By Bob McCracken – “Nye County History”
Over the last 150 years, Nye County has been the scene of any number of sensational murders. Perhaps the most sensational was the shooting of Nye County Sheriff Thomas W. Logan on April 6, 1906, at the Jewell Saloon, a Manhattan brothel.
Sheriff Logan, married and the father of eight children, had been having an affair with the Jewell’s owner, May Briggs. He was gunned down in Briggs’ presence in an altercation with a gambler named Walter Barrieu. Although the sheriff’s murder was pretty close to cold-blooded — he was unarmed — Barrieu was acquitted by a jury in Tonopah.
The murder of Bill Martin at his Lathrop Wells brothel is another sensational case, but more on that in another column.
The Killing of Blondie LeBlanc
One case I find interesting, though more dramatic than sensational, involved Blondie LeBlanc, a sometimes miner — and, I suggest, pimp — and his longtime girlfriend Laura Randall, a prostitute in Tonopah’s tenderloin or, as they used to say, “restricted district.”
The pair had a troubled, violent, yet sustained relationship. On Oct. 22, 1913, Chief of Police Evans was called to Tonopah’s tenderloin, where he found Laura “bleeding from an ugly wound in the throat.”
Laura told the chief the wound was self-inflicted but it was obvious Blondie had slit her throat in a brawl. Because of lack of evidence, no charges were filed against LeBlanc.
About two and a half years later, another serious confrontation erupted between the two. On June 12, 1916, at 9 p.m., LeBlanc was in a rage and tried to force himself into Laura’s room. She managed to get the door closed and bolted. “I’m going to kill you,” he shouted. Laura ran to her bureau and took out her automatic and stationed herself directly in front of the door. Blondie smashed it down and Laura fired five shots into him. He turned to get away and fell face down, dead.
Obviously, Laura killed him in self-defense.
Alice Nashlund’s Murder
A sensational murder occurred in Tonopah just days before Christmas in 1951.
It happened at the Nugget Bar and brothel , located in what remained of the town’s old red-light district at the lower end of town.
At about 10 p.m. on the night of Dec. 18, Gabe Ives, who lived nearby, stopped at the Nugget for a drink. When he entered the establishment, he was mortified to see two women lying on the floor in pools of blood. One was Inez Parker, owner of the Nugget. The other was Alice Nashlund, a 40-year-old prostitute who worked there. Nashlund was “lying on her left side in about the middle of the bar with her head under the bar rail. Parker was lying across the doorway of an adjoining room with her feet in the bar room.”
Ives immediately ran up the street and called Dr. Joy, the town’s beloved physician. Both women were still alive and were rushed to the hospital. Nashlund was the more seriously injured; with her skull crushed and brain showing, she went immediately into surgery.
She died Dec. 20. Parker, who had been conscious when Dr. Joy arrived at the Nugget, suffered from scalp lacerations, a broken rib, and a shoulder injury. She recovered.
When Chief of Police R. E. Lydon arrived at the Nugget, he found bar stools overturned and a wooden bar stool with strands of hair and blood on it in an adjoining room. Unfortunately, Lydon didn’t have the necessary materials to lift fingerprints at the crime scene.
On Dec. 21, Raymond Millan, described as a 55-year-old mine laborer living in a cabin nearby, was arrested for “the December 18 crimes at the Nugget Bar,” including Alice Nashlund’s murder. At the preliminary hearing on Jan. 25, 1952, Inez Parker testified that she and Alice Nashlund were alone in the Nugget Bar when Millan entered. After several hours of drinking, he left but soon returned and, without provocation, attacked her, beating her over the head and shoulders with a bar stool and knocking her to the floor. Next, he attacked Alice Nashlund. Parker said Millan also looted the cash register and searched the place for valuables.
There was a problem with Parker’s description of her assailant. Early on, perhaps when her mind was clouded by her injuries, she described her attacker as “young and slim with blue eyes and wearing a blue shirt.” Later, she identified Millan, who was 55 years old, short and stocky and not in the best of health.
Following the preliminary hearing on Jan. 25, trial was set for April 14, with District Judge William D. Hatton presiding. Meanwhile, Millan was being held in county jail from the time he was first arrested.
A list of the jury pool for Millan’s trial reads like a who’s who in Nye County in that era, including Joe Clifford, Jr., Le Roy David, Joe and Bill Fallini, Madison Locke, Wellington Rogers, Alice Lorigan, and Helen Slavin, all of the Tonopah area; Art Revert of Beatty; Dan Berg of Round Mountain; and Victor Barndt of Tybo. Alice Lorigan and Victor Barndt ended up on the jury. It was Tonopah’s first murder case in nine years.
Once all the evidence against Millan had been presented and the defense had its say, it only took the jury 45 minutes to reach a decision on Raymond Millan’s guilt or innocence. He was found not guilty. Twelve minutes following the reading of the jury’s decision, an extra edition of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza hit the street announcing the result.
Great public indignation followed Millan’s acquittal. It centered on the manner in which the crimes were investigated. Judge Hatton directed that a grand jury be convened to investigate the entire matter.
One of the main targets to be looked at was why fingerprints had not been obtained. The bar stool, the alleged murder weapon, was sent to Reno for further inspection “after the fact,” but nothing new was learned. It was even proposed that the jury apologize to Millan for keeping him in jail for four months. In the end, the grand jury fixed no blame in the Nashlund case.
Guilty or not, Millan did not emerge as a winner in the case. He suffered from a bad case of silicosis, known as “miner’s consumption,” from his life as a miner. Though he was acquitted on April 25, the months in county jail and the stress of events had weakened him. Less than two months after acquittal, he was confined to Nye County General Hospital. He died on July 4, two months and a week after being set free.
Did Raymond Millan murder Alice Nashlund? We will never know.
But there was one major consequence of the crimes committed at the Nugget. Public outrage in the wake of Nashlund’s murder and Millan’s acquittal led to withdrawal of the liquor licenses of the Nugget and another bar in the red-light district.
It wasn’t long before officials permanently ended legal prostitution in the town, and so ended Tonopah’s “restricted district.”