Abbott Murder Trial
3.75 in HIGH x 4.75 in WIDE
(9.52 cm HIGH x 12.06 cm WIDE)
The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers

Photograph of the Abbott trial jury as District Attorney J. Frank Coakley delivers his long opening statement. The jury members, from left to right: Back Row: Esmond T. Harrison (alternate), Vella V. Barsch, May M. Dahllof, Frances A. Anderson, Antonio Nelson, Alfred Dunn, Richard Cavagnaro. Front Row: William J. Thomas (alternate), August C. Rettig, Jr., Earl E. Miller, Margaret W. Hansen, Harry Chew, Harry Whitehead, Mary Altomare. The Nov. 16 Oakland Tribune published mini-biographies of each of the jurors. In front of the jury box stands Coakley, who is delivering the prosecution's opening statement, in which he outlined the prosecution's version of the way in which Stephanie Bryan disappeared and turned up near Burton W. Abbott's cabin in Trinity County. The following is a brief precis of the enormously-long statement, printed in full in the Oakland Tribune on Nov. 16.: Stephanie Bryan was a 14 year-old student at Willard Junior High School, on the corner of Stuart and Telegraph in Berkeley. Every afternoon she would walk home to her family's house on Alvarado Road in Berkeley. On the afternoon of April 28, 1955, Stephanie got out of school a 3:15, began walking her habitual route home, and encountered her classmate, Mary Anne Stewart. The two girls walked together, stopping at a library where Stephanie checked out two books. Mary Anne had a tennis lesson, so the two girls parted at the corner of Domingo Ave. and Tunnel Road at around 4:00 pm. Mary Anne saw Stephanie walking along Domingo in the direction of her home. Coakley stated that Mary Anne was the last person to see Stephanie Bryan alive. When Stephanie did not show up at home, her parents got alarmed, and began a search for her. The Bryans and the Police searched the entire area where Stephanie had been seen, but turned up nothing. Coakley went on to say that around the time that classes let out at Willard Jr. High, Burton Abbott was sitting in his Chevrolet on Telegraph Avenue, very close to the school. Moreover, at 3:30 pm, his automobile was seen in the area of Claremont/College/Ashby in Berkeley, near the site of Stephanie's last known whereabouts. At 4:15 or 4:20, drivers saw an automobile matching Abbott's whip off of the highway leading to Orinda. Witnesses in passing automobiles saw a man in the front seat (who matched Abbott's description) hitting and slapping a girl in the back seat (who matched Bryan's description). The highway patrol was notified, but the vehicle in question was gone by the time officers got there. Coakley went on to state that Abbott had been seen in a tavern in Trinity County, where he had access to a cabin. On May 1, Abbott, his brother, and his sister-in-law all left the cabin together. On the route that they went home, Stephanie Bryan's French book was found by the roadside. Later, on July 15, Abbott's wife, Georgia, uncovered a wallet with Stephanie Bryan's name in it in the basement of their Alameda home. A later probe of the basement by FBI officials uncovered more of Bryan's property. On July 20th, Stephanie Bryan's badly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave near Abbott's cabin in Trinity County. She had been killed by blows to the back of her skull. Examinations of her clothing proved that her clothes had been taken off and then put back on before she was buried. Abbott claimed that he was simply a victim of circumstantial evidence; Coakley, however, argued in his summation that "the defendant is capable of committing the crimes with which he is charged and of acting just like he has acted since he committed them. In brief, we will prove the guilt of the defendant...and expect you to find him guilty as charged." --from the Oakland Tribune, November 16, 1955

Used: Oakland Tribune

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