Vido Opusich was tried in Judge Lawlor’s court in March 1901. He pleaded Not Guilty, by reason of insanity and self-defense.
The San Francisco Examiner wrote skeptically, “Opusich, who claims to be only 21, but appears to be older, shot and killed John Petrovich, an old man, in the Dalmatia saloon, on Pacific and Stockton streets, on June 10, 1900… The jury considered the case for six hours. Ten jurors wanted to return a verdict of murder in the first degree, but the remaining two jurors held out for a verdict of second degree, which was finally agreed upon.”
Judge Lawlor sentenced Vido Opusich to life in prison. The convicted man was immediately sent to San Quentin.
It was clear from the start that Vido Opusich did not consider himself a typical prisoner, and he had no intention of serving life in prison. We need only look at his mugshot, compared to photographs of others received at the same time in San Quentin.
Nearly eight years after Vido Opusich was received at San Quentin, a short notice appeared in The San Francisco Call in the March 19, 1909 edition:
Notice is hereby given that I intend to apply to the state board of prison directors to be paroled from the state prison at San Quentin according to law. Vido Opusich (No. 18985).
Vido’s petition was rejected. However, if he was certain he wouldn’t spend his life in prison, he was correct. On March 8, 1917, California’s Governor Johnson pardoned Vido Opusich and another prisoner named, W.A. Leverone, citing mitigating circumstances and an excellent record on parole.
Opusich was freed immediately. He had served 15 years, 10 months, and 20 days in prison. Less than a month after his release from prison, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. This marked the beginning of Vido’s post-prison life, which was dedicated to patriotic and benevolent pursuits.
After a year in the Army, Vido Opusich successfully applied for naturalization. On his papers, he wrote he was unmarried, and had no children.
Vido fell off the radar for a few years but resurfaced in October 1924, in Watsonville, California. Curiously, Opusich was familiar with this town. While in prison, he was assigned to work a road gang in Watsonville. In a brief note, Santa Cruz Evening News reported the Elks Lodge elected officers, including Vido Opusich, to the House committee.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the U.S.A is a fraternal organization that strives to inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity. Among other things, their mission explains that they recognize a belief in God, promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members, and quicken the spirit of American patriotism.
The last story about Vido was in the August 9, 1935 edition of Santa Cruz Evening News. “Forty and Eight has pre-convention meet; officers are elected. A pre-convention meeting was held for the purpose of installing officers last night in the Rio Del Mar club by Santa Cruz County voiture, Forty and Eight.” Opusich was listed as a member of the organization.
The Forty and Eight is an independent, by invitation, honor society of American veterans. The Forty and Eight is committed to charitable and patriotic aims, and once counted Harry Truman as a member of the organization.
Vido Opusich died on January 18, 1939, at age 58. He is buried in Pioneer Cemetery, in Watsonville, California.
What kind of man was Vido Opusich? We have only the public records to guess at what he must have been like. Based on those, he seems to have been a hot headed young man who realized he had made a terrible mistake and spent the rest of his life atoning for one mad action.