Earlier this month, Bruce Bratton wrote in his column that the motive behind Louis Rittenhouse's grandfather murder was to silence his racism. I'm not so sure.
On June 2, 2004, Bratton captioned a photo of an old building at Pacific and Church like this: "Upstairs is where Louis's grandfather was shot dead by a God fearing local who objected to Rittenhouse's racism."
I was at the library today and looked up the Sentinal for January 13, 1948. There I read that in 1930, Emmet Rittenhouse ran for Congress, on the platform "Keep California White." So there's the truth to the racism charge.
But as to the motive, newspapers of the period immediately after the killing reported several, but none of them racism. I admit that I only looked at the newspaper stories for the first few days of the killing, until the inquest was finished, and not at the trial itself. Charles Wildey, age 73, visited the 69-year old lawyer at his office on Pacific Ave at 10:30 in the morning.
According to Pat Martin and Evelyn Clark, secretaries of the Rittenhouse law firm, Widley walked into the reception room and demanded to speak to Rittenhouse. After a few minutes he was ushered into another office, two doors from the reception room, where Rittenhouse awaited him. The two discussed various matters, and Wildey asked Rittenhouse about his health.
The latter answered with a quip and then went through the open door into the second office, bent over his desk, and began to sign a document. He never finished the signature according to police reconstruction of the case.
Wildey allegedly stepped behind Rittenhouse, drew his gun, and without warning fired a shot which struck Rittenhouse under the right shoulder blade. The attorney spun around, and Wildey then emptied his gun point blank, hitting him twice into the chest and once between the eyes. Wildey then walked downstairs, where [Fred E.] Bellmer, alarmed by the shots and screams from the girls, apprehended and held him until police arrived.
Mrs. Anna Wildey told the Sentinel-News that her husband had voiced apprehensions for many years without ever elaborating on them. She said that Wildey had often talked about certain groups who were "out to get him," but that he never gave any details. His usual reply was that talking about it wouldn't do any good.
Mrs. Wildey also expressed her surprise about the fact that her husband owned a gun, and said that she never knew her husband to own one.
He added that he had "no feelings of guilt" and that his "relations with his God were perfectly normal." ... After being sworn, Wildey declined a seat and turned to the jury. Speaking calmly and in well formulated sentences, the alleged killer told how he came to Santa Cruz in 1898 for the first time. He said he was anxious to meet people, but claimed that he soon found himself "isolated."
He then told of Professor George Bond, former high school principal, who, he claimed, was "railroaded" out of his job by vicious rumors circulated in the town. Wildey claimed he later saw Bond in Ventura, and that he came back convinced that Emmet Rittenhouse was responsible for Bond's removal."
"I had the impression that Emmet Rittenhouse was the responsible party, and I went to his office to enlighten myself on the subject," Wildey stated.
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