“We ask you not to take their lives. The taking of two lives will not compensate for the life already taken. Take their liberty if you must, but don’t take their lives,” Mineral County Defense Attorney Jon Collins told a Mineral County jury in 1958 after 14 days of listening to deliberation for the murder of Vernon P. Stallard.
On trial was Marvin Lee Rowland, age 23 at the time and Raymond Wallace Shuman, age 22 both charged for the murder of Wells Cargo truck driver Stallard.
After spending almost 61 years behind bars of Nevada Correctional facilities, Shuman would pass away at the Carson Tahoe Medical Center in Carson City last Friday. He had been housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center prior to this admittance to the hospital.
“I wish to plead guilty to this charge,” Schuman would tell Justice of the Peace Judge Vane Day at the duos arraignment hearing.
Both murderers were deserters from the U.S. Navy. They had left their ship on Dec. 9, 1957 in San Diego, Calif. and traveled to Tijuana, Mexico where they obtained guns. From Mexico, they returned to California and made their way northeast. In their trial, a card from the Mexico gun shop would be entered into evidence.
On their travels, Shuman and Rowland would come across Stallard who was driving a Wells Cargo semi truck loaded with sugar, headed to Las Vegas.
Stallard’s body would be found six and a half miles north of Schurz the day after the incident approximately 15 feet off the highway on the opposite side of the road from where the truck had been parked. He had been robbed of three silver dollars and twenty cents worth of coins. He had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet.
Former Mineral County High School principal Jack Selbig would be traveling the highway the day of the murder of Stallard when Rowland tried to pull over the car Selbig was driving which was loaded with teachers. Rowland yelled to Selbig that he had “generator problems”. Uncomfortable with the look of the situation, Selbig told him to go to Schurz for help and left the scene immediately.
Rowland and Shuman would weave their way across three states leaving chaos behind them. A Las Vegas resident, Frank L. Macklin was killed outside of Baker, Calif. Police officials in the area stated that the man had went missing from his home in Las Vegas since Dec. 10, 1957 when he had left there to take a job in Mohave, Calif.
Macklin had tried to run from Rowland and Shuman and was shot in the back of the head first by Shuman and when down, Rowland would deliver the fatal shot to the base of the skull. He too, had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet. He was robbed of $20.
During Selbig’s brief interaction with the supposed “truck driver” with “generator problems” – Selbig had noticed license plates which read: C-33367.
The green sedan with license plate number C-13367 would be found abandoned in Ely by White Pine County sheriff’s deputies. Inside the sedan were free drink “chits” from a bar in Hawthorne, several empty .32 caliber cartridges and a wadded up receipt in the ash tray for a driver’s license issued to Vernon P. Stallard.
Shortly after the discovery of the sedan, Utah State Police started a pursuit against Rowland and Shuman for armed robbery in that state.
Trying to get back into Nevada, the duo would turn off on Highway 6 on the Nevada-Utah border where they noted the roadblock, left a stolen car on the side of the road and attempted to escape on foot over the snow covered mountainside in the vicinity of Mt. Wheeler.
Following their tracks, White Pine County Deputy Blythe Jones would find two Navy uniforms embroidered with the names of Rowland and Shuman in the caps, a short distance from Ely while Utah State police held an eight mile radius while looking for weapons that may have been used by Rowland and Shuman.
They would later be captured by Utah State Police where they would be held for charges of armed robberies in the towns of Lynndyl and Delta, Utah.
Waiving extradition back to Nevada, with Shuman’s confession – the men were brought back to the Mineral County jail.
Within the jail, the two were regarded as “good” prisoners. They kept their separate cells clean, prepared their own meals and Rowland was fond of reading funny books. It is reported in the Independent-News that “neither one had enough money for cigarettes when taken into custody and both have been given small amounts by various officials to make cigarette purchases.”
On Jan. 31, 1958, after first pleading guilty to the death of two men, both Rowland and Shuman plead innocent to murder charges in district court.
In a statement read by then Sheriff John Bailey, Shuman’s own words would implicate Rowland as the shooter of Stallard. In Rowland’s statement, read by then undersheriff D.R. Sawyer, he did not admit to the slaying of anyone. Both would be bound over to district court without bond by Judge Peter Breen.
Delaying a set trial date, Mineral County District Attorney Leonard E. Blaisdell stated in opposing motion for separate trials, “that confessions purportedly made by the defendants would be more valuable if the men were tried together.” Attorney Jon Collins of Ely would argue that statements would “be prejudicial one to the other should the men stand trial together.” Both teams would begin to prepare for trial.
Later that month, Judge Breen would rule that the men would stand trial together for the charges of murder committed within his jurisdiction on May 26, 1958.
Before the trial began, the accused slayers would be separated after attempting a jail break.
Sheriff Bailey would tell the Independent-News, “the boys are getting jumpy. It is possible to scratch cement out with your fingernails.” Rowland would be sent to Reno whereas Shuman stayed behind in “meager jail facilities” which was 75 years old at the time. Governor Charles H. Russell who approve the transfer by a wire transfer from Las Vegas.
Rowland would try a Habeas Corpus Writ (a court order to a person or agency holding someone in custody (such as a warden) to deliver the imprisoned individual to the court issuing the order and to show a valid reason for that person’s detention) Hail Mary throw less than a month prior to the trial.
Five women and seven men were chosen as the jury with the “jury under constant watched by the bailiff and sleeping accommodations have been obtained for them at a local motel.” Lincoln County District Attorney Roscoe Wilkes would serve as deputy prosecutor for Mineral County.
Again, Rowland and Shuman would try a writ of habeas corpus, seeking their release due to being illegally bound over to district court on illegal evidence that the district attorney had failed to establish corpus delecti in preliminary hearing and had failed to establish that the crime was committed in Mineral County. The petition for writ was denied by all three Nevada Supreme Court justices.
After a weeks’ long trial, both Rowland and Schuman were given a verdict of first degree murder. The jury recommended life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Lincoln County District Attorney Wilkes would state the following, “This was a brutal, rotten, unexplainable killing. There are no grounds for giving either of these men any sympathy for having committed a cowardly killing. And they are guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt.”
Shuman would enter his life in correctional facilities but his killing didn’t end.
In 1973, his second life sentence would result as of the killing of his neighboring cellmate Ruben Bejarno who was killed after being set on fire when two cans of lighter fluid were thrown into his cell.
Schuman would be sentenced to death in the death of Bejarno but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the sentenced in 1987 while upholding his conviction.
Bejarno died three days after being burnt. While in the hospital, he stated twice that Shuman had set him on fire.
The Nevada Supreme Court had ruled that Shuman’s fingerprints were found on the cans and that he too had suffered burns and had been seen making throwing motions as Bejarno ran from his cell in flames. It had been reported that the two had been fighting over an opening a window near their cell prior to the fire.
After Shuman’s death, the Nevada Department of Corrections scheduled an autopsy per NRS 209.3815. The next of kin have been notified.