Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tragic Death of Our Gang's Alfalfa

Teresa Bain writes: "My mother, who now lives in Brandon, FL., was Alfalfa's cousin. She told me how Alfalfa died. This is the story, according to the family... someone OWED money to Alfalfa and he went to get it. Alfalfa was drunk at the time. Alfalfa confronted the guy and the guy pulled out a gun. Alfalfa only had a knife. According to the family, Alfalfa was shot over a debt of only $50.00. My mother told me she hated Alfalfa because he was so mean to her."

That's close to what happened, the official story at the time. Decades later a witness came forward and established that Alfalfa was murdered in cold blood.

Here's the part of the story that no one disputes - M.S. (Bud) Stiltz shot Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer to death in the Mission Hills home of famous cowboy star "Crash" Corrigan's ex-wife. Stiltz claimed self-defense, that Alfalfa threatened him with a knife, he wanted $50 for a hunting dog Stiltz borrowed and lost. What really happened that night remained clouded in mystery - until an unexpected witness came forward recently.

Tom Corrigan, son of cowboy star Ray "Crash" Corrigan, was only 14 years old on January 21, 1959 when the deadly confrontation between his step-father and Carl Switzer broke out. Tom was friends with Carl Switzer, they had known each other for years. He spoke to the press about the case in 2000.

Corrigan's story differs greatly from Stiltz' self-serving alibi. In his story to the press, Corrigan says it looked like murder to him, "He didn't have to kill him." True, Alfalfa was drunk when his mother Rita Corrigan opened the door, but Stiltz was waving a .38-caliber revolver when entered the living room - during a struggle, the gun went off and Tom was grazed by a plaster fragment or bullet. The fighting stopped when everyone realized the kid was hurt.

Young Tom Corrigan stepped outside as things got quiet. He didn't see the exact moment of impact but heard the unexpected shot, turning in time to witness Alfie with a shocked look, his face sliding down the wall. It was then that Corrigan saw the small penknife, which apparently fell closed from Switzer's pocket.

Only by begging for his life was Alfie's companion, 37 year old bit player Jack Piott not killed also (he had cracked a glass dome over Stiltz's head in the initial struggle).

A statement detailing these events was taken from the teenager, though fearful of his abusive stepfather, the youngster agreed to testify but he was never called. Stiltz was exonerated.

The kicker to Tom's story: every Christmas (until his 1984 death) Bud Stiltz received a holiday card signed "Alfie". You can read here all about the mystery surrounding the death of Alfalfa.