Isabel Betts was awakened at about 11:30 p.m. on a chilly February night in 1923 by the barking of her Llewellyn setter, Rex. Isabel pulled on her dressing gown, gathered it around her and walked slowly and quietly to the closed porch in the front of her house where Rex slept. Rex was so agitated that he pushed open a door to the yard ran off in pursuit of something or someone. Had Rex caught the scent of a nocturnal animal visitor or, worse, a human intruder? She immediately dismissed the idea that Rex was barking at her next-door neighbor, Earle Remington. Rex was familiar with Earle and never paid the neighbor’s late-night comings and goings any mind. Cautiously, Isabel searched the perimeter of her home and found nothing. Relieved, Isabel started back for the house. Suddenly she heard a loud sound. She froze for a moment, but then thought she recognized it as the backfire of a passing car and took a breath. Isabel called for Rex and went back inside.
At 6 a.m., February 17, 1923, Isabel Betts was again awakened by Rex, but this time she knew the cause. Charity Dawson, the Remington’s maid, was standing in the driveway of 1409 South St. Andrews Place screaming and sobbing. Prone on the driveway was the body of aviation pioneer and electrical engineer, Earle Remington
Charity’s screams had awakened Virginia “Peggy” L. Miller Stone Remington. She rushed outside to determine the cause of the shrieks and saw Earle’s body on the driveway. Someone called the police.
When LAPD detectives arrived they immediately recognized the name of the victim. Earle was well known in Los Angeles for his involvement in aviation and for his work as an engineer; Earle designed security systems for banks. What wasn’t common knowledge was Earle’s other job, the purchase and distribution of bootleg booze.
When the police arrived at the scene began to construct a plausible scenario for the crime. According to them the murder went down like this: Earle pulled his small couple into the driveway of his home and exited on the passenger side, then he walked around the back of the vehicle. One, possibly two, killers materialized from behind a hedge. Did Earle recognize them? Did they speak to one another? Nobody heard anything except for the sound that several near neighbors described as a car backfiring. The sound wasn’t made by a car, it was made instead by a double-barreled, sixteen gauge shotgun. Earle must have watched his assailant raise the weapon to fire because he reflexively clutched his large briefcase to his chest. The briefcase proved to be worthless as armor. One shot penetrated Earle’s chest just above his heart. The blood trail showed that the wounded man staggered toward the house. He didn’t make it. He was likely dead before he hit the ground.
It wasn’t until the autopsy that the coroner determined that Earle had not only been shot, he has been stabbed with a bayonet.
No doubt about it, someone wanted Earle dead.
Detectives immediately turned their attention to Earle’s wife of six years.
Peggy had recently consulted with attorney Jerry Geisler about representing her in a divorce. A private investigator had confirmed Peggy’s suspicions that Earle was having an affair and she wanted out of the marriage. Peggy knew about the affair with a married woman, but did she know that Earle was juggling several extra-marital relationships at the same time? Was Peggy angry, or broken-hearted enough, to kill? What about the other women in his life? Earle had promised one of them that he would divorce Peggy and then marry her. The woman believed him, until she found out that Earle was cheating on her too.
The angry husband or boyfriend of one of Earle’s dalliances may have decided to remove his rival forever.
The suspect pool expanded when investigators took a hard look at Earle’s finances and found that his partners in the Day and Night Electric Protection Company and Night Safe Deposit Company, fellow aviators Frank Champion and Earl Daugherty, may have been in financial difficulty and blamed Earle. An employee, Harry Miller, thought that Champion and Daugherty were responsible for the crime, but refused to provide details.
Finally, there were Earle’s bootlegger acquaintances. Earle didn’t deal in small quantities of booze, in fact he had recently bought 100 cases of the stuff. In the illegal liquor trade Earle would rub elbows with career criminals and others who wouldn’t hesitate to end a dispute with a bullet. Had Earle double-crossed one of his sources? And what about Earle’s double barrel shotgun? It had been stolen from his office a few weeks prior to the murder. Could it be the murder weapon?
There were far more questions than answers. Detectives had their work cut out for them.
NEXT TIME: The investigation into Earle Remington’s murder continues.