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Comal County’s first death sentence handed out in 1930s

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Have you ever heard the story of Chief Red Wing and how he became the first person to get the death penalty in Comal County? It’s a sad and terrible story. Here’s how it goes:

On Oct. 6, 1930, Henry Cavazos, proprietor of the Cuban Shows, pitched a large tent about five blocks east of Main Plaza on Seguin Street for his traveling show. These traveling shows were a common practice in the 1920s and 1930s. Cavazos rented a small house nearby where he, his wife (who was also in the show), his two small boys and a small 2-year-old girl named Evangelina lived while the show was going on.

The main star of the show was 38-year-old Chief Red Wing who performed an Indian war-dance stunt and attracted wide attention. The traveling show had been in New Braunfels for about a week and was scheduled to move on to Austin soon. But a terrible tragedy took place that October night.

Mrs. Cavazos put her children to sleep as she did routinely and rushed out to the tent to make a brief appearance in the show. Returning to the house, she discovered that little Evangelina was missing, as was her tiny suitcase.

The mother rushed back to the tent frantically telling her husband of her discovery. Chief of Police B.E. Merz and Constable W.A. Scholl, who were on the grounds, were notified and began a search. The search continued all night and revealed only the small suitcase with some of the child’s clothes inside. It was suspected that the child was kidnapped. But why? The Cavazos had no money.

No sign of the child was found and the show went on to Austin. Here Cavazos reported the missing child to the Texas Rangers. Everything possible was done to find Evangelina but no traces of her were found. Remember, there was no DNA or other help that law enforcement has today.

On Oct. 17, a small bundle was discovered behind a signboard near the railroad track where the tent had been. A child’s almost naked body was discovered and the sheriff’s office was notified. Immediately, the entire show was brought back from Austin. Henry Cavazos and his wife identified the body as their daughter, Evangelina. An autopsy was performed and it was concluded that the child had been criminally assaulted and that death had come as a result of a crushed skull.

Immediately, Red Wing was under suspicion mainly because he had disappeared when the child was first reported missing and hadn’t reappeared until 40 minutes later. There was only circumstantial evidence against him, but he had no alibi as to his whereabouts when the crime was committed. At last he confessed, but not before trying to implicate others, including Henry Cavazos, Evangelina’s father. Finally, Red Wing confessed to committing the crime himself with no others involved.

On Feb. 12, 1931, the State of Texas vs. Chief Red Wing was called, charging him with murder with malice aforethought of Evangelina Cavazos.

Appointed by the Court to represent the defendant were two well-known attorneys, Hon. J.H. Schleyer and Hon. H.A. Triesch. The prosecuting attorney was the Hon. Fred Blundell, District Attorney for the 22nd Judicial District.

At noon on Feb. 13, the case went to the jury. The trial was held in a large room above Eiband and Fischer store.

The Herald stated that it was difficult to choose a jury and the writer said that it was due to the possibility of the death penalty. Nevertheless, a jury was chosen and in 20 minutes the verdict came back: Guilty of murder as charged and the punishment was death. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the verdict.

On Nov. 30, 1931, Chief Red Wing died in the electric chair in Huntsville. He was the first person ever to be given the death penalty in Comal County.

From left, Ben Faust, Justice of the Peace, August Knetch, Deputy, Chief Red Wing, Bill Salge, Deputy Marshal, Walter Scholl, Deputy Marshal and Bruno Merz, Marshal.
From left, Ben Faust, Justice of the Peace, August Knetch, Deputy, Chief Red Wing, Bill Salge, Deputy Marshal, Walter Scholl, Deputy Marshal and Bruno Merz, Marshal.