TWENTY-NINE YEARS AFTER THE ALVAREZ EXECUTIONS:
WILL THE CHARGES AGAINST JIMMY HUGHES BE DROPPED?
by Virginia McCullough
Reporter Monica Torline writing for The Desert Sun on Friday, June 25, 2010 stated that charges will be dropped against the only person to be arrested in a 1981 triple-homicide out of Rancho Mirage, according to the daughter of one victim. The bodies of murder victims Fred Alvarez, Patricia Castro and Ralph Boger were found in the backyard of Fred Alvarez's home on July 1, 1981. The killings were described as executions and on September 26, 2009 James Jimmy George Hughes Jr. was arrested and charged with three counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Ms. Torline reported that Boger's daughter, Rachel Begley, told The Desert Sun that she was notified Thursday by the California Attorney General's Office that charges would be dropped against Hughes.
Virginia McCullough contacted Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy and he stated that he could not comment to the press regarding the Hughes case until the Court Settlement Conference, scheduled for a hearing before Judge Dale R. Wells on Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 8:30 a.m. takes place.
Hughes, 53, has been held without bail in jails in Indio and Blythe, California since his extradition from on December 12, 2009. During this period of time the prosecution and the defense have twice stipulated to continuances citing a need to further review the extensive paperwork the case had generated. Following Hughes' arrest and extradition in the fall of 2009 there was publicity in local newspapers and on television. The Associated Press ran a lengthy background article that was picked up by newspapers nationwide. However, there has been very little coverage of the arrest regarding the Alvarez executions since January 2010. Recently author Cheri Seymour announced on Amazon.com that her book The Last Circle will be published in a hard copy edition in September 2010 and that a recently written final chapter will cover the arrest of Jimmy Hughes.
Riverside County Sheriff John M. Powers has often praised the help given him by Rachel Begley, telling The Desert Sun last October that "Rachel uncovered a lot more that we didn't know about. She is very tenacious."
Then in November 2009 cold case Detective Powers and Begley were interviewed by KNBC-TV reporter Patrick Healey. John Powers said, "Rachel managed to find a lot of information on her own during the murder investigation that she brought forward to me and assisted me in turning over new stones and knocking on some new doors and gathering more information in this case." Ms. Begley responded in kind saying, "He's been great. Once he got on the case, me and him started working together and I'm very, very grateful to the Sheriff and the entire department for standing behind him during the investigation."
On Sunday, June 28, 2010, Monica Torline wrote a follow-up article which began, "Rachel Begley was seething. Credited with being a dogged investigator Begley has flown out to California from her home in Kentucky arriving just 24 hours after she said Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy had notified her he was dropping the charges against Hughes. Begley's goal is to convince prosecutors not to dismiss the charges."
In a sit-down interview with The Desert Sun on June 28, 2010, Begley said that investigators found witnesses who place James Jimmy Hughes at the scene of the homicides, there are police interviews in which Hughes incriminates himself and there are newspaper articles in which Hughes admits to committing murder. "Begley vows to continue contacting anyone I have to ...going as high as I have to in her efforts to prevent dismissal of the charges against the only defendant arrested in this high profile case."
Rachel Begley posted the following notice to her Facebook wall on Friday, June 27, 2010:
"So the first thing I'll go public with is that Virginia McCullough has been sending Jimmy Hughes documents in jail to help him--like LOTS of documents. I know because someone at the jail told me about it. Nothing new, she helped convicted murderer Phillip Arthur Thompson as well. One has to wonder why someone would help murderers. What's the motive?"
The only package of information that this reporter has ever sent to Jimmy Hughes consisted of copies of the series I have written about the Alvarez executions and material posted on the Internet that pertained to the Hughes/Alvarez case. Many reporters consider it common courtesy to mail copies of articles to the person featured in their writings. That package was mailed April 21, 2010 and I never received a reply from Hughes."
Begley has also stated on her Facebook page that she has a moral obligation to go public with evidence at this time. However, she has not revealed any specific, detailed information and/or evidence since she made this statement.
Begley's latest Facebook page announced that she will conduct a peaceful protest between 7 am and 5 pm in front of the Indio, California courthouse where the Hughes hearing will take place in Judge Wells courtroom.
In spite of Rachel Begley's concerns, several sources have said that Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy will dismiss the charges against Hughes because of a "lack of evidence and a departure from due process". While Murphy would not speak about these issues to this reporter, he said his office considered Rachel Begley a victim and therefore had to notify her of the Attorney General's intentions. I pointed out to Mr. Murphy that no one from either law enforcement or the Attorney General's office had the courtesy to contact Fred Alvarez's parents or his sister. Mr. Murphy said, "I know this sounds lame, but I don't have the contact numbers for them".
Ms. Begley and any other designated victims of the assassination have several legal options open to them to attempt to solve the mystery of the 1981 executions. Those so affected could file civil lawsuits citing wrongful death if they have sufficient evidence and funds to pursue such a lengthy legal fight.
More immediate opportunities are provided by Marsy's Law adopted by voters in 2008 as part of California's Constitution known as Proposition 9. It is entitled California iConstitution Article 1, Section 28(b). This amendment offers an avenue for victim's voices to be heard at the upcoming court hearing on July 1, 2010. Section 2, Paragraph 1 defines this opportunity. (See: http://www.marsyslawforall.org/ )
"Crime victims are entitled to justice and due process. Their rights include, but are not limited to, the right to notice and to be heard during critical stages of the justice system; the right to receive restitution from the criminal wrongdoer; the right to be reasonably safe throughout the justice process; the right to expect the government to properly fund the criminal justice system, so that the rights of crime victims stated in these Findings and Declarations and justice itself are not eroded by inadequate resources; and, above all, the right to an expeditious and just punishment of the criminal wrongdoer.".
A simple letter to the judge or a motion to be heard submitted by a victim would be difficult for Judge Wells to ignore on the 29th anniversary of the day three people were found dead in the desert. This approach would also allow any victim to request in writing that a grand jury be empanelled to properly and completely investigate the Alvarez executions.
This article would be incomplete without pointing out the fact that there are two other individuals whose names and reputations have been damaged even though neither man has been charged or arrested.-- John Paul Nichols and Glenn Heggstad. They are both named as co-conspirators in the Hughes' complaint. Their fates are intertwined with Jimmy Hughes and yet they have never had a court hearing or an opportunity to defend themselves. Assistant Attorney General Michael Murphy placed their names side by side with defendant Hughes and Mr. Murphy has never sought to remove those individuals from the complaint in the ten months Hughes has sat in jail.
If Murphy dismisses all charges against defendant Hughes at the upcoming hearing, he can do so in one of two ways -- with prejudice or without prejudice. If the charges are dismissed with prejudice the charges can not be refiled; if the charges are dismissed without prejudice, a cloud will remain over Hughes' life because the charges could be filed once again at any time.
Last October lead Investigator Powers told The Desert Sun his investigation is ongoing. "We're still trying to figure if there's enough to charge (Nichols and Heggstad) with any crime".
Certainly twenty-nine years should be enough for law enforcement and prosecutors to figure out who should be charged and who is not guilty. This reporter's research clearly shows that John Paul Nichols was present and involved in the activities of the Cabazon Nation. AAG Michael Murphy states that the co-conspirators were all part of a conspiracy to kill Fred Alvarez, Patricia Castro, and Ralph Boger in order to cover-up the illegal activities of John Philip Nichols, Cabazon manager and father of John Paul Nichols. Although Glenn Heggstad was living in Riverside in the early 1980s, this reporter has never found any indication that Heggstad was ever involved in any activities involving the Cabazon tribe.
If AAG Murphy does not move to also dismiss John Paul Nichols and Glenn Heggstad from the complaint, it is possible that they could address this matter in writing by a letter or a motion to Judge Wells requesting that their names be removed from Murphy's complaint against Jimmy Hughes. It seems blatantly unfair for the Attorney Generals' office to dismiss charges against that only individual arrested and charged in the Alvarez executions and leave two men who were never arrested or charged blowing in the wind. As of June 28, 2010 at 10:15 p.m. none of the children, parents or siblings of the victims have filed any Marsy-based motions or requests to be heard, and Glen Heggstad and John Paul Nichols have not filed any motions to dismiss the complaint or strike their names from the complaint.
On July 1, Judge Welles will hear AAG Murphy's reasons for dismissal of the case against Hughes, and rule whether or not a dismissal is in the interests of justice. His order will state those reasons. AAG Murphy may hope that these reasons satisfy the public's desire to see justice be done, even though for 29 years no person has been held legally responsible for the triple executions
Attorney General Jerry Brown is once again seeking to be governor of California, just as he was when the Alvarez executions happened. Now he is the Attorney General of the State of California. The buck stops at his door just as it did on July 1, 1981 in the early morning hours of that desert morning when three bodies lay decomposing in the desert sand. someone acting alone or in concert with others, had targeted Fred Alvarez because he was exposing links between the activities occurring at the Cabazon reservation and the dirty activities of our own government in illegal wars in South America and the Middle East. Isn't it time the head of the octopus is revealed?
Virginia McCullough © 6/28/10
Photograph above: Rachel Begley and Detective John Powers as seen in this March 2, 2009 photograph provided by Cheri Seymour. The Desert Sun, Ocober 17, 2009.