Witness to a Murder

My first post for this blog… You’d think I’d talk about a story that happened in my family.  But, no…

  • The date: 15 Feb 1909
  • The time: 7:00pm
  • The place: Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA
  • The victim: Frank Righetti (a newlywed of about a year)
  • Suspect 1: Elijah Benjamin Nuchols of Oxnard, CA
  • Suspect 2: Unknown?

After stepping off of a street car within a block and on his way home, Frank was accosted by two men. Frank claimed he was being robbed (the police, however, believed this was a revenge shooting) but was shot before they took anything. The first shot was in the stomach, followed immediately by a second shot to the small of the back as Frank lay on the ground. He later died from his wounds.

Several people saw the shooting, including George and Aldis Webb of 1278 Terrace Place.

And this is how I found out about this story.  While researching Mariel's side of the family I came upon an article that shows her grandfather as a 14 year old boy was a witness to this murder.

San Quentin Prisoner Photos of E. B. Nuchols
San Quentin Prisoner Photos of E. B. Nuchols

Within 20 minutes the police had E. B. Nuchols under arrest after giving evasive answers to their questioning and a .38 revolver was found on him. They took him to the hospital where the victim identified him as the shooter.

Later, Nuchols (17 years old) confessed to the shooting but claimed he was the only one involved even though witnesses saw another man run off.

Nuchols’ lawyer wanted to show that the boy’s stature (he was 6’2” tall) had something to do with his mental capacity.  They delayed the trial to get word back from his home in the east (turns out he came from Tennessee). His brother indicated that he was of an “even disposition” (coincidentally, a couple weeks later the brother’s room was broken into with several items stolen).

Three months later, it became official that the lawyer would use insanity as a defense. But, after obtaining the depositions they needed, he changed his mind and recommended a plea of guilty.

Ultimately, E. B. Nuchols pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to life at San Quentin prison.  His prison number 23634. He was paroled  January 7, 1919.

Research on Find A Grave found him having been married and having at least one child before dying in 1979.

Some of the articles can be found here.

Since I found the original story, I’ve wondered if Mariel’s grandfather (Aldis) or great grandfather (George) testified.  Unfortunately, my research has come up empty on that account.

Now this particular story doesn’t have much to do with my family history – but it is the type of research I love doing.  Check back every once in a while and you might find something else of interest.

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