The LAPD, LASD, and Nick Harris of the agency bearing his name, were following leads in the Gladys Witherell kidnapping. They eliminated the Greek man (a man who supposedly had a grudge against the family) from their inquiries, but they were deluged by fake tips, rumors, and prank calls.
The Witherells received a letter with a demand for $20,000 promising that Gladys would be released, unharmed. But unlike other crank letter this one had an enclosure–a plea written in Gladys’s hand. They were finally in contact with the actual kidnappers. The letter instructed the family to drop a package containing the ransom near a red lantern on Valley Boulevard, and it also informed them that could could expect a telephone call by midnight on Saturday, February 5th.
Detective Sergeant King and Deputy Sheriff Lips guarded the Witherell’s home and Nick Harris, Detective Sergeant Oaks and Deputy Sheriff Anderson were stationed at the home of Gladys’s parents. None of the detectives would leave their posts for any reason. They were at their posts around the clock. Telephone operators were alerted and monitored incoming calls to both homes. A phone call was received at the Witherell home and a quick thinking operator stalled him before putting the call through to Otto, husband of the victim.
The kidnapper stayed on the phone with Otto for fourteen minutes, which was enough time to trace the call to a bus depot at Fifth and Los Angeles Streets. Detective Sergeants Stelzriede, and Paulmeyer sped over to the location and waited outside the phone booth for the crook to finish his conversation. When he came out of the booth the detectives approached him with a question: “Who were you talking to?” The man froze for a few seconds and then said: “Witherell.”
The man identified himself as Jack Carr, he denied knowledge of Gladys’s whereabouts and claimed that he was a “tool” and he was working for some “higher up” whose identity he didn’t know. The detectives were skeptical and turn up the heat on the suspect for over two hours before he broke down. He gave up the whole story of the kidnapping of Gladys and implicated his cousin, Floyd Carr.
Floyd and Jack had been holding Gladys in a cabin in Corona. A posse was gathered to accompany the detectives to the hideout. Sitting between two detectives, Jack gave directions. It took two hours to get to the cabin. It was located off a dirt road and had once been the home of a sheepherder.
It was approximately 2 a.m. on January 31st when Detective Sergeants King and Oaks, and Deputy Sheriffs Lips and Anderson and Detective Curtis silently approached the rear door of the small structure. The door had been left unlocked. Deputy Anderson kicked open the door and ran into the kitchen. No one was there. The door to the bedroom had been nailed shut but was easily smashed open. Inside the room lying on a filthy bed was Gladys. She became hysterical and refused to believe that the men in the room were law enforcement until they produced their badges. When asked about the treatment she had received at the hands of her kidnappers she assured officers that she had not been harmed. A statement with which the law would later disagree.
Floyd was discovered in a closet. He pointed his .45 Colt automatic at the officer’s chest, but only for a moment. The officer yelled: “Throw up your hands or I’ll blow you through the wall!” Floyd raised his hands above his head. He was dragged from the closet and, stupidly, decided to put up a fight. He got the worst of it: “For God’s sake–don’t kill me. I’m not at the bottom of this!”
Actually, Floyd and Jack were at the bottom of the kidnapping. There was no “higher up” or gang, just two losers looking for a big payday. District Attorney Woolwine knew what to do; hustle them through the justice system and then to prison.
The Carrs were taken from Corona to jail, and then to court, but not without incident. A mob of people outside the County Jail shouted “hang them, lynch them, and let’s string them up.” Guards ran for the doors and dragged Floyd and Jack with them. In little more than 12 hours following their capture the Carr’s were in front of Judge Reeve where they entered guilty pleas. Then the Judge told them that they had the right to an attorney, and they had not less than two days and not more than five before he sentenced them. The cousins requested representation.
Public Defender Aggeler appeared five minutes later and conferred briefly with his clients. When they returned to the courtroom Aggeler argued for leniency because Gladys had not been hurt. D.A. Woolwine rose to his feet and told the court that the kidnapper’s lied. Gladys had been harmed. Judge Reeve set sentencing for Wednesday, February 2, 9:30 a.m. Sentencing wouldn’t be difficult,, there was only one option under Section 208 of the Penal Code and that was ten years to life in the prison.
At 6 p.m. on February 2nd, as they were preparing to leave for San Quentin, Floyd and Jack addressed the assembled reporters. Jack said: “Boys before we leave, we want to let the world know that Mrs. Witherell is the pluckiest little girl in the world.” Floyd echoed his cousin’s sentiments: “You tell the world she is, she’s too good to wipe her feet on any man.”
They also had a confession to make regarding an alleged accomplice. According to Floyd: “All that stuff about the ‘Old Man’ that I told you while we were coming in from the shack that morning was all the bunk. Lord, you fired those questions at me like a machine gun, and I was sore and i wasn’t feeling very good, so I just doped out a bunch of lies for you. It was all the bunk.”
NEXT TIME: The Witherell case wrap-up.