On July 2, 1981 Indio, California Daily News staff reporter Paul Zalis had the sad duty of writing about the tragic murder of a man he had been speaking with for the past several weeks. The slain man, Cabazon Indian Fred Alvarez, had told the reporter, “as I speak with you I am a dead man”. The headline on the story told all that was known at the time: No leads, suspects:
PROBE CONTINUES IN TRIPLE SLAYING; VICTIMS NAMED.
(Dateline: Rancho Mirage) – The three bodies found in an apparent execution-style slaying Wednesday have been identified as Alfred “Fred” Alvarez, 32, Patricia Roberta Castro, 44, of Long Beach and Ralph Arthur Boger, 42, of San Bernardino.
All three had been shot in the head. Officials are estimating the shooting may have occurred sometime Monday.Alvarez was a former vice-chairman and head of security for the Cabazon Indian band. He recently spoke with the Daily News about alleged mismanagement of tribal monies.
Cabazon officials denied the Alvarez allegations.
Alvarez lived with Ms. Castro, at his rented home on Bob Hope Drive. She was recently employed as a waitress in Palm Desert.
Ms. Castro and Boger were not Indians.
Joseph Benitez, 46, former chairman of the Cabazons and William Callaway, a tribal member, discovered the bodies at 6:40 a.m. Wednesday.
Deputy Coroner Robert Drake said his office still has not determined the caliber of the gun or the weapon used in the murders. He said that information would be released following an autopsy which was scheduled to begin today.
Riverside County Sheriff officials said the bodies were found fully clothed near the back veranda of a one-story concrete block building on Bob Hope Drive near Avenue 32.
The bodies were found in sitting and lying positions.
No weapons were found at the scene and there was no apparent sign of a struggle. The victims still had their wallets in their pockets.
Sheriff’s officials so far have said they had no leads or suspects.
Lt. David Landy of the sheriff’s department said this morning that seven .22 caliber shells found by a Daily News photographer near Alvarez’ back porch had “no bearing” on the shootings.
Dennis Loughran, a neighbor who lives more than a quarter-mile from the Alvarez home, said he did not hear any shots.
He said he spoke with other neighbors Wednesday and none of them heard any signs of a disturbance from the murder scene.
John Nichols, in charge of administrative services for the Cabazons, said he was “surprised and shocked” at the news of Alvarez’ death when notified of the murder Wednesday. Nichols was in Sacramento on a business trip.
Tribal chairman Art Welmas, who was at the casino Wednesday night, said the last time he had seen Alvarez was at a tribal meeting June 6.
Welmas said Alvarez had been working on some kind of “land deal” involving property his father owned in conjunction with several other tribal members near Dillon Road.
Welmas said he didn’t know much about Alvarez’ lifestyle, but said “he conducted his life in an orderly manner when he was with the tribe.”
Reporters at the Daily News communicated with reporters at The Herald Journal in Logan, Utah where Fred Alvarez had attended Utah State University on a football scholarship. He was the starting guard for the USU Aggies in 1967, 1968 and 1969 and he was considered an outstanding player. Alvarez was a massive man at 5 feet 11 inches and 250 pounds. He looked like a motorcycle-gang member with a fierce demeanor.
Fred Alvarez had been an integral part of the Cabazon Business Committee under the absolute control of “Dr” John Philip Nichols. J.P. Nichols took control of the Cabazon Indian Reservation in 1978. His background consisted of a strange mixture of union organization, social work, health planning, mental health and economic development. Click for Resume of John Philip Nichols. The one-time speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Carl Albert stated that “Dr. John P. Nichols likewise has an excellent background as a resource developer.”
In 1979 J.P. Nichols chose Fred Alvarez to head security at the Cabazon Reservation and appointed Alvarez to several important committees including assistant tribal manager. Board minutes for the business committee include the following paragraphs: Click for Cabazon Reservation minutes, 3 pages.
Dr. John Nichols suggested the Band should legally apply to the federal government to raise marijuana for medical purposes, in conformity with the tribe’s wishes. Fred Alvarez moved that John Nichols write such a grant request seconded by John James and passed unanimously.
John Nichols stated that he and Fred Alvarez would have a chance to go to Hawaii, Senegal and Morocco. John James made a motion authorizing Fred and John Nichols to go to research medicinal plants. Seconded by Fred Alvarez and passed unanimously.
But the close relationship between the two men did not last very long. Fred Alvarez began to suspect that the man who promoted himself as a savior to members of the poor 27-member tribe was, in reality, the devil in disguise. Alliances were formed between international companies involving coal deals in Kentucky and gold deals transferring hundreds of millions, tribal lands were being rapidly developed, federal H.U.D. money was pouring into the Cabazons for projects that were never completed and Cabazon money was not only unaccounted for but funds were disappearing. When members of the tribe dared to question the decisions made by manager J.P. Nichols they were severely disciplined and retaliated against by the Nichols family. When Nichols discovered the investigation Alvarez was conducting, Fred Alvarez was voted out by the tribal council.
Alvarez had entered the offices of J. P. Nichols late at night in order to “liberate” documents to support his suspicions of misconduct by J.P. Nichols. Following such forays Alvarez would often call his sister Linda and tell her about the documents he had just discovered. He also told Linda Alvarez that he feared for his life because of his investigation into the casino profits.
In the month prior to his death Fred Alvarez returned to his parent’s home in Truckee, California. He told his family and his other relatives that he had received death threats, his mail box had been shot up and the front wheel of his brand new motorcycle had come loose. He felt it had been tampered with by those intent on killing him. His sister later recalled that Fred Alvarez “had told me there was a contract on his life and who the hit men were.” His mother, father and sister urged him to leave the desert and come home where he would be safe.
When Fred Alvarez returned home in the desert, he also shared his discoveries and his concerns with two fellow Cabazon members, former Tribal Chairman Joe Benitez and friend William Callaway.
These two men arrived at Alvarez’s home at 6:40 a.m. on July 1, 1981. They had made arrangements to pick up Alvarez for a meeting the three of them had scheduled with San Juan Capistrano Lawyer Steven Michael Rios. The horror of what greeted the two men remained burned in their memory. Three people had been professionally executed in the back yard of the Alvarez home. Fred Alvarez was shot in the temple, his body slumped in a wooden chair. Fred’s girlfriend Pat Castro lay a few feet away on a day bed. She was face down with a bullet wound over her right eye. Ralph Boger, 42, a friend of the couple, lay in the sand dried blood surrounding a wound above his right ear. Later it was determined that the three had been executed with .38 caliber weapon.
The 1981 Alvarez executions were Riverside County’s first triple homicide in 19 years. It bears all the signs of a professional contract hit whose target was clearly Fred Alvarez. Almost from the first days there was documentation to support the victim’s statement that there was a contract on his life and that he knew who the hit men were. It is a cold case that has heated up regularly over the 27 years that followed. It is a tragedy that has spawned two family executions resulting in 11 more deaths that bear the marks of professional contract hits. The Alvarez executions do not lack suspects; in fact there is an abundance of suspects. Congressional investigations have taken place only to end in failure. Grand juries have been impaneled and dismissed without any indictments being returned. Repeated investigations by the Riverside Sheriff and District Attorney’s office have taken place and have repeatedly sputtered out. It has been admitted by high profile politicians that the activities of the Nichols family, who until recently controlled the Cabazon Reservation, were influenced by the members of organized crime. Yet the politicians do nothing. Various FBI agents have condemned and defended the actions of “Dr.” John Philip Nichols. The Cabazon nation has found itself at the center of the nefarious activities of such colorful characters as Michael Riconosciuto, Robert Booth Nichols, Iran Contra leader Raul Arana and a man named Jimmy Hughes who runs the Jimmy Hughes Ministries incorporated in Selma, California and headquartered in Honduras.
Now several reliable sources tell this reporter that the 1981 triple homicide executions is once again an active case. This reporter has also heard that Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco is finally ready to seek charges against a suspect in the Alvarez executions.
Virginia McCullough © 12/15/08