Number Nine
A Ranch Murder

He considered himself one tough son-of-a-gun. They called him Valdez but his name was Dominico Nadal. His first weeks on death row in the state prison at Carson City were hell on the guards as he continually screamed and grabbed at them whenever one ventured close to his cell. For the short time he was there he earned the reputation as being one of the most difficult inmates ever.

Valdez began his trip to death row on June 14, 1938 when, without apparent reason or warning, he went on a shooting spree at the Monastero Ranch about eighty-five miles north of Elko.

It was a around two o'clock. The crew finished a friendly lunch together and returned to their chores. Valdez went to the bunkhouse.

Justo Urrutia and Joe Astegia were cutting wood with a two-man saw when Valdez appeared at the bunkhouse door and began filling the air with whistling lead. The first shot shattered Urrutia's hand, ricocheted through Astegia's cheek and lodged in his shoulder. Both fell. Justo painfully got to his feet and took off for the "south forty" with Valdez hard on his heels.

More shots were fired and Justo fell again. Valdez stooped down, quietly talked to him, than headed back to the ranch yard. He returned with a cup of water and handed it to Justo. While the bleeding man was drinking, Valdez raised his pistol and blew out Justo's brains. The gunman turned and headed east at a dogtrot.

Elko County Sheriff Charlie Harper sent out several posses to search the rough country for the killer. Even an airplane was used but the lawmen came up with a score of zero. It looked like the killer had simply vanished into the sagebrush.

Battered, ragged and hungry, Valdez appeared at the Gibbs Ranch in the O'Neil area 23 days after his shooting rampage. After feeding the gunman and tucking him away in the bunkhouse to sleep the ranchers called the law. Sheriff Harper calmly walked into the bunkhouse to where Valdez was sleeping. Shaking him awake, Harper told the sleepy-eyed killer he was under arrest.

Valdez immediately confessed, saying he did it because the ranch owner and Justo were planning his death.

He said, "They always speak Basko (sic) around me, but I understand parts."

Valdez said he was sorry he shot Astegia claiming it was an accident. He added that he waited for the right time to blow Justo into eternity and claimed that the deceased had begged him to shoot him and put him out his misery.

While relating his three-week run from the law, the killer said that at one time he went five days without food before finding some eggs and young birds in nest to eat.

After appearances in district court, a sanity hearing, and a trial, Valdez was sentenced to be the ninth man to die in the gas chamber at Carson City.

He quieted down a lot as his date with death approached. He refused solace with a priest saying he was tough enough to go without any of that religious stuff. When guards came to remove his boots he would not allow it. He wanted to die with his boots on.

Valdez was tough to the end. He held his breath when he heard the deadly pellets drop in the bucket of acid beneath the chair. It only prolonged his death which took almost thirteen minutes. It was the longest anyone had ever lived after being gassed.

Note: Nevada was the first state to use lethal gas for capital punishment. Gee Jon, a convicted murderer was number one in 1924.

August 1, 1998
©1998 by Howard Hickson. If any portion or all of this article is used or quoted proper credit must be given to the authors.

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