Man Held in Killing of Ex-Marine

Aug. 8, 1953, Marine's Body Found


O
n the afternoon of July 23, 1953, Michael Timothy Cavanaugh was drinking beer at Thompson’s Cafe in Chula Vista. Earlier that year, he had himself committed to Patton State Hospital, claiming that he suffered “blackouts” in which he wrote fraudulent checks. On July 12, he left the hospital and returned to Chula Vista, writing a series of fraudulent checks.

Between 5:30 and 6:30 that evening, Cavanaugh went on another binge, calling a cab and stopping at several stores where he bought a watch and cashed or tried to cash bad checks.
At one point he identified himself as a doctor and another point he claimed to be a Navy commander.

While Cavanaugh was gone, Ralph R. Welch, a recently discharged Marine who was living with his wife in Chula Vista, came into Thompson’s. When Cavanaugh returned, the men struck up a conversation and had some beer. Welch apparently said something about his head bothering him and Cavanaugh, again claiming to be a doctor, said “I will fix your head.”

The men left Thompson’s together about 10 p.m. after Welch said he wanted to go home.  He was never seen alive again.

People vs. Cavanaugh, April 12, 1955

About 11:30 that night, Cavanaugh went into the Club 13 near Chula Vista and had a beer. He gave a waitress $45 [$393.55 USD 2013], $20 to repay a loan and $25 to give to his wife because he planned to return to Patton.

Instead, Cavanaugh picked up his wife in Welch’s 1951 Ford convertible. The couple returned to Club 13 and drank beer. They left about 1 a.m. with Cavanaugh dropping his wife at home, saying that he planned to return to Patton.

On July 25 in Kingman, Ariz., claiming to be Ralph Welch, Cavanaugh pawned the watch, receiving $10. The next day, in Santa Fe, N.M., he told a priest he was a student en route to the University of Denver but had no money. The priest gave him $20.

On the next evening, July 27, Cavanaugh sent two telegrams from the Western Union office in Colorado Springs, asking for $75 from Welch’s wife and $75 from Welch’s parents, who lived in Tucson.

Cavanaugh, identifying himself as Ralph Welch, received $75 from Welch’s wife the next day and asked that the other wire be forwarded to Denver. Once he arrived in Denver, Cavanaugh, identifying himself as Ralph Welch, received $75 from Welch’s parents.

The next night, July 29, Cavanaugh went into a bar, accompanied by Jack Jones, and attracted attention by burning a $1 bill.

About two hours after they left the bar, Cavanaugh — claiming to be Ralph Welch — brought a badly beaten Jones to St. Luke’s Hospital, claiming that he found the victim in the street.

After a brief interview, police placed him under arrest. As they passed Welch’s Ford, Cavanaugh told the officers that it was his car. When the officers began examining the Ford, Cavanaugh ran and the police fired several shots, wounding him once in the “left buttock.” After a struggle with police, Cavanaugh was subdued and taken to a hospital.

Police examining the Ford found one of Welch’s teeth, part of his dental plate, some of his hair and his sunglasses as well as blood on the back seat, on the floor and in the trunk. New and old blood were found on the jack for the car.

Cavanaugh was found to be carrying $178, a table knife, Jack Jones’ bank book and Welch’s wallet containing Welch’s driver’s license and Marine Corps discharge.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1953, Homicide and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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