Too Many Cooks, Conclusion

Their failure to solve the June 22, 1947 murder of Bugsy Siegel still rankled members of the Beverly Hills Police Department.  None of them wanted to suffer the frustration of another high profile cold case.  They were committed to solving Katie Hayden’s murder and they weren’t above asking for help. Many of the smaller Los Angeles county police departments, like Beverly Hills, were unaccustomed to conducting murder investigations so they enlisted the aid of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide bureau.

Rutherford Leon Bennett (R) and Nathaniel Smith (L). Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Despite his protestations of innocence, Rutherford Leon Bennett was a promising suspect. The Hayden’s had recently dismissed Rutherford as their cook when he failed to perform to their expectations. He said he phoned Samuel Hayden for a reference, but his call could have been interpreted as an attempt to extort money from his former boss for his firing.  Rutherford was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder. His roommate, Nathaniel Smith, was taken into custody but released after an intense interrogation proved that he had no part in the crime.

Rutherford submitted to a lie detector test. He passed, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy the police. There are people who can defeat a polygraph – maybe Rutherford was one of them. Police weren’t about to kick him loose unless or until they had a better suspect.

Margaret and Rutherford. Photo courtesy LAPL.

Peggy King, Rutherford’s replacement as the Hayden’s cook, was an obvious suspect because she was the only person in the house when Katie was murdered. But where was her motive?  She had only been in the Hayden’s employ for three days.

Police learned that Peggy was also known as (Mrs.) Margaret Moore.  Margaret was a relative newcomer to Los Angeles. She left her home in Houston, Texas in 1954 following a separation from her husband.  Her father, Samuel Johnson, was a prominent figure in Houston’s Baptist church community. Nothing in Margaret’s background marked her as someone capable of hacking her employer to death with a hatchet.   Still, police were obliged to subject her to the same scrutiny they gave Rutherford.

Detective Sergeant Ray Hopkinson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide bureau assisted in the investigation. He said that one of Margaret’s male friends, with whom she had recently quarreled, had been located and was able to account for his whereabouts. One more suspect eliminated.

The police weren’t entirely satisfied with Margaret’s description of events.  Since there was no one who could confirm or deny her story the police had to find another way to get at the truth. In her closet they found the dress that Margaret was wearing the day of the murder. It was spattered with what appeared to be blood. Even if the blood was Katie’s, it didn’t necessarily mean that Margaret was a killer.

Margaret’s alibi, that she had been vacuuming in another part of the house while Katie was being butchered, didn’t hold together when police realized that the killer would have had to pass Margaret to get to Katie.

Margaret had a date with the polygraph machine on February 11, 1955.  Investigators hoped that the polygraph, the ultimate truth or dare device in a murder investigation, would reveal Margaret’s lies — if she was telling any.  The former cook was questioned for over 90 minutes. The examiner concluded that Margaret was being deceptive in her answers.

Detectives used Margaret’s lies against her.  It didn’t take long for her to break down and confess. But why had she done it?

Margaret. Photo courtesy LAPL.

According to Margaret the murder was the result of a heated argument she had with Katie about how to bone a roast. Katie was supervising Margaret in the kitchen and lost patience with her. In a fit of pique Katie snatched the small ax Margaret was using out of her hands and attempted to give her a demonstration.

“I had gotten the ax to cut the bone in the roast.  During the argument Mrs. Hayden took the ax from me and tried to show me how to do it.”  Margaret said.

“She (Katie) continued arguing with me and then I took the ax from her and struck her on the head.  She didn’t fall after I struck her once and then I struck her again and again.  I don’t know how many times I struck her after that. . .”

Margaret may have lost count of the blows it took to shatter Katie’s skull, but Dr. Newbarr, who conducted Katie’s autopsy, said that the sharp end of the ax had been used to inflict 20 to 30 cuts to her head and face.  Then the butt end of the ax was used to fracture her lower left jaw and her upper left collarbone.

The vicious attack sent Katie to the kitchen floor in a bloody heap.  “I stood over her for more than 10 minutes,” Margaret said.  “I was dazed.”

She wasn’t too dazed to formulate a plan to escape detection. As Katie lay dying in a widening pool of blood, Margaret went upstairs and ransacked her employer’s room.  “I opened all the drawers in the dressers and scattered clothing about the floor to make it appear that someone had broken in the house,” she told detectives.

While Margaret was yanking out dresser drawers and throwing clothing around Katie’s room, the telephone rang.  The caller was one of Katie’s daughters, Rose Furstman.  Margaret answered the phone and told her that someone had come in and killed her mother.  Then she hung up.  Rose lived at 1041 Hilts Avenue in West Los Angeles, barely two miles away from her parents’ home.  It must have been an agonizing drive over to her parent’s home.

Margaret used the few minutes before Rose arrived to wipe her bloody hands clean with a dust rag.  She tossed the rag and the ax into the kitchen sink, then she began to scream.

Margaret’s unholy wailing drew the attention of the half a dozen landscapers that were in the Hayden’s backyard installing a sprinkler system. When they got to the kitchen they found Margaret standing near Katie’s body. There was blood everywhere.

Margaret’s explanation for the murder was that her nerves were on edge because her common-law husband of two years had left her. Margaret’s two-year relationship was nothing compared to the 49 years that Samuel and Katie had spent together. The couple would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August.

Margaret comforted by her brother, Milton Johnson. Photo courtesy LAPL.

Roy King, the man Margaret called husband, showed up at the Beverly Hills Jail to comfort her. Her brother, Milton Johnson, also came to the jail to show support.

With Margaret’s confession in hand the cops breathed a sigh of relief. Their part was done. Now it was up to the courts to decide her fate.

There was talk of an insanity plea, so Dr. Marcus Crahan, County Jail psychiatrist, examined Margaret. After questioning her for 45 minutes Crahan said: “She is normal mentally.”

Margaret in tears. Photo courtesy LAPL.

With the confession and Dr. Crahan’s report against her, Margaret appeared before Judge Stanley Mosk and withdrew her earlier plea of innocent by reason of insanity and waived her right to a jury trial.  It was a smart move, she likely would have fared much worse with a jury than she did with Judge Mosk.  He heard the case without a jury and found Margaret guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to a term of from five years to life in state prison.

Too Many Cooks, Part 1

February 9, 1955

Beverly Hills, California

Half a dozen landscapers were hard at work installing a sprinkler system on the grounds of Samuel Hayden’s Beverly Hills estate at 817 North Whittier Street when they were startled by screams coming from inside the home.  Dropping their tools as they ran, the men followed the bloodcurdling shrieks to the back entrance to the kitchen.  The first man in door must have been horrified. 71-year-old Katie Hayden lay in a widening pool of blood. She had been beaten so badly she was barely recognizable. In the sink was a bloody rag and a small ax.

It wasn’t Katie who had screamed.  Peggy King, the Hayden’s new housekeeper and cook, was responsible for the cries which shattered the quiet morning and drawn the landscapers and neighbors from several doors away to the gruesome scene.

The police were called and within minutes Beverly Hills cops and an ambulance arrived.  Katie was taken to Beverly Hills Emergency Hospital and then transferred to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for surgery.  She didn’t make it.  Katie’s health had been poor for the last couple of years and she didn’t have to the strength to survive the vicious attack.  Even a younger, healthier person would likely have succumbed.  Dr. Frederick Newbarr, the Coroner’s chief autopsy surgeon, said that the beating Katie had suffered was the most vicious he had ever seen.  The killer used the sharp end of the ax to inflict 20 to 30 cuts on her head and face; then used the butt end to fracture Katie’s left jaw and her upper left collarbone.

Who could have wanted Katie dead? She wasn’t a high-risk victim – she was a Beverly Hills housewife.

Investigators dug into the Hayden’s background.  Did Samuel, who had made a fortune as a real estate developer, have enemies who hated him enough to get to him through is family?

The Haydens had relocated to Los Angeles from Chicago in the mid-1940s and moved to Beverly Hills.  They began construction on the Whittier Street home during the summer of 1954 and were occupying it by December.  The $200,000 [equivalent to $1.8 million dollars in today’s currency] estate was their dream home. It was also less than 300 feet away from 810 N. Linden Drive where mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel had been shot to death in the home’s living room in June 1947.

Bugsy Siegel with his attorney Jerry Geisler. [Photo courtesy of LAPL.]

Siegel was a mobster and the Hayden’s were from Chicago, a city with a long history of mob activity.  Was there a connection?

The last thing the city wanted was another unsolved high-profile murder case. Because the house had been under construction and workmen had been in and out, the detectives had at least 50 people to interview.  The master bedroom had been ransacked, maybe the murder was a burglary gone wrong. What if someone knew that Katie had been diagnosed with cancer and assumed she had narcotics on hand? Pharmaceutical grade drugs would be a powerful inducement for someone.

Police didn’t find anything to corroborate mob involvement, and the interviews they had conducted in the early hours of the investigation hadn’t led to any blinding insights.  Even so, they turned up an interesting suspect. Three weeks prior to the murder 39-year-old Rutherford Leon Bennett had been dismissed from the Hayden’s employ when he failed to meet their standards for a cook.  Since Bennett claimed his primary skill was millinery, specifically creating hats for wealthy matrons, his culinary skills may have been lacking.

Bennett’s alibi was straight forward.  He told police that he was asleep at home when the murder was committed. But Bennett had supposedly telephoned Samuel following his dismissal and demanded two weeks’ severance pay. When the Hayden’s wouldn’t deliver did Bennett get mad enough to kill?  Bennett denied that he had pressured the Haydens for money.  He stated that his reason for calling was benign, he wanted permission to use them as a job reference.

Bennett’s roommate, 24-year-old Nathaniel Smith, verified Bennett’s alibi.  Smith said that he and Bennett had been out until 5 a.m. on the morning of the murder and that when they arrived home both had immediately gone to bed.  Another point in Bennett’s favor is that he didn’t own a car so getting to Beverly Hills from his home at 1403 West 39th Street would have been a challenge.  He could have used Smith’s car, but a police search of the vehicle revealed no bloodstains. Bennett’s clothing was also free of bloodstains.

The Beverly Hills police didn’t want to risk another high-profile failure.  They’d struck out on the Siegel murder in ’47.  They arrested their only viable suspect in Katie’s murder, Rutherford Leon Bennett.

Bennett, Smith and the Hayden’s maid of three days, Peggy King, were each scheduled to take a lie detector test.  Cops hoped for a revelation.

NEXT TIME:  False alibis and new clues.

 

 

 

Corpus Delicti: Epilogue

Ewing Scott was released from prison in 1974, still vehemently denying that he had murdered his wife Evelyn in 1955.

Over the years he had told anyone who would listen than he had been wrongly convicted. By 1980 he was living on Social Security in a downtown Los Angeles hotel. Better accommodations than a prison cell — but not nearly as plush as the Beverly Hills mansion he shared with Evelyn.

Ewing leaves prison.

In 1983, Diane Wagner, a Burbank writer who spent five years as a part-time reporter in the New York Times Los Angeles bureau, began researching the Ewing case. She wanted to write a book about the landmark case.

Diane successfully located Ewing, who didn’t mind talking to an attractive young woman in the least, and asked him all the tough questions. She got the standard Ewing responses.  He told her that he had gone out for tooth powder on May 16, 1955 and when he returned, Evelyn was gone.

Diane interviewed Ewing several times but never got past the wall of denial, until August 5, 1984.  Ewing phoned and said that he wanted to see her one more time because he had something important to tell her.

Expecting nothing, but hoping for the best, Diane went to see Ewing. She brought her tape recorder with her, and she asked Ewing to state his full name and acknowledge that he was being recorded. Once the formalities were concluded, Ewing began to speak: “Well, I arrived in Las Vegas about dusk…” Then, to Diane’s amazement, Ewing confessed to killing Evelyn.

Ewing said that on May 16, 1955, he entered Evelyn’s bedroom with the mallet in his hand. Evelyn looked up and said: “But I haven’t done anything.”  Ewing told Diane, “I hit her in the head with a mallet, a hard rubber mallet. Just once. On the head, right on top.”

Ewing told Diane that he wrapped Evelyn’s naked body in a tarp and loaded it into the trunk of a 1940 Ford and drove into the desert six miles east of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He dumped the body into a sandy grave and then drove over it numerous times to cover his tire tracks.

The murder, digging the grave, and the drive to Vegas had taken a toll on Ewing. He “went to sleep in the car for awhile. Then I drove back to Los Angeles.”

Ewing expressed no remorse for the murder. In fact he bragged to Diane that he was smarter than the police and prosecutors because they never found his wife’s body. His arrogance defies comprehension. If he was so smart then how the hell did he end up in prison for two decades? Ewing also told Diane that Evelyn “deserved to die…she was a terrible person.” And once again he claimed that Evelyn had attempted to poison him. A claim that J. Miller Leavy, the prosecutor in the case, dismissed as completely ludicrous.

Had Ewing finally told the truth, or was the confession another lie like the hundreds he had told over the course of his life?

J. Miller Leavy believed Ewing told the truth when he said he killed Evelyn. But Leavy didn’t believe Ewing had hit Evelyn just once with a mallet, and he wasn’t convinced that Ewing had buried the body in the desert and not reduced it to ashes in the backyard incinerator.

Evelyn and Ewing Scott at the Queen Mary. [Photo found at the LA Daily Mirror blog]

There were several neighbors who recall seeing Ewing tending to a fire at the incinerator on that night in May, and they further remembered the awful stench produced by the smoke. Thirty years after the deed it hardly mattered how he had killed her or disposed of her remains. All that was important was that Ewing had fessed up to the crime.

But nothing was ever simple with Ewing.

About three months after Diane got Ewing’s confession on tape, Tom Towers, a reporter for the Herald Examiner, dropped in on Ewing who was bedridden in a Silver Lake convalescent hospital.

When Tom asked Ewing about Diane he said that she was his third wife and that they had honeymooned in South America.

Ewing also said that he hadn’t seen Diane’s book, “Corpus Delicti” but said that “the publisher is in trouble” for printing it. Tom Towers read to Ewing from the book and Ewing suddenly stopped him and demanded “What do you want?”

Tom wanted to know what had prompted Ewing to acknowledge the murder after three decades of protesting his innocence. Ewing said: “Acknowledge it? I’d be a damn fool to acknowledge it–they never found the body.”

On August 17, 1987, ninety-one year-old Ewing Scott died at the Skyline Convalescent Hospital in Silverlake. He was destitute and alone. His body was taken to the Los Angeles County Morgue where it lay unclaimed for more than a week after his death.

Ewing’s cremains are buried in a mass grave with the other unclaimed dead in Los Angeles County at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

Evelyn’s remains have never been found.

Corpus Delicti, Conclusion

Ewing’s attorneys told reporters they were worried that their client had met with “foul play”. Both the police and the district attorney were convinced that Ewing’s convenient disappearance was a hoax.

District Attorney Ernest Roll said: “By this disappearing act he (Ewing) has apparently again avoided taking the stand and testifying under oath in one of our civil courts. It is further interesting to note that no missing person report has been filed with the Los Angeles Police Department in connection with Scott’s alleged disappearance.” Roll added that if Ewing didn’t appear for his next scheduled court appearance then, “proper legal steps will be taken to produce him.”

With $179,000 (equivalent to $1.5M today) of his missing wife’s assets unaccounted for,  and likely in his possession, Ewing could buy a ticket to anywhere in the world. In his case it would likely be a place with no extradition treaty with the U.S.

If his disappearance was voluntary, then he was in contempt of court in connection with the $6,000 judgement against him by the Wolfer Printing Company for the costs they incurred publishing his book, “How to Fascinate Men.”

Ewing’s recent companion, Marianne Beaman, might have been worried about Ewing after the sedan he’d been driving had been discovered in Santa Monica with bullet holes through the windshield. But her worry paled in comparison to that of Louis and Irving Glasser. The Glassers were the bail bondsmen who had guaranteed Ewing’s bail. If Ewing was a no-show, they’d be out the money.

So, was Ewing sitting on a distant beach sipping a cocktail with a colorful little umbrella in it; or was he dead and buried in an unmarked shallow grave along Angelus Crest Highway? Nobody knew for sure.

As in in many missing persons cases there were reported sightings of Ewing everywhere from Long Beach to Mexico. None of the sightings were verified.

On May 15, 1956, after Ewing failed to show up for his court appearance, District Attorney Roll requested bail in the amount of $100,000, but Superior Court Judge Herbert V. Walker had a better idea. He ordered Ewing’s original $25,000 bail forfeited and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

District Attorney Roll read California Penal Code Section 32 aloud in the courtroom. He intended to drive home his point that anyone who “harbors, conceals or aids a principal … with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment…” would be in an enormous amount of trouble with the law.

If Ewing was missing under his own steam, a likely accessory would be Marianne Beaman, and the police and the district attorney intended to hold her feet to the fire. They had a list of questions that she would be required to answer if she wanted to remain a free woman. One of the questions had to do with a few gifts given to her by Ewing. Items of clothing that had belonged to Evelyn.

A credible sighting of Ewing came from Bishop, California where he had allegedly spent the nights of May 2, 3, 4 and 5. Chief of Detectives Gordon Bowers of the Sheriff’s Department said he had alerted law enforcement entities from Los Angeles north to the Canadian border.

Ewing remained at large through the rest of 1956. On April 15, 1957, eleven months after Ewing had vanished, a man who gave his name as Lewis E. Stewart was arrested in Windsor, Ontario, Canada just across the Detroit River from Detroit. Mr. Stewart strongly resembled Ewing Scott.  And what a coincidence — his initials were the same.

Lewis Stewart was quickly confirmed to be the fugitive Ewing Scott and was confined to a cell on the fifth floor of the Wayne County Jail. As always, Ewing was impeccably dressed and vocal on the topic of his innocence in the death of his wife. “I’m the goat,” he said. “They are trying to make me take the rap for somebody else. I am innocent. I am being prejudged. I do not want to go back to California.”

Ewing was charming and friendly during his interview until a reporter asked him point-blank if he had murdered his wife. Scott replied, “That is an asinine question. It is just plain ridiculous and stupid. It is the last thing I would want to do.”

Ewing unsuccessfully fought extradition to California, and by mid-May he was returned to Los Angeles.

Ewing’s attorney filed a plea to dismiss the murder charge against him, but the judge wasn’t having it. Ewing’s trial for the murder of his wife was set for mid-September.

As Ewing awaited trial he spent a lot of his time attempting to sell his story to the movies. He wanted $200,000 for the tale and he claimed he planned to spend a significant portion of the sum to “follow up on a number of hot leads on the whereabouts of Mrs. Scott.”  According to Ewing Evelyn was missing, not dead.

As far as any possible film, the charming, sophisticated and good looking English actor, Ronald Colman, seemed to Ewing to be the obvious choice to portray him on the big screen. Who would play Evelyn? Ewing wasn’t so sure. “As far as Mrs. Scott goes, I don’t know who would be exactly right. perhaps an older Peggy Lee, or Mary Astor. I’d have to see the woman first.” After further thought, Ewing said about the as yet unnamed actress, “I do know that she’ll have to be smart, dignified and rather good looking–and definitely not the wisecracking type.” Okay. I guess Joan Blondell wouldn’t be considered — although personally I think she would have been a fantastic choice.

Ever the optimist, Ewing said he had no desire to portray himself in the film. He was, of course, certain that he would be free to accept the role if offered and not pacing the yard at San Quentin, or awaiting execution on death row instead of sitting in a canvas director’s chair with his name emblazoned on the back.

The district attorney’s decision to prosecute Ewing for Evelyn’s murder when her body had not been found was an enormous risk. Ewing was the first person in California to face such a trial, making his case one for the books.

Despite the lack of a physical body, Deputy District Attorney J. Miller Leavy, was confident that the corpus delicti of murder could be established. There was a mountain of compelling circumstantial evidence to bolster the State’s case. Leavy was not only certain of a conviction, he asked for the death penalty.

One of the highlights of Ewing’s trial was a visit, by the jurors, to the Beverly Hills home he and Evelyn had occupied. Of particular interest to the jurors was the backyard incinerator where the remains of women’s clothing were found, and also the spot where Evelyn’s denture and eyeglasses had been discovered. One of the female jurors opened the door to the incinerator and peered in — although what she expected to find wasn’t clear.

The defense attempted to cast doubt on the murder charge by claiming Evelyn had been spotted living on the East Coast, but they fell far short of refuting the prosecution’s robust case.

On December 21, 1957, the jury in the Ewing Scott murder trial returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree for the slaying of Evelyn Scott. Ewing showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Several days later, following four hours of deliberation, the jury returned with their sentence: life in prison.

The jurors who agreed to speak with reporters said that they had tried to find a way to acquit Ewing but “we just couldn’t.”  The evidence of Ewing’s greed, manipulation, and the physical evidence of Evelyn’s glasses and denture, and the ashes of clothing, were too great to overcome. Nobody bought his contention that Evelyn was a drunk who left home of her own volition.

Ewing appealed his conviction.  The appeal was denied.  He also had the balls to petition for $600 per month so that, according to him, he could pay to mount an investigation into Evelyn’s disappearance. In February 1963, Ewing was legally denied his request to share in Evelyn’s estate.

In 1974, seventeen years after his conviction for Evelyn’s murder, Ewing was granted parole.  He refused to leave prison. His reason for refusal was that he felt accepting parole would be tantamount to accepting guilt for Evelyn’s murder.

Still vociferously denying his guilt, Ewing was released from prison in 1978.

NEXT TIME: Corpus Delicti Epilogue

Corpus Delicti, Part 3

Ewing Scott was likely the only person shocked by the court’s decision to make Evelyn’s bank the trustee for her estate. It still wasn’t clear how much of his missing wife’s money Ewing had managed to burn through before the plug was pulled on him.

Evelyn’s brother, Raymond, was satisfied with the outcome of the trustee battle — the bank was his nominee. Ewing’s attorneys were said to be plotting a new strategy to put him back in charge of the estimated $270,000 estate. But losing the trustee fight wasn’t Ewing’s most pressing problem. Rumors of a grand jury and possible indictments were looming large on the horizon.

Charles E. Beardsley, Ewing’s lawyer, was engaged in a pitched battle in the press with LAPD’s Chief William Parker. At the beginning of April, Beardsley fired another shot across Parker’s bow with an accusation that his privacy was being violated because he was being followed by police.  Beardsley said: “I was able to decoy two of these (undercover police cars) into a cul-de-sac alley behind the San Marino Police Department and have the San Marino police shake down the occupants.”  Beardsley was told that he was being followed by FBI agents, but he didn’t buy it.  He talked to an agent in charge in Los Angeles and was told that the FBI had no reason to tail him.

Beardsley asked Parker to explain publicly why he was spending taxpayer money to follow him around, but Parker didn’t take the bait.  All the Chief would say is that: “He (Beardsley) is talking about something of which I have no personal knowledge.  I have nothing to say until I do some more checking.”

While Parker and Beardsley traded barbs in the newspapers, District Attorney Ernest Roll issued his own statement on the case. He warned Ewing not to leave town without official clearance unless he wanted to face an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution charge. The elephant in the room was the fact that no charge had been made against Ewing.  The Chief and the D.A. may have had a charge in mind, but  Was Chief Parker referring to financial malfeasance, or murder? Both?

Roll also said that: “Definite and positive action will be taken on the return of Asst. Chief Dep. Dist. Atty. Adolph Alexander from the East.  This action will be in connection with our phase of the over-all investigation.  Mr. Alexander presently is investigating Mr. Scott’s handling of his missing wife’s trust funds.”

Would Parker’s admonition change Ewing’s mind about a business trip to the East? As far as Beardsley was concerned the LAPD and the DA better put up, or shut up. “We believe,” said Beardsley, “Mr. Scott is free to conduct his ordinary affairs.  If you tell me you want to take Mr. Scott into custody, I will have him appear at your office today.  Otherwise, I will assume you do not wish to take him into custody.  His leaving the State is not to avoid prosecution, as is clear from his willingness to appear at your office.”

Beardsley was about to get an answer to his question of what Ewing might be charged with.  During a trip to Washington, D.C. to attend the U.S. Attorney General’s national conference on parole, Chief Parker told reporters: “This hasn’t been published, but we found a partial (dental) plate and her (Evelyn’s) reading glasses behind a wall near the incinerator at the Scott’s house.”

Rumors that Evelyn might be holed up in Maryland were immediately quashed by Parker who said, “She was never here.”  Parker also hinted, none too subtly, that Evelyn Scott had met with foul play, “This looks like a case we’ll have to try without a body.”

Local coverage of the Scott case included a statement by Deputy Police Chief Thad Brown who said that two pairs of eyeglasses and a removable dental bridge belonging to Evelyn had been found by police during a search in the rear of the Scott home.  He told reporters: “They were buried at the base of the wall about six inches from the wall and covered with leaves and twigs.  It is hard, native soil at that point.”  The denture was identified by Evelyn’s dentist who also said that, as far as he knew, she didn’t have a back-up.

It was looking less and less like Evelyn had vanished of her own free will.

On April 10, after the police disclosed that Evelyn’s glasses and denture had been found in the back yard of her home. Ewing made his move. Officially, it was said that he had “taken a little trip to San Francisco.” Coincidentally, LAPD Deputy Chief Thad Brown had decided to visit the city by the bay as well.

Perhaps Ewing and Brown were taking in the sights of San Francisco or enjoying crab cakes at the pier. In Los Angeles Police Chemist Ray Pinker conducted tests on materials found in the incinerator at the Scott’s Bel-Air mansion.

With the possibility of hundreds of thousands of jewelry and cash missing from Evelyn’s estate, the police were hoping to find clues in a safe deposit box rented by Ewing under an assumed name in Westwood. They found nothing of consequence.

Ewing was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury on April 24th.

The grand jury indicted Ewing on 13 counts, 4 of theft and 9 of forgery.  His constant companion was divorcee Marianne Beaman who seemed to have no problem consorting with a man who may have murdered his wife. Marianne even flatly refused to testify about out-of-town jaunts she and Ewing had taken. Her refusal to speak could lead to a contempt charge.

Ewing’s difficulties were multiplying exponentially.  In addition to charges of forgery and theft, and his failed “How to Fascinate Men” book scheme, four employees of an automobile agency at 200 N Vermont Ave came forward and identified Ewing as the man who has bilked them out of an unspecified amount each for a bogus hair restorer.

Ewing had talked glowingly about the miracle cream to the follicle-challenged quartet. The men agreed to pose for “before” top-of-the-head photos and following a month of using the cream they were supposed to pose for “after” photos.  The head showing the most improvement would win a $35 prize.  The men had neither seen nor heard from Ewing for five years. Then they he popped up in the newspapers in connection with his wife’s disappearance.

On May 5, 1956, nearly a full year after her disappearance, Evelyn’s maroon 1948 coupe, which had been driven by Ewing, was discovered in front of 2214 Washington Ave, Santa Monica.  Neighbors said the car had been sitting in the same spot for several days. Police investigated and found a bullet hole through the windshield on the driver’s side. The bullet had been fired from inside the car and part of a lead slug was found on the seat, and the keys to the car were discovered beneath the floor mat.

Ewing wasn’t with Marianne Beamann (who lived in Santa Monica); and he wasn’t in Bel-Air either because his neighbors had not seen him for “several days.”

Where in the hell was Ewing?

NEXT TIME: The corpus dilecti case concludes.

Corpus Delicti, Part 2

Ewing wasn’t concerned by Evelyn’s disappearance.  Fiercely independent, she was known to go her own way, and that is what he told her friends that she had done.

Whenever her friends expressed their uneasiness about her sudden, mysterious departure Ewing would tell them that she had been drinking heavily and one night, in a drunken snit, she stood in their bedroom clutching a bottle of whisky and shouted obscenities at him.  He claimed that Evelyn’s drinking was out of control.

Ewing Scott hides his face.

Evelyn’s friends were dumbfounded, and doubtful, of Ewing’s description of his wife’s behavior. A drunken, foul-mouthed Evelyn was simply inconceivable to them.  There was nothing in her past that suggested she would behave that way under any circumstances. Contrarily, she was known to be ladylike and charming.

Two weeks following Evelyn’s disappearance, Ewing informed her chauffeur and handyman, Frank Justice, that his services were no longer required.  Frank had worked for Evelyn since 1943 and was stunned that he was being let go.  Ewing handed him a check for $100 and explained that he was taking Evelyn east because he was “discouraged with the way the doctors were making no headway with her diagnosis.” Ewing also told Frank that the only thing the doctors had decided was that Evelyn did not have cancer but may instead have mental problems.

Whenever Evelyn’s friends inquired about her Ewing cut them off, telling them bluntly that Evelyn was suffering from cancer, though he never specified what form the disease had taken, and that it had been her decision to go off on her own to seek treatment. Again, Evelyn’s friends didn’t buy Ewing’s story, and if they had known what he had told Frank they would have been even more suspicious.

Evelyn had been gone less than a month when Ewing visited the Cunard Steamship office.  He spoke to the manager, Frank Hannifer, about a trip around the world – for one.  The proposed trip would cost $7,250 – nearly twice as much as the average man earned in a year in 1955.  The trip never materialized, but Ewing did put down a deposit of $1700 for a trip to the West Indies.

For a man with a sick wife, Ewing didn’t appear to have a care in the world. In fact, he was acting like a bachelor.

In July, Ewing met Harriet Livermore and began to entertain her in the Bel-Air home. Harriet was the widow of Jesse Lauriston Livermore, a stock speculator known as “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Harriet and Jesse were married only 7 years before he committed suicide in 1940.  He had suffered some reversals of fortune and in a suicide note left for Harriet he described himself as “unworthy of your love.”

Jesse Livermore

When Harriet asked about his marriage, Ewing had a ready explanation.  He said that she had abruptly walked out on him.  Harriet was curious as to how a woman could up and walk away like that.  Ewing said that Evelyn was always prepared and routinely kept $18,000 on her person. That should have made Harriet’s eyes pop out on springs like a cartoon character, but obviously the rich have a much different idea of pocket change than the rest of us. Harriet got an earful about Evelyn from Ewing who said that his runaway wife was a chain smoker, an alcoholic and a lesbian. Ewing eagerly defamed his absent wife at every opportunity.

Harriet asked Ewing why, if Evelyn was so horrible, he hadn’t divorced her.  He had an explanation for that, too.  He said that all he had to do was wait for seven years and if Evelyn didn’t reappear he would be entitled to everything – money, property, the whole shebang. According to Ewing he could afford to wait.  He had sold his property in Milwaukee (never letting on the property wasn’t his to sell) and that he was in a comfortable financial position.  He then asked Harriet if she would accompany him on a trip around the world (but only if they went “Dutch Treat”); or to Guatemala.  Harriet declined the invitations.

Mrs. Marianne Beaman, 46, Santa Monica dental assistant, explains to reporters how she met L. Ewing Scott, whose wife is missing mysteriously, and the subsequent dates she had with him.

While he was dating Harriet, Ewing met another woman – Marianne Beaman, with whom he also started keeping company.  As he had done with Harriet, Ewing didn’t hesitate to air his dirty marital laundry.  Evidently, Evelyn’s disappearance was a great strain on him.  He said he thought, but wasn’t sure, that Evelyn had attempted to poison him.  Then he walked that statement back a little and said that even if she hadn’t tried to do him in, the fact that he thought her capable of such a thing was indicative of her deteriorating mental condition.  He didn’t have a shred of credible evidence that Evelyn had ever attempted to harm him.

According to their mutual acquaintances, Marianne and Ewing didn’t have a torrid love affair.  Acquaintances described them as “two lonely people who enjoyed chatting together over a dinner table.”  If dinner conversation lagged maybe Ewing would take the time to explain to his date why Wolfer Printing Company had a $6,000 judgement against him dating from 1953. The judgement had to do with a book project.

In 1953, Ewing met with William Good, vice president and general manager of Wolfer Printing Company at 416 South Wall Street in Los Angeles.   Ewing had brought with him a manuscript, provocatively titled “How to Fascinate Men”. Ewing said the book had been written by a UCLA professor, Charles Contreras, whom he had met at the Jonathan Club.  William had his doubts about the author, he had a gut feeling that Ewing had written the book himself.  Not that it mattered.

Ewing ordered 10,000 copies of the book and a custom designed cover.  The cover alone cost $750, and it featured a blonde who didn’t look like she’d need an instruction manual.

When the book was ready, Ewing came and picked up 25 copies – then he disappeared. Wolfer Printing was stuck with 9975 copies of “How to Fascinate Men.”

Ewing’s carefully curated personality as man with financial acumen – a man worthy of his smart, capable and cultured wife – started to unravel.

Deftly juggling stories like a Barnum & Bailey circus performer, Ewing managed to keep Evelyn’s friends and acquaintances at bay for nearly a full year. During all that time no one, except Ewing – if you believed him – had any contact with Evelyn.

By March 6, 1956, Evelyn’s brother, Raymond Throsby, had had enough. He filed paperwork to become the trustee of her estate. James B. Boyle, who had been Evelyn’s attorney for over 20 years, had a copy of her will in his office safe, but he was adamant that he would not reveal its contents unless or until he was compelled by a court order.

It didn’t take long for things to heat up among the possible contenders for trustee. A three-way battle loomed on the horizon.

While Ewing waged war on the trustee front, his attorney attempted to fend off cops who wanted Ewing to submit to a lie detector test. And to add to his stress, Ewing was subpoenaed to get him to produce some of Evelyn’s jewels and papers.

Ewing was under increasing scrutiny in Evelyn’s disappearance.  What would he do?

NEXT TIME:  Ewing makes a move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corpus Delicti, Part 1

Evelyn and Ewing Scott at the Queen Mary. [Photo found at the LA Daily Mirror blog]

Evelyn Throsby Kiernan Lewis Petit Mumper wasn’t the sort of woman who needed a man at her side to be happy.  As a two-time widow and divorcee, she was well acquainted with the ups and downs of love and marriage. But isn’t it always the way that when you’re not looking for love, you’re most likely to find it?

Evelyn was content living on her own, but who doesn’t want someone to share special moments with?  In 1950, Evelyn met and married her fifth husband.  Robert Leonard Ewing Scott.

Ewing came into the marriage without a job and no money to speak of.  The couple was fortunate that Evelyn’s previous husbands had left her well provided for.  She owned property in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that gave her a monthly income of $1400, which is equivalent to $14,400 a month in today’s dollars.  Evelyn owned a home in Bel-Air, an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles.  She was known to be a sharp investor. Over the years she had managed to grow her nest egg to over $400k dollars (equivalent to $4.4M today).

Nothing in Ewing’s past suggested that he was as good with money, but that didn’t stop him from offering his opinion on her finances.  In fact, shortly after they were married he convinced Evelyn that she didn’t need to pay a financial adviser anymore – she had his expertise to rely on. Ewing assumed complete control over her money.  He convinced her to liquidate a few of her brokerage accounts and convert them to cash. Why?  Ewing claimed he feared the atomic bomb and wanted cash on hand to flee the fallout if necessary.

Evelyn had no reason to distrust her husband, and it wasn’t unusual for a woman during that time for a wife to acquiesce to her husband’s wishes. Maybe Evelyn felt that if she denied Ewing the opportunity to manage her wealth it would hurt his pride. Or perhaps she was relieved to be able to relinquish control and have more free time to spend with her friends.

Evelyn’s intelligence, warmth, generosity and loyalty drew people to her.  She had known most of the people in her immediate circle for many years. Her social life was rich and rewarding – so much so that Evelyn was often heard to say that she would never want to move away or be gone for any length of time because she would miss her friends too much.

Evelyn and Ewing socialized with her friends on a regular basis and all seemed to be well.  None of Evelyn’s friends noticed anything amiss in the Scott’s marriage and  Evelyn appeared to be happy and healthy.

There was one person, however, who had intimate knowledge of the Scott’s relationship, and her opinion of the marriage was different from that of Evelyn’s friends.  Evelyn’s live-in cook, Vera Landry.

One night shortly after Evelyn and Ewing had returned from their honeymoon Vera was awakened by a loud crash.  It sounded to her like something had fallen in the master bedroom. The next day a curious Vera asked Ewing about the noise.  Without hesitation he answered: “Well, I just slapped the wind out of her.”

Vera got a far different explanation from Evelyn, who said she had tripped and fallen. Too frequently women, even those in ritzy Bel-Air, had secrets they were embarrassed or ashamed to reveal.

Vera was painfully aware of problems in the Scott’s marriage, but she was powerless to interfere.  As an employee Vera could only observe if she wanted to keep her place.  In fairness to Vera, it wouldn’t have mattered if she was a friend or not. Even Evelyn’s nearest and dearest would likely have accepted her explanation of an accidental fall rather than do any unseemly prying into her marriage.

Vera’s discomfort became acute when out of the blue Ewing announced to her that he wasn’t in love with Evelyn and their marriage was “just one of those things.” The revelation was more than Vera wanted to know, and she was further appalled when Ewing began to pressure her to spy on Evelyn. He demonstrated how simple it would be to eavesdrop on Evelyn’s telephone calls undetected and threatened to fire her if she didn’t comply.

Rather than betray Evelyn, Vera quit.

Whenever Ewing was out of earshot of Evelyn, he told her friends that she was ill and he was “having trouble with her.”  He hinted that she was drinking heavily and was impossible to deal with.  When her worried friends asked Evelyn if she was feeling well she always responded in the affirmative. They had no reason to doubt her word – she seemed the same as always.

For the first several months of 1955, Ewing persisted with his complaints about Evelyn and her alleged ill-health and bad behavior.  Was Evelyn suffering from alcoholism and/or cancer as Ewing intimated?  Was she trying to keep the painful truth from the people she loved; or was Ewing constructing an elaborate foundation on which to build a plot against his wife?

On May 16, 1955, Ewing ran out to the store to purchase a can of tooth powder for Evelyn. When he returned, she was gone.

NEXT TIME:  The lady vanishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday: When Gangland Strikes [1956]

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 WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES starring Raymond Greenleaf, Marjie Millar and John Hudson.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Gangster Duke Martella, accompanied by his lawyer, Leo Fansler, goes to pick up his girl friend, Hazel Worley, upon her release after serving a one-year prison sentence. Martella is accused of killing a key witness in the district attorney’s murder case against him and worries about his upcoming trial. On the ride to town, Hazel explains that she promised her recently deceased cellmate that she would deliver a letter to a man named Luke Ellis, who lives in the sleepy town of Lawndale. In Lawndale, meanwhile, Luke, the county prosecutor who believes “in squeezing human understanding into the law,” reluctantly cross-examines Jerry Ames, a young Korean War veteran who has been accused of stealing $27.50 from his employer, Walter Pritchard, the owner of the local hardware store. When Luke argues that Jerry only borrowed the money to buy his wife an anniversary present, the jury finds him innocent and the courtroom erupts in applause, much to the chagrin of Pritchard, who believes that Luke is far too lenient to be a prosecutor.

 

Happy Birthday Aggie Underwood & Deranged L.A. Crimes!

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie hoists a brew c. 1920s.

Aggie Underwood was born on December 17, 1902 and Deranged L.A. Crimes was born on December 17, 2012, so there’s a lot to celebrate today. We have so many candles on our birthday cake it will take a gale force wind to blow them all out.

It was Aggie’s career as a Los Angeles journalist that inspired me to begin this blog; and my admiration for Aggie and her accomplishments has grown in the years since I first became aware of her.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie at a crime scene in 1946.

Aggie’s career began in late 1926 when she took a job as a temporary switchboard operator at the Daily Record. She had never intended to work outside of her home, but she was motivated by her desire for a pair of silk stockings. When her husband Harry told her they couldn’t afford the stockings, Aggie got huffy and said she’d buy them herself. It was an empty threat — until a close friend called out of the blue and asked her if she would be interested in a temporary job at the Daily Record. Aggie jumped at the chance. Christmas was coming and the Underwood family could use a few extra dollars, and Aggie would get her silk stockings.

In her 1949 autobiography, Newspaperwoman, Aggie described her first impression of the Record’s newsroom as a “weird wonderland”. She was initially intimidated by the men in shirtsleeves shouting, cursing and banging away on typewriters, but it didn’t take long before intimidation became exhilaration. Much to her surprise she had fallen in love with the newspaper business. At the end of her first year at her “temporary” job she realized that she wanted to be a reporter. From that moment forward Aggie pursued her goal with passion and commitment.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express.

Aggie at her desk after becoming City Editor at the Evening Herald & Express. Note the baseball bat — she used it to shoo away pesky Hollywood press agents.

During a time when most female journalists were assigned to report on women’s club activities and fashion trends, Aggie covered the most important crime stories of the day. She attended actress Thelma Todd’s autopsy in December 1935 and was the only Los Angeles reporter to score a byline in the Black Dahlia case in January 1947. Aggie’s career may have started on a whim, but it lasted over 40 years.

Look closely and you can see Aggie's byline.

Look closely and you can see Aggie’s byline under “Night In a Motel”.

Over the past five years I’ve corresponded with many of you and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of you in person. Your support and encouragement mean a lot to me, and whether you are new to the blog or have been following Deranged L.A. Crimes from the beginning I want to thank you sincerely for your readership.

There will be many more stories in 2018, and a few appearances too. Look for me in shows on the Investigation Discovery Network (I’ve been interviewed for Deadly Women, Deadly Affairs, Evil Twins, Evil Kin and several others.) I recently appeared in a show on the infamous Cecil Hotel (Horror at the Cecil Hotel).  The Cecil has the dubious distinction of having been home to two serial killers!

I have appeared in a few podcasts — Hollywood & Crime and Gangland Wire to name two.

Whether it is on television, in the blog or some other medium I’m looking forward to telling more crime tales in 2018.

Happy Holidays!

Thank you again for your support.

Joan

Film Noir Friday — Saturday Matinee: No Man’s Woman [1955]

no_man_s_woman

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 NO MAN’S WOMAN starring Marie Windsor, John Archer, Patric Knowles and Nancy Gates.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In Beverly Hills, California, gold digger Carolyn Grant has been estranged from husband Harlow Grant for two years. When Harlow falls in love with Louise Nelson, Carolyn refuses to grant him a divorce, unless he gives her a large percentage of his chemical company plus $300,000. Knowing that Harlow does not have that much, she suggests that he sell his father Philip’s half of the company, which Philip spent his life building. Harlow is unsuccessful in talking Carolyn into a reasonable settlement.