The Burton Gang’s Last Job, Conclusion

Not long after the bloody shootout between the Burton gang and Sheriff’s deputies at the Union Ice Company, in which all of the bandits except J.W. Gilkye were killed, deputies found Edward Burton’s girlfriend. Investigators located the young woman in a room at the Superior Hotel. She was taken into custody under her alias, Mary Dayke, but quickly revealed her given name, Evelyn Smith.

burton gang_gilkye mug_crop

Smith, like Burton, was from Chicago. Questioned by Chief of Criminal Investigation, A.L. Manning and Deputy Sheriff Chester Allen, Smith said that she had no idea what Burton was up to or why he had left Chicago for Los Angeles. “I know nothing of Burton’s crimes. I did not realize he was leading a life of crime until he was arrested in the raid. Even then I did not believe he was the man who shot the motor officer.

Smith continued: “I came out from Chicago last May to join Burton. Be he soon lost interest in me. He told me I was not the kind of a girl to stick with him. Last Tuesday afternoon, only a few hours before he was killed, he accused me of being too inquisitive. He said I asked too many questions, told me to mind my own business. And then he beat me severely.”

Sheriff’s investigators asked Smith about the two one-way train tickets to Chicago that were found in Burton’s coat pocket, but again she claimed to know nothing. Evidently, Burton had a new woman in his life; a blonde with bobbed hair who had accompanied the bandit gang on a number of robberies. Smith said Burton planned to “ditch” her for his new squeeze and leave Smith in Los Angeles to fend for herself.

burton gang_evelyn smith_chester allen

Sheriff’s deputies conducted raids at several locations in an attempt to round up other members of the gang. The lawmen came up empty. The gunsels, aware that the deputies wielded sawed-off shotguns and were prepared to do battle, had fled the city for parts east.

Only J.W. Gilkye, the lone bandit to survive, was left to answer for the crimes he and his fellow thugs had perpetrated. Gilkye survived only because he had dropped his weapon and refused to fight when deputies drew down on him at the ice company.

During questioning, Gilkye said: “You got enough on me without me telling you more.” And then he proceeded to tell Chief Deputy Manning a lot more.  Like many crooks Gilkye loved the sound of his own voice and couldn’t resist crowing about his criminal accomplishments and playing the tough guy. “I may get hooked for a long time up the road, but I ain’t through yet. We were double-crossed, we were, by one of our own gang. But I’ll get him if it takes all my life. He double-crossed us and caused three of my best pals to get killed. But they were nervy–had the goods.”  The “goods” can’t do much for you when you’re dead.

Gilkye wasn’t as nervy as his pals had been, so he lived to tell the tale.  He was tried and convicted for his part in the ice company job, but before he left Los Angeles County Jail for San Quentin, he nearly made good on his promise to get even with the man who had dropped a dime on the gang.

The snitch was Roy Melendez. Melendez and Gilkye encountered each other in the County Jail where, according to witnesses, Gilkye “roared like an infuriated animal” when Melendez was placed in lock-up. Gilkye would have murdered Melendez with his bare hands if jail attendants hadn’t intervened.

Melendez may have met a bad end even though Gilkye wasn’t able to lay another finger on him. When Melendez failed to appear in court on a bum check charge an unnamed official opined: “Either Melendez has been killed or they have made it so hot for him he is afraid to show up.” A bench warrant was issued for Melendez, but he was nowhere to be found.

Members of the Sheriff’s Department breathed a sigh of relief. The Burton gang’s brief reign in Los Angeles was over.

* * *

Late in February 1923, two men from Chicago arrived in Los Angeles. The men weren’t tourists, they were on a mission to assassinate the deputies they held responsible for killing Edward Burton and two members of his gang during the shootout at Union Ice Company. The men made inquiries around town in an attempt to learn as much as they could about their targets. While the hitmen were compiling dossiers on their targets, the targets themselves were conducting their business as usual.  Deputies William Bright, Spike Modie, Chester Allen and Norris Stensland didn’t know they were being hunted.burton gang_gunmen headline

At about 1 a.m. on the morning of March 7, 1923,  William Bright and Spike Moody left Sheriff’s headquarters. They climbed into Moody’s Stutz and headed up Broadway. They turned west on Temple and continued down the dark, deserted street. After traveling a few blocks they eyeballed a sedan with the side curtains pulled down. They wouldn’t have paid the automobile much attention except that it was trailing them too closely for their comfort. Knowing that they had enemies in the underworld Moody and Bright readied their weapons. As they prepared themselves for a possible gunfight, Moody and Bright watched the sedan suddenly swing off into a side street and disappear.

A few blocks later the mysterious sedan lurched out of a side street onto Temple and passed the Stutz at a high rate of speed. Moody and Bright saw the side curtains part and a shotgun appear. A second shotgun appeared from the tonneau, the rear passenger compartment of the sedan, and both unleashed a volley fire at Modie and Bright. The deputies pulled out their revolvers and returned fire. Bright fired through the windshield of the Stutz. Fortunately for the deputies, the would-be assassins aim went high when their sedan hit a pothole.

Stutz c. 1923

Stutz c. 1923

Moody jammed his foot down on the accelerator and gave chase as the sedan drew away. Bright continued to return fire. Bright may have scored a hit. The sedan skidded across the street into a telephone pole. The sedan sagged with one broken wheel. Three men jumped from the car and fled, but not before firing again at the deputies.

Bright and Moody gave chase on foot but the men vanished into the darkness. Returning to the crippled sedan Bright found a hat with a jagged hole through the crown. The wearer had narrowly escaped death. The hat bore the name of a Chicago hatter.

Sheriff’s investigators located the gunmen’s hotel room. They also identified a few of the shooters acquaintances who, under orders from Sheriff Traeger, were kept under surveillance.

Deputies Bright, Moody, Stensland and Allen prepared themselves for the possibility of another attack–but it never came. The Burton gang seems to have departed Los Angeles forever.

This is such a great photo I decided to post it again!

This is such a great photo I decided to post it again!

NOTE:  Once again, I am indebted to Mike Fratantoni. His knowledge of L.A.’s law enforcement and criminal history is encyclopedic.

It can be frustrating to pin down accurate spellings of proper names in these historic tales. Often reporters phoned a story into a rewrite person at the newspaper who phonetically spelled a person’s name. Edward Burton was in some reports, Edwin. Another example, Spike Moody’s surname has appeared as Modie. Judging from the above photo it should be the former spelling.

The Wilshire Prowler, Conclusion

bashor-doomed_picDonald Bashor, 27, confessed to dozens of local burglaries and to the bludgeon slayings of Karil Graham and Laura Lindsay. Under intense police questioning Donald didn’t admit to any further offenses, and as far as investigators could tell he’d revealed the extent of his crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Finnerty issued a subpoena for Officer Donald C. Wesley, who had shot and wounded Bashor during his attempt to evade capture. Among the others called to appear before the grand jury were Detective Lieutenant Jack McCreadie, and autopsy surgeons Dr. Frederick Newbarr and Dr. Gerald K. Ridge.

Bashor was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of burglary. The burglary charges stemmed from the looting of the apartment at 215 South Carondelet Street shared by Dorothy Cowan, Marcella Drews and Eunis Wingel. Lester E. Olson of 325 South Occidental Boulevard, was also burglarized by Bashor. Both crimes were committed about thirty minutes prior to the murder of Karil Graham.

The twenty-seven year-old killer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and his trial was set for August 14, 1956 in Judge Allen T. Lynch’s court. Because of the insanity plea Bashor would undergo examination by alienists for the State and the defense before the trial.

There are often delays in murder trials and Bashor’s was no exception, it didn’t get underway until October 4, 1956.  The four alienists who examined Bashor deterined that he was sane when he committed the murders.

With the ultimate penalty on the table it was going to be a tough trial. But before the jury could be sworn in the defendant interrupted the proceedings to enter a guilty plea. Terrence Cooney, Bashor’s attorney, was as dumbfounded by his client’s move as was everyone else in the courtroom. Cooney didn’t want any part of placing a banana peel between his client and the gas chamber so he refused to go forward. Bashor fired him.

With Cooney still standing next to Bashor, Superior Judge Allen T. Lynch explained to the defendant that the law prohibits acceptance of a guilty plea in a capital case without benefit of counsel. Cooney must have decided to bend to his client’s will because Judge Lynch accepted the guilty plea. Along with the plea, Judge Lynch also accepted responsibility for determining Bashor’s sentence.

On October 16, 1956, Judge Lynch was ready to pronounce sentence. The courtroom was quiet as the judge began to speak. “This is the most difficult duty I have ever had to perform. For the last four days I have been able to think of nothing else. These were cruel, brutal killings. I find no mitigating circumstances.”

According to newspaper reports Judge Lynch appeared to have difficulty speaking. He paused for several long beats and then continued. “On counts one and three (the two murders) the court sentences you to suffer the death penalty. May God have mercy on your soul!”bashor-doomed

It took about a year for the California State Supreme Court to review the automatic appeal and affirm the death sentence in Bashor’s case.

On October 10, 1957, the night before his scheduled execution, Donald Bashor refused a last meal and then he slept from 1:05 a.m. to 7:05 a.m. When he awoke he had toast and coffee. He read a handful of letters he had recently received and then turned to the Bible.

Photograph by Edward Gamer / Los Angeles Times Senior Deputy George Coenen, left, and Sgt. Howard Earle, right, escort convicted killer Donald Keith Bashor on his trip to San Quentin, Oct. 25, 1956. Bashor's story was the basis of a "Playhouse 90" episode by Jules Maitland. Bashor's slaying of Graham also plays a prominent role in Jack Webb's "The Badge," a not terribly accurate book reissued in 2005.

Photograph by Edward Gamer / Los Angeles Times Senior Deputy George Coenen, left, and Sgt. Howard Earle, right, escort convicted killer Donald Keith Bashor on his trip to San Quentin, Oct. 25, 1956. Bashor’s story was the basis of a “Playhouse 90″ episode by Jules Maitland. Bashor’s slaying of Graham also plays a prominent role in Jack Webb’s “The Badge,” a not terribly accurate book reissued in 2005.

Unlike many killers, Donald Bashor seemed genuinely remorseful for the murders. His last words were: “I’m glad my crimes are coming to an end. I am sorry I cannot undo the horrible things I did.”

Gas began to fill San Quentin’s death chamber at 10:03 a.m. and at 10:12 a.m. Donald Keith Bashor was pronounced dead.

EPILOGUE

There was something about Donald Keith Bashor that set him apart from many other killers. It may have been his movie star good looks, or it may have been the fact that he  sought atonement for his crimes in the gas chamber. Whatever it was, Bashor’s story became an episode of the prime time TV series PLAYHOUSE 90 in 1958.  Bashor was portrayed by Tab Hunter and the episode was narrated by former Los Angeles Mirror columnist Paul Coates. The highly rated episode was directed by Arthur Penn who would later direct such great films as The Miracle Worker and Bonnie & Clyde.

The episode was not without behind-the-scenes drama. One of the sponsors for the  episode, entitled “Portrait Of A Murderer”, was the Southern California Gas Company. They wanted to eliminate Bashor’s trip to the gas chamber from the script. Producer Martin Manulis flatly refused and the episode aired as written.

Donald Bashor’s story also claimed the attention of ten-year-old James Ellroy.  In 1958, his father gave him a copy of THE BADGE written by TV cop Jack Webb who portrayed Sgt. Joe Friday on DRAGNET. Bashor’s case is the first one covered in the book. In large part it was THE BADGE that inspired Ellroy to become a novelist. It definitely sparked his interest in Los Angeles crime.  Now it’s time for a shameless plug — I was fortunate to work with James Ellroy, Glynn Martin, Megan Martin, Nathan Marsak, and Mike Fratatoni on the book LAPD ’53. The book project was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

EXTRA CREDIT

First, let me direct you to a clip from James Ellroy’s CITY OF DEMONS (2011) in which he glibly recounts the Bashor case.

Next, a far more serious scene from the PLAYHOUSE 90 production of PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER

The Wilshire Prowler, Part 4

According to LAPD homicide detectives Jack McCreadie and S.W. Beckner, Charles Hart fit the profile of the Wilshire Prowler to a “T”.  But then it’s one thing to LOOK like the Prowler, but another thing entirely to BE the Prowler.

For days following Hart’s arrest detectives probed the suspect’s background and, importantly, his whereabouts for the murders of Karil Graham and Laura Lindsay.

Suddenly there was a break in the case–and it had nothing to do with Charles Hart. Police Technician A.R. McLaughlin worked diligently to find a match for a bloody palm print found at the scene of Laura Lindsay’s slaying. He painstakingly compared the bloody print against all the burglary suspects that had popped up since Laura’s murder until he found a match. The suspect was no stranger to law enforcement, he was two-time loser and confessed burglar Donald Keith Bashor.

bashor-nailThe hunt for Bashor was on. The twenty-seven year-old man was discovered by LAPD officers and detectives as he prowled the alley between two apartment buildings at 325 and 337 South Occidental Boulevard.

The suspect was wearing gloves but he was in his bare feet, which was a lucky break for the cops. Bashor ran and it looked like he was going to escape but then he leaped on a pile of lumber and stepped on a nail.

Bashor stopped. Policeman Donald C. Wesley took the opportunity to fire his weapon. Bashor fell, wounded in the arm.

Once he was in custody, Bashor was confronted by Chief of Detectives Thad Brown about the Lindsay murder. He denied having anything to do with it and refused to submit to a lie detector test.

bashor-charged-picBashor could refuse the lie detector test but the palm print was damning. Ironically, it was Officer McLaughlin who had been Bashor’s nemesis in 1949 when he was sent up the first time on a burglarly conviction.

Still denying the Lindsay murder, Bashor copped to nine burglaries in the neighborhood where he was captured. Thad Brown believed the burglary confession and he also believed that Bashor was a killer times two. He liked him for both the Karil Graham and Laura Lindsay bludgeon murders.bashor-confesses_headline

When detectives dug into Bashor’s records they found that he was in prison, working as a trusty at Harbor General Hospital on March 9, 1950, when he escaped and fled to Oregon.

He was captured in Portland the following July and confessed to numerous burglaries in the area. Bashor was sent to Oregon State Prison where he was confined for a year. When he had finished his time he wasn’t free, he was returned to San Quentin as an escapee. He was paroled in 1953.

When questioned about his recent activities, Bashor said that he had been working as a painter on and off between burglaries. He kept up his denials about the homicides for a number of hours. Finally he broke down and wept, and confessed to killing Karil Graham and Laura Lindsay.

bashor-confesses_2According to Bashor he entered the residences of the women intending only to steal, but then why was he armed with an 18-inch length of lead pipe when he broke into Karil’s apartment? Bashor said that he had been ransacking the place when Karil awakened and began to scream. He hit her on the head and he continued to beat her until she went still. He didn’t bolt and run after the murder, he stayed and searched until he found Karil’s purse. He found $20. The next day he took the weapon and his bloody clothing and dropped it off the pier at Ocean Park.

More than nine months passed before Bashor hit the streets again, this time he was armed with a ball-peen hammer. Laura Lindsay’s murder was nearly identical to Karil Graham’s. Again he beat the victim until she fell and died. He said that he saw a llight fall across Laura’s nude body and the sight of the blood bothered him. He found a shawl and placed it over her.

In the dark, with Laura’s body nearby, Bashor searched her home until he found her purse. He walked away with another $20.

The next day he wrapped the hammer in his bloodied shirt and tossed the bundle over the pier at Ocean Park.

While he was in a confessing mood, Bashor also admitted to 40 burglaries in the L.A. area since his parole in 1953. Had he committed any other murders?

NEXT TIME: Donald Bashor’s crimes and his punishment.

30 More Years of Crime in L.A.

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

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

dirtyharry

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry

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

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

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

ramirez_108a

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

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

Jim Jones of the People's Temple

Jim Jones of the People’s Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joan

 

 

 

Film Noir Friday: He Walked By Night

he walked_poster

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 HE WALKED BY NIGHT starring Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, and Jack Webb. It was during the making of this film that Jack Webb got the idea for DRAGNET.

The film is based on a true story, the Erwin “Machine Gun” Walker case, which I wrote about a few years ago.

38gunAs of a few months ago I have a personal connection to this movie. I was given the blue steel revolver that belonged to the screenwriter, John C. Higgins — it was a gift from his nephew, Eric, and I’m honored to own it. Higgins wrote the screenplays for T-MEN and RAW DEAL, two terrific films.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Inspired by the true story of Erwin Walker, a WWII hero who turned to crime and terrorized Los Angeles in 1946, He Walked By Night (1948) is a remarkable low budget, film noir thriller that is often overlooked in film studies of this genre. Besides Richard Basehart’s chilling performance as a meticulous thief of electronics equipment who becomes a wanted cop killer, the film glistens with the stylized black and white cinematography of John Alton whose use of light has been compared to the lighting in Rembrandt paintings. The film could well serve as a primer on how to shoot a film noir since it incorporates all of the familiar elements of the genre so masterfully into the visual design of the film: splintered shadows from Venetian blinds that transform a cozy bedroom into a prison, street lights over patches of wet pavement, a brief pinpoint of light from a hastily lit match in a dark room. Most memorable of all is the chiaroscuro camerawork in the final sequence as Davis Morgan – Richard Basehart’s character – is pursued through the huge drainage canals underneath Los Angeles by the police. This was the first time this unusual locale was used in a film and it would later serve as an equally disturbing setting – the lair of giant mutant ants – for the science fiction thriller, Them! (1954).

 

Cops Behaving Badly: The Jokers

00037046_cryer

Mayor George Cryer [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

The 1920s were a time of rapid growth in Los Angeles.  During the tenure of the 32nd Mayor of Los Angeles, George E. Cryer (1921-1929), the population of Los Angeles surpassed 1,000,000 and several important civic development projects were undertaken such as the construction of Central Library; City Hall; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; Hall of Justice; Mulholland Highway; and the Olympic Auditorium.

The Olympic Auditorium was originally supposed to cost $350,000 to build, $4.8 million in today’s dollars, but overruns pushed it above $500,000.  Land for the project was acquired at Grand Avenue and West Eighteenth Street in a twenty-five year lease deal with the Los Angeles Athletic Club.  The building was designed to be a combination convention hall, exposition building, and boxing arena and when completed it would be the largest venue of its kind with seating for 15,300 people.

Olympic Auditorium [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Olympic Auditorium [Photo courtesy LAPL]

The Olympic wasn’t just for mugs and pugs.  In May 1925 the Los Angeles Times reported that a “…colossal presentation of ‘Aida’ with elephants and camels, a chorus of more than ninety voices and a ballet of twenty-four dancers…” would be on stage at the auditorium.  I love opera and it would have been a treat to see live elephants and camels at the Olympic—it must have been a remarkable night.

Of course now you’re asking “what has civic pride and operatic spectacle got to do with cops behaving badly? “  Alas, not much except to point out that where there is big money there is an opportunity for misbehavior.

The auditorium opened to much fanfare and sold-out crowds, but there was a problem.  It was reported that at least sixty contractors had not been compensated for their work.  Liens totaling $400,000 had to be paid. It was never made clear in the newspaper accounts exactly why the contractors had been stiffed.  It sounds to me as if there was some creative bookkeeping going on, but then I’m a naturally suspicious person.

In any case the way the payments worked was simple enough—Sheriff’s deputies collected the gross box office receipts from the various events held at the auditorium and locked them up in a vault at the Sheriff’s office.  Once taxes and overhead had been deducted from the gross the deputies took the balance and applied it to the outstanding claims.jokers olympic

For several months everything went like clockwork.  But on April 16, 1926 Mrs. M.Q. Adams, a bookkeeper in the Sheriff’s civil department, noticed that the vault door was partly opened. She immediately called to Chief Civil Deputy Arthur Jewell who discovered that the previous night’s deposit of $1182 was missing. Sheriff Traeger decided not to publicize the burglary—it should be on a need-to-know basis only.  Theft of money from his office vault was damned embarrassing.

Undersheriff Biscailuz and Chief Criminal Deputy Wright were assigned to the case.  They were certain that whoever had taken the money must have known the combination to the outer door and possessed duplicate keys to the inner door.  In other words, it was an inside job.

Deputy Karl Wallich (38), one of the few people who had access to the vault, was immediately a suspect. During questioning Wallich said that after he had left the Hall of Justice in the early morning he had turned back at the Plaza to buy a pack of cigarettes. He couldn’t find a store that was open so he  ended up driving to a small market at Fifth and Spring. Wallich’s story didn’t hold up.  Deputy Wright found seven stores between the Plaza and Fifth and Spring Streets that were open early in the morning.

jokers wallichDeputy Sheriffs Heller and Johnson dropped in on Karl Wallich at his home to take his statement. They confronted him with his lie about the stores and he caved in on the spot. He wasn’t cut out for a life of crime. He produced half of the missing funds and ratted out his friend and accomplice Harry Adler (19), a civilian clerk, who quickly relinquished the other half.

Adler confessed that he had hidden himself in the vault about 10 o’clock Wednesday night waiting for the auditorium’s receipts to be deposited. Deputy Sheriffs Wallich and Barton came to the vault door about 11:30, locked up, and left the building.  Once he figured that everyone had gone Adler took a screw driver and removed the plate from the combination lock and exited the vault.  Nobody saw him leave.  He then met Karl in front of the Hall of Records where they divvied up the cash.

jokers robbery

The most surprising thing about their confessions was that both men insisted that they hadn’t stolen the money to enrich themselves—the theft was meant to be a joke!  The pair of merry pranksters said they had only wanted to get even with Deputy George Barton, a co-worker they said had teased and played jokes on them. The theft was their way of getting even.  They figured since Barton was the only person who had keys to the inner vault it would be his ass in a sling when the money disappeared. The plan was to let Barton twist in the wind for a bit then return the cash to the vault, but then” things got so hot” they couldn’t see their way out of the mess.jokers adler

Sheriff Traeger wasn’t amused by Wallich and Adler’s little stunt—he’d covered the full $1182 loss out of his own pocket until the money was returned.

Adler pleaded guilty at his arraignment. He spent ninety days in a Sheriff’s detention center and upon his release he was granted three years probation. Wallich first entered a not guilty but then he changed his mind and entered a guilty plea and requested probation.  There was no follow-up story in the newspaper so I don’t know how Wallich fared.  My guess is that he got probation.

Of course both Wallich and Adler lost their Sheriff’s Department jobs.  I wonder if the men stayed friends or if their criminal misadventure ended it.   I like to think that with their penchant for pranks the guys opened a brick and mortar joke shop—the kind that sold whoopee cushions, rubber vomit, joy buzzers, and fake dog poop.

Doesn’t everyone appreciate a good joke?

 poopoo

 NOTE:  Many thanks to my fellow crime historian, Mike Fratantoni for introducing me to this tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policewoman of the Year, Conclusion

Florence Coberly testifies at inquest. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Florence Coberly testifies at inquest. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

In 1952 LAPD Policewoman Florence Coberly appeared to be a woman with a bright future in law enforcement. She had been instrumental in taking down career criminal and ex-con, Joe Parra. Parra had a history of sexual assault and he was shot and killed during an undercover assignment in which Florence had acted as a decoy. She had stayed tough during the inquest following Parra’s shooting when his brother Ysmael began shouting and then attempted to lunge at photographers. She had appeared on television and had been honored at various awards banquets all over town.

Yes sir, Florence’s star was shining brightly.

divorce_1955But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) Florence’s personal life began to unwrap slightly when after only three years of marriage she divorced her husband Frank in 1955. We’ve heard countless times over the years how tough it is to be a cop’s wife, but I imagine being the husband of a cop is not much easier–the unpredictable hours and the danger could be enough to send any spouse out the door forever. But then we don’t really know what caused the Coberly’s marriage to dissolve. The divorce notice appeared in the June 29, 1955 edition of the L.A. Times, but it was legal information only and gave no hint of the personal issues which may have caused the Coberly’s to break up. Even if her marriage hadn’t made until “death us do part” at least Florence had her job.

Florence with her back to the camera, befriends a lost girl c 1954 [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Florence with her back to the camera, befriends a lost girl c 1954 [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

There is no further record of her in the Times for several years following the fatal shooting of serial rapist Joe Parra in 1952, so we’ll have to presume that her career in law enforcement was on track. Then nearly six years after the Parra case, on July 2, 1958, the Times ran a piece under the headline: “Policewoman’s Mother Convicted in Shoplifting”; it was buried in the back pages of the “B” section and it told an interesting tale.

Mrs. Gertrude Klearman, the fifty-three year old mother of a policewoman, had been found guilty of shoplifting by a jury of eleven women and one man. The jury had spent only one hour and seven minutes in deliberation. As embarrassing as it would have been to have your mom convicted of shoplifting, it would have been so much worse if you were a cop–and orders of magnitude more humiliating if you were a cop busted WITH your mother for stuffing $2.22 worth of groceries into a handbag and walking out without making the necessary stop at the check-out stand.flo_mom

According to Police Officer George Sellinger, an off-duty cop supplementing his income by working as a store detective, the pair of women, one of whom you have undoubtedly guessed was Florence Coberly, had been accused of stealing two packages of knockwurst, a can of coffee, a package of wieners and an avocado.

Florence had remarried and not surprisingly she had married another cop, Sgt. Dave Stanton. But despite a change in her surname there was no mistake that the woman accused of shoplifting was none other than the former Florence Coberly, Policewoman of the Year.

Florence seated next to her husband, Sgt. Dave Stanton. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Florence seated next to her husband, Sgt. Dave Stanton. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Gertrude was found guilty, but Florence had been freed of the shoplifting charge during trial on a technicality involving unreasonable search and seizure.

At the misdemeanor trial her attorney, Frank Rothman, vigorously questioned Sellinger on the stand and finally got him to admit that he had not actually seen Florence stuff the food items into her purse. He had pressured her to submit to a search outside the grocery store based on the scant evidence of having seen her holding some packages in her hand. As far as Rothman and the law were concerned Sellinger’s reason for the search was seriously flawed and a legal no-no.

LAPD in the late 1950s was still understandably touchy about any hint of scandal or misbehavior by its officers. During the decades prior to William H. Parker’s ascension to Chief, the institution had watched as many of its members were accused (some even convicted) of all manner of graft and corruption.

While a package of knockwurst hardly rises to the standard of bad behavior that had plagued LAPD earlier, just being arrested was enough to get Florence suspended from duty pending a Police Board of Rights hearing.

It couldn’t have been easy for Florence to sit on the sidelines and await the decision that would have such an enormous impact on her future. Law enforcement wasn’t just a 9-5 job for her, it was a career and one for which she had displayed an aptitude.

While Florence waited on tenterhooks for the Board of Rights hearing, her mother was sentenced to either forty days in jail or a $200 fine (she paid the fine).

Florence’s hearing began on July 22, 1958 before a board composed of Thad Brown, chief of detectives, and Capts. John Smyre and Chester Welch. Officer Sellinger repeated the testimony he had given at the trial and despite the fact that the shoplifting charges against Florence had been dismissed in a court of law, the board found her guilty of the same charge and ordered her dismissed from LAPD.

This photo may have been misidentified in the USC Digital Archive. I believe it to be the Police Board hearing.

This photo may have been misidentified in the USC Digital Archive as Florence’s misdemeanor trial. I believe it to be the Police Board hearing.

It was an ignominious end to a career that had shown such early promise, and I can’t help but wonder if there was more to Florence’s dismissal from the police force than the shoplifting charge.

In February 1959, Florence filed suit in superior court seeking to be reinstated. Her complaint was directed against Chief Parker and the Board of Rights Commission. Florence stated that she had been dismissed from the LAPD on a charge that she had, with her mother, shoplifted groceries from a San Fernando Valley market. Florence denied her guilt and contended that the only evidence in the case may have been applicable to her mother alone.

flo_firedIt took several months, but in July 1959 Superior Court Judge Ellsworth Meyer sided with the LAPD and refused to compel Chief Parker to reinstate Florence.

I haven’t discovered any further mentions of Florence in the newspaper. I’m curious to know how her life played out and what became of her in later years. As it is with so many of the tales covered here in Deranged L.A. Crimes there is no satisfactory conclusion. Of course I can always hope that a member of her family will see the story and contact me.  It has happened before.

Meanwhile, I salute Florence for her no-holds-barred, kick-ass entry into policing in 1952; and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one last time that fantastic bandolier that dangled so daintily from her belt–as I said before lady cops knew how to accessorize.

NOTE: Many thanks to my friend and frequent partner in historic crime, Mike Fratantoni. He knows the BEST stories.

 

The Green Scarf Bandit, Conclusion

Two weeks after he was shot by Sheriff’s deputies James Monroe Rudolph, the Green Scarf Bandit, was on the mend in the prison ward of General Hospital. He was reported to be in a weakened condition, but evidently not too weak to confess to scores of robberies, burglaries, assaults and kidnappings. Deputy District Attorney Howard Hurd and a couple of Sheriff’s deputies, including one of my favorites from the era, Detective Sergeant Ned Lovretovich, were on hand to witness the statements made by Monroe.

ned_green scarf

Photo dated 29 January 1951. James M. Rudolph; Sheriff’s Sergeant Dave Terry; Attorney Abraham Becker; Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Ned Lovretovich (walking behind Rudolph). [Photo courtesy of USC online collection.]

Monroe had been captured and critically wounded by deputies following a call from eight year old Jimmy Jones. Jimmy had telephoned the cops after bravely feigning sleep while Rudolph kidnapped his parents at gunpoint. It was Jimmy’s call that resulted in the capture of the the Green Scarf Bandit. For his courage Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz had awarded the boy a miniature Sheriff’s badge.

The authorities were keen to get Rudolph in front of a judge, but his physical condition delayed the proceedings. Another complication was that there was so much stolen loot in the Ruldoph home in Placerville that it was going to take some time for it to be sorted out and put on trucks so that it could be placed into evidence. Cops estimated the worth of the stolen goods to be in excess of $60,000 [$537,851.00 in current U.S. dollars].

Finally on January 30th James Monroe Rudolph, clad in his prison ward jammies, was sufficiently healed from his multiple gunshot wounds to appear for arraignment before Municipal Judge F. Ray Rennett. In the complaint, sworn to by Deputy Sheriff Dave Terry and issued by the Deputy D.A., Rudolph found himself charged with five counts of robbery, four of attempted robbery, nine of kidnapping and two of false imprisonment. Four of the robberies involved food markets from which Rudolph had made off with thousands of dollars in cash.

One of the robberies had been particularly bold. Just a few days prior to the kidnapping of B.G. Jones and his wife, the Green Scarf Bandit had used the same M.O. to rob a La Crescenta supermarket manager and his wife twice in one day!

greenscarf_twiceAlfred W. Boegler and his wife Irene were awakened at about midnight when a man in a green scarf mask climbed through their bedroom window. Holding a pistol on the couple, the bandit politely turned his head as Irene changed from her nightgown into street clothes so that she could accompany her husband and the crook to the Shopping Bag Market at 3100 Foothill Blvd in La Crescenta.

boegler_greenscarfAlfred related to investigators a conversation he had with the masked intruder:

“When we asked him what was to be done about our two sleeping children, he said that it was too cold to take children outdoors–and that they might get injured if there was a night watchman who started any shooting. He said if we co-operated in driving him to the store and opening the safe, we would be safely back home within 30 minutes.”

Hey, he may have been a gun wielding robber but he wasn’t necessarily indifferent to the comfort and safety of young children. As the couple’s two daughters, Barbara (4) and Karen (18 months) slept soundly, Boegler drove his wife and the robber to the market. Once they arrived at the store the gunman used Irene as a hostage while Alfred went into the store with a passkey and turned off the burglar alarm. All the while the gunman apologized saying that his boss was “pretty tough” and he’d face dire consequences if the job didn’t go off perfectly.

After looting two safes at the market the bandit let the Boegler’s out of their car at the corner of Altura Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. They phoned the Montrose Sheriff’s station (the same station young Jimmy Jones would call a few days later) and walked the short distance to their home. They collected their two kids and then went to the home of Boegler’s brother, William. When the Boegler’s returned to their own home a mere six hours after being taken from their warm bed they were met by the green scarfed gunman who was waiting patiently for them in the kitchen.

“You double-crossed me. My boss doesn’t like that. We missed one safe.”

The man then kidnapped the Boeglers for a second time, emptied out a third safe, and fled.

Rudolph may have thought of himself only as a bandit, but two of the kidnapping charges involved bodily harm, which in California, because of the Little Lindbergh Law could be sufficient to send him to the gas chamber.

Following the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. on March 1, 1932, Congress adopted the Federal Kidnapping Act (aka Lindbergh Law), a law which allowed the feds step in once kidnappers had crossed state lines with their victim. There were were several states, California among them, that implemented their own versions of the law which applied in cases of kidnapping when victims were not transported across state lines; hence Little Lindbergh. California’s Little Lindbergh statute made kidnapping with bodily harm a crime eligible for the death penalty.greenscarf_death

In 1951 when the Green Scarf Bandit was busted the Red Light Bandit (Caryl Chessman) was already on California’s death row for kidnapping — he had been convicted under the Little Lindbergh law. Knowing that another bandit was sitting on death row may have provided the motivation for Rudolph to plead guilty to three felony charges: armed robbery, kidnapping for purpose of robbery and false imprisonment. With his plea Rudolph was able to evade the death penalty. For his misdeeds James Monroe Rudolph was sentenced to a term of from five years to life.

The Green Scarf Bandit had no intention of serving out his sentence. About seven months after arriving at Folsom Prison Rudolph and his cell mate, Claude Newton, attempted to break out.

The men had cut holes in the iron cell doors and were waiting for the right moment to bolt when they were discovered by guards. They had stuffed overalls with paper and placed the decoys in their bunks. Newton had even braided a rope out of bed sheets and put a hook on the end so that they could scale the wall.

Warden Robert A. Heinze had the last word on the attempted escape:

“Everything was set to go on the escape but it didn’t work.”

 

 

The Green Scarf Bandit, Part 1

bg jonesIt was just after 6:00 a.m. on December 10, 1951 when a bandit broke into the home of supermarket manager B.G. Jones and his wife Juanita. The bandit had tied a green scarf around the lower half of his face, and he was holding a weapon. He slugged B.G. with a leaded sap and Juanita screamed. In a gruff voice the man asked her if there was anyone else in the house:

“Just my little boy, and he’s asleep.”

But eight year old Jimmy Jones wasn’t asleep, he was playing possum. He feigned sleep even as the masked man entered his bedroom with a flashlight and looked around.

Not many kids would have had remained as cool and collected as Jimmy, but the boy had an advantage, he had been prepared for the possibility of a break-in by his father.

B.G. had recently warned Jimmy him that there was a bad guy in the area who was kidnapping supermarket managers and forcing them to open the safes at their stores. B.G. had told Jimmy if he heard anyone break into the house that he was to lie still, wait until it was safe, then run to the phone and call the Sheriff’s Montrose substation; and that’s exactly what Jimmy did.

gunman trapped

Jimmy told the Sheriff who answered the phone:

“A man just took my father and mother away to make my daddy open the safe.”

Then he said:

“He shined his light right in my face, but I pretended I was asleep. I kept my eyes shut and didn’t move.”

The radio car in which Deptuies Joe Rieth and J.R. Shelton were riding was immediately dispatched to the Shopping Bag Market at 920 Foothill Blvd in La Canada. The deputies roared up just as Jones, stalling for time, was fumbling with his key before unlocking the door for the bandit. The masked man ran from the cops smack into John Davis, an off-duty deputy. Davis pulled his pistol and commanded the man to halt, but the fugitive continued running even as Rieth and Shelton fired at him.

Slugs from Reith’s weapon penetrated the man’s neck, while pellets from Shelton’s shotgun peppered his legs. The man was so pumped with adrenaline that he continued to flee. When Rieth and Shelton caught up with the masked man they found him slumped over the wheel of Davis’ car desperately attempting to fire up the engine.

felled by bulletsThe critically wounded crook was taken to Physicians & Surgeons hospital, Glendale, where he gave his name as Jim Marcus.

The Sheriff’s didn’t take the man at his word which was just as well, he was lying. It didn’t take long for them to ID him as James Monroe Rudolph of Placerville, California, which is located about 450 miles from where he’d committed his most recent crimes.

Deputies found Rudolph’s late model Buick sedan parked about a block from the Jones’ home and when they searched the trunk they found some highly incriminating evidence: 100 empty money sacks (the kind used by businessmen to make bank deposits); scores of rolls of coins; and a wallet containing five $100 bills and an ID that gave Rudolph’s L.A. address as a motel at 4562 N. Figueroa Street.

Also in the car were several changes of clothing,  a .45 caliber automatic pistol, a Las Vegas police badge and a fire extinguisher loaded with a knockout solution for spraying victims, and a green scarf. The cops finally had the Green Scarf Bandit, the villain who had been eluding them for weeks.

Sheriff’s robbery squad detectives went to Placerville where they arrested Rudolph’s wife, Inge, a German war bride. Inge surrendered to the detectives two fur coats, a fur jacket, a fur neck piece, several pairs of expensive field glasses, a half dozen cameras and several thousand dollars worth of jewelry.

Inge insisted that she wasn’t a party to her husband’s misdeeds, and the police believed her. She told the cops that she thought that he had purchased the luxury items with money he had won in card games. Inge must have thought her husband was a high roller when he put over $8,000 [equivalent to $71,713.00 in current U.S. dollars) down on their $17,000 [equivalent to $152,291.00 in current U.S. dollars] home.

Rudolph and Inge had met in Germany and they married in a civil ceremony in Linz, Austria in 1947. After Rudolph’s discharge from the Army in 1949 Inge accompanied him to the U.S., first to his hometown of Atlanta, GA, then to Washington, D.C., and finally to California.

While the cops were searching the Rudolph home for more of the Green Scarf Bandit’s stolen loot, Inge traveled from Placerville to Los Angeles to visit James. When she saw his condition she wept at his bedside and then declared that she would stand by him.

While the critically wounded man was in lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life,  eight year old hero Jimmy Jones was being honored by Sheriff Biscailuz. The boy was given a miniature sheriff’s badge and Biscailuz said:

“Jimmy demonstrated a courage and calm presence of mind seldom found in a youngster of his age.”

Would James Monroe Rudolph, the man that Jimmy had helped to capture, recover from his gunshot wounds or would he die before he could be tried?

NEXT TIME: The fate of the Green Scarf Bandit.

A Holiday Orgy of Crime, 1930

HOLIDAY ORGY OF CRIMEReaders of the Los Angeles Times were bound to have been dismayed when, on December 26, 1930, they saw the headline “Holiday Brings Orgy of Crime”. Apparently not all Angelenos were filled with goodwill toward their fellow man, or woman for that matter. The article was a litany of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day misdeeds that began with the shooting of a police officer.

Officer Allen G. Adcock of the Hollenbeck Heights division was shot by a bandit during the early morning hours of Christmas Day. Officer Adcock had been directing traffic during a fire at Macy and Gelardo streets when a car containing two men ignored his command to halt and blew through the intersection at a high rate of speed. Apparently Adcock “badged”  a civilian, Earl H. Pfeifer, and commandeered the man’s auto to pursue the suspects. With Pfeifer at the wheel, Adcock stood on the running board of the car and held on for dear life. One of the fleeing men leveled his weapon at Adcock, who then whipped out his own pistol. The two men fired simultaneously and a bullet from the suspect’s gun struck a glancing blow on Adcock’s head which knocked the cop off of Pfiefer’s running board.

Pfiefer stopped to render aid to the fallen policeman and the suspects escaped. A subsequent investigation showed that the two suspects were bandits who had held up Irwin Welborn of West Twenty-ninth Street. They drove him out to Long Beach and then robbed him of $2 and his car.

At Pacific and O’Farrell Streets in San Pedro, a local poultryman, Jack Zuanich, was slugged on the head with a wooden club. The reason for the attack was not determined. Zuanich was taken to the San Pedro General Hospital in serious condition.

00045695_los_feliz_bridge_orgycrime

Los Feliz Bridge (aka Shakespeare Bridge) [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Two cowardly bandits, turned rapists, dragged Maxine Ungeheur (20) and her younger sister Thelma (19) out of a car under the Los Feliz Bridge (aka Shakespeare Bridge) and brutally attacked them. The sisters were being driven home by Roland Oakley, a Griffith Park employee, following a Christmas Eve soiree. Oakley slowed his auto near the bridge and the bandits stepped out from a clump of trees and threatened the girls and Oakley with guns. Oakley, under threat of death, stood helplessly by as the girls were ravaged. The cops located clues at the scene, in particular a leather glove believed to have been worn by one of the attackers. Detective Lieutenants Hoy and Kriewald of the Lincoln Heights Division were hopeful that the clue would lead to the arrests of the men involved in the assaults.

In addition to all of the other mayhem occurring in and around the city, there  was a spate of holiday burglaries for cops to contend with. Two men were discovered plundering a store on Huntington Drive by Officers Cooke and Carter, and a citizen, A. Burke. Upon being found out the two crooks attempted to high-tail it to freedom. Officer Cooke fired at the fleeing suspects and the citizen. A. Burke, unloaded a charge of bird shot from his shotgun at the burglars. Both suspects dropped to the ground, but one of them scrambled to his feet and made good his escape. The other crook was captured by officers and gave the name of Bernave Palacios. He was held on suspicion of burglary.

Benjamin Caldron was held up in his South Western Avenue flower shop on Christmas morning by two bandits and robbed of $110.

The Ungeheur sisters were not the only women who were victims of rape, or attempted rape, over the Christmas holiday. Mrs. Dorothy Loustanau was walking near the corner of Ninetieth Street and Avalon Boulevard when a man drove an automobile up to the curb and leaped out. Snarling that he would beat her to death if she resisted, he clapped his hand over her mouth and pinioned her arms while he attempted to force her into his car. Dorothy struggled desperately and succeeded in staying out of the car. Her attacker, enraged that his victim was putting up a fight, tried to drag her into a vacant lot, but Dorothy broke free and began to scream for help. Her assailant fled the scene.

Lillian Rosine, of 1322 Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood, was driving down Las Palmas Avenue with a friend, Earl Marshall, when a bandit leaped onto the running board of her car. The bandit produced an automatic weapon and commanded Lillian and Earl to stick up their hands. Lillian became furious with the brazen bandit and instead of complying with his order she leaned in front of Earl and shoved the bandit in the face!

The crook was thrown off balance and fired, the round grazed Earl’s head inflicting a four inch wound in his scalp! Lillian screamed and stomped down hard on the gas. The bandit tumbled off of the running board, stood up, and then proceeded to walk nonchalantly up Selma Avenue. Lillian dashed to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital a few blocks away where Earl’s wound was treated and dressed. The bandit remained at large.

Hollywood Receiving Hospital c. 1936 [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Hollywood Receiving Hospital c. 1936 [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

I’ll wrap up the orgy of crime with the murder of Jose Lopez (45). Lopez died in Georgia Street Receiving Hospital from wounds received in an attempted hold-up and fight. Lopez’s friend, Jose Ayala, told the cops that he and Jose were accosted by two men early Christmas morning and beaten with clubs. Ayala did his best to provide a description of the killers but he had been rendered unconscious by a blow in the mouth early in the affray.