Death By Dermatology, Part 1

The hypodermic needle was invented in 1854 and the first effective local anesthetic was cocaine, which was used in an eye surgery in 1884. Those discoveries, and the many others that followed, paved the way for modern doctors to perform surgeries and other invasive medical procedures that patients could actually hope to survive.

The first facelift is said to have been performed by Eugen Hollander in 1901 in Berlin on an elderly Polish aristocrat who wanted her cheeks and the corners of her mouth lifted. The
surgery was successful and the patient was reportedly pleased with the outcome. The first textbook on facial cosmetic surgery was written by Charles Miller of Chicago and was
entitled: The Correction of Featural Imperfections (1907).


“All Is Vanity” [1892] by Charles A. Gilbert

Legitimate medical professionals and their patients benefited from scientific advancements but sadly criminals also found a way to profit.

For decades medical quacks have made their homes in Los Angeles. The degree to which they have believed their own advertising has varied —  some of the practitioners may have been sincere and deluded, while others have undoubtedly been conniving and cynical seeking only to separate gullible Angelenos from their cash.

By the early 1900s personal ads in the local newspapers hyperbolized the wonders of modern medical science for the removal of pimples, wrinkles, crows feet, double chins, thin necks and superfluous hair. One ad exclaimed:

“Premature Ugliness is a Crime which has its effect on coming generations.”

I have no idea what the hell that was supposed to mean, but presumably answers could be found at the Cosmetic Surgery Company in the Johnson Building at the corner of Fourth and Broadway.

Among the early practitioners of cosmetic procedures in Los Angeles were Professor David and Mme. Gertrude Steele. This advertisement for their services appeared in the Los Angeles Times on April 21, 1907:


It seemed that there was no dermatological miracle the Steele’s couldn’t perform — that is until March 1908 when they permanently disfigured Mrs. G.W. Du Bois.

Mrs. Du Bois said that she’d read the Steele’s advertisement which guaranteed the harmless removal of wrinkles and spots from the face, and filling in of hollows by a unique chemical substance. The Steele’s promised a refund if their work was unsatisfactory, so what did she have to lose?

A money back guarantee for a medical procedure wouldn’t inspire confidence in me, but Mrs. Du Bois went ahead with a visit to the Steele’s downtown clinic.

A few days following her treatment lumps had formed on either side of Mrs. Du Bois’ nose, on top of it, and on the left side of her neck. She found it impossible to lie down at night, was in constant pain, and was informed by doctors that the lumps could not be safely removed. Arsenic, prescribed to cure the facial spots, affected Mrs. Du Bois’ health so adversely that the roots of her eyebrows were burned out.

In her lawsuit the injured woman stated that she was permanently disfigured and her health was ruined. She requested $1000 [approximately $26,000 in current U.S. dollars] in damages and the refund of her original payment of $100.

During the one day hearing in Judge Hutton’s court, Mrs. Du Bois and the Steele’s each presented their side of the case. Mrs. Du Bois spoke of the pain and suffering she had endured, while Gertrude Steele insisted that the disfigured woman was attempting to extort money from them.


Judge Hutton ruled against the Steele’s and they were required to pay Mrs. Du Bois every penny she had asked for in her suit. The injured woman went home to her life of constant pain and deformation, and the Steele’s remained in business. In fact Mrs. Steele continued to deliver lectures on “How to Remain Young Forever”.

Either the Steele’s managed not to disfigure anyone else for the next decade or no one who had been harmed came forward because there was nary peep out of them, except for their advertisements, until 1919.

In December 1919, Gertrude Steele (who by that time was calling herself a doctor) killed her son-in-law George Blaha with an accidental overdose of chloroform. The “doctor” had administered the anesthetic to ease the pain caused by the mixture of chloroform and carbolic acid she had used in an attempt to remove freckles from his face.

Maybe the so-called doctor would be held to answer in criminal court for the death of her son-in-law. Maybe not.

NEXT TIME: Dr. Gertrude Steele’s reign of error continues.

Film Noir Friday: Highway 301 [1950]



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 HIGHWAY 301  starring Steve Cochran and Virginia Grey.

IMDB says:

Led by a psychotic killer, a vicious gang of armed robbers terrorizes Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, robbing banks and payrolls and murdering anyone who might identify them.

TCM says:

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the members of a gang known to the police as the Tri-State Gang because they have robbed banks in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, are spotted switching cars during a getaway. The farmer who saw them is able to identify the make of the second car and the first few letters of the license plate. The police have been unable to identify any of the gang members, who are George Legenza, William B. Phillips, Robert Mais, Herbie Brooks and Noyes. All have long police records, but received only light sentences. Now, the police hope the license plate will eventually lead them to the criminals, and a special group, headed by an investigator named Truscott, is put together to pursue them.

The Prisoner’s Dream, Conclusion

Charles Lee Guy, III [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Collection]

Charles Lee Guy, III [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Collection]

On November 13, 1957 a jury of ten women and two men was selected in Santa Monica Superior Court for the second murder trial of nineteen year old Charles Lee Guy, III. The teenager  stood accused of the shotgun slaying of Guy F. Roberts, his mother’s fiancee.

motel_GuyVictimCharles’ mother Nina didn’t allow minor distractions like a murdered fiancee or a jailed son stand in the way of her happiness. She and Wilson Miles, the man with whom she and Charles had been living prior to her meeting Roberts, eloped to Tijuana!

I believe that the impulsive marriage was a way for the couple to ensure that neither of them could be compelled to testify against the other.

At least Charles had two attorneys who cared about him, his father, Charles Lee Guy, Jr. and one of his former stepfathers, John Angus.

Reporters asked Nina if she would be called as a witness for the prosecution:

“I hope I don’t have to testify against my son. I don’t see how I can. Sonny and I have always been devoted to each other”.

She also said that Charles had said to her:

“Gee, mom, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did it.”

With a mom like Nina poor Charles didn’t need any enemies.nina testifies

In an attempt to undo any damage inflicted on their case by Nina, Charles’ father/attorney explained that:

“He (Charles) had no motive and no reason to commit the crime. He believed his mother was involved and wanted to cover up for her.”

At least Charles’ father was able to score a couple of important points during his questioning of Detective William Garn.  Detective Garn testified that when he arrived at the Miles’ home to arrest Charles, Wilson Miles answered the door and handed him (Garn) the keys to the dead man’s car! According to the detective, the car keys had been in Wilson’s room and NOT in the room occupied by Charles! In my book that is a smoking gun.

GUY SENTENCED PICCharles testified that he had covered up for his mother, even though he was angry at her for seeing Miles during her engagement to Roberts:

“I thought that either my mother or Mr. Miles had killed Mr. Roberts.”

“She would write on the mirror at Mr. Miles’ house, ‘I love you,’ and then she’d go up to Mr. Roberts’ place and write the same thing on the mirror. It was a mess.”

Despite evidence that, in my opinion, offered sufficient reasonable doubt to justify an acquittal, on December 5, 1957, after deliberating for 5 hours and 20 minutes, Charles was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to from 1 to 10 years in prison.

When asked to comment on the verdict, Nina said:

“I’m heartbroken. I know Sonny is guilty, but I know he wasn’t in his right mind. I don’t blame Sonny for what he said about me during the trial. I know he had to do it.”

She added that she was thinking of selling the story of her marriages and the crime to a magazine.

Charles spent several years in prison. His mother rarely visited; but his dad continued to offer his support and looked forward to eventually taking Charles with him to North Carolina.

While he was an inmate Charles requested a tape recorder and a guitar to help him pass the time; then he started recording prison folk songs. Capitol Records heard about him from L.A. Times Columnist Paul Coates, and Charles got a record deal.

Charles+Lee+Guy+III+++the+prisoCharles’ album, The Prisoner’s Dream, was well-received. On October 4, 1963 Time Magazine reviewed the album:

“Charles Lee Guy III has been an inmate of California State Prison since he was 16 [sic 19]. The songs he has learned to sing there all reflect his sorry circumstance – and among them is the latest composition of a prison chum, country music’s Spade Cooley [himself a wife killer]. Guy’s woeful voice and guitar accompaniment fit the spirit of his music, and in this remarkable album he has the power of a young white Leadbelly.”

One of the songs on the album was entitled: “Wishin’ She Was Here (Instead of Me)”. I imagine Charles spent some awful nights at Folsom fantasizing that Nina was locked up and that he was free.

Another of the songs on Charles’ album was an original composition, “Cold Gray Bars”, given to him by western swing star, Spade Cooley.  Cooley was doing time for the 1961 murder of his second wife, Ella Mae. Cooley had suspected Ella of repeated infidelities (never mind that he’d been serially unfaithful) so he beat her head against the floor, stomped on her stomach, then crushed a lighted cigarette against her skin to see if she was dead. When the cops arrived Spade claimed that Ella had fallen in the shower.

Upon his release from prison, Charles moved to North Carolina to work in his father’s law office. He and his dad had both wanted him to have a life out of the public eye, which he seems to have achieved.

As far as I’ve been able to discover Nina died in 1977 at age 57. I don’t know the cause of her death, but I’ll bet that it had nothing to do with a guilty conscience.  Charles Lee Guy Jr. died in 1996 after serving 14 years as a district judge.

I found this 2011 obituary for Charles:

“Charles Lee Guy III, 73, of Elizabethtown, died Saturday, June 18, 2011. Services: Funeral will be held in Boise, Idaho. Survived by: Sons, Donnie and Lee; daughter, Tanya Williams; stepmother, Mildred; sisters, Alicia Horne, Judy Angus, Betsy Horner and Natalie; brothers, Michael and John Angus and Robert and Richard; and six grandchildren. Lewis-Bowen Funeral Home of Bladenboro.”

I hope Charles had a happy and fulfilling life — I believe that he got a raw deal from his mother.

The Prisoner’s Dream, Part 1

motel_MomDetectiveYou’re probably familiar with the old adage: “always a bridesmaid, never a bride”. Well, for Nina James Angus Miles, 37, the converse was true. It seemed that Nina was always a bride. She was about to embark on her seventh trip to the altar when, on August 15, 1957, her intended, Guy F. Roberts a 45 year old ad executive for Morrell & Co meat packers was shot gunned to death in the Santa Monica motel room they’d been sharing.

Nina and her son, Charles Lee Guy III, 19, were booked on suspicion of murder. Charles had only recently been kicked loose from the California Youth Authority Prison in Tracy where he’d been held for drunk driving and car theft. To cops the young man seemed like a good bet for the killing. They told him that if he did the right thing and confessed to the crime he could save his mom from a prison stretch. After twelve sleepless hours in custody and being subjected to relentless questioning, Charles confessed and Nina was released.

charles guy_portrait_usc_resize

Charles Lee Guy, III [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Collection]

In his confession, Charles, who appeared to have had no motive for the slaying, said that he must have blacked out and murdered Roberts.

However, my guess is that his mom and her live-in boyfriend had much more to do with Roberts’ death than Charles did – and here’s why:

Nina and Wilson “Billy” Miles, 49, had been live-in lovers for about three years – she had even been using his last name. Billy was a music teacher and played an occasional piano bar gig in Santa Monica. In a truly stupid move, Billy introduced Nina to the wealthier Roberts and the next thing he knew the pair were engaged to be married! Roberts and Nina were even looking at homes in Brentwood.

Billy had been overheard to mutter that he’d like to teach Roberts a lesson. Maybe he finally did.

On the evening of the murder Nina asked Charles to go with her to the bar where Billy had a gig. She wanted to break the news of her upcoming nuptials to him, but didn’t want to go alone. Billy had broken her nose once before and she was afraid that her news would send him into a rage.motel_MomOverdose

Once she and Charles arrived at the bar, Billy told the kid to “get lost”. Charles left at about 12:20 am in Roberts’ car, leaving Nina with no cash and no ride home. Billy invited Nina back to his place for a nightcap (perhaps a euphemism for something cozier). At 2:30 am Nina left Billy’s house in a cab and returned to the motel. According to her story she ran upstairs to the room, and in the dark grabbed some change off of the dresser to pay the cabbie. Once she returned to the room she switched on the light and found the place ransacked and Roberts bloody body on the bed.

At 3 am Charles turned up at Billy’s house, where he’d been living, and went to bed. Cops came to arrest him later that morning. He couldn’t say were he’d been since leaving the bar and claimed to have no memory of killing Roberts. He said he was fond of the man; it was Billy he had problems with.

On August 22nd, Nina was found unconscious in Billy Miles’ home at 419 S. Hill Street in Santa Monica by a friend, Irma L. Tackett. Doctors at Santa Monica Hospital reported that Nina was in fair condition after having had her stomach pumped following an overdose of sleeping pills. Cops deemed the incident an attempted suicide.

Charles went to trial in October defended by his birth-father, Charles Lee Guy Jr., a North Carolina attorney who had been admitted, as a courtesy, to the California State Bar so that he could defend his son.  Also in Charles’ corner were two of his step-dads.

charles guy headline

Charles had recanted his confession saying that it had been obtained under duress. Evidently Judge Allen T. Lynch agreed and he ruled that the confession was not admissible as evidence because Santa Monica police had implied during questioning that if Charles confessed his mother would be released.

Charles’ ordeal wasn’t over, it was only delayed — a retrial was scheduled to begin just days after the mistrial was declared.

NEXT TIME:  Charles Lee Guy’s story continues.

Film Noir Friday: Circumstantial Evidence [1935]


Chick Chandler and Shirley Grey

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 CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE starring Chick Chandler and Shirley Grey.

In California circumstantial evidence is often used to arrive at a guilty verdict. Here is a definition:

“Circumstantial evidence . . . which is defined as evidence that only indirectly proves that a certain fact is true . . . is a legitimate form of evidence in California criminal courts.  Many guilty verdicts are based on circumstantial evidence.”

TCM’s synopsis of Circumstantial Evidence:

“After attending the murder trial of a man who is sentenced to death on evidence that is purely circumstantial, newspaper reporter Jim Baldwin decides to write an exposé hoping to put an end to capital punishment based solely on circumstantial evidence. With his fiancée, Adrienne Grey, a court artist, Jim pays a visit to the paper’s wealthy and eccentric gossip columnist, Fred Stevens, and the two men concoct a plan that will forcefully demonstrate how misleading circumstantial evidence can be.”




Cops Behaving Badly: Deputy Ted Swift


LAPD Chief William H. Parker

Los Angeles has never had the reputation for police corruption that other U.S. cities have had, but that doesn’t mean that L.A. law enforcement has been perfect — far from it. As Chief William H. Parker once said in response to questions about corruption and brutality in the LAPD:

“We’ll always have cases like this because we have one big problem in selecting police officers…we have to recruit from the human race.”

The human race is a problematic gene pool at best, and with this post I’m beginning a series of occasional tales called “Cops Behaving Badly”. First up is Deputy Ted Swift.

On October 7, 1939, Deputy Swift stumbled his way into The Dinner Bell Cafe at 1604-1/2 North Vine Street, adjacent to the Brown Derby in Hollywood. He eyeballed two cute waitresses, Jessie Clark and Cleme Reeves, and in his inebriated condition Swift thought that they would find him irresistible.Ted had seriously miscalculated his sex appeal so when he tried to corner the two young women behind the counter they slipped beyond his reach.

Failing to get his arms around either Jessie or Cleme, Swift turned his attention to Michael Aronson who was seated at the counter washing down an early breakfast with a cup of coffee. Taking an immediate and violent dislike to Aronson’s fedora, Swift began to verbally abuse the startled man and then ordered him, and his hat, out of the cafe.

swift_loses badge

Aronson hadn’t had enough time to finish his coffee, let alone leave a tip for his waitress, so he tried to re-enter the cafe. Swift caught a glimpse of the hated chapeau and drew his revolver. Rather than turn his weapon on the fedora, and the head on which it was perched, he decided to fire on six helpless custard pies! Flecks of creamy custard and bits of crust flew everywhere, and when the smoke cleared half a dozen innocent pies had been senselessly slaughtered.ted swift

As Swift unloaded a volley of rounds into the unarmed pies, patrons of the cafe dove for cover under tables and beneath the counter. It was at this point that Police Officer Monte Sherman arrived — and so did several squad cars filled with detectives.

Ted was quickly, or should that be swiftly, subdued and taken to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital where he was determined to be shit-faced.

Undersheriff Arthur C. Jewell was not happy with Deputy Swift and offered him an opportunity to resign. If he didn’t take the Undersheriff up on his generous offer he would be fired.

Swift was infinitely more popular with his fellow officers than he was with the Undersheriff because they passed a hat (probably NOT a fedora) and collected $75 to pay the costs of the broken crockery, punctured walls and slain pies at the Dinner Bell Cafe.

swift crashSwift left the LASD and found his way into the growing SoCal aerospace industry, he owned two charter companies — Desert Skyways, and Swiftair.

On October 24, 1949 two men were injured and three killed on Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam when the amphibian plane they were test landing snagged its landing wheels in the water, slammed over on it back and burst into flames. One of the dead was former deputy Ted Swift.

 NOTE: Thanks again to my friend Mike Fratantoni for a great idea.

Film Noir Friday: Fear in the Night [1947]


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 Fear In The Night and stars Paul Kelly, DeForest Kelley, Ann Dorn, and Kay Scott. The movie is based on a story Cornell Woolrich (under the pseudonym of William Irish). Cornell Woolrich’s stories and novels have made terrific films: Rear Window,The Bride Wore Black, and Phantom Lady. Fear In The Night was directed by Maxwell Shane.

 TCM Says:

Bank teller Vince Grayson wakes from a nightmare in which he and an unknown woman murdered a man in a strange, mirrored room. Only a dream…but Vince finds that he has physical objects and bruises from his “dream.” His cop brother-in-law dismisses his story…until the family, on a picnic, takes shelter from a thunderstorm in a deserted mansion containing that mirrored room. Is doom closing in on Vince?

Death of a Detective, Conclusion

Jack Green confessed to his role in the murder of Detective Lieutenant Crowley in the Fox Wilshire Theater in Westwood on January 11, 1932. He named his accomplice, James Francis Regan, as the the one who had fired the shots that felled the detective.

crowley obitWith Green in custody, LAPD officers were turning over every rock in the L.A. area. They had managed, through a lead given them by Green, to locate the doctor who had rendered aid to Regan shortly after the shooting. The cops figured that there was a better than even chance that Regan had succumbed to his wounds and was either lying dead along a roadside or his criminal companions had disposed of his body in some remote location.

Green testified at the inquest conducted by Deputy Coroner Monfort at the Hall of Justice. Green offered his pathetic excuse for the slaying:

“We didn’t mean to kill Crowley. We thought he was the manager. He just walked into it, that was all. We heard him enter the lobby while we were in the office and stepped outside to meet him. He saw us, jerked out his gun and started shooting. One bullet whizzed past my face and burned me. Regan then grabbed his gun and started shooting.”

According to Green, he and Regan ran from the theater:

“I looked back as both Regan and I ran from the theater and saw Crowley on the floor. Regan was wounded by a bullet from the officer’s gun, and we stumbled across a vacant lot to where an automobile was parked in front of a store. As we climbed into the car, a woman ran out, but we drove away and abandoned the car at Gardner Avenue and Sunset Blvd. We took a cab from there to Joe’s apartment.”

Once at the apartment Green tried to locate a doctor.

“I phoned a friend of Joe’s and he called a doctor. I don’t know the doctor’s name. After that I went home to bed. Before going home I burned some of Joe’s clothes and sent his suit to the cleaners.”

Deputy Coroner Monfort asked Green pointblank about his involvement in the attempted hold-up.

Green responded:

“I was in on the hold-up, but I didn’t shoot. I had a gun but threw it away after we left the theater.”

Green’s gun, discovered by a gardener, was introduced in evidence at the inquest. Green said he had no idea where Regan had gone after the doctor came and dressed his wound.

“The bullet went right through him and he was in bad shape,” Green said.

crowley spot killerInspector of Detectives Davidson issued a plea through the local press asking citizens to phone in with any tips as to Regan’s whereabouts. Davidson seemed to feel that the best chance law enforcement had of catching up with Regan was through a member of the public noticing something unusual and making a call.

“We have run down every clew leading through underworld channels without success. Green was caught through citizens observing him enter his room at 956 North Western Avenue after he and Regan had abandoned the stolen automobile they used to get away from the scene of the shooting. Perhaps the same kind of tip will lead us to Regan’s rendezvous.”

About a week after Crowley’s murder the nude, bullet-riddled body of a man was found near El Centro, but his description didn’t match that of Regan. Cops were back to square one.nude corpose

Detectives located two people they thought may have assisted Regan — Mrs. Joan Murray, who was suspected of having rented the Wilshire district apartment where Regan was kept for three days following the shooting; and Leo Boster who was supposed to have procured the car in which Regard was taken to San Francisco. During interrogation Murray and Boster provided cops with information which lead officers to the San Francisco flat where Regan was captured.

Regan was in bad shape as a result of the slug he’d taken to his abdomen, Crowley’s final act, but he was well enough to start shifting the blame for Crowley’s murder to his accomplice, Jack Green.

According to Detectives Condaffer and McMullen, during the trip from San Francisco to L.A. Regan admitted firing the shots that had killed Crowley, but when he was taken to the theater and asked to re-enact the shooting Regan was non-committal.

“Don’t ask me that; you know I can’t talk about it.”

When he was asked if he had anything to say for himself, Regan said:

“No, I guess not.”

Then, as if it was a valid excuse, he added:

“I was shot first.”

Regan was positively ID’d by the three men he and Green had bound and gagged in the office at the Fox Wilshire Theater. Regan’s only comment was:

“I suppose I’ll be hung.”

A jury found Jack Green and Joseph Regan guilty of murder in the first degree and recommended the death sentence — neither man showed any emotion as the verdict was read.

The verdicts were appealed, but the California Supreme Court upheld the murder convictions, as well as the conviction of the pair on a first-degree burglary charge.

A dead man walking can become extremely desperate, and Regan attempted to finger a third man who was supposed to have been involved in the robbery that resulted in the fatal shooting of Lt. Hugh Crowley. The man named by Regan was a Folsom convict, Thomas Kelly. According to Regan, Kelly was employed by a Los Angeles bond house and it was his idea, not Green’s or Regan’s, to hold-up the theater. Green and Regan each received a reprieve while the legal wrangling continued.hugh_photo

Governor Rolph had been urged by six of the jurors to sustain their original verdict and hang the two cop killers. Other members of the jury had evidently had second thoughts about the verdict and felt that the killers should be allowed to live.

Jack Green won the death penalty lotto when his sentence was commuted by Governor Rolph to life without the possibility of parole — but Regan would still walk the thirteen steps to the gallows because he actually fired the shot that killed Crowley.

Many citizens were outraged that Governor Rolph ignored the fact that Green had planned the crime which resulted in Hugh Crowley’s death, and it was Green who had asked Joseph Regan to be his accomplice.  It seemed obvious that both men should have been equally culpable but, as Mr. Bumble said in Dickens’ Oliver Twist: “…the law is an ass.”

 I agree.

Death of a Detective, Part 2

hugh_photoWhen Magele Crowley, Hugh’s widow, was given the news that he had been gunned down she collapsed and was taken by a police ambulance to the Hollywood Receiving hospital where she was revived. It would fall on her shoulders to explain to her young daughter, Gloria Ruth (8), what had happened to her father.

Hugh Crowley was shot twice in the abdomen and once in the shoulder with dum-dum bullets. The dum-dum expands on impact and it is meant to inflict maximum damage on its target. The dum-dum was originally a British military bullet developed at the Dum
-Dum Arsenal for use in India. They’ve been outlawed for use in warfare for over one hundred years. The term dum-dum now refers to any soft-nosed or hollow-pointed bullet. escape headline crowleyThe use of dum-dum rounds in the slaying of Hugh Crowley enraged law enforcement and they brought the full force of their resources to the manhunt. Detectives were drawn from half a dozen special squads and were working many hours of overtime in their relentless search for the gunmen. Fox West Coast Theaters, Inc., offered a $1000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

At least the cops had some tangible evidence to work with — a gray silk handkerchief, a .32-caliber revolver, a white flannel cap and a silk scarf had been dropped along the bandits’ escape route. The other good news in terms of the investigation was that there were three witnesses to the shooting, and there was also Mrs. Smith, the woman who had watched the crooks jump into her car and drive it away.

Hugh Crowley had been acting as a special messenger for Fox for several years before he was gunned down in the Fox Wilshire. Ironically, in 1929 he was held up at gun point outside of Grauman’s Theater. He had picked up $15,000 in cash and a large quantity of canceled ticket stubs and was walking towards his car when three men closed in on him. The bandits leveled their revolvers at Crowley and demanded the bag of money. Crowley told reporters:

“For a moment I hesitated, then I ducked, flung the bag in my car and slammed the door, thinking that it would automatically lock. But the latch was free.”

Crowley further described his actions:

“Then I dodged around behind my car, pulling my gun from a shoulder holster as I took cover behind the gas tank. At this point one of the bandits opened fire.”

One of the three bad guys managed to pull the bag of money and receipts out of Crowley’s car. The trio of felons escaped, but they would later be busted and brought to justice.

gable_page_crowleyCrowley had distinguished himself many times over the course of his career, in fact he had sixteen commendations!

While the search for his killers continued, the Board of Police Commissioners requested the City Council to allow Crowley’s body to lie in state under the dome of the City Hall. The request read:

“Your honorable body is aware of the tragedy which has befallen the police department and the city of Los Angeles as a whole in the murder of Police Officer Hugh A. Crowley. The board of Police Commissioners approve of the wish of Chief of Police and of the entire police department that the Honorable Council permit the body of the slain officer to lie in state under the dome of the City Hall…”

The request continued:crowley tribute

“In thus honoring the memory of this officer, the city of Los Angeles will give due recognition to the meritorious services rendered by Officer Crowley during the ten years in which he was a member of the Los Angeles police department, during which period he was the recipient of many commendations for actions of efficiency and bravery.”

The request was approved.

City and county officials united with motion picture stars at Loew’s State Theater on January 30, 1932 to stage a beneift to aid Hugh’s widow. All of the proceeds would be turned over to Hugh’s widow because everything had been donated.

Solving Crowley’s murder was of paramount importance to the cops and it took them a couple of weeks before they made their first arrest in the case, twenty-eight year old locksmith, Jack Green. Green promptly confessed to his part in the crime and named as his accomplice twenty-five year old Joseph F. Regan, and ex-merchant marine, amateur boxer, actor, and bootlegger.

crowley killer jack green_resizeFollowing the shooting, Green and Regan had fled to the wounded man’s apartment at 1609 North Normandie where Green summoned a doctor who wasn’t adverse to treating a patient with a serious gunshot wound — and cash. Green told cops that the doctor didn’t give Regan strong odds for survival unless he could find someone to perform surgery on him.

Pictures and a description of Regan were broadcast throughout the state:

“American, 25, years of age; 6 feet 1 inches in height; weight 173 pounds, blond hair, regular nose, blue eyes, ruddy complexion, smooth shaven.”

The law was determined to locate Regan dead or alive.

NEXT TIME: The trial and fates of Hugh Crowley’s killers.

Death of a Detective

stock-crash-1929Between 1924 and 1929 the Dow Jones Industrial Average quadrupled and many Americans thought that the prosperity that had characterized the years since the end of WWI would last forever – they were wrong.

On October 28, 1929 prices began to drop precipitously and even companies thought to be impervious to market fluctuations like U.S. Steel and General Electric had taken huge hits. By the end of the day the Dow had dropped 13%, and the tumble into a financial abyss wasn’t over.

During the first thirty minutes of October 29, 1929, remembered now as Black Tuesday, three million shares were traded and millions of dollars disappeared into thin air. Fistfights broke out on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange and one trader fainted from exhaustion.

When the smoke cleared the news was devastating — $25 billion had been lost. The people who borrowed money so that they could invest in the market and join the non-stop party were completely wiped out — they weren’t even grease stains on Wall Street’s pavement.

The Great Depression had begun, and so had a nationwide crime wave.dillingerwantedposter4

While the most notable bandits of the era confined their criminal activities primarily to the Midwest: Bonnie & Clyde, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson to name a few, L.A. also suffered at the hands of crooks who terrorized businesses and individual citizens alike.

The Los Angeles Police Daily Bulletins of the 1930s featured a section dedicated to bandits and bandit gangs operating in the city. Whenever possible the Bulletins gave detailed descriptions of the crooks and their names, if known, and the type of weapon or weapons used to commit the offense.

The crime wave in the Midwest may have been getting most of the national press, but L.A. was also dealing with a larger than average number of stick-ups.

00014415_fox wilshireIt was shortly before 10 a.m. on January 11, 1932 when two film collectors, Paul Berry and Dallas Brewer, arrived at the Fox Wilshire Theater in Westwood. They were the guys who picked up the reels for the films that had already been shown, and dropped off the offerings for the next week. They found that the door of the office, located at the rear of the foyer, was locked so they searched for the janitor. The two men found Xoran Soovazian at the back of the stage and asked him if he would use his pass key to let them into the office.

As Berry, Brewer and Soovazian stepped into the office they ran smack into a couple of bandits who had entered through a rear door. The bandits had their pistols drawn. Assuming that Berry was the theater manager one of the crooks ordered him to “Open the safe”. After Berry and Brewer finally convinced the bandits that they were not theater management they were bound and gagged, as was  Soovazian. Then the bandits waited.

About ten minutes later LAPD Detective Hugh Crowley, and his friend R.L. Joyner, drove up in front of the theater. Crowley was acting as a special messenger for Fox and was there to pick-up the weekend box-office receipts on behalf of the head office. Joyner remained in the car. Crowley walked through the foyer to the office and knocked on the door. Just as the three men before him had done he came face to face with the two armed bandits. Crowley was commanded to “Get ’em up”, but of course he didn’t.

Crowley grabbed for the .45 in his shoulder holster. He took one quick step aside, whipped out the weapon and fired. Almost simultaneously Crowley was struck by a couple of rounds. Despite being mortally wounded, Detective Crowley was able to get off a shot injuring one of the bandits.

00049166_death scene

Photo of Detective Crowley courtesy of LAPL.

The cop killers rushed out the rear door of the office, ran across a vacant lot and crossed Braxton Street. They ended up about a block away from the entrance to the theater. During their flight they dropped a gray silk handkerchief, a .32 caliber revolver, a white flannel cap and a silk scarf. The handkerchief had been used as a mask by one of the killers. In front of 10930 Le Conte Street the bandits jumped into a parked car belonging to Mrs. R.W. Smith.

Mrs. Smith was walking up to her car just as the crooks were about to drive away. She later told police she had noticed that the face of one of the bandits was extremely pale and his lips were blue — confirmation that Crowley’s bullet had found its mark.

NEXT TIME: The massive manhunt for Crowley’s killers.