The Shipboard Murder Case


Yes. Let's talk about the ship murder case a couple of minutes.


To go back on the killing of George W. Alberts. The ship was laying at Encinal Terminal in Alameda, and we got a call from the police department. We had Lloyd Jester, and George Hard, I guess it was--maybe Flint and George Hard--anyway they were working on the homicide detail at the time, with Charlie Wehr, assistant district attorney. We had no notice of this, except the police department said, "The chief engineer of the ship had been murdered!


Yes. Now you had a big part to play in this case, didn't you? You were the man that got all the information, weren't you?


Yes. I got all the confessions. Yes.

So anyway, in this deal as I remember it now, we were working on the board of equalization graft scandal--I think it was 1934-35. We had the grand jury going--may be confused a little bit as to the time--and we had a lot of things to do, and I hadn't paid too much attention to this murder case because it was a police matter.

The ship was there, and this man had been murdered in his room, and they had no suspects. What they did was to block off anybody leaving the ship. The fellow who found the chief engineer, Alberts, was a fellow named Roscoe E. Slade from Mobile, Alabama, and he was the first assistant engineer. A rather sloven type of an individual, peculiar in a way. He was a nice fella, but he didn't have much oomph, and he was just day by day going along, you know, and he wasn't any flash plate or anything else.


Anyway, in this case Slade and the chief engineer had had a bad argument. Alberts was an anti-union man. He was a company man, as they call it. Slade and he weren't seeing eye to eye over some situation that I don't think was really fully developed, because Alberts died. Slade said they'd had an argument, and the ship was getting ready to sail, about four o'clock. Slade was going to quit, but if he quit the ship they wouldn't have had a first assistant engineer. So they went up and talked to the captain, Pete Odeen, who incidentally lives right over here in Bennet Valley. I see him every once in a while. He was with a different company later, with the Alcoa Steamship company.3

But anyway, the chief assistant, Slade, went up to see the captain, told him he was going to quit, and the captain said to him, "Well why do that now? Why don't you go up north with us--why tie the ship up."

Captain Pete Odeen's a nice fellow, an easy-going Swedish fellow. He said, "Why don't you just--what the heck--go along, and then if you come back, and you don't get along, you can quit then, but you won't tie the ship up, because it runs into a lot of money, tying the ship up." "Well," Slade said, "All right."

Shortly thereafterwards they found Alberts in his room, stabbed. The femural artery in his leg was cut in here. He was stabbed a couple of times, and he bled to death there. Somebody came in there, I forget whether it was Slade or not, to talk to him about something, and they found him dying on the floor.

Well, immediately it looked as though Slade had done the job, see? Of course it would be obvious, on, you might say, reflection, to see that this would be a foolish thing after the argument for him to do this. Alberts was a big man--he could throw Slade right overboard--he was a tremendous big fellow. Lived in San Jose.


Before I was assigned to the case Mr. Warren said to me, "What the hell are you doing? Aren't you over there on that case?" I said, "What case?" Well, he says, "Hell, you know they killed a chief engineer over there. My God, this is terrible! Get over there! Get somebody over there!" I said, "Okay."

We got right over, and Wehr and the rest of them went over and started taking statements of everybody on the ship. Well, hell, I had the grand jury, I had other investigators, and as I said Helms wasn't too much help on these things. He was a wonderful man, but he was always available to get his picture taken! What I mean was, he wasn't engineering the thing. We got over there right away, and of course the ship was tied up. They took Alberts' body off. Then we begin to try to find out who the hell killed this guy.

It only comes through contacts. The Marine Firemen's Union--they call it MFOW4--was headed by a fellow named [Earl] King, and King was one of the prime figures in this case. He had an assistant secretary by the name of Murphy, Albert M. Murphy.

Murphy was a very fine fellow. He was a former University of Washington football star, and had broken his leg playing football. He'd gone to sea, and he became a dedicated labor man. King was a Communist.

There was a fellow named [Ernest] Ramsay, Red Ramsay, who was secretary of the Fish Reduction Union, but he'd been the patrolman for the Marine Firemen prior to this, and he had a business down on Fisherman's Wharf. A patrolman is the man who goes around and visits the ships and checks on union people. He was patrolman for the Marine Firemen's Union. At this time [Harry] Bridges and King and all these people were organizing a pretty closed corporation.


Was the Marine Firemen's Union a Communist-dominated union?


Well it was, at this time.



When King was head?


Not, I would say, controlled. Dominated to a great extent, because of the heads of it.

Then we had a fellow down there who worked in the engine room who was a member of that union named [Frank] Conner. Ramsay had been down to the ship before, and Conner was complaining about Alberts. Conner was complaining about Alberts' condition and treatment. Now this all develops later, so I'm coming 'way ahead of the full picture leading up to it.

Ramsay had gone over to the pier in Oakland, right near to the coal docks there, and had gone down to talk to Alberts. He went down there purposely, and he brought over [Ben] Sakovitz and [George] Wallace--these are the fellows who committed the murder. He [Ramsay] had gone over there purposely to have Conner put the finger on Alberts. But Alberts had left the ship, so they couldn't do it, and then the ship moved from there to Encinal Terminal. While the ship was at Encinal Terminal they came back and put the finger on Alberts and Wallace and Sakovitz killed him.


Yes. They were only supposed to beat him up, weren't they?


Well, the story was--it developed in the trial--that they were sent over there to tamp up on him. "Tamp up" could mean anything. If you tamp on the ground with a tamper, you're forcing the ground down. You could tamp on a guy's grave, too, and keep him buried, you see? But at any rate these guys went over there to "tamp up" on him, and they say he was so big, apparently, that this thing got away from them.


I see. Now how did you find all this out?


I'll tell you. I knew Harry Lundeberg, secretary of the Sailors' Union, through waterfront connections. I had associations with seafaring people, and I knew he was head of the Sailors' Union. I knew other people over there in the Masters, Mates and Pilots Association.

Through checking around, we heard that Murphy, King's assistant, knew all about this thing. This information came from a fellow from the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, whose name was Matthew Guidera.


Now we knew some of these things. We had people in Southern California checking on the ships. We sent Inspector Jester down there. Mr. Warren sent Leonard Meltzer back East to interview a fellow who was supposed to know something back there, which never really amounted to anything.

But this fellow, Matthew Guidera, who appeared to be a homosexual type of a fellow--and to prove this would only be mainly by surmise from his actions and so forth, and his talk--Guidera came over. A reward was offered, and he wanted to collect the reward. The steamship owners were putting up a reward--I forget the amount--it was five or ten thousand dollars.


I think maybe ten.


Being associated at that time with certain people who were in the Marine Cooks and Stewards, who were very close to King and these people, and to Murphy, he knew that he could get some information that would assist us, if he would get the reward. Hugh Gallagher, who was then the head of the Matson Company--the steamship owners got together and they put up this money. Now these fellows had flew the coop. They were gone. Sakovitz and Wallace had disappeared, King had disappeared, Ramsay was gone.


Sakovitz was never found, was he?


Oh, yeah.


Oh, he was found.


Yes. But we never were able to get him into custody. He just disappeared again.

Well, anyway, Sakovitz disappeared, and of course we didn't know who it was. We didn't know anything about Wallace at that time either. So we arranged with Guidera that he would team up and associate with Murphy. They both lived in the Terminal Hotel, had rooms together. They roomed together for awhile.

The story is this: that King then turned all this affair over to Murphy. He wanted to wash his hands of it so he could blame Murphy. Now Murphy wasn't a Communist, you see. In those days they called them "Comicals"--he wasn't a Comical.

He never was associated closely with it. Murphy had nothing to do with it, but King wanted to be free of it, so he never could be accused in this thing. So he turned this over to Murphy.

When any communication or anything come in, he'd tell these fellows (Ramsay, Conner, Sakovitz, and Wallace) to get ahold of Murphy. Murphy had the key to the safe deposit box of the union under his name in the Seaboard National Bank down there. He would go over to get the money from their slush fund that they had, and he would send the money to these fellows to get them on their way.

Apparently what Sakovitz did, he flew the country. Wallace tried to get across the border. He was writing Murphy for money because he couldn't get across the border. He spoke broken English. He was afraid of being captured, so he wrote letters to Murphy, and Murphy kept those letters to show to King, and Guidera knew he had the letters. But Guidera couldn't get the letters because they were in Murphy's room. So I said, "Well, there's only one thing to do, let's go over to his room."


You could use any means of getting evidence?


Evidence was legal, no matter how you got it. Providing you got it! If you didn't get it, you could be arrested for burglary or some other crime. [Laughter]

So anyway, I wanted to get Murphy because a letter had just come and I wanted to make sure we got that letter, or seen it. I arranged with Guidera to talk Murphy into going to a show up on Market Street, a particular show. There was George Hard, George Henningsen, myself, and a couple of others we had in the deal, Louis Neiland, and some Alameda policemen.

Now in these rooms that Murphy had there was the old-fashioned sliding doors. They had a sitting room, and the door that went into the bathroom had another door going into Guidera's room. I knew this, because he had told me about it, he drew me a diagram of it, and I didn't dare to go up there without knowing where we were going, because I'm going into the Terminal Hotel down on Market Street.

In order not to get into any difficulty with the San Francisco police, I notified the chief's office, Captain John

Engler, who was the chief's secretary. I had him come down later. We let him in the back door. When they saw that we were tied into a labor union investigation, they became concerned. Whsst! They got out, because San Francisco is a labor town. They didn't want any part of it. It was an Alameda County case.

But they knew we were there. So if anything came up or happened in the San Francisco Police Department's inspector's bureau, or with anybody else, they'd call them off. They would be "hands off," you see. The San Francisco Police Department didn't want to get tied up into a labor movement investigation if it wasn't their case.

Anyway, I then got into Murphy's room--used skeleton keys. We installed the microphone under the desk and had to run the wire from that room where they'd be talking and where we could hear what was being said.

[Draws diagram] Say this is the elevator shaft coming up here. There's a hallway down here, and it intersects into a hallway here. Here's the elevator door, and there was a hallway up here. Then there's a room in here, and a room in here and a room out here. Down this hallway--this went down here like this--came this way and up this way. There was a door here went into a room in here, there was a room backed in here from a door in this hallway, there was a room backed over in here from that hallway, and then here was Murphy's rooms. Like this.

Now as you came into this room in here this would be the sliding, folding door. Then as you came through here this would be right out on the street here--this would be Market Street. As you came through, here was a bathroom, you see, like this, and on this side was an outside toilet. There was a door here that went into Guidera's room.

What I had to do--we occupied this room. We rented this room--I had somebody go in and rent it, so we knew this room was going to be empty. Now I had to bring the microphone from here into that room. How am I going to get through there.


I don't know.


He had a table here, see? So I drove a nail under the edge of this little table, tied a string around that microphone, soldered the wire and mike together and then I ran the wire down the leg of this table so you couldn't see it, then ran it under the carpet. The carpet was sewed together at this point and I had to take a button hook and had to raise up each seam of the carpet and lace it all underneath there, all the way across the room, then had to run it down, outside, and under the edge of the carpet. Now every time the elevator went up, anyone could look down and see me. Anybody coming out of these doors could see me. [Laughter]



Then I had to lace it all the way down here, around here, and get it in to where we were. This was when most of our people would be working. I had to work in here with Henningsen, sweating our heads off, because Murphy could come home at any moment. He would quit at five o'clock, and this was after four.

I no sooner got the wires in here and just got it working, when Henningsen turned around and tripped over the wire and broke the wire. Well, this put us in a hell of a fix, right in here. All the wire had to be pulled out again.

In the meantime we had to find Guidera and get him to get Murphy out and keep him out, to go to a theater to give me time to get it all in again. Then we went back and completed the job.

Now, when they come back about nine, we had Florence Trombas, and she's another one could tell you about Earl Warren and his strict policies. She was one of the district attorney's stenographers, and she was a good shorthand reporter. Miss Trombas was also a reporter in the [Methias] Warren murder case. She took a lot of the statements in that case.


I've never heard of her.


The district attorney's office can give you her number. She lives on Maude Avenue in San Leandro. Miss Trombas was a lovely little person.

We finally got the microphone in. Then it had to be tested. We had the microphone on a loud speaker.

Meantime, we had found the letter. I immediately sent the letter out with one of our fellows, and had the letter photostated. Then we put it back in the drawer, so it was there.


It was in Murphy's bedroom, in a locked drawer. We had Guidera quiz Murphy about this letter, and what and when he has heard from Wallace.

Now Murphy was a dedicated labor man. He was loyal to the union. He didn't believe in communism, but he did believe in being very liberal, see? He was against the shipowners. He would never have gone for the murder; I'm satisfied of this. He might have gone for the roughing up, probably, but not anything as bad as murder.

The upshot was, when I had the police up there, Murphy and Guidera were talking. Some of the language was just nonrepeatable. These sailors were talking in language such as: "Mothers this, and mothers that, and the mother so-and-so," and all filthy language. Florence Trombas was taking it all down in shorthand. The police came in there and heard the conversations, but she never whimpered. It didn't bother her at all. She had taken many, many statements. She was very accurate and very rapid.

These police officers didn't remain very long. About eleven o'clock at night, when they [Murphy and Guidera] said, well, they got it all covered and they were going to go to bed, I said, "George [Henningsen], from what we heard, we're going to go and arrest Murphy. We're going to hold him for conspiracy to commit murder. The only thing we can do is just lock him up. But we gotta get a statement from the fellow. We gotta do a lot of work on this thing, so you just bear in mind all that went on, remember everything. Florence, get everything down!"

We went up and knocked on Murphy's door. Now Murphy didn't know that Guidera was the undercover man and that he was going to get the reward. Guidera had to stay under cover so he wouldn't be known. We may want to use him later.

Murphy said, "Who is it?" I said, "Mr. Murphy?" "Yeah." I said, "I got some important information I want to tell you." "Okay."

He's a big guy, and he's lame. He opened the door, and I said, "My name is Jahnsen, and I'm lieutenant of inspectors in the Alameda County district attorney's office, and I want to inform you I'm arresting you for the murder of George Alberts."


He said, "What?" He started to shut the door. [I said,] "No, you're not going to shut the door, because this place is covered. You've had it." He says, "I don't know anything about George Alberts or any murder or anything else." I said, "You don't?" "No," he said. I then said, "Mr. Murphy, sit down and cool yourself, and I'll tell you some of the things you know about Alberts' murder and about many other things, and about your safe deposit box and paying these guys off."

His face turned white. Guidera's sitting there. Murphy said, "I want you to pay attention to what these officers are telling me. I want to use you as a witness," he said to Guidera. Guidera never answered him.

I said to him, "Mr. Murphy, tonight you told whoever this fellow is (keeping Guidera under cover)--you told your friend here how you sent the money down to Mexico, or down to Southern California to Wallace, and that Wallace is now in El Paso, Texas, and you also have a letter in your top drawer which I have a photostatic copy of and which I took out of there this afternoon, from Mr. Wallace asking you for the money, and which you went to the safe deposit box and got the money and sent it down--"

Murphy said, "How the hell do you know this?" I said, "Mr. Murphy, you don't think we're foolish do you? You can't commit murder and expect to get away with it, Mr. Murphy. I want to be honest with you, I want to be fair with you, and I want you to recognize too that you better be fair. I can't make you any promises, but one thing I can assure you, that if I were you I'd tell the truth in this whole thing."

He got up and he walked up and down the room, stomped up and down the room. He walked around and he looked at me, and he gave me a lot of tough looks.

I said, "Mr. Murphy, looks don't bother me. I've looked at tougher guys than you. That won't bother me. The only thing I can tell you is, you had Mr. King here this afternoon. You had him here the other day, and you discussed this thing--discussed a lot of it." He'd already told this over the microphone, and Miss Trombas had it in the book.

I says, "This plan was very well laid, Mr. Murphy, but you don't know that Mr. King is putting you on the spot, and you're gonna be held for the murder. Except for one thing,

Mr. Murphy--just one thing will probably save you. If you just reach under that table under there, and see what you find, then you can tell Mr. King that we have him down on the record, too."

So he reached under, and he found the microphone, and said, "My God!" His face just turned purple and it turned red, and it turned white. I said, "Everything that you fellows have talked about is down. You want to hear it? Miss Trombas, will you come in and bring your book in? I want you to read what we just said." So she comes in. By this time we had a couple of other inspectors present.

So she reads the whole thing to him.


Complete with all the "mothers--"?


Yes. I then said, "All you have to do is bring the other books in for the last few days. They're in the vault now and locked up and we can't bring you those. But I think that's pretty good evidence, isn't it, Mr. Murphy, that you're involved?

"One thing you can do, Mr. Murphy, if you want some advice, I can take you over to Oakland to the district attorney's office, and Mr. Ralph Hoyt, I feel sure, will take a statement from you of the truth. If you want to give him a statement of the truth, now is the time to give it. Of your connections, your associations, King's connections, all these other fellows' connections, including Wallace and Sakovitz. If you want to give also what Red Ramsay gave, you can give Mr. Hoyt the whole story. Now is the time. It's now after midnight. I'll call from your room here, and I'll ask Mr. Hoyt if he'll be pleased to come down and give you this opportunity.

He looked at Guidera, and I said, "I don't know who this fellow is," (keeping Guidera under cover) "but I'll ask him. `Do you think that's a wise thing? You heard all this, you've been sitting here. Do you think it's a wise thing? Would you advise Mr. Murphy not to do it?' Who's gonna hold the bag? Who's gonna prove that-- King is gonna deny it, and he's gonna blame you. You got the safe deposit box, you've got the keys, you paid the money, we have copies of the letters. Who's gonna die? You discussed it here tonight; we have the record. We're gonna hold this fellow Guidera here as a witness to this thing. He's gonna go to jail too." He [Guidera] says, "I think I'd go. If I were you, Murphy, I'd go."


I got on the phone and called Ralph Hoyt, and I sent for a fellow; they brought him right down to the district attorney's office, got some more reporters right down there. I took Murphy right across the Bay on the Creek Route ferry, in those days; and when we got there, Mr. Murphy told the whole story. Nobody knew about it.

We returned Murphy again, in the morning, but I said, "Murphy, I want to tell you now, don't you go any place with King's people." I didn't want him to go any place because I didn't want anything to come out and then have him revert, and change his story, like Conner did, see?

I said, "The thing to do is don't go any place, because these guys are going to take you out and they're gonna try and dump you, the same as they did Alberts. They know you know everything; they're gonna try to dump you. God only knows how far this is going, because we've got some other information that isn't gonna be good. So don't go out with them."

He had to be back there to be in his office at eight o'clock in the morning. We got him back over at six o'clock. He went to his room, and he went down to work. I said, "Here's the number. You call me if anything happens."

He called me, about ten o'clock. He said, "Some of the beef squad want to take me out to the beach for lunch." I said, "Don't go! Don't go! Remember what I told you!" It just happened to dovetail in, what I had warned him about. It wasn't planned. I just had a surmise that maybe they would go out to lunch. Murphy might loosen his tongue, Murphy might go away, and we might lose Murphy. I didn't want to take the chance. Murphy says, "I'm afraid--" Murphy was pretty much sure that they were gonna do something, so Murphy had to watch his step every day from there on in.

After Mr. Hoyt got the story, we then decided we'd better arrest everybody we could. We'd better get King and we'd better get these other people. We'd better get Ramsay and do it right away, because we had this statement. He already swore to it, and it was notarized. It hadn't been transcribed, but it was there. He couldn't back off of this. Hoyt was a witness, the secretary--we had a court reporter on this one--and he couldn't get away from it.


We got together and we went over to San Francisco. We wanted to arrest King of the Marine Firemen's Union. Well, we had to go into the Firemen's Union hall to arrest a fellow, and this could be a lot of trouble. We decided the best thing to do would be to arrest Murphy. Told Murphy that we were going to come over, his being cooperative, and arrest him, but the purpose of it was not to think we were double crossing him, but it was a part of the plan, which he knew. Then we'd arrest King. Then we'd go down and arrest Ramsay, so that word wouldn't get around, and these fellows wouldn't fly the coop. Wallace and Sakovitz had gone now.

We went over to the Marine Firemen's Union. We got ahold of the San Francisco Harbor Station to a lieutenant who was there and took him along with us, and told him we wanted to serve this warrant on this fellow Murphy for murder without going through the inspector's bureau. We felt that we didn't want to involve the San Francisco police in the total investigation, but we wanted them to be along because we were going to make the arrest in San Francisco. Not that we didn't have the power to do it, but this would be good policy. It would let them in on the thing, see.

When we went down, we went in there, and I went up and asked for Mr. Murphy and Mr. King. Mr. Murphy, as prearranged plan, was at his job at that time. A couple of police officers and a couple of our inspectors were with me.

I went up and I told Murphy that I was arresting him, and going to take him into custody, and we wanted to interrogate him, and also we wanted to take Mr. King in and talk to him about Murphy. We took them right over to Alameda County and we began taking statements from King and Murphy. In the meantime, I went right down to the Fish Reduction Union, and arrested Ramsay.


They don't have some automatic right to have a lawyer, at this point?


Oh, no! They didn't have a lawyer at all. They didn't get a chance to get a lawyer. They were not given any chance until after they were booked in jail. They would have had [George] Andersen, [Aubrey] Grossman and [Herbert] Resner. They were the union's lawyers, whom King wanted. These lawyers were representing these various unions. We knew this, so we didn't

give them a chance to get a lawyer at that time. There was no purpose. There was no purpose in giving them a lawyer.

They asked for their lawyer. We said, "Sure. You can phone your lawyer." In the meantime, they got talkative. Some of them talked, some of them didn't talk.

Now Red Ramsay was a Canadian citizen, and he came to this country. Got in the unions, and I'm satisfied some of these labor leaders today, without mentioning any names, interceded with the governor's office on his behalf to get him a pardon, because he was going to be deported from this country after he got out of prison. He was going to be deported to Canada, if it hadn't been for the fact that he changed his story and confessed. Now when Ramsay confessed, he told us the whole story and he confessed to the whole thing, and then he became afraid of the treatment he would receive at the hands of his former associates, so he double-crossed us and changed the story again.

Now to go back to the statements of Wallace--we didn't have Sakovitz. Sakovitz became a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, I think it was--the Communist group in Spain.


Fought in the Spanish civil war.


Yes. And then he went on over to fight with the French Foreign Legion in Algeria. Then he came to Italy to join the American forces, and when he did that, while he was there, his fingerprints were sent in and the FBI checked them and they learned they had Sakovitz, who was on their wanted list. They were bringing him back to stand trial, and while he's on the ship he disappears. At sea! Never been heard of since.

Maybe they didn't want to bring this up again and have Sakovitz also appear as a witness against King et al. Maybe somebody felt that Sakovitz needed a bath, and they put him in the Atlantic Ocean. At least that's what we felt happened to him.


Now, these men were subsequently paroled, weren't they?


By Governor Culbert 01son.


But coming back to Wallace now, we knew that Wallace was down and trying to get across the border at Brownsville, in Texas. We knew that the money had been sent to him. George Hard and Inspector Lloyd Wendland of the Alameda police department flew down, and we telephone down there and talked to the law enforcement people in Brownsville. We knew where this fellow was going to call for this money, to have him shadowed.

He went from Brownsville--I think it was from a little below Brownsville, and then he went up to Brownsville to see if he couldn't get a ship out of there. He didn't get the money, so he decided to take a freight train out. He was in the freight yards when they arrested him. By this time George Hard and Wendland were there with the Brownsville police department. It wasn't Brownsville--he was at this other place.

He was apprehended, and I knew that Wallace would talk and could be handled if treated kindly. At least I felt very sure that if the thing was handled properly, Wallace would talk, because he was scared to death. He was afraid that he couldn't get across the border and get away. Sakovitz had deserted him.


Let me just ask you: I thought it was easy to get across the border. Was it hard at that time?


Well, I wouldn't say it would be easy. He didn't have any money. What was he going to do over there with no money? Naturally going across the borders he could walk over, at Tijuana and other places, but he had to have money.

So he got to Brownsville, and he was waiting for the money. He wanted to get a ship and to get out. But if he could go across the border, he'd be in Mexico, but where was he going to get a ship out of Mexico. So he'd have to get one out of Brownsville. How is he going to ship out of Brownsville? Now he must have heard and knew these arrests had been made. Hard and Wendland phoned us about these circumstances.

I said to them, "We'll send a car down to meet you. You fly from Brownsville and we'll pick you up with a car, and we'll bring you across from Nevada into California. We'll bring you in and then you stop some place along the line like Visalia, or some other place, and phone us, on the way.


"What we want you to do is, when you meet him"--and I cautioned the fellows that were leaving here in the car to meet them what they must do. While Wallace was in the car, while returning him, is to go across the desert blowing their sirens. "Make a lot of noise and always be looking back, and informing Wallace, 'Nobody's going to hurt you, nobody'll take you away from us.' "

He didn't have any money, so they were to buy him anything he wants. "Buy him some clothes if he wants them," [I told them.] "Buy him a necktie if he wants it. Buy him a suit if he wants it. Buy him tobacco, cigarettes. Treat him with all the kindness and the protection that would overcome any fear he may have. Show him love and affection and get him over his fears, and this'll be fine. We'll tell you what to do when you phone us in California.

"Make sure that he gets the impression that if anybody is trying to catch him and trying to take him away from you, that you're dodging these people and you're getting away. Particularly in the desert where nobody's going to worry about the sirens being blown."

They did this very thing. When they got up--I think it was at Modesto, or some place along in there, I don't remember now--they phoned us and we told them to meet us at the White-cotton Hotel in Berkeley. I said, "When you get downstairs, and you are ready to come up, phone our room upstairs, because I'll have it all set up." Mr. Ralph Hoyt was there and there was a table there. Doris Bristol and Hilda Honnett, I think, were the stenographers we had there. Hilda Honnett, I think, is available in Oakland.

I said, "I want to meet you as you come out of the elevator. I'll meet you at the top of the elevator. Don't talk to him at all. Don't promise him anything. Don't tell him he'd better confess. Don't say a word. All you gotta do is just show him anything he wants. Buy him a good dinner. Buy him anything he wants. Costs you $100, okay. We'll approve it.

"Just go ahead. Treat him right, so nobody can say that he didn't get good, fair, kind treatment all along the line. Feel sorry for him. Don't say anything about Sakovitz, don't say anything about Wallace, don't say anything about Murphy or anything else."


Now psychologically this would have an effect on his mind. He would say, "Well, these fellows are protecting me; they're my friends."

The minute he got off the elevator, I said, "George, how are you? It's good to see you back!" I put my arm around him. I said, "Come on in. I've got everything all set in here. I want you to talk to Mr. Hoyt, the assistant district attorney." I said, "Ramsay has told the whole story. We'll read you the story that Ramsay told and how he confessed the whole thing. Murphy confessed the whole thing. King and these guys are trying to blame you and Sakovitz for the murder. Mr. Hoyt's here to take your story, so you can tell him the whole truth."

I said, "Here's Mr. Hoyt. And this is Miss Bristol, one of our secretaries. George, tell them exactly how you got over. Remember how you got to the ship, how you left there, and how Ramsay come over there and met you when you were over there at Encinal Terminal, after you worked Alberts over." I had to give him a little lead on it. I said, "Tell Mr. Hoyt the whole story."

"All right, all right," he said. He spilled the whole story of how they went over and how they killed Alberts and everything else. He said, "Sakovitz killed him. I didn't kill him. I tamped up, but Sakovitz went in and he knifed him, see." So he told the whole story, right down the line, which is a matter of record.

We said, "That's fine. Now we're going to take you to dinner." In the meantime we took him down to the district attorney's office and we had Dr. Hamlin and Dr. Black. Dr. Black was the medical director of Alameda County and Dr. Hamlin was the county surgeon, two fine men.

We took him down and had them talk to him. They chatted with him. They were head of the county psychiatric set up. They were satisfied the man was sound, psychiatrically. So we then locked him up in the Piedmont city jail for the time being. Then we put him in the county jail, kept him isolated, so nobody could get to him.


Conner had fled up to Seattle, and the FBI arrested him up there for us. At this time Conner kept on saying he wanted his own lawyer, he didn't want any other lawyers.


Who's the one that Public Defender Shea defended? Was that Ramsay? Willard Shea I guess defended one of them.


He defended Wallace.

Conner said, "I want my own lawyer." There was a lawyer up there in Seattle--it's in the record--and this lawyer came down. We'd locked Wallace up in the county jail. He wouldn't talk to anybody. He'd talk to his lawyer. In the meantime, King and Ramsay, and their lawyers, Andersen, Grossman and Resner and these fellows, were outside. This lawyer Conner had was talking with them. They didn't want him in the case. They wanted the Marine Firemen's Union to pay the money to these--

Wait a minute. It'll come to me now. I'm just getting it, too. Not Levinski, but something like that. Maybe it was Levinski.

Anyway, to get his confession--the thing was coming up in court. I think it was before Judge [Fred V.] Wood, and they were down there holding some preliminaries about bail and one thing and another. We had Conner in an office out of the county jail, over at the district attorney's office, and we brought him over there because this attorney wanted to talk to him in private. We said, "We'll give you any office you want. If you're afraid they might be wired, take any one you want. We assure you they're not wired. Mr. Warren wouldn't stand for that. Take his office, take any office. You can pick any one you want. Pick a courtroom, or anything. We'll put people outside. You don't have to worry about this."

Conner won't talk. He's got a cane and he had the flu or a bad cold. So I had him look out the window, and he saw the lawyers talking out there with King's, Ramsay's, and Conner's lawyers--these other lawyers--talking out there. He said, "Will you go down and tell my lawyer that I want to see him? He hasn't saw me, and I want to see him."

I said, "Well, you look out the window and I'll go down and tell him." They were just--oh, heck, it couldn't have been any further than that house out there. He saw me go up

and talk to them. I told Levinski, I said, "The fella wants you to see him. He wants to talk to you." He says, "Well tell him I can't see him now. When I'm ready I'll talk to him." I said, "Well, okay. He's up there in the window." I said, "You see him looking out the window? He's looking at you." He give 'im the hand.

Conner was disturbed because he wasn't getting anywhere with these Commie lawyers. So Levinski brushed him back, he didn't want to talk to him then. I came back, and I said, "Well, you saw what he did, he didn't want any part of you, he didn't want to talk to you. He said when he was ready he'd talk to you. They're gonna be down in court. You're going to go down in court now for an arraignment and he's going to be there and he'll talk to you there."

When we took Conner down to court, Levinski was sitting in the jury box. This is the old courthouse. Conner says, "I want to talk to you." Levinski says, "When I'm ready to talk to you, I'll talk to you. I don't want to talk to you." He was annoying him. Which was very poor psychology on the lawyer's part.

The judge then said there would be no bail, they'd commit him to the custody of the sheriff. I said, "Well, let's go up." We took him out the side door and took him up the back stairs to the DA's office.


This is Judge Wood, who's the judge at this time?


Yes. I asked Conner if this was his lawyer and "if he's gonna help you." Conner replied, "Yes." I said, "This fellow is going to let you hold the bag. To me it don't look very good. If he was my lawyer, he'd better talk to me before he talks to anybody else."

Conner says, "You can't tell me that." I said, "Well, what did he say to you in the courtroom? Why isn't he up here? Look, this morning at ten o'clock you saw him out the window, he waved to you, and now he didn't want to talk to you even in court." I said, "We're going to take you to lunch, and we'll see what happens after lunch."

We took him up to Spiro's restaurant on 14th Street. It's Valentines, now. We sat down, and Myron Harris, who was taken into the defense by one of these people to defend him--who is

a good criminal lawyer in Oakland--he was sitting there eating with some other people. They see us with Conner.

I said, "Oh, hello, Myron," and we're talking, and they saw this guy with us, and I say, "We have one of your friends, here." Myron couldn't deny this. He saw us eating with Conner. He saw us buying him a steak dinner. I said, "We're just feeding one of your friends, taking him out to dinner." When we got back to the DA's office, I said, "Well, we're gonna have to lock you up now. We can't keep you any longer for your attorney, Mr. Levinski. Mr. Warren's in his office. If you'd like to go in and tell him the story, you've got your last chance. You can tell him." He said, "All right. I'll tell him."

He got up and I took him in, and I told Mr. Warren, "Conner is going to talk. He's gonna tell you the whole story. We'll get somebody in to take this statement down." Mr. Warren said, "How do you know?" I said, "I know he will. I'm satisfied this man's at the point where he's gonna talk. He'll tell you the whole story."

Conner came in to Mr. Warren's office and sat down, and told Mr. Warren the whole story. It was taken down in shorthand. In order to prove that Conner was not given the so-called third degree, not harmed in any way, we had Dr. Black and Dr. Hamlin come down and examine him. He had a bad cold. Going to make room for him out at Highland Hospital, and make sure that he had the finest treatment.

They (Hamlin and Black) interviewed him at the district attorney's office and they interviewed him again at the hospital. He told them the whole story, which never came out in court. He repeated the whole confession to them, the whole thing. They took him out to Highland Hospital. He was under the care of the physicians, the doctors. He came back and later stood trial and his evidence was presented. And that's how we obtained Conner's confession.


So it's really true then, if you are fair to people and you treat them decently they eventually come around and tell you the truth?


Well, I am sure they would.


I knew if we hit the right thought and the right line of thinking with these people, the same as we did in these other cases, they would tell you the truth. Not only in one, but in many, many cases I got statements and confessions and never put a hand on a person. Treated them fair, treated them right.


How was it in the office, when Warren was boss. Was he very good to his employees as well? I mean, was there good promotion and things like that, as well as being fair to the defendants?


Was he fair to them?


Well, you know, was it easy to get a raise--


Well, let me say this: I think he was very just and fair; and let me say this: he didn't believe in trading. Now over in other district attorney's offices, and you were speaking about San Francisco, they would accept pleas during Matt Brady's time to lesser offenses, but Warren wouldn't. That's one of the reason the San Francisco police department wanted to settle cases they had an interest in in Alameda County. There was no bargaining in Warren's office.


I see. Because they wouldn't accept lesser pleas of guilty to settle the cases.


That is correct. Where it warranted taking a lesser charge, Warren would take it. Where you would be going on a shoestring, it would be better to do that, but it wasn't a trade-off just to get a plea. Warren's record of convictions were great, but with a lot of district attorneys where they claimed one hundred percent or ninety percent convictions, they were pleas of guilty to lesser offenses.

Or many of the DA's were, in those days--not to single out any particular district attorney, or anything. Mr. Al Bagshaw was another DA who wouldn't trade off for guilty pleas to lesser offenses. No, he tried all these criminals that were in San Quentin, committing murders over there, and crimes in the prison. Most district attorneys didn't do that. Some of them did.


I understood that almost everybody took lesser pleas at that time.



No, I don't think so. I think depending upon the evidence, the witnesses, and the facts, sometimes. Why put the county to an expensive trial when the same results could be accomplished by accepting pleas of guilty.


I was going to ask you about how Judge [Frank] Ogden gets to replace Judge Wood. Why did that happen? Afterwards there's a lot of criticism in the paper, because Odgen had come out of the DA's office.


I don't think there was anything out of the ordinary in that at all. Judge Wood was handling a lot of these cases, and I think Judge Wood was very happy to get away from so many of these cases. Judge Frank Ogden was a very fine judge, a very honorable man. His time in the district attorney's office wasn't too long, and he was in both the civil and criminal departments. He naturally aspired to be a judge in the superior court. I don't think there was any reason for him being assigned to criminal cases. This assignment would have been done by the presiding judge--


Of the superior court, yes.


--[who] would assign these cases.