March 4-May 7, 1958
A couple of Pinal County deputies found the new Fiat, wrecked and
abandoned in Florence, Ariz., with a bloodstain in the backseat and a
charge slip dated the previous day from a gas station in El Centro,
The Fiat was registered to John Henry Sherman, 29, 5213 Walkerton St.,
Long Beach, whose mother, Doris, had just reported him missing.
The last anybody had seen of him was about noon March 4, 1958, a
Tuesday, at BJ Service, 6505 Paramount Blvd., a supplier of oil
drilling equipment. According to The Times, Sherman was a psychology
student at Long Beach City College and he called his employer at 2 p.m.
on the day he vanished to say he was taking an exam and wouldn’t be
back for the rest of the afternoon.
Some rabbit hunters finally found Sherman’s body Sunday, March 9, at
the bottom of a 20-foot gully near Riverside. He had been beaten
savagely in the head with something like a tire iron or a jack handle
and had been dead for several days. Sherman was identified by a tattoo
of a rabbit–with a strong resemblance to Bugs Bunny–on his left forearm.
Riverside County deputies tracing the route from Riverside to Florence
learned that state agricultural inspectors at the Yuma border crossing
remembered two men in a new Fiat either late Tuesday or early
Wednesday. They were later reported in Florence on foot, presumably
after wrecking the car.
Several days later, highway workers found Sherman’s wallet near the spot where the Fiat had been abandoned.
And here’s where the mystery occurs. One way or another, investigators
identified a 22-year-old baker from Rochester, N.Y., as the killer. His
name was Donald Earl Klaus. Riverside Detective Lt. William Auld
refused to reveal any information about Klaus except that he had been
Klaus was extradited from Missouri and on April 28, 1958, investigators
took him to the gully where Sherman’s body had been found. "You got the
story," he said to Riverside Sheriff Joe Rice. "I ain’t saying nothing."
On May 6, 1958, Klaus was convicted of second-degree murder for killing
Sherman with a rock and sentenced to five years to life in prison.
Prosecutors agreed to a reduced charge because "there was not evidence
of premeditation," The Times said.
Something is not right with this story–there’s a big piece missing.
It’s as if the suspect’s name was pulled out of a hat. And how about
the crime? Was it a simple robbery? The lack of premeditation would
seem to rule that out. If the killing wasn’t about money or stealing
the car, what else could it be? Could Sherman–a 29-year-old
bachelor–have been killed because he was gay? If so, it might explain
the savage beating–and why The Times wrote virtually nothing about the
case and provided very few details.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer and we’re not going to get it from The Times clips.