Film Noir Friday, On Saturday! — Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye [1950]

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open — a day late.We had to scrape gum off of the floor and throw away old popcorn boxes and soda cups. But the theater is open now, so find a seat and get comfortable. Tonight’s offering is KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE from 1950 starring James Cagney and Barbara Payton.

Turner Classic Movies says:

From the trial of the survivors, we flash back to amoral crook Ralph Cotter’s violent prison break, assisted by Holiday Carleton, sister of another prisoner…who doesn’t make it. Soon Ralph manipulates the grieving Holiday into his arms, and two crooked cops follow her into his pocket. Ralph’s total lack of scruple brings him great success in a series of robberies. But his easy conquest of gullible heiress Margaret Dobson proves more dangerous to him than any crime.

From Wikipedia:

James Cagney, directed by Gordon Douglas and based on the novel by Horace McCoy. The film was banned in Ohio as “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.”

Sounds perfect to me! Enjoy the film!

Film Noir Friday: Behind Green Lights [1946]


Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS starring Carole Landis, William Gargan, and Richard Crane

Turner Classic Movies says:

One night at 10:30 in a typical, cosmopolitan city, Janet Bradley goes to the apartment of Walter Bard, a private investigator who specializes in blackmail. Bard holds letters that would be damaging to someone close to Janet, and when he laughs at her admission that she could not raise enough money to get them back, she steals his gun and takes the evidence by force. As she leaves, she throws the revolver into Bard’s car. Up the street, meanwhile, cynical reporter Ames introduces cub reporter Johnny Williams to the policemen at the station house. Ames tells Johnny that Lt. Sam Carson is a good, fair officer, then introduces him to the other reporters. While the men talk, they see Bard’s car roll up in front of the station house, and his dead body is found inside. Ames smells a big story, as Bard was also involved in politics, and wonders if his murder was an attempt to discredit the current, corrupt city administration.

Enjoy the film!

Clara Eunice Barker, Vampire: Conclusion

clara eunice barker_cropMrs. Grace Munro, wife of Charles W.S. Munro, an eastern zinc magnate, had filed a lost-love (alienation of affection) suit against her husband’s young paramour, Clara Eunice Barker.

love notes Grace hoped to win $50,000 in the suit, but Clara had a trump card to play; a bundle of love notes written to her by none other than Charles Munro. Clara had hidden the letters in the attic of the Glendale home she had shared with Charles while they were pretending to be cousins for the benefit of Glendale society. The bundle was an unpleasant surprise for Charles who had been under the impression that all of his letters and Clara’s had been destroyed. Clearly neither Clara nor Charles had fully grasped the truth of the old maxim, never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to have read in open court.

The lawsuit was about to get steamy, and Angelenos must have been anticipating a knock-down, drag-out fight between Munro’s wife and mistress. I know I would have been happy to wait in a queue for a seat at the trial.

Clara Barker took the stand and according to the L.A. Times she testified to: “bare the sordid romance that she says ruined her young life”. She told the court how she and Charles Munro had met.

“I met him at the corner of Montgomery and Front streets, Trenton (New Jersey). I was working in a Trenton pottery and was on my way to the post office to mail letters for the potter. A big automobile nearly struck me. The driver stopped the car and asked me if I was hurt. When I told him no, he kindly offered to drive me home, after ascertaining where I lived. He said it was on his way.”

According to Clara, Charles persuaded her to get into his car.

“He asked me where I was employed, my house address and telephone number. He did not enter the house.”

Clara testified that after their initial meeting Charles phoned her every day and he finally invited her out for dinner. He said that his name was Darrell Huntington Stewart and that he lived at Wayne Junction, PA.

For three weeks the couple dined at the same restaurant nearly every night until Darrell proposed to Clara.

Clara was won over by the generosity and sweetness of her suitor. She’d been swept her off her feet.

As lovers will do, Charles sent two photos of himself to Clara and he had inscribed them on the backs:

“With all my love to my future wife, Clara Eunice Barker. Your own, Darrell.”

Soon after sending Clara the photos he asked her to accompany him on a business trip to New York, and she agreed to go.

Clara was given her own room which led her to believe that Charles’ intentions were honorable. They were not.

Late in the afternoon on the first day of their trip Charles came to Clara’s room. Clara testified that:

“He told me there was no harm in his being there, as we were soon to be married. Whatever happened was all right; it would make no difference; we would be married within a week. I believed him.”

A few weeks after the trip Clara at last became suspicious of Charles. He’d made no move to set a wedding date, and she said that he always seemed to be in Trenton; he never phoned from Philadelphia where he supposedly lived.

The clue to Charles’ true identity came accidently when she overheard some men say:

“There is only one man in Trenton who owns a brown automobile of a certain make, and that man is Munro.”

Knowing that her lover, the mysterious Darrell, drove a car matching the description of Munro’s she decided to do a bit of sleuthing.

Clara phoned the zinc works and asked for Charles Munro — when he answered the phone she recognized his voice as belonging to her fiancee, Darrell.

Clara testified:

“I was horrified. I asked him how he could have done such a thing. He said he fell in love with me the first time we met. He said before he met me he was preparing to run away with another girl, May Pierson, who was his stenographer…now that he had met me, he would not run away with her. He would get a divorce. He said he had a miserable life.”

After his identity had been revealed, Charles cajoled, sweet talked, and threatened Clara in an effort to keep her — and Clara stayed.

Early in her relationship with Charles, in January of 1915, Clara had received a telephone call from Grace Munro. Grace said that Charles was “a liar and a hypocrite”. Mrs. Munro knew her husband well.  Although, given Charles’ behavior, Clara had every reason to believe that Grace was telling her the truth, she would not give him up.

Charles must have had some uncomfortable moments after his wife and mistress spoke to one another on the telephone. It would have served him right if they’d joined forces and fleeced him for every cent. Sadly, they continued to fight over him instead. To keep the two women apart Charles had warned Clara to steer clear of his wife whom he characterized as a terrible person. He told Clara that Grace was likely to hurl acid into her face!

Charles continued to string Clara along with promises of marriage. The pair moved around finally arriving in Southern California where, masquerading as cousins, they started a new life in Glendale. But Clara grew tired of waiting for Charles to make good on his promises to divorce his wife, and in a fit of despair she swallowed poison — though not a fatal dose.

Charles had written many dozens of letters to Clara, and in each one he declared his undying love for her. But even Charles began to realize that Clara might not wait for him indefinitely:

“I know, darling, you are not made of stone, and that you cannot wait very long, and I am pushing everything to the limit so we can soon be together.”

If Charles’ love talk didn’t work its magic on Clara, perhaps threats would. He wrote to her about a dream he’d had:

“I told you if you were not true, I would kill you. But I changed my mind as I wanted to see you suffer. I woke with the most awful yell, and was laughing. But, oh, what a laugh.”

After a trial lasting nine days, the jury of eleven men and one woman prepared to deliberate. It took them fewer than six hours to find Clara “not guilty of the love theft”.

girl cleared of guilt

Surprisingly, the battle of Wife vs. Mistress had not ended with the verdict — a new trial was granted because a judge determined that the judgment in favor of Clara was against the weight of the evidence.

Revitalized by the opportunity for a new fight, and another chance at $50,000, Grace Munro declared that Clara was a vampire who had enticed Charles away from his marriage. Grace obviously intended to drive a financial, if not an actual, stake through the heart of her dollar

Grace was victorious in the second trial, but instead of the $50k she’d asked for, the judge awarded her one measly dollar! The judge assessed $1000 damages against Clara, making the total award $1001.

The judge obviously disapproved of both Charles and Clara. He said:

“The tie that bound Mr. Munro and Miss Barker was low and degraded.”

price of sinLow and degraded she may have been, but Clara was successful in her lawsuit and recovered the “love nest” in Glendale in addition to furniture, bonds, and other gifts given to her by Charles.

The Munro’s attorneys felt Clara didn’t deserve a penny. They said that her hands were not clean, and that the property given her was the “price of her sin”. Sounds like they would have sewn a scarlet letter to her dress if they had been allowed to.

Judge Wood didn’t entirely disagree with the statement, but seemed to feel that sin is a matter of degree:

“If I distinguish between the two, she is the lesser sinner.”

And to the lesser sinner, go the spoils.

Clara Eunice Barker, Vampire

AP_Constitution_19AmendmentThe early 20th century was a tumultuous time — it was a collision of old and new technologies and it was also a period of great civil unrest. The role of women in the new millennium had yet to be defined and in 1919, when this story takes place, women in the U.S. were one year away from celebrating the Nineteenth Amendment which gave them the right to vote. Legally women were becoming the equal of men, socially they were still considered by many to be chattel.

During a time when a woman was unlikely to make her own living, let alone a fortune of her own, it is no wonder that the wife and the mistress of a wealthy man would square off in court to battle over money and property.

On March 2, 1919 the Los Angeles Times reported that Mrs. Grace Munro, wife of wealthy zinc manufacturer Charles W.S. Munro filed a “love suit” (alienation of affection) in the amount of $50,000 (equivalent to $673K in current dollars) against Miss Clara Eunice Barker, Charles’ mistress of five years.

Mrs. Munro’s suit alleged that her twenty-three year marriage to Charles had been a happy one until Clara entered their lives. Grace was so angry with Charles that she had even accused him of a statutory offense against Clara — a charge that would subsequently be dismissed at Grace’s request.

munro and daughterCops showed up on the doorstep of the home that Charles and Clara shared in Glendale and arrested him. Glendale society was shocked to discover that Clara and Charles were not actually cousins, which was how they’d introduced themselves. No one in Glendale had even aware that Charles had a wife and three daughters in Trenton, NJ.

Police wanted to speak with Clara too, but she couldn’t be found and Charles was silent as to her whereabouts — in fact he wasn’t talking at all except to flatly deny his wife’s charges.

Clara had fled to Salt Lake City, Utah as soon as she’d gotten word that Grace had filed a suit against her, but Grace had tracked her down and confronted her in a hotel lobby. Clara said that Grace had walked up to her and exclaimed: “So you are the vampire”.

theda bara

The original Vampire — Theda Bara

Grace wasn’t accusing Clara of being a blood sucking member of the undead — she was using the term to imply that Clara was a seductress, a femme fatale, a vamp(ire) of the type made famous by actress Theda Bara in the 1915 film A FOOL THERE WAS.

The Glendale home in which Clara and Charles had been living was in Clara’s name, and she wanted to keep it, along with the furnishings, an automobile, and any other trinkets that the zinc man had bestowed upon her. She decided to file her own suit.

clara eunice barker

Clara told reporters:

“I am fighting for my honor as well as my legal rights. I have been cruelly mistreated and imposed upon by the man in whom I had implicit faith, and I intend to test the justice of the courts.”

Barker had alleged that there was a conspiracy against her in which the suddenly reconciled Munros, and a few of their friends, had sought to deprive her of her property. In all, Clara demanded damages of $51,500 (equivalent to $693K in current dollars), of which $17,500 was for the Glendale property, $6000 for the furniture, $3000 for the car, and $25,000 for damage suffered by reason of the conspiracy and threats that she asserted where made against her.

According to Clara while she was staying in Salt Lake City she had not only been called a vampire, but she had been plagued by mysterious telephone calls, loud knocks on her bedroom door after midnight, and attempts by strangers to “force their acquaintance on her.” All of these incidents, Clara said, were part of a plan to harass and frighten her.

Grace Munro intended to fight the conspiracy charge and to vigorously pursue her $50K alienation suit against Clara. Grace said:

“I said she (Clara) is a vampire, and she is.”

Grace had claimed that she and Charles had been happily married for years before Clara entered their lives, but Grace had lied. Prior to his affair with Clara, Charles had been involved with his stenographer, Miss May Pierson, with whom he’d taken an auto trip. Apparently Grace had been aware of the liaison because she’d known the location of May’s apartment and had turned up on the doorstep with questions for the landlady. It seemed that Charles Munro had long possessed a wandering eye.

If Angelenos had been anticipating a lurid trial they were not going to be disappointed. Wife vs. Mistress was going to be a battle royal.

NEXT TIME: A vampire’s love letters and the wages of sin in Part 2 of Clara Eunice Barker, Vampire.

Parole, Inc. [1948]


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 offering is a “B” film from 1948 starring Michael O’Shea, Turhan Bey, and Evelyn Ankers.

Turner Classic Movies says:

As federal agent Richard Hendricks lies badly hurt in a hospital, he dictates a full report for the bureau chief on his last assignment: Richard is hired by the governor, attorney general Whitmore and police commissioner Hughes to go undercover as parole violator Richard Murdock in order to expose a corrupt parole board.

Enjoy the film!

The Girl is Deranged!

deranged girl3

Because little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails they get into mischief.  And if you put a group of five year old boys together the end result can be mayhem.

Fifteen year old Elizabeth Lowe was walking through Echo Park near the lake on an October day in 1920 when she was set upon by several small boys who pelted her with stones. 

deranged girlElizabeth quickly decided that she was not going to be a passive target for a gang of diminutive thugs.  She grabbed her nearest tormentor, five year old Danny Lewis, and hurled him into the lake. Danny was rescued when his cries were heard by some men who were nearby enjoying the park.

Elizabeth later told police that she hadn’t intended to drown Danny she just wanted him, and the other boys, to stop throwing stones and leave her alone. Of course the cops quizzed Danny, who, in the manner of tiny terrors confronted with a misdeed, probably had his fingers crossed behind his back when he said that he’d never throw stones at a girl.deranged girl2

Police decided to hold Elizabeth in Juvenile Hall, which was just fine with Danny — he told the cops that the girl was deranged.

Film Noir Friday: Meet Boston Blackie [1941]

Meet_Boston_Blackie_FilmPoster (1)

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. I confess, I’m a sucker for crime dramas, so tonight’s feature is MEET BOSTON BLACKIE starring Chester Morris and Rochelle Hudson.

 Leonard Maltin says:

D: Robert Florey. Chester Morris, Rochelle Hudson, Richard Lane, Charles Wagenheim, Constance Worth. First in the Boston Blackie series is a slick and fast-paced mystery-comedy, introducing Morris as the whimsical ex-thief tracking down spies hiding out at Coney Island. Franz Planer’s stylish cinematography enhances this solid programmer.

The Corpse in the Canyon, Conclusion

Barney Mapes confesses.  [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Mapes confesses. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Less than two days after his interrogation began Barney Lee Mapes, 40 year old cement finisher, broke down and confessed to Sheriff’s and Valley police detectives that he’d bludgeoned his estranged wife Viola, 35, to death with a carpenter’s claw hammer.

mapes_hammerFollowing his statement, Barney took cops on a step by step tour of the route from the scene of the slaying on Sherman Way near Sepulveda Blvd., to the desolate spot where he had dumped Viola’s body, then finally to his home where he produced the murder weapon and other bloodstained evidence from where he’d hidden it in his garage.

According to Sgts. Al Ortiz and C.S. Stewart the confession they had wrung from Mapes over the hours of grilling went like this:

Barney and Viola drove to a market in Panorama City then parked at Van Nuys and Victory Blvds. He handed over $400 in cash for her interest in the car they had bought together, and then she borrowed the vehicle to obtain legal papers to seal the deal.

Barney's car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney’s car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

When Viola returned about 20 minutes later, she told Barney that she didn’t have the papers and she did not intend to return the money. Then, according to Barney, she pulled a gun on him and said “This is it”.

Barney knocked the gun to the floor of the car and began beating his wife in the face with his fists. The car door on Viola’s side opened and she fell to the pavement. Barney said she was moaning. She said: “I hate you, I love my children, I want to take them with me and let you go your way.”

Maybe a switch flipped in Barney — he continued to beat his wife. When he realized Viola was badly hurt and he took a claw hammer from the back seat and bashed her over the head twice. He told the cops that after hitting her with the hammer he knew that she was dead.

Mapes put Viola’s body into the back of the car and drove aimlessly for a while, stopping a couple of times to phone his eleven year old daughter, Lilly.

When a truck-trailer pulled up next to him at a traffic light he dropped Viola’s gun into the trailer. He then drove west on Ventura Blvd. and turned south on Topanga Canyon Blvd. He drove past the summit, stopped the car, pulled his wife’s body to the edge of the road and “gave it a shove”.

Mapes demonstrated his actions at the body dump site to the cops, and when he showed them how he had rolled Viola’s body over the side he said: “Now, I guess you’re satisfied.”

The cops weren’t satisfied yet, they needed every detail of Barney’s movements on the night of the murder.

After he’d dumped Viola’s body, Mapes said he drove home and hid the hammer in the wall of his garage. He put coveralls over his bloodstained jeans and went into the house to talk to his daughter, Lilly, and make a cup of coffee.

He said that he finished his coffee and then went back out to the garage to clean up the car. He cut out a piece of the bloody floor mat and scraped the bare metal with a screwdriver. Just to be sure there wasn’t any blood remaining he poured paint thinner on the car floor and ignited it. He hid every piece of incriminating evidence he could find with the hammer in the wall of the garage.

The county grand jury indicted Barney Lee Mapes for the hammer murder of his estranged wife, Viola. At his arraignment, Barney pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Dep. Dist. Atty. Simon L. Rose indicated that the state would ask for the death penalty.

Viola Mapes

Viola Mapes [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

While Barney made his way through the criminal justice system, Viola’s battered body remained unclaimed. Her father, W.F. Magard of Ekley, Oklahoma, told the county authorities that he was unable to claim the body; and Barney refused to claim it.

As Barney had revealed the events of the murder night to investigators he had also started to relate some of the abuses he said he had suffered at the hands of his wife for the last five years of their marriage. He finished with: “she drove me to it.” How many guys have uttered those words before Barney?  But as it turned out, there may have been substance to Barney’s claim that Viola drove him to murder after all.

Lilly Mapes, 11, told an eyebrow raiser of a story that took place a few days before Viola disappeared. According to Lilly, her mother gave her a small revolver and told her to always keep it in her purse! Who gives an eleven year old a revolver? And what was Viola’s reason?  She supposedly told Lilly:

“If your Daddy tries to take you away (from the apartment Viola shared with her boyfriend, Charles French) you use the gun.”

Lilly was an obedient kid, she said she carried the gun to school in her purse for two days before she returned it to her mother. She gave the gun back to Viola and said:

“I can’t shoot Daddy — I love him too much.”

Lilly also testified that Viola had stated that she intended to kill Barney; and once told the little girl that:

“if she got rid of my father she would have us kids and the house, too.”

Viola seemed to have made regular threats against Barney’s life in front of all of their children, not just Lilly, because Barney Jr., 14, testified that when his mother moved out of the family home (at Barney’s insistence) she said to her husband:

“Some day I’ll get even with you and kill you.”

Barney was beginning to seem less like a cold-blooded killer and more like an abused spouse. And it wasn’t only his kids who were coming to his defense — friends and neighbors testified that Barney was an even tempered guy who was only interested in taking care of his family. Viola, on the other hand, was characterized as a woman with a violent temper who had many times expressed a wish to kill Barney.

Viola's remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Viola’s remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Even a local waitress, Mary Grechowsky, had nothing but nice things to say about Barney. She told of serving Viola and Barney a few months prior to the murder and recalled that Mapes had two soft drinks while Viola drank two highballs. Barney wanted Viola to leave with him and go home to the kids, but she wouldn’t budge. After Barney left the cafe, Mary asked why the couple had argued. Viola told her:

“Barney just went and bought a Chevy but Frenchie (Charles French, Viola’s boyfriend) wanted him to buy a Ford.”

Huh? What’s it to the boyfriend what kind of a car the soon-to-be-ex buys?

Viola continued:

“If Barney follows us this time, it will be his last time.” And

she opened her purse and showed the waitress a revolver.

The waitress thought Viola was kidding.

When it was Barney’s turn to take the stand he spoke about his hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma — he’d had to leave school in the third grade to help support 12 brothers and sisters.

When his attorney asked Barney if his marriage to Viola had been a happy one all he could say was:

“Well, I was happy.”

From Barney’s testimony it appeared that his wife wasn’t happy at all. In fact it sounded like she was restless and unfaithful. Barney said that Viola got a war plant job during the conflict and many times she wasn’t working when she was supposed to be on the job.

When she was at home she would sometimes be violent and abusive. Barney testified that:

“One time she told me, ‘I’ll get you out of the way if I have to cut your heart out.”

“She got a long-bladed butcher knife and came after me. I have some scars on my right hand where I took the knife away from her.”

Mapes told of another incident when Viola pulled a knife on him:

“…I was standing on a ladder painting the ceiling, she threw a butcher knife and stuck me in the right leg.”

Barney pulled up his trouser leg and showed the courtroom the scar.

Mapes’ testimony about Viola’s abuse must have been difficult for the jurors to process — in 1951 they would not have been prepared for battered husband syndrome. In fact even in the 21st century the syndrome is controversial, some people consider it to be a myth. It’s impossible for me to believe that only men are capable of physical or mental cruelty.

Ultimately the jury believed Barney had acted in self-defense when he killed his estranged wife, Viola, on the night of June 4, 1951.

Barney acquitted. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney acquitted. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Upon hearing the verdict, Barney collapsed sobbing, body shaking, into the arms of his attorney, Robert Ford.

When they heard their father acquitted, the three Mapes’ children hugged each other and rose from their seats crying out in relief. A newspaper photo shows Barney, Barney Jr., Lilly, and Willie reunited.

I hope that they went on to be happy.

The Corpse in the Canyon

Topanga Canyon [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Topanga Canyon [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

On a beautiful mid-June day in 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Goozey of Northridge were out for a drive in Topanga Canyon when they decided to pull over about half a mile west of the summit to enjoy the spectacular view.

Mr. & Mrs. Goozey [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Mr. & Mrs. Goozey [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

The couple was taking in the scenery when they spotted something in the heavy underbrush about a dozen feet from the roadway. Upon investigation, the Goozeys realized that they had discovered a badly decomposed human body. The body was doubled over, as if it had been thrown down the embankment. The shaken couple rushed back down the canyon and phoned police.

Deputy Coroner Logan Lawson and his assistant, Lee Malins, used ropes to retrieve the body from the hillside. They assumed the corpse was that of a woman because it was dressed in a bolero skirt and blouse. The remains were conveyed to the morgue for examination and identification.

Viola's remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archives]

Viola’s remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archives]

The corpse was so badly decomposed that it had to be “especially treated with chemicals” before it could be thoroughly examined. Within a matter of hours the woman was identified as Viola Vivon Mapes. The thirty-five year old woman had been reported missing a couple of weeks earlier by her live-in boyfriend, Charles French.

Barney Mapes with Det. Ortiz and D.A. Roll [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Mapes with Det. Ortiz and D.A. Roll [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Viola’s estranged husband, Barney Lee Mapes, a 40-year old carpetner and cement finisher, was taken to the Valley police station for questioning immediately following the ID of the Topanga Canyon corpse as that of his wife.

viola identAs the chief autopsy surgeon, Dr. Frederick D. Newbarr, was attempting to determine Viola’s cause of death — Barney was being interrogated by the cops.

Barney’s story was that he’d last seen Viola on the evening of June 4th when she came to the house he shared with their two sons (their daughter lived with Viola and her boyfriend). Viola had turned up to collect $400 that she felt was her interest in an automobile she and Barney had purchased together. 

According to Barney, at 9 p.m. he and Viola left his place to go to a market. While they were alone in the car he said he gave her the money she’d requested.  Then, he said, she asked to borrow the car for a few minutes to see someone named Jim to get a notarized receipt for the money, and to have her share of the family home deeded to the children.

Barney said he waited around for about 20 minutes before deciding that Viola wasn’t going to return — he then started to walk home. En route he said he found the car parked at a curb with the keys in the ignition. He didn’t see Viola, so he drove the car home and arrived shortly before midnight. 

Mapes' car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Mapes’ car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

The cops weren’t entirely satisfied with Barney’s explanation, which seemed to have more than a few inconsistencies and unlikely occurences.  They asked him about a missing portion of the floor mat between the front and back seats of the car.  Barney had an answer; it just wasn’t very good.  He said that he’d noticed smoke in the car and found the floor mat smoldering.  He said it had caught fire as the result of a short in a heater located under the front seat.  The cops seized remnants of the burned floor mat and they also took a wire brush that had been used to scrape the floor beneath the mat. The mat and the brush bore evidence of blood.

Barney explained the blood by saying that he’d been out hunting a year earlier and had brought home a deer; however, his older son said that as far as he knew his dad had never bagged a deer.

Viola was a drill press operator, and one of her co-workers, Amy Goss, told Det. Sgts. Al Ortiz and C.J. Stewart of the Valley Division that Viola had been spitting blood at work on the day before she vanished and said that Barney had beaten her.  She told Amy that she was afraid of Barney.  Viola also shared her plans for the $400 she was going to collect from Barney: new furniture for the place she shared with French, and tonsillectomoies for herself and her daughter, Lilly.

When questioned the Mapes’ kids said they hadn’t been worried about the sudden disappearance of their mother, delcaring she frequently “went away for a few days, sometimes a week.”

Barney Jr., William, Lilly and Trigger.  [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Jr., William, Lilly and Trigger. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

So far the cops had only established that Barney’s whereabouts on the night of his wife’s disappearance were suspect, and that Viola hadn’t exactly been mother of the year.

Things changed as soon as Barney failed a lie detector test — he was booked on suspicion of murder. He was steadfast in his denial:  “I didn’t do it”, he asserted. But circumstantial evidence against Barney was beginning to pile up and detectives found a pair of blood stained white carpenter’s overalls hanging in Mapes’ garage, and a cloth glove saturated with blood was in a pocket of the overalls.

When asked if he’d murdered Viola, Barney said that he’d leave it up to the courts to decide. He did have a few things to say about Viola.

“She hadn’t been a devoted wife.” he said, and “She neglected the kids.  I hadn’t gotten along with her and I think she was playing around.”

Playing around?  Barney must have known that Viola and their young daughter were living with Charles French.  I’d say that cohabitating with another man would be blatant evidence of playing around, wouldn’t you?

mapes confesses

On the day after what would have been the couple’s 17th wedding anniversay, and only 39 hours after the murder investigation had begun, Barney Lee Mapes confessed to Viola’s murder.

 NEXT TIME: Barney’s trial and some surprising revelations.