Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anchorage, Alaska

From the Anchorage Daily News of May 16, 2006
(Scroll down)
Made-for-TV murder

The bartender said Johnny Christopher didn't care if he lived or died. Police accounts of Christopher's death Nov. 9, 1957, suggests the bartender was right. Christopher, a 43-year-old construction worker, died in an Anchorage shootout with Ernest Henry. The barman had seen the two arguing the day before.

The Daily News account of Christopher's death is surprising. It's old-fashioned tabloid journalism under the headline, "Blameless in Slaying Case Panel Finds."

According to the News, Henry was in bed at 11:30 p.m., "watching dancer Carmen Miranda shake and wiggle" on television. Suddenly, Johnny Christopher burst through the door, whipped out his pistol, called Henry a profane name and began firing.

"I grabbed my gun and shot back," Henry said.

Both men fired multiple times. Christopher never hit Henry; Henry hit Christopher in several places, most importantly the head.

"Henry," according to the newspaper, "then told of reloading his own gun and replacing it near his bed, as he returned once again to the fascinating and wondrous wiggles of the lady known as Carmen Miranda."

He was still watching Carmen when a neighbor, responding to the gunshots, arrived at his door. Undisturbed by a dead body and the neighbor's questions, Henry remained abed, fixated on "his favorite hot tamale." When police arrived, Henry was forced to "sacrifice" the end of Carmen Miranda's show to explain the gun battle.

Henry said he shot Christopher in self-defense. So did a coroner's jury on Nov. 20, 1957. The jury never established why Christopher was angry at Henry.

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