Horse rustler escapes justice

Odd job cost Andrew Kriss his life

Pine Valley. Ries and Rodriguez decided that they’d place Kriss under a tree, then use Cline’s wagon to ship the body back to town.
  • Pine Valley. Ries and Rodriguez decided that they’d place Kriss under a tree, then use Cline’s wagon to ship the body back to town.

"READING BETWEEN THE LINES: SOCIAL HISTORY OF SAN DIEGO DURING THE EARLY AMERICAN PERIOD, AS DERIVED FROM PUBLIC AND BUSINESS RECORDS"

BEATRICE FRICHETTE KNOTT, MASTER’S THESIS

USD, 1991

In May 1864, 35-year-old Andrew Kriss lived in Old Town with his wife and two children. A butcher, Kriss also worked odd jobs to support his family. One cost by his life.

The Sheriff deputized Kriss to retrieve 100 horses from Rancho de las Viejas, about 40 miles east of San Diego. The horses had been “attached” for nonpayment of a bill. Kriss rode to the ranch, near present-day Pine Valley, and rounded up the horses.

Night fell quickly, so he made camp and planned to return in the morning. Before dawn, rustlers stole the horses and headed toward the Mexican border.

A hundred horses cut a clear trail. But Kriss needed help against the thieves. He rode to Moses Mannasse’s, but he wasn’t home. Kriss searched for him at Julian Sandoval's — no luck — then Trinidad Rodriguez's, where both men were. Kriss deputized Mannasse and Rodriguez. He and Rodriguez headed toward the horses. Mannasse went home to get a fresh mount.

They galloped to Pine Valley, where Mannasse's horse gave out, and he trailed behind. Kriss met and deputized B.L. Ries, and they, with Rodriguez, headed south.

They spotted some horses lagging behind the rest, driven by Americans and Californios. The deputies secured the horses without incident, obtained fresh mounts, and moved on.

A mile and a half down the road, Kriss saw a man unsaddling his horse, beside which were two more, apparently from the herd. Kriss ordered the man to surrender his arms. The man had none. For safekeeping, Kriss turned the horses over to a Mr. Cine, who was driving a wagon down the road with his son.

A half mile later, the deputies found a man and Indian boy with three horses and a pack mule. Kriss said, “Drop your guns.” They had none, so he made them unsaddle their horses, and he headed for a large fog of dust up ahead.

The herd plowed through an area thick with tall brush. Visibility was so limited, the deputies devised a plan: Ries and Rodriguez would circle in front and turn the herd around. As they rode, however, Kriss spotted a man and ordered him to stop. They exchanged words in English. Kriss drew his pistol, fired, and missed. The man moved away, then shot at Kriss. Missed. Kriss fired. Missed. The man rode behind a tree, took careful aim, fired, and galloped away.

“I saw Mr. Kriss's horse walking off with Kriss in the act of falling,” said Ries in court testimony, “and I saw a man between me and Kriss driving the hindmost drove of horses.”

Ries rode past the man and asked, in Spanish, “What’s going on?” The man, with pistol in hand, said Kriss had been killed. Ries rode back to Kriss, “caught [him] by the hand and asked him if he new [sic| me, and then I crossed his hand on his breast and put his pistol in my belt.”

Ries and Rodriguez decided that, instead of chasing the horse-thieves, they’d place Kriss under a tree, then use Mr. Cline’s wagon to ship the body back to town. Cline refused, claiming his horses were too worn out.

Who shot Andrew Kriss? Rodriguez, 15 or 20 yards from the gunfight, couldn’t recall what the man wore or the color of his horse but said the killer was “a small man, dark complection (sic], and understood the English."

Ries, roughly 200 paces away, said there was no one else in the vicinity, then changed his mind. Someone could have "passed by him at the murder site, without being seen, because the place was bushy and I passed on the gallop.”

Ries said he'd seen the man with the pistol before. At 11:00 a.m., the day he was deputized, Ries sat on his porch with three others. A man rode up and asked for water. “He wore a white pair of chaparisos or overalls with a green-striped coat and riding a dappled grey horse." His name was Andronica Sepulveda.

Henry Wartenberg testified that, while riding a stagecoach, he saw Andronica Sepulveda “and another old man, a vaquero," riding toward San Diego from San Juan Capistrano earlier that week. Sepulveda wore “an overcoat buttoned to the neck... a dark brown patterned coat.. .a black hat, and he was riding a brown horse; the old man wore a sarape.”

Sepulveda asked the stage driver “if Estudillo was in San Diego. Don’t know what Estudillo he meant. The driver told him ’No.’"

Wartenberg also claimed that “old man” Sepulveda’s stock had been “attached” and that Andronica rode from Los Angeles “for the supposed purpose of driving the stock over the line,” into Baja California.

On June 1, 1864, in a San Diego court, five of six jurors—Geo. A. Pendleton, I.S. Mannasse, )ohn Murray, E.W. Morse, and Marcus Schiller — said Andronica Sepulveda murdered Andrew Kriss. The sixth juror dissented “from the above so far as the same attaches to Andronica Sepulveda, the killing of Andrew Kriss, the deceased." The sixth juror was Jose Guadalupe Estudillo.

“No information was found in San Diego records as to whether Andronica Sepulveda was ever captured and tried for the murder of Andrew Kriss.”

MASTER'S THESIS EXCERPTS:

  1. San Diego ordinance, passed February 20, 1851: “If any person or persons shall be guilty of making any riotous or disorderly noise by firing guns, pistols, or otherwise within 200 yards of the flag staff or shall ring the bell or bells belonging to the Church in this city, or in any other manner shall disturb the public peace, each and every person so offending shall forfeit and pay to the City a sum not exceeding $200 and not less than $5 for each offence at the discretion of the Mayor of the City.“
  2. Parking problems must have existed in 1851. An ordinance forbid persons owning wagons or other vehicles from “encumbering the streets" or remaining in vacant lots for more than 48 hours.
  3. A robber in a hotel was found kneeling at a trunk in the room of a boarder and, on being discovered, said he was at his prayers and begged not to be interrupted. He was politely left to finish his devotions and decamped with his booty.

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