Verde Heritage By Glenda Farley, Cottonwood, AZ Local historian Glenda Farley guides us on a journey back in time to discover fascinating moments that make up our Verde heritage and history.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE; Dramatic Trial.
"EARL NELSON, DEFENSELESS, CONVICTED OF CLARKDALE BANK ROBBERY YESTERDAY: Bandit to be Tried in Near Future for Assault and Intent to Commit Murder --- To be Sentenced Monday. JURY ASKS LENIENCY FOR THE YOUTH."
"In one of the most dramatic court scenes ever witnessed in Yavapai county superior court, Earl Nelson, 23-year-old Oklahoma 'bad man,' was convicted of the robbery of the Bank of Arizona at Clarkdale on June 21, yesterday after the jury had deliberated only 28 minutes."
"Nelson was arrested after he and his partner, William [Willard] Forrester, had held up and robbed the bank of approximately $50,000, the United Verde Copper company's smelter payroll, and were making their escape."
"Nelson will be sentenced for the crime on Thursday. He will be the second to pay the penalty for that rash act, William [Willard] J. Forrester, his companion, having been killed at the wheel of the stolen car by a well-aimed .45 bullet from the gun of Sheriff Jim Roberts, 70-year-old peace officer of Clarkdale."
"The convicted criminal never lost his tight-lipped frown or worried look during the hearing. He gave a quiet faletto recital of the robbery and battle."
"NO DEFENSE: Although John E. Russell was reported Saturday to have taken over the defendants side of the case, no defense was present for the hearing."
"Much interest was shown when County Attorney Patterson dumped $19,430 in currency and gold coins on his table. This wealth, a balance left after the bank had paid off the smelter men and sealed up the rest, was recovered loot and its gunny-sack cover had the stains of the life-blood of Forrester liberally sprinkled on it."
"MANY WITNESSES: Deputy Sheriff Roberts told how he heard Dave Saunders, cashier of the bank, yell that the bank had been robbed and waving a gun fired two shots. He also told how Nelson had fired at him and in return opened fire on the criminals, that he knew if he wanted to stop the car that he would have to hit the driver."
"After the car had hit the guy wire and the school house, Nelson attempted to run, but was caught by two men, who heard Roberts call for their assistance. He took Nelson to the Clarkdale jail after returning the money to the bank. He relieved Nelson of a knife and a shoulder holster that was under his shirt. The shirt was removed, the left side being a mass of blood from his companion's shoulder."
"A. H. Favour, vice president of the Bank of Arizona, who identified the officers of the Clarkdale branch bank, was one of the first witnesses. Pearl Pylart, Salvation army girl, who was used by Nelson as a shield in entering the bank, was also called to the witness chair. Other witnesses were: H. R. Herner and J. C. Ryan, who were among the customers; Grant Bennett, who testified at some length about the getaway; R. J. McBride, Clarkdale teacher, who saw the car run wild down the street; and Fred Fogle and Charles Galbraith, who caught Nelson, after the car had been stopped and he made his spectacular run."
"Young Dave Saunders, school boy, told of the incidents he saw. R. C. Southard, for 15 years teller in the bank, told the story in detail as he saw it."
"Saunders, cashier of the bank, was not able to appear in court because of illness."
"EVIDENCE: Among the articles of evidence exhibited by County Attorney Flynn and Patterson was the bloody sack of currency, a Krag-Jorgensen old type army rifle, a repeating shotgun, two six-shooters, a sawed off repeating shotgun, several coils of fuse, a straw hat with blood on the crown and a suggestive hole drilled through the brim, three boxes of assorted cartridges, a pair of pliers, a steel jimmy, a bloody canvas tarpaulin, and the stolen car."
"JURY TAKES ONLY ONE BALLOT: The jury, after one ballot and 28 minutes of deliberation, returned to the court room and R. J. Aitken, foreman, read the convicting verdict and stated the jury's belief that Nelson should have leniency because of his 'youth, inexperience, and bad company he was in.'"
"SENTENCE THURSDAY: Judge Lamson set Thursday morning for passing sentence. Nelson can be given all the way up to life imprisonment."
"ANOTHER CHARGE PENDING: The criminal has another charge pending against him. Because he opened fire on old Jim Roberts he will be tried for assault and intent to commit murder."
"JURY: The jury that tried the first bank robbery case in Yavapai county included the following men: R. J. Aitken, foreman, F. G. Cox, Walter Lathan, J. D. De Shane, William Caver, Hans Borg, James Hawley, D. D. Sinclair, E. N. Gibson, Dave George, John D. Ogilvie and George Sherman."
(Verde Copper News; Tuesday, October 2, 1928; page 1, columns 6-7, and page 4, column 4.)
See: The Verde Independent; "1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE;" December 7, 9, 12, 13, 2012.
See: The Verde Independent; "JIM ROBERTS: He died with his boots on;" by Jon Hutchinson; December 3, 2013.
THE FIRST BANK ROBBERY IN YAVAPAI COUNTY will be reenacted in Clarkdale on December 14, at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. The Clarkdale Historic Building and Home Tour begins at 9 a.m. This year the tour includes historic buildings and 4 homes.