Film Noir Friday: Deadline U.S.A. [1952]

deadline-usa

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is DEADLINE U.S.A. starring Humphrey Bogart, Ethel Barrymore and Kim Hunter. Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

On the day that reputed gangster Tomas Rienzi testifies before a New York state Senate committee that he has no criminal ties, the staff of The Day , a newspaper that has been following the Rienzi case closely, learns that the paper is to be sold. The Day ‘s late founder, John Garrison, was close friends with the paper’s managing editor, Ed Hutcheson, and Ed is disappointed that Garrison’s widow Margaret has capitulated to her greedy daughters’ demand to sell. Ed continues laying out that evening’s edition, however, and refuses to print titillating photographs of an unidentified woman who was found drowned wearing only a mink coat. Ed does allow reporter George Burrows to continue investigating Rienzi, even though the committee dropped the charges against him due to lack of evidence. Ed then meets with Margaret, her daughters–Katherine Garrison Geary and Alice Garrison Courtney–and their lawyers, who inform him that rival newspaper publisher Lawrence White is buying The Day . Ed is infuriated, as he deplores White’s lack of integrity, and tells Margaret that she should prevent the sale because White is buying The Day merely to kill it.

The Trash Bag Killer — Conclusion

kearney3-209x300At the end of July 1977, Patrick Kearney was indicted in Riverside county and pleaded innocent to the murders of Albert Rivera, 21, Los Angeles; Arturo Marques, 24, Oxnard, and John O. LaMay, 17, El Segundo. Kearney’s attorney, Jay Grossman, requested that the transcript of the Riverside County indictment proceedings be sealed. His co-counsel, Steven Harmon, requested a gag order.

A few months went by and in November Kearney’s request to plead guilty and become his own attorney was turned town in Riverside Superior Court pending a psychological evaluation. It took only a couple of weeks for the results of Patrick’s psych evaluation to be completed. The multiple murder suspect was allowed to represent himself. He began by waiving a probation report and requesting immediate sentencing.

Superior Judge John Hews obliged by handing down a life sentence, with the possibility of parole in seven years, for the three Riverside victims.

Suspected of nearly 20 other slayings in Los Angles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, Patrick’s legal problems were far from over. Any one, or all, of the other counties could file murder charges against him.

Reporters interviewed the confessed killer in the courtroom following his sentencing, but Patrick declined to comment saying, “I can’t allow myself to think about it much. It’s too painful.”

The gag order was lifted once Patrick was sentenced, and for the first time many of the details of the slayings were revealed. He told prosecutors and investigators that he had killed “coolly”. He also said that he got ideas from reading the coverage of the serial rape/torture murders of at least 28 boys in Houston in the early 1970s. The crimes, committed by Dean Corll, Elmer Henley and David Brooks were known at the Houston Mass Murders. At the time, the Houston murders were consider the worst serial murders in American history. Patrick said that when he realized that the authorities were getting close to arresting him he removed all of the literature about the Houston murders from his home.

In January 1978, Patrick gave Los Angeles authorities the names of four more victims: David Rogers, 27, a Camp Pendleton Marine; Michael McGhee, 13, who vanished from Redondo Beach on June 11, 1976; Merle Chance, 8, whose decomposed body was found on May 26, 1977 in the Angeles National Forest; and finally Ronald Dean Smith, 5, whose body was found in Riverside County on October 12, 1974.

SEVENTEEN MORE COUNTSAlready serving a life term in Chino for the “trash bag murders” of three young men in Riverside County, in February 1978 Patrick was changed with 17 additional counts of murder. The complaint against Patrick was the largest ever filed in Los Angeles County. Two Sheriff’s homicide detectives, Al Sett and Roger Wilson, gathered the evidence on the cases using information provided by Patrick himself.

Just when they thought that they had finished filing murder charges against Patrick, one more victim was added to the death count. Detectives Sett and Wilson had placed an advertisement in the South Bay Daily Breeze. The ad referred to a teenager Patrick said he had shot to death in the fall of 1976. A woman answered the ad and gave the detectives enough information to convince them that the previously unnamed victim was 17-year-old Robert William Benniefiel of Redondo Beach.

As he had done in the three Riverside cases, Patrick Kearney pleaded guilty to 18 more counts of homicide on February 21, 1978. At least Ronnie Smith’s mom knew the name of the monster who had killed her son. But neither she, nor any of the other relatives of the dead, would learn why Patrick had committed the murders.

Judge D. Tevrizian addressed Patrick, “I feel I have some obligation to the 18 people whom you have silenced. the families of those victimes want to know why. Can you tell us why?”

Patrick replied, “I prefer not to.”

DAILY BREEZE PHOTO_1

Photo courtesy of Daily Breeze

The likely reason Patrick declined to discuss his murders is that he was a necrophiliac. He’s not the only serial killer who preferred not to discuss his necrophilia–Ted Bundy similarly didn’t want to talk about his personal preference for sex with the dead.

After he entered his pleas in municipal court on the 5th floor of the criminal courts building, Patrick was taken to the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge for sentencing. The judge imposed a concurrent life sentence and then he said, “This defendant has certainly perpetrated a series of ghastly and grisly crimes. . . I can only hope the community release board will never release Mr. Kearney. He appears to be an insult to humanity.”

So far Judge Breckenridge’s wish has been granted–Patrick Kearney remains incarcerated.

The Trash Bag Killer, Part 2

KEARNEY_HILL_PICSIn late June 1977, Sheriff’s officers announced that they were seeking Patrick W. Kearney, 38, and David D. Hill, 34, formerly of Redondo Beach, as suspects in the sex murders of 8 young men. Investigators said that they had found evidence near the body of John Otis LaMay that lead them to issue warrants for the two men–but they wouldn’t reveal what it was they had found.

EVIDENCE NEAR BODYThe victims tentatively linked to the wanted men ranged in age from 12 to 24–none were as young as 5-year-old Ronnie Dean Smith, who had been dead for nearly 3 years. Maybe the detectives were mistaken in their earlier hunch that the boy’s slaying was connected to the others.

Newspapers printed photos of the wanted men and, because it was a different time, frequently referred to them as “admitted homosexuals”. Along with photos and physical descriptions of the fugitives some details of the crimes were revealed. All eight victims had been nude when discovered, all had been shot and four of them were stuffed into heavy trash bags. As far as detectives could determine, the victims had been picked up in El Segundo or downtown Los Angeles and then dumped in several different counties.

Within a day or two of the warrants being issued for their arrest, Kearney and Hill walked into the Riverside County Sheriff’s headquarters, pointed to their pictures on a wanted poster, and surrendered. They were booked on suspicion of two murders; but Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators said that “there may be as many as 30 to 35 more bodies”, but they qualified the statement: “none of this has been confirmed.”KEARNEY_HILL_SURRENDER

Immediately following the July 4th holiday, Kearney and Hill were arraigned for the “trash bag” killings and bail was set at $500,000 each.

Detectives from five Southern California counties reviewed their John and Jane Doe cases to see if there were other possible victims that matched the “trash bag” M.O., and they found several that appeared similar.

HILL INNOCENT SAYS MOMDavid Hill’s mother, Edna, was interviewed in her hometown of Lubbock, Texas: “My David would do anything like that. I know the Lord’s going to help. He’ll take care of him.”

Hill had had a had a rough childhood. He was one of 9 kids and his father, J.W. Hill Sr., hanged himself in late 1948, leaving his family to struggle. Hill seemed always to be at loose ends. He never finished high school and was rarely employed. Finally, as many rootless young men do, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He completed his basic training at Ft. Ord, California and never went back to Lubbock to live. He occasionally visited his family and reconnected with his  high school sweetheart, whom he married. He met Kearney in 1962 and his wife divorced him in 1966.

Nobody was surprised that Hill’s mother defended her son, but what came as a complete surprise was that Kearney did the same. Soon after surrendering Kearney began to talk. He revealed the location of a victim he had buried between two garages at the rear of a triplex he and Hill had shared in 1968. Lt. Ed Douglas of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said that Kearney knew the victim only as “George”. The skeleton was unearthed and there was a hole in the skull, likely caused by a gunshot.HILL RELEASED HEADLINE

On July 14, nine days after they had surrendered themselves to the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, charges against Hill were dropped. To spare him from having to gun a gauntlet of reporters and photographers Hill was secretly taken from the jail. He may have gotten a “get out of jail free” card, but his attorney wisely counseled him to keep mum because there was a chance he could be recharged.

The Riverside County Grand Jury indicted Kearney for murder. He lead detectives to George’s grave in Culver City–would he lead them to other victims?  What about Ronnie Smith? His murder didn’t fit the M.O.–was he a victim of the Trash Bag Killer?  His family still needed answers.

NEXT TIME:  At last–more answers than questions.

Film Noir Friday: Plunder Road [1957]

Film-Noir-Poster-Plunder-Road_01

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is OCEAN’S ELEVEN a caper film starring Rat Pack members: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and auxiliary member Angie Dickinson.  Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

On a dark night of pelting rain, five men stage a well-planned train robbery and get away with a 10,000,000 dollar, nine-ton gold shipment. Dividing the massive haul into three concealed truck loads, the team (only one of them a professional thief) make a would-be inconspicuous escape across country to what they hope will be a perfect getaway…

 

The Trash Bag Killer, Part 1

On August 24, 1974 five-year-old Ronald Dean Smith failed to appear for dinner. Ronnie had been playing with a friend at a local park. The friend was accounted for, but nobody knew where Ronnie was. It wasn’t like him to miss dinner and it was odd that nobody knew where he was.  His grandmother, Mrs. Shirley O’Conner, was babysitting her grandson while his mother was out of town. When she couldn’t find him she called the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lennox Substation.

Sheriff’s deputies talked to Ronnie’s friend. He told them that he and Ronnie had gotten into a “…sand fight” and he’d gone home to clean up leaving his friend, in tears, in the sandbox.

Teams of Sheriff’s detectives searched the eight-square-mile park and went door-to-door interviewing people but, according to Lt. Ray Gott, “No clues–nothing. The boy has just disappeared.”

joann_picSeven days after his disappearance his mother, 22-year-old Joann O’Connor (she and Ronnie’s father were divorced) talked to the press in the squad room of the Sheriff’s station.

She made a gut-wrenching plea to the unknown person(s) who had her son.

“The reason we wanted you all to come here is to tell whoever had Ronnie how much we want him back. We definitely do feel in our hearts that he’s alive and OK and that he’s safe. I just want to tell whoever he’s with now that he’s very important to me, that he’s…”

Joann stopped for a moment, took a breath and composed herself as best she could, then she continued:

“…he’s all I’ve got. And that I love him so very much. I know that whoever took Ronnie took him because they wanted a little boy to love, and I know you took him because he’s so beautiful and that you won’t hurt him…”

On Sunday, October 13, 1974 a group of kids were collecting old beer cans along Ortega Highway near El Cariso Village in Riverside County, when they discovered a body. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department was notified.  They immediately checked the missing persons reports and found a description of Ronnie. The body they had was too badly decomposed to be identified by its features, but the clothing matched that of the missing boy. An autopsy confirmed everyone’s worst fears.

As hard as they tried, Sheriff’s investigators failed to turn up any suspects.

In late April, 1977, nearly three years following Ronnie’s death, the remains of 17-year-old El Segundo High School senior, John Otis LaMay, were discovered wrapped in plastic bags in an 80-gallon can in Temescal Canyon. He’d been missing for about a month.

El Segundo Police Detective Roger Kahl noted that there were similarities between LaMay’s death and the deaths of numerous other victims, all young men, whose nude bodies had been found near highways in four Southern California counties since April 1975. However, he said that LaMay was the only one who had been dismembered.

Despite the anomaly, Sheriff’s offices in Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, along with the LAPD, were sharing information in the belief that the murders were connected.

NEXT TIME: The body count climbs. Two suspects are identified.

Film Noir Friday: Ocean’s Eleven [1960]

Oceans_11

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is OCEAN’S ELEVEN a caper film starring Rat Pack members: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and auxiliary member Angie Dickinson.  Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

In Beverly Hills, around Christmastime, excitable racketeer Spyros Acebos is waiting to hear from former sergeant Danny Ocean, who led the heroic 82nd Airborne unit of paratroopers during World War II. Acebos hopes that Danny will reassemble his highly trained commando unit to participate in a heist that will make them millionaires. Danny and a fellow paratrooper, Jimmy Foster, have worked out a detailed plan for putting Acebos’ idea into action that requires carefully timed, military precision. However, they are avoiding Acebos’ calls until they locate their former comrades and convince them to participate. After searching Phoenix, San Francisco and other cities where the men have scattered, Danny reunites his ten colleagues at Acebos’ home to outline his plan, which is to simultaneously rob five Las Vegas casinos: the Sands, Flamingo, Sahara, Riviera and Desert Inn–on New Year’s Eve at midnight.

APRIL 27, 2016 NOTE:  Unfortunately, the YouTube link for this film has been removed–likely due to copyright issues.

30 More Years of Crime in L.A.

When I  began this blog in December 2012, I arbitrarily chose to examine crime in Los Angeles during the years from 1900 to 1970.  Now, however, I think it is time to expand the purview to include the decades of 1970, 1980 and 1990 to encompass all of the last century. In terms of crime in the City of Angels, the last three decades of the 20th Century are enormously interesting.

The 1970s have been called one of the most violent decades in U.S. history. Homicide rates climbed at an alarming rate and people felt increasingly vulnerable.

dirtyharry

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry

Hollywood contributed to popular culture, and helped fuel the debate on crime and punishment, with a slew of vigilante films like Dirty Harry and Death Wish. The films  showed bad guys being blown away by impressively large weapons.  It was cathartic, but not terribly realistic.

It was during the ’70s that the bogeyman got a new name when FBI Investigator Robert Ressler coined the term “serial killer”.

In 1978 convicted rapist and registered sex offender, Rodney Alcala, appeared on the Dating Game. Why wasn’t he more thoroughly vetted by the show’s producers? I have no idea. Even more astounding than his appearance was the fact that he won! The bachelorette who selected Rodney ultimately declined to go out with him–she found him “creepy”. He’s currently on California’s death row and is believed to have committed as many as 50 murders.

ramirez_108a

Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker, flashes a pentagram on his palm.

Some people joined cults where they banded together with like-minded folks for spiritual comfort and to retreat from the scary world-at-large. But there is not always safety in numbers, and evil can assume many guises. In 1978, over 900 members of the People’s Temple died in a mass suicide commanded by their leader, Jim Jones. The group was living in Guyana when they drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The People’s Temple may have been founded in Indiana, but like so many other cults before them they established a presence in L.A.

Jim Jones of the People's Temple

Jim Jones of the People’s Temple

A crack cocaine epidemic swept the country in the early 1980s.  It decimated communities and cost many people their lives. Crack  was inexpensive, easily accessible, and even more addictive than regular cocaine.

The 1980s gave rise to a “satanic panic” which resulted in some of most bizarre prosecutions we’ve seen in this country since the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s. The McMartin Preschool abuse trial was the most costly ($15 million) ever in the U.S. and resulted, rightfully I believe, in no convictions.

Surprisingly, there was a decline in crime during the 1990s, and it has been attributed to a variety of factors including: increased incarceration; increased numbers of police, growth in income; decreased unemployment, decreased alcohol consumption, and even the unleading of gasoline (due to the Clean Air Act). Despite the decline, there was still enough murder and mayhem to make us uneasy.

oj-simpson-murdeHere in L.A. there was the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, the so-called Trial of the Century. If you remove fame, wealth, and race and reduce the crime to its basic elements you end up with nothing more than a tragic domestic homicide–the type of crime which is altogether too common everywhere–yet the case continues to fascinate.

Heidi Fleiss, the Hollywood Madam, made news in 1993. At her pandering trial actor Charlie Sheen divulged that he had spent in excess of $53,000 for services rendered by Heidi’s girls.

Please join me as I explore the entirety of 20th Century crime in Los Angeles.

Joan

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday: Bringing Darkness to Light [2006]

bringing darkness to light

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is BRINGING DARKNESS TO LIGHT–a documentary on film noir. James Ellroy, Eddie Muller, and other noir aficionados are interviewed–and there are some fantastic film clips.  Enjoy the film!

IMDB film summary:

Film Noir burrows into the mind; it’s disorienting, intriguing and enthralling. Noir brings us into a gritty underworld of lush morbidity, providing intimate peeks at its tough, scheming dames, mischievous misfits and flawed men – all caught in the wicked web of a twisted fate.

The Devil in Orange County–2016 Update

One of the things I never expected to happen when I began this blog in December 2012 was that I would hear from so many victims, perpetrators, and their families. I have corresponded with people whose family tree was forever altered by a crime from as long ago as the 1920s.

I’ve found that most of the family members who contact me are seeking an open ear–someone who will listen and not judge. Often I am asked to provide information about a decades old incident and I gladly share my research notes.

The internet has made it nearly impossible for families to keep secrets–someone doing a quick search of a popular genealogy site may discover a long forgotten crime involving a relative and seek answers.

steve hurd

Stephen Hurd

In “The Devil in Orange County” I wrote about my peripheral involvement in one of the most infamous crimes in the county’s history. I suggest that you read the posts for an in-depth examination of the crimes, but briefly the circumstances are as follows:

On June 2, 1970, Stephen Hurd, 20, and Arthur “Moose” Hulse, 16, and several of their companions, were involved in two back-to-back violent homicides. The first was the brutal hatchet slaying, by Hulse, of 20-year-old Jerry Wayne Carlin, a gas station attendant working the grave yard shift. Carlin left behind a young widow. He never had the chance to learn that his wife was pregnant.

florence brownThe next day 29-year-old Florence Nancy Brown, stepmother to four children, was car jacked at a freeway off-ramp by Hurd, Hulse and a few of their co-horts. She was taken to a field and stabbed over 20 times. Her body was buried in a shallow grave near Ortega Highway. Hurd later revealed that he had returned to the make-shift burial site and mutilated Brown’s corpse by removing her heart which he then used in a Satanic ritual. Stephen Hurd died of a brain hemorrhage in prison in 2005.

Arthur Hulse is currently incarcerated at Vacaville, but apparently not for much longer unless Governor Brown vetoes his release.

There are individuals who deserve parole–they earn it by taking responsibility for their previous actions and by taking steps to become a productive member of society. Nothing that I have read about Arthur’s years in prison has suggested that he has done anything to make himself suitable for parole.

craig hulse photoLast year we conducted a successful letter writing campaign to Governor  Brown to reverse the parole board’s decision that Arthur be released.  This month at a parole hearing Arthur was once again granted release. He is due to be cut loose in August unless Governor Brown overrides the board’s decision like he did last year.

During the last several months I have heard from members of Florence Brown’s family and they have expressed their desire to see Hulse remain in prison. I have heard from one of her former grade school students who has never forgotten the events of 1970.

Last year I received email from Jerry Wayne Carlin’s widow which, with her permission,  I am reprinting below. I have withheld her current surname at her request.

carlin beating deathI hope that her letter will move you, as it did me, to contact Governor Brown and ask him to veto Hulse’s parole.

My name is Patricia ______. My first husband, Jerry Wayne Carlin was murdered on June 2, 1970. As you can imagine, my life was changed forever on that horrible night.

I’m writing to let you know that Arthur Craig Hulse had a parole hearing on September 26, 2014 and was granted parole. I was notified by the District Attorney, Scott Simmons, of the impending hearing on September 22, 2014, when the DA’s office was notified. The parole hearing had been moved up one year without notice to the DA or myself. I was asked by the DA to write a letter to the parole board, which I did.

It has been 44 years since Jerry’s murder. There has not been even one June 2, that I haven’t stopped and remember what happened on that horrible night. I gave birth to Jerry’s son, Jason, in 1971. All my son has left of his father is a 5″x7″ picture. When I was told of what happened to Jerry that night, I wanted to die. I took a overdose of every pill in the medicine cabinet but, by the grace of God, the police realized what I had done and got me to the hospital. I was told that I was pregnant. I knew I needed to be strong for my baby and for Jerry Wayne. I got on with my life and Jerry’s son grew and is now a Grandpa.

Although life went on, always in the back of my mind, was the thought, that someday Steve Hurd and Arthur Hulse could be released. Hurd died in 2005.

Now Hulse has been given a parole date. The Governor of California has the authority to overturn the parole board’s decision. He will review the case within 30 days and if the decision is not overturned, my worst fears will be realized, and this animal will be released in 120 days from September 26, 2014. I will be writing to the Governor to request he overturn this ruling. I have contacted the Orange County Register, because they have been following this case for more than 40 years. Incidentally they also were unaware of Hulse’s parole hearing. I do not know if they will publish an article about this person’s parole.

I’m writing a letter to the Governor’s Office and hope that more people who learn about this will also. The address is:

Governor Edmund G Brown
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

This may be the last thing I can do for Jerry Wayne and his son. If you have any way of helping get the word out about this horrible decision, I would be so grateful.

Life in prison should be just that. Is 44 years enough for hacking a innocent person to death? I will live the rest of my life, knowing what happened. There will be no parole for me or my son. Arthur Hulse should remain in prison for the rest of his life.

Thank You for your time.

******************************************************************

I cannot even imagine the pain that Patricia and her son have endured over the years, and of course Jerry’s loss continues to be felt by Patricia’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It’s easy for you to contact Governor Brown via EMAIL. I suggest that you select “Have Comment’ for the purpose of your communication, and for topic “Parole-Governors Review”.  Also select “Con” for your position on the pending parole.

I hope you’ll join me in writing to Governor Brown, it will take only a few moments of your time but may result in years of peace for Patricia and her family.

Below is my letter to Governor Brown. Feel free to cut and paste it into your email to him.

Governor Brown:

I am writing to urge you to veto the parole of Arthur Craig Hulse (#B33433) due to the heinous nature of his crimes. On June 2, 1970 he murdered 20-year-old gas station attendant Jerry Wayne Carlin with a hatchet and the next day he was an accessory to the car-jacking and brutal slaying of 29-year-old wife and mother Florence Nancy Brown. Mrs. Brown was stabbed at least 20 times and her body was mutilated postmortem.

Earlier this month Hulse was granted parole and is scheduled for release in August, unless you override the parole board’s decision like you did last year.

I thank you for your consideration of this request.

Respectfully,

Joan Renner

Film Noir Friday: Race Street [1948]

race-street

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is RACE STREET.  It stars George Raft, William Bendix, and Marilyn Maxwell. Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

When San Francisco bookmaker Hal Towers confides in his boss, racketeer Dan Gannin, that a syndicate is trying to force him to pay protection money, Dan reminds him about their recent pledge to get out of the gambling racket. Although Dan offers his best friend a chance to invest in his new, legitimate nightclub, Hal insists on fighting the syndicate. Dan cautions Hal, who is lame, to be careful, but before the night is over, Dan and another childhood friend, police detective Barney Runson, find the bookie lying dead at the bottom of his apartment stairs. Concerned for his friend’s safety, Barney warns Dan not to seek vengeance on Hal’s killers, but allow the law to pursue justice. Dan’s associates, however, expect him to retaliate for Hal’s murder, and Dan obeys the rules of gangster protocol by not revealing anything about the case to Barney. When Dan goes home that night, he is greeted by two well-dressed men who present themselves as “insurance salesmen.”