The Black Dahlia: Conclusion

Two years passed with police no closer to a solution for the murder of Elizabeth Short. The 1949 Los Angeles Grand Jury intended to hold LAPD’s feet to the fire for failing to solve the Dahlia case and several other unsolved homicides and disappearances of women.

dahlia_herald_3_the black dahliaOn September 6, 1949 the jury’s foreman, Harry Lawson, told reporters that a meeting of the jury’s administrative committee was scheduled for September 8. First on the -committee’s agenda — the unsolved homicides. Lawson said: “There is every possibility that we will summon before the jury officers involved in the investigation of these murders. We find it odd that there are on the books of the Los Angeles Police Deportment many unsolved crimes of this type.”

The Grand Jury further concluded that: “Because of the nature of these murder and sex crimes women and children are constantly placed in jeopardy and are not safe from attack.” They also decided that something is “radically wrong with the present system for apprehending the guilty, the alarming increase in the number of unsolved murders and other major crimes reflects ineffectiveness in law enforcement agencies and the courts and that should not be tolerated.” jeanne and frank pic

I would argue that the jury and law enforcement had not yet adapted to changes in the post-war world. Cops were unaccustomed to stranger murders; and I believe several of the women whose cases they had been investigating were killed or taken by either a complete stranger or a recent acquaintance Then, as now, when a woman is murdered her killer is usually her husband, boyfriend or another man in her life. It is my contention that it wasn’t corruption within law enforcement agencies that prevented them from solving crimes “of this type”. The police were doing solid detective work but their investigative methods hadn’t caught up with the times. There were men walking the streets of Los Angeles who had been severely damaged by their war experiences–how many of them were capable of murder?

 Murder Car -- this is the auto in which the body of Mrs. Louise Springer was found slain.  The car was parked at 136 W. 38th St.  The discover has touched off the widest man hunt since the slaying of the Black Dahlia.

Murder Car — this is the auto in which the body of Mrs. Louise Springer was found slain. The car was parked at 136 W. 38th St. The discovery touched off the widest man hunt since the slaying of the Black Dahlia.

LAPD detectives did their due diligence in Short’s slaying. There were more than 2700 reports taken on the case. There were over 300 named suspects. Fifty had been arrested and subsequently released. There had been nineteen confessions–none of which panned out.

In 1949 the DA’s office issued a report on the investigation into Short’s murder. In part the report stated: “[she] knew at least fifty men at the time of her death and at least 25 men had been seen with her within the 60 day period preceding her death. She was not a prostitute. She has been confused with a Los Angeles prostitute by the same name…She was known as a teaser of men. She would ride with them, chisel a place to sleep, clothes or money, but she would then refuse to have sexual intercourse by telling them that she was a virgin or that she was engaged or married. There were three known men who did have sexual intercourse with her and according to them she got no pleasure out of this act. According to the autopsy surgeon her sex organs indicated female trouble. She was known to have disliked queer women very much as well as prostitutes. She was never known to be a narcotic addict.”

Jean Spangler [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Jean Spangler [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Good intentions didn’t get the grand jury any concrete answers to the unsolved homicides or disappearances.. The jury was sidetracked by the continuing saga of local gangster Mickey Cohen and other issues which demanded their attention. In the end they passed the baton to the 1950 grand jury. But they, too, were sidetracked by other issues.

Despite the efforts of the grand jury, the homicides or disappearances of the following women remain unsolved to this day: Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French, Rosenda Mondragon, Laura Trelstad, Gladys Kern, Louise Springer, Mimi Boomhower, and Jean Spangler.

NOTE: This concludes my Black Dahlia posts for 2017. I invite you to stay with me as I unearth more of L.A.’s most deranged crimes.

Film Noir Friday: Whirlpool [1949]

whirlpool-gene-tierney-1949-everett

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, WHIRLPOOL, starring Gene Tierney, Jose Ferrer, Richard Conte, and Charles Bickford.

Enjoy the movie!

 TCM says:

In a Los Angeles department store, unorthodox therapist David Korvo watches as Ann Sutton, wife of famous psychoanalyst Dr. Bill Sutton, is stopped for shoplifting. After convincing the manager that arresting her would mean a scandal for the store, he arranges to meet her the next day. Although Ann assumes that Korvo is a blackmailer, he gives her the store records to destroy, and invites her to a party a few days later. There, Korvo informs her that he can tell that she is a kleptomaniac, and is tired and hurt by emotional pressures. When Ann admits that she cannot sleep, Korvo assures her that he can help and then hypnotizes her without her knowledge.

https://youtu.be/eg91vy0U_9k

Film Noir Friday: Jigsaw [1949]

Jigsaw

 

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 JIGSAW [1949] starring Franchot Tone and Jean Wallace.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

After New York City printer Max Borg is murdered, District Attorney Walker, who is assigned to the case, learns that Borg, who had recently been exposed as the printer of propaganda posters for a race hate group called “The Crusaders,” was apparently silenced by them. When an article about the group appears in a local newspaper, Walker’s deputy, Howard Malloy, visits the author, Charles Riggs, who is also his sister Caroline’s fiancé. Later, Charlie is followed home by a mysterious figure, who knocks him unconscious and pushes him out of his high-rise window.

Uh, oh…the plot thickens!

Film Noir Friday: Obsession (aka The Hidden Room) [1949]

poster3 obsession the hidden room

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 OBSESSION (aka THE HIDDEN ROOM) [1949] starring Robert Newton and Sally Gray.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

London psychiatrist Clive Riordan, royally fed up with the repeated affairs of his wife Storm, plots a seemingly ‘perfect’ revenge against her latest lover, American Bill Kronin. Catching them in the act, he marches Bill off at gunpoint; and from the viewpoint of Storm and the rest of the world, Bill simply vanishes. But there’s far more to the meticulously worked out plot than Clive’s victims suspect, with the end slowly preparing in his private laboratory. Enter a mild-mannered Scotland Yard man, who seemingly has no clue beyond a missing dog…

http://youtu.be/9B9yJDcLCC8

The Cleaver Widow, Conclusion

court clerk gun cleaver

Court Clerk enters gun and cleaver into evidence.

The findings in Jerry Ferreri’s inquest resulted in the arraignment of his widow, Betty, and one of their roomers, Allan Adron, a handyman, for murder. Allan was charged with firing two bullets into Jerry’s body, after which Mrs. Ferreri allegedly struck her husband 23 times about the head with a meat cleaver.

As evidence against the two defendants mounted a new twist in the case took everyone by surprise. Vincent D’Angelo, Jerry’s second cousin, and referred to in some of the newspaper coverage as “the dapper decorator” (he was a house painter), revealed that he was actually Charles Fauci. Why the alias? Well, Fauci was wanted in New York for grand larceny. and fake registration of a motor vehicle.

adron photo

D’Angelo, nee Fauci, told the cops that Betty hadn’t given a gun to Allan as she had originally stated. It was he who had loaded the gun and hidden it in his pocket up to a few seconds before it was used by Allan to shoot Jerry.

He said that he and Val Graham, another of the Ferreri’s roomers, were leaving the house to go out for coffee when they heard Betty scream. Fauci told investigators he had the gun because Jerry had attacked Betty with a fireplace poker earlier that evening and he feared more violence. Fauci drew his gun and tried to enter the house but the doors were locked. He ran to the window of Allan’s room and shouted:

“He’s murdering Betty, Allan. Go open the door.”

Allan opened the door and then, according to Fauci, the handyman snatched the gun from him and rushed back into the house locking the door behind him. When Allan arrived at the butler’s pantry he saw Jerry grappling with Betty, so he fired.

Under interrogation Fauci broke down and confessed to having wiped his fingerprints off the weapon when he returned to the house, and then later taking a drive out to Long Beach where he dropped the gun, holster and a box of unused cartridges for the .38 caliber revolver into the ocean.

Fauci made a point of telling the cops that if someone had not “taken care” of Ferreri, the playboy would have murdered his wife the night of October 26th.

Following his statement, the D.A. decided that Fauci should join Betty and Allan at the defendant’s table.

jerry smock and unidentifiedMeanwhile, cops were asking questions about Fauci’s alias: Who is Vincent D’Angelo? Where is he? Was he alive or dead? Did he ever exist? Fauci maintained that he and the real Vincent D’Angelo had driven to L.A. from New York. Once they arrived in the city, Fauci said that D’Angelo “turned the car over to me to use.”

But that story fell apart when the car was found in a local garage after the attendant recognized Fauci’s newspaper photos and identified him as the man he knew as D’Angelo. The cops wired New York for Fauci’s complete criminal record, and they wanted all information available on Vincent D’Angelo (provided he was real) and on the car.

Police attention was briefly diverted to what turned out to be a red herring in the form of a telegram. Supposedly Ferreri had been the recipient of a cryptic Western Union wire that bore the message: “The roses will bloom in December.” Huh? According to New York detectives, Ferreri had once collected $100 for dropping a dime on a member of the infamous Murder, Inc. hit squad. It was an interesting, but utterly worthless, piece of information given the fact that Ferreri’s wife and handyman were found in the butler’s pantry with the dead man, a smoking gun and a bloody meat cleaver. Ferreri’s murder was definitely not a mafia rub out.

betty faintsBut just because the mob didn’t get to Jerry first didn’t mean they wouldn’t have been thrilled to hear that he was dead; in fact someone (a mob enforcer?) may have planted a bomb in his car in an attempt to send him a message about an unpaid gambling debt.. About six weeks prior to his murder, late on the evening of August 31, 1948, Jerry reported that his car, a 1946 maroon Lincoln, had been stolen from in front of his house. Just a few hours later a muffled explosion was heard and the gutted car was found parked in front of 325 South Arden Blvd, a block from Jerry’s home. The Lincoln’s paint was blistered, its interior was ruined by flames and the rear section of the roof had started to cave in.

The dead man seemed to have had a life complicated by an uncontrollable rage, multiple girlfriends, a wife he no longer loved, and a gambling problem; but when the law pared it down to the essentials it was still all about the three defendants in the case–jointly charged with murder.betty funeral

Betty was released from jail by court order to attend Jerry’s funeral, and the gray Sheriff’s car in which she rode stood apart from the black autos that formed the funeral cortege. The procession wound from the mortuary on the Sunset Strip to Holy Cross Cemetery. Betty sobbed as she stood by the freshly dug grave.

Betty’s father and brother arrived from the east coast to support her during the trial. Jerry’s family had also traveled from the east, but not to stand by Betty’s side–they were attempting to take possession of the Lucerne Blvd home and, incidentally, gain custody of her young son, Vincent.

By the end of November at least the cops had answers to some of their questions regarding Vincent D’Angelo. He was was a real person, not a figment of Fauci’s imagination, and he was discovered at his Brooklyn home.  He had reported that his car had been stolen, not loaned. Oh, and he was Fauci’s cousin! Blood isn’t always thicker than water and D’Angelo had a lot to tell the police about his shady relative.

He said that “no one in the family wants Fauci around.” The family? That may not have been quite as sinister as it sounded. It is possible that D’Angelo was referring only to his immediate family and not a larger criminal enterprise.

Betty was escorted by Deputy Marjorie Kellogg to her preliminary hearing, and as she entered the courtroom two of Jerry’s “friends”, Lorretta Burge and Floy Smock, glared daggers (or should that be cleavers) at her. Wow, you’d think that the two extremely attractive women would have had more pride than that.

Later in the day Betty was accosted by Loretta as she was escorted to the ladies’ room. Loretta muttered a derogatory statement to which Betty took umbrage; she was led away before the encounter came to blows.

girlfriends glare

Then poor Val Graham learned that he was to be the prosecution’s star witness, even though it was obvious that his heart was with the defendants. They didn’t hold it against him though, Betty planted a kiss on his cheek as she left the courtroom.

Betty entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and her co-defendants followed suit. Trial was set for February 1, 1949.

Handyman Allan Adron stunned the trial watchers by withdrawing his plea of not guilty and entering a plea of guilty. He would be tried separately. Upon Allan’s change in plea Betty’s attorney immediately sought to have the man declared insane and incompetent to testify; however, Judge Fricke denied the motion.

In large part, Betty’s fate would hinge on whether her use of the cleaver was altogether in self-defense or whether she used it in a felonious assault on Jerry after he had fallen to the ground from the bullet wounds he had sustained.

In order to make her case for self-defense Betty was compelled to testify to the abuse she had suffered for years at Jerry’s hands. She frequently wept as she recounted the physical and mental torment she had endured. Jerry beat her often and he humiliated her by allowing her to discover him in bed with other women. Betty said she would occasionally find dainty undergarments, not her own, in their shared bedroom and Jerry would just laugh at her. Many times Jerry told Betty that if she really cared for him she would prostitute herself.

betty testifies

A few days into her trial Betty became so upset under cross-examination that she fainted and had to be taken out to the hallway of the courthouse to be revived. It was reliving some of Jerry’s abuses that had caused her so much distress. Back on the stand she testified not only to her own experiences with her husband, but to some of the horrendous stories she’d heard from friends about Jerry’s sadism.

She told the jury of five women and seven men:

“They said he used to string up dogs in the cellar and beat their brains out with a baseball bat. Then he would put them in a burlap bag and put them out at the front of his house.”

There was a neighbor that had a goat. He cut the heart out of the goat and took it home to his mother to she how she would act.”

Jerry’s behavior as an adult, and particularly toward Betty, worsened–she described the nightmare of their life together:

“He was out most of the night and slept all day. Sometimes he would lock me in a closet and tell me to stay there. He would gag me. He would threaten to kill me and the baby even before the baby was born. He wished the baby would be dead all the time.” He would bring a girl up and I would hear them. He would tell me not to make a sound or he would beat my face. Then he would come back and expect me to feed him. To cook for him.”

Jerry beat his wife even on the morning before she went to the hospital to give birth to their son, Vincent:

“I put on a coat and went down to a cab. I told the cab driver to take me to a hospital, I was going to have a baby. He told me to get in. He said he’d take me but ‘don’t have the baby in the cab’.”

mil spurns betty picLaura Ferreri, Jerry’s mother, testified for the prosecution and it was obvious that she was attempting to repair her son’s tarnished image. She spoke of Betty in the bitterest of terms, saying that her daughter-in-law had once said that if she couldn’t have Jerry, nobody could.

Frankly, I wonder why ANYONE would have wanted Jerry.

On March 19, 1949 the jury acquitted Betty and her co-defendant Vincent Charles Fauci. Fauci had other charges pending both in L.A. and back east–but at least he’d beaten the murder rap. Betty was free to go.

The verdict hadn’t been a foregone conclusion–the foreman told reporters that the jurors started out 9 to 3 for acquittal. He said that by discussing the evidence the dissenters eventually came around.

Even though her in-laws had waged a fierce battle to take her son from her, Betty regained custody of Vincent following her acquittal–but she lost the house which was sold at auction.

As for the gun wielding handyman, Allan Adron, the Los Angeles Times didn’t report his fate, but it seems likely that since his original co-defendants were acquitted he would also be set free.

As for her life after the trail, Betty must have been an optimist because less than six months following her acquittal she remarried. The couple was married in the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather Chapel, Las Vegas. Her new husband was twenty-eight year old Jean Paul Roussos, the maitre de hotel at a local nightclub.

No word on how that union turned out.

 

 

Film Noir Friday: Too Late For Tears [1949]

too_late_for_tears1949

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 TOO LATE FOR TEARS [1949] starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore and Dan Duryea.

It’s not a great print but it is definitely watchable–unfortunately none of the prints prior to the recent restoration are very good Bear with it though, it is a terrific film. Lizabeth Scott is a total badass; the epitome of the noir femme fatale. If you’re in L.A. and can get to the Egyptian Theater TONIGHT a restored print will be shown as part of the Film Noir Festival. If you miss this particular film don’t fret, the Film Noir Festival runs from March 21, 2014 — April 6, 2014.

For other news on Film Noir Los Angeles, check out Facebook.

TCM says:

One night on a lonely highway, a speeding car tosses a satchel of money, meant for somebody else, into Jane and Alan Palmer’s back seat. Alan wants to turn it over to the police, but Jane, with luxury within her reach, persuades him to hang onto it “for a while.” Soon, the Palmers are traced by one Danny Fuller, a sleazy character who claims the money is his. To hang onto it, Jane will need all the qualities of an ultimate femme fatale…and does she ever have them!

http://youtu.be/1pRgyhqprPQ

Ex-Burlesque Dancer Found Dead

burlesque dancer dead_edit

As the days, months and years ticked by the Black Dahlia case grew as cold as an Arctic blast. In late October 1949 the cops received an anonymous telephone tip that a woman had been murdered in a downtown hotel, and that her killer was the same person who had murdered Elizabeth Short.

LAPD investigators rolled to the scene and what they found was sad, but it wasn’t murder. Upon examining her body Dr. Frederick Newbarr, county autopsy surgeon, determined that the woman had been badly beaten but that the beating had not been fatal. She’d been done in by a serious liver ailment caused by her heavy drinking.

Detectives searched  the dead woman’s handbag and they found an ID card and other papers that revealed her to have been Mrs. Lucille Bowen, a former dancer in a Main Street burlesque house.

The Follies on Main Street.  [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

The Follies on Main Street. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Also in Lucille’s handbag were a couple of police business cards; one of them belonged to Officer C.O. Smith and on its back was written “Lucille Bowen, a good friend of mine. Any courtesy extended to her will be appreciated.” A second card belonged to Officer R.E. Myers, it was apparently signed by him and had a similar inscription.

The cards were issued during the time that Smith was on the Central Division Vice Squad and Myers was assigned to administrative vice. By October 1949 Officer Smith had moved up the chain of command and was in charge of the vice unit at LAPD’s University Division. When quizzed by reporters Smith stated that he didn’t recall Lucille and he doubted the card was his.  Myers had made detective, however reporters couldn’t reach him for comment.

Get_out_of_jail_free The two cops may not have recalled Lucille, but personally I have little doubt that the cards belonged to them, particularly since they’d worked vice. The business cards were probably never intended for use as “courtesy cards”; and I think it is likely that Lucille came into possession of the cards and then simply wrote on the backs of them. Lucille may have considered the cards to be talismans that could protect her from arrest, but if that’s what she believed she had been misinformed. Courtesy cards weren’t equivalent to a Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free” card and wouldn’t have been much use to her.

According to the hotel room clerk Ralph Myers (as far as I know he was no relation to the cop) Lucille had registered for a room the night before with an unidentified man — they’d signed in as Mr. and Mrs. James Johnson.

Interior of Skid Row Hotel. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Interior of Skid Row Hotel. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Police records revealed that years prior to her pitiful death Lucille had come to L.A. as Rena Lucille Hodge, a strikingly beautiful dancer from Oklahoma City with big Hollywood dreams. Like so many girls before her Lucille’s dreams had died hard, crushed in the crucible of Main Street burlesque joints.

The LAPL database doesn't call her out, but I believe the woman in the center is none other than Betty "Ball of Fire" Rowland. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

The LAPL database doesn’t call her out, but I believe the woman in the center is none other than Betty “Ball of Fire” Rowland. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

In December 1944 she was busted on Main Street with nine others on charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors by staging a lewd show. By the time her body was discovered in a Skid Row hotel Lucille had been reduced to life on “The Nickel” (Fifth Street) chasing her dreams with enough liquor to destroy her liver. It would have been easy for her to find male companionship in the dark bars along Skid Row  — men who might listen to her stories of a movie career that never materialized for a few minutes before they would beat and use her.

The "Nickel" (Fifth Street) at night. [Photo courtesy of LAPl]

“The Nickel” (Fifth Street) at night. [Photo courtesy of LAPl]

Lucille’s death had not provided LAPD detectives with a much needed lead in the Black Dahlia case. In the nearly three years since Short’s murder a solution to the crime was still out of reach.

Film Noir Friday: Impact [1949]

impact-movie-poster-1949

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crime theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is IMPACT directed by Arthur Lubin and starring Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines.

TCM says:

After delivering a passionate speech in which he convinces his company’s board of directors to purchase some factories in Tahoe, California, San Francisco industrialist Walter Williams returns home to his wife Irene.

Walter reenacts part of the speech for Irene, and their maid, Su Lin [Anna May Wong], mistakes it for an argument. Walter then leaves to finalize the deal, promising to call Irene on his way home. After Walter leaves, Irene phones her lover, Jim Torrence, with whom she is plotting to kill Walter, and tells him to go to Sausalito.

When Walter phones Irene, she persuades him to give her cousin “Jim,” who is stranded in Sausalito, a ride to his home in Denver. Walter meets Torrence and they drive for several hours before stopping at a café. While Walter is inside, Torrence sabotages one of Walter’s tires. When the later tire blows, they stop near a steep embankment. Torrence then hits Walter on the head with a wrench, rolls his unconscious body down the slope and tosses his briefcase after him.

Film Noir Friday: The Crooked Way [1949]

 crooked way 1949

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crime theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE CROOKED WAY directed by Robert Florey and starring John Payne, Sonny Tufts and Ellen Drew.

THE CROOKED WAY has all the elements of a solid film noir: flashing neon signs, shadows on a wall, guys in suits, hats, killer ties and a dame with a grudge. Bonus points for some nice shots of post-war L.A.

TCM says:

Eddie Rice, a veteran suffering from amnesia, returns to Los Angeles from a San Francisco veterans hospital hoping to learn who he is and discovers that he is a gangster named Eddie Riccardi and has a police record. Although he does not know it, five years earlier, Eddie was acquitted of murder after turning state’s evidence for homicide detective Lieutenant Joe Williams. His partner, Vince Alexander, took the “rap” and spent two years in prison. On a Los Angeles street, a woman recognizes Eddie and reports him to Vince, who sends his thugs to beat up Eddie. Holding an old newspaper clipping announcing the verdict that put him in jail, Vince confronts Eddie about the past and gives him one day to leave town.

http://youtu.be/roeY-s_nUmg

Hollywood Cinderella, Part 1

madge portraitMarjorie Massow was an Iowa Falls, Iowa girl — but she didn’t want to be one all of her life. She had big dreams so she moved to Hollywood to make them come true.

Even pretty girls like Marjorie could find Hollywood tough going; it wasn’t always as simple as getting off a Greyhound bus and into a starring role, no matter what the movie magazines said. Instead of working on a sound stage, Marjorie found herself ringing up lunch specials at the cash register in the 20th Century-Fox commissary. Even though she wasn’t working as an actress, Marjorie saw movie stars every day and she felt sure that  she’d catch a break — after all everyone knew that Lana Turner had been discovered in a Hollywood drugstore.

Lana Turner

Lana Turner

The Iowa City girl got lucky, and in 1944 she was plucked out from behind the cash register and cast for a role in “Take It or Leave It”. Marjorie only made a couple of films for 20th Century-Fox, but they were enough to whet her appetite for more.

By 1946 Marjorie had adopted the stage name of Madge Meredith and she was working for RKO. She was cast opposite Tom Conway in “The Falcon’s Adventure”, and later that year she appeared in “Trail Street” with Randolph Scott, Robert Ryan, and Anne Jeffries.

RKO terminated Madge’s contract early in 1947, and in a few short months her life went from bad to much worse.

hollywood cinderella soughtOn July 2, 1947, Madge was in the headlines, but it wasn’t because she was starring in a film — the actress was being sought for questioning in a kidnapping case!

Nick Gianaclis, Madge’s business manager and a restaurant supply man, had filed a complaint in which he said that he and his body guard, Verne Davis, had been kidnapped, beaten, and taken out to Lopez Canyon from where they had managed to escape. According to Gianaclis, he and Davis had caught the man who was watching them off guard and relieved him of his weapon. They ran to a ranch house and called the cops.

In Nick’s statement to Capt. W.T. Deal and Det. Sgt. S.W. Robinson of the L.A. County Sheriffs Department, he said:

“It was about 9 a.m. Monday, Davis and I were on the way to work. When we reached the bottom of the hill at Laurel Canyon Road, we met Marjorie Massow driving a new maroon convertible couple. She motioned to us to turn around and follow her up the hill to the house. So we did.”

The house to which Nick referred in his statement was in the Hollywood Hills, and it was at the center of a nasty dispute between he and Madge.  About 200 yards from the house, Nick told officers, the actress turned her car to block the road. Gianaclis said that when he stopped a third car drove up behind him.

“There they are! Go get them!” Nick quoted Madge as saying.

Three men got out of the car to the rear, Gianaclis said, and while two of them covered the victims with guns, the third administered a beating with a blackjack.

“We were ordered into the rear of the car. While we were being driven for more than an hour, we were struck from time to time–just about every time we moved. When we finally stopped in a hilly area, the man called Jim taped our eyes. Then they made us crawl over some rocks and through heavy brush. They left a guard to watch us.”

Gianaclis said his wallet containing $85 cash and a cashier’s check for $4,000 had been stolen.

Police later located Gianaclis’ allegedly stolen wallet at his home, but then Davis said that the men had taken the money from Gianaclis’ pocket NOT his wallet. The minor inconsistency in Nick’s story didn’t seem to bother anyone, and a warrant was issued for Madge’s arrest.

Madge surrendered herself to Sheriff’s deputies Lt. Pete Sutton and Sgt. M.W. Skelly at the Public Library. The meeting had been arranged by her attorney, Ward Sullivan

When she was questioned, Madge told a tale that was quite different from the statements given by Gianaclis and Davis.

She said that Nick had threatened her many times about ownership of the house, and that he had arranged a meeting in the Hollywood Hills on the day of the kidnapping to discuss the property rights.

Madge told the police that on the way to the meeting, as she was driving up the steep, winding road, she became frightened when she noticed that she was being followed by a car driven by Nick. When she reached the meeting place in Laurel Canyon, Madge said that Nick forced her automobile to the curb. When she attempted to escape, she said that he threatened her with a length of pipe.

MASSOW

Madge’s standing mugshot.

KLINKENBERG

Damon Klinkenberg

Nick filed a formal complaint against Madge and three men for robbery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

The men in the kidnapping case had been identified as: Damon William Klinkenberg, 21, a cook; Albert W. Tucker, 29, nurseryman, and James Alfred Hatfield, 33, former Beverly Hills policeman.

Madge was released on $5,000 bail, her co-defendants were held in the County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail each.

The case against the alleged kidnappers went to trial. Davis and Gianaclis testified that they’d heard one of the men say that the trio were “getting $2,000 from Massow for this job.”

Madge's standing mugshot.

James Hatfield

Nick sobbed out his testimony saying:

“They beat me with blackjacks and guns even though I told them I would given them money if that was what they were after”. They taped my eyes and forced me to lie down in the back of their car and drove away with me.”

Madge was called to testify about her dispute with Nick over the house:

“I fell in love with the house, but was $5000 short on the purchase price. I called on several of my friends for aid and finally Nick said he would put up $5000 to complete the transaction. I took out two life insurance policies  to protect Nick’s investment.”

Madge testified that Nick had duped her. He’d gotten her to sign a deed to the house, not a mortgage, so that he would be part owner. She’d trusted him, she said, and he had betrayed her.

Albert Tucker

Albert Tucker

Ward Sullivan and Abbott Bernay, Madge’s attorneys, said she was “scared to death” after Nick threatened to “get her” over the lawsuit involving the home at 8444 Magnolia Drive in the Hollywood Hills.

The trial lasted for four weeks and on December 12, 1947, the jury of 11 women and 1 man returned guilty verdicts for each of the defendants.

Madge was found guilty of five felony charges involving the kidnapping of Nick. Two of her co-defendants, Albert Tucker and Damon Klinkenberg, were also convicted. A fourth defendant, James Hatfield, the former Beverly Hills cop, was found guilty only on the possession of a deadly weapon charge.

Madge said she had been framed. She was remanded to County Jail pending a new hearing, but the motion for a new  trial was denied.

Madge was sentenced to from 5 to life in Tehachapi; Albert Tucker was sent to San Quentin; Damon Klinkenberg received three 60 day County Jail sentences to run concurrently, and James Hatfield was confined for just 30 days.

Imposition of Madge’s prison sentence was postponed indefinitely pending the outcome of an appeal; however, she was incarcerated in County Jail while she waited.

Finally, in October 1948, Madge was freed on a $15,000 bond; she had served 11 months in jail. Of her time in the County Jail she said:

“At first I was on ‘hard time’. That is when you feel you didn’t get a fair break. Persecuted. You know–‘we wuz robbed’ sort of thing.”

“Sometimes you couldn’t even imagine what it was like to walk down a street or take a drive out by the ocean.

But I like to work and I looked forward to getting to be a trusty so I’d have something to do. I volunteered for any kind of work. Then one day they took me to the sewing room–I, who never could sew–and put me to work. I can sew now all right.”

“And pretty soon I was on ‘easy time'”.

To add to her woes, while she was out pending an appeal, Madge was sued for $65,732 for damages by one of her alleged victims, Verne Davis. The civil suit charged that “under Miss Meredith’s direction” three men had pulled him out of a car, beat him repeatedly with their fists and a blackjack over a two hour period, and taped his eyes and mouth shut before releasing him.  Nick testified on Verne’s behalf.

Madge and her three co-conspirators were ordered to pay $4,050 in damages to Verne V. Davis.

In March 1949 Madge lost her appeal in the kidnapping case, and on April 25, 1949 Madge surrendered to police to begin her term in Tehachapi Women’s Prison.

Madge told reporters:

“I know in my own heart I’m innocent of any crime and some day, someone will believe the truth about what I say.”

NEXT TIME:  The truth will out.