Roofie Romeos, Part 3

Media coverage on date rape drugs was sparse in the early 1990s.  There was one high profile story involving Rophynol in March 1994; and that was the near fatal overdose of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain. He had combined roofies and champagne in what appeared to have been an accidental O.D.  Tragically Cobain was found dead, apparently by his own hand, a month later.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain

News coverage on roofies continued sporadically until 1996 when it exploded. The potential for the drug to be used in date rape was a hot topic for women’s magazines and magazines geared toward teenage girls. Oprah Winfrey was one of many TV talk show hosts who covered the dangers of date rape drugs. Discussion of the the drugs wasn’t confined to talk shows; scripted shows like Beverly Hills 90210 and South Park also weighed in.   Women were warned never to leave a drink unattended and to avoid punch bowls at parties.

It may have been the heightened awareness of the existence of date rape drugs that brought the law to the Spitzer’s front door in mid-1996.

On July 9, 1996, 36-year-old flight attendant Kimberly B had a few days off between flights. She was with friends at a sidewalk café in Marina del Rey when she met Stefan and George Spitzer.

George, who introduced himself as Gino, struck up a conversation with Kimberly in the parking lot of the café.  He asked her if she was interested in having an authentic Italian dinner with an authentic Italian.  Kimberly was intrigued because she was planning a trip to Italy.  Maybe the guy could offer insider tips on where to stay and what to see. They exchanged phone numbers.

Kimberly heard from George later that day and they arranged to meet at a local Starbuck’s at 8:00 p.m.  The couple went to Jake and Annie’s restaurant where George ordered a bottle of wine and proceeded to regale his date with increasingly unbelievable tales—like how the movie “The Godfather” was based on his dad. Then he told her he had a Ph.D. in psychology and, among his other amazing accomplishments, he was Raquel Welch’s personal trainer.

RoofiedSymptomsInfographicKimberly easily saw through George’s lies, and it didn’t take long before she had had enough. She knew that there would not be a second date and took immediate steps to put the excruciating evening to an end. She told George she had to be home by 11:00 p.m. to relieve the babysitter who was watching her 6-year-old daughter.  And then she watched the clock.

The kitchen at Jake and Annie’s restaurant was closing so the pair went a couple of blocks over to the World Café where they had dinner and wine. Kimberly had one glass.  Following dinner Kimberly reminded George that she had to be home by 11.  At 10:00 she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room.  She was waiting in line when George came up to her and asked her how long she would be—she was away for about 10 minutes before returning to the table.  She was relieved that her date with the tedious blowhard would soon be over.  With any luck at all she would be home by 10:30.

Kimberly awakened at 5:45 a.m. the next morning and couldn’t get her bearings. The room was spinning. She tried to shake the cobwebs out of her head. She looked around expecting to be in her own bedroom, but she was naked and in bed with George. What the hell had happened?  She remembered nothing after the restaurant.  Dazed and moving in slow motion Kimberly quietly dressed and left the  apartment.  It was a miracle she made it home without incident.

She  ran into George later that day and asked him point blank if they’d had sex.  He denied it. She didn’t believe him.

Kimberly went to the  Los Angeles County Sheriff’s  Marina del Rey substation.  She told deputies that she was certain that a creep who called himself Gino Sorrelle had slipped Rohypnol into her wine glass during dinner the previous night and she wanted to file a complaint. She was taken to a nearby hospital for a rape kit. Semen was found in Kimberly’s vagina and rectum.

Sheriff’s investigators secured a warrant to search the Spitzer’s apartment and they uncovered over 20 videotapes. The tapes showed 12 different women, who appeared to be under the influence, being raped. The rapist wasn’t immediately identified. Dealing with identical twins presents law enforcement with unique problems. The investigators also found 20 boxes of Rohypnol. Is there any legitimate reason for private citizens to have that much Rophynol on hand?

George was arrested on August 7, 1996 and Stefan was arrested a few weeks later. Each of them was held on $2 million bail.

The circus was about to begin.

NEXT TIME: Would the twins finally be held accountable?

The Dark Past [1948]

the-dark-past-sm-web

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. Today’s feature is THE DARK PAST starring William Holden, Nina Foch and Lee J. Cobb.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

After observing a police lineup, Dr. Andrew Collins, a police psychiatrist, focuses on a young man whom he believes he can help overcome the deep hurt that causes him to act as a criminal. When a colleague questions his ability to redeem criminals, Collins tells him the story of how he came to work for the police: Several years earlier, Collins had been a practicing psychiatrist and college professor. One weekend, he, his wife Ruth, and his son Bobby leave for their cabin in the country. That same day, murderer Al Walker escapes from jail, holding the warden hostage.

Roofie Romeos, Part 2

spitzer_graphic

Illustration by Koren Shadmi originally posted to the L.A. WEEKLY on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2016.

Stefan was the first of the Spitzer twins to get into trouble with the law–at least in the U.S. In 1980 he picked up a woman identified only as Terry B.  Stefan said he was a French actor and told Terry she should be a model. Later that day Stefan forced himself into Terry’s apartment where he choked and raped her. He controlled her by telling her that he had killed before, in Israel.  He was subsequently arrested, tried and acquitted for the attack on Terry.

In 1982 Stefan met Marci G.  They dated one time without incident.  On their second date the man Marci knew as Julian seemed different and, strangely, couldn’t recall details of their initial meeting or their first date.  The man took Marci to his apartment where he sodomized and raped her until she bled, all the while threatening her with a fist to her face.  Marci ID’d her attacker as George Spitzer.  George was tried and acquitted.

Keri B met Stefan in 1983.  Keri and Stefan had consensual sex, and then he left her for about an hour.  When he returned Keri thought he seemed different.  He was wearing the same clothes but they didn’t fit—the shirt sleeves and pants were too short.  Another detail that alarmed Keri was that earlier he had been a sweet and sensual kisser.  When he returned he was rough and he slobbered.  Keri figured out that she’d been duped by the twins.  She called them later and left voice message–she told them what they had done was disgusting.

In 1986 Trisha G was working in a hotel restaurant when the twins stopped in for cocktails. Trisha went to Stefan’s suite for champagne and pizza. She became sleepy and passed out. When she woke she was in bed, Stefan was strangling her with one hand and groping her with the other. She managed to scratch his face. She got away. Trisha reported the incident to the police but George visited her regularly at her job and threatened her. Trisha lost her job and had to move away because she feared the twins were members of the Mafia.

In January 1989, Jennifer P met George at a mall shoe store where she worked.  She had wine with George at a café and then he took her home where they had consensual sex.  Afterward, he raped her while she begged him to stop. When George was finished, Stefan came in.  Jennifer could tell the difference and said so.  It didn’t matter to the twins.  Stefan raped her and then forced oral copulation.  Jennifer reported the twins to the police.

George was questioned by the cops.  He said that Jennifer manufactured the story to get revenge on him on him because he had refused to buy her dinner.  The district attorney declined to prosecute.

George met Valerie O at a Beverly Hills nightclub.  He said he needed to stop by his apartment to pick up his ATM card.  Once they were inside the apartment George attempted to rape her but Valerie fought him off. The frightened woman watched as George masturbated in front of her and ejaculated into the sink. When Valerie returned to the nightclub later that night her friends saw the scratches on her arms and told her to phone 911.

George was tried, but the trial ended in a hung jury.  He spent one day in jail and was referred to a shrink.

When did George and Stefan realize that Rohypnol, the drug their father took for back pain, could be used to facilitate rape?  It is possible that they read about it or saw it on the news. By the mid-1990s there were articles and investigations into the use of date rape drugs.

 

Crackdown Sought on ‘Date Rape’ Drug

Crime: Legislators seek to ban possession of Rohypnol, which is only made for foreign markets.  — Los Angeles Times, June 8, 1996

One thing is certain, the drug was tailor made for bottom feeders like the Spitzers. They could slip the undetectable drug into a woman’s drink and turn her into a zombie sex toy with little or no memory.

‘Date Rate’ Drug Overdose Kills Girl — October 4, 1996 | From Reuters

NEXT TIME:  How long can the Spitzer’s rape rampage continue?

 

Sources:

Los Angeles Times
L.A. Weekly
ProQuest
Los Angeles Public Library

Film Noir Friday–Saturday Matinee: Private Hell 36 [1954]

private_hell_thirty_six

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. Today’s feature is PRIVATE HELL 36 starring Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, Howard Duff, Dean Jagger and Dorothy Malone.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Two LA detectives get in over their heads when they get involved with a nightclub singer who holds the key to the missing loot from a New York elevator robbery. Once they find the money, they are tempted to keep it and betrayal and corruption come to run the order of things.

Roofie Romeos, Part 1

In 2013 I appeared in an episode of Investigation Discovery Channel’s show EVIL TWINS to discuss George and Stefan Spitzer. The brothers were tried and convicted of sexual assault in the late 1990s.

Prior to my appearance the producers provided me with research on the case.  The notes were thorough but, even so, I wanted to dig into the case on my own. It’s something I always do when I’m going to be interviewed for a crime show.  Maybe the production company researchers had missed something, or I’d discover a detail that would add to my overall understanding of the case.

spitzer twins photo

The first thing I wanted to know was if the Spitzers were still in prison so I searched the State of California Inmate Locator. I was shocked to discover that George Spitzer had been released in 2009. He was considered a high risk offender and the only record I found stated “The registrant may have subsequently relocated.” Then I searched the California Sex Offender Registry. He wasn’t there. George was in the wind.  With his history I was convinced that he presented a threat to women.

Over the past four years I’ve thought about the Spitzer twins and the hell they put several women through. I searched off and on but couldn’t find any information regarding George’s whereabouts; until today.

Before we get to the Spitzer twins in the 2010s, let’s look into their past.

Police_Crime_Scene_Tape_PNG_Clip_Art_Image

George and Stefan Spitzer (aka Gino and Julian, respectively) were born in 1956, in Bucharest, Romania, the sons of holocaust survivors. During World War II, the Spitzer parents hid from the Nazis in Bucharest. The twins’ grandparents died in Nazi gas chambers.

The twins lived in Bucharest behind the Iron Curtain until the early 1970s when they fled to Israel and Greece.  In 1975, their mother died of cancer. After her death, their father moved the family to Toronto, Canada where he worked as an accountant.

As children the twins were like one person; nothing separated them. As they got older their distinctive personalities began to develop. George was more aggressive and usually called the shots. Stefan wasn’t as sharp as his brother.  He was immature and had impulse control problems.

Even though Stefan was a dim bulb the girls liked him better.  George was competitive and jealous of Stefan’s status as a chick-magnet.

The twins came to Los Angeles on vacation. They fell in love with the glamour of the big city—Palm trees, swimming pools, beautiful women.  By the early 1980s they’d moved to Hollywood to become actors. They networked, auditioned and took jobs driving scenery around. They were attractive enough, but they couldn’t act. They had portfolios made and tried modeling but that didn’t work out either.

George and Stefan got a minor show business break when Liberace hired them as valets.  The twins would later say that they were fired when they spurned the flamboyant showman’s sexual advances. I’m inclined to disbelieve anything the Spitzers have ever said.

After the acting gigs didn’t materialize and Liberace let them go, the brothers decided to switch gears and become film producers. They attempted to raise money for a porn project but earned a reputation as being quick to anger, and out of touch with reality. When they did get a nibble from a potential backer they always blew it with their irresponsible behavior.

They actually made a porn film—but it stayed under everyone’s radar. The bottom line was that George and Stefan were show business failures.

The switched gears again.  They became car salesmen.

George and Stefan lived in a series of small apartments, first on the edge of Beverly Hills, then in West Hollywood, then in Marina del Rey, not far from the waterfront. They saw lots of beautiful women, but felt that the prettiest of them exceeded their grasp—unless they pretended to be something they weren’t—accomplished and successful.

They used pseudonyms when they tried to pick up women. George introduced himself to potential dates as Gino, supposedly the son of a Mafia godfather. Stefan called himself Julian, a martial artist who’d trained film star Jean-Claude Van Dam.  To add international flair to their pick-up attempts they feigned Italian or French nationality and they creatively represented themselves as movie producers, pilots and psychologists

George and Stefan enjoyed using their nearly identical looks to fool women. They would change places in the middle of sex. They called it the “Spitzer switch.” But even though the twins shared the same facial features, and precisely the same chain of chromosomes in their DNA, careful observers could tell them apart—especially with their clothes off.  Stefan was an inch shorter and 15 pounds heavier than George and had more body hair.

From the moment the twins arrived in California they had lied and deceived most of the women they met. Sure, their behavior was smarmy but they exhibited more ominous character flaws than self-aggrandizement.  There were signs that George and Stefan were not the sort of guys who would accept no for an answer from any woman

NEXT TIME: The Spitzer twins cross a line.

Film Noir Friday: Whirlpool [1949]

whirlpool-gene-tierney-1949-everett

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 WHIRLPOOL, starring Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer and Charles Bickford.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

The wife of a psychoanalyst falls prey to a devious quack hypnotist when he discovers she is an habitual shoplifter. Then one of his previous patients now being treated by the real doctor is found murdered, with her still at the scene, and suspicion points only one way.

 

Justice Times Two, Conclusion

Three alienists, Drs. Benjamin Blank, Victor Parkin and Paul Bowers, were called on to determine Gray McNeer’s sanity. The doctors testified at a sanity hearing on October 29, 1934.  They said that they had examined Gray and found him to be sane. The jury concurred. Gray’s trial for Betty’s murder would resume despite his loud and incoherent courtroom outbursts.

The day following Gray’s sanity hearing, S.S. Hahn announced that his client would take the stand in his own defense.  Putting Gray on the stand was a risky move. If he was incapable of controlling himself at the defense table, how would he fare on the witness stand? On more than one occasion the trial had to be adjourned because Gray became hysterical.  How would Gray, still swathed in bandages and wheelchair bound, comport himself under cross examination?

mcneer takes standGray was scheduled to take the stand on November 2nd but he was too ill to appear in court.  The trial was delayed for a few days until it was decided that if Gray couldn’t come to court, the court would come to him.  The trial resumed at Gray’s bedside in the County Jail Hospital.

Gray testified that on the night of the Betty’s death he met her at the apartment of a mutual friend, Lucille Herner, and then they drove to an isolated spot in Glendale where they argued. It was in the midst of their argument, Gray said, that Betty pulled out a gun. He said he felt a heavy blow to his head and then didn’t remember a thing until he regain consciousness in the Glendale Police Station. It was there that he was informed that his Betty’s body had been found in the car next to him.mcneer guilty

The remainder of the trial was conducted in the hospital with Dr. Benjamin Blank in constant attendance to monitor Gray’s condition.  The case went to the jury late on November 7th.  At 10 p.m., after hours of deliberation, the jury was sequestered for the night.

On the evening of November 8th the jury returned with their verdict.  They found Gray guilty of second degree murder.  Gray began to babble incoherently, but settled down after a reprimand from the judge. Gray’s mother, Lola, said she had no plan to appeal the verdict.  S.S. Hahn said, “Mrs. McNeer is convinced that her son’s condition is such that the probably will not live to serve his sentence.”  The doctors disagreed.  They believed Gray would recover from the bullet wound.

gray folsomGray was taken to Folsom Prison to begin serving his sentence of from 5 years to life. Gray’s mother said there was no plan to file an appeal.  But plans change.

gray new trial

The bullet in his head was removed by San Quentin physicians, so Gray was in much better shape for his second trial than he had been for the first go ‘round.

In Judge Vicker’s court, Gray’s second trial began with testimony from police chemist Ray Pinker. Pinker testified that powder burns on Betty’s arms indicated that she was directly in front of the gun at the time the fatal shot was fired into her head. The powder burns were not consistent with a suicide.

Gray took the stand on November 21st.  He reiterated the story he had told at his first trial.  Gray said that he and Betty had taken an automobile ride and attempted reconciliation.  When she refused to return to him Gray said he suggested divorce. According to Gray, Betty became angry, pulled out a gun and shot him in the head.  He said even though he was gravely wounded he struggled with Betty for possession of the weapon. He lost the struggle and,that’s when Betty turned the gun on herself.

The trial was going along smoothly until Deputy District Attorney Wildey asked Gray to repeat a conversation he’d had with Betty right before the shooting.  Gray snapped: “I will not repeat it.  It’s all cut and dried. Go ahead and shoot what you have.  I refuse to testify further in this case!” Gray then grabbed his crutch and hobbled away from the witness stand, ignoring the judge’s order to answer the question. That was it for Gray.  He didn’t take the stand again. gray quentin

The case went to the jury of six men and six women who, just as the jury in the first trial, had to be sequestered.

When the jury returned, Gray was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He’d rolled the dice on a second trial and come up snake eyes. His second sentence was harsher than the first.

In 1958, after 24 years in prison, Gray appealed again on the grounds of double jeopardy. The plea was rejected. Shortly afterwards he sought legal relief via habeas corpus. He wasn’t represented by S.S. Hahn because Hahn had died mysteriously in the swimming pool at his son’s cabin in Castaic. The two public defenders representing Gray were successful and he was ordered returned to Los Angeles for re-sentencing for the crime of second degree murder. I haven’t been able to find out what happened at the re-sentencing hearing.

Gray Everett McNeer died in Sacramento on July 27, 1964.

NOTE:  I’m going to try to find out what happened to Gray. If any of you find anything please let me know!

UPDATE 5/29/2017:  Many thanks to a reader, Katie, for letting me know that Gray McNeer committed suicide in Folsom prison in 1964.  With her information I found the following paragraph from the Long Beach Independent dated July 28, 1964:

mcneer

Film Noir Friday: Poodle Springs [1998]

poodle springs

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 POODLE SPRINGS starring James Caan and Dina Meyer.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Television movie based on the novel by Robert Parker, from the final Philip Marlowe story begun by Raymond Chandler. Hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe is 15 years past his prime, as cynical as ever, but also a newlywed. Moving to the small desert town of Poodle Springs after marrying Laura, the daughter of billionaire P.J. Parker, Marlowe becomes immersed in deadly intrigue surrounding the murder of another investigator. When he uncovers a scheme to move the state border of Nevada, which may involve his father-in-law, the world-weary private eye from the 1940s encounters a ’60s web of greed, lust and murder. With a talent for attracting trouble, Marlowe finds it in the form of murder, bigamy, gambling, pornography and double identity.

Justice Times Two, Part 2

A Coroner’s jury found Gray McNeer responsible for the murder of his wife, Betty.  The gun used in the murder and attempted suicide was a weapon Gray had stolen from Harry Harris, a friend of his.  Harris, a harbor guard, discovered his gun and some shells were missing after Gray’s visit the night prior to the shooting.  When detectives showed Harris the weapon, he identified it as his own.

Gray wasn’t able to appear at any hearings because he was in serious condition. On August 6th his attorney, S.S. Hahn, announced that Gray would appear in court that morning. The defendant was in bad shape as a result of the gunshot wound to his head. He was blind in one eye, deaf in one ear,  partially paralyzed and he still had a bullet lodged in his brain. Despite the gravity of his injuries, Gray appeared for his preliminary hearing before Municipal Judge Galbreth, just as S.S. Hahn said he would. The defendant’s head was swathed in bandages and he was in a wheel chair, but at least he’d made it.

mcneer and motherGray’s mother, Lola, remained at her son’s bed side and on August 24th it was reported that she had given her official consent for an operation to remove the bullet from his brain.  It isn’t clear why a man in his 30s would need his mother’s consent, but it may have been that he was in no condition to give it himself.  S.S. Hahn told the court that in his present condition Gray was in imminent danger of death and that, even if he survived, he might be become “an imbecile.”  The operation was given odds of 100 to 1 that it would succeed; but it was Gray’s only hope.

S.S. Hahn requested a continuance of the trial so that Gray could undergo the potentially lethal surgery.  The request was granted. But would any of the local surgeons be willing to undertake such a delicate procedure?  The answer was no.  Specialists at General Hospital declined to perform the surgery even though they agreed that Gray was doomed without it.  The same group of surgeons put Gray’s odds at less that 1000 to 1 for survival.

Of course S.S. Hahn had a lot to say about the doctors’ refusal: “His mother wants that chance to be taken.  She wants to save her son and we are going to operate if it takes a court order to do it.”  The attorney found four brain specialists who were willing to volunteer for the surgery, but General Hospital balked.  Hahn said: “They tell us that nonresident physicians are not permitted to operate at the General Hospital and since the patient is charged with murder he cannot be removed from there.  Well, we will see what the courts have to say about that, too.” Judge Schmidt responded with a court order which permitted the outside physicians to perform the surgery on Gray’s brain.

Surgery was scheduled for September 8, 1934, but after he took a turn for the better the operation was put on hold indefinitely. Ten days later, Gray appeared in court once again. He was still bandaged and in a wheel chair. He entered a not guilty plea and he still publicly contended that Betty had shot him first and then killed herself.

McNeer and Hahn were in court on October 25th for opening statements. Gray was a pathetic sight. Would the jury be swayed in his favor even if they believed his misery was self-inflicted?  Hahn outlined his case for the jury.  He said that he was going to prove:

  • That Mrs. McNeer on three previous occasions had threatened to end her own life.
  • That several nights before the shooting, Mrs. McNeer went to the home of Harry B. Harris, special officer, at 1030 Hyperion Avenue, and sought to borrow his gun.
  • That the day before the shooting Mrs. McNeer called again at Harris’s home and remained there alone for some time.

Court adjourned when Gray collapsed and had to be returned to the County Jail Hospital.

The following day Gray was in court moaning, groaning and muttering incoherently. He yelled out: “You wouldn’t treat a yellow dog like you are treating me; why don’t somebody give me something?”  Following a few more outbursts, Judge Burnell addressed Gray: “You will have to keep quiet; this sort of thing will not be allowed at all, Mr. McNeer.  Thi sort of theatricalism has got to stop right now, and you might as well know it.”  Then the judge turned to Hahn and said: “Can’t you do something with your client, Mr. Hahn?”

mcneer and mother at trialHahn objected to the Judge’s admonition and there was a short recess.  Once back in the courtroom, Judge Burnell spoke to the jury:  “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am making this statement to you at the suggestion and with the consent of counsel for both sides, the People and the defendant.  You, of course, could not help but observe the fact yesterday afternoon that the defendant was making more or loess noise, talking and groaning, and the Court made some remarks about ceasing the theatricals, or something of that sort.  That, of course, is something that you haven’t any business to pay any attention to, and I want you to entirely disregard it.  The defendant is here   on trial for one specific offense, and all the jury have any right to consider whatever is the evidence in the case and nothing else.  I know you will appreciate that and be able to do that, but for your information, in view of the apparent condition of the defendant, I am trying now to get hold of Dr. Blank, the jail physician, to come down here and tell us whether he thinks from his examination of the defendant there is any reason why the case should not continue. In other words, whether or not the defendant is in a condition physically and mentally that will preclude going ahead with the trial.  Until we hear from Dr. Blank, we will go ahead, and if there is any demonstration on the part of the defendant, you will disregard it.  You are not here to try anything except the facts in this case.”

Dr. Blank examined Gray and ascertained that he was in more pain than he had been in previously and that he was on sedatives continuously.  The doctor feared that Gray’s sanity was being affected and advised the judge to suspend the proceedings until a determination could be made.

The judge did exactly what Dr. Blank had advised him to do, and the trial was continued to October 29, 1934 at 10:00 a.m.  Gray’s sanity would be decided then based on an examination conducted by Drs. Benjamin Blank, Victor Parkin and Paul Bowers.

NEXT TIME: Will Gray McNeer’s trial continue

Justice Times Two, Part 1

Los Angeles has been home to some of the wiliest and most wicked criminals in the world.  And where there are criminals there are attorneys to defend them.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which group is worse.

Among the defense attorneys who practiced in the city, one of the most fascinating was Samuel Simpson Hahn.  Known as S.S. Hahn, which makes him sound like a luxury liner, Hahn was born Schrul Widelman on September 18, 1888 in Ternova, Besarubia, Russia.  He is believed to have arrived in the U.S. on June 30, 1906 and changed his name to Samuel Needleman.  Contrary to the persistent belief that xenophobic immigration agents arbitrarily changed the names of newcomers many people opted to change their surnames to adapt to their new lives in America.  In any case, by 1912 the newly minted Samuel Needleman had moved to Los Angeles and had changed his name one last time. He became Samuel Simpson Hahn.  That moniker stuck with him for the rest of his life.

S.S. Hahn with a witness in Aimee Semple McPherson's trial. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

S.S. Hahn with a witness in Aimee Semple McPherson’s trial. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

On July 22, 1915, having passed his exam, Samuel Hahn was admitted to the California State Bar and for the next four decades he defended some of the most notorious criminals in the city.  Hahn’s client list reads like a Who’s Who of local crime.  Among those who sought his services were serial killer Louise Peete and naughty evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

Hahn didn’t limit his practice to felons. Following WWII there was a sharp uptick in divorces.  Starry-eyed couples who married in the heat of passion during wartime found themselves dreading the prospect of thousands of dreary days in each other’s company. In 1945, LIFE Magazine featured Hahn in an article on divorce mills.   Interestingly, he appears to have met his second wife, Mary Monroe, when she came to him to dissolve her marriage.

HAHN_MARY MONROE

I intend to write more about S.S. Hahn in the coming months.  I find his career worthy of multiple posts.  He was disbarred as a young attorney in the 1910s, possibly for suborning perjury, but appears to have won an appeal to restore his license. His death by drowning in a backyard swimming pool in 1957 was ruled a suicide, but it was highly suspicious. I’ll get to more of Hahn’s life later—I think you’ll find it compelling.

Today I’m going to cover a 1934 case from the Hahn files in which he defended a man accused of murdering his wife.

Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, June 27, 1934, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kilborane of 4919 Bemis Street were driving on a lonely stretch of dirt road between the Southern Pacific tracks and the Los Angeles River. They were about 200 feet West of the intersection of San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard when they noticed a car.  It isn’t clear what caught the attention of the couple but they decided to investigate.  They found a woman sitting upright and dead on the passenger side. Seated next to her behind the steering wheel was a man.  He was severely wounded and semi-conscious. Both had suffered gunshot wounds to the head.

betty mcneerPolice identified the victims as Gray (Grey) Everett McNeer and his estranged wife, Beatrice (Betty) Helene Harker McNeer. While fighting for his life in the General Hospital Gray managed a brief statement in which he laid the blame for the shootings on his dead wife. Unfortunately for Gray the physical evidence suggested a far different scenario.

There were a couple of major problems with Gray’s statement.  First, Betty had been shot three times in the head and second, she was right handed. Even a contortionist would have found it difficult to shoot herself on the left side of her head if she was right handed. Besides, if Betty was the shooter why would she leave her intended victim moaning and alive?  Wouldn’t she have made certain he was dead before she turned the gun on herself—three times? Detectives were convinced Gray was a killer and placed him in the prison ward of the hospital—not that he was capable of taking it on the lam.  Doctors weren’t convinced that he would make it through the night.

gray mcneerWith Gray in the hospital, Detective Lieutenants Sanderson and Hill of the police department began their investigation into the backgrounds of the McNeers.

At 33 years of age Gray already had an extensive criminal record.  The 1930 Federal Census lists Gray as an inmate in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary where he was a machine operator in the pants factory. He was in prison for his part in the robbery of a paper company in Oklahoma City.  If his life since his release from prison was any indication of his future plans he had no intention of going straight, ever.  At the time of the shooting Gray was wanted for questioning in a recent string of robberies in Los Angeles.

Betty was 29 when she died and she had been married and divorced twice before she tangled with Gray.  She was 19 when she married a wealthy Altadena inventor, E.P. Pottinger. They divorced after two years and Betty wed Arthur Nollau who owned a knitting mill at 1409 West Washington Boulevard.  The marriage to Nollau also lasted roughly two years.  Twenty-four months seemed to be limit of Betty’s attention span for marriage.  In the days prior to her death she had filed for divorce from Gray to whom, you guessed it, she had been married for approximately two years.

Gray’s condition appeared to be improving; which meant that the ex-con would likely be indicted for  his wife’s murder.  In that case he would require the services of an attorney.

NEXT TIME:  Justice Times Two continues.

 

1901