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State v. Serna

Supreme Court of Arizona

November 21, 1949

STATE
v.
SERNA

Judgment is affirmed.

L. Alton Riggs, of Tempe, attorney for appellant.

Fred O. Wilson, Attorney General, Joseph Pyle Ralston, Assistant Attorney General, F. Preston Sult, County Attorney of Pinal County, Florence, Robert Murlless, Deputy County Attorney, Pinal County, of Florence, attorneys for appellee.

Stanford, Justice. La Prade, C. J., and Udall, Phelps and De Concini, JJ., concurring.

OPINION

Stanford, Justice.

[69 Ariz. 182] An information was filed in the Superior Court charging defendant with the crime of the murder of one Catherine Gohn on or about the 29th day of December, 1947. The defendant, a Mexican laborer, worked at the Superstition Service Station several months prior to said date. Said service station is located about one mile in a southeasterly direction from Apache Junction

Page 456

on U. S. Highway Nos. 60-70. On Sundays defendant served as a jockey at the [69 Ariz. 183] Apache Junction Race Track. On Monday, the 29th day of December, defendant failed to report for work, but stayed at the Apache Junction Cafe during the morning and early part of the afternoon. The evidence shows he drank some beer during that time and attempted to purchase from the bartender, Fred Morrison, a certain race horse. Morrison offered to sell the horse for the sum of $ 400. The evidence further shows that defendant went to see his employer, S. R. Oldham, at the Superstitution Service Station in an attempt to get the money with which to purchase the horse, but failed to procure it. About 3 P.M. on said date defendant appeared at Thompson's Service Station and Cafe, located approximately one half mile west of Apache Junction on the main highway to Phoenix. He purchased a cup of coffee, drinking only a portion of it, then left, returning within a few minutes after another customer, who was in the cafe, had gone, and sat down at his place at the counter. Presently he arose and pulled his gun with his left hand and motioned to the proprietress, Mrs. Fairy Thompson and her two daughters to go into a small room. He then said "This is a stick up", but Mrs. Thompson told him that he was kidding and he said "No, I mean it, put your hands up", which she did. Mrs. Thompson then said that he grinned and pulled the trigger. The bullet from a 38 caliber pistol struck her in the breast and she ran out the back way with her daughters and started in the direction of Apache Junction, but she was picked up by a passing motorist and taken to the Mesa Hospital. Her two daughters continued to Apache Junction and reported the shooting.

At about 4:30 P.M. the same day defendant appeared at King's Ranch, about ten miles east of Apache Junction, and asked Paul Marchand, a cowboy acquaintance, to drive him to Safford, Arizona. Defendant stated to Marchand that he had just shot two women. Marchand testified that because he saw a pistol in defendant's hand, he told him he would take him to Safford. He told defendant to go down the road and drive his car into the bushes and wait there and that he would pick him up as soon as he was through watering some sick horses; that defendant drove away in the car; Marchand finished watering the horses and went to the ranch house and got a rifle and with Mrs. King, his employer, drove to the highway. As they reached a place called Sand Tanks, being east of Apache Junction, they contacted the officers in a police car coming from the direction of Apache Junction. The two cars stopped at the Sand Tanks Station and he advised the officers of defendant's whereabouts. Leaving Mrs. King at Sand Tanks he went with the officers to apprehend defendant. As they approached the place where defendant was instructed to hide they found that he had already been captured by officer Earl Parrish, who was with other officers.

When captured defendant had on his person a wallet containing approximately $ 30, and a camera, both of which belonged to the deceased Catherine Gohn, and a 38 [69 Ariz. 184] caliber H & R revolver. The officers also determined that the automobile in which he had been riding was the property of Mrs. Gohn. The officers then went to the Gohn home, which was located a few hundred yards to the rear of Thompson's Service Station. There they found evidence of a violent struggle and blood stains throughout the house. On a bed they found the body of Catherine Gohn.

From investigation and an autopsy it was found that deceased had been beaten with a sharp object which could have been the barrel of a revolver, and that she had been shot. A ballistics expert testified that the bullet taken from deceased's body and the bullet embedded in the wood of Thompson's Service Station were in all probability fired from the revolver which defendant had in his possession when apprehended.

The case was tried in Florence, Pinal County, Arizona. A verdict of guilty of the crime of murder of the first degree and fixing the penalty at death was rendered, and the judgment and sentence of the court was that the defendant was adjudged guilty of the crime of murder of the first degree and that he be punished by infliction of the death penalty.

Page 457

Notice of appeal to this court was given from the judgment of conviction and sentence, and from the order denying ...


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