by Virginia McCullough


An Introduction – The Alleged Co-Conspirators

Deputy Attorney General Michael T. Murphy on behalf of the People of the State of California filed an Amended Felony Complaint in Case No. INF066719 - The People v. Jimmy Hughes  on December 18, 2009.  It  detailed charges naming James Hughes as the man who murdered Fred Alvarez, Patricia Castro and Ralph Boger on June 29, 1981 in the County of Riverside, State of California. The final page of the complaint cites the special allegation of multiple murders in violation of Pen. Code Section 190.2(a)(3).

Page one of the complaint outlines the “Conspiracy to Commit a Crime”. The three people who are named here, John Philip Nichols, John Paul Nichols, and Glen Heggstad have been featured in the media to differing degrees. Now the state alleges that each and every one is central to the conspiracy that resulted two days later in the Alvarez executions. Deputy AG Murphy alleges the following:

That on or about June 27, 1981, in the County of Riverside, State of California, JAMES HUGHES did unlawfully conspire with John Nichols, John Paul Nichols, Glen Heggstad and other persons whose identities are unknown; to commit the crime of Murder, in violation of Penal Code section 187(s), a felony.

Who are these men and what are their backgrounds? This is the second part of a three part biographical series.



During the summer of 1989, four years after Jimmy Hughes had left the United States, the youngest son o John Philip Nichols became the Chief Executive Officer of the Cabazon tribe. Mark Nichols had been acting as the Cabazon historian and he contracted with author Ambrose L. Lane, Sr. to write a book about the interactions between the Nichols family and the Cabazon reservation. Lane’s book Return of the Buffalo was published in 1995. On pages 103 and 104 of this book, John Paul Nichols, who held the position his father before him had held from 1985 until his resignation 10 years later, called the murder of Fred Alvarez, Ralph Boger and Patricia Castro “catalytic". The interview between John Paul and Lane follows:

John Paul: In 1981, Fred Alvarez was murdered in June. Fred lost the election the month before and was no longer a Tribal officer. He apparently, for whatever reason, was running around town and bad mouthing everybody, etc., and had gone to some local newspaper and said, “I fear for my life,” or whatever the hell he said. To make a long story short, the next day, two days later, or a week later, he and two other people are murdered….immediate front-page headlines. We had zip to do with it. To this day there’s this perception that we were involved. I’m in Austin, Texas, and people say to me, “You were involved in that, weren’t you?” It’s amazing.

Author: Give me your perspective. Why would Linda et al accuse unnamed persons associated with the Tribe of killing Fred?

John Paul: Let’s look at the position Fred was in. Fred was a very mean, vibrant Indian. There is no other way of saying it. Fred, in my view, was paranoid. He was very, very power hungry. He had lost; the Tribe had voted him out, whenever the hell it was, March, May, I don’t even remember what the day was in ’81. He wasn’t even a Tribal officer anymore. There is this perception that he was a tribal officer. He wasn’t. That’s when his sister said, “We’ve got problems.” There was no Alvarez power base in 1981. It didn’t exist.

     So, Fred was an inconvenience at that point in time. There was this perception that Fred was an insider that somebody had to get because he knew everything, which was totally erroneous. He had no support to begin with. But honest to God, Fred was very verbal. If you met Linda Streeter [Dukic], Linda Streeter is also very verbal. But, you can sit there until the sun don’t shine, and sooner or later people will listen to you. I hate to say this, but I’ll use Adolf Hitler in the sense that if you say things enough times and sooner or later someone goes, well look at the history of these things!  Jesus Christ, you read enough bullshit, you belief anything!

     I don’t know if it was the next day, anyway, I walked into the casino and right there in the newspaper machine and pasted on the thing “Man Foretold Own Death.” I read that and go, “What?!” This is, like, the next day. Fred supposedly, or allegedly had gone to the newspaper reporter the day before or two days before and just ranted and raved. It was taped, “I fear for my life.” I’m sure this was a continuous conversation about a grand conspiracy that made perfect sense.  From that point on, it was a hell of a newspaper story. Mafia. Hiding stuff. I mean that was it. Forget all the weapons bullshit that you read later; that was all tacked on to the basic story. All that allegedly happened afterwards anyway. “Foretold” he was in danger, but didn’t say who he was in danger from, of course.

     In retrospect when I look at it, or what all really happened, I think I spent 10 minutes with the sheriff one time two days after the murder. Somebody asked me a couple of questions about “what do you think happened?” I’ve never talked to somebody in law enforcement once, before or after that.  Never been asked one question. To my knowledge, nobody questioned Rocco Zangari, who according to the press is the bad guy here supposedly. Right? Right or wrong, I think maybe the Alvarez family had to blame someone. Grief is grief. I don’t discount that, regardless of who Fred was.  Family is family, and Linda somehow had to come to grips with that.  I don’t think she wanted to face it, and I don’t think to this day she wants to face who her brother really was.  I think personally he got knocked off---obviously he got knocked off---but to me it sounds like a drug deal or something of that nature and he had made an enemy somewhere down the line, and that’s it.

     Fred's been a catalyst around which a lot of other hate built.  It's the hate built out of "I've got power."  The issue is taking over the tribe. If the Nicholses left tomorrow, Joe Blow could be in this position and it would be the same issues.

Author:  And the other thing is there’s been one issue that’s been consistent and that was trying to get tribal membership for Linda’s daughter since 1966.

John Paul: Why do you think?

Author: Power?

John Paul: Power. That the name of the game.

It is extremely rare to have a defendant allegedly involved in a murder speak of the killings in such detail. Defense attorneys as a group are famous for advising their clients to not speak to anyone about any detail of their case. This window into John Paul Nichols’ feelings about the Fred Alvarez murder is notable for many reasons:

 1) John Paul never mentions the other two victims Ralph Boger and Patricia Castro by name in this triple execution. Clearly these two friends of Alvarez suffered the same fate as Fred but Nichols clearly states that Fred Alvarez is the victim “around which a lot of other hate built”.

2) Throughout the interview with author Lane, John Paul’s anger with Fred Alvarez is obvious.  According to the manager of the Cabazon businesses at the time, Fred was “running around town and bad mouthing everybody."  Fred Alvarez's home had been ransacked, his mailbox had been shot up and his motorcycle had been sabotaged according to many witnesses. At the time of his murder his new bike was still in a repair shop where the damage was being repaired. So there was evidence to support the fact that Fred Alvarez feared for his life. No one at the Cabazons, in law enforcement, or the many people Alvarez told about his fear seemed to believe him and no one in a position to do so helped him. But John Paul’s anger seems directed at the man murdered in his home on June 28, 1981 who Nichols said, "was an inconvenience at that point in time" and he "just ranted and raved".

3) The descriptions of Fred Alvarez by John Paul in the interview re-victimizes the slain man when he says, “Fred was a very mean, vibrant Indian. There is no other way of saying it. Fred, in my view, was paranoid”.

4)  John Paul Nichols reveals that law enforcement had little to no interest in pursuing those who might have had a reason to execute Alvarez and anyone else in his presence. He emphatically states, "I've never talked to somebody in law enforcement one, before or after that. Never been asked one question. To my knowledge, nobody questioned Rocco Zangari, who according to the press is the bad guy here supposedly".

It took 28 long years of suffering by the families of the victims before law enforcement would try to interview John Paul Nichols about the Alvarez executions. To the best of this author's knowledge no one in law enforcement has ever interviewed Rocco Zangari about his possible involvement even though Fred Alvarez and Rocco Zangari had an argument in the Cabazon Casino on New Year's Eve 1981 about Alvarez's manner of dress. John Paul had implemented a dress code so that the casino would appeal to wealthy card players. Apparently Alvarez's style of dress did not conform to the new image the Cabazons wanted to project.

In March of 1988 Rocco Zangari pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Federal Court to two acts of racketeering and being involved in a criminal enterprise but he denied being a member of the syndicate. Zangari is mentioned in The Last Mafioso by Ovid Demaris and is said to have been an acting capo in the LA mob and a well-known mafia-made guy".

The issue that looms largest in John Paul's interview with author Lane is the struggle for power that was going on at the Cabazon reservation and Nichols says clearly, "Power. That's the name of the game."

Finally, this interview with alleged co-conspirator John Paul Nichols also contains one statement that goes to the very heart of the Alvarez executions and the media coverage that followed the killings in the years to come. This is his statement, "Forget all the weapons bullshit that you read later; that was all tacked on to the basic story. All that allegedly happened afterwards anyway". 

Virginia McCullough ©


  (1st Part: John Philip Nichols, Co-Conspirator.)