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Couple jailed in man's death

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 12, 1999 .

By THOMAS FRANCIS
Valley Press Staff Writer


PALMDALE - A 65-year-old man was slain Friday around 7 p.m., apparently as the result of an argument that boiled over into a physical altercation.

James Wood, 25, and his girlfriend Sarah Ellis, 20, both of Palmdale, are being held as suspects in the murder of John Frederick Gailer, who Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials cite as a "transient," though considered a resident of Palmdale.

There was no clear indication of the way in which Gailer was killed and the cause of his death is to be determined by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

Sheriff's office deputies said that Wood and Ellis had known Gailer, but did not elaborate on his relationship with the couple.

Gailer's body was found at 38020 11th St. East, Building B, about 9 p.m. The sheriff's station did not disclose the name of the person who discovered the body or identify the residents of that address.

Wood and Ellis were arrested near their residence, but their address was not released.

Sheriff's Office homicide detectives were continuing to investigate other details of the incident, including the argument that precipitated the killing.

Woods and Ellis were booked on suspicion of murder and taken to the Lancaster Sheriff's Station where they were being held without bail.

               

John F. Gailer Spring 1999
Slain transient's friends puzzled by violent death

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 13, 1999 .

By JENNIFER WOFFORD
Valley Press Staff Writer


PALMDALE - Forty-eight hours after the death of John Fredrick Gailer, sheriff's officials and the Palmdale community are trying to understand why the man known as "Santa Claus" was murdered.

According to one Palmdale resident, Gailer, a 65-year-old Palmdale "transient," was well-known and well-liked by local business owners and workers.

The resident, one of several unidentified callers to the Valley Press who hoped to learn about memorial services for Gailer, said he wasn't just a "transient" - he was a friend.

She said the people who knew him loved him.

"I was really shocked to hear this happened to him," she said. "A lot of people were shocked. He was a very sweet man.

"He was very well-known to the business community in downtown Palmdale," she said.

Gailer's body was found about 9 p.m. Friday in a building of an apartment complex at 38020 11th Street East.

Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives arrested James Wood, 25, and his girlfriend, Sarah Ellis, 20, as suspects in Gailer's killing.

According to Sgt. Sam Munoz of the Homicide Division, Wood has admitted to killing Gailer.

"The male suspect (Wood) hit the victim," Munoz said. "Once he was dead, he was wrapped up for three days and the body was left at the apartment."

Munoz said that the couple knew Gailer, who sometimes allowed them to stay at his apartment.

But the night Gailer died, something went awry.

According to investigators, an argument ensued that ended in a physical and deadly altercation between Wood and Gailer.

The exact cause of Gailer's death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

As of Sunday, Munoz said, homicide detectives were still trying to contact Gailer's next of kin, who reportedly live in Canada.


Murder victim called gentle philosopher

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 14, 1999 .

By JENNIFER WOFFORD
Valley Press Staff Writer


PALMDALE - Philosopher. Friend. Care-giver.

That is how the friends of John Fredrick Gailer describe him. They are devastated to hear the news of his murder.

Gailer's friends are wondering how something like this could happen to someone who was so loved in their close-knit circle.

"I've lost my best friend," said Rodney Alley, who said Gailer was like a brother to him. "I couldn't say enough about him - we are going to miss him."

The body of Gailer - who was 65 years old - was found Friday in an apartment complex in the 38000 block of 11th Street East.

"I can't really see anyone doing that to him unless the guy's a nut," said Alley, a close friend of the victim.

Gailer, his friend said, was a man who had many pals. And he enjoyed having a drink, maybe at one of the bars of east Palmdale. And he didn't mind sharing a little barstool philosophy.

The Trap was one of his locales. And Alley said Gailer was the kind of fellow who would take the trouble to write down his thoughts.

For example, Gailer once wrote: "May I forever keep watching, and be of good loving feeling (for) all creation, for mankind."

And it is those kind of kind thoughts that cause Alley to miss his friend.

On Saturday, Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives arrested James Wood, 25, and his girlfriend, Sarah Ellis, 20, as suspects in Gailer's killing.

It was not immediately known what charges the pair might face. It was not immediately known how Gailer was killed. A coroner's report has not been released.

According to Sgt. Sam Munoz of the Homicide Division, Wood admitted to killing Gailer in a statement to authorities.

Alley said the last time he saw Gailer was last week on Sept. 6 - a Monday. At that time, Alley was working on Gailer's truck's brake pads. Alley said Gailer bought the wrong brake pads. Gailer, Alley said, planned to come back on Tuesday with the right ones.

But Gailer never returned.

Alley said he paged Gailer Tuesday afternoon and heard nothing. Alley said Gailer always had a pager with him - it was the way people kept in contact with him because the older man didn't have a phone.

When Alley hadn't heard anything from Gailer, he called his own brother, Glenn, thinking that maybe his friend might have stopped at Glenn's house.

But Gailer wasn't there, either.

Alley and his brother paged Gailer all week long while Alley went out and checked the bars and drinking establishments that Gailer was known to frequent.

"I didn't see his truck and I wasn't sure where he was staying at," Alley said.

When Alley finally heard about his friend, the news couldn't be more disturbing - Gailer had been killed.

"What kind of a person would do that?" Alley asked. "He always tried to help people of the element that needed help. He was one of the best people on Earth."

Alley said he met Wood and Ellis only once. He overheard plans that Gailer and the couple were going to get a house in Lake Los Angeles with money that Gailer received from Social Security.

Alley said he knew Gailer was carrying a lot of money and told him to put the money in his bank account and to be careful with it. Gailer apparently was helping out the young couple with household items and diapers, according to Alley.

Gailer moved to the Antelope Valley in 1987. Alley and Gailer would visit places like Tujunga Canyon and Big Rock Creek because Gailer enjoyed the peacefulness of the outdoors.

"He was a mellow type of guy," Glenn Alley agreed.

Rodney Alley recalled how Gailer would come by and sit on the porch in front of his house in Valyermo and listen to the bells of the abbey.

But Gailer was mostly remembered for his generosity toward people and how he would look out for others.

Rodney Alley said Gailer would dress up as Santa Claus at Christmas time and pass out toys to children.

"He would give you the shirt off his back," Alley said.

Alley said Gailer would talk about his family and his companion, Ruth Ann. Gailer left two children behind - Helen "Wyrush" Gailer and William "Aysen" Gailer.

As a memorial to Gailer, friends over at The Trap are raising money to give Gailer a proper burial, according to Gypsee Dinavaregete, a musician.

The Trap was one of Gailer's places to socialize, Dinavaregete said. The memorial jam starts at 3 p.m. Sunday.

 

 

 

JFG Memorial Fund Raiser at the Trap

 

Friends remember slain 'Santa'

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 20, 1999 .

By JENNIFER WOFFORD
Valley Press Staff Writer


LANCASTER - Somber faces filled The Trap Sunday afternoon as dozens of friends and acquaintances came together to say goodbye to and celebrate the life of an old friend.

The Trap, an east Lancaster bar, was the gathering place Sunday for friends of John Fredrick Gailer. The unofficial farewell was dubbed a memorial jam in honor of the 65-year-old who was found murdered in Palmdale in early September.

Friends gathered to remember the man they called "Santa Claus," a man who touched the hearts of so many.

"If he had a dollar, he'd give you 50 cents of it," said "Dino," who had been a friend of Gailer for the last 17 years.

"That's how good he was - a good-hearted man and friends with everybody," Dino said.

Gailer's death was a shock to local business owners and workers, who said he was well-known and well-liked in the community. Friends and acquaintances organized the memorial to raise money for his burial.

According to Ed Morris, owner of The Trap, it has been difficult to get Gailer's body released because there has been no word that next of kin has been notified of his death.

Gailer's body was found Sept. 10 in an apartment complex in the 38000 block of 11th Street East in Palmdale. On Sept. 11, Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives arrested James Wood, 25, and his girlfriend, Sarah Jordan Ellis, 20, as suspects in Gailer's killing.

On Sept. 15, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged the couple with murder and robbery. Officials have not released how Gailer was killed.

The couple are scheduled to be arraigned in Antelope Municipal Court sometime this week.

Morris said The Trap is like a "Cheers" bar where people come to hang out and try to help others out when they can.

He said he was pleased with Sunday's turnout. Many people showed up to pay their respects and raise funds for Gailer's burial.

The last person to see Gailer alive was his friend, Rodney Alley, who last saw Gailer on Sept. 6, as Alley worked on the brake pads of Gailer's truck.

Alley said Gailer bought the wrong brake pads and left to return them. Gailer planned to come back on the following Tuesday with the right ones, but never showed up.

Alley said he paged Gailer Tuesday afternoon without response.

Alley added that Gailer always had a pager with him - it was the way people kept in contact with him because the older man didn't have a telephone.

When Alley finally heard about his good friend, the news couldn't have been more disturbing - Gailer had been killed, possibly murdered.

Gailer, Alley said, was a man who had many pals. And he enjoyed having a drink, maybe at one of the bars of east Palmdale. And he didn't mind sharing a little barstool philosophy.

The Trap was one of his locales. Alley said Gailer was the kind of fellow who would take the trouble to write down his thoughts.

For example, Gailer once wrote: "May I forever keep watching, and be of good loving feeling (for) all creation, for mankind."

And it is those kind thoughts that cause Alley to miss his friend.

Dana Schoeder, a bartender at The Trap, remembered years past, when Gailer would hang out at Claudia's, another eastside bar.

"Even though he was quiet, he was a nice guy," she said. "It's sad to know what happened to him."

Randy Colburn, former post commander for the Sons of the American Legion Post 771, said Gailer was a current legion member and presented the Legion flags in honor of Gailer. He also gave the eulogy at Sunday's memorial, which ran from 3 to 10 p.m.

In honor of Gailer's life, Gypsee's Band-X played throughout the night to memorialize the man who was known, from time to time, to have joined whatever band was playing on stage to play a song or two.

Colburn recalled the times Gailer spent with him, his children and other friends.

"I have nothing to say but good about him," Colburn said.

Gailer was mostly remembered for his generosity toward people and how he would look out for others.

Alley said Gailer would dress up as Santa Claus at Christmastime and pass out toys to children. Gailer also would talk about his family and his companion, Ruth Ann.

Gailer left behind two children, Helen "Wyrush" Gailer and William "Aysen" Gailer.

 

Victim's pals await justice in murder of 'Santa Claus'

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press September 23, 1999 .

BY KEVIN VALINE
Valley Press Staff Writer


LANCASTER - Palmdale resident Glenn Alley sat quietly and attentively in Antelope Municipal Court on Wednesday morning.

He was there on a solemn mission - to see that justice prevails in the murder of his longtime friend, 65-year-old John Gailer.

Police discovered Gailer's body on Sept. 10 in the Palmdale apartment of James Wood, 22, and Sarah Ellis, 20. The couple are charged with Gailer's murder.

They appeared briefly in court Wednesday, where they were to be arraigned on murder and robbery charges, but the arraignment was rescheduled for Oct. 6.

Alley will be back in court Oct. 6, too.

"I plan to attend as many of the court appearances as I can," Alley said, "to see how justice is done. John is one of my best friends."

As Alley spoke, his 17-year-old son, Glenn, and his girlfriend, Laura Knight, stood nearby. They had come with him to court.

Gailer had scores of dear friends. Dozens of them filled The Trap, an east Lancaster bar, on Sunday for his memorial service. Gailer was known and loved for his annual Christmastime appearances as Santa Claus, where he would hand out candy and toys to children. His friends say he was a bar stool philosopher of the highest order and a generous and kind friend.

Alley said his longtime friend had unofficially adopted Wood and Ellis and was helping them get their lives on track. Alley even said Gailer had brought the couple to his house twice.

Ellis was friendly and willing to talk but Wood was sullen and quiet, Alley said.

"They seemed like pretty nice people," said Alley's son, Glenn.

Couple plead innocent in slaying

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press October 7, 1999

By KEVIN VALINE
Valley Press Staff Writer


LANCASTER - A young couple pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges of robbing and murdering 65-year-old John Gailer, a genial and much-loved Palmdale resident.

James Patrick Wood, 22, and his girlfriend, Sarah Jordan Ellis, 20, are being held without bail in the Los Angeles County jail.

The couple are due back in Antelope Municipal Court on Nov. 3 to set the date for their preliminary hearing, said Public Defender Mitch Bruckner, who represents Wood.

At the hearing, prosecutors will present evidence and testimony to convince a municipal court that there is a "strong suspicion" that Wood and Ellis committed the crimes they are charged with and should stand trial.

Wood also is charged with possession of methamphetamine.

Investigators believe Gailer was visiting the couple in their Palmdale apartment and was killed on Sept. 7 or 8.

Authorities arrested Wood and Ellis on Sept. 10 after investigators found Gailer's body in their apartment. Neighbors had called the Palmdale Sheriff's Station, to complain about a smell coming from the apartment.

Prosecutors say Wood beat Gailer to death with a metal pipe while robbing him. Homicide detectives say Wood admitted killing Gailer.

In the weeks since Gailer's death, his friends have recalled his generosity and warm heart. Gailer dressed up as Santa Claus at Christmastime and handed out candy and toys to children.

"If he had a dollar, he'd give you 50 cents of it," said "Dino," who had been a friend of Gailer for the last 17 years.

"That's how good he was - a good-hearted man and friends with everybody," Dino said.

Dino made these observations on Sept. 19 at Gailer's memorial service at The Trap, an east Lancaster tavern. Dozens of friends and acquaintances filled the tavern to say goodbye to their old friend.

Gailer's murder shocked local business owners, who said he was well-known and liked in the community. Friends say Gailer's "home" was a camper shell he kept on a friend's property in Valyermo, but he spent his time visiting his many friends throughout the Antelope Valley.

Glenn Alley, one of Gailer's best friends, said his friend had unofficially adopted Wood and Ellis and was helping the young trouble get their lives back on track.

 

 

 

 


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