The Murder of Alfalfa – Part III

This is the final installment of our three part series on The Murder of Alfalfa. In 1954, Carl had gotten arrested on a drunk and disorderly charge and got in a scuffle with the police when they brought him into the station.  Bail was set at $100.

In January of ’58, he came out of a bar and got into his station wagon–when a bullet came smashing through the window and hit him in the arm.  The identity of the mysterious sniper was never established.  Carl told the police he had no idea who’d want to shoot at him.

In December of the same year, he pleaded guilty to petty theft for chopping down 15 fir trees in Sequoia National Forest.  He was fined $225.

And then a month later, on January 21st, Carl was shot and killed by his former partner, Bud Stiltz, 38.  Bud was a mechanic and welder, and he and Carl had worked together as hunting and fishing guides.  Carl had borrowed one of Bud’s dogs and then lost it on a trip.  When the dog was found and returned, the man demanded a reward, and Carl had given him $65.  He felt, since it was Bud’s dog, Bud was obligated to repay him.  Bud got tired of Carl badgering him.  To get him out of his hair, he told Carl he’d give him $35.

That night, Carl had a few drinks with a friend, studio still photographer, Jack Piott.  They went over to Bud Stiltz’s house.  He was living with actor Crash Corrigan’s ex-wife and their three children.  Carl introduced Jack as a police officer, and Jack showed a fake badge.  Stiltz said he didn’t have the money, and Carl got belligerent.  They started fighting.  Mrs. Corrigan and her two daughters fled the house, but Stiltz’s 14- year-old stepson Tommy Corrigan stayed behind.  He said Carl hit Stiltz in the face with a clock.  Stiltz went into the bedroom to get a .38-caliber revolver out of a bedside drawer.  They struggled.  The gun fired harmlessly, but a chunk of flying debris from the bullet hole in the wall wounded Tommy Corrigan slightly.  Carl disarmed Stiltz, and then Stiltz shoved Carl into the closet and recovered the pistol.  At that point, Tommy fled onto the front porch, where he heard a shot fired.  Before the police arrived, Jack Piott threw away the fake badge.

At the inquest, Stiltz offered tearful testimony.  He was wearing an eyepatch from serious injuries sustained in the fight.  He said Carl came out of the closet with a jack knife, and he fired in self-defense.  The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

But some 40 years later, after Stiltz was long dead, Tommy Corrigan spoke up when he said he was bothered by rumors he’d heard about on the Internet.  It was amazing that people were still interested in Alfalfa in 2001, but they were saying he’d been killed in a drug deal gone bad, and it just wasn’t true. Tommy said he didn’t believe his stepfather’s version of what happened.  He said Bud was mean.  “He used to push me around.”  He accused Stiltz of deliberately murdering Carl Switzer.  He said, “He didn’t have to kill him.”  He’d volunteered to testify at the inquest, but he was never called.

Tommy “Butch” Bonds didn’t give Stiltz any credence either.  He believed Carl was unarmed.  “Yeah, he’d use his fists,” he said, “because he was an old country boy.  But I never knew him to carry a weapon.” And so the man who pulled the trigger was exonerated.  But every year until he passed away in 1984, Bud Stiltz received a mysterious Christmas card, signed “Alfie.”

Carl was 31 when he died.

His older brother Harold also died a troubled death in 1967.  According to his daughter, he got into an altercation with a man and shot him to death.  A few hours later, he took his own life.

Carl’s ex-wife gave birth to a son.  She later remarried, and the boy grew up without knowing who his real father was.  When he eventually found out, in his early 20s, he contacted a few of the surviving Our Gang cast members, including Spanky McFarland.  He told them he wanted to know more about Carl.

He worked with some of the biggest names in the industry.  George Cukor, Fritz Lang, Joseph Mankiewicz.  Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Natalie Wood, and Mickey Rooney.  Directors like Stanley Kramer, Alan Dwan, and Edward L. Cahn used him repeatedly because they liked working with him.

Very few other child stars have been as widely known and well-liked as Alfalfa.  Even in death, he was identified in the headlines by the name he had created 20 years earlier.  ALFALFA SLAIN IN FIGHT OVER $50.

Carl Switzer was a bright, ambitious, gifted dynamo, overflowing with energy and personality.  He loved the movie business, and he wasn’t afraid to crash its forbidding gates.

The Murder of Alfalfa – Part III

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