Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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

Justice?

On January 22, 1959, Moses Stiltz was booked for suspicion of murder in the death of Carl Switzer. With the passing of so many years, few details are readily available regarding Stiltz's arrest, but it is known that four days after Switzer's murder he was called to testify before a coroner's jury. According to The Evening Bulletin, Stiltz broke into tears while on the stand. He said he knew Switzer for about a year and a half and that the two men had worked together on occasion. Stiltz stated the argument began when Switzer demanded he pay the reward money he lost recovering his dog, even though Switzer was the one who lost it in the first place. Stiltz said Switzer also wanted him to cover the cost of drinks he bought for the man who found the dog. Stiltz said he knew Switzer and Piott had both been drinking prior to finding him and Switzer's intoxicated state served to heighten his anxiety about the situation. Stiltz then went on to describe the scuffle and then summed up his testimony with a description of the shooting. "Alfie charged me with a jackknife," he explained. "I was forced to shoot."

Carl Switzer, 1936, nine-years-old
Carl Switzer, 1936,
nine-years-old

Following Stiltz's testimony, the coroner's jury ruled Carl Switzer's death a justifiable homicide and all charges were dismissed. Stiltz was a free man.

In yet another twist, Switzer's bad luck seemed to follow him to the grave. His death occurred on the same day as that of famed Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille, so primary coverage was given to DeMille's passing and Switzer was only vaguely mentioned. Following his funeral, Switzer was buried at Hollywood Memorial Park. His tombstone bears his name, a drawing of a dog, two Masonic symbols and the inscription: "Beloved father, son and brother."

A May 1959 edition of a publication called Movie Stars and TV Closeups summed up the somber events: "On the same day last rites were held for Carl Switzer, the man who shot him was absolved of all criminal charges. For who, after all, can be blamed for putting a little boy on a path that begins with laughter and fame and ends in the bitter loneliness of a man who can no longer play the only part in life that he calls living?"

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