February 29, 2016

1956: Teen Delinquents Beat Blind Man; Murder a Veteran

The headline in the paper spoke to the shock of the city: 

It began as seven males were drinking at the Prescott Cafe. Three of the males, two 17 year-olds and one 18 year-old, were members of a rebel teen gang. (*1)

Perhaps they desired a change of scenery; perhaps they were asked to leave, but all seven decided to drive together to Phoenix. However, just south of Mayer, the car suffered a flat tire. (*2)

The three gang members decided to take the opportunity to rob the four other men. Soon, a 50 year-old former patient at the Whipple VA laid dead in a pool of his own blood. A second, blind man was in the County Hospital suffering from serious injuries including a possible fractured skull. (*1)

In a rare move for the day, Yavapai County Attorney, Jack Ogg, would seek to try the three teens, Joe Mungia and Joe Rudy Daniels, each 17 and Earl Padilla, 18, as adults. (*3)

Teenagers of the 1950's were infamous for their juvenile delinquencies. Scores of short movies were produced to be shown to them in hopes of curbing their destructive behaviors. Most of the time, these would manifest in acts of vandalism and petty thefts, but for it to escalate to murder was abominable to all.

"Fred Allen, a 50-year-old former patient at Whipple Veterans Hospital, was found beaten to death. Ogg said he had been rolled and slugged by a teenage gang. A second man, Epimenio Garcia, who was blind, was in County hospital with serious injuries and a possible fractured skull." (*1)

Sheriff Cramer said the three boys met Allen, Garcia, and two other men at a Prescott Café Wednesday night and began drinking before driving to Mayer. The two other men, Frank Medina and José Blanco we're being held as material witnesses. (*1)

When they arrived at Mayer, Ogg said the youths apparently ganged up on the four, robbed them, beat them and fled.

The all-morning questioning of the suspects in the case was attended by a roundup of blood-stained clothing by deputy sheriffs and police that they said figured in the fatal beating.

One outfit of clothing taken into the courthouse bore apparent blood stains, and was said unofficially to have been worn by one of the suspects and discarded at an unrevealed point.

Ogg said his investigation, along with information obtained by the sheriff’s office combined with statements taken from the persons held in the case “definitely connects the suspects with the killing." (*1)

It would take an appearance in court for the public to find out what happened. County prosecutor, “Ogg said evidence showed it was a ‘wine-drinking party.’ An argument and fight developed on the (Black Canyon) highway five miles south of Mayer after a flat tire developed on the car occupied by the four men and three youths.” (*4)

It was determined that the third youth, Mungia, was “considered only as an accomplice to the crime and he (could) expect a certain degree of leniency.” (*4)

However, Daniels and Padilla each plea bargained to second-degree murder and were sentenced to 10-20 years at the Florence state penitentiary. (*4)

The city of Prescott's response was not atypical for the time. They decided to accentuate the positive by picking two "Teen-Agers of the Month" who exemplified the character of wholesomeness. The first two teens were named the very day Padilla and Daniels were sentenced for their murder.

True tale of how a former Prescott marshall saved a gold shipment with a clever ruse in 1894.

Unfortunately for Earl Padilla, this would start a life littered with various schemes of extortion and further time in jail. After serving 8 years of his sentence, he was released in 1964. Four years later, he was arrested and convicted for kidnapping. He served nine years for that. (*5)

It was during this second stint that Padilla became an influential member of the Mexican gang at the Florence pen.

Then in 1978, Padilla committed a crime worthy of a place in "The World's Dumbest Criminals" Hall of Fame: He wrote letters to the families of people who were in the Florence penitentiary demanding a ransom or else their loved-ones would be beaten to a pulp by the Mexican gang. (*5)

Perhaps for the sake of convenience, Padilla instructed the families to send the money to his real name at his real current address. Of course, this proved extremely convenient for the police who solved the case by simply knocking on his door. (*5)

CLICK HERE for a Listing of all the True Crime articles on Prescott AZ History

The circumstantial case against self-described "Indian-killer" John B. Townsend. CONTAINS STARK LANGUAGE AND ACCOUNTS.

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(*1) Prescott Evening Courier. April 26, 1956 (Headline)
(*2) IBID. 9/20/1956 p 1 c 7 "Padilla Twin..."
(*3) IBID. 5/10/1956 (Headline story)
(*4) IBID. 6/7/1956 page 1 cols. 1 & 2
(*5) Prescott Courier, 4/27/1978 pg 3 cols. 4 & 5 ("Families Face...")

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