Robert H. White
was executed in the Nevada State Prison on June 2, 1930 for the crime of
He was convicted of killing Louis LaVell in Elko in eastern
Nevada on May 6, 1928. White, LaVell and a third person were all
gamblers using a marked cards scheme in Elko. LaVell was supposed to pay
White 25% of his earnings, there was a dispute over payment and LaVell
was killed by White.
Robert White was 39 having been born in Texas in
1889, his occupation was listed as cafe manager.
The Killer was a
Elko, Nevada - May 6, 1928
By Howard Hickson - rabbitbrush.com.
Around midnight, Mike Connis was looking for his friend and gambling
associate, “Louie the Greek.” He had last seen Louis Lavell leave the
Commercial Hotel with Bob White a few minutes before eleven p.m. Louie’s
second floor room at the hotel was padlocked on the outside. For more
than three hours Mike searched various clandestine gambling places in
In 1928 gambling
was not legal in Nevada. That didn’t come until 1931. This fact of law
has never discouraged those who pursue Lady Luck. Elko boasted several
dimly lighted places where bets could be made around card tables.
Mike, Louie, and Bob, weren’t taking any
chances when it came to playing poker. They hatched a scheme to
tilt the advantage toward them - as one might say, a sure thing
for the trio. Bob took marked cards to his friends who worked in
some of the joints. The cards were slipped into play. Louie and
Mike, if they recognized their crooked cards, sat in on the
games and raked in a bundle of money almost every time they
played. Mike and Louie were between games that fateful night and
sitting in the lobby of the Commercial.
In his early fifties, Lavell was truly the
epitome of a successful gambler. The evening of May 6, 1928, he
was wearing a custom tailored blue suit, blue knit tie sporting
a gold stick pin, gold cuff links, a fashionable light gray hat,
and a belt with a fancy monogrammed buckle. His attire was
perfect for his profession.
Connis was not nearly as flashy. In fact, he
was plain in dress and personality. Totally opposite of Louie,
they made an effective team at the poker table.
Everybody liked White. Bob would do just about
anything for a friend or even a stranger in need. With his
honest looking face most people tended to accept him at face
value. He ran a taxi service from the Mayer Hotel, where the
Stockmen’s stands today. He took sick school kids home, even
drove the school bus. Bob sure had people fooled. For three
months, he and his partners, had been making a darned good
living at night with the marked cards.
While Louis and Mike were at the Commercial,
White purchased a flashlight and loaded five cans of gasoline
into his car trunk. He then drove to the Commercial where he
stood just outside the door and peered in. Lavell saw White and
went out to talk with him. After talking for a couple of
minutes, the two got into White’s Packard and drove off. It was
a few minutes before eleven p.m.
Less than twenty minutes later two married
couples were driving up the Hesson Powder House road east of
town. Nearing the powder house, they saw the interior light of
an automobile glowing just ahead of them. As they passed they
saw Bob White, alone, sitting inside his Packard. They continued
up the road until they found a turnaround. Starting back down
they saw White’s car speeding back toward town.
Early Monday morning White’s wife boarded the
Monday evening, Connis was eating at the
Commercial when he saw White walk in. He asked if Bob had seen
Louie. White told him he hadn’t. Connis pointed out that he had
seen Louie and him talking and then both left in Bob’s car.
White turned and stalked out. Mike dropped in at the Sheriff’s
office around eight p.m. and reported that Lavell was missing
and he feared that something awful had happened to his poker
Bob and Mike had another confrontation Tuesday
morning in front of the Mayer Garage. Connis accused White of
doing something to Louie. The cab driver angrily denied seeing
Louis, claiming he had been home all night.
After the incident, Bob headed for Secret Pass.
He stopped at the 71 Ranch and talked with William Wright for a
while. On his way again he spotted a car with a flat tire and
pulled over to help the people change it. He continued his drive
up Secret Pass to the Ryan Place where he was leasing a cabin.
During the night the structure had burned to
the ground. It was an extremely hot fire scorching poplar trees
fifty feet away. People from Halleck and Ruby Valleys stopped to
sightsee. There wasn’t anything anyone could do by now but look.
They could see an iron bed, some chicken wire, and five
blackened gas cans.
About the same time, three rabbit hunters were
out near the powder house east of Elko and saw a light gray hat
on the ground. Two areas of dried blood were found nearby.
Returning to Elko and learning that a local gambler was missing,
one of the hunters called Sheriff Joe Harris. Harris drove out
to the powder house, retrieved the hat and saw that it had a
bullet hole through it. Powder burns around the hole meant that
the gun had been held very close to the hat when fired.
Wednesday morning found Harris and his deputies
in Secret Pass at the Ryan cabin. Digging around the cold ashes,
they found a cuff link, stick pin, the knot of a blue knit tie,
a pocket knife, a glasses case, a tobacco sack, a platinum
dental plate, some charred bones, and a belt buckle engraved