 170 grain soft point, Kor-lockt type bullet. The extracter marks on the rim of the cartridge are compared with those on test-fired cartridges from Item E-17 and are found to be similar, indicating that this cartridge has been worked through the action of Item E-17. The construction of the bullet is compared with Item E-1 and Item E-2, and Item E-14 (see report dated April 21), and found to be of similar construction.

At 11:00 A.M., May 10, 1955 there was received from Sheriff Young of Marion County and Sgt. Huffman, Oregon State Police, Item E-19. This item is a 30-30 model 94 Winchester carbine serial #1541417. This item is test-fired in the laboratory and it is noted that the test-fired bullets have six lands and grooves of right hand twist. However, the lands are considerably more narrow than the land impressions of test-fired bullets made in Item E-17 and the land impressions on Item E1, E-2, and E-14. This clearly indicates that this rifle could not have been used to fire Items E-1, E-2, and E-14. Nothing else remarkable is noted.

At 2:15 P.M., May 11, 1955 there was received from Officer Riegel, Oregon State Plice and Deputy Sheriff Shaw, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Items E-20, E-21, E-22, E-23, and E-24.

Item E-20 is a 30-30 Winchester Super-X fired cartridge which has a spherical indentation in one side of the case between the neck and the rim. Comparison of the firing pin impression and breech block marking on the base of this cartridge with test-fired cartridges fired in Item E-17 reveals that they are similar, indicating that they were fired in the chamber of the same firearm. This item reportedly was found on the Oveross property.

Item E-21 is a 30-30 Winchester Super-X fired cartridge reportedly found on the Oveross property. Examination of the firing pin impression and breech block markings reveals they are clearly dissimilar to those on test-fired cartridges made in Item 17, therefore could not have been fired in that weapon.

Items E-22, E-23, and E-24 are 30-30 Remington fired cartridges reportedly found on the Oveross property which are compared with test fired cartridges made in Item E-17, and it is noted that the firing pin impressions and microscopic breech block markings are similar, indicating that they are fired in Item E-17.

At the request of Sheriff Young and Sgt. Huffman, a comparison was made of the microscopic markings on the 30-30 cartridges reportedly removed from the house and person of Kasper Oveross on February 18, 1955. Extended examination of these items fails to reveal any markings that would indicate that they had been placed in Item E-17.

SUMMARY:

We are of the opinion that

(1) Item E-17 was used to fire the bullets listed as E-1 and E-2 and could have fired Item E-14

(2) The bullet in Item E-18 is similar in construction to E-1, E-2, and E-14. The loaded cartridge has been worked through the action of Item E-17.

(3) Item E-19 could not have fired E-1, E-2, and E-14

(4) Items E-20, E-22, E-23, and E-24 were fired in the action of E-17

(5) Item E-21 was not fired in the action of E-17.

Sheriff’s Deputy Richard C. Boehringer:

I stopped one car just as you were leaving, the party lives just east of Pratum but does not travel that road only very seldom at night.

I left at 12:10 A.M. To resume patrol.

May 14, 1955

Sheriff’s Officer Doney:

At about 10:15 AM, 5-14-55, Chief Main of Silverton called this office by radio and asked if Deputy Shaw would be in the Silverton area today. That he had some information regarding the Kaser case.

The writer called Shaw at his home and Shaw said that he would go over and see what it was.

Upon Shaw’s return he called the writer by phone and asked that the following information be relayed to Sheriff Young:

FLOYD KASER reported to Chief Main that he overheard a conversation between FRANK SCHROEDER of Stayton, Oregon and JIM RIPP of Sublimity. They were all in a Tavern at the time. FLOYD KASER told Chief Main that he overheard SCHROEDER say that “he hoped they didn’t make too much of a thing over the rifle that was found in the creek as he had owned it at one time”. Shaw said that he contacted JIM RIPP and was advised that SCHROEDER had not made such a statement. Said that he and SCHROEDER had been talking about the rifle and that SCHROEDER had said that he had owned one like it at one time. Shaw did not contact SCHROEDER as he was up above Mill City some where.

After the conversation with RIPP, Shaw was of the opinion that FLOYD KASER had been drinking quite a bit and had misinterpreted the conversation between SCHROEDER and RIPP.

Oregonian newspaper, May 17, 1955
Grand Jury Eyes Death
Probe Reopened In Rancher Slaying

SALEM (AP) — The Marion county grand jury met Monday for reconsideration of the murder of Ervin Kaser, Silverton hop rancher who was cut down by four rifle bullets as he returned home the night of February 17.

District Attorney Kenneth Brown said he would call about 25 witnesses before the jury in an effort to get an indictment.  Casper Oveross, 44, a former neighbor of Kaser, was charged with the murder, but was freed when the grand jury failed to indict him.

The rifle used in the slaying was found in the Pudding river near here a week ago, Brown said.  Brown added that he has traced the ownership of the rifle.  On the basis of this new evidence, Brown went before the grand jury again.

Relatives of Kaser asked Brown to withdraw from the case and appoint a special prosecutor.  They said they believe that fact that Brown’s home is in Silverton would make it desirable to have somebody else prosecute the case.

[EK_NOTE: From what I’ve been told by family members, it wasn’t that Brown lived in Silverton, but rather they felt he had NO experience with a murder trial, and he’d just been a small-town (Silverton) lawyer before being elected D.A.  The family didn’t feel that he had what was needed to put on a good prosecution.]

May 17, 1955

State Police Private Lloyd T. Riegel:

The following is a list of those who testified before the Grand Jury on 16 May 1955, and the times they testified.

1. Sheriff Denver Young 10:00 AM to 10:40 AM
2. Dr. Harris 10:45 AM to 11:05 AM
3. Connie Kellerhal 11:07 AM to 11:21 AM
4. Emmanuel Kellerhal 11:24 AM to 11:36 AM
5. Silverton City Officer Painter 11:37 AM to 11:47 AM
6. Rodney Oster 1:10 PM to 1:15 PM
7. Gerald Hoyt 1:17 PM to 1:25 PM
8. Melvin Kaser 1:27 PM to 1:35 PM
9. Mrs. Jennie Gilham 1:35 PM to 1:40 PM
10. Daniel Gilham 1:42 PM to 1:50 PM
11. Robert Barnes 2:00 PM to 2:08 PM
12. Ethel Oveross 2:10 PM to 2:25 PM
13. Harvey Kaser 2:27 PM to 2:48 PM
14. Jeffery Kaser 2:48 PM to 2:50 PM
15. Charles Hopkins 2:52 PM to 2:58 PM
16. Wayne Moore 3:00 PM to 3:08 PM
17. Marion Zahler 3:08 PM to 3:30 PM
18. Officer Riegel 3:35 PM to 3:42 PM
19. Ralph Prouty 3:42 PM to 3:58 PM
20. Ohmar Bailey 4:08 PM to 4:12 PM

Noah Winiger did not appear before the Grand Jury, neither did the boys that found the rifle in Pudding River.

Statesman newspaper, Tuesday, May 17, 1955
D.A. Mulls Plea to Leave Murder Case

District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown said Monday he did not feel he would be justified in stepping aside as prosecutor of Casper Oveross, indicted for the rifle slaying of Ervin Kaser.

Brown admitted that members of the Kaser family had suggested he turn the case over to a special prosecutor presumably because all principals in the case including Brown are from the Silverton area.
I feel I am qualified to try the case.  I do not feel that I am in anyway prejudiced because I live in Silverton inasmuch as I have never to my knowledge so much as met the accused or the victim,” Brown stated.  “I have been elected by the people to presecute criminal actions in Marion County, including Silverton.  I hesitate to ask the county court to incur the expense of hiring a special prosecutor.  However, the feeling of the relatives creates a difficult situation and I wish to consider the matter at greater length.  At present time, my general feeling is that I would not be justified in stepping out of the case simply because I am from Silverton.”

Once in recent history has a district attorney of the county disqualified himself as prosecutor.  During the term of office of Lyle J. (Barney) Page 17 years ago in the case involving the county treasurer, sheriff and county court offices, Page disqualified himself on the grounds he was the legal advisor for those offices.  The county court then appointed a special prosecutor to conduct the case.

Brown said the only ways he could be superceded in the case would be for him to voluntarily step aside, or for the governor to ask the attorney general’s office to intercede as it did in last year’s Lincoln County vice probes.

May 16-18, 1955

[EK_NOTE: Oregon State Police sent numerous TWXs and telegrams to various police agencies around the area, notifying them of an arrest warrant for Casper Oveross, searching high and low. One example follows.]

THIS IS SAL 153 ORE ST POLICE SALEM 5-17-55 AT 8-52 AM

MARION COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE SALEM ORE ADVISE THEY HOLD A CIRCUIT COURT BENCH WARRANT FOR THE ARREST OF THE FOLLOWING SUBJECT CHARGING MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE

CASPER OVEROSS ALIAS CAP OVEROSS 44 YRS 5 FT 10 IN 180 LBS DK HAIR AND BLUE EYES SUBJECT IS A CARPENTER BY TRADE HAS A BROTHER MARDEN OVEROSS TEACHING SCHOOL IN PASDENA CALIF AND ANOTHER BROTHER LLOYD OVEROSS IN HAPPY CAMP SISKIYOU COUNTY CALIF SUBJECT WAS OPERATING A 1950 FORD SDN ORE LIC 1A118 IF LOCATED ARREST AND NOTIFY DENVER YOUNG SHERIFF MARION COUNTY ORE

PLEASE EXPEDITE CHECK AT HAPPY CAMP CALIFORNIA

REFER SERGEANT EATONS REPORT RE KASER MURDER INVESTIGATION

R G HOWARD CAPTAIN END

May 19, 1955

United States Post Office, Silverton, Oregon:

Air mail letter
To Henry Oveross no return add. Postmark Fairbanks, Alaska. May 17, 1955, 9PM

Air Mail letter
To Miss Colleen Oveross R3 no return add. Postmark Fairbanks, Alaska, May 17, 9PM

Air Mail pkg
To Miss Colleen Oveross, R3 from 1563 Noble St Fairbanks Alaska, Postmark Fairbanks Alaska May 16, 1955

May 20, 1955

State Police Captain R. G. Howard:

Vern Davis, Special Agent, F. B. I., advises that federal warrant of arrest charging Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution for Murder, issued in Federal District Court, Portland, is now outstanding for Casper Oveross, recently indicted on a charge of Murder in the First Degree by the Marion county grand jury. The F. B. I. will check out of state leads and will keep this office informed of results.

R. G. HOWARD, Captain

[EK_NOTE: later added in handwriting…] Now OK – arrested Fairbanks, Alaska 5-20-55. RGH

May 25, 1955

State Police Captain R. G. Howard:

Memorandum to Mr. H. G. Maison, Superintendent

Sheriff Young and Sergeant Huffman have been designated as state agents to return Casper Oveross from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Salem to stand trial on an indictment charging first degree murder. The entire cost of returning the prisoner to Salem will be paid by the state and no expense will be charged to the department.

The two officers will depart from Salem early Thursday morning, May 26, and are scheduled to return to Salem on Sunday morning, May 28.

Sergeant Huffman has been authorized to accompany Sheriff Young in accordance with our conversation of May 21.

May 26, 1955

Marion County Sheriff Denver Young:

On May 26, 1955 the writer and Sgt. Wayne Huffman left the Portland Airport atc 4:00 A.M. For Fairbanks Alaska to return Casper Oveross to answer to the charge of Murder in the First Degree based on an indictment by the Grand Jury.

Arrived in Fairbanks 12:00 noon 2/26/55

May 27, 1955

Marion County Sheriff Denver Young:

10:45 A.M. Contact Lt. Wm. Trafton of the Alaskan Territorial Police.

4:00 P.M. Accompanied Officer Goodfellow who arrested Oveross to the office of United States Commissioner who dismissed the Federal charge of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution, and then arraigned him on our warrant and had him sign waivers of Extradition, two copies were furnished me. Oveross was then returned to the Feral jail until the following morning when we picked up his car and possessions.

4:30 P.M.

Made special contact with agent of the Carpenters Union to attempt to get refund for Oveross on $75.00 payment on initiation. Agent promised that he would take it before the board at their next meeting and felt that they would make a refund.

May 28, 1955

Marion County Sheriff Denver Young:

Oveross and Denver Young return from Alaska

Silverton Appeal, June 3, 1955 — Casper Oveross, Silverton carpenter and farmer, is shown alighting from a United Airliner at Salem Sunday back of Sheriff Denver Young who flew to Fairbanks, Alaska, to return him to Marion county to answer a grand jury indictment for the murder of Ervin O. Kaser, Silverton hop farmer, who died Feb. 17 from a rifle blast as he sat in his car in his driveway.

8:30 A.M. Contacted Officer Goodfellow at Federal Jaiol and picked up Oveross. Drove him out to lot where he had been living to pick up his car and other things. No restraint used on trip. Stood by while Officer Goodfellow took several pictures of Oveross car. Brought Oveross car into Fairbanks and left it at the residence of John Slentz 1563 Noble St. Fairbanks Alaska.

10:00 P.M.

Left Fairbanks for Seattle & Salem.

May 29, 1955

Marion County Sheriff Denver Young:

10:00 A.M. Arrived in Salem.

Booked prisoner at County Jail

Capital Journal newspaper, Tuesday, May 31, 1955
Oveross Trial Set June 21

“Not guilty,” said Casper Arnold Oveross in a clear calm tone Tuesday forenoon in Marion County circuit court when asked by Judge George R. Duncan for his plea to an indictment that charges him with the first degree murder of Ervin O. Kaser.  He will go to trial June 21.

Dressed in a black and white checked soft shirt and grey trousers, Oveross appeared earnest in manner but grave.  Other than his reply concerning his guilt, he had nothing to say, although he conferred at times with his attorney, Bruce Williams.

Attorney Williams and District Attorney Kenneth Brown immediately went into conference with Judge Duncan to arrange a trial date that is agreeable to all. Both the district attorney and defense counsel expressed the belief that the trial would consume from two to two and a half weeks.  Brown asked two weeks to prepare for the trial and Williams requested a trial as “early as possible.”

Oveross accused of killing Kaser by shooting him with a rifle the night of February 17, 1955, as Kaser drove up to his farm residence south of Silverton, was returned to Salem Sunday by Sheriff Denver Young from Fairbanks, Alaska, where Oveross said he had gone in search of work.

Oveross drove his automobile over the Alcan highway to Fairbanks, taking some eight days for the trip, reported Sheriff Denver Young.  Oveross had found employment as a construction worker at a age of approximately $30 a day.  The high wage is reflected in the fact that rent for a two room shack costs $125 a month.

June 2, 1955

Sheriff’s Deputy Amos O. Shaw:

LOCATION: CREEK, approximately 1/2 Mile East of Pratum Grade School, Pudding Creek (Little Pudding). Approximately 15 feet from base of bridge on North side in estimate 15 inches of water.

SUBJECT: Writer searched the bottom of the creek looking for Cartridges that may be in the water. Writer found numerous cartridges, empty and live cartridges in the creek of various calibers. Most of them seemed to be of a Foreign make. However found one only, 30-30 Caliber empty cartridge. This cartridge was marked for identification as follows. AOS 6-2-55 2:00 PM. The Cartridge was bent and split on the end which projectile would normally be.

Writer contacted Neil Beutler, whom was present when a 30 Cal. Rifle was found close to where the empty cartridge was located and subject was unable to Identify the Cartridge I showed him.

DISPOSITION OF SHELL: On June 6, 1955 Writer handed the Cartridge mentioned in above para. To Ralph Proudy of the State Crime Lab. for comparison with other Cartridges known to have been fired from the Gun found at this spot. A Receipt for same will be mailed to this Office. Cartridge was given to Mr. Proudy at 4:00 PM on June 6th.

SUMMARY: It is possible that other 30 Cal. Cartridges are lodged on the Creek bottom however at this time it will be very difficult to locate them due to the Milky discoloration of the water, and the rocky formation of the bottom.

June 2, 1955

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

There was received from Deputy Sheriff Amos Shaw of Marion County June 6, 1955 at 4:00 P.M., one 30-30 cartridge in connection with the above case.

June 8, 1955

Sheriff’s Deputy Amos O. Shaw:

At 4:55 PM this date Writer and Sheriff Denver Young interviewed Casper Oveross, at the Marion County Jail, Salem Oregon.

Sheriff Young, asked Casper during the Interview following questions.

Casper you have maintained your innocence right along, that you didn’t have any thing to do with the shooting out there, and I wondered if you would submit to a Lie Detector test, with the consent of your Attorney.

Casper replied I am innocent and I have nothing to say, you can talk to my attorney if you want.

Sheriff Young replied well Casper will you submit to the test with your attorney’s Consent.

Casper replied, If that is all your going to talk about, you might as well take me back to the Cell.

Sheriff Young asked him again if he would submit to the test if it was all right with his Attorney, to which Casper stated I am not going to say any more just talk to my Attorney, and started remarking about some books in the shelves.

June 14, 1955

U of O Med School, Crime Detection Laboratory, Ralph W. Prouty:

At 4:00 P.M., June 6, 1955 there is received from Deputy Sheriff Amos Shaw, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the following item of evidence:

Item E-25 is a fired 30-30 caliber cartridge reportedly found in the Little Pudding River near the location where Item E-17 was found. Examination of this fired cartridge reveals that it is manufactured by the Remington Arms Company. This item bears the notation “AOS 6-2-55 2:00 P.M.” An area extending approximately 1/4 of an inch down the neck of the cartridge is the site of considerable mutilation. The firing pin impression and the breech block markings of this item are compared with test-fired cartridges fired in Item E-17, the 30-30 carbine Winchester model 94, serial number 1538797, and it is noted that the impressions are dissimilar. Examination of the rim for extractor marks reveals the extractor marks are dissimilar to those on test-fired cartridges. Nothing else remarkable is noted.

SUMMARY: In our opinion, Item E-25 was not fired in the chamber of Item E-17.

********************************

And that’s pretty much the end of the investigation, other than a few things that were looked into during the trial.  Next time, a couple of documents that were probably put together by the police for the prosecution, leading up to the trial, and maybe the beginnings of the trial.

Blogically yours,
Everett

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