On an August Saturday night 54 years ago, Mendocino Sheriff’s Deputy Erwin ‘Butch’ Carlstedt was on patrol in downtown Point Arena when he received a call from Sonoma County dispatch advising that a home invasion suspect was headed north from Jenner in a stolen car.
Carlstedt sped down Hwy. 1 through Gualala, where fellow Deputy Charles ‘Dick’ Huls saw his flashing lights and joined in the chase. Carlstedt reached Stewarts Point, where the fan belt on his 1958 Chevy patrol car blew. Huls arrived minutes later, and before they could set up a roadblock they saw a vehicle, matching the description of the stolen car, coming down Skaggs Springs Road.
Unbeknownst to the deputies, the home invasion suspect was San Quentin escapee George F. Winn. When Winn spotted the patrol cars, he pulled off the road in front of an old barn and rolled to a stop. Huls drove up just yards from the car, saw that the suspect had a rifle in hand and ordered Winn to drop his weapon and get out of the car with his hands up.
Winn had been on the lam since Aug. 2, after escaping a work detail outside the walls at San Quentin. He had been living rough and foraging for food when, on Aug. 13, he came upon Stella and Larry Von Arx of Jenner, who were preparing to sit down for Saturday night dinner.
The couple were waiting for their sons when suddenly the kitchen door opened and a ragged-looking Winn broke in yelling, “Don’t move; don’t move,” while thrusting an eight-inch hunting knife toward Larry. He ordered them to a back room, where Winn found Von Arx’s rifle. “When are your boys getting home?” he asked, making it apparent he had been watching the house for some time.
The Von Arx teenage sons, Victor and Bill, soon arrived with their friends Donald Lang and Leslie and Dave Nelsen, who were sent into the same room. “There are too many of you to kill,” said Winn, then demanded food, saying he had not eaten for days.
Larry Von Arx talked Winn out of taking hostages, telling him that the sheriff’s office was a good half hour away in Guerneville, and gave him the keys to the family Ford. Von Arx called the sheriff as soon as Winn left.
At the Hwy. 1 roadblock, the suspect finally agreed to get out of his car, then fired at the two deputies as Carlstedt ran toward him. Carlstedt felt a bullet whiz past his head as he dropped to the ground. Huls fired a slug from his shotgun that put a hole in the back window of Winn’s getaway car. When Winn dropped down to the ground in front of his car Huls fired another shotgun blast, hitting Winn in the knee. Both deputies began firing their handguns. Eventually Carlstedt hit Winn in the top of the head, killing him on the spot.
The deputies had no idea the suspect they had stopped was a prison escapee, and it would be 12 hours before an identification was made. They discovered Winn was doing time for the attempted murder of two police officers in Los Angeles, something he had bragged about to the Von Arx family.
Huls died in 1979, having served the South Coast community as a Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputy for many years and later one of the first security guards at The Sea Ranch.
Carlstedt worked for Mendocino County until 1966, was one of the first sergeants in Ukiah and moved on to Sonoma County where he was the Sonoma Coast Sheriff Deputy covering Valley Ford to the Gualala River. He later worked homicide and narcotics before retiring in 1984. Today he lives with his wife Cheri Ann in Point Arena. Now 81 years old, he still enjoys a good game of golf.
Copyright©2014 Independent Coast Observer
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(An unbylined story in the August 15, 1960 edition of the San Rafael Daily Independent Journal provides additional details.)
Quentin escapee shot fatally after terrorizing family. Holds seven persons hostage, dies in fight with deputies.
A ragged and half starved San Quentin prison fugitive died in a gunfight with Sheriff's deputies early yesterday a few hours after he had invaded a home and held seven persons hostage for more than two hours while he wolfed down stew and potatoes.
George F. Winn, 33, who fled the prison ranch just outside San Quentin on August 2, charged into the Larry Von Arx home at Jenner, Sonoma County, Saturday night, brandishing a 10 inch knife.
“Do what I say or I'll kill you — I've killed before,” he snarled.
“He just rapped on the kitchen door and came on in," said Von Arx, a lumber hauler. “He stuck this knife in my back and said he wanted something to eat. Told us he'd been living on water and a little raw fish for over a week.”
“The wife fed him what the boys would have had for supper, stew and potatoes. The boys missed their supper because they were late.”
15 minutes later, the two Von Arx sons, Victor, 18, and Bill, 16, entered the house.
The captives were joined ten minutes later friends David Nelson, 15, his brother Leslie, 16, and Don Lang, 15.
“The fellow told us he'd been in a lot of trouble for many years,” Von Arx said. “He told us he got a couple of deputies and they didn't scare him none.”
"He told us he'd been watching our house from the hills all day long. He knew one of my boys had been out hunting all day with our deer rifle and the other had gone shooting birds with a .22. He said he picked our house because he knew we had guns inside. He grabbed that deer rifle and a box of ammunition and he was going to take the Nelson boy within but we talked him out of it. We told him he wasn't taking anybody with him but to take the car if he wanted. That's what he did. But he made the wife pick up a whole sack full of groceries first. Sandwiches, canned meat, that kind of stuff."
Winn ripped the telephone from the wall and fled north in the family car. But he missed another phone in the house. Von Arx called the Sonoma County Sheriff's office and an all points bulletin was issued.
Winn's northbound car was spotted at 12:40am by Mendocino Deputy Sheriff Richard Huls as it approached the intersection of Highway 1 and Scaggs Spring Road at Stewart's Point in Sonoma County. Winn lept from the stolen car and ran into a field. Huls shouted that he was a deputy and to come out with hands up. The answer was a shot which narrowly missed him.
Shot In Head
At this moment a second Mendocino Deputy, Irving Carlstead, pulled up.
The two fired at Winn, fatally wounding him in the head. A second bullet hit him in the left leg. Winn died less than two hours later without regaining consciousness and before a summoned ambulance arrived from Guerneville.
Winn was serving a five-year to life term for robbery and assault with the intent to commit murder. A minimum-security prisoner, Winn apparently had climbed over a low wire fence that surrounds the prison's ranch area to escape.