This is a preliminary timeline of people and events involved in or surrounding Ervin’s murder. I’m sure I’ll be making some changes to it, but that’s going to require a careful re-reading of all the police reports and newspaper articles.
Nov 16, 1905 — Ervin Oren Kaser born Oct 1, 1911 — Casper Arnold Oveross born Dec 13, 1914 — Ethel & Edith Knight born
Apr 25, 1933 — Ervin O. Kaser & Frances L. Dixon married 1:35pm Vancouver, WA Dec 5, 1934 — Cap A. Oveross & Ethel J. Knight married 1:30pm Vancouver, WA Jan 7, 1936 — Harvey W. Kaser & Edith M. Knight married Marion County, OR Apr 24, 1936 — Colleen Marie Oveross born Oct 21, 1939 — Ervin O. Kaser & Mary L. Calavan Huntley married Salem, OR
Early 1949 — Ames Hardware buys two scarce 30-30 rifles (#1538797 and #1541417) March 5, 1949 — 30-30 rifle #1 sold to Cap Oveross by Marion Zahler at Ames Hardware March 26, 1949 — 30-30 rifle #2 sold to Steven J. Zolotoff at Ames Hardware (#1541417) November 1949 — Noah Wenger borrows Cap’s 30-30 rifle for elk hunting
November 1952 — Everett Kaser born
fall 1953 — Wayne Moore goes hunting with Cap and his 30-30 rifle
sometime 1954 — Jeff Kaser picks up 5 shell casing while Cap is target practicing Aug 6, 1954 — Mary sues Ervin for divorce Aug 20, 1954 — Cap sues Ethel for divorce ~Sep 1, 1954 — Cap, Officers DePeel & Jackson lie in field to watch Ervin at Ethel’s. ~Sep 1, 1954 — Cap states threat to Charles Hopkins that he’ll kill Ervin Mid-Sep 1954 — Cap states threat to Harvey & Edith Kaser that he’ll kill Ervin ~Aug-Oct 1954 — Calvin & Wilma Kaser sees Ervin and Ethel Oveross in Salem ~Oct 1, 1954 — Cap target shoots using 30-30 rifle with Frank Dedrick ~Oct 1, 1954 — Wayne Moore sees Cap’s 30-30 carbine rifle Oct 1954 — Cap & Ethel divorce is final Oct-Dec 1954 — Cap states threat to Robert Barnes that he’ll kill Ervin ~Christmas, 1954 — Dan Gilham sees 30-30 rifle at Cap’s cabin #6
Thurs, Feb 17, 1955 9:30-9:45am — Cap Oveross shoots a rifle at Huddleston lumber yard 12:00pm — Cap Oveross leaves work near Aurora 7:30pm — Ethel Oveross leaves home to meet Ervin 7:40-7:50pm — Cap arrives at Oveross home, visits with Colleen & Dan 7:45pm — Ervin & Ethel Oveross meet at Abiqua covered bridge 8:10pm — Cap leaves Oveross residence — Robert Barnes follows Cap north from Oveross residence — Gerald Hoyd tends bar at Town Tavern, no Cap Oveross 8:15pm — Mary Seward sees Cap at Frank’s Grocery on west Main 8:30pm — Cap buys gas from Dennis Legard, no rifle seen in car 8:40-9:05pm — Car arrives, motor running 5 minutes, at cabin #6 (picking up guns?) 9:00pm — Ray Ruscher at Shorty’s Tavern (Cap is there or arrives) 9:35pm — Rod Oster arrives at Shorty’s Tavern (Cap is there) 9:50-10:00pm — Rod Oster talks with Cap Oveross at Shorty’s Tavern 10:15-10:30pm — Rod Oster leaves Shorty’s (Cap still there) 10:30pm — Ray Ruscher leave’s Shorty’s (Cap already left) — Mannie and Connie Kellerhal go to bed. — Ethel Oveross returns home — Rod Oster arrives at Town House Tavern — Dan Gilham heads home from Colleen’s, sees Cap’s car heading north 10:35pm — Oveross girls return home from Salem skating party 10:45-10:50pm — Waldo Rue passes Ervin’s house on his way home 10:45-10:55pm — Ervin pulls into driveway at Rt 3 Box 115A. — Killer’s dark blue or black Ford sedan stops on road shortly after. — Ervin is shot. — Kellerhals see the last three muzzle flashes and the car. — Killer’s car departs heading south. — Ted Finlay hears shots, sees car pass south on highway — Edith Kaser’s pickup passes by. — Ethel Oveross hears 4 shots, car going south, Edith’s pickup — Kellerhals call Ervin, then Melvin, clock chimes 11:00pm — Melvin goes over, sees Ervin dead, calls Harley DePeel 11:00pm — Rob Riches passes on his way home — Harley DePeel notifies County Sheriff’s Office — Cloreta calls Calvin Kaser (and probably other Kaser family members) — Constable Harley DePeel arrives — Cap arrives in Gilham driveway, covers up something in back seat — Cap tells Dan Gilham Ervin is dead & Dan is his alibi, leaves. 11:05pm — Silverton officer James D. Painter informed of shooting 11:13pm — Painter notifies Sheriff Young & Silverton Chief R. R. Main 11:15pm — James Painter checks taverns for Cap Oveross, not found 11:17pm — James Painter arrives at Holland Auto Court #6 11:23pm — Sheriff Young notified 11:25pm — Deputy Sheriff Richard Boehringer arrives — Calvin and Harvey Kaser arrive at scene 11:40pm — Sheriff Young arrives in Silverton to pick up Chief Main ~11:45pm — Officers check Town House Tavern for Cap Oveross, not there
Fri, Feb 18, 1955 12:10am — Sheriff Young and Chief Main arrive at scene 12:15am — Painter, Bethschieder, Yates enter Holland #6 (no Cap, no guns in sight) 12:35am — State Police Private Robert W Dunn sent to Ervin’s. 12:45am — Gerald Hoyt sees Cap Oveross arrive at Town House Tavern 12:55am — Coroner Leston Howell arrives at scene 1:10am — Pvt Dunn arrives at scene, contacts Sheriff Young 1:20am — Cap Oveross leaves Town House Tavern, goes to cabin #6 1:30am — Rod Oster leaves Town House Tavern (no Cap Oveross) 1:55am — Cap Oveross picked up by Sheriff Young at cabin #6 (shotgun in corner) 3:30am — Cap Oveross is questioned, claims: 1) was in two taverns all evening 2) wasn’t in the area of crime anytime that night 3) never owned a 30-30 rifle 5:30am — Questioning of Oveross ends am — Harvey & Melvin notify mother Sarah Kaser of Ervin’s death 11:00am — Cap Oveross is returned to his cabin in Silverton — Deputy Boehringer takes Ervin’s car to Salem for storage — Dan Gilham takes Cap & Colleen Oveross to attorney ~7:00pm — Cap Oveross moves to brother Henry’s house 315 S Water
Sun, Feb 20, 1955 — Mary Kaser moves back into her & Ervin’s house.
Mon, Feb 21, 1955 2:00pm — Ervin’s funeral in Silverton, buried at Belcrest in Salem
Tue, Feb 22, 1955
8:05pm — Cap Oveross is arrested and his car impounded 10:00pm — Oveross is booked into Marion County Jail
Wed, Feb 23, 1955 10:00am — Oveross is arraigned in District Court
Mon, Feb 28, 1955 9:30am — Grand Jury hears testimony, Oveross released
Thu, Mar 10, 1955 — Ames ledger sheet shows sale of 30-30 to Oveross Mar 5, 1949
Sun, May 8, 1955 3:00pm — Larry Wacker pulls 30-30 rifle #1538797 from Pudding River
Tue, May 10, 1955 — Confirmed: 4 of casings from Jeff Kaser (1954) fired by murder weapon
Fri, May 13, 1955 — Confirmed: Rifle #1538797 fired the murder bullets
Mon, May 16, 1955 — Grand Jury indicts Casper Arnold Oveross for murder
Mon, May 16, 1955 5:20pm — Call from Colleen Oveross residence 468 N Winter Street phone# 38146 to Lloyd Oveross at Happy Camp, CA, finally
put through at 7:20pm on May 17th.
Fri, May 20, 1955 — Oveross located in Fairbanks, Alaska
Wed, May 26, 1955 — Sheriff Young and Deputy Hoffman leave for Fairbanks
Sun, May 29, 1955 — Young, Hoffman and Oveross return to Salem
Tue, June 1, 1955 — Oveross pleads not guilty, trial date set for June 21st
June 21, 1955 10:00am — Trial begins
July 14, 1955 5:26pm — Oveross found not guilty, released
sometime-1955 — Dan Gilham & Colleen Oveross marry
1958-1960 — Wilma & Everett Kaser encountered Cap on Silverton street corner
~1975-1976 — Cap bragged to Harvey Kaser’s youngest son that he killed Ervin
Jan 24, 1981 — Casper Oveross died (buried Valley View Cemetery, Silverton OR)
1988 — Mary (Calavan Huntley Kaser) marries Albert Cianni
Sep 30, 1998 — Ethel Jane Oveross died
Apr 4, 1999 — Mary Calavan Huntley Kaser Cianni died
Oct 5, 2013 — Colleen Oveross Gilham died (buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery)
And that’s it for a while. Now, I have to assemble, compose, write, edit and polish “the final chapter.” It will contain a few later events, thoughts by myself and others about all of this, speculation about the trial and juries and social standards, and dwell a bit upon how one action in selfish anger can have very significant effects upon the lives of hundreds of people over decades and generations to come.
…And here’s the final magazine story about the murder. As the author says near the beginning of the article, “It’s been nearly six weeks…” So, this article was written around the end of March, before the rifle was found and before Cap Oveross was arrested the second time and indicted.
Real Detective – August 1955
By Steve Clay
Silverton, Oregon has 3164 residents and one corpse. But if you ask who the killer was, Silverton’ll shrug its shoulders.
SILVERTON’S LOOKING for a murderer.
And it doesn’t look like it’ll find him.
It’s been nearly six weeks since the cops found 49-year-old Erv Kaser dead in his own driveway, slumped against the dashboard of his bullet-riddled Plymouth with a.30-caliber slug lodged near his heart.
It’s been five weeks since they tried to pin the rap on a local carpenter.
And it’s been only a little less than that since they admitted they were stymied.
One cop says they’re caught in an endless circle. Everything they check seems to run back to something they’ve checked before.
District Attorney Ken Brown says the town’s full of rumors. There are plenty of things the cops could investigate.
A newspaper reporter in nearby Salem, the state capital, says something could break any time. It always can.
But most of the cops aren’t saying much of anything. Sheriff Denver Young and the state troopers just tell everyone they’re continuing their investigation and have lots of evidence. They’re keeping it secret until the right moment.
They thought they had lots of evidence five weeks ago, too, a few days after the murder. They thought they had the killer.
They must have kept a lot of their evidence secret then, too, because a grand jury didn’t agree with them. And now all Silverton’s wondering who Erv Kaser’s killer really is.
And it looks like it’ll keep on wondering, unless and until a shadowy, sharpshooting killer comes out of the tall, green Oregon firs to kill again. Because he’s still free and, the way things are going, he may stay free forever….
It was Em Kellerhals who saw Erv Kaser die. He was lying in bed the windblown night of February 17, when he heard Erv pull into the driveway of his pleasant-looking white frame house across the way. He looked at the hands on his luminous watch and noticed it was a few minutes to eleven.
As he remembers it now, he heard Erv slam the door to his car and, within a matter of three seconds, the quick whine of a single bullet. By the time he’d gotten out of bed and to his front window, he found he was just in time to see three quick white flashes and watch the slugs crunch into the windshield of Erv’s car.
They came from a dark-looking sedan parked a few feet from Em’s own driveway and about 75 feet from Erv’s car. As soon as the fourth bullet had been fired, the sedan sped off down the black-topped road toward Stayton, hurtling forward into the wind. Em said it sounded like a Ford.
Silverton Constable Harley DePeal was the first cop to get to the murder scene. He was followed by Sheriff Denver Young and other officers from the Marion County sheriff’s office. Then came the state police.
What they found out about Erv Kaser in the next 24 hours was enough to show that several people might have wanted to kill him. Em Kellerhals said Erv was a good neighbor, but a lot of people around Silverton didn’t like him. They said he’d caused a lot of family arguments and broken up several marriages around the countryside.
And Erv Kaser had been in the process of getting a divorce himself. In August, 1954, his wife, Mary, had filed suit against him, charging him with associating with other women, staying out all night and striking and beating her. When she filed it, she moved into an apartment in Salem, 15 miles away.
Erv hadn’t wasted any time. He’d turned right around and filed suit against her. He denied all her charges and thought up some of his own. He said he’d be glad when the case came to trial March 17.
The cops talked with Mary Kaser about the victim, but they were more interested in what Erv’s younger brother, Mel Kaser, had to say about him. He described Erv as a lone wolf, said he always concealed his affairs, his friends and his goings and comings.
And Mel also said he and his friends thought Erv’s death had been carefully planned. And he didn’t think February 17 was the first time that Erv’s killer had tried to do him in. He said it was unusual for Erv to park just where he did and that it was a million-to-one shot that the killing had gone off just the way it had. He figured the murderer must have known Erv and his habits pretty well.
It was as plain to the cops as a big piece of lumber that Erv Kaser had been a trouble maker and a lone wolf, a man whom few people knew well and some people thought they knew too damn well, a man whom many residents might have liked to see out of the way.
They thought there was one man in particular, however, who might have liked to kill Erv Kaser. His name was Cap Oveross. His age was 44. His occupation, carpentry.
Like Erv, Cap had been separated from his wife. Two weeks after Mary Kaser filed suit against Erv, Cap had asked his wife for a divorce. He’d gotten it in October.
And, just as Mary Kaser had accused Erv of associating with other women, Cap Oveross had accused his wife of associating with other men and one in particular. He didn’t name him in the divorce suit, but he told plenty of people around Silverton who he considered responsible for the breakup of his marriage. A man named Erv Kaser.
LIVED NEAR KASER
There were a couple of other things about Cap Oveross that interested Denver Young and the state troopers. He’d lived for 20 years only one half mile east of Erv Kaser. He had a car, a dark 1950 Ford tudor sedan. And he was a crack shot with a rifle and had had a target range on the little farm where he’d lived before his divorce.
Within 24 hours of the death of Erv Kaser, police had long and extensive talks with Cap Oveross. Cap was nonchalant enough. He just told them he’d spent Thursday evening, February 17, in two taverns and thought he’d been in one of them both before and during the approximate hour of the killing.
The cops didn’t like his story. They said it was too hazy.
And they didn’t like the facts that he had a motive, had a Ford and had a gun.
But they let him go because they didn’t have enough evidence to hold him. And they talked with even more people who might have wanted to kill Erv Kaser and started investigating the murder scene.
Saturday, both sheriff’s deputies and state troopers scoured the entire Silverton neighborhood for the murder weapon. Streams were dragged. Abandoned wells were searched. Woods were probed.
Sunday, two ponds were dragged, one within a half mile of the victim’s home, three miles south of Silverton. No weapon was found.
But three rifles to which Cap Oveross had access were impounded and sent to the state police crime laboratory for inspection. Cap’s own hunting rifle was not found.
His car was found though, and they impounded it, too, and sent it to the crime laboratory for inspection. Because one thing seemed sure – the four shots that had slammed into Erv Kaser’s car had been fired from inside the killer’s car. Em Kellerhals said it had looked like that to him, and he said the car had started up immediately after the last quick, white flash.
Monday and Tuesday, the cops continued their investigation, comparing bullets found at the murder scene with slugs in the possession of various suspects, working quietly and secretly, telling as little to the newspaper reporters as they could. But, by Tuesday afternoon, word had gotten around Silverton that Denver Young and the state troopers had made little progress.
The word was wrong. Because, early Tuesday evening, Cap Oveross was arrested in his niece’s home in Silverton, and Cap didn’t like it one bit. He refused to accept the arrest warrant.
The cops made him accept it though and took him to state police headquarters in Salem, but that didn’t change Cap’s attitude at all. All he would say was that his name was spelled with a ‘C’ instead of a ‘K,’ as the warrant had it, and that he wanted his lawyer, Bruce Williams.
When the cops tried to find out more, the lean, laconic carpenter scratched at his bright plaid shirt, hitched at the belt on his blue jeans, looked down at his rolled-up cuffs – and turned toward the wall.
When his neighbors heard about it, most of them didn’t blame him. The news of what had happened started coming over the telephone wires strung through the big Oregon firs within an hour of his arrest, and they couldn’t believe it.
Some of them slipped into their fur-lined windbreakers or big red-plaided lumber jackets and drove into town to talk it over. A lot of them had known Cap all his life, still thought of him as a kid.
He looked like a kid anyway – only weighed about 155, wore his hair cut close to his head, had a big, friendly smile. They didn’t think he’d do a thing like kill Erv Kaser.
Some of them said that, even if he had, he’d been justified. Everyone knew about his divorce, and everyone knew he was a quiet, levelheaded guy who wouldn’t take the law into his own hands without good reason.
And a couple of them suggested that, if he had fired the bullets, maybe he’d just done it to scare Erv. Em Kellerhals had said the last three had come pretty fast – too fast for the killer to have taken dead aim. And a lot of people knew Erv Kaser had visited Ethel Oveross the night he died.
The next morning, a lot of Cap’s neighbors drove over to Salem and jammed into the spectator’s section of the Marion County District Court to watch Cap’s arraignment before Judge Ed Stadter.
They’d hardly gotten settled before Cap’s lawyer, Bruce Williams, asked the judge for a quick preliminary hearing so Cap could be set free. He said there was no evidence against him.
And Bruce Williams got what he wanted, partly because the cops refused to say just what the evidence against Cap was. Ed Stadter set preliminary hearing for a week later and told the cops they’d have to present sufficient evidence for him to turn the case over to a grand jury. Otherwise, he’d dismiss the charges.
Cap Oveross was very pleased. He’d sat calmly and impassively in the prisoner’s dock throughout the hearing, chewing on a wad of gum. But when Bruce Williams obtained an early hearing, he walked smiling out of the courtroom and waved to the friends and neighbors who’d come over from Silverton to see how things went.
He didn’t pay any attention when the cops returned him to the fourth cell in cellblock A of the Marion County jail, and he didn’t even look at them when they told him he could get the gas chamber in the Oregon State Penitentiary if he was convicted of killing Erv Kaser.
If Cap had known what was coming, he’d have been even more relaxed. He never even got a preliminary hearing.
District Attorney Ken Brown asked Judge Stadter if he wouldn’t send the case right to the grand jury, and the judge said yes, despite the protests of Bruce Williams.
WHAT DID JURY LEARN?
On February 28, the grand jury met in secret session at 9:30 in the morning. It didn’t finish its hearing until four in the afternoon.
And what did it learn?
It learned that Cap Oveross had refused to take a lie detector test. He said he didn’t need to, he was innocent.
According to Denver Young, it listened to several witnesses who claimed they heard him threaten Erv Kaser’s life.
It learned that some people thought he’d been at his old farmhouse the night of the killing. The cops said that was close enough to Erv Kaser’s place for Cap to have gone there and returned without any trouble.
But it didn’t learn anything about the murder weapon because it hadn’t been found after the shooting of Erv.
It didn’t learn aything about the three rifles Cap Oveross had access to because state troopers were still making tests on them in Portland.
And it didn’t learn anything about Cap’s 1950 tudor sedan because there hadn’t been much, if any, evidence in it linking him to the murder.
Seventeen witnesses were paraded in front of the grand jurors. Some were favorable to Cap Oveross, some unfavorable.
Early in the afternoon, the jurors retired to consider the evidence against the slim, boyish-looking carpenter. At four o’clock they returned and told Ken Brown and the cops there wasn’t a ghost of a case against Cap Oveross. They didn’t believe he’d killed Erv Kaser and, even if he had, there just wasn’t enough evidence to indict him.
When they brought Cap into the sheriff’s office, he was as quiet as ever. He just turned and asked Bruce Williams if it were true.
He was just as calm in front of Judge Stadter. He listened intently to the brief proceedings that resulted in his freedom and then said, “Thank you, judge” and walked out of the courtroom.
From the police, he picked up some extra clothing he’d worn when he was first arrested, four one dollar bills and his 1950 Ford. He was a free man.
Cap went back to his home and his work. He refused to say anything about his arrest or what had followed, except to repeat that he wasn’t guilty. As far as anyone could tell, even he wasn’t sure of what allthe evidence against him was.
Two days after Cap was freed, Sheriff Denver Young announced the investigation would continue. Privately, some cops admitted they didn’t know where their next clue was coming from.
More than a month after Erv Kaser died in his own blood and his own car, rumors began circulating through Silverton that the sheriff’s office had given a secret lie detector test to a suspect.
Denver Young and his aides refused to identify the suspect. As a matter of fact, they refused to admit a lie detector test had been given to anyone. They refused to deny it, too. They said they weren’t saying anything one way or the other.
Neither was the killer saying anything. But, whoever he is, he’s waiting somewhere – in the big fir country around Silverton or in Salem or in Portland or in some other state – waiting, perhaps, to strike again.
When’s Oregon going to catch him?
I’ve never heard of a “tudor sedan.” At first, I thought the author was mistaking “two-door” for “tudor.” But apparently that was actually a term that Ford once thought was cute:
“Those terms were more common in the 1939 to 1948 vehicles where they actually made a coupe, a tudor sedan, and a fordor sedan. The 1949 was the first year where they called a tudor a coupe. Ford cars continued with the business coupe in the 49 to 51 years but not for the Merc.”
Those marketing types are always pushing the envelope…
Next, I’ll be working on a time-line of events surrounding the murder. Stay tuned.
Here’s the second of the magazine stories about the murder, this one with a more typically lurid cover. Sex and violence are always successful salesmen…
Police Cases – October 1955
Love, To Die!
By Louis Adams
The quickest way for a man to make enemies is to cheat at the game of love.
Once too often the handsome farmer plucked at forbidden fruit – and he died.
Frost was just beginning to sparkle in the fields two miles south of Silverton, Oregon, as Emanuel Kellerhals Jr. burrowed deeper under the comforting warmth of the bedcovers to shut out the chill of the night on February 17,1955.
He was tired from his day’s work and as he closed his eyes he was momentarily annoyed by the slam of a car door. The sound came from the direction of his neighbor’s driveway across the road. “Erv Kaser’s home early tonight,” he muttered to his wife.
Suddenly the tiny bedroom reverberated to the shattering roar of a shot close by. “What was that?” Mrs. Kellerhals asked in alarm, rising to a sitting position. Kellerhals jumped from bed and rushed to the window.
From where he stood, the now thoroughly awakened man could see his neighbor’s sprawling hop farm. Parked in the driveway by the house was Ervin Kaser’s sedan.The dome light was burning. Near the front of his own driveway, Kellerhals observed the shadowy outlines of another car. It appeared to be dark in color.
As he watched, three more shots punctuated the night air and Kellerhals saw vivid flashes corresponding to the sounds. They seemed to come from the strange car in his driveway and, adding force to his visual observations, the motor of the automobile roared into life. The vehicle leaped ahead, and soon its taillights were fading toward Stayton on the Silverton-Stayton highway.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” Mrs. Kellerhals inquired anxiously. “Tell me what’s happening out there!”
“I don’t know,” her husband replied, “but it looks as if someone just shot Kaser!”
Kellerhals started to dress, intent on going across the road to see what happened; but then he recalled that there were people better equipped than he to handle such matters. He telephoned Constable Harley DePeal in Silverton.
DePeal contacted Police Chief Raoul Main, and the two men wasted no time in getting to Kaser’s farm. As they pulled to a stop, they noticed the dome light burning in Kaser’s 1949 Plymouth sedan.
The officers rushed up to the car. One glance was all that was required to convince them they needed help beyond that which their own meager departments could give. Constable DePeal called the Marion County sheriff’s office and soon Sheriff Denver Young was on his way from the state capital and county seat at Salem, 13 miles away. As Young left his office he told a deputy to relay the alarm to the Oregon State Police. At the police barracks, Private John Mekkers dispatched State Officer Robert Dunn to the scene.
When the lawmen were assembled, the wheels of a full-scale murder investigation were set in motion.
Ervin Kaser was lying on his right side on the front seat of his car, his feet on the brake pedal and the accelerator. Blood from a wound beneath the victim’s read-and-black plaid jacket was congealing in a pool that had formed on the car seat. The initials E. O. K. on the man’s belt buckle reflected the light from the dome of the car.
“From the looks of things, the poor devil never knew what hit him,” Sheriff Young muttered to Officer Dunn.
The state officer nodded, then suggested that this was a job calling for the talents of Dr. Homer Harris of the state crime laboratory.
“Good idea,” Young agreed. “Get him on his way down here from Portland while I call the coroner.”
Dunn radioed to his dispatcher, with instructions to contact Dr. Harris and have him and a fingerprint technician come down. At the same time, he asked for more help and State Officer Lloyd T. Riegel was dispatched.
Meanwhile, Young, Main and DePeal went across the street to talk to the Kellerhalses.
“It’s all so horrible,” said Mrs. Kellerhals. “Why would anybody do such a thing?”
“That’s what we aim to find out,” Sheriff Young said grimly. “But tell us all you know about it.”
Em Kellerhals described what he had seen and heard when he looked out of his bedroom window.
“What do you know about Kaser?” Young asked when the other finished talking. “Perhaps if we know something about him, it will help establish a motive.”
“Afraid there isn’t much I can tell you,” Kellerhals said. “He was always a pretty good neighbor. Kept to himself though. Maybe someone tried to rob him. He was supposed to be pretty well off.”
“How about visitors? Did he have many?”
“Not many – and what few there were, usually came at night. I think they were men he worked with, but I couldn’t recognize any of them,” Kellerhals declared.
The sheriff asked about the car that had been seen pulling away after the shooting.
“It looked like a Ford. Yes, I’m pretty sure it was a Ford. It sounded like one when it started up,” Kellerhals replied. “It was dark colored, maybe black. It looked like a sedan or coach. I couldn’t tell very well. All there was to see by was starlight.
The officers soon perceived that the Kellerhalses could offer little, if anything, more in the way of information. As they started to leave, Police Chief Main asked if he could use the telephone. He said he hated to do it, but someone had to notify Kaser’s relatives about the murder.
“Oh, I’ve already done that,” Kellerhals interrupted. “I called his brother, Melvin. He should be getting here soon.”
The officers thanked him and started to leave, but as they were on their way out the front door, Sheriff Young turned back and asked, “How do you account for the sequence of sounds, Mr. Kellerhals? The door slamming and then the shots?”
“Gosh, I don’t know,” Kellerhals answerd. “Looks to me as if Kaser maybe got out of his car and started for the house, then something warned him so he got back into his car.”
“That’s about the way it looks to me, too,” Young commented. “He probably intended to drive out of there and never had a chance.”
The coroner and Officer Riegel had arrived by the time the lawmen returned to Kaser’s car. State Officer Dunn quickly filled them in on what he had determined. Kaser’s wallet had not been disturbed and everything seemed in order in the house.
“Doesn’t look as if the motive was robbery,” Dunn concluded. Officer Riegel, meanwhile, had his notebook out, jotting down a physical description of Kaser and making a rough diagram which showed the location of the murder car and the approximate position of the slayer’s automobile before it fled.
Ervin Kaser, 49, was of medium weight and about five feet ten inches. His brown hair receded in front, but he had been a comparatively handsome man. In addition to the plaid jacket, he wore a gray shirt, dark twill trousers and tan loafers. A gray felt hat was crushed beneath his head.
A sack of groceries in the back
seat indicated that the victim had just returned from shopping.
“Have you searched the area where the killer’s car was parked?” asked Young.
“Yes, but we’ll probably have to wait until daylight if we’re going to find anything that might give us a lead,” Dunn replied.
Dr. Harris and Sergeant Ralph Prouty of the state crime laboratory pulled up just then and they immediately got to work. Prouty began shooting pictures of the scene, after which Dr. Harris accompanied the coroner to the morgue where a preliminary autopsy would be performed.
Meanwhile, an examination of Kaser’s sedan revealed that three bullets grouped close together had plowed through the left doorpost; a fourth had gone through an open window and out the windshield. Two of the bullets that had penetrated the doorpost also had gone through the windshield, while the fourth was lodged in Kaser’s body. It struck Kaser in the left shoulder, but did not emerge.
The Kellerhalses had placed the murder car between 50 and 75 yards away from Kaser’s sedan. When Sergeant Prouty learned this he was amazed.
“Whoever did this was a whale of a good shot. Look how closely grouped those shots are on the doorpost,” he said. “Accomplishing that at night is really something.”
Sheriff Young nodded assent. “Of course the killer was helped by the fact that with the dome light on, Kaser made a clear target; but still the sniper is a deadly marksman. We’d better warn the cars that are out hunting him to be careful.” Earlier the sheriff had broadcast a description of the killer’s car and he now issued a warning.
At this point, Constable DePeal introduced Melvin Kaser, brother of the slain man. DePeal stated that Melvin lived just down the road from his brother’s farm and might know something.
Young and Riegel, mindful of the younger brother’s grief over the killing, nevertheless decided to question him immediately rather than wait until later.
“I don’t know what’s behind my brother’s murder,” Melvin Kaser began, “but I can tell you one thing. It definitely was planned. It looks to me as if there must have been other attempts, maybe several times.”
“Why do you think that?” Dunn asked.
“Because the chances are about a million to one for Erv to be parked right where he was shot and for him to have his dome light on to make it easy for the killer.”
“Isn’t there some other reason, too, why you think the murder was planned?” Sheriff Young pressed. “Did your brother have any enemies?”
Melvin Kaser’s brow furrowed in deep thought. He was silent several moments as though weighing something in his mind, then he said:
“Erv was always somewhat of a lone wolf. Sure, he lived next door to me and all of that, but he never told me any of his affairs. He never discussed his friends or where he went. Far as I know, he never had much to do with anybody. Afraid I can’t help you much that way.”
The Silverton police chief, who had been listening, spoke up:
“There’s a lot of talk going around Silverton that Erv was quite a lady’s man. Some say he’s broken up some marriages around here. His wife sued him for divorce not long ago, claiming he was messing around with other women and staying out all night with them. There’s probably several people who won’t be sorry about his death.”
The younger Kaser admitted that he, too, had heard the rumors, but he didn’t know how true they were.
“Well, we’re getting somewhere, at least,” Sheriff Young interrupted. “if we can find out who Ervin Kaser has been dating, we’ll probably find a clue to the killer. This job begins to look like the work of some jealous husband.”
Chief Main nodded agreement. “There’s a carpenter, named Oveross, who lives up the road a way, and I’ve heard that Kaser has been seen with this man’s wife. He might be a good place to start,” the chief suggested.
Sheriff Young thanked Melvin Kaser for his help, conferred briefly with Sergeant Prouty and Officer Riegel, then ordered the carpenter picked up for questioning. “Bring him to my office, and while you’re getting him I’ll talk to District Attorney Kenneth Brown,” the sheriff said.
Casper (Cap) Oveross had lived in the Silverton area all his life. Unlike Kaser, the thin, gum-chewing carpenter was generally well liked by his neighbors. His habitually friendly grin and youthful ways belied his 44 years.
As he entered Sheriff Young’s office and was introduced to District Attorney Brown and State Officer Dunn, Oveross appeared only mildly concerned over being taken from his home in the middle of the night and hustled to the county seat.
The officers wasted little time in obtaining preliminary information from their plaid-shirted subject. He had been born near Rocky Four Corners on Abiqua Creek north of Salem, had graduated from Silverton High School as had his wife, Ethel, and, for 20 years, had lived less than a quarter mile from the murder scene in the Evergreen community.
Did he like Erv Kaser? No. He blamed Kaser for breaking up his marriage. Yes, he had sued his wife for divorce last fall, just a couple of weeks after Mary Kaser filed for divorce from Erv.
Was he glad Kaser was dead? No more so than probably a lot of other husbands in Silverton.
“Where were you when Kaser was killed?” Sheriff Young asked.
“What time did it happen?” Oveross countered.
The sheriff estimated Kaser died about 10:55 p.m.
“I was probably in a tavern over in Silverton about then,” Oveross said, taking a hitch in his blue jeans. “I was in a couple of them during the evening. I hadn’t even got home when your men came to my place.
“Can you fix the exact time when you were in those taverns?” Brown asked.
“Nope, don’t think I can,” the carpenter replied. “Never looked at the clock.”
“You own a gun, don’t you?” Dunn interrupted.
“Not now,” Oveross replied.
The questioning continued several hours, but Casper Oveross stuck to his story concerning his whereabouts during the evening. He steadfastly denied any part in the killing of Kaser.
At midmorning, weary and disgruntled, Young and Brown retired to another room to talk over what had transpired. They agreed that they were getting nowhere; that Oveross should be set free. Certainly he had a motive, but apparently dozens of others in Silverton also had a motive.
“Let him go,” Brown ordered, “but better check on his wife and Kaser’s wife. Maybe they can offer some hint as to who might want Kaser dead.”
“That’s right,” Young agreed. “From what Oveross tells us, Mrs. Kaser divorced Erv because he was chasing around. She just might know of any threats made against her husband.”
“Yes, and if Oveross is right in thinking his wife was going with Kaser, she might be able to suggest a possible suspect,” Brown commented. “Also, maybe Kaser wasn’t romantically interested in Mrs. Oveross but in some other woman.”
The two lawmen returned to the interrogation room and told Oveross he was clear of suspicion; they suggested, however, that he not leave Silverton for the time being.
“It would help us,” said District Attorney Brown, “if you could fix the time more exactly when you were in those taverns.”
“Sure,” the carpenter replied as he took his departure.
With Oveross tentatively cleared, the officers turned their attention toward other suspects. They also decided to check the divorce complaints in the Kaser and Oveross cases.
On August 6, 1954, they learned, Mary Louisa Kaser, wife of the Silverton hop grower, had filed suit. She charged, among other things, that the “defendant does associate with and keep company with another woman or women from time to time.” Unfortunately she didn’t name names.
On August 20, Oveross sued his wife, Ethel, for divorce, alleging that “for the period of several years, the defendant has associated herself with other men, and particularly one other man to such an extent that such association has become public scandal and gossip in the community in which the plaintiff and defendant live.” Neither did he list names, but Oveross had told police he referred to Kaser.
The Kaser divorce trial had been set for March 17, but the murder changed the situation. Defendants in both actions had entered general denials of the allegations in the complaints.
It was evident the women had to be talked to, so interviews were set up.
Mrs. Kaser was contacted at her Salem apartment where she had moved pending settlement of the divorce action. The trim, 40ish blonde told her interrogators that she had no reason to kill Erv. Certainly she was unhappy about his associations with other women, but she had already handled that matter by filing suit for divorce. She indignantly asserted she would never stoop to murder. Before the officers left, Mrs. Kaser had convinced them she knew nothing of real value to aid their search for the killer.
No better luck was encountered in the questioning of the ex-Mrs. Oveross. Obviously overwrought by all that had happened, she nevertheless tried to be cooperative.
The slender divorcée insisted she knew nothing about the killing; she also didn’t think her ex-husband would have done it even in a moment of jealousy. She startled her interrogators by stating that her twin sister was married to Harvey Kaser, a brother of the slain man.
Saturday afternoon, February 19, nearly 40 hours after the killing, District Attorney Brown announced, “This thing is beginning to go around in circles. We’re getting nowhere. Possibly we’ve been concentrating too much on the Kaser-Oveross situation and the real killer is somewhere laughing at us.”
Arrangements were made with state police headquarters to assign Sergeant Wayne Huffman and Officer Lloyd Riegel to work with Sheriff Young and Deputy Amos Shaw until the case was solved, no matter how long it took.
The authorities went into a huddle and sifted through the information already at hand: Kaser was killed at 10:55 p.m., and a dark car had fled from the scene. So far as was known, only Emanuel Kellerhals and his wife had seen that car, and their look at it had been hindered by darkness. Perhaps someone else had seen it under better conditions.
With the help of Silverton officials, a map was drawn which listed every house in a five-mile radius of the Kaser home, particularly those along the Silverton-Stayton highway. Huffman and Riegel were assigned to check each of the houses to determine whether anyone else had seen the murder car. They also decided, for a few nights at least, to stop every car on the highway on the theory that people have pretty definite habits, and some motorist who normally traveled between Silverton and Stayton at that time would have seen something significant.
Sheriff Young and Deputy Shaw, meanwhile, agreed to check other possible suspects. They already had learned that the shot which killed Kaser was fired from a .30-caliber rifle and that the fatal bullet had been either a “lucky” shot or aimed by a perfect marksman.
The rifle slug had punctured the left lung and the arch of the aorta, the great trunk artery from the heart.
“Let’s go over to Silverton and see what we can learn about marksmen,” Young said to his deputy.
Several hours later the two teams met over a cup of coffee to compare progress.
Huffman and Riegel so far had found no one other than the Kellerhalses who had seen the killer’s car, but they had some other interesting information.
“We kept getting the story that Kaser was involved with other men’s wives,” Sergeant Huffman reported. “He also had money problems. He was a hard bargainer with people who worked for him in his hop yard, and there’re stories going around that he didn’t pay some of them.”
“Say, that’s worth checking further,” the sheriff interrupted. “Maybe he fought with one of those workers and the fellow he fought with went for him with a gun.”
“We’re way ahead of you there,” Riegel said. “We’ve been busy compiling a list of former employes and have talked to some of them. Haven’t come up with anything definite yet. However, it should be pointed out that we’re checking stories circulated by people who don’t like Kaser. We’ve heard some good things about him, too, that indicated some of the stories might be distorted.”
Young and Shaw had something to report, too. They had learned that Kaser received a telephone call from eastern Oregon the day before the shooting.
“The phone company is looking that up for me now, and when we’ve got the information, I think someone had better go over to eastern Oregon to see what it’s all about,” the sheriff said. “That call may tie in with the murder.”
The teams separated again, Huffman and Riegel to continue looking up former employes of Kaser; Young and Shaw to make a round of taverns where Oveross said he had been at the time of the murder.
The latter team ran into something at the first tavern they visited. James Lowrie, bartender, said Cap Oveross was an excellent shot – one of the best in the area. He didn’t believe the carpenter had killed Kaser, however –“even though he had good reason” – because Cap was too easy-going to be a murderer. Further, he had been in the tavern the night of the shooting.
“Why do you say he had good reason to kill Kaser?” Shaw asked.
“Because everyone knows Kaser was making a play for Mrs. Oveross. Why, they were together just before the shooting,” Lowrie retorted.
“How do you know that?” Young shot back.
“One of my customers saw them in Kaser’s car driving along the road to Silver Creek Falls State Park,” the bartender replied.
Young and Shaw questioned Lowrie further, learning that he could not definitely fix the time Oveross had been in the tavern. Thanking the bartender for his help, the officers proceeded toward the state park. En route they called for Huffman and Riegel to join them.
Arrived at the popular park grounds, the officers again compared notes and then set about checking nearby houses to determine if anyone had seen the dark sedan that had been at Kaser’s farm. The theory had been suggested that the killer was trailing Kaser on the fatal night. Nothing significant was turned up, so back to Silverton the lawmen went. There questioning of townspeople disclosed that, on the night of the shooting, Mrs. Oveross had been at a lodge meeting, had left for a time, presumably to meet Kaser, and then had returned to the lodge.
“This thing keeps leading right back to the Overosses,” Sergeant Huffman told his fellow officers. “I’ll bet Cap Oveross heard about them meeting Thursday night and trailed Kaser home and killed him.”
“We found out he was a crack shot, too,” Sheriff Young added, “and he’s wrong when he said he had no gun. He’s said to have several. Let’s go talk to him again!”
This time Casper Oveross was not so friendly when police arrived at his home. He grudgingly admitted he had access to some rifles, but said, “You’re mistaken if you think I told you before that I don’t have a gun.”
“Why don’t you tell us about killing Kaser?” Young demanded.
“Listen,” Oveross retorted indignantly, “I’m getting tired of all this monkey business. We went all through it the other night. Now you birds lay off or I’m calling in my attorney.”
“If you’re innocent, then let’s run a lie detector test and prove it once and for all,” Shaw suggested.
“Why should I? It’s just more of the same old malarky. I’m not having any part of it,” the carpenter lashed back.
Basically, the interview produced no more results than the first one, but three rifles Oveross had access to were rounded up for examination by ballistics experts at the crime laboratory.
That night in Salem the officers related their findings of the day to District Attorney Brown.
“It’s getting more complicated all the time. Looks as if a batch of people, not only Oveross, had motives,” Brown commented when they were through.
“You know, I think the key to this whole thing is the murder gun. We’ve got to find it, then we’ll know who the killer really is,” Young said.
“What about the guns you got from Oveross?” Brown asked.
“They’re being checked, but we don’t think any of them is the right one,” Huffman informed the DA.
Before the meeting broke up, it was decided to pick up every .30-caliber weapon in the area for checking by ballistics experts and to drag every stream and pond in case the killer had disposed of the gun.
Sunday, February 20, 1955, saw policemen knocking at every door asking for guns. Residents were surprisingly cooperative and soon a sizable arsenal was on its way to Portland to the crime lab.
Other officers in boats probed all local bodies of water. Dragging operations on two ponds within earshot of the death scene were discontinued when a farmer reported no cars had used the road on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, State Officer Dunn, who had been sent to Madras in eastern Oregon to investigate the Kaser telephone call, returned to report it had no connection with the murder.
Late Sunday, Sheriff Young learned that Oveross had a target range behind his home where he test fired rifles for several of his friends. The sheriff directed that bullets be dug from the range and compared with the one taken from Kaser’s body.
Monday the search for the gun continued, and again on Tuesday morning.
It was late Tuesday afternoon that District Attorney Brown received a call which set him wondering about Paul Hatfield, a friend of Oversoss’ pretty 17-year-old daughter, Colleen. The person who called said the youth knew something.
Young Hatfield was extremely nervous and reticent when police started talking to him. He denied having had anything to do with the murder, but when the questioning swung to Oveross, he became agitated.
“I guess I’d better tell you,” the youth is alleged to have answered. “Cap came to my place a few minutes after the shooting. He said, ‘Kaser’s got three slugs in him and you’ve got to be my alibi. If anybody asks, I was with you last night.’”
Brown jerked his head for Young and Huffman to follow him into another room.
“If what the boy says is true, it looks as if we’ve hit pay dirt,” he said. “Bring Oveross in.”
A short time later, armed with a Marion County District Court warrant charging first-degree murder, Deptuy Sheriff Amos Shaw and State Patrolman Lloyd T. Riegel located Casper Oveross at the home of his niece in Silverton.
Oveross indignantly refused to accept his copy of the warrant, but he offered no resistance as he was taken back to Salem and booked into jail. The officers also impounded his 1950 black Ford coach and stored it in a Silverton garage.
All the way to Salem, the rough-clad carpenter refused to answer questions, and when he arrived at the sheriff’s office all he had to say was: “I’m waiting for my attorney.”
It wasn’t long before Defense Attorney Bruce Williams appeared and, after a brief conference with his client, told newspaper reporters there was no evidence whatsoever against Oveross and he would demand the earliest possible preliminary hearing or, failing that, a writ of habeas corpus to free his client from custody.
The next morning, Oveross was arraigned before District Judge Edward O. Stadter Jr., and was granted a March 2, 1955 preliminary hearing. He displayed the same unruffled composure as had marked his behavior almost from the beginning.
That same day, in Marion County Probate Court, Kaser’s widow, Mary Louisa Kaser, was appointed administratrix of her dead husband’s estate. Probable valuation was listed as $10,000 in real property and $1,000 in personal property.
Later, District Attorney Brown called the officers together. “Just because that boy claims Oveross wanted him to serve as an alibi doesn’t mean that Oveross is guilty. Oveross could have heard of the shooting and have known he would be the logical suspect,” the DA said to the gathered men.
When Huffman and Riegel returned to Silverton they found the town buzzing. Some people refused to believe that likable, easygoing Casper Oveross could have had anything to do with the crime. They said they would never believe it until the sheriff’s office proved it beyond a doubt.
Others said that if Oveross did fire the fatal shots, he only did it to scare Kaser – not to kill him. “Why, those shots came so fast that it should prove the rifleman had no intention to hit anyone,” a service station attendant said. “Anybody who deliberately was trying to kill a man under starlight would take a long time between shots.”
Thursday, February 24, 1955, one week after the murder, Dr. Harris and his assistant, Sergeant Prouty, returned to Silverton from Portland to pick up clothing found in Oveross’ car and to examine the interiors of both the Oveross and the Kaser cars.
The next day, District Attorney Brown again conferred with his officers, reviewing all of the evidence that had been collected. There still were some unanswered angles and the murder weapon still had not been discovered, but the DA decided to take the case to the grand jury on the following Monday.
Defense Attorney Williams objected bitterly when he heard the news, then said he would not permit his client to appear before the jury.
A parade of 17 witnesses started going into the grand jury rooms at 9:30 a.m. It included Sheriff Young and Dr. Harris, plus relatives of both Kaser and Oveross. At 4 p.m., the jury made its report to Circuit Judge George R. Duncan.
The jury failed to find the evidence sufficient to support an indictment. Oveross was released, completely exonerated.
District Attorney Brown summoned the police authorities to his office. “We’ve got to start all over again. The murder of Ervin Kaser has got to be solved.”
The Officers reviewed again the facts and rumors they had gathered. Finally Riegel spoke up:
“It still goes back to that missing gun. We’ll have to find it.”
“There’s more to it than that,” the DA said. “Since Oversoss isn’t the guilty party, then it means there’s a killer loose somewhere around here. We still don’t definitely know he’s a jealous husband. He could well be a trigger-happy madman and he may strike again.
“I suggest we call for public help in locating that gun. Maybe the American Legion or the Boy Scouts or some similar group can help search.”
“We’ll keep on looking,” Sheriff Young promised grimly. “We’ll check every hardware store from here to Portland if we have to, and find out who bought 30-30 shells. Then we’ll go to their homes and look at those rifles. We’ll find that rifle and we’ll get the killer!”
The days changed to weeks and the weeks to months, and still the search went on. By the first of May, 1955, more than 100 persons had been talked to. Dozens of ponds were dragged. Dozens of hardware stores were checked. Still no luck.
Then Sunday afternoon, May 8, Larry Wacker, 12, of Salem, was playing along the banks of the Pudding River near the small community of Pratum. The spot was five miles by road from Kaser’s farm. Suddenly the boy pulled what he thought was an iron rod from the river. It was a .30-30 rifle.
The boy excitedly turned to his companions, Neil Beutler, 11, and Roger Beutler, 8, and said, “Look what I’ve found!”
The gun was crusted with rust, but young Wacker managed to work the lever. The gun ejected an empty cartridge. A live cartridge still was in the chamber.
The boys rushed to the John Ross home where their parents were visiting. When the fathers examined the gun, they immediately notified the authorities.
Sheriff Young examined the rifle, and was elated. “There is a good possibility this is the murder weapon,” he declared.
The gun and cartridge were immediately sent to the crime laboratory and now the officers redoubled their efforts, this time to determine whether anyone had seen the dark-colored murder car in the vicinity of the Pudding River bridge at any time after the shooting.
On May 12, Sheriff Young received a telephone call from the crime laboratory. When he hung up the phone, he turned to his co-workers and said:
“That’s the death weapon. We’ve got the gun now, the right one. Now all we’ve got to do is prove ownership.”
When District Attorney Brown was informed, he said, “I don’t think we’ll have any trouble showing that Oveross had that gun. I’ll call the grand jury into session again.”
He was even more certain later that afternoon when the sheriff called him to report that a witness had been found who claimed he had seen Oveross near the Pudding River bridge the night of the murder.
On Monday, May 16, 1955, a new grand jury heard the now mountainous pile of evidence in the case. This time police were able to produce a murder weapon. Because of their exhaustive canvass of hardware and sporting-goods stores, they had reason to believe that Oveross had bought one like it; the district attorney was able to present ballistics findings that were not available for the first grand jury.
The jury did not take long to indict Cap Oveross with first-degree murder.
Then the officers got a shock. Oveross was not in Silverton. He reportedly was somewhere in northern California visiting relatives. Defense Attorney Williams, however, was unconcerned. He told police he was certain his client would return home as soon as he heard of the indictment.
The attorney was correct. A few days later, at Fairbanks, Alaska, where he had been working on a construction job, Oveross walked into the office of the U. S. Attorney and identified himself. He had just learned of the indictment and was anxious to prove his innocence. Sheriff Young and Sergeant Huffman soon went to Alaska to accompany the carpenter back to Silverton.
Oveross still maintained the same calm as before when he was returned to Salem. He still declares he is innocent and is ready to clear himself of the murder charge in court.
NOTE: The names James Lowrie and Paul Hatfield, as used in the foregoing account are fictitious to protect the identities of the persons innocently involved in the investigation.
NOTE: Obviously, Paul Hatfield was really Dan Gilham.
And that’s it for the second magazine. Next up, the third magazine, Real Detective.
In every era, there is always some form of mass entertainment masquerading as news or true stories. Today we have reality TV and endless forms on the internet. In the 1950s, there were at least three “true crime” magazines that carried the ‘story’ of Ervin’s murder. Each of them sensationalized the story to a certain degree, some more than others. They all re-arranged the sequence of exactly what happened (in order to make a better story for their readers), made up dialog they couldn’t possibly have known (as if they had been in the room while the police were interrogating people), and sometimes just got the facts wrong. So, the stories in these magazines should be read with that in mind. These should be the last resort for information about the murder and thrown out entirely when they contradict the police reports.
With that said, here’s the first of them: Official Detective Stories from the August 1955 issue. This would have been written in early June of 1955, as Cap Oveross was returned from Alaska in the very last days of May, and the trial started just over three weeks later, June 21, and this magazine story ends with Oveross awaiting trial. Magazines are generally “post-dated” by about 2-3 months in an effort to keep them on the newsstands longer, so this issue would have appeared in either June or very early July 1955.
The cover is apparently the east-coast publisher’s idea of what shoplifting in Mexico looked like: let’s throw in a few pots and baskets, a few seemingly Mexican wraps or blankets, what looks like a businessman in a poor-man’s Halloween costume, and what appears to be a Doris Day want-to-be as a southern senorita. I guess they didn’t have much of a budget for their cover art…
Detective Stories – August 1955
“Me, I Shoot. Anything Wrong With That?”
Ervin Kaser “Associated with Other Women” the Bill of Particulars Said. Who Could These “Women” Be? Was This Connected With His Slaying From Ambush Near Silverton, Oregon?
The first shot brought Emanuel Kellerhal upright in his bed. He and his wife had retired at 10:30 Thursday evening, February 17, 1955. It was now 25 minutes later.
The second shot took him to the window, where he could see across the highway to the ranch home of his neighbor, Ervin O. Kaser.
A pair of headlights illuminated the driveway, garage and front of the Kaser house.
The third and fourth shots exploded and Kellerhal could see the dirty orange flame of the blasts, for they were fired just beyond his window from a car parked in his own driveway.
A car motor roared. Tires whined and there was a hailstone sound of gravel being thrown by the spinning wheels. And then the silence of night that comes to those who enjoy the seclusion of country living.
The Kellerhal and Kaser hop-growing ranches are in the rural district of Evergreen, three miles south of Silverton, Oregon.
“What is it?” Mrs. Kellerhal asked.
“I don’t know,” her husband answered, still peering out of the window. “I can see Kaser’s car in his driveway. Somebody must have been shooting at him.”
“Shooting at Mr. Kaser? Why?”
Kellerhal turned away from the window and picked up his trousers.
“What are you going to do?” his wife demanded.
“I’d better get over there and see what’s the matter. Nobody’s moving around. Maybe Kaser was hit.”
“Please don’t,” Mrs.
Kellerhal said. “Call the police.”
“You call them.”
“No, you call. It’s their business. Please stay here until they arrive. If some fool is shooting out there –”
“They’ve gone. I saw them leave.”
“It makes no difference. Call the police and we’ll wait.”
Silverton Marshal Harley DePeel was the first to arrive. He was followed shortly by Marion County Deputy Sheriff R. C. Boehringer. Within a few minutes more sheriff’scars and State Police rushed into the area.
The Plymouth sedan owned by Kaser was parked almost beside the front door of his neat, nearly new white frame cottage. Its motor was stopped but the headlights and the dome light inside the car were burning.
Kaser was slumped on the right side of the front seat. Blood had spilled onto the floor mat.
A hole was drilled through the glass of the front door on the left side of the car. It probably had been made by a shot that had struck Kaser in the shoulder and penetrated his heart, killing him instantly.
Three other holes made a tight pattern in the frame of the front door, the post and the forward edge of the rear door.
Boehringer eyed the 75-yard distance across the front yard and the highway to the spot where Kellerhal said he had seen the other car. “Whoever he was, he was a marksman,” the deputy said. “That kind of shooting would win a medal on a target range.”
Kellerhal was questioned. He could not name the make of the car he had seen. “All I can be sure of is that it was a dark color. Maybe it was a Ford, but I couldn’t be certain.”
And he had not seen the killer, nor anyone else in the automobile. “Its lights were off and I didn’t notice it until I heard the third and fourth shots. I was looking over at Kaser’s place. Then this other car sped away.”
“How long after the shots?”
“There wasn’t any pause?”
State Police Patrolman Robert Dunn was trying to determine if enough time had elapsed for the person who fired the shot to put down the gun and then start the car.
“It didn’t seem like any time at all.”
“Then two persons must have been in the car,” Dunn surmised. He radioed State PoliceHeadquarters and asked for a road block around the area. All cars would be stopped and their occupants questioned. The officers would search each automobile for the gun that had been used in the slaying.
Why had Kaser been ambushed?
The police officers readily realized that the killing had not been motivated by robbery. This was something personal between the victim and his slayer.
No attempt had been made to burglarize Kaser’s house or rob his person. The killer had fired the shots with the sole purpose of getting Kaser.
Kellerhal could tell the officers little about his neighbor, although Kaser had lived in the area all of his life. About four years previously, he had built his home, where he, his wife and a step-daughter had lived.
“His wife and daughter moved out about six months ago,” Kellerhal said. “We understand Mrs. Kaser is getting a divorce. I think she’s staying in Salem with the daughter who’s been married since.”
“Has Kaser been living here alone?”
“What about the divorce?”
Kellerhal said he and Kaser never had been on intimate-enough terms to discuss the dead man’s private life. Although most farm families in the district were close and visited one another frequently, the Kasers had remained aloof from the community.
“Since his wife’s been gone,we’ve seen some men there at nights. We guessed maybe they were having a poker party. I’ve heard talk that Kaser liked to gamble.”
This could be a motive. The officers quickly seized upon it to ask more questions. They wanted to know if Kellerhal had recognized any of the men who had come to the house in the evening.
Kellerhal said that while he had paid no particular attention to the visitors at Kaser’s house and the men usually arrived after dark, he was almost certain they were not residents of the community. “Otherwise, we’d have heard talk.”
“How about the cars? Do you recall any in particular?”
Kellerhal could give no help on this point either.
About this time, Sheriff Denver Young and State Police Sergeant Wayne Huffman arrived on the scene. They examined Kaser’s car without disturbing the interior for Doctor Homer Harris, a pathologist, and Ralph Prouty, a criminologist with the State Police Crime Laboratory, were on their way.
Of the four shots that had entered the side of the car, two had gone out through the front windshield. One had struck the windshield and lay spent on the floor. The fourth was in Kaser’s body.
Sheriff Young directed a search for the two slugs that had gone through the windshield. A second search was started for any shell casings at the place where Kellerhal had seen the bullets fired.
However, no casings were found. Either the slayer had used a gun that did not eject its empty shells or he had fired from inside a car and the ejected shell casings were still in his auto.
Inside Kaser’s car was a sack of groceries on the back seat and the dead man clutched a carton of cigarets in one hand.
Apparently Kaser had turned on the dome light of his car and slid over to the right side of the front seat, preparatory to lifting the sack of groceries, when he was shot. The light inside the car had given the slayer an illuminated target.
Sheriff Young wanted the answer to one question right away. Had the killer been waiting in ambush for Kaser to return home, or had he followed Kaser’s car?
To the Sheriff, the answer meant a difference in the theories that could be formed for a motive.
Anyone planning the crime in advance, which would indicate a motive of long standing like a grudge, would have known where Kaser lived and his habits. He could have waited for Kaser to come home.
But if Kaser had been followed, then the motive might be a spur-of-the-moment decision, based on something that had happened during the evening. The slayer could have followed him from wherever he had been during the evening and used the first opportunity to send home the lethal slug.
Kellerhal had said that he heard Kaser’s car turn into the driveway across the highway and had heard the second car follow it within a few moments.
“I though the people in the second car also had gone into Kaser’s place,” Kellerhal said. “I remember thinking at the moment that Kaser probably was going to have another of his poker parties.”
Doctor Harris and Prouty arrived during this questioning. They recovered the spent slug inside the car and Prouty examined it carefully.
“I’d guess it to be about a thirty-caliber rifle slug,” he said. “It’s pretty badly mushroomed, but we may find enough land and groove marks on it to identify the gun if it can be located. We’ll also have a chance from the slug in the body.”
Photographs were made of the scene. The officers went over the area where the killer’s car had been parked in hopes of obtaining imprints of the tires but the graveled surface foiled this attempt.
A few minutes later Marshal DePeel came up to Sheriff Young and Huffman with some information. “I’ve been canvassing at the edge of town,” he said, “and I heard that two fellows who live out on this road left town at about the time that would bring them past here when the shooting took place. They are Ray Jackson and Fred Barto.”
“Do you know anything about either of them? Anything that might connect them to a feud with Kaser?”
“I know both of them. They’re nice fellows with families. We can go out and talk to them and then, on the way back, I guess we’d better notify Kaser’s relatives, his brother and his mother.”
Kaser’s brother, Harvey, had a ranch about a half mile down the road. His mother also lived near by on the old family farm. Kaser’s father, who had passed away, had been one of the pioneers in the section. Two other brothers also lived in the area; a fourth brother lived in Bay City and a sister in Salem.
“The Kasers are a fine old family in this section,” DePeel said. “Folks aren’t going to take it kindly that Ervin has been killed.”
“It’s a break that he’s an old-timer,” Huffman said. “Maybe from all the friends and relatives we can come up with a motive.”
The officers went to see Ray Jackson first. The young farmer was already in bed. Barefooted and in his nightshirt, he invited the officers inside, expressing shock at the news that Kaser had been slain.
“What time did you get home?” Huffman asked.
“Ten fifty-five exactly,” Jackson declared.
Huffman’s eyes narrowed at the answer. Kaser had been killed at exactly 10:55, according to Kellerhal.
“How are you so sure of the exact time?”
“I looked at the clock when I came in.”
“Where were you tonight?”
“At the wrestling matches.”
DePeel said: “They weren’t over by that time. I was at the matches when I got the call Kaser had been shot.”
“I know. But I promised my wife I’d be home by eleven and I left before they were finished.”
Jackson claimed that he had seen nothing unusual along the highway on this way home and had not noticed any cars parked at Kaser’s place as he went by. If his story were true – and the officers had nothing to disprove it –he must have passed before Kaser and his slayer had arrived.
At the Fred Barto ranch, Barto told the officers that he had seen Kaser’s car parked in the driveway at the time he had gone past.
“I saw the headlights and slowed down, thinking he might be backing out,” Barto declared. “But the car was standing still so I went on by.”
Kellerhal had told the officers that he had not heard any other cars come down the highway after the slayer’s machine had left. But he might have been telephoning at the time Barto had passed, or Barto might have scooted by before the shooting.
Someone already had telephoned Harvey Kaser with the news that his brother had been killed when the officers reached his home and Harvey was getting ready to leave.
He drove to the scene with the officers while Huffman and Young questioned him. He claimed he knew of no reason for anyone to kill his brother.
Questioned about the divorce, Harvey said the only dispute still involved in the separation of his brother and sister-in-law was over a property settlement.
“Their marriage just didn’t work out,” Harvey declared.
Pressed for any other possible motives, Harvey recalled that his brother had been involved in a dispute with a bulldozer operator who had done some work on the ranch.
“This man didn’t do the job the way Ervin wanted it done and Ervin said he wouldn’t pay him unless he did it over. The guy refused and threatened to sue Ervin,”Harvey said. “I heard he threatened to punch in Ervin’s head.”
The man was Sam Lord, a contractor of Salem, the state capital, only fifteen miles from Silverton.
Huffman radioed State Patrol Headquarters in Salem to have Sam Lord questioned at once to determine the man’s movements during the evening.
Harvey was asked about the poker parties at his brother’s home.
“Ervin liked to play cards, but the stakes weren’t big,” he replied. “I doubt if that could have anything to do with this. All the fellows he played with were his friends.”
Harvey gave the officers the names of a number of the players. They would be questioned later to determine if any quarrel had developed as the result of the card games.
Back at the scene, Docter Harris and Prouty had concluded their investigation of the physical evidence and had the victim removed from the car. With Harvey’s permission,the body was taken to a mortuary in Salem where an autopsy would be performed in the morning.
The road blocks around the Evergreen area were maintained throughout the night and although several hundred cars were stopped and searched and the occupants questioned, no one was found who could be considered a suspect in the slaying.
One lead was reported by a motorist who said he had seen a dark Ford sedan speed through a stop sign at the Paradise Alley intersection on the way to Silverton at about ten minutes after the slaying. It might have been the fleeing killer but the motorist had been unable to get the license number and no further trace of the car could be found.
At a conference in the morning, after working through the entire night, Sheriff Young, Deputy Amos Shaw, Sergeant Huffman, Patrolmen Lloyd Riegel, Stan Barron and Robert Dunn, and District Attorney Kenneth E. Brown formed plans for continuing the investigation.
“The case amounts to this,” Huffman declared. “Kaser was killed by somebody who had a pretty strong motive. You don’t follow a man and mow him down with a rifle unless you’ve worked up a big hate.”
The others agreed. But how find the motive? How solve the killings?
“There are enough riflings on the slugs to identify the death weapon,” Prouty said. “Find the motive and that will give you the killer. The gun will be the evidence to convict him.”
It was that simple.
But where to start?
The report from Salem on Sam Lord was negative to the extent that police had been unable to find the man. He had left on a job three days previously. Friends thought he had taken his equipment to The Dalles area but did not know the exact location.
A rumor came in to the officers that despite Fred Barto’s statement that he and Kaser had been on friendly terms, the men had quarreled over marketing their crop the previous Fall.
Barto had no alibi from the time he had left Silverton until he had reached his ranch. By his own admission, he must have passed Kaser’s house around the time of the slaying.
Deputies were assigned to investigate further on the rumor. Two rifles owned by Barto were brought in to be tested by ballistics experts at the State Crime Laboratory.
The pending divorce between the slain man and his wife was examined to determine if it could hold a clue to the motive. The charges and counter-charges were examined.
They found the complaint by Mrs.Mary Louisa Kaser charged her husband with cruel and inhuman treatment, staying out all night on occasions and sometimes remaining away from home for days without explanation. She further charged that he had failed to support her, refused to buy food or clothing for her, refused to associate with her friends and locked her and her daughter out of their home.
The charges also declared that Kaser had associated with other women and had refused to speak to her, refused to share information about family finances and had struck and beat her.
Mrs. Kaser requested an undivided half interest in his property or a cash settlement of $15,000.
In his answer to the suit, Kaser had denied all of his wife’s charges.
The action had been started on August 6, 1954, and was scheduled to be heard in court on March 17,1955.
The officers drove to Salem, where Mrs. Kaser was living with her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Boyd.
She was asked about the charges she had made in her divorce complaint, particularly those stating that Kaser often had stayed away from home overnight and had associated with other women.
The widow, an extremely attractive woman with close-cropped curly hair, wearing ornamented glasses and dangling earrings, declared that all the charges she had made were true.
“Who were the women he assocaited with?” Sheriff Young asked. “you did not name them in the complaint.”
“I don’t know. That’s why they weren’t named.”
“But if you don’t know, how can you be sure that he ever saw any other women?”
Mrs. Kaser hestitated a moment. “You ask his brother, Harvey,” she said. “He knows. Or Cap Oveross. I haven’t any proof but I’m sure of it.”
Huffman told Mrs. Kaser, “You don’t have to give us proof. But you can tell us whom you suspect. It could be a motive for the killing.”
As Mrs. Kaser hestitated again, Young pressed: “Why would his brother Harvey know about it?”
“Because Harvey is married to Edith Knight, and she has a twin sister Ethel, who was married to Casper Oveross. They all went to school together, the Kaser boys, the Knight girls and Casper Oveross.”
But who is the other woman?”
Mrs. Kaser shrugged. “When Ethel and Cap – that’s what they call Casper – were divorced last year, Ethel got the family ranch and custody of their two children. They lived just a quarter of a mile down the road from us. Ethel has been living there with the children ever since while Cap moved in to Silverton.”
That was all she would say except, “Ask Harvey or Cap Oveross.”
The officers drove back to Evergreen to talk with Harvey Kaser. On the drive, they discussed possible angles.
“It sounds interesting, but when you analyze it, we don’t have much there,” Huffman pointed out. “The Overosses are divorced and everything is final. The only one with a motive from this would be Casper Oveross. And since everything is settled, his motive isn’t very strong.”
Harvey Kaser and his wife, Edith, were questioned about the possibility of a triangle existing between his brother and the Overosses.
“I think both Mary and Cap had some ideas about that,” Harvey declared. “I’m sure it wasn’t true, but Cap kept saying it until he got Mary to believing it.”
“Did your brother go to see Mrs. Oveross frequently?”
“We’ve all grown up together,” Harvey explained. “We’ve been friends since we were little kids. Ethel is my wife’s twin sister. We all live right here near each other and we’re bound to be good friends.”
“Whether there was any truth in it or not, could Casper Oveross have believed your brother was responsible for breaking up his marriage?” Huffman asked bluntly. “The truth would make no difference to a man blinded by jealousy.”
“Yes,” Harvey answered. “Cap blamed Ervin. I even heard that he threatened Ervin. But Cap was born right down at Rocky Four Corners on Abiqua Creek. We’ve all been like one big family since we were kids.”
The officers next stopped to see Mrs. Oveross. She repeated what they had heard from Harvey Kaser. The suspicions concerning herself and Ervin Kaser, she declared, were unfounded.
But she did admit that the suspicions were held by both her former husband and Mary Kaser.
“I don’t see any reason, though, why Cap would still have it in for Ervin,” Mrs. Oveross declared. “our troubles have all been settled.”
Casper Oveross was found in a small cabin in Silverton, where he lived alone. The former farmer, who has a local reputation as a hunter and woodsman, had turned to carpentry after his divorce.
“I filed the divorce and I got it,” the slender, gum-chewing man told the officers. “But the judge gave her the kids and our home out at Evergreen. I got twenty acres near Abiqua Creek.”
“You were sore at Ervin Kaser,” Young said flatly.
“I’m not denying it,” Oveross replied. “I said he broke up my marriage. And I’ll say it now. He used to be my best friend. We’ve gone hunting and camping together and we were neighbors for about twenty years. But just because he’s dead is no reason for me to change my mind. I think he was a dirty skunk while he was acting like my friend.”
“We also heard you’re an excellent marksman,” Huffman said. “And I see you have a number of rifles.”
Cap Oveross tucked his plaid shirt tighter into the beltless top of his blue jeans and smiled. “I guess it’s natural I’d be suspected.”
“Where were you last night?”
“Was anyone with you?”
“Nope. If I’d known somebody was going to kill Ervin, I’d have invited half the town in so’s I could have had a good alibi. But I didn’t know it.”
Oveross gave the officer the three hunting rifles that he owned so they could be test fired at the Crime Laboratory. “These are all my guns,” he said. “I never owned a thirty.”
“Who do you think killed Ervin?” Young asked Oveross. “You knew him well. Maybe you can help us.”
Cap chomped on his gum for several seconds. Looking squarely at the Sheriff, he said: “Let me put it this way. I don’t know who killed Ervin, but to be truthful with you, even if I did I reckon I wouldn’t tell you. In my book,he got what was coming to him.”
Meanwhile, additional patrolmen brought into the area by Huffman were aiding the Sheriff’s deputies in searching the entire area around the Evergreen district on the theory that the slayer might have disposed of the death weapon in one of the many ponds, creeks and wells in the district.
Ponds had been dredged on almost every farm to collect the Winter rain and hold it to water the cattle in Summertime. Rowboats, carrying officers with grappling hooks and magnets, covered all the ponds along the road from Silverton to Stayton, in the direction Kellerhal had seen the killer’s car take from the slaying scene.
The poker-playing pals of Kaser were questioned. No game had been planned for the night Kaser was slain. All denied that any arguments had cropped up during the card games that would provide a motive for the killing.
At the request of Sheriff Young, those who had been at the poker parties surrendered their rifles for ballistics examination.
Numerous other acquaintances of Kaser were asked to turn in their guns for the ballistics test.
Sam Lord was located at The Dalles. He readily admitted that he and Kaser had had violent differences concerning the job and payment for the work Kaser had hired him to do. But Lord had an airtight alibi of being in The Dalles at the time Kaser was killed.
The rural community seethed with excitement over the first slaying that ever had been committed in that area. Rumors kept the officers busy investigating leads that all eventually petered out to be only gossip.
On Sunday afternoon, Mrs. MaryLouisa Kaser moved into the farmhouse where her husband had been slain. This started more rumors, but the widow explained that she was the sole heir of her husband’s estate and she intended to live at the farm.
Funeral services were conducted for Ervin Kaser in Silverton at two o’clock on Monday afternoon. The town was jammed with ranchers who put aside their farm tasks and came dressed in their Sunday best to pay their last respects. So many persons attended the services at the funeral home that a loudspeaker was placed outside the chapel so the huge crowd gathered on the lawn and in the street could hear.
But no arrest had been made.
The newspapers from Salem, which carried daily headlines on the slaying, had been hounding Sheriff Young, District Attorney Brown and Sergeant Huffman for facts on the progress of the case.
Young gave out a statement that made new headlines on Monday afternoon. The story quoted him as saying the officers had a suspect and as soon as a certain piece of evidence was uncovered, an arrest would be made.
When the other officers questioned Young about the story, he told them: “It’s half true. The piece of evidence we’re looking for is the gun.”
“How about the suspect?”
“I’m hoping the killer will see that and run. We’ll keep our eyes open. If anyone leaves the area in a hurry it could be the slayer thinking we are getting close to him.”
But no one ran.
Search for the rifle used to kill Kaser continued, for both Young and Huffman felt certain the slayer would attempt to get rid of the damning evidence.
“Whoever it is, he knows we have the slugs that can prove it’s the death weapon,” Huffman reasoned. “And he’s smart enough to conceal it because he took pains to make sure the cartridge casings couldn’t be found.”
“And the the chances are he got rid of it shortly after he killed Kaser,” Young added. “He’d know we’d put up road blocks. The logical place would be in one of the ponds or creeks near the Kaser farm.”
Deputy Shaw said: “We’ve just about covered all of them. But if he took time out to bury it, he may have us whipped. We’ll only get it if somebody should stumble onto it.”
One strong clue to the slayer was the tight grouping of the rifle shots into the car. Only an expert marksman could make a pattern so small. Oveross was an expert marksman: the officers investigated him as closely as they could Tuesday morning. A neighbor near the farm Oveross owned at Abiqua Creek reported that Oveross had a rifle range on his property.
“I’ve seen Cap out there practicing the past few weeks,” this neighbor said. “He’s been using up a lot of ammunition and it’s a long way until hunting time. Maybe you’d better ask him about it.”
Before requestioning Oveross, the officers went out to the farm to look over the rifle range. It had a number of old logs as backstop for the bullets.
Criminologist Prouty carefully dug some of the spent slugs from the logs. He came up with several he identified as .30 caliber.
“Cap told us he didn’t own a thirty-caliber rifle,” Young said. “those three guns he gave us were of a different size than this.”
The slugs from the rifle range were rushed to the State Crime Laboratory where they were put under a comparison microscope with the spent bullet found in Kaser’s car and the one removed from the body. Enlarged photographs were made so that every mark on the lead could be examined closely.
“I have found enough similarity in the samples to indicate that the bullets taken from the rifle range might have been fired from the same gun used in the killing,”an expert declared.
Was it enough to charge Oveross
with the slaying?
“We have a motive,” Young explained to District Attorney Brown. “Cap thought Ervin had broken up his marriage. We have the evidence of the slugs.”
“I’ll issue a warrant,” Brown said. “we can bring him in and see what he says about it. But, of course, we can’t prove yet that Oveross owned such a gun. Anybody could have used his range.”
Oveross was arrested at the home of a relative.
“You guys are nuts,” Oveross told the officers. “I didn’t kill Ervin. I’ll admit I think he deserved killing, but I didn’t do it.”
Told about the slugs found at the rifle range on his farm, Oveross said: “I don’t know nothing about ballistics. Maybe you can tell if a gun shot a certain bullet.But it don’t mean it was my gun, or I did the shooting.”
“You were seen out there practicing.”
Calmly chewing gum, Oveross shrugged. “Sure, I shoot all the time. It’s my sport. Some men play golf. Some men bowl. Me, I shoot. Anything wrong with that?”
“You are going to be charged with killing Kaser.”
“In that case, I guess I’d better keep my mouth shut,” Oveross said. “I know you got good reason to suspect me, so it’s no use me helping you any. All I’m going to tell you is I didn’t do it.”
District Attorney Brown announced that Oveross refused to take a lie-detector test and quoted him as saying: “I’m just going to sit tight. You can’t prove a thing.”
Brown filed a charge of murder against Oveross in the court of District Judge Edward O. Stadter,Jr., and called a special session of the Marion County grand jury to hear the evidence that had been collected.
On Monday, February 28, he summoned seventeen witnesses before the jury.
At the end of an all-day session, the jury ruled that Brown did not have sufficient evidence to indicate Oveross should be held to answer the charge in court. Brown withdrew the charge before the district court and Oveross was released.
Brown announced immediately, “If I get additional evidence later, I’ll call the grand jury into session again.”
Pressed by reporters for a further statement, he said: “We have no other suspects at this time. All I can say is that the Sheriff and the State Police will continue to work on the case until it is solved.”
What could be done?
“Find the gun,” Brown said.“Find the gun and we’ve got a case. It may not be against Oveross, but if you can find the gun, I can make a case against whoever owns it.”
In a rural district like Evergreen, nearly every farmer has several hunting rifles. The .30-caliber gun is a favorite for hunting.
A tedious canvass began of all sporting-goods stores in the area to find out if anyone had purchased a .30-caliber rifle recently. It was a nearly hopeless task, but no other leads were open.
The gun might have been bought locally, or it could have come from Portland or some other big city. It might have come from a mail-order house or even have been bought secondhand.
Weeks went by and the excitement in the rural community that had experienced its first slaying failed to subside. It was the prime topic of conversation at every gathering.
The curious still drove out on the the highway and paused to look at the house where the widow of Kaser was living and to examine with interest the spot where the slayer had waited in ambush to slay Kaser.
Rumors grew rather than died as time lapsed. Sheriff Young and Sergeant Huffman constantly were investigating some new angle that was brought to them because of talk in the area.
Then, on Sunday, May 8, Larry Wacker, a Parrish Junior High School student, and two chums, Neil and Roger Beutler, were fishing in the Pudding River not far from the junction of the Pratum-Silverton-Sublimity roads, about five milesfrom Ervin Kaser’s farm.
Larry found a rifle in the river. An empty shell was in the chamber and a live shell in the magazine. The boys took the gun to the home of John Ross, where their parents were visiting. The Sheriff was notified.
Young asked the boys and their parents to make no mention of the rifle until he was ready to release the news.
The gun was rushed to the State Crime Laboratory. Ballistics tests, according to the police, gave definite proof it was the rifle that had fired the slug that killed Kaser.
Next came the serial numbers on the gun. Could it be traced to the last owner – the person who had used it for a killing?
The factory was called. Records there supplied the name of the wholesaler in Portland who had received it, way back in 1948.
The wholesaler had a record of the dealer to whom it had been shipped.
The hardware store dealer did not have a record of the purchaser of the serial number of the gun. (Records are required only on handguns.) But the owner of the store recalled that he had received only two guns of this caliber and model during that entire year, since the wartime shortage of sporting guns still existed then.
He had sold both of these guns shortly after he had received them in Jarnuary of 1949. One of the purchasers, according to the police, had been Casper Oveross.
Young first questioned the man who had purchased the second rifle. This man still had his gun.
Casper Oveross had disappeared from Silverton. After being freed from the murder charge by the grand jury, he had announced he was going to Southern California to work. He was believed to be in Santa Barbara.
District Attorney Brown once again called a session of the grand jury. He presented the evidence including the new facts about the gun and this time the jury, on May 16, returned an indictment charging Oveross with the murder of Kaser.
An all-out search was started for him. On May 21, the Territorial Police in Fairbanks, Alaska, located Oveross working as a carpenter on a construction job. He was arrested on a bench warrant issued from Salem, Oregon, charging him with first-degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
“I didn’t even know they wanted me again,” Oveross said. “I wasn’t running away, I just happened to land a good job in Alaska. I told them once I wasn’t guilty, but I guess they won’t be satisfied until I go to trial and prove it.”
At the present time, Oveross has been returned to Salem from Alaska and is being held in custody pending further legal action. Watch the department entitled “Up to the Minute” in a future issue for the results of this action.
The names of Ray Jackson, FredBarto and Sam Lord in this story are fictitious.