Former county official dead

A Reno man whose life was tragically changed by a notorious incident when he was a teen died two days short of his 61st birthday.

Joseph Fuetsch was a popular student at Manogue High School on Feb. 13, 1965, when he drove out of a restaurant at Virginia and Plumb with three other students in his car. He found his way blocked by another car at the intersection and honked at the driver, who gave Fuetsch the traditional gesture and then drove off. The other car pulled over two blocks away, and Fuetsch pulled in behind him. The other driver walked back to Fuetsch’s car, pulled out a pistol and shot the 18 year old in the neck through the window. The bullet severed Fuetsch’s spinal cord, and he nearly died. Students at Manogue, a Catholic institution, said prayers for him twice a day. He did live but was left a quadriplegic and wheelchair-bound for life.

At the highly publicized trial of Reno tavern operator Kenneth Graves in July 1965, Fuetsch testified from a gurney, his voice raspy from a tracheotomy that helped him breathe. The trial ended in Graves’ conviction for attempted murder and a sentence of 5 to 20 years in prison. The verdict was overturned and retried in 1970, with Graves being convicted again and returning to prison until Jan. 4, 1975.

Fuetsch graduated from UNR in business administration and in 1973 was appointed to serve out a term as county administrator, the official who handles estates of those who do not leave wills. He was elected to a full term in 1975 and then returned to private business in 1979. Fuetsch was born Aug. 27, 1946, and died Aug. 22, 2007.

If Graves is still alive, he is 71. Efforts to locate him were unavailing.

Sen. William Raggio, who as district attorney prosecuted Graves in a face-off with defense attorney Harry Claiborne, attended a memorial service for Fuetsch at the Carmelite convent in Reno. He said the Fuetsch case was “one of the more tragic cases that I handled. The fact that he became a quadriplegic was so unfortunate and tragic. … It was one of the more moving trials of my career.”