Ernest Perez was 21 years old and a native of Mexico. His first name fits his gaze as he looks seriously up at the camera. The photographer could not have asked for a more beautiful light in which to take Ernest’s mugshot.
He was arrested on October 7, 1922, for petit larceny, details unknown. The jail warden thought he was reliable or he wouldn’t have made him a “trusty” — the inmate in charge of disciplining other prisoners when they were at work outside the jail. If you weren’t into power trips, being the trusty would have been an awful job.
After serving 20 days in the Yuba County jail in Marysville, with 80 more to go, Ernest saw his chance. He took “french leave” and headed into the wild blue yonder of California.
Charles J. McCoy sent out wanted letter after Ernest disappeared, hoping that an officer of the law would see it and see Ernest and arrest him and return him to jail to finish his time.
A police officer prior to being elected sheriff of Yuba County, in 1914, Charles followed his father, Hank McCoy, to the job. He remained in the job for 31 years.
It’s not possible to catch up with Ernest and find out what he did with the rest of his life. Hopefully he found a way to make a good, honest living, but as a Mexican living in 1920s America, that would not have been an easy task.
Featured photo: Ernest Perez, from the collection of the author
Photo of Charles J. McCoy: courtesy of James Casey