SACRAMENTO LIBRARY TO HOST TRUE CRIME MINI-CON!

I’m thrilled to be one of the speakers at the Sacramento Public Library’s True Crime Mini-Con on Saturday, November 16, 2019. So far there are over 250 people planning to attend. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet and mingle with others who love the true crime genre.

You will find information and sign-up instructions HERE.

My presentation will focus on historic Los Angeles crimes such as the 1927 kidnapping and murder of twelve-year-old Marion Parker and the infamous Black Dahlia case from 1947.

I hope to see you there!

Film Noir Friday: Somewhere in the Night [1946]

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 SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT [1946] starring John Hodiak, Richard Conte, Nancy Guild and Lloyd Nolan.

Synopsis:

After a World War II injury, George Taylor’s (John Hodiak) memory of his life is fuzzy, to say the least. In an effort to reverse his amnesia, he tracks down alleged murderer and thief Larry Garter, from whom he received a letter. Along the way, he meets lounge singer Christy Smith (Nancy Guild) and police inspector Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan). They aid him in the search for Garter and his stolen loot, but all find themselves mired in a much bigger mystery than they anticipated.

Summer of ’69: September 22, 1969

THE TATE/LA BIANCA MURDERS GO COLD

If the police had any viable leads on the Tate/La Bianca murders they weren’t sharing them with reporters.

On September 10, 1969, the Los Angeles Times ran an ad which offered a reward of $25,000 (over $170k in current USD) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and the other victims at the Cielo Drive home.

Roman Polanski and friends of the Polanski family would pay the money.  The friends included Peter Sellers, Warren Beatty and Yul Brynner. 

JOYCE HABER & THE FRIENDS OF THE POLANSKI’S

On September 22, 1969, Los Angeles Times gossip columnist Joyce Haber had a few tidbits to share about what she described as the “Tate Case Chatter.”

Joyce Haber, gossip columnist

Haber said that Roman Polanski was back in town after a trip to New York where, according to her, he was “. . . kicking it up in and from his home base, a suite at Manhattan’s Essex House on Central Park South.” 

She continued, “The kicks included trips to Oh, Calcutta!, off-Broadway’s groovy, naked revue, and to such jivy joints as Elaine’s, a haunt for the literary-cum-anything set.”

Elaine’s restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, near the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 88th Street, was a hangout for everyone from Norman Mailer to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.  Elaine’s closed in 2011, following the death of the proprietress, Elaine Kaufman. In an interview, Allen said that he was “crushed” and that “despite the unrelenting bad food I went there every night for decades.”

Haber’s tone regarding Polanski’s unique manner of  grieving the loss of his family was disapproving. Understanding the intimate mechanics of how different individuals cope with loss is for someone with more knowledge on the topic that I have; but I find Polanski’s choice of venues for grieving very odd. Would most people faced with such a traumatic loss socialized in the way Polanski did?  I wonder.

GOSSIP KILLS

When reading Haber’s column,  you must consider the source. It was a gossip column – she inherited the gig from Hedda Hopper.  Haber had a reputation for snarky comments. In fact, there are people who blame her indirectly for Jean Seberg’s suicide in 1979.

Seberg ,an internationally known and admired actress, was a staunch supporter of civil rights and often gave money to the NAACP, Native American groups, and two gifts to the Black Panther Party.

JEAN SEBERG

During the late 1960s the FBI ran a Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO ) and targeted individuals and groups they identified as subversive.  Their tactics were abhorrent. Outright lies used to destroy people for their politics.

On May 19, 1970, Haber’s column was used to smear Jean Seberg. The actress, referred to as Miss A in the column, was Jean Seberg. Anyone familiar with Hollywood at the time would have recognized the characterization.  NEWSWEEK also printed the rumor.

The rumor was that the child Seberg carried wasn’t her husband’s, Romain Gary, but Raymond Hewitt’s (a member of the Black Panthers). 

Devastated by the rumor, Seberg went into premature labor and lost her baby daughter. At the funeral Seberg laid the baby in an open casket so that reporters could see for themselves that the infant was white.

Seberg was blacklisted and her career suffered.  So did her mental health. She was depressed for years. The  FBI continued their surveillance and harassment, which did nothing to ease her stress.

On September 8, 1979, nine days after she disappeared from her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement,  her body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her Renault.  Police found barbiturate’s and a note which said that she could no longer live with her nerves.

Seberg is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

MANSON FAMILY UPDATE – FALL, 1969

BARKER RANCH

Charles Manson relocated to Barker Ranch in Death Valley. Charlie and family members Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Watson must have felt invincible. They got away with murder.

Film Noir Friday: Impact

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 IMPACT [1949] starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, and Anna May Wong.

IMDB says:

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding, and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

Film Noir Friday: Black Angel

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 BLACK ANGEL starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent, and Peter Lorre.

IMDB says:

When Kirk Bennett is convicted of a singer’s murder, his wife tries to prove him innocent…aided by the victim’s ex-husband.

Deadly Women

For the past 10 years or so I’ve appeared in episodes of the Investigation Discovery true crime series, DEADLY WOMEN.

The season, which is the show’s 13th, begins tomorrow night, August 22 [check your local listings for details]. Look for me in the following episodes — the name in bold type is the case I’m covering.

They are all unhinged.

Episode 3
A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Aurea Vazquez Rijos
Pamela Lee Worms
Helen Levina

8/22/2019


Episode 6
VOW TO KILL
Featuring:
Jane Leslie Carpenter
Emma LeDoux
Lindy Williams
9/19/19




Episode 7
FATAL FIXATION
Featuring:
Shanna Golyar
Marie Arthur
Lucy Cruz
9/26/19




DITCHED & DESPERATE
Featuring:
Melanie Eam
Amy Hill
Kathryn Preston
10/10/19



LOVELESS
Featuring:
Lisa Segotta
Jacqueline Crymble
Shelly Arndt
10/24/19



Summer of ’69: August 12th — Rosemary & Leno LaBianca

The big story in Los Angeles on August 12, 1969 was the release of nineteen-year-old William Garretson, the caretaker at the Cielo Drive estate where five people and the unborn son of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski murdered a few days before.

William Garretson (center)

William was the only survivor of the slaughter which made him suspect number one. Police arrested William at the point of a shotgun and grilled him for hours. He agreed to take a polygraph test and passed.  Inspector Harold Yarnell said: “There is not sufficient evidence to hold Garretson.  There is no reason to suspect him.”

Wearing a deer-in-the-headlights expression, William’s attorney, Barry Tarlow, escorted him through the lobby of LAPD’s administration building. The nineteen-year-old, who appeared on the verge of tears, declined to answer any of the barrage of questions called out to him by eager news reporters.  He let his lawyer do the talking.

Tarlow told reporters his client said goodnight to Steven Parent at 11:30 p.m. Friday, then went back inside the guesthouse to listen to his stereo.  He wasn’t aware of anything until LAPD officers kicked in his door and took him away on Saturday morning.

William shared an address with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, but they lived on different planets.  Sharon and Roman were in the movie industry; they were among the “beautiful people.” Roman’s big break came in June 1968 with the release of “Rosemary’s Baby.”  His career as an A-list director was underway.

Still a teenager, William wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life. He spoke to his mother of an interest in acting, but his aspiration was as common as a cold and easier to catch when living in L.A. Thousands of young people flock to the city seeking stardom – they have been coming here since the 1910s.  Far from hanging out with the beautiful people, William had more in common with “Hollywood Blvd drifters, hitchhikers, and drugstore cowboys,” many of whom he brought home with him when they needed a place to crash.

Police wanted to speak to members of both groups – killers defy social strata. William offered names of people he knew, but he didn’t believe any of them capable of the murders.

William’s release featured prominently on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, but there was another intriguing and disturbing story on page 3.  The double murder in Los Feliz of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Leno, 44, and Rosemary, 37, were stabbed to death Sunday in their home at 3301 Waverly Drive. The killing of the couple was similar in many to ways to the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends on Saturday.  Police Sergeant Bryce Houchin said, “There is a similarity in the slayings. But whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat, we just don’t know.”

Sgt. Houchin appeared open to the idea that the murders could be connected, but in their official statements LAPD wouldn’t go that far.

On August 12, 1969, reporter Bruce Russell wrote:

Whispers that a psychotic killer was after wealthy resident of isolated homes in the Hollywood hills continued after the murder of Miss Tate and the four others was followed a day later by that of a rich supermarket owner and his wife in a plush home 12 miles away.

IN BOTH SETS of slayings the word “Pig” was smeared in blood at the murder scene, hoods covered the heads of males slain and women had cords around their throats.

Police have showed that the two bloodbaths were unconnected. They said the more recent murders of a grocery chain owner Leno La Bianca, 44, and his wife Rosemary, 37, were those of a psychotic cashing in on the publicity of the so-called Tate murders.

But fear-stricken Hollywood residents rushed to buy guns yesterday for self-protection.

Hollywood glitterati panicked.  They ripped the names and numbers of their drug dealers out of their little black books and waited for the killer’s arrest so life could return to normal.

No one, except some Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators, gave a thought to the gruesome killing that pre-dated the August rampage, the murder of Gary Hinman.

Summer of ’69: August 9th — Murder on Cielo Drive

It was a few minutes into August 9, 1969, and Mrs. Seymour Kott of 10170 Cielo Drive heard a series of claps. She couldn’t identify the source or location of the noise and so she went back to sleep.

Winifred Chapman, maid for director Roman Polanski and his wife actress Sharon Tate, arrived at their home at the far end of Cielo Drive at 8:30 a.m. to begin work. The quiet street is a cul-de-sac between Beverly Glen and Benedict Canyon. Birds chirping, a dog barking or the occasional coyote call are about the only sounds you hear; but there was an unnatural quality to the stillness that morning.

Winifred Chapman

Winifred saw a white two-door Rambler sedan in the driveway.  She didn’t recognize the car and approached it with caution.  She saw a young man behind the wheel slumped over toward the passenger seat. There was blood on his shirt and his left arm.

As she continued toward the sprawling home she found the body of Voytek Frykowski on the front lawn.

Under a fir tree, about 20 yards away, she found Abigail Folger’s bloody body.

The horror followed Winifred into the living room.  Sharon Tate, 8 ½ months pregnant and dressed in her bra and bikini bottom, had a bloody nylon cord wrapped around her neck. The cord looped around a beam in the ceiling.   Someone tied the other end of the cord around Jay Sebring’s neck and placed a black hood on his head.

Terrified, Winifred ran to a neighbor’s home for help.  Fifteen-year-old Jim Asim was preparing to leave when she stopped him screaming, “there’s bodies and blood all over the place!”

Victims being transported to morgue

Asim, a member of Law Enforcement Troop 800 of the Boy Scouts, called the police.  Moments later six LAPD black and whites roared up Cielo Drive to its end where there is a wire gate outside the Polanski residence.  Guns drawn; the officers entered the property. They heard a dog howling behind a guest house and a man’s voice shouted for it to be quiet.

Wire gate outside Polanski residence.

In the guest house, nineteen-year-old William Etson Garretson looked up to see his doorway crowded with police. They had shotguns trained on him.  He was still half asleep, dressed only in pin-striped bell-bottoms.  He did not understand why the cops were there.

After several hours of questioning, they took Garretson into custody and arrested him on suspicion of murder. As the only living person on the premises he was the obvious suspect.  Yet there was no physical evidence tying him to the deaths.

Police in Garretson’s hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, told LAPD investigators the kid had committed one offense of little consequence.  He received a two-year suspended jail sentence in 1967 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Mary Garretson, his 42-year-old mother, told police her son left home in October 1968 “without saying goodbye but had written saying he hoped to return home soon.”

William Garretson (center)

Garretson was a quiet kid and lacked the personality to take control of five adults and viciously murder them.

Garretson didn’t even work for the Polanski’s and had only a vague notion of who they were.  He lived in the guest house and kept to himself.  The property owner, Rudy Altabelli employed him as a caretaker

In Europe when he received the news of the slayings, Altabelli offered no reason for the murders.

Someone cut the telephone lines into the home, which suggested a plan. There was no weapon at the scene except for pieces of a pistol grip.

Telephone line

It was 1969, so it was no surprise that all the victims wore “hippie type” clothes – their mode of dress was enough for the police to search for drugs. They found none.  As far investigators could tell nothing appeared to be missing – which ruled out robbery as a motive.

They found evidence of a struggle and wondered; why had not one of the five victims escaped the carnage?

As LAPD detectives followed scant leads to dead-ends, talk on the street was of the upcoming Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York. Many people from L.A. planned to make the trek. Billed as three days of peace and music, the festival promised to be amazing. The younger generation had a chip on its shoulder and something to prove. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Fuck Nixon. Fuck the War. Life is beautiful, man.

The dream was already dead.

NEXT TIME:  Two more murders.

Film Noir Friday: The Hound of the Baskervilles [1939]

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.

Who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes?  The character is irresistible. That’s why tonight’s feature is THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, and Wendy Barrie.

Enjoy the movie!

ROTTEN TOMATOES says:

Though it takes a few liberties with the Arthur Conan Doyle original, this film ranks as one of the best screen versions of this oft-told tale. After learning the history of the Baskerville curse, Sherlock Holmes decides to protect heir Henry Baskerville from suffering the same fate as his ancestors.

 

The Summer of ’69: The Murder of Gary Hinman

 

TOPANGA
July 31, 1969

None of Gary Hinman’s friends or colleagues had seen him for a week. Worried, his friends  Mike Irwin, John Nicks, and Glenn Giardinelli stopped by his house at 964 Old Topanga Canyon Road to check up on him.  They knew he was looking forward to a trip to Japan but he wouldn’t have gone without saying goodbye.

When they arrived, they noticed Gary’s Fiat was missing.  They climbed the stairs to the porch where they detected a foul odor. They were alarmed enough to go to a neighbor’s home and call the L.A. County Sheriff’s Malibu Station.

Deputies Paul Piet and Donald Lang rolled out to the location. When they arrived Piet climbed a ladder to look in the main window. He saw decomposing body, covered with maggots around the head. The man was partly covered with a blanket and a pillow covered the left side of his face.  There was blood on the floor and the blanket.

The deputies contacted Detective Sergeant Paul J.  Whiteley in the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.  Whiteley advised them to secure the location. He would be there as soon as possible.

At 9:45 p.m. Detective Whitely and Sergeant Gunther arrived. Deputy Coroner Green arrived at 11:30 p.m. and removed the body for autopsy and assigned it a case number, 69-8448.

Hinman’s death was classified as a routine “dead person” until the autopsy proved he was murdered.

SAN LUIS OBISPO
AUGUST 6, 1969

On August 6, 1969 at 10:50 a.m., a CHP officer on routine patrol observed a Fiat, license number OYX833, parked northbound on the east side of the 101 on the Cuesta grade. The officer ran the license plate for outstanding warrants – the car was reported stolen out of Los Angeles.

La Cuesta Grade

The officer asked for ID, but the man didn’t have a driver’s license. He said he was Jason Lee Daniels, born November 11, 1946. The officer  transported Daniels to the Highway Patrol Office in San Luis Obispo and booked him for 10851 V.C. Auto Theft.  Once at the station, Jason admitted that his true name was Robert Beausoleil.

As the officer was writing up the stolen car report he saw an APB [All-Points Bulletin] dated 8-3-69  which stated that the owner of the car was murdered. He advised Beausoleil that he was under arrest for 187 P.C. murder and read him his rights.

NEXT TIME: A murder spree in Los Angeles.