|Birth: ||Dec. 23, 1916|
Las Animas County
|Death: ||Mar. 5, 1955|
Rock Springs Miner, Mar 6, 1955
Deputy Sheriff Dies from Gunshot Wounds Murderer Is Identified as Former Cody Man
Been Using Gray Alias For the Past Two Years
Authorities tonight tentatively identified the man who killed two men and wounded two others in a 14 hour chase through southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah yesterday before being killed himself as Charles Billings of Cody, Wyo.
Sweetwater County Coroner Bill Villanova said the man was identified as a hand who had been working on the Dean Binning ranch near Pinedale, northwest of here. Binning and his wife both identified the body.
The identification, made several hours after it was learned the man was not ex-convict Melvin Henry Gray, 27, as officers had announced, further confused the circumstances of yesterday's shootings at Kemmerer and Green River.
Binning and his wife, Villanova said, identified the man as Melvin Henry Gray—the man who had been working for them—but said he was not an ex-convict and was only 23 years old.
After the identification was made a sister of the man, Mrs. Claudia Balen of Thermopolis, Wyo., was contacted and she told officers her brother's real name was Charles Billings. The Binnings had told officers about the sister.
Villanova said it was learned Billings had been using the name of Melvin Henry Gray for at least two years—to his sister's knowledge—but that nobody has been able to explain why. He said he hopes to clear up all the mystery at an inquest in Green River tomorrow.
Villanova said the Binnings were "quite broken up" about the shooting, and told him the young gunman had been a reliable and pleasant person.
Binning told United Press Billings, or Gray as he knew him, had been a "trustworthy and willing worker."
"I knew nothing bad about him," he added.
Villanova said he and other officers have been unable to find out whether Billings had ever been in trouble. He has no record in Wyoming under either name.
The coroner, who operates the Villanova funeral home where the body of the dead gunman is being kept, said Mrs. Balen is due into Rock Springs tonight or early tomorrow to look at the dead man.
Meanwhile, Sweetwater County Sheriff George Nimmo had sent the dead man's fingerprints to Washington in an effort to establish positive identification. No word had been received tonight.
It was a fingerprint classification run late this morning that proved the dead man was not the ex-convict he was thought to be. That man, the Melvin Henry Gray who served 12 months for forgery in Wyoming state prison and was released Nov. 27, 1951, has not been located and officers have been unable to find anybody who has seen him for the past several years.
When Nimmo learned today the identification was wrong, he said he thought the gunman may have killed the ex-convict and stolen his car and clothing.
"I'm presuming Gray's dead," Nimmo said, "Everybody in the United States knows about this thing and surely Gray would have shown up before this if he were still alive."
Bob Durrant, 17, of Evanston, Wyo. spent 12 hours with the killer Friday. They drove as far west at the Uintah mountains in Utah before doubling back to Green River.
Durrant wisely did not try to escape and was not harmed. But before he was kidnapped, his captor had killed Albert Maffei, 35, a Kemmerer automobile dealer; wounded Kemmerer Town Marshal Frank Kulinski, 50, and tried to kill Kemmerer gas station attendant Don Wagner.
The Durrant youth said the killer stopped at Linwood, Utah, and bought a change of clothes. His old ones were discarded along U.S. highway 41 outside Linwood, but the killer kept the belt and initialed buckle.
Durrant and Utah authorities drove back along the highway today, in the hope of finding the discarded clothes and a clue to the killer's identity.
Gray had been working for a year at the Pinedale ranch of Binning. He left there Sunday, saying he was going to Riverton, in eastern Wyoming.
Gray's car was seen in Riverton either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Town Marshal Kulinski discovered a burglary at Maffei's automobile agency in Kemmerer before dawn Friday. He, Maffei and the gas station attendant followed automobile tracks five miles along a dirt road to Frontier.
As they stood beside the car they had tracked, a man stepped from behind a building brandishing two pistols.
He disarmed Kulinski and herded the three men into the car, which is registered in the name of Melvin Henry Gray. They talked the armed man into releasing them.
But as they got out of the car the two-gun criminal began blazing away.
Kulinski fell with a slug in the abdomen. Wagner's face was singed by gun powder, but he dived into a snow bank and crawled away to safety.
Maffei ran in terror down the road, but was shot in the back. The killer pumped another bullet into his face at point-blank range after Maffei had fallen helpless to the ground.
The killer drove wildly in the car to nearby Evanston, eluded two state patrolmen alerted by Wagner, and at a gas station stole $35 and kidnapped young Durrant.
Durrant said they stopped at Little America, to gas up the youth's stripped-down hot rod, and again to buy the clothes at Linwood.
Just before dusk, the killer got out of Durrant's car near Green River and sent the level-headed teenager on his way.
Durrant immediately drove to a telephone and informed Green River authorities that the man they sought was headed for the Union Pacific railroad yard.
Deputy Sheriff Ed Phillips found the killer behind a box car. But he did not know about the change of clothing, and hesitated to shoot. The killer fired instead, lodging a slug against Phillips' spine. In a few hours Phillips died, after two futile operations.
As the officers closed in, the killer ran into the home of Mrs. Gus Kalivas. He tried to keep officers at bay by threatening to shoot the woman and her 20-month-old twin daughters.
But a pistol shot from a window struck his knee. As the killer spun around Railroad Agent Gaylord Sherman blasted him with a shotgun.
The killer staggered into a bedroom and fell across a bed.
"I'm dead damn it. Come and get me," He shouted with his last breath.
Rock Springs Miner, Mar 6, 1955
Ed Phillips Is Second Victim of Mad Killer
Deputy Sheriff Ed Phillips, 38, of Rock Springs, died early Saturday morning in Sweetwater County memorial hospital here of a gunshot wound suffered a few hours earlier in a battle with a maniacal two-gun fugitive.
He was the second victim of the killer, who early Friday had shot and killed Albert Maffei, 35, Kemmerer auto dealer, and had seriously wounded Frank Kulinski, 50, Kemmerer town marshal, in Frontier.
Phillips was shot about 6 p.m. Friday as he and nine other law officers were combing the Green River railroad yards in search of the fugitive.
He died at 12:20 a.m. Saturday after undergoing two operations. Funeral services are pending.
The Rock Springs deputy, accompanied by Deputy Sheriff Steve Babel, had seen a man on the railroad platform and called on him to "halt." Instead, the man ran behind a railroad car and as Phillips and Babel ran after him opened fire.
Phillips was struck under the arm by the bullet, which lodged near the spine. He was taken to Sweetwater County Memorial hospital in Rock Springs and underwent two operations. Sheriff George Nimmo said he was paralyzed by the bullet and was suffering from a concussion of the spine.
Nimmo said Saturday that before he died Phillips told him he had not fired on sight at the man, known to be a desperate killer, because he wanted to be sure of his identity and did not want to fire on what might be an innocent person.
"I had to be sure, buddy," Nimmo said Phillips told him. The fugitive killer had changed clothes since leaving Evanston, where he had last been seen.
Deputy Sheriff Babel, who was with Phillips at the time, outlined Saturday the sequence of events leading up to the gunbattle which claimed Phillps' life.
"We were checking the street along the railroad when a man in a café told us he had seen a fellow go through the station and into the yard," Babel said.
"We jumped in our car and drove over to the station, parked it and checked the station. We went through the back door and out onto the platform. Red spotted the man first. The fellow was walking slowly down the platform, nonchalantly.
"Red hollered ‘halt,' and the fellow started to run.
"We ran after him, and he ran behind a railroad car. Then he started shooting, and Red went down. I went off to the left and got two shots off, and he fired twice at me. He also fired two shots at Bill (County Coroner, Bill Villanova, who had joined the two at the depot), who stayed to take care of Red.
"Then Roy Cameron, (Green River night marshal), joined me to finish searching the yards," Babel said.
Babel added that "we never knew he had a gun until he started shooting," since because of the change in clothes they were not sure it was the right man.
A few minutes later the killer, who ran from the railroad yards into the south Green River residential district, was killed in the George Kalivas home, where he had taken refuge.
He was cut down by a shotgun blast fired by U.P. Special Agent Edward Brittenham and Art Reese, just after he had threatened to kill the 20-month-old Kalivas twin girls in the house if the lawmen followed him into the house.
Phillips, a resident of Rock Springs for 23 years, was appointed deputy sheriff in January of 1954.
Born Dec. 23, 1916 in Aguilar, Colo., he attended school in Lafayette, Colo., and came to Rock Springs in 1932. He was employed by the state highway department maintenance division, and later became city street commissioner. He served in the navy during World War II, and after the war was employed by the county as a maintenance man.
He was married in 1941 to the former Ruth Berry of Superior, former nurse at Sweetwater County Memorial hospital. They have two daughters, Patricia Lynn, 12 and Joan Marie, 9.
Other survivors include his mother, Mrs. Lydia Dickson of Tooele, Utah; a brother, James, of Rock Springs; five sisters, Mrs. Mae Dykes and Mrs. Julian Savala of Rock Springs; Mrs. Margaret Good, Denver; Mrs. Florence Walters, Tooele, Utah; and Miss Lorraine Dickson, Tooele, Utah; and several aunts and uncles and several nieces and nephews.
He was a member of the American Legion and of the Eagles lodge.
Funeral services are pending at the Rogan mortuary.
Sheriff Nimmo asked Saturday on behalf of the family that flowers not be sent and that persons desiring to do so instead contribute to the reward fund for Phillips' family.
Rock Springs Miner, Mar 6, 1955
Reward Fund Is Started For Ed Phillips' Family
Fellow law officers and citizens in Sweetwater county and throughout Wyoming started a reward fund for the family of Deputy Sheriff Ed Phillips, killed in line of duty Friday night in a gun battle with a maniacal slayer.
More than $200 was subscribed to the fund almost immediately at the office of Sheriff George Nimmo in Green River and at the Rocket-Miner office in Rock Springs. Money for the fund may be subscribed at either place and will be turned over to Nimmo.
Phillips' family includes his wife, the former Ruth Berry of Superior, and two daughters, Patricia Lynn, 12, and Joan Marie, 9. A third child is expected within a few weeks.
The fund drive was started by Sheriff Nimmo and John Swinehart, division special agent for the Union Pacific.
"We've got to do something for his family," Swinehart said, "This is another case of a public servant killed by a mad dog."
Details of the gun battle revealed Saturday that Phillips was killed after he had given the fugitive a chance to surrender, before he had definitely identified him as the slayer.
"I had to be sure, buddy," Nimmo said Phillips told him at the hospital before he died, explaining that he withheld his fire because the man he called on to halt in the railroad yards was wearing different clothing than the fugitive was known to have worn when he left Evanston.
"He wanted to be sure the man wasn't an innocent person walking along the railroad platform," Nimmo added.
"He was making every effort to protect the public, and that slight delay to be sure of the man's identification, by calling on him to ‘halt' instead of shooting on sight, gave the killer the first shot," the sheriff said.
"Ed Phillips was killed in line of duty, protecting our citizens, from a mad dog," Nimmo said. "Now we want to do everything we can for his family. We know other citizens will want to help also in building up this reward fund."
Rock Springs Miner, Mar 13, 1955
Funeral services were held Tuesday for Edward Phillips, deputy county sheriff, at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion. Rev. E. Thomas Rodda conducted the ritualistic service and burial was in Mountain View cemetery.
Mr. Phillips was wounded fatally Friday, March 4, by Charles Billings as he and other law enforcement officials were closing in on Billings in the railroad yards at Green River. (Billings had shot and killed Albert Maffei of Kemmerer and wounded two other Kemmerer men after an armed robbery in Kemmerer early that morning.
Edward Phillips was born Dec. 23, 1916 in Aguilar, Colo. He attended school in Quealy and Lafayette, Colo.
After coming to Rock Springs in 1932 he worked for the state highway. He served in the navy in World War II and after his discharge worked for Sweetwater county as a maintenance man until he accepted a position with the county sheriff's office.
Mr. Phillips married Ruth Berry of Superior in Randolph, Utah, June 21, 1941 who with two daughters, Patricia Lynn, 12, and Joan Marie, 9, survive.
Other survivors are his grandmother, Mrs. Edward Jones of 707 Connecticut avenue, with whom he made his home much of the time in his boyhood days; his mother, Mrs. Lydia Dickson of Tooele, Utah; one brother and five sisters, James M. Phillips, Mrs. James Dykes and Mrs. Julian Savala, all of Rock Springs, Florence Walters and Lorraine Dickson, both of Tooele, Utah, and Margaret Good of Denver.
He was a member of Archie Hay post, American Legion, and Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 151.
The Phillips home is at 818 West street.
Lyda Harris Dickson (1893 - 1997)
Ruth Esther Berry Jones (1918 - 2001)
Rock Springs Cemetery
GPS (lat/lon): 41.5742, -109.21218
Maintained by: Angela Cable
Originally Created by: rocksprings
Record added: Sep 19, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 76776117
Many thanks for your service in our military and police force. RIP|
Added: Mar. 23, 2016
Added: Dec. 28, 2014
Added: Jun. 15, 2012