Looking Back to February 1936: One person killed, suspect commits suicide
Excerpts from Saturday, February 8, 1936, Paso Robles Times:
Ralph Hagerman commits suicide after arrest for killing Jesse Sledge
Ralph Hagerman, arrested after killing one man and wounding two others, committed suicide Saturday morning by leaping from the second-story window of San Luis Obispo County courthouse window.
A drunken row, which ended in death for Jesse Sledge, 45, of this city, and serious injury to two others, came to a climax at 6:30 last night at the home of Frietas Gerst, on Chestnut Street, near 16th.
Five persons were directly concerned in the fatal tragedy, Ralph Hagerman, whom police accuse of the crime; Earl Pickering, a guest at the Gerst home; Gerst, who until an early hour this morning, lay fighting for his life at the Atascadero hospital; Sledge, and his daughter Betty June, aged 10, who was a witness to the terrible shooting.
Gerst was the first to report the triple murder attempt. He staggered, weak from loss of blood to the B.J. Doughtery residence at 303 15th Street, where he collapsed after asking Mrs. Leslie Hardie to summon Aid.
Both police and ambulance were sent for and the injured trio was taken to Ramage Nursing home for first-aid treatment. Sledge had succumbed to the fatal shot, before help could be administered.
Gerts was transferred, via Kuehl Ambulance to Atascadero hospital, about 7:30 p.m., where X-rays revealed that the bullet was lodged somewhere near his spinal column, at a point below the abdomen, where it had entered. An immediate operation for its removal was performed.
Pickering, the least injured of the three, was resting at the home of sister after medical attention had been given his right hand. The shot pierced that member at the back, coming out in the palm just below the thumb-line, fracturing several small bones.
Hagerman tells his story of shooting
Ralph Hagerman, 32, accused of the fatal shooting of Jesse Sledge and the attempted murder of Gerst and Pickering, was interviewed by a representative of The Times in cell at the local jail, Friday evening.
Hagerman related, “Sledge stole my gun from my bureau drawer, where I always keep it and got me to drive him over there (Gerst’s). I didn’t know he had the gun and I didn’t know where we were going. He showed me how to go. “
“I sat out in my car, and he went in. After awhile, they called me in to have a drink, and I went in. They were having an argument. I went into the backroom and pretty soon the fireworks started.
“Bang, bang, bang! And then it was all over. I walked into the front room and there two of them were. Sledge and Pickering, lying on the floor. Gerst walked out. The gun was on the floor.”
Hagerman went on to allege that Sledge, who roomed at the Hagerman home, said that “Gerst had stolen his wife away from him, and he said he was going to take his knife and cut the hearts out of both of them. I always snapped him out of it.”
“So after they were all lying on the floor, I picked up my gun and went home — my wife is home sick with the flu. I thought I’d better go home and take care of her.”
Witness account from 10-year old Betty June Sledge is that an argument broke out and Sledge pulled the gun from his pocket. Hagerman, who had entered the house in the meantime, took it away.
All were drinking and after about an hour’s time, during which Hagerman had the gun, the argument grew hotter.
Suddenly, Hagerman is alleged to have shouted: “This is about as good a time as any to stop this fight,” and a pistol began to blaze, police reported.
Hagerman jumps from two-story window, dies
At 10:15 o’clock Saturday morning, while left alone for a few seconds in the office of Assistant District Attorney Quaresma on the second floor at the courthouse in San Luis Obispo, Ralph Hagerman opened a window and leaped out, landing on the cement walk in front of the Sheriff’s office. He was killed instantly.
It is claimed that he took a running start in making the fatal jump by some people who happened to see the tragic feat.
Read previous Looking Back articles
- Looking Back to 1930: Electric power project to modernize two districts
- Looking back to 1950: $319,000 phone project for Paso as long-distance calls rise
- Looking Back to 1936: Businessmen blame traffic enforcement for loss of tourist trade
- Looking Back to 1956: Adolescent riots feared in Atascadero, veterans honored
- Looking Back to 1930: Lack of housing in city is acute, say rental agents
Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back
Paso Robles Pioneer Museum – Come take a real look back into local Paso Robles history. Open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 2010 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles, CA 93446, www.pasoroblespioneermuseum.org (805) 239-4556.
Estrella Warbird Museum is an aviation museum dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia. Woodland Auto Display is also open. Hours: Thursday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. 4251 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446, ewarbirds.org, (805) 227-0440.
Creative Concrete & Design delivers the highest level of professional concrete work. Operating in San Luis Obispo County since 2002, Karl Rush brings 35 years of concrete experience to every job and will ensure that you receive the very best quality work. Over the years they have completed a great many works on residential homes. They are very creative and willing to explore options for your next project. Concrete projects have many factors to consider to bring your vision to life. creativeconcreteanddesign.com, (805) 896-1384.
Golden Anchor Financial Services is committed to helping you find the right mortgage product for your needs. They understand that every borrower is different, and offer a variety of products to meet individual requirements. They make the process of securing a mortgage simple and straightforward by offering you the latest in financial tools that enable you to make sound financial choices. Call them at (805) 473-7733 on the Central Coast or (559) 473-7733 in the Central Valley.
1800 El Pomar is the site of a historic Templeton ranch located just three miles east of town. The property features an iconic, aged redwood barn, 3-story tank house, original farmhouse with an outdoor garden, original water tank structures, and many other original ranch buildings. Set on 20+ acres of vineyards, the 360-degree views of rolling oak-studded hills and surrounding vines are a photographer’s dream. A prime ceremony location exists in the vineyards behind the barn between two beautiful oaks. The northwest-facing location creates plenty of shade for your guests in an early to late afternoon setting. A perfect venue with plenty of open space to customize your wedding or event. www.1800elpomar.com.