Not Innocent: The Trial (Part 3) – Week Two

The trial now really gets under way, with the prosecution trying to squeeze in every bit of evidence they have, and the defense doing everything they can to get evidence disallowed and witnesses discredited.


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Tuesday, June 28, 1955
Bullet Expert Quizzed
Photos Admitted as Evidence in Murder Trial of Oveross

Testimony of the state’s ballistics expert was questioned critically Monday by defense counsel as the first degree murder trial of Casper A. Oveross resumed in Marion County Circuit Court.

Attorney Otto R. Skopil Jr., leading the defense cross-examination of state’s witnesses, challenged crime laboratory technician Ralph Prouty repeatedly on the accuracy of his testimony relating to bullet holes in the automobile of the slain Ervin Kaser.  Prouty, with the crime laboratory since July 1953, was on the witness stand most of the afternoon as the state sought to set the technical scene of the Feb. 17 murder south of Silverton.

The young Portlander was the sixth state witness to take the stand in the five-day-old trial, and the fifth called to the witness chair Monday.  Previously Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Kellerhals, only known witnesses to the slaying, were among those offering testimony.  They followed Deputy Sheriff Richard C. Boehringer to the stand and were followed by Melvin Kaser, brother of the dead man.

Mrs. Kellerhals, who has lived for 18 years across the highway from the Kaser home, was the first to recount details of the first few minutes following the shooting of Kaser.  She told of hearing Kaser’s car pull into his driveway and of a car door slam about the same time a second car halted on the highway a few yards north.

“Mannie, someone’s shooting at Ervin,” she recalled saying after hearing one shot.  She said both she and her husband jumped from bed to the front window of their home in time to see flashes of three more shots, and to see the second car speed away south.  Mrs. Kellerhals testimony differed slightly from that of her husband on details of the second car’s movement.  She said the car identified as dark in color, appeared to leave the scene about two or three seconds after the last shot, while Mr. Kellerhals said the car started immediately.

Tire tracks on the shoulder of the highway

Police photo of tire tracks on the frozen shoulder of the Silverton-Stayton highway.

Additional photographs with which the state hopes to help build its first degree murder case against Casper A. Oveross were admitted as evidence Monday over the objections of defense counsel.  Four colored slides of the slain Ervin Kaser’s car, and a black and white photograph purporting to show a tire track on the highway shoulder near the shooting scene were officially entered during the three-hour testimony of Ralph Prouty, state ballistics expert.  Prouty, who was under close cross-examination by the defense attorneys, testified that his investigations at the scene indicated that the four shots fired into Kaser’s parked car came from a point at a 45 degree angle to the side of the car.

It was his testimony to width of the road shoulder where the killer’s car was believed to have halted, and to the location of bullet holes in the car that brought the sharpest examination by Defense Attorney Otto R. Skopil Jr.  At one point Prouty was permitted to review his notes to give exact measurements.  Then the defense ordered two pages of the notes admitted as defense exhibits to show that Prouty had given only approximations of distances in his direct testimony.  Jurors spent some 15 minutes individually examining the notes which contained drawn diagrams of bullet holes in the car.

Prouty, whose testimony will resume at 9:15 a.m. today when court reconvenes, said he had taken the color pictures shortly after arriving on the death scene.  Skopil objected to admission of each of the four slides on the grounds they were merely accumulative to black and white exhibits entered earlier, but was overruled by Circuit Judge George Duncan.  The defense won its motion to have the individual pictures projected out of the presence of the jury, however, until their relativity to the case could be determined by the judge.

The four shots, one of which struck Kaser in the left shoulder and caused his death, apparently came from a point on the aline from about six feet above the far edge of the west shoulder of the highway, Prouty testified.  This testimony also brought critical examination from the defense who asked Prouty how he could correlate this with the fact that the line of flight of one of the bullets was upward and at the same time entered the Kaser car about 50 inches above the ground. Prouty said the shoulder of the road which he was using for a reference point was considerably lower than the pavement and about three feet below the level of the ground where the Kaser car stood.  He said he had chosen that point on the shoulder because he had detected a tire mark in the grass there. The tire did not make enough of an impression in the hard and frozen ground for making a cast, Prouty said.

Testimony of earlier witnesses, especially that of Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Kellerhals, fixed the scene of the Feb. 17 slaying.  Mrs. Kellerhals, an Evergreen community Sunday school teacher, said she had just gone to bed and was not asleep when the shooting occurred. She looked from the front window of her home after hearing the first shot in time to see three more in rapid succession, she testified.  After seeing the killer’s car race away and noting that lights were on the Kaser car and in the house, she said she telephoned the Kaser home but got no answer. She said she and her husband watched the Kaser car and after a couple of minutes when the lights were not turned out she called again to the Kaser home.  Then she called the home of Melvin Kaser, brother of Ervin who lives on adjoining property to the south and through his wife advised him of the shooting.

Melvin called back in a few minutes and said he would call the Silverton constable to the scene, she testified. She said she and her busband watched the Kaser residence until Constable DePeel arrived on the scene about 15 minutes later.  Both Kellerhals estimated the killer’s car had stopped at a point near the driveway north of their home.  Mrs. Kellerhals answered questions by Defense Attorney Bruce Williams relating to what was termed a “episode which I didn’t like” involving Ervin Kaser before an objection by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond halted the testimony.  Mrs. Kellerhals explained outside the courtroom that the episode had involved an offer of a drink by Kaser. She said there had been no trouble about it.

Melvin Kaser admitted on the stand that he and Ervin had not spoken for about a year prior to the slaying.  He did not say what the nature of the difficulties with his borther were.  Melvin, second known person on the scene, testified it had been a habit of his brother for several months to park at the rear of his residence.  Kaser told also of the discovery by Sheriff Denver Young some six weeks after the shooting of a spent bullet in the strawberry patch between his home and Ervin’s.  This bullet, with the one found in the seat of Kaser’s car and the one taken from his body, is expected to support the state’s conclusion that a rifle linked to Oveross was the death weapon.

Burden of testimony by Deputy Richard C. Boehringer, also an early arrival on the scene, was that no one had touched the death car prior to its examination by Prouty and Dr. Homer Harris, head of the state crime laboratory.  Boehringer said he had heard the report that Melvin and Ervin Kaser had not spoken for about a year, but had not heard a report that Ervin and Harvey Kaser, another brother, had had a violent fist fight a few days prior to the shooting.


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Wednesday, June 29, 1955
Rifle Bullets, Car Testimony Added At Oveross Trial
Tempers Fray at Oveross Murder Trial

An empty rifle shell, a box containing two 30-30 cartridges and a witness’ assertion that Casper Oveross’ Ford was “definitely” not the killer’s car were startling developments Tuesday in Oveross’ trial for the murder of Ervin Kaser.

Testimony scene shifted Tuesday to Silverton and the apartment home of Oveross as the state continued the time sequence presentation of its case against the Silverton carpenter.  It was in the Oveross apartment where Silverton Policeman James painter testified he saw Sheriff Denver Young take the empty shell from Oveross’ plaid jacket about three hours after the Feb. 17 slaying at Kaser’s home south of Silverton.  Painter also testified he discovered a cardboard box in a cupboard at the apartment which contained two .30 caliber rifle cartridges.  he told of finding another on the floor under the couch.  Indications were that the state intended to show that the box had not been in the cupboard, but was visible elsewhere in the room about two hours before.

A longtime friend of both the Kaser and Oveross families testified, “I would say it definitely was not” Oveross’ car he saw leave the murder scene a few seconds after hearing four shots.  The testimony came from E. A. (Ted) Finlay, witness called by the state, during cross-examination by Defense Attorney Bruce Williams.  Finlay, who resides a short distance south of the Kaser home, fixed also the time of the shooting at 10:50 p.m., testifying he looked at an alarm clock in his bedroom at the time.  He told also of seeing a pickup truck go by on the highway a few seconds after the killer’s car and identified it as being driven by Mrs. Harvey Kaser. Reportedly Mrs. Kaser’s sister, Ethel Oveross, former wife of the defendant, was a passenger in the truck.  [EK_NOTE: that's newspaper rumor, as Ethel Oveross was at home at the time of the shooting.]

Finlay, who said he had ridden in the Oveross car many times, said he based his statement about the killer’s car on his observation that the headlights were wide apart, indicating an older model, and the noise that it made. He said he was able to determing by sight only that the car was a sedan.

[EK_NOTE: In contrast to Ted Finlay's testimony at the trial, another point of view from Calvin Kaser:
Manny Kellerhal and Ted Finlay were scared shitless that Cap was going to come back and shoot them.  I was working at the S&M Truck Line, and Ted Finlay had an electrical shop and would come down there all the time to pick up his freight.  He'd say, "I knew who the hell that was, hell, that was Cap, sure as hell.  I heard those shots, and I heard that car come off, and I was up in the upstairs window."  Cap drove a Ford, I don't remember what year Ford it was, and they had a round deal like this right in the grill, and Ted said, "I can still see that round emblem, and hell, it was Cap's car.  I couldn't see him, but I'd bet my life that it was Cap's car."  Manny Kellerhal seen the car take off, and he knew who it was.  They were all saying this before they arrested Cap, "Hell, that's Cap Oveross."  Then, when it came to testify in the trial, he didn't know nothing.  Manny Kellerhals, he didn't know nothing, they couldn't say who it was.  Didn't know.  They were afraid Oveross was going to come back and shoot them.  Connie Kellerhals, she was just scared shitless.  She didn't want Manny to testify about nothing.  She told everyone out there, "Cap'll come back and shoot us if you testify!"  They knew goddamn well who it was, they'd told all of us, prior to the trial, that they knew who it was, that they recognized the car.  But when it came to the trial, and they were asked if there was anything they recognized about the car, "Nope."   Now, back to the newspaper report.]

Counsel for both the state and defense were cautioned Tuesday to refrain from personalities as tempers began to fray in the first degree murder trial of Casper A. Oveross. The rebuke for both sides came from Circuit Judge George Duncan, in whose court the case is being heard, after a sharp exchange between Defense Counsel Bruce Williams and Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond over a speculated objection by Williams.

James Painter, Silverton policeman who testified to a search of Oveross’ Silverton apartment on the night of the shooting, was on the stand when Williams rose to say he was going to object to any testimony involving a converstation between Painter and Richard Keefer, operator of Shorty’s Tavern at Silverton.  Williams took exception to Raymond’s remark of “I don’t blame you,” telling Judge Duncan it was the same type of remark the prosecution has been reverting to all through the trial. District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown entered the exhange to term Williams statement unfair.

Bulk of the testimony Tuesday centered on police activities in Silverton during the hours just after the slaying of Ervin Kaser.  But before the scene shift, Defense Attorney Otto R. Skopil continued his critical cross-examination of Ralph Prouty, ballistics expert for the state crime laboratory.  He challenged Prouty’s experience and knowledge in an effort to refute the state’s claim he was an expert.  Skopil drew several admissions from Prouty that he was not sure of distances and angles which he had testified to earlier in establishing the direction from which bullets entered the Kaser car.  He also admitted there was no way to state scientifically that the car had been moved.  Monday he had said presence of glass particles on ledges of the windows and windshield was evidence to him that the car had not been moved from the time of the shooting to the time he investigated it. Skopil questioned Prouty also on the creditability of Stanley McDonald as a ballistics expert, indicating the defense may call the head of the Multnomah County identification bureau chief in an effort to refute further Prouty’s testimony.

Marion County Coroner Leston Howell followed Prouty to the stand to testify to his actions at the crime scene. his reference to a state crime laboratory report on the witness stand to refresh his memory on certain facts caused a subpoenaing of the report by the defense as part of the trial record.  Attorney Williams took exception to a court ruling that the defense was entitled to see only that part of the report to which Howell referred, labeling the report a part of the public record of the county. Defense counsel subpoenaed the report during the noon recess, causing the recall of Howell to the witness stand for a few seconds as the afternoon session began.

Afternoon testimony was mostly that of Officer Painter, first policeman to go to Oveross’ home after the slaying.  He told of approaching Cabin No. 6 at the Holland Court first about 11:40 p.m., knocking on the door and getting no answer though lights were on at the time.  He said newspapers were over the windows so that he could no see into the cabin. Later entry of the cabin through the door was reported by Painter who was not permitted to testify to what he saw there because of defense objections.  He told of going to the Town House in Silverton and asking if Ervin Kaser had been there during the evening and said it was there he was told by Gerald Hoyt, the bartender, of bad feeling between Kaser and Oveross. This, he said, led to his going to the Oveross home and later going inside.

Painter told of returning with several police officers to the Oveross cabin after Oveross himself had returned home.  He said Oveross invited them in and said they could search the cabin after Sheriff Denver Young had asked for permission.  He told of locating the box containing the two 30-30 cartridges, some shotgun shells and miscllaneous screws and nuts, on a cupboard shelf of the cabin.  He said his inquiry of Oveross as to when he had last had the box was answered with the statement “not for a couple of weeks.”

Discovery of a third cartridge on the floor under a couch was reported also by Painter who testified that three cartridges entered as evidence by the state in the courtroom appeared to be the same as the three he found.  Also entered as state’s exhibit was a diagram of the Oveross cabin which Painter said he had drawn from a preliminary diagram made a week ago. Painter said Oveross was questioned on his whereabouts of the evening and replied he had been to “just Shorty’s and the Town House.”  When asked if he had been anywhere else he said, “No, just driving between Shorty’s and the Town House.”  Asked if Oveross said anything else, he reported that Oveross was questioned on whether he owned a .30 caliber rifle and that he had replied he never owned one.

The fact that police spent the early part of their search for Oveross looking for the wrong license plate was brought out in cross-examination of Painter by Williams.  Painter said the license number given them by the registration office of the secretary of state’s office was for the expired license while Oveross car carried new plates with the number 1A118.  Apparently the defense intended to show later that Oveross car could have been parked or operated in Silverton without the search being able to recognize it.  Painter admitted under cross-examination that his testimony that Oveross was wearing the plaid jacket from which Young extraced an empty cartridge may have been in error.  He said it was his impression that Oveross had the jacket on at the time.

On the stand at the close of the day was Merle Bethscheider, also a Silverton policeman, who corroborated much of Painter’s testimony.  He said he was on a “stake out” or watch near the Oveross cabin when Oveross returned about 1:25 a.m. in the morning following the fatal shooting.  Bethscheider is expected to be first on the witness stand today and will probably be followed by Dr. Home Harris, head of the state crime laboratory.  Harris is expected to testify to the cause of Kaser’s death and to the result of an autopsy performed on the dead man’s body.

A defense accusation that Oveross was being prevented from seeing his family was denied by Sheriff Young Tuesday night.  Attorney Williams had prefaced the day’s trial activities with a motion for a half hour recess during the day to permit the defendant to see his family. He said, “Sheriff Young has consistently declined to permit him to do that…” before he was interrupted by Judge Duncan who said such a request should be made outside the courtroom.  The request repeated in the judge’s chambers was approved and Oveross was permitted to see several members of his family including his daughter Colleen and two sisters during a half hour recess beginning at 3 p.m.  Young said Tuesday night that Williams’ statement was a “deliberate falsehood.”  He added that Oveross had been granted the same visitation privileges of all other county prisoners and that he had taken under consideration a request by Defense Attorney Otto Skopil Jr., to permit vistis outside the regular visiting hours.  Regular visiting hours at the jail are from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday.  He said Oveross had been in court during those periods last week.


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Thursday, June 30, 1955
Police Interrogation of Oveross Pictured

Wednesday court pictures

Standing Room Only crowds jammed into Circuit Judge George Duncan’s courtroom again Wednesday for the seventh day of the first degree murder trial of Casper Oveross. At top a large group of spectators jams up outside the courtroom door awaiting court to reconvene Wednesday afternoon. Lower right, Dr. Homer Harris, director of the state crime laboratory, examines the jacket which he testified Ervin Kaser was wearing the night he was slain. The jacket had just been handed to him by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond whose back is shown in the picture. On the stand also Wednesday was Harley DePeel, Silverton area constable, first policeman to arrive at the murder scene south of Silverton last Feb. 17.

Details of the interrogation of Casper Oveross after the fatal shooting of Ervin Kaser were brought out Wednesday in testimony of four police officers as the Oveross murder trial ground through its seventh day.

State Policeman Robert Dunn, who said he was present during a two hour “talk” with Oveross at the Marion County Sheriff’s office, testified he had heard Oveross say he had never had a .30 caliber rifle and had not owned any rifle for 2 or 3 years.  Dunn also said Oveross had asked 4 or 5 times during the course of the interrogation at the courthouse and en route back to the Silverton area if he might contact his attorney. he said the request was not denied by Sheriff Denver Young; but htat he was asked if he wouldn’t wait until they got through talking.  Oveross was not under arrest, Dunn testified, and as far as he knew was free to go at any time he was with the police officers from about 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the morning following the shooting.

Silverton District Constable Harley DePeel, Silverton Policeman Merle Bethscheider and Deputy Sheriff Amos Shaw also testified during the day to Oveross’ actions during the period he was being questioned.  They, with Dunn and Dr. Homer Harris, director of the state crime laboratory, were on the witness stand during the day.  Colored slides showing Kaser’s body in the car and wounds in his left shoulder were admitted as state’s evidence during the testimony of Dr. Harris, who also testified to the cause of Kaser’s death.  Dr. Harris said the jagged jacket of a .30 caliber rifle slug had torn into Kaser’s back, lodging in the main artery to the heart. Asked if death was instantaneous, Dr. Harris said in his opinion the wound was the equivalent to decapitation in effect.


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Police Tell Of Oveross Interrogation

Investigating police testified Wednesday that Casper Oveross, charged with the Feb. 17 slaying of Ervin Kaser, had acted normally during his long interrogation after the crime.  Oveross was first questioned about his activities at his Silverton home, on the way to and from Salem and at the Marion County sheriff’s office on the morning following the shooting, officers testified.

The statement, “It’s a funny thing about these foxes running around here with their throats cut,” was attributed to Oveross in testimony of Deputy Sheriff Amos Shaw, one of the principal investigators of the Silverton area murder.  Shaw said Oveross made the statement while they were enroute from the Kaser home to Salem.  He said Oveross had also made some comment about a friend of his who was doing 99 years for murder at the state penitentiary.  Shaw, 12th of the state’s 63 witnesses to appear, was still on the witness stand when Circuit Judge George Duncan recessed the trial until 9:15 a.m. today.  The soft-spoken deputy told of going to the Oveross cabin in Silverton early on the morning after the slaying with Sheriff Denver Young and six other police officers.  He said Young knocked on Oveross’ door and heard a voice say, “Who’s there?”  He said after the sheriff had identified himself, Oveross came to the door and was asked for permission to come in and talk.  Shaw said Oveross agreed to the request and to one to permit a search of the small cabin where he had lived since being divorced from his wife, Ethel Oveross.  Shaw quoted Oveross as saying, “Help yourself” in answer to the request and “If it’s marijuana you’re looking for, I don’t know anything about it.”

State policeman Robert Dunn of Salem, preceded Shaw on the stand, and testified also to phases of the night’s activities involving Oveross.  He said he had entered the Oveross cabin with other officers at the invitation of Oveross, but had gone back outside to look around because he felt there were too many there already.  Dunn said he was in the cabin long enough, however, to hear Sheriff Young ask Oveross where he had been and heard Oveross answer something about being to a couple of taverns.

Dunn said he left the Oveross place with other officers and Oveross and went to Dick Huddleston’s home just outside Silverton where Huddleston substantiated Oveross’ story that he had test fired a rifle for him on the day of the shooting.  He said they went then to the Huddleston lumber yard where they viewed the gun.  It was the fact that Oveross had fired a gun on that day which headed off any attempt to take a paraffin test of Oveross’ hands, Dunn said. Earlier Dr. Homer Harris of the state crime laboratory had explained that a paraffin test involved making a paraffin cast of hands and arms to determine if any powder residue from a fired gun had collected there.  Dunn said Oveross was not coherent in speech during part of the interrogation later, stating he wouldn’t stay on the subject, wouldn’t finish some of his sentences and appeared nervous.  He stated that in his opinion Oveross was not drunk, but had “odor which I took to be liquor on this breath.”

Dunn, with the state police since 1950, said he was present during all but 5 to 10 minutes of the interrogation conducted at the sheriff’s office.  He recalled Oveross was asked where he had been and had answered at two taverns.  he denied being anywhere else between 8 p.m. on Feb. 17 and 1:30 the next morning, Dunn said.  Oveross said at that time he did not own a 30-30 rifle and had never owned one, Dunn testified.  he told of owning a 32-20 rifle which he said he had sold two or three years before, Dunn said.  Dunn said Oveross was asked if he had been near Kaser’s place and answered he had not been that night, or during the daytime or morning.  he told of wiring up the bumper of his daughter Colleen’s 1936 Chevrolet while it was parked on a Silverton street, Dunn said, but had first related that had been about 5:30 p.m., then said it had been in the morning.  Oveross denied being south of Silverton anytime that evening according to Dunn.

Dunn also told of a conversation with Oveross about family troubles and reported he was asked if Kaser had any connection with breaking up his home.  He said he considered his wife the finest woman in the world, but wouldn’t marry again in view of the circumstances.  He said Oveross told of watching with the late Constable Emory Jackson and Harly DePeel while Kaser visited his wife. Oveross said he would have ikilled Kaser when that occurred and not now and considered it all “water under the bridge,” Dunn testified.  Oveross also talked about going deer hunting, but was vague about the rifle he used, according to Dunn. Dunn said they had also talked about making venison hamburger, the remark sending a ripple of laughter through the packed courtroom.  Under cross-examination Dunn said Oveross had shouted to Mr. Anunsen, a brother-in-law, to telephone Mr. Winslow during a stop at the home of Ed Shubert, brother of another one of Oveross’ sisters.  Mr. Winslow was identified as a Salem attorney who had represented Oveross in the divorce proceedings with his wife last year.

Clothing which Kaser was wearing at the time he was slain was admitted as evidence during Dr. Harris’ testimony Wednesday morning.  The torn red plaid jacket and blood-stained grey shirt were admitted over objections by defense counsel Attorney Bruce Williams and Otto R. Skopil Jr.  Also admitted was the fragment of rifle bullet which Harris testified caused Kaser’s death.  Two other bullet fragments taken from Kaser’s body were also admitted.  Dr. Harris, who was on the witness stand for direct examination by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond for an hour and a half, got the briefest cross-examination yet in the trial from the defense.  Harris, testifying that he had conducted some 1,500 autopsies, was asked only one question by Attorney Williams.  That was whether he had ever testified before for Mr. Raymond.  He answered that he had on occasion.

Officer Merle Bethscheider of the Silverton police, who was on the stand first Wednesday, corroborated much of the testimony offered Tuesday by James Painter, also a Silverton policeman.  His deliberate answers to both prosecuttion and defense questions on events of the night were substantially the same as those of Officer Painter on the same matters.  Deputy Shaw is expected to resume testimony this morning, and it appeared likely that he would recieve close attention on cross-examination.  The prosecution also will probably recall Officer Painter today.


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Friday, July 1, 1955
Attorneys Charge Oveross Illegally Held After Killing

Defense attorneys charged Thursday that Casper Oveross was held illegally for some nine hours the night of the Ervin Kaser murder and asked that all testimony based on the period be stricken from the trial record.  The motion came during the eighth day of the first degree murder trial of Oveross and was denied by Circuit Judge George Duncan just before the alleged murder gun was presented in evidence by the prosecution.  Defense Attorney Bruce Williams moved to have the testimony thrown out because he said it was illegally secured during “the illegal detention and illegal search and seizure” and violates guarantees under the 5ht amendment of the constitution.  The action followed by a few minutes the admission under oath by Police Chief Rell R. Main of Silverton that Oveross was “in custody at that time.”  Other law officers who participated in the questions of Oveross, including Denver Young, Marion County Sheriff, had testified Oveross had voluntarily agreed to accompany them for questioning purposes.

Brought into court Thursday was the .30 caliber Winchester carbine which the state asserts is the death gun.  Three boys, one from Salem and two from Pratum, testified the gun was the one found in the Pudding River near Pratum last May 8, nearly three months after the fatal shooting south of Silverton.  Larry Wacker, 12, who will be in the eighth grade at Parrish Junior High School next fall, told how he found the rifle in the stream.  He said he and Neil and Ralph Beutler of Pratum had gone down along the river “to look for fish and crawdads” when he spotted the gun lying partly in the water and mud.  Wacker and the Beutler boys, aged 11 and 9, told also of working the lever on the gun and seeing an empty shell pop out.  They told of playing around with the shell before Ralph threw it back into the stream. An unfired round, which the boys said was stuck in the gun, was also marked for identification as possible evidence.

The day’s action came as the prosecution speeded the temp of its case against the 43-year-old Silverton carpenter.  Members of the Harvey Kaser family will probably be called first today and are expected to testify to the finding of other empty shells linked to the death gun. Testimony about the reported sale of a .30 caliber Winchester rifle to Oveross is also expectedd in today’s presentation by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond and District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown.


 

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Dramatic Development Hinted During Oveross Murder Trial

A dramatic development was hinted “in the next day or two” by Attorney Bruce Williams, who with Otto R. Skopil Jr., is defending Casper Oveross against a first degree murder charge in Marion County Circuit Court here. Williams’ hint of the surprise came after court had recessed Thursday on a day of dramatic developments, one of which was Williams’ own motion to have nearly all the testimony taken thus far in the case thrown out on the grounds it was illegally obtained.  Williams’ motion was based substantially on a statement by Silverton Police Chief Rell R. Main, last of the state’s witnesses to testify on events surrounding the morning-long questioning of Oveross the day after Ervin Kaser was shot to death at his home south of Silverton.

Cross-examination of officers by Williams and Skopil had been directed at the questioning of Oveross from about 1:45 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m. the morning of Feb. 18, a few hours after Kaser’s death.  Sheriff Denver Young, Deputy Amos Shaw, Silverton Policemen James Painter and Merle Bethscheider, Silverton Constable Harley DePeel and State Policeman Robert Dunn had each been cross examined closely on phases of the interrogation elarier and each had stated Oveross had come along voluntarily and was free to go at any time.  Young, Shaw, Dunn and Main all said Oveross had asked several times if he might call an attorney during the questioning at the Sheriff’s office in Salem and en-route back to Silverton. Each had said Oveross was not blocked from calling, but had been asked to wait until they were through talking.  Each of the four officers recalled that Oveross had called to his brother-in-law at the Ed Shubert place and asked him to contact Norman Winslow, a Salem attorney, who had handled his divorce case against his wife Ethel Oveross.

Expected fireworks failed to materialize Thursday during the cross-examination of Sheriff Young, who was on the witness stand for the first time during the trial.  Young’s testimony was substantially the same as that of preceeding police officers testifying to events of the murder night.  Young told of going to Silverton and talking to Oveross at his Holland cabin home and said he asked Oveross to accompany them to Salem where they might talk some more.  The sheriff said Oveross agreed and that at no time was he under arrest.

Testimony of other officers concerning the finding of three .30 caliber cartridges and one empty shell at the Oveross cabin was corroborated by Young.  Young told also of going to the home of Mrs. Ethel Oveross, about a half mile south of the murder scene, earlier where he said he learned Oveross had visited there during the evening of Feb. 17.  Later, Young said, Oveross denied he had been to his former home and alos denied having been south of Silverton during that day or night.  Oveross was asked point blank whether he had shot Kaser, Young stated. He said Oveross answered, “I didn’t shoot him, not old Cap.”

Chief Main’s testimony closely paralleled that of Young’s in most respects.  At the conclusion of cross-examination on events concerning departure from the Oveross cabin Williams asked, “He was in custody at that time though?”  Main answered, “Yes, sir!”  It was the first police statement that Oveross was being held.  After Williams’ motion to throw out police testimony based on the questioning period the prosecution called Larry Wacker, 12-year-old Salem boy, who found the rifle which the state asserts was the murder weapon.  Young Wacker said he could tell the gun shown him in the courtroom Thursday was the same gun he found in the Pudding River May 8 because he remembered the serial number.  He said only the butt of the rifle was sticking out of the water when he spotted it while “I was looking for fish and crawdads.” The boy drew a sketch for the jurors of the spot close by the bridge over the river just east of Pratum where he first spotted the gun. Larry answered questions of both prosecution and defense without hesitation in relating circumstances of the discovery.

Neil and Ralph Beutler, who had accompanied Larry on the Mother’s Day bicycle jaunt to the stream, testified they saw the rifle in the water after Larry had pointed it out to them.  They told of seeing him pull it from the mud and examining it on the bridge.  Neil said it was he who worked the lever, extracting an empty cartridge onto the road.  Ralph picked it up he said and later threw it back into the stream. It was never recovered.  Wacker and Neil Beutler differed somewhat in their estimation of the condition of the gun.  Both agreed there was rust on the end of the barrel and on other parts of the gun, but Beutler said the inside of the barrel was clean.

Presentation of the rifle Thursday set the stage for the state’s plan to link Oveross to the murder gun.  Young Jeffery Kaser, son of Harvey Kaser who is the brother of the slain man, is expected to testify today concerning finding other empty cartridges.  His mother, Edith Kaser, a sister of Ethel Oveross, and Harvey Kaser are also expected to take the stand today.

 


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Saturday, July 2, 1955
Attorneys Charge Oveross Illegally Held After Killing

A day long battle Friday over admitting a 30-30 rifle as evidence and over the qualification of a state’s witness to testify on comparison of bullets fired from it filled the ninth day of the first degree murder tiral of Casper Oveross in Circuit Court here. Except for one question asked of another witness, all testimony of the day came from Ralph Prouty, ballistics expert of the state crime laboratory, who said the bullet taken from the body of the slain Ervin Kaser was fired from a gun found later in the Pudding River. Kaser was killed Feb. 17.

The gun itself was admitted as evidence just before the noon recess over repeated ojbections from defense counsel Bruce Williams and Otto R. Skopil Jr., that no relativity to the crime had been established for it.  At one time after a series of objections to each question concerning the rifle, Skopil asked that a blanket objection be applied to all testimony about it.  Such a policy was established.

Prouty, testifying for the second time during the trial, was under stiff cross-examination agin but seemed to weather Skopil’s questions with much more authority than during the earlier phases.  A question at one point on comparison of bullets, brought the statement from Prouty, “I’m confused.”  Skopil quickly said, “Do you mean you are confused again today? Is that what you mean?”  After hearing the question read back by the court reported Skopil stated, “I had better rephrase that question, I don’t believe I can even understand that.”

Prouty spent much of the day explaining how bullet comparisons are made, and explaining the comparisons on photographs which were also admitted as evidence. He noted that markings made on bullets by the lands and grooves (riflings) leave individual characteristics which are never identical in two guns.  Normally at least 10 or 12 established characteristics are required for a conclusive comparison, Prouty stated.  Photographic comparisons showed at least 45 such characteristics between the death bullet and one test fired through the rifle after it was found, he testified.  “It is my conclusion they (the death bullet and the test bullet) were both fired through the bore of the same gun–state’s exhibit No. 21,” Prouty said.

 


 

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Long Oveross Trial ‘Likely’ to Continue ‘Two More Weeks’

One of the longest criminal trials in recent Marion County Circuit Court history, the murder trial of Casper Oveross, moves into its tenth day today in an unusual Saturday session.  Through nine full days, six of them for testimony by state’s witnesses, the prosecution had called only 18 of its list of 63 witnesses.  “All of the witnesses will be called to testify,” District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown said Friday.

Considering evidence yet to be presented by the state and the presentation of witnesses for the defense it seemed likely the case would run two more weeks.  The Fourth of July holiday Monday and a half-day schedule of other business Tuesday for Circuit Judge George Duncan will bite heavily into the trial time available next week.  After all the evidence is in, both sides will be allowed time for a summation before the case is handed over to a jury.  Adding to the unusual length of the trial was the testimony Friday which consisted almost entirely of direct and cross-examination of Ralph Prouty, fire-arms expert for the state crime laboratory.

Prouty took the stand at 9:41 a.m. Friday and was still there when the court recessed for the night at 4:53 p.m.  Deputy Amos Shaw of the Marion COunty sheriff’s office was on the stand briefly at the beginning of the day, but was dismissed after one question when defense counsel Otto R. Skopil Jr. objected to it relevancy. The prosecution had planned to have the gun admitted as evidence through Shaw and Prouty before the defense objection. It was Shaw to whom the 30-30 Winchester carbine was turned over after it was fished from the Pudding River last May 8 by Larry Wacker, 12-year-old Salem schoolboy.  Blocked in that sequence, Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond pushed the step by step admission of evidence through Prouty who came to court Thursday armed with a whole box of exhibits.

Prouty stated that through measurements and microscopic comparisions it could be determined if a certain bullet was fired from a certain gun. Then he testified he had determined by measurements and compairson with bullets of known standards that the bullet which caused Ervin Kaser’s death last Feb. 17 was .30 caliber.  When Skopil objected to admission of the rifle at that stage, Raymond brought in six photographs, over objections, which Prouty said showed comparisons of a test bullet and the fatal shot.  Then the test bullet, which Prouty testified was the same manufacture and caliber as the death bullet, was offered in evidence.

At that stage Skopil shifted tactics and pressed for display to the jurors of the six photographs which had officially been admitted as evidence.  At the insistence of both Skopil and Bruce Williams, co-counselor for Oveross, the jury was permitted to view the photographs, which they did for several minutes.  The pictures were then placed on a board and individually interpreted for the jurors by Prouty who pointed out a total of what he called 45 characteristic points of comparison for the two bullets.  Prosecution again asked that the rifle be admitted as evidence.  This time it was admitted over the objections of Skopil who said there was nothing to show how Prouty came into the possession of the gun.  Three more photographs of a bullet which Prouty said he found in the seat of Kaser’s car after the shooting were then offered as evidence. Prouty said that this bullet also carried the corresponding characteristics to the death bullet and the test bullet.

Cross-examination of Prouty took most of the afternoon session and consisted principally of a point by point questioning by Skopil on the whole procedure of bullet comparisons.  During this examination Prouty stated powder load made little change in the markings.  He explained he made a total of seven test shots with the rifle before settling on the second of the series as the best basis for comparison.  When Skopil attempted to read a statement from a book on ballistics he was blocked by Raymond that neither the book nor the author had been established as an authority.  Prouty told Skopil he had never heard of the Maj. Gerard listed as the author.  He cited several other persons who he felt in his opinion were experts on the subject.  Prouty stated he felt a heavy responsibility on his part to determine that he was correct on the comparisons.  He said he made more tests than were normally required to eliminate doubts. “Are you still doubtful?” Skopil asked.  “No, I am not,” he replied.

Prouty explained that apparent differences in color between compared markings on the two bullets were caused by a number of factors including oxisation of metal and the way light struck the two under the comparison microscope.  He admistted that it was much easier to compare the two in the microscope than from the photographs because the pictures did not show the indentations or elevations in three dimensions.  Condition of the rifle was described as generally good by Prouty who said it had some moisture, mud and what appeared to be rust in the bore when he received it. he said he could not venture an opinion on how long the rifle might have been in the river on the basis of the condition.

In the half day session today members of the Harvey Kaser family, who were originally scheduled for appearances Friday, are expected to take the witness stand in connection with the finding of the other empty cartridges.

 


The Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Sunday, July 3, 1955
Oveross Threatened Kaser, Brother Says

“I’ll kill him if I ever catch them together,” Casper Oveross was quoted as saying in testimony of Harvey Kaser and his wife Edith Saturday in Marion County Circuit Court here. Harvey, brother of Ervin Kaser who was slain at his Silverton area home last Feb. 17, said Oveross was referring to Ervin and to Oveross’ wife Ehtel when he made the threat in September or October of 1954.  Oveross is on trial charged with the murder of Kaser.

Mrs. Harvey Kaser, believed to be the first person to drive by the murder scene, testified she noticed Ervin Kaser’s car parked in the driveway of his home as she returned from a lodge meeting in Silverton about 11 p.m. that night.  She denied on cross-examination that she had stopped her pickup at the death scene, gone over to the car and then continued on home.  Defense Attorney Bruce Williams asked her several times during eh questioning if she hadn’t told two sisters of Oveross that she had stopped.  “That is not trued,” she answered.  Williams asked if she was sure.  “Absolutely,” Mrs. Kaser replied. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kaser recalled a visit late at night by Oveross to their home about a quarter mile south of the death scene.  Mrs. Kaser, twin sister of Ethel Oveross, said Oveross had said then, “I don’t give a god damn if he is your brother, I’ll kill him if I ever catch them together.”

Testimony of Harvey Kaser was interrupted frequently by objections by Williams and by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond.  Three times during the half day session counsel conferences were held in Judge George Duncan’s chambers on defense objections.  The first came when Harvey testified he had been shown a new 30-30 Winchester rifle by Oversoss at the Oveross home in 1949.  The testimony was admitted as evidence along wth Harvey’s report that he had seen Oveross with a rifle on many occasions after that time including target shooting behind the Oveross home. It was at this target area that Jeffery Kaser, 10-year-old son of the Harvey Kasers, testified earlier that he had found an empty cartridge two or three years before and which was admitted as evidence Saturday.  Several other cartridges which Jeffery said he had collected about the Evergreen neighborhood were also admitted.  Ironicall, Jeffery Kaser is the nephew of both the murdered man and the man accused of shooting him. The trial was recessed at noon Saturday and will not resume until 1 p.m. Tuesday after the Fourth of July holiday.

 


 

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Harvey Kaser Tells of Fight With Brother

A bloody fist fight between his brother Ervin and himself over settlement of their father’s estate was described Saturday by Harvey Kaser, witness in the trial of Casper Oveross who has been charged with Ervin’s murder.  Harvey said the fight occurred Dec. 12, 1953 more than a year before the Feb. 17 slaying. He said he and his borther hadn’t talked since that time.  The fight started after a discussion concerning a letter about settlement of the estate and began when Ervin took a swing at him, Harvey said.

Harvey denied during cross-examination by Bruce Williams, counsel for Oveross, that he asked that a special prosecutor be assigned to the case. He did say that there was dissatisfaction with the handlin of the first grand jury and “We asked after the grand jury that Mr. Brown withdraw.”  Brown is Kenneth O. Brown, Marion County District Attorney who with special prosecutor Charles Raymond is handling the state’s case.

Oveross, who had been arrested a few days after the slaying on a criminal complaint for first degree murder, was freed shortly after when a grand jury declined to indict him.  Brown was criticized at that time for handling of the grand jury in that all witnesses subpoenaed to appear were not called to testify. It was nearly three months later, after a rifle was found in the Pudding River near Pratum, that the case was agin presented to a second trand jury.  This grand jury indicted Oveross for the murder and he gave himself up to Alaskan authorities to be returned to stand trial.

Harvey’s testimony Saturday brought a series of sharp objections by Attorney Williams.  First was on his testimony he had been shown a 30-30 Winchester by Oveross in 1949.  Shown the rifle recovered from the river, he said it was the same kind as the one Oveross had shown.  Williams challenged the materiality of the testimony, stating it was too remote in time and asked to be heard by the judge in chambers.  The objection was overruled by Juge George Duncan and a defense exception to the ruling entered in the record.

When Harvey Kaser began testimony concerning Oveross’ visit to his home back in 1954, Williams also objected, again was heard in chambers, again was overruled and an exception allowed.  The third argument in chambers, again requested by Williams, came on Raymond’s objection to a defense question of kaser, “Whose idea was it to hire a special prosecutor? Was it yours?”

Harvey Kaser said his first knowledge of the slaying was about 11:30 p.m. that night when his brother Melvin called him. He said up until that night he had never believed that his brother and Mrs. Oveross had been going together.  Ethel confessed to her sister Edith, wife of Harvey, that she had been out with Ervin that night, Harvey said.

Mrs. Edith Kaser detailed her activities of the murder night, stating she had attended a meeting of the Pythian Sisters in Silverton from 8 p.m. until just before 11 p.m.  She told of driving home in their 1949 GMC pickup truck and noticing lights both in the Ervin Kaser home and automobile.  She said she slowed down to an estimated 20 to 25 miles an hour as she drove by, but did not stop.  She estimated that it had been about 11 o’clock when she drove by, apparently only a short time after the slaying.

Her testimony refuted earlier reports not a part of the testimony that her sister Ethel was a passenger in the pickup.  She said Ethel was not at the lodge meeting and she had not seen her all that night until after they were notified of the slaying. Attorney Williams asked Mrs. Kaser several times during the questioning if she had not stopped at the scene, despite repeated denials.  Then he asked her if she hadn’t said a few nights after the slaying in the presence of Mrs. Ruth Schubert and Mrs. Emma Wolford, both sisters of Oveross, “If I had been a few minutes earlier I could have prevented the shooting.”  This she also denied after Attorney Raymond’s objection.  She said she had talked to the two sisters about the matter.   She said it was just before the Statesman-KSLM spelling contest in which Karen Oveross, daughter of the defendant, was a semi-finalist.  They talked then also about whether the events might bother Karen in the contest, she recalled.

Mrs. Kaser was questioned at length by Williams on what she was able to observe as she drove slowly by the murder scene.  She said she could see through the automobile windows because of the lights and dome light being on but could see no one in it.  She said she could not see any bullet holes and did not notice the shattered glass of the window or windshield. She declined to venture an opinion on how far the car was parked from the highway at the time, after questions by Williams.

 


And that concludes week two of the trial.  Next up: Week Three (imagine that!)

Blogically yours,
Everett

 

Not Innocent: The Trial (Part 2) – The Beginning

With the jury selection completed in the afernoon of Thursday, June 23, 1955, the jurors and the two alternates were sworn in by the end of the day. On Friday, the first day of the actual trial, the morning was spent taking the jury to see the scene of the murder, then the afternoon saw opening statements and the testimony of Officer Harley DePeel. I’ll let the newspaper articles give you the details.


Capital Journal afternoon newspaper, Salem, Friday, June 24, 1955
Oveross Jury Sees Scene of Kaser Murder
Accused Calm as He Watches Inspection of Death Premises

Jury visits the scene

Members of the jury selected to try Casper A. Oveross on a first degree murder charge, visit the scene of the killing last February 17 of Ervin Kaser. Kaser was shot while sitting in his car in the driveway leading to the residence. The first witnesses in the trial were scheduled to take the stand Friday afternoon in Judge George R. Duncan’s court.

The 12 jurors and the two alternates who will sit in the trial of Casper A. Oveross, charged with the furst degree murder of Ervin Kaser last February 17, a few miles south of Silveron, visited the scene of the killing Friday morning.  The jurors, accompanied by Circuit Judge George R. Duncan, were driven in a chartered bus to a point about 150 yards south of the Evergreen School, where they were shown the residence of Kaser and of Emanuel Kellerhals, Jr., immediately across the highway.

Attorneys for the defnse, Bruce Williams and Otto Skopil, asked that the jurors’ attention be called to the front window of the Kellerhals house, the drive that circles completely around the Kaser residence, and a point 26 1/2 feet east on the driveway from the Silverton-Sublimity highway. [EK_NOTE: this last is probably a muddled attempt to describe the point on the shoulder of the road across from the Kaser residence and north of the Kellerhals residence from which the shots were fired.]  The prosecution had no particular points that they wished called to the attention of the jurors, with the exception of the Kellerhals front window.

It is understood the prosecution desired that the jurors be taken to a point on Pudding River where a rifle was found.  However, Judge Duncan, the sole arbiter in the matter, ruled out any stops other than the Kaser residence.

Oveross made the trip to the point of inspection with his attorneys and E. J. (Bud) Boust, deputy sheriff. Oveross stood silently by the side of the road with the same calm demeanor that has characterized his appearance in the court room, smoking a cigarette. No one emerged from either the Kaser or Kellerhals residences while the jury was there.

Early Friday afternoon, opening statements of the prosecution and the defense were made in Judge Duncan’s courtroom.  The parade of witnesses was expected to follow.  District Attorney Kenneth Brown expressed the belief that the trial would no consume as much time as had been anticipated.  However, he would not hazard a guess as to whether it could be concluded before July 4.

Selection of the jury to hear the case was completed Thursday afternoon afrter three days of questioning of prospective jurors. A total of 123 prospective jurors were questioned before the jury and two alternates were sworn in.  The jury of nine women and three men were sworn in by Judge Duncan at 2:14 p.m.  Selection of two alternate jurors who will sit outside the jury box and take a seat with the jury only if a regular juror is unable to continue was completed at 4:30 p.m. after 19 persons on the panel had been questioned by the defense and prosecution attorneys.

Upon motion of Defense Counsel Bruce Williams all witnesses who are to give evidence in the case will be barred from the court room except when they are giving testimony.  The prosecution agreed with the defense motion except questioning whether the representative of the sheriff’s office who will have the defendant in custody might not be required to testify. The motion to exclude all witnesses was granted.  Williams also requested to be heard in the judge’s chambers after the opening statements are presented and before the witnesses have been called.  For the time being the jury will not be locked up.  Judge Duncan cautioned the jurors against talking to any person regarding the case.


Oregon Statesman morning newspaper, Salem, Saturday, June 25, 1955
Mystery Driver Hinted In Opening Statement

Jury visits the scene

The jury which will decide the fate of Casper A. Oveross, now on trial in Marion County Circuit Court for first degree murder, paid a brief visit Friday to the scene where Ervin Kaser was slain last Feb. 17. Here the jury stands in the driveway of the Kaser home 2 1/2 miles south of Silverton while surveying the area. Some of the jurors look across the highway to the Emmanuel Kellerhall home from which the Kellerhalls saw the flashes of the murder gun. In addition to the 10 women and 4 men, including the two alternates, making up the jury, two court bailiffs and Circuit Judge George Duncan are also in the photo.

A mystery driver who may have visited the death scene before the police arrived, and reports that the murdered Ervin Kaser had been watched by two men in a car in days before his slaying were hinted Friday in the first degree murder trial of Casper Oveross.  The new elements were brought out in the defense’s opening statement made by Attorney Bruce Williams Friday just before the state began presenting its evidence.  Williams said the defense would show in its case that an unidnetified driver stopped in front of the Kaser home, got out of the car and then continued on home between the time of the fatal shooting and the arrival of Harley R. DePeel, Silverton constable.

The state, with special prosecutor Charles Raymond of Portland handling the preliminaries, took only six minutes for its opening statement in which the prosecution claimed it would show every allegtation of its secret indictment against Oveross for murder. Raymond said the state will show Oveross had threatened to kill Kaser and at one time had laid in wait for him.  He said the state’s case will include testimony that Oveross appeared at the J. R. Gilham home near Victor Point a few minutes after the shooting and called to Daniel Gilham, boyfriend of his daughter Colleen Oveross, that “Kaser’s got three slugs in him, and you’re my witness.”  Oveross will be linked by ownership to the 30-30 Winchester rifle which the state claims was the murder weapon, Raymond said. The state will show Oveross bought the rifle from a Silverton hardware store in March 1949, he indicated.

Constable DePeel was the state’s first witness and the only one to testify during the fourth day of the Marion County Ciruit Court trial before Judge George Duncan.  DePeel was the first police officer summoned to the murder scene 2 1/2 miles south of Silverton and was presumed to have been the first person on the scene.

Three full days were required to secure a jury for the case and the jury spent Friday morning at the murder scene to get a general idea of the lay of the land.  A prosecution request was denided that jurors be taken to two taverns in Silverton which Oveross is reported to have visited on the night of the slaying, to the Gilham home 5.2 miles south of the scene and the Pudding River bridge near Pratum where the rifle was found.

Counsel for Casper Oveross, on trial for the murder of Ervin Kaser, opened the way to appeal Friday in case Oveross should be convicted by making a verbal motion objecting to testeimony of all witnesses on the record.  The objection was based on the defense’s earlier motion that the first degree murder indictment against Oveross was illegal on the grounds District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown failed to get a court order for resubmitting the case to the grand jury. The motion offered by Defense Attorney Otto R. Skopil Jr. just before the state called its first witness Friday, was denied by Circuit Judge George Duncan in whose courtroom the case is being heard.

Constable Harley R. DePeel, 47-year-old Silverton district constable, was the first witness called, being sworn at 2:40 p.m.  His testimony concluded just before the weekend at 4:55 p.m.  The trial will resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.  DePeel testified he was summoned to the murder scene south of Silverton on the Cascade Highway by Melvin Kaser, brother of the dead man at 11:05 p.m. Feb. 17 and arrived there at 11:16 p.m.  He said he parked his car immediately behind Kaser’s where it set in the driveway of the Kaser home with the headlights and domelight on.

DePeel testified he noticed the bullet hole in the left door glass of the 1949 Plymouth and saw Kaser’s body slumped off the front seat with his head angled back over the seat. He identified photographs of the car and the dead man as being the scene as he first saw it and they were entered as state’s exhibits 1 through 5. [EK_NOTE: see Not Innocent: The Murder (Part 1)]  Frequent objections were made by both sides during the examination and cross-examination of the opening witness.  One of these which was overruled by Judge DUncan was a defense objection to entering a photograph showing Kaser’s body in the car.

DePeel was questioned closely by both sides on the chain of events from the time of his arrival on the scene until he left it about an hour later.  He told of crossing the highway to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Kellerhalls to telephone the Marion County sheriff’s office and to call his daughter in Silverton to bring his camera to the scene.  [EK_NOTE: to those born after the mid-1970s, remember, no cell phones, no digital cameras everywhere, even the radios in the police cars were limited in their range and abilities!]  Melvin Kaser, whose home is adjacent to the Ervin Kaser place on the south was the next person on the scene, DePeel said.  His arrival was followed shortly by that of two Silverton policemen and by Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Boehringer.  Sheriff Denver Young and Silverton Police Chief Rell (Buck) Main came to the scene a few minutes later as did State Patrolman Robert Dunn, and two other deputies, according to DePeel’s testimony.

During cross examination DePeel said Oveross had once come to his home in Silverton about a year ago and asked him if he could recall the exact date which he had discovered his (Oveross’) wife’s car parked on Bartlett Street in Silverton at 4:30 in the morning.  DePeel said Oveross had also said, “What could you do with a man who breaks up your home?”  He testified he told Oveross, “Cap, I don’t think a man should just blame another man.  The woman is usually 50 per cent to blame.”  DePeel said it was Kaser who was the man being talked about at the time.

Defense Attorney Bruce Williams closed his opening statement the jury with admission “The motive was there, we are not denying it. Cap Oveross had amotive, we do not deny that.  It is certinaly true, too, he is not guilty.  Williams had also brought out Oveross’ conversation with DePeel in his opening statement.  But most of the defense opening statement centered on assertions by Williams that they would prove many people had reason to hate Ervin Kaser, that Kaser feared for his life and had once contacted state plice about being followed.  Williams said a car with two men in it was seen parked near the Kaser home on the day before the slaying.  He said the defense would show that Kaser had made propositions to Mrs. Kellerhalls, Mrs. Myrtle Schar and to other women, and had gone with Mary Kaser, his divorced wife, while she was still married to her previous husband.  They would also show that Mrs. Kaser had threatened to have her husband followed, Williams said.  Williams said the defense would show Kaser’s fear for his life in the fact he left the lights on in the house when away and sat in the dark when he was home; also that Kaser normally used the circular driveway which led to the back door of his home because of his fear of ambush.  A defense witness, Ted Findley of Silverton who testified at the grand jury which first declined to indict Oveross, will testify he saw the flashes of the shots, saw the car and determined it was not Oveross’ 1950 black Ford, Williams said. [EK_NOTE: All of this is standard defense tactics--cast "reasonable doubt" by showing that someone else COULD have been the murderer.  Also, of course, the defense is trying to paint a very bad picture of the victim.  Keep in mind that the morals of the day were FAR stricter than now, that adultery and even divorce was much more of a stigma, and nine of the twelve jurors were women.]

Little detail of the evidence which the state plans to present through its 63 witnesses was revealed in the opening statement made Friday by Charles Raymond, special prosecutor hired by Marion County to assist Brown.  Raymond said the state would show Oveross’ activities of the day and night of the crime including a visit to his former home during the evening of that day.  Ethel Oveross, labeled by the state as the “Cause Celebre” of the case, will take the stand to testify she was with Kaser during the evening he was slain, Raymond said.

First witness to be called Monday when the trial resumes will probably be Deputy Boehringer, one of the early arrivals on the death scene.  Also scheduled for questioning Monday are Mr. and Mrs. Kellerhalls who were reported to have seen the last three flashes of the four shots fired into Kaser’s car and then saw a car speed south into the starlit night.  Mrs. Kellerhalls is reported to have stated after hearing the first shot, “Somebody’s shooting at Ervin.”  The Kellerhalls phoned first to Kaser’s house and then called Melvin Kaser, according to reports. Other witnesses on schedule early in the testimony are Melvin Kaser, Silverton Policeman James Painter, Marion County Coroner Leston Howell, Dr. Homer Harris, head of the state crime laboratory, and Ralph Prouty, ballistics expert with the laboratory.


And that, being the end of the first week of the trial, is probably as good a place as any to stop this post.  Next up: Week Two of the trial (or, at least, the beginning of it…)

Blogically yours,
Everett

 

Not Innocent: The Trial (Part 1) – Jury Selection

Statesman newspaper, Salem, Tuesday, June 21, 1955
Oveross Trial Jury Selection Starts Today

Case No. 42100 of state of Oregon vs. Casper A. Oveross charged with the rifle slaying of Ervin Kaser opens at 10 a.m. today in Judge George Duncan’s Marion County courtroom.

A packed courtroom is expected this morning when District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown and his special Assistant Charles Raymond begin with Defense Attorneys Bruce Williams and Otto R. Skopil Jr. the preliminary task of picking the 12 or 13 jurors who will hear the case.

Estimates of attorneys indicated selection of the jury from a regular panel of 60 and reserve list of 100 may take two to three days. Examination of prospective jurors for the first degree murder case is expected to be a slow and careful process by both sides.

Jury selection

Casper A. Oveross, charged with the rifle slaying of Ervin Kaser, was brought to trial Tuesday morning when Judge George Duncan asked a panel of prospective jurymen to arise and be sworn in. Judge Duncan is shown on the bench, Charles Raymond, special prosecutor and Kenneth Brown, district attorney seated at the table on the right. At left is Oveross arrayed in white seated between defense attorneys Bruce Williams and Otto Skopil.

The morning of jury selection began Tuesday, June 21, 1955 at 10:30 a.m. The first prospective juror, Albert Alley, an employee of Salem Southern Pacific Co., was excused almost immediately because he said he had formed an opinion that would be difficult to change by the evidence. He was followed in the next hour and 15 minutes by sixteen more prospective jurors of whom only one, Fred A. Field, a retired farmer of Woodburn, was accepted. Court was recessed for lunch until 1:00 p.m. 

By the end of the first day, 31 prospective jurors had been called, of which the defense and the prosecution objected to 11 each, leaving only nine who were not excused for cause, and some of those nine might yet get cut by peremptory challenges from one side or the other.  The defense and prosecution each objected to 11 possible jurors.  Approved for possible seats on the trial jury were: 

Fred Field, Woodburn, retired farmer
Harry Baker, Turner, disabled
Myrtle Rogers, 236 Richmond Ave, Salem, foundation garment shop operator
Mrs. Delores Throneberry, 2415 N Church St, Salem, housewife
Mrs. Blanche Bandy, 455 Ratcliff Dr, housewife
Carl E. R. Johnson, Silverton, retired
Mrs. Gladys D. Bashor, Pratum, housewife
Mrs. Florence Hughes, Keizer, housewife
Harry Oldenberg, Jefferson, farmer

During the afternoon, two more had been added to the list of possible jurors:

Frank J. A. Remington, Salem
Mildred E. Gilmore, housewife, Salem

Also, excused by peremptory challenge was Fred Field.

Most of those excused claimed to have preconceived opinions based on newspaper stories and conversations.  Conscientious objections to the death penalty got three of them excused, and a few others were excused because of being acquainted with one or more of the principals in the case.  All of the defense’s examination was done by Bruce Williams, and prosecutions examination was handled by Kenneth Brown with the exception of two which were handled by Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond.  The courtroom was filled with about 200 people, of which 160 were prospective jurors. The examinations were mostly calm and orderly with one exception.  During questioning of Mrs. Bernice L. Blodgett, Williams alluded to the possibility that jurors might be required to be kept together for the duration of the trial.  Special Prosecutor Raymond jumped to his fee in objection, asking the judge to have the innuendo that the prosecution might request the isolation of the jurors  removed from the record.  Williams stated that he wanted it clear that the defense would not require jurors to stay together for the course of the trial. 

Jury selection

The courtroom was full Tuesday when the first degree murder trial of Casper A. Oveross, Silverton carpenter, got underway with examination of prospective jurors. Here Oveross (center foreground in white coverall) confers with his attorneys Bruce Williams (right) and Otto R. Skopil Jr. at a break in the day’s session. Most of Tuesday’s crowd was jurors waiting to be called.

Statesman newspaper, Salem, Thursday, June 23, 1955
32 More Prospective Jurors Excused In Murder Trial of Casper A. Oveross

Thirty-two more prospective jurors were excused Wednesday in close examination which threatened to exhaust the panel of 114 before a jury is slected to hear the first degree murder case of Casper A. Oveross.  Oveross, 43-year-old Silverton carpenter, is on trial in Judge George Duncan’s Marion County Circuit Court on a charge he shot to death his one-time neighbor Ervin Kaser the night of Feb. 17.

At the end of two full days of juror examination, 44 prospective jurors had been challenged for cause, 7 others had been challenged peremptorily (without announced cause) and two others had been excused for physical reasons.  Judge Duncan annound at the close of Wednesday’s session that court would reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday, a half hour earlier than usual in an apparent effort to speed the jury selection to completion.

Attorney Charles Raymond

Special prosecutor for Marion County in the first degree murder trial of Casper Oveross is Attorney Charles Raymond of Portland. Raymond is show here in the Marion County Circuit courtroom where he is handling much of the state’s examination of prospective jurors. Selection of a jury was still going on when the trial recessed Wednesday night.

Of the 11 jurors in the jury box who had already been passed for cause it appeared likely that four or five of them would be removed by the 11 peremptory challenges left to the defense and prosecution.  Examination of jurors seemed to become more careful Wednesday with District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown taking a more active part than he had during the first day of the trial. Prosecution examination was almost evenly divided between Brown and Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond of Portland. Attorney Bruce Williams continued to conduct all the defense examination but conferred frequently with his partner Otto R. Skopil Jr. and with the defendant.

Peremptory challenges removed three jurors passed for cause Tuesday and four added Wednesday.  They were Fred Field, Woodburn, retired farmer; J. A. Remington, Salem, retired mail carrier; Carl E. R. Johnson, Silverton, retired; Mrs. Esther Croisan, SAlem, housewife; Giles Brown, Stayton farmer; Mrs. Elizabeth Robertson, Salem, housewife; and Mrs. Gladys Bashor, Pratum housewife.

In the jury box at the end of the day were Harry Baker, Turner, disabled; Myrtle Rogers, Salem, foundation garment shop operator; Mrs. Delores Throneberry, Salem housewife; Mrs. Blanche Bandy, Salem housewife;  Mrs. Florence Hughes, Keizer housewife; Harry Oldenberg, Jefferson farmer; all carryovers from Tuesday, and Mrs. Louse L Franzen, Turner housewife; David H. Barnhardt, Gates school custodian; Mrs. Evelyn Beard, Aurora, title company employe; Mrs. Mildred E Gilmore, Salem, housewife;  Mrs. Bessie Edwards, Salem, clerk for Marion County Tuberculosis and Health Assn; and Joseph Meithof, Brooks Route 1, section foreman.  Only Meithof had not been examined.

Challenges for cause again were almost evenly split between defense and prosecution with the 12 for the DA and 9 for the defense.  Judge Duncan rejected the prosecution’s challenge of Mr. Barnhardt.  Again most prosecution challenges were because jurors reported scruples against the death penalty alternate in a first degree murder conviction.  Defense challenges were mostly because of reported preconceived opinions or acquaintanceship with principals in the case.

Statesman newspaper, Salem, Friday, June 24, 1955
Oveross Jurors Chosen

A jury of nine women and three men was chosen Thursday to sit in judgment on Casper A. Oveross, 43-year-old Silverton carpenter, charged with first degree murder in the Feb. 17 shooting of Ervin Kaser.  Only four prospective jurors remained on the panel Thursday night when the last of two alternate jurors, one man and one woman, was selected.

This morning the jurors will be taken to the Evergreen Community home south of Silverton where Kaser was slain by a high powered rifle.  They will also visit the home of James W. Gilham near Victor Point which Oveross is reported to have visited on the night of the slaying and several points in Silverton where he was seen that night.  They may also visit the site on the Pudding River where the rifle which the state claims is the murder weapon was found.

The tour is expected to consume most of the forenoon hours and it will probably be this afternoon before the state makes its opening statements in the case.  It appeared doubtful that any witnesses would be questioned today.  Half of the regular jurors were listed from Salem, two were from Turner, one from Gates, one from Aurora, one from Jefferson and one from the Woodburn area.  Of the women, six listed their occupations as housewives.

A total of 123 prospective jurors were examined in choosing the fourteen to hear the case. The two alternates will hear all the evidence but will be used only in the deliberation if members of the regular jury are unable to serve.  Chosen on the regular jury were:

Mrs. Louise Franzen, Turner housewife
Perry Baker, Turner, disabled
Myrtle Rogers, Salem, foundation garment shop operator
Mrs. Delores Throneberry, Salem, housewife
Mrs. Doris McMullen, Salem, housewife
David H. Barnhardt, Gates school custodian
Harry Oldenberg, Jefferson farmer
Mrs. Evelyn Beard, Aurora, title company employe
Mrs. Bessie Edwards, Salem, clerk for Marion County Tuberculosis and Health Assn
Mrs. Helen Taylor, Salem, housewife
Mrs. Margaret Edgell, Woodburn area housewife
Mrs. Norma Lawless, Salem, housewife

Coincidentally one of the alternates is a brother of one of the regular jury.  He is Walter Oldenberg, Clear Lake farmer, brother of Harry Oldenberg.  The second alternate is Mrs. Pearl Gwynn, Salem Route 6, a housewife.

The state is expected to start building its case against Oveross this afternoon after jurors are taken to several Silverton area scenes including the Kaser home where the slaying occurred.  Evidence of the state is expected to be built around an attempt to show that Oveross blamed Kaser for breaking up his marriage to his wife of 19 years, and around the testimony of witnesses who were reported to have seen Oveross on the night of the slaying. District Attorney Kenneth O. Brown, who with Special Prosecutor Charles Raymond of Portland will prosecute the case, has indicated that the rifle which the state claims is the murder weapon can be linked to the defendant.

The 63 witnesses subpoenaed by the state appeared Thursday but were excused until today because of the long process of selecting a jury.  After the jury was chosen Attorney Williams asked the court to exclued all witnesses from the courtroom except for the time they are on the witness stand.  First witnesses to be called by the state will probably be those aimed at establishing a motive for the ambush slaying.  It appeared likely that the prosecution would emphasize that Kaser was “shot in the back” by an assailant who apparently followed him home from Silverton some 2 1/2 miles away.

Examination of jurors to hear the case was speeded considerably Thursday at the request of Judge Duncan and a total of 46 prospective jurors were challenged or excused during the day in contrast to the 31 of Tuesday and 32 of Wednesday.  In addition to frequent challenges for cause, principally on grounds of preconceived opinions, objections to the death penalty, or acquaintanceship with principals, a total of 21 peremptory challenges were used.  Of these the defense exercised 15 of an authorized 16 and the state used up 6 of 8.

Judge Duncan took a more active part in the juror examination Thursday, questioning several prospective jurymen at length on their reported conscientious objections to capital punishment.  During examination of Grace T. Hockett, Salem High School teacher, he denied the prosecution’s challenge for cause three times. She was later excused peremptorialy, presumably on a challenge by the state.

Task of selecting the jury took just over 14 hours over a period of three full days, longest at least in the recent history of Marion County.  It brought scores of spectators to the courtroom, indicating that it will probably be jammed when the questioning of witnesses gets underway.  The court is scheduled to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. today at which time jurors will depart for the Silverton scenes.

Judge Duncan advised the jurors that they would not be required to remain overnight in isolation at the courthouse, but would be permitted to go to their homes at least for the time being.  He cautioned them against discussing the case with anyone including other members of the jury and against discussing any other matter with principals of the case.


Next up: The Trial Begins

Blogically yours,
Everett

 

Not Innocent: Undated Police Documents – Investigation, Grand Jury, and Trial Preparation

Below are two undated documents from the police file.

This first one was probably created in late February or the 1st of March.  The second item on the list refers to taking a statement from Mary Kaser, which was done on March 3rd (at least, the recorded statement/interview of which we have a transcript).  Item #10 refers to contacting “Lena Stefeen” which was done on March 2nd (Lena Clark, née Steffen).  Also, there’s a long list of stores to check for purchases of a rifle.  So this first document had to be an early road-map for the investigation.


ADDITIONAL LEADS TO CHECK IN THE OVEROSS KASER MURDER CASE

1. Contact & question ROY HAGGE, lives near Eureka (Oveross has hunted on his place at night).
2. Take statement from MARY KASER, wife of victim, any info on women in Kaser’s life.
3. Check with husband & friends of LENORA JAESCHKE, (suicide victim on 2-18-55. Information that she had known ERVIN KASER).
4. Contact DONALD DAVIS, Capitol Fuel. Has info on woman in Madras, Oregon, who has supposedly been out with KASER.
5. Take Statement of R.D. METHANY, is friend of Casper Oveross.
6. Re-contact ERMA MOORE, (wife of Wayne Moore). Check with her away from her husband, any info she might supply on Oveross using Moore gun.
7. Re-contact Mr. BAILEY, former clerk at Hande’s Hdwe, he is to check for gun book sales.
8. Re-check COAST TO COAST STORES, Silverton, Old gun records.
9. Contact and secure statement from MRS. BURNS, formerly TOKSTAD, Silverton, supposedly girl-friend of Oversoss.
10. Contact and secure statement from LENA STEFEEN, Silverton, supposedly girl friend of Cap Oveross.
11. Check where Mrs. Oveross is to have parked her car, check time it would take her to drive home over route she stated she took.
12. Check FERES’ LBR. CO., Sublimity, re possible gun purchases by Oveross.
13. Contact William Roberts, Stout Creek Lbr. Co, Lyons, re Any guns bought by Oveross.
14. Check with HENRY AMUNDSON, EDWARD SCHUBERT, ROBERT MOON and EMIL WOOLFORD, borthers-in-law of Casper Oveross, as to type of guns they have, also secure same for ballistic tests.
15. Contact a lady that is 4-H leader in Silverton area, who is supposed to have seen 2 cars on 2-17-55, after shooting pass something between the cars on back road south of scene of crime. Thinks lady’s name is MRS LENSMAN. Check with 4-H club for name of leaders.
16. Check for Light grey late model Ford coach or sedan, 49 or 50 model, this car at Cabin #6, car left and gone about 15 min. there was also 2 other cars there, one a late model Chev. Salmon colored, and a pre-war model grey Ford. This was on 23 Feb 55, about 5:30 PM.
17. Check with DUANE HOPKINS and his girl-friend, they were at Cabin #5, on 2-17-55, they were visiting Mrs. HOPKINS, that night, heard car drive up to cabin about 8:40 PM, (Cabine 6), and it was there about 5 minutes and motor of car left running while some one went into cabin 6 and then left in car. (thought to be Oveross.) Watching TV.
18. Check Stayton for a young fellow, described as 21, nice looking, curly dark hair, does Carpenter work and has worked with Oveross. Has associated with Oveross considerable.
19. Check with Verna TAGLAND, mother-in-law, Mrs. Seward, 212 W. Center St, Silverton supposedly with Casper Oveross about 15 minutes after the shooting, talked to him.
20. Check gun stores in WOODBURN—MARQUAM–MONITOR–MILL CITY—HUBBARD–MEHAMA–GERVAIS–BROOKS–WEST WOODBURN—TURNER–SCIO–
21. Check with 1st Nat. Bank, Silverton, re Statements of Cap. Overss, if there is a $69.00 check written, date and etc.
22. Check PAWN SHOPS, Salem, Portland, for possible sale of 30-30 rifles since 17 Feb 55.
23. Check with D.C. MAULDING, near Silverton, supposedly has 30-30 rifle, determine if is a friend of Oveross, or still has gun.
24. Contact Mr & Mrs. Haberley, lives south Kaser’s residence. Re-statements made by Cap Oveross.
25. Check ZIMMERMAN BROS, Sublimity, they do work on guns, may know Oveross.
26. Check with GUY GRAHAM, does work on guns, Reserve Deputy, Marion County at present.
27. Send TWX to Humbolt County, for a check to be made with LLOYD OVEROSS, who is working Logging company near Happy Camp, California. Determine if he still has 32 Win mod 94, Ser. 1519912, which he purchased at Johnson’s Hdwe Co., Silverton, also if he knows type of gun owned by CAP OVEROSS, also where purchased, how long he has owned.


This second document was probably prepared by the police for the District Attorney in preparation for going to the Grand Jury and for the (hopefully) eventual trial.  Since it includes the rifle that was found in the Pudding River, the list was definitely created between then and when the Grand Jury was called the second time.  This document provides a very nice summary of the prosecution’s case.


ERVIN KASER HOMICIDE
Evidence collected and information that can be proven.

VICTIM: Ervin Oren Kaser, Rt 3 Box 115W, Silverton Oregon

DEATH CAUSED BY: Report by Dr. Harris, Oregon State Police Crime Lab.

The bullet from a 30 Cal. gun caused the death of Ervin Kaser. A portion of this bullet, the copper jacked was left in the body. This was removed and taken to the Crime Lab for comparison by Lab. technicians. This could have happened sometime between 10:10 PM and 10:50 PM 17 February 1955.

BULLET: Report by Ralph Prouty, Oregon State Police Crime Lab.

The bullet was a 30 Cal. bullet, copper Jacket, core missing. The copper jacket showed 6 lands and 6 grooves with a right hand twist.

NUMBER OF SHOTS FIRED: Photography taken by Sgt Johnson, Oregon State Police Bureau of Identification.

Photographs show two holes in the left door post, one in the left front window, one in the left front door chrome stripping.

EVIDENCE COLLECTED: Dr. Harris, Oregon State Police Crime Lab., Denver Young Sheriff Marion County.

1. One copper jacket from a 30 Cal. Bullet found in the body of Ervin Kaser.
2. One copper jacket, some lead core, found in the front seat of the Ervin Kaser vehicle.
3. One copper jacket found in the field just south of the Ervin Kaser driveway.

EXPOSURE TO THE CRIME: Statement of Ethel Oveross:

That she and Ervin Kaser met on the evening of 17 February 1955 at appx 7:45 PM. Place of meeting was the covered bridge over Abiqua Creek. They departed from this place in separate vehicles in time for Ethel Oveross to arrive at her home at appx 10:30 PM 17 February 1955. Ervin Kaser followed her from this place in towards Silverton.

* (Time run from this spot to the Ethel Oveross residence showed to be 5.9 Miles taking 9 minutes normal driving)

SUSPECT: Casper Oveross, Cabin 6 Hollin Cabins, 2nd and D st Silverton, Oregon.

MOTIVE: Ervin Kaser was the principle cause of the divorce between Casper Oveross and Ethel Oveross in October 1954.

THREATS:

Information from Charles Hopkins:

a. That Casper Oveross told Mr. Hopkins about 1st Sept. 1954 that he and another man had laid in the field and watched Ervin Kaser go to the Oveross residence and spend the night. Casper Oveross stated “I should have shot him right then, but I didn’t but I still thihnk I will shoot him, further, I have a friend in the pne for shooting his wifes lover and I sometimes wonder if it is worth it but after thinking it over I believe I still should shoot Ervin Kaser.”

b. Information From Robert Barnes, (Statement)

Casper Oveross was working for the Barnes Brothers and took the day off to sign his divorce papers. When he came to the Barnes place on that day he stated “Today I am a free man as I have signed my divorce papers, but if I ever catch that son-of-a-bitch under a roof I built I’ll kill him.” Robert Barnes spoke to Casper saying that he shouldn’t talk like that and Casper Oveross stated, “By God Robert I mean it.”

c. Information from Edith Kaser. (Statement)

About themiddle of September 1954 Casper Oveross came to the Harvey Kaser residence and talked with Harvey Kaser for some time about 11:00 PM. When Edith Kaser came to the door she heard Casper Oveross saying to Harvey Kaser “I’ll kill him, I’ll kill him, I don’t care if he is your brother.” With this Casper Oveross left the Kaser place.

OPPORTUNITY: Casper Oveross was well acquainted with the area surrounding the Ervin Kaser residence and various places that a subject could conceal himself and still observe the activities around the Kaser residence. Further it can be proven that he was in the vicinity on the date of the shooting and at close time to the shooting.

1. STATEMENT of Daniel Gilham: Casper Oveross came to the Oveross residence to visit his daughter shortly before 8:00 PM 17 February 1955 and left about 8:30 PM 17 February 1955.
2. STATEMENT Robert Burns: That he, while driving from his home to Silverton Oregon seen Casper Oveross back from the drive at the Oveross home and proceed towards Silverton. This was placed at appx 8:10 PM 17 February 1955.
3. STATEMENT Rose Mary Seward: That on the evening of 17 February 1955 at appx 8:15 PM she seen and spoke to Casper Oveross at Franks Grocery on west main street Silverton, Oregon.
4. INFORMATION Dennis Legard: That on the evening of 17 February 1955 appx 8:30 PM Casper Oveross came to the service station and purchased gasoline. While washing the windows and windshield of the vehicle no rifle was noticed in the vehicle.
5. INFORMATION Shirley Hopkins: That at appx 8:40PM to 8:50 PM a vehicle drove up in front of cabin No. 6 Hollin Cabins and a man got out and entered the cabin. It sounded like Casper Oveross, and subject stayed only a few minutes.
6. INFORMATION Duane Mattox: That while operating the TV at his sisters, Shirley Hopkins he heard a car drive up and he is sure that he looked out and noticed it to be Casper Oveross and he was alone, Duane Mattox believed this to be about 8:40 PM 17 February 1955.
7. INFORMATION Ray Ruscher: That he had been at Shorties Tavern on the evening of 17 Feb. 1955. That he came to the tavern about 9:00 PM and that Casper Oveross was there then or entered shortly after. Further that Casper Oveross had left the tavern by the time he left at 10:30 PM 17 Feb. 1955.
8. INFORMATION Rodney Oster: That he had arrived at Shorties Tavern about 9:35PM 17 Feb 1955 and had remained at the tavern until appx 10:15 PM 17 Feb 1955. During this time he had talked with Casper Oveross about 15 minutes. Casper had talked of his home problems and money problems. He did state to Rodney Oster that “My wife should be at lodge tonight but I suppose they are out together again.” He also mentioned his friend in the pen doing time for shooting his wifes lover.
9. STATEMENT Daniel Gilham: That while backing from the Oveross driveway at 10:30 PM 17 February 1955 Casper Oveross was traveling north on the Silverton Sublimity Hwy and that he honked at him as he passed.
10. STATEMENT Daniel Gilham: That at 11:00 PM 17 February 1955 Casper Oveross came to his home and stated that “Ervin Kaser has three slugs in him and that I was his witness and that he was tih me last night.”
11. INFORMATION Jenny Gilham: Information to verify the statement of Daniel Gilham and that she seen Casper Oveross in her driveway at 11:00 PM 17 Feb 1955.
12. INFORMATION Jerry Hoyt: That at appx 12:45 AM 18 February 1955 that Casper Oveross came into the Town House and drank a 7-up highball and a cup of coffee and left the Town House at about 1:20 AM 18 Feb 1955.
13. INFORMATION Silverton City Police Officer Painter: That Casper Oveross came to his cabin, cabin #6 Hollin Cabins at appx 1:20 AM 18 February 1955.
14. INFORMATION from Sheriff Young and State Police Officer Dunn: That Casper Oveross was talked to with his permission and was picked up at this address, Silverton Oregon.

WITNESSES OF THE INCIDENT:

a. STATEMENT of the E. Kellerhals: That they while in bed, heard the Ervin Kaser vehicle drive in the driveway of his home and they heard a second vehicle drive up and stop. They heard one shot and seen the flashes from three shots. They observed a vehicle pull out south on the Silverton Sublimity highway which appeared to them to be a Ford. They placed this time at 10:45 PM 17 February 1955.

b. STATEMENT from Ted Finlay: That he heard four shots and observed a vehicle heading south on the Silverton Sublimity highway almost by the time the shots echo had stopped. This was placed at 10:55 PM 17 February 1955.

c. INFORMATION form various other persons who heard the shots: Monroe Hanson, Wayne Moore, Mrs. Kaser, Julius Gehring, Jerome Gehring.

d. STATEMENT of Betty Hollin: That she heard two shots and heard a car going south on the Silverton Sublimity highway in a very shot time after the shots. Placed the time at 10:50 PM 17 February 1955.

ALIBI: During the questioning period by Sheriff Young and Officer Dunn, Casper Oveross denied that he was in the area of the Ervin Kaser residence any time during the day of 17 February 1955. He further denied that he owns any rifle at this time and that the last one was a 32-20 he sold about three years ago.

That he further accounts for his evening as being at Shortie’s Tavern and the Town House. However, he will not give the names of persons who might have seen him in these places of business.

WEAPONS SOLD TO CASPER OVEROSS:

RECORDS AT AMES HARDWARE: From a ledger sheet information was obtained that on 5 March 1949 Casper Oveross charged a 30-30 Winchester rifle, amount $62.45. Also the sales slip was located showing the sale on 5 March 1949 of a 30-30 Winchester rifle $62.45 and this information has been verified by the sales personnel Marian Zahler, Eugene, Oregon.

WEAPONS IN POSSESSION OF CASPER OVEROSS:

a. Information from Frank Dedrick, State Police: That about one week before hunting season, 1 October 1954, he and Casper Oveross did some target shooting. At that time Casper Oveross was using a 30-30 carbine.

b. Information from Clifford Kuenzi: That during the Elk hunting season, Novermber 1954, Noah Winger borrowed a 30-30 Winchester Carbine from Casper Oveross for this hunting season. This weapon was taken on a trip with Clifford and Lee Kuenzi, Alvin and Melvin Lund and Aflord Von Flue and Noah Winger. All except Winger has been contacted and verified the fact the weapon was borrowed and that it was a 30-30 Carbine.

* Test runs were made from the Ervin Kaser Residence to the Gilham residence and found to be 5 miles and normal driving time to be 5 minutes and 45 seconds.

* A check with gun experts and Prouty Oregon State Police Crime Lab reveals that a 30-30 Winchester Carbine has the 6 lands and 6 gooves as found on the copper jackets recovered.

EVIDENCE BOTH TESTIMONIAL AND MATERIAL THAT CAN BE PROVEN:

EMMANUEL KELLERHALL:

A. Can testify to the fact that he heard four shots.
B. That he saw the flash from three shots.
C. As to the time that he saw these shots.
D. That he saw the vehicle from which the shots came.
E. Description of the front of the vehicle, also the side view of the vehicle, and sound of vehicle leaving the scene.
F. Give location of the vehicle from which the shot was fired and the location of the Ervin Kaser vehicle.
G. That he observed Edith Kaser’s pickup go by shortly after the vehicle left south on the Silverton-Stayton Highway.
H. That he went to bed at 10:30 P.M., after the above incident and was talking to Melvin Kaser, heard the clock chimes strike 11:00 P.M.
I. That it was an exceptionally light night and the vehicle from which the shots were fired was a dark color.

CONNIE KELLERHALL:

A. Can testify to the body style of the vehicle from which the shots were fired.
B. That she saw the flashes from the gun.
C. That they had gone to bed at 10:30 P.M., after the above incident had occurred and her husband was talking to Melvin Kaser on the phone she looked at the clock and it was 11:00 P.M.
D. That she was awake at the time of the first shot, that she immediately jumped up and looked out of the window.
E. That she heard two cars, one of which pulled into the Kaswer driveway, the other just came to a stop on the road shortly after the first vehicle pulled into the driveway.
F. That she saw the color of the vehicle form which the shots were fired, and it was either a dark blue or black as it headed south on the highway immediately after the shots were fired.
G. That the vehicle from which the shots were fired had two tail lights and that both lights were burning.
H. That the vehicle from which the shots were fired had its headlights on when it pulled from the scene.

MELVIN KASER:

A. That he was called by the Kellerhalls and advised that they believed someone was shooting at Ervin Kaser.
B. That he phoned Harley DePeel, constable in Silverton.
C. That he arrived at the scene and observed his brother, Ervin Kaser, lying in the front seat of the vehicle.
D. As to information regarding his brother, Ervin Kaser.

JAMES PAINTER:

A. That he heard of the shooting over the police radio and went to the scene immediately and met Deputy DePeel at the scene, returned to Silverton and advised Chief of Police Rel Main at approximately 11:10 P.M., 17 February 1955.
B. At 11:15 P.M. checked taverns for Casper Oveross, was unable to locate him in any of the taverns.
C. Went to Cabin #6, Holland Auto Court at 11:20 P.M. and found no one in the cabin. Newspapers were over the windows. Watched cabin for a while, knowing that the cabins were equipped with gas stoves decided to investigate.
D. Cabin door not locked, checked the interior of the cabin, found it unoccupied, checked for firearms, none observed, observed box on drainboard of sink containing three live 30-30 Cal. Shells. Searched the cabin thoroughly for firearms, none found. Left the cabin and went back up town. Returned to cabin again when the sheriff and the officers picked up Casper Oveross. Observed at this time a shotgun in the bedroom of the cabin, which was not there at time of first entry into the cabin at 11:20 P.M. The box on the drainboard had been placed in the cupboard.

DENVER YOUNG:

A. Can testify to the statements of the suspect not owning a 30-30 rifle.
B. Can testify that Casper Oveross gave the alibi that he was in two taverns all evening and that he had not been at the Oveross home, and that he had not been within miles of the scene of the crime during the evening or the entire day of 17 February 1955, and that he had spent the entire evening from 6:30 P.M. to 1:30 A.M. In two taverns in Silverton.
C. That he refused to take the lie detector test.
D. Can testify to what was found in the Oveross cabin at 1:45 A.M. 18 February 1955, at the time he was picked up.
E. That Casper Oveross denied seeing his daughter on the evening of 17 February 1955.
F. That he denied killing Ervin Kaser.
G. That Casper Oveross knew Ervin Kaser was running with his wife, and that three years ago he was angry at Ervin Kaser and if he had wanted to kill him he would have done so then.
H. Can testify to the picking up and forwarding to the Crime Laboratory a series of rifles belonging to relatives of Oveross.

ETHEL OVEROSS:

A. Can testify to the fact that she has been running around with Ervin Kaser for a period of about three years.
B. Can testify to the fact that she has received a divorce from Casper Oveross and that Ervin Kaser was the basis for the divorce.
C. Can testify that Casper Oveross owned a rifle and that it set in the kitchen of the home most of the time; further, that he took the rifle when he left at the time of the divorce.
D. Can testify to the fact that Casper Oveross made threats to her about her and Ervin Kaser.
E. Can testify that she was out with Ervin Kaser on the evening of 17 February 1955, as to the time she left the house and the time she returned, and as to where they went.
F. That she heard four shots shortly after she arrived hom efrom being with Ervin Kaser and that shortly there-after she heard a vehicle go by, going south, followed by a second vehicle which she recognized as her sister’s pickup.
G. That Casper Oveross target practiced with his rifle behind the Oveross home.

GERALD HOYT:

A. Can testify that he was tending bar at the Town Tavern on 17 February 1955.
B. Can testify that Casper Oveross was not in the Town Tavern on the evening of 17 February 1955.
C. Can testify that Casper Oveross showed at the Town Tavern at 12:45 A.M. 18 February 1955.
D. That a little before midnight the city police officers came to the tavern and asked whether or not he had seen Casper Oveross and that they had told him of Ervin Kaser being shot.
E. Can testify to the actions of Casper Oveross when he did come to the tavern. Ordered a 7-Up highball, seemed nervous and laughed at almost everything said.
F. Can testify to the time Rodney Oster and his wife left the Town Tavern.
G. Can testify to the time that Casper Oveross left the Town Tavern at 1:20 A.M. 18 February 1955.

RODNEY H. OSTER:

A. Can testify to the time he arrived at Shortie’s Tavern which was 9:35 P.M. 17 February 1955.
B. Can testify that Casper Oveross was at this tavern at this time.
C. Can testify to statements made by Casper Oveross, “My wife is supposed to be at lodge but I suppose they are out together”; “ I dont think I will do anything about it as it isn’t worth it”; also, “Have a friend in the pen doing 99 years for killing his wife and boy friend.”
D. Can testify to the time that he left the tavern, which was about 10:20 to 10:25 P.M. and that Casper Oveross was still at the tavern at that time.
E. Can testify to him being at the Town Tavern between 10:30 P.M. 17 February 1955 and 12:30 to 1:00 A.M. 18 February 1955 and that Casper Oveross did not come into the Town Tavern during this time.
F. Can testify to the fact that Casper Oveross told him about his family troubles.

ROBERT BARNES:

A. Can testify to the number of years that he has known Casper Oveross.
B. Can testify to the type of gun that Casper Oveross has hor had.
C. Can testify to threats made by Casper Oveross against Ervin Kaser.
D. Can testify to following Casper Oveross’ vehicle at 8:10 P.M. 17 February 1955 north from the Oveross residence past the Ervin Kaser residence, and the actions of the driver, whom he recognised as Casper Oveross.

DANIEL J. GILHAM:

A. Can testify to the fact that he was at the Ethel Oveross residence on the evening of 17 February 1955 and that Casper Oveross came to the residence and left during the time he was at the Ethel Oveross residence.
B. Can testify that he stayed at the residence, leaving there about 10:30 P.M. 17 February 1955 and that he went home.
C. Can testify that upon leaving the Ethel Oveross residence he observed a vehicle headed north on the highway which he recognized as Casper Oveross’ vehicle.
D. Can testify to his stepmother waking him up and telling him that someone wanted to see him, and that he went to the driveway of his home and that it was Casper Oveross.
E. Can testify that he was awakened again that night to answer a call from Coleen Oveross and that he went to her home.
F. Can testify that Casper Oveross had a 30-30 rifle, lever action, and that it was a Winchester, and that he had seen this rifle at Casper Oveross’ cabin #6 after last hunting season, and around about Christmas time.
G. Can testify that he took Casper Oveross and Coleen Oveross to Salem to see an attorney on 18 February 1955.
H. Can testify that Casper Oveross inquired as to where he ex-wife was on the night of 17 February 1955, this was during the time Casper Oveross was visiting at the Ethel Oveross residence.

JENNIE GILHAM:

A. Can testify to the time that her son Daniel came home on the evening of 17 February 1955, approximately 10:30 P.M.
B. Can testify that she and her busband were in bed in an upstairs bedroom overlooking the driveway.
C. Can testify to the fact that she heard a vehicle come into the driveway and saw someone standing in the driveway yelling “Danny”.
D. Can testify that she awakened Danny and that he went downstairs to see who was in the driveway.
E. Can testify to the man’s actions.
F. Can testify to the identity of the subject.
G. Can testify to the time, as her husband asked her the time, and the clock is set fifteen minutes fast; the clock showed it to be 11:15 P.M. on 17 February 1955.
H. Can testify that the vehicle in the driveway was a dark color vehicle, that the dome light in the vehicle was burning, and that she observed the subject cover something in the back of the vehicle.
I. Can testify as to the location of the vehicle in the driveway.
J. Can testify that Daniel Gilham told her that he had just talked with Casper Oveross.

HARVEY KASER:

A. Can testify to threats made against his brother Ervin Kaser by Casper Oveross.
B. Can testify that Casper Oveross brought to his home a new 30-30 Carbine, still in the box.
C. Can testify that he has seen Casper Oveross target practicing in the pasture to the rear of his home.
D. Can testify to his son Jeffery Kaser bringing home from the Oveross pasture several shell casings.
E. Can testify that he turned these casings over to the State Police, Officer Riegel.

WAYNE MOORE:

A. Can testify to the type of gun owned by Casper Oveross.
B. Can testify to the type of shells Casper Oveross used.
C. Can testify that Casper Oveross is a good shot and can shoot quick.
D. Can testify that Casper Oveross has done target practice on his place.
E. Can testify that Casper Oveross told him that if he did not cease friendship with Ervin Kaser he would drop friendship with him.

CHARLES HOPKINS:

A. Can testify of threats made by Casper Oveross of shooting Ervin Kaser.
B. Can testify that Casper Oveross told him that he had laid in a field and watched Ervin Kaser go to his house and that he should have shot him then but he didn’t but he though he would yet.

NOAH WINIGER:

A. Can testify that he purchased a 32.20 rifle from Casper Oveross.
B. Can testify that he borrowed Casper Oveross’ new 30-30 rifle to take elk hunting in November of 1949.

OFFICER RIEGEL:

A. Can testify to the time run from the Ervin Kaser residence to the Daniel Gilham residence.
B. Can testify to the taking various shells and guns to the Crime Laboratory for test.
C. Can testify to taking the murder weapon to the Crime Laboratory for test.
D. Can testify to the finding of the sales slip at Hande’s Hardware, showing the sale of a 30-30 rifle to Casper Oveross.
E. Can testify to the finding of the invoice at Hande’s Hardware showing the purchase of two 30-30 rifles by Ames Hardware from Hibbard-Spencer-Bartlett and Co.
F. Can testify to the finding of the ledger sheet showing Casper Oveross’ account at the Ames Hardware for this 30-30 rifle.
G. Can testify to the statement of Casper Oveross to Lt. Mogan that he would not talk without his attorney being present, and on his permission.

MARION ZAHLER:

A. Can testify selling Casper Oveross a new 30-30 rifle and identify sales slip.
B. Can testify to invoice order on two 30-30 rifles.

OMER BAILEY:

A. Can testify to the fact that at that time he was in the sport section of Ames Hardware and that at that time rifles were very scarce and the possibility of there being a stock of rifles is almost an impossibility.

RALPH PROUTY:

A. Can testify to the photographs of the crime scene.
B. Can testify to the ballistic tests of the various rifles, also of the murder weapon.
C. Can testify to the comparative data on the various shells found on the Casper Oveross property.

DR. HOMER H. HARRIS:

A. Can testify to the cause of death and laboratory analysis.

The above is a compilation of the witnesses and their testimony, which witnesses the District Attorney has subpoenaed for Grand Jury appearance.


The police reports and the above list of evidence and witnesses seem to make a pretty solid case.  But you have to keep in mind that all bets are off when you get into a courtroom, and that a trial is not about “finding the truth.”  It’s an adversarial process, and each side is trying to shape the evidence and testimony to suit their own goals.  A trial’s process and its outcome rarely have much to do with ‘truth’ or ‘justice,’ it’s just portrayed that way on TV (sometimes…).

Next up: Jury Selection

Blogically yours,
Everett