Film Noir Friday: City That Never Sleeps [1953]

city that never sleeps

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 CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS starring Gig Young and Mala Powers.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Chicago cop Johnny Kelly, dissatisfied with his job and marriage, would like to run away with his stripper girlfriend Angel Face, but keeps getting cold feet. During one crowded night, Angel Face decides she’s had enough vacillation, and crooked lawyer Biddel has an illegal mission for Johnny that could put him in a financial position to act. But other, conflicting schemes are also in progress…

The Love Poisoner, Part 2

Joyce found Richard peering into her refrigerator and he seemed startled when she spoke to him. She couldn’t tell what, if anything, he was doing, but she wasn’t particularly alarmed. Richard visited Joyce and Robert so often that it wasn’t surprising to find him searching the fridge for a snack.

The refrigerator incident took on a more ominous aspect when Joyce and Robert began to notice a “funny taste” in the water and milk they kept in the refrigerator. Then they recalled how ill Robert had become after he and Joyce had paid a visit to Richard at the Caltech campus. They didn’t want to think the worst of Richard, but it was getting harder to believe the best.

joyce_robert_picJoyce and Robert went to the L.A. County Sheriff’s substation and told the deputies of their suspicions. They even brought a bottle of milk with them that they were afraid may have been tainted. Sure enough, an examination of the contents of the milk bottle proved that it had been tampered with. On February 6, 1953, Sergeant Bert Wood and Detective A.S. Martin sent the Haydens out for the evening and then waited in the dark outside the Hayden home to see if Richard LaForce would turn up. He did.

The door to Joyce and Robert’s home was routinely left unlocked (hey, it was Downey in 1953 and people did that in those days). The two cops watched Richard let himself in and then waited for him to come out. Sergeant. Wood and Detective Martin stopped Richard as he exited the Hayden home and found two half-pint bottles of arsenic trioxide in his possession–enough poison, said one investigator, “to kill off a whole town.”

Richard quickly admitted that he had put some of the arsenic into a water bottle in the fridge. When asked if he was trying to kill both Joyce and Robert, Richard said no–he knew that Robert was the only one to drink from that bottle. He also confessed to poisoning Robert’s soft drink at Caltech and said that he had tried at least five times over several weeks to bump off Robert. On one occasion he had poured cyanide into the water bottle. Why had he been tried to poison his friend? He said: “I have always wanted Joyce for my wife and I felt that if my plan to poison Bob was successful, I would have a chance with her.” He continued: “I’ve never been out with any other girl–she’s the only one I loved.” Richard said he had chosen poison to kill Robert “Because of its convenience.” He was able to acquire the poisons at school. He admitted that “It could have been done in a more perfect way, but I got to the point where I had to do something.”richard-indicted-headline-pic3

What made Richard think that he had a chance with Joyce at all? According to Richard he had visited Joyce many times in her home during times when Robert was away. He told investigators that he and Joyce had taken long car rides and walks. During their time together Richard said he and Joyce “talked a lot about love and marriage.”

On February 10, 1953, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury indicted Richard on two counts of poisoning with intent to kill.  Each count carried a possible sentence of from 10 years to life in prison. Joyce and Robert told reporters that they bore their former friend no ill will for his  attempts to poison Robert. They felt sorry for him.

richard-indicted-headline-pic2Richard was examined by psychiatrists Dr. Frederick J. Hacker and Dr. John A. Mitchell. The doctors said they found indications of “a beginning thinking disorder in the direction schizophrenia.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness “schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men.” Was Richard schizophrenic? The doctors didn’t offer a firm diagnosis and, despite their concerns, they declared that Richard was sane at the time of the poisonings and was sane enough to stand trial. Interestingly, Dr. Hacker said that Richard told him he “wanted to take suspicion of poisoning attempts from Joyce.” Was Richard falling on his sword to protect his lady love, or was his statement a calculated move to shift blame to Joyce? Was there any truth to the statement?

By the time his trial began in late April 1953, Richard had claimed that he and Joyce had been conducting a love affair.  In fact, he figured that her unborn child had an 80% chance of being his and not Robert’s. How Robert arrived at the 80% calculation isn’t clear but that hardly mattered. His possible paternity of Joyce’s child was a bombshell.  In, 1953 when DNA tests were decades in the future, a blood test could rule a person in or out but that was it.

Joyce vehemently denied that she was romantically involved with Richard. But rumors began to surface that Richard had kept over a dozen love letters written to him by Joyce while she and Robert were in Alaska.  If the love letters actually existed they could turn the whole case inside-out.

NEXT TIME:  The love poisoner case takes a few more twists and turns before coming to an end.

The Love Poisoner, Part 1

Current thinking about the teenage brain is that it’s a work in progress. Intellectually teens can be a match for adults, but emotionally it is a much different story. A teenager’s moods are the emotional equivalent of a world class chanteuse’s five octave range. Teenagers are mercurial, capricious, fickle and unstable — potentially deadly traits when mixed with a love triangle involving nineteen-year-olds.juviebrain

Downey residents Richard LaForce, Joyce Salvage, and Robert Hayden had been friends since middle school. During the war years, while they were growing up, the aircraft industry established deep roots in the town and had an enormous impact on the area. The postwar years saw the three friends enter high school and the town’s close ties to the aircraft industry likely resulted in the establishment of an aviation club at Downey High School–Joyce and Robert were both members. Surrounded by engineers and aircraft workers may have inspired Richard’s keen interest in science. With his high IQ (estimated to be in the neighborhood of 150) he hoped to pursue physics in college.

salvage_hayden_laforce_crop

Robert Hayden (4th from the left, top row), Richard LaForce (far right, top row), Joyce Salvage (5th from the left, middle row).

Physics wasn’t the only thing Richard hoped to pursue into adulthood. He had loved Joyce since they were sixth graders and he hoped that one day they would marry. Was Richard surprised when on May 12, 1951, at age 17, Joyce and Robert married? If he was shocked or hurt he kept his feelings to himself. At least the marriage didn’t end his friendship with the couple. Richard was a frequent guest in the Hayden’s home at 8558 Firestone Boulevard and he was still able to spend a lot of time with Joyce.

joyce-salvage-1950-aviation-club_crop

Aviation Club, Downey High School [1950]

The day after Joyce and Robert’s first wedding anniversary, and the day before they were scheduled to depart for a couple of months in Alaska visiting Robert’s older brother George and his sister-in-law, Charlotte, Richard took Joyce to a movie ostensibly at Robert’s request. Joyce and Richard were out together until 4 o’clock in the morning. Suspicious behavior for a married woman, but not so odd for a teenage girl. However the evening was complicated by Richard’s admission in a note, just days before, that he loved her. He didn’t plan to act on his declaration of love, he doubted that Joyce reciprocated his feelings, but during their evening out he got the impression that Joyce loved him too. There wasn’t enough time to talk about the possible change in their relationship before Joyce and Robert left for Alaska.

Richard and Joyce corresponded regularly, some would say obsessively, during her absence. Robert was well aware of the exchange of letters between the friends but seemed unconcerned about them. When Joyce and Robert returned in late 1952 the three friends had quickly reestablished their former routine of spending at least two or three evenings together every week. Because the trio knew each other so well, both Joyce and Robert noticed that Richard appeared to be distracted and he seemed to be depressed, but since he hadn’t confided the reasons for his melancholy in either of them they could only stand by and wait.

A week after Christmas, 1952, Richard invited Joyce and Robert to the Caltech campus, where he was a physics major, for a visit. While there he suggested that they stop for Cokes at a nearby refreshment stand. Robert couldn’t finish his drink. He became violently ill and vomited. He recovered quickly and was able to resume his ministerial studies at Whittier College. He and Joyce thought no more about the incident.

In late January, during one of his visits, Joyce found Richard at the refrigerator. He seemed unnerved when she asked him what he was doing. Why?

NEXT TIME: The teenage triangle turns poisonous.

Film Noir Friday–Saturday Matinee: Cry of the Hunted [1953]

cry of the hunted

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 CRY OF THE HUNTED, starring  Vittorio Gassman, Barry Sullivan, and Polly Bergen.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

At the Branville State Penitentiary, Warden Keeley conveys to Lt. Tunner, the head of maximum security, the district attorney’s dissatisfaction with the way that Tunner is handling the Jory case. Jory, a Cajun convicted of robbery, has steadfastly refused to divulge the names of his partners in crime. Tunner visits Jory in solitary confinement, and when the prisoner attacks him, Tunner fights back and wins Jory’s respect. After Jory finally agrees to identify his accomplices, he is escorted to the district attorney’s office by Goodwin, the police officer who hungers for Tunner’s job. On the drive downtown, their car collides with another vehicle and Jory escapes. Certain that Jory will go home to Louisiana, the warden dispatches Tunner to bring him back.

Film Noir Friday: The Glass Web [1953]

Poster - Glass Web, The_02

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 THE GLASS WEB [1953] starring John Forsythe, Edward G. Robinson and Kathleen Hughes. Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

The ice-cold diva Paula ruthlessly exploits the guys she dates. While blackmailing the married Don with a recent one-night-stand, she has a secret affair with Henry, who works as researcher for the weekly authentic TV show “Crime of the Week”, which Don writes for. When Henry fails to help her to a role, she insults him deadly… and ends up dead herself. Now Don desperately tries to hide his traces, but Henry sabotages his efforts and suggests he write the unsolved murder case for next week’s show…

Policewoman of the Year, Conclusion

Florence Coberly testifies at inquest. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Florence Coberly testifies at inquest. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

In 1952 LAPD Policewoman Florence Coberly appeared to be a woman with a bright future in law enforcement. She had been instrumental in taking down career criminal and ex-con, Joe Parra. Parra had a history of sexual assault and he was shot and killed during an undercover assignment in which Florence had acted as a decoy. She had stayed tough during the inquest following Parra’s shooting when his brother Ysmael began shouting and then attempted to lunge at photographers. She had appeared on television and had been honored at various awards banquets all over town.

Yes sir, Florence’s star was shining brightly.

divorce_1955But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) Florence’s personal life began to unwrap slightly when after only three years of marriage she divorced her husband Frank in 1955. We’ve heard countless times over the years how tough it is to be a cop’s wife, but I imagine being the husband of a cop is not much easier–the unpredictable hours and the danger could be enough to send any spouse out the door forever. But then we don’t really know what caused the Coberly’s marriage to dissolve. The divorce notice appeared in the June 29, 1955 edition of the L.A. Times, but it was legal information only and gave no hint of the personal issues which may have caused the Coberly’s to break up. Even if her marriage hadn’t made until “death us do part” at least Florence had her job.

Florence with her back to the camera, befriends a lost girl c 1954 [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Florence with her back to the camera, befriends a lost girl c 1954 [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

There is no further record of her in the Times for several years following the fatal shooting of serial rapist Joe Parra in 1952, so we’ll have to presume that her career in law enforcement was on track. Then nearly six years after the Parra case, on July 2, 1958, the Times ran a piece under the headline: “Policewoman’s Mother Convicted in Shoplifting”; it was buried in the back pages of the “B” section and it told an interesting tale.

Mrs. Gertrude Klearman, the fifty-three year old mother of a policewoman, had been found guilty of shoplifting by a jury of eleven women and one man. The jury had spent only one hour and seven minutes in deliberation. As embarrassing as it would have been to have your mom convicted of shoplifting, it would have been so much worse if you were a cop–and orders of magnitude more humiliating if you were a cop busted WITH your mother for stuffing $2.22 worth of groceries into a handbag and walking out without making the necessary stop at the check-out stand.flo_mom

According to Police Officer George Sellinger, an off-duty cop supplementing his income by working as a store detective, the pair of women, one of whom you have undoubtedly guessed was Florence Coberly, had been accused of stealing two packages of knockwurst, a can of coffee, a package of wieners and an avocado.

Florence had remarried and not surprisingly she had married another cop, Sgt. Dave Stanton. But despite a change in her surname there was no mistake that the woman accused of shoplifting was none other than the former Florence Coberly, Policewoman of the Year.

Florence seated next to her husband, Sgt. Dave Stanton. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Florence seated next to her husband, Sgt. Dave Stanton. [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Gertrude was found guilty, but Florence had been freed of the shoplifting charge during trial on a technicality involving unreasonable search and seizure.

At the misdemeanor trial her attorney, Frank Rothman, vigorously questioned Sellinger on the stand and finally got him to admit that he had not actually seen Florence stuff the food items into her purse. He had pressured her to submit to a search outside the grocery store based on the scant evidence of having seen her holding some packages in her hand. As far as Rothman and the law were concerned Sellinger’s reason for the search was seriously flawed and a legal no-no.

LAPD in the late 1950s was still understandably touchy about any hint of scandal or misbehavior by its officers. During the decades prior to William H. Parker’s ascension to Chief, the institution had watched as many of its members were accused (some even convicted) of all manner of graft and corruption.

While a package of knockwurst hardly rises to the standard of bad behavior that had plagued LAPD earlier, just being arrested was enough to get Florence suspended from duty pending a Police Board of Rights hearing.

It couldn’t have been easy for Florence to sit on the sidelines and await the decision that would have such an enormous impact on her future. Law enforcement wasn’t just a 9-5 job for her, it was a career and one for which she had displayed an aptitude.

While Florence waited on tenterhooks for the Board of Rights hearing, her mother was sentenced to either forty days in jail or a $200 fine (she paid the fine).

Florence’s hearing began on July 22, 1958 before a board composed of Thad Brown, chief of detectives, and Capts. John Smyre and Chester Welch. Officer Sellinger repeated the testimony he had given at the trial and despite the fact that the shoplifting charges against Florence had been dismissed in a court of law, the board found her guilty of the same charge and ordered her dismissed from LAPD.

This photo may have been misidentified in the USC Digital Archive. I believe it to be the Police Board hearing.

This photo may have been misidentified in the USC Digital Archive as Florence’s misdemeanor trial. I believe it to be the Police Board hearing.

It was an ignominious end to a career that had shown such early promise, and I can’t help but wonder if there was more to Florence’s dismissal from the police force than the shoplifting charge.

In February 1959, Florence filed suit in superior court seeking to be reinstated. Her complaint was directed against Chief Parker and the Board of Rights Commission. Florence stated that she had been dismissed from the LAPD on a charge that she had, with her mother, shoplifted groceries from a San Fernando Valley market. Florence denied her guilt and contended that the only evidence in the case may have been applicable to her mother alone.

flo_firedIt took several months, but in July 1959 Superior Court Judge Ellsworth Meyer sided with the LAPD and refused to compel Chief Parker to reinstate Florence.

I haven’t discovered any further mentions of Florence in the newspaper. I’m curious to know how her life played out and what became of her in later years. As it is with so many of the tales covered here in Deranged L.A. Crimes there is no satisfactory conclusion. Of course I can always hope that a member of her family will see the story and contact me.  It has happened before.

Meanwhile, I salute Florence for her no-holds-barred, kick-ass entry into policing in 1952; and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one last time that fantastic bandolier that dangled so daintily from her belt–as I said before lady cops knew how to accessorize.

NOTE: Many thanks to my friend and frequent partner in historic crime, Mike Fratantoni. He knows the BEST stories.

 

Film Noir Friday, on Saturday! 99 River Street [1953]

 99riverstreet2EGtc

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crime theater is open! The holiday has thrown the screening schedule off, so it is Film Noir Friday, on Saturday! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is 99 RIVER STREET directed by Phil Karlson and starring John Payne and Evelyn Keyes.

TCM says:

New York City taxicab driver Ernie Driscoll watches the television program “Great Fights of Yesterday,” which is replaying the world heavyweight boxing match that ended his boxing career. Although he dreams of opening his own gas station, Ernie’s wife Pauline berates him for living in the past and blames him for failing to provide adequately for her. After Ernie drops Pauline off at the florist shop where she works, he seeks advice from his best friend, dispatcher Stan Hogan, who good-heartedly suggests that Ernie whisper in Pauline’s ear that they should start a family. Aspiring actress Linda James joins the men at a drugstore lunch counter and shares the good news about her upcoming audition for a Broadway play. At the florist shop, meanwhile, Pauline plans to run away to Paris that night with her lover, thief Victor Rawlins, after he closes a $50,000 deal. Ernie drives up to the shop hoping to smooth things over with Pauline, and sees her kissing Victor.

Enjoy the film!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG1guwmVPDk&feature=share&list=PL8324F6C554122985&index=1

Film Noir Friday: The Big Heat [1953]

THE BIG HEAT_ITALIAN POSTER

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 THE BIG HEAT, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Gloria Grahame and Glenn Ford. Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

After the suicide of detective Sgt. Tom Duncan, his wife Bertha takes his detailed notes on racketeer Mike Lagana’s organization, then demands money and protection from the mob boss to keep the notes secret. Lagana places the Duncan situation with his right-hand man, Vince Stone. Homicide detective Sgt. Dave Bannion is assigned to investigate Duncan’s death and upon questioning a bereft Bertha, finds her explanation that Duncan suffered a mysterious malady suspicious. Later at home with his wife Katie and young daughter Joyce, Dave reads that the police department has accepted Bertha’s assertions without question.

That evening Lucy Chapman, a fading B-girl, contacts Dave and they meet at The Retreat bar where Lucy debunks Bertha’s story, claiming that she and Duncan dated and that Bertha had just agreed to give her husband a divorce. When Dave cautions Lucy not to attempt to blackmail Bertha, Lucy angrily threatens to take her information to the newspapers. Dave then visits Bertha, who dismisses the divorce story, despite her knowledge of Duncan’s relationship with Lucy. The next day at headquarters, Dave learns of the discovery of an unidentified woman who had been thrown from a car after being beaten and tortured.

 

http://youtu.be/7mbCPbc2vNk

The Want Ad Killer, Part 2

mancuso 025_53_merc

Dolly McCormick witnessed the fatal shooting of Andrew “Andy” Kmiec by a man who had posed as a prospective buyer for Kmiec’s 1953 Mercury convertible. She was fortunate to have escaped with her life.

After she had directed  deputies to the scene of Andy’s shooting, Dolly was transported to the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station to be interviewed by Lt. A.W. Etzel and Det. Sgt. Ned Lovretovich.

Det. Loveretovich first asked Dolly questions to establish her relationship to the deceased. She told the detective that she and Andy weren’t in a serious relationship, but they had been dating for about two months.

She said that Andy lived on Beverly Glen with a roommate, Alex Milne, and the two men appeared to get along well. As far as she knew Andy didn’t have any enemies, despite what his killer had said about having been hired to do away with him.

Neither Andy nor Dolly were California natives — Andy’s car still bore Indiana license plates, and Dolly had only recently moved to North Hollywood from Prairie Grove, Arkansas to live with her cousin, a television advertising executive.  Andy had come to Southern California during WWII and, like thousands of other veterans, decided to make it his permanent home a few years later. Dolly, too, was looking for a life different than the one she’d had in Arkansas.

Andy Kmiec was described by his employer, friends, and acquaintances as a decent guy, liked by everyone who knew him. Det. Lovretovich couldn’t find anyone who had even disliked Andy, let alone hated him enough to hire someone to kill him.

Dolly was questioned in detail about the events of the evening of the slaying from the moment that Andy arrived in North Hollywood to pick her up for their date.

On the drive downtown to the Biltmore Hotel, Andy told Dolly:

“This is sort of an odd situation. I have never heard of a
business transaction carried on this way.”

When they arrived at the Biltmore, Andy asked Dolly to wait in the car while he went into the hotel to find the prospect. He arrived a few minutes later and introduced Dolly to the stranger — but she couldn’t recall the man’s name.

She described him to Det. Loveretovich as being approximately 45-50 years old, about 5′ 10″, with blondish brown hair. He was wearing a tan suede jacket with knit ribbing at the collar and cuffs and tan pants. She said the man needed a shave badly, but that he was otherwise unremarkable. He was wearing a pair of gold metal, rimless, bifocal eye glasses.

Dolly became uncomfortable during the drive to Whittier because the stranger told conflicting stories about his employment. He had first implied that he owned a pottery
business in Santa Ana, then moments later said he was the plant’s supervisor. What really alarmed Dolly was when the man seemed unable to provide concise directions to his own home.

The pretty sales clerk went on to describe what happened after the man had told Andy to park the car. She said that he produced a gun, showed it to Andy and said:

“You know what this is.”

Andy said yes, of course he knew that it was a gun — then he offered the stranger his wallet, the car, anything if he would leave.

The stranger said that he’d been hired to “take care” of Andy, and that he was being well paid for the job.

Andy continued to plead, but the man forced him into the back seat of the Mercury at gun point. Dolly was made to drive the car with the stranger sitting next to her.

Right before they pulled to a stop the man said to Dolly:

“It’s too bad that you had to be an innocent bystander, but as long as you do what I tell you to do I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Suddenly the man leaned over into the back seat and fired — Dolly heard Kmiec gasp, and then saw him clutch his chest. The man fired again and Dolly jumped out of the car. She felt something tug on the belt of her dress but she didn’t know if it was the assailant or if she’d caught it on the door handle. The belt ripped away from her dress as she scrambled to get away.

Dolly had left behind her in the car a black, faille purse with a gold clasp, her coat, and a Cosmopolitan magazine.Cosmopolitan-November-1953-1

Once she got to intersection of Lakeland and Painter she flagged down a a passing motorist. She got into the car and said:

“A man’s just been shot. Will you take me to the police, or some place where I can call the police, as quickly as possible?”

She was taken to a drug store where she phoned the Sheriff’s Department.

Det. Lovretovich gleaned what he could from Dolly’s statement, but it wasn’t much. He had a description of the killer, which could fit thousands of men in Los Angeles, and a description of the weapon, which appeared to have been a revolver with a long barrel. The only decent physical evidence was a pair of eye glasses found at the scene and, if they were lucky, they might be able to ID fingerprints left in blood.

Alex Milne, Andy’s roommate, was the next to be questioned by Det. Lovretovich. Alex said he was employed as a test pilot by Lockheed in Burbank. He’d known Andy for about ten months and they had been rooming together in a house on Beverly Glen for a few months prior to the murder.

corrinecalvert

From his interview it was clear that Alex was the quintessential ’50s swinging bachelor. He dropped the names of a few of his actor friends like Don Haggerty, and John Bromfield and his wife Corrine Calvert. He seemed like a guy who wanted to make an impression.

When asked if they ever had any arguments, Alex said that he and Andy got along fine. Det. Lovretovich wanted to know if he and his roommate ever went out with the same girls. Alex admitted that they had, but it was not a big deal. He told Ned that he’d fixed Andy up a few times with women he’d previously dated — he even shared that Andy had “made the team” a couple of times with some of them. Of course those girls were simply “pieces of ass” as far as Alex was concerned.  When Det. Lovretovich asked if the women were hustlers, Alex said no, they were airline stewardesses!

stew1After learning more than he probably ever wanted to know about Alex’s social life, Ned Lovretovich and the others assigned to the case continued to follow-up every lead, trying to get a break.

Detectives hoped that the bloody eye glasses found at the scene would crack the Kmeic case, just as a pair of specs had lead Chicago cops to Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in 1924. Leopold and Loeb were convinced they’d committed the perfect crime, a thrill killing, when they murdered 14 year old Bobby Franks. The prescription eye glasses proved them wrong.

LLtrib1

As Sheriff’s investigators continued to probe for answers, Andy Kmiec’s body was sent by air to East Chicago, Indiana, for burial.

As it turned out, Andy Kmiec’s killer wouldn’t be identified by his eye glasses, but rather by the sharp eyes of a Sheriff’s records clerk.

NEXT TIME: The Sheriffs make an arrest in Andy Kmiec’s murder.

The Want Ad Killer

A shoe is seen next to a pool of blood after a fight in downtown Rome-1450028

How many times have you seen a single shoe lying in the road? Did you ever wonder how it got there? I came up with an answer when I was a kid. I was convinced that the shoe was there because the owner had been snatched out of it by a violent death.

I speculated that the lone shoe’s owner may have been hit by a car, or involved in some other type of fatal incident. Even now whenever I spy a single shoe in the road it will cause me to shiver just a little bit.

My husband Scott, who is accustomed to my obsession with mayhem and murder, thought my theory was ghoulish for a kid. Hey, I never claimed to have been a laugh riot as a ten year old.

However, this next case vindicates me on the whole shoe thing.

On the night of November 21, 1953, Menlo Butler was driving with his family when his son shouted:

“Daddy, there’s a new shoe in the road!”

Menlo pulled his car over and parked approximately 50 yards east of Painter Avenue near Lakeland Road. A new shoe wasn’t the only thing Butler had discovered. He found blood-spattered, rimless glasses, the belt from a woman’s dress, and a button, comb, penny and two unfired .38 cartridges. He was trying to decide what to do next when L.A. Sheriff’s Deputies, Rowley and Webster, accompanied by a young woman, pulled up in a patrol car.

Butler turned to the cops and said:

“Officers, look what I found.”

He showed them the belt and other items he’d found in the road, and then he said:

“And look over there.”

He pointed to the south shoulder of Lakeland Road where Deputies Rowley and Webster saw the body of a man lying on his face in the weeds. They phoned in for an ambulance which came and took the man to Pico Emergency Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Merrill Colton.

dolly_kmiecThe young woman who had accompanied Deputy Sheriffs Rowley and Webster to the scene of the shooting was twenty-one year old Dolly McCormick. She had been with the victim, identified as thirty-three year old Andrew Kmiec, when he was shot. Somehow she had managed to escape the assailant, flag down a passing car, and get to the South Whittier Pharmacy at 13331 Telegraph Road where she phoned the cops from a booth.

When the deputies rolled up to the pharmacy they found Dolly waiting for them. The officers asked her to get into the radio car so she could direct them to the scene, but she hesitated — she was terrified. She said:

“No. I don’t want to go back there – he is still there and he will shoot me.”

When asked who “he” was, Dolly said she didn’t know, the man was a stranger.

Dolly told Rowley and Webster everything she could recall from the time that Andrew Kmiec, the victim, had picked her up in North Hollywood at approximately 4:30 p.m, until the shooting in South Whittier about two hours later.

Andrew and Dolly had planned a dinner date, but first Andrew had an errand to run and he wanted her to accompany him. He had advertised his car, a 1953 Mercury convertible, for sale in the papers and a man had called him and wanted to meet him at the Biltmore Hotel, downtown, at 5:30 p.m.

kmied

The couple drove to the Biltmore  where Andrew left Dolly to wait for him while he ran into the lobby to meet the prospective buyer. A short time later Andrew returned with a man, whose name Dolly couldn’t recall. The stranger told Andrew that he liked the car but wanted to show it to his wife. If she liked it Andrew would be paid in cash that evening.

Dolly said that the man sat on her right in the front seat of the car and they drove toward Whittier. The trio made small talk during the drive. The man told them that he worked in the pottery business, but Dolly became suspicious of him because it seemed to her that he was lying about his position. He gave odd answers to her inquiries and contradicted himself a couple of times. She was further alarmed when he was unable to provide clear directions to his home.

Finally, they pulled up in front of a house on a dark street and the stranger pulled a gun. Dolly said Andrew told the man he could take all of the money he had, the car, and some stocks and bonds at home if he would let them go. The stranger told him no, that he was a killer, hired to do away with Andrew and that he was being well paid for the job.

Pointing his weapon at Andrew, the stranger told him to get in to the rear seat. He then asked Dolly if she could drive. When she said yes the man motioned her into the front seat and told her to take the wheel. The stranger sat next to her, but kept his weapon pointed at Andrew.

Finally the man told Dolly to stop the car, then he leaned over the back seat and fired three shots at Andrew. Dolly quickly got out of the car on the driver’s side. She thought the killer had grabbed the belt of her dress, but it didn’t slow her down. Neither did the shot she thought she heard ring out as she ran for her life.

NEXT TIME:  Det. Sgts. Hamilton and Lovretovich begin the investigation into Andrew Kmiec’s murder.