Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Life and Death of "Our Gang's" Alfalfa

Violent Revelations

Carl Switzer, older
Carl Switzer, older

On the night of January 21, 1959, Carl Switzer and a friend, 37-year-old studio still photographer Jack Piott, went to Stiltz's girlfriend's home in San Fernando Valley, California. According to January 27, 1959, reports by The New York Times, Switzer wanted Stiltz to reimburse him the $50 he spent recovering the dog. Stiltz refused to pay and an argument ensued. In the end, Switzer lay dying on the floor from a single gunshot wound. While there is no question as to how he died, there are three separate versions of the events that preceded his death.

Stiltz was the first to give his version of the events to police: "Let me in," Stiltz claimed Switzer demanded, "or I'll kick in the door." Stiltz opened the door and Switzer and Piott stepped inside. "I want that 50 bucks you owe me now, and I mean now," Switzer told him. Stiltz said he refused to pay and a violent argument ensued, during which Piott hit him over the head with a glass-domed clock. Stiltz, who was bloodied and had a blackened left eye from the impact of the clock, said he grabbed a .38-caliber revolver from a dresser drawer and Switzer made a lunge for it. They wrestled on the floor and the gun went off, the bullet striking the ceiling without hitting anyone. Switzer, according to Stiltz, then gained possession of the gun briefly, but Stiltz managed to get it back.

Officer with Bud Stiltz
Officer with Bud Stiltz

Switzer drew a switchblade knife and screamed, "I'm going to kill you, [expletive]." Stiltz said,  "I took the gun away from Alfalfa and he threw the knife at me. That's when I shot him." Investigators did recover a knife next to Switzer's body, which appeared to support Stiltz's story.

Switzer's friend Jack Piott gave the second version of events to investigators. According to Piott, he and Switzer went to collect a debt from Stiltz, when an argument broke out. Piott said a brief struggle ensued and Stiltz brandished a gun and shot Switzer, who was unarmed at the time, in the groin (the newspapers reported "abdomen"). Then, according to police reports, only by begging for his own life was Piott able to save his own life.

The third version of events, given by yet another witness, did not come to light for nearly 50 years, and is related below. Regardless of how the events took place, following the shooting, a call was placed to the local fire station from a neighbor's house, but the damage to Switzer was too severe. He suffered massive internal bleeding and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

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