Corpus Delicti: Epilogue

Ewing Scott was released from prison in 1974, still vehemently denying that he had murdered his wife Evelyn in 1955.

Over the years he had told anyone who would listen than he had been wrongly convicted. By 1980 he was living on Social Security in a downtown Los Angeles hotel. Better accommodations than a prison cell — but not nearly as plush as the Beverly Hills mansion he shared with Evelyn.

Ewing leaves prison.

In 1983, Diane Wagner, a Burbank writer who spent five years as a part-time reporter in the New York Times Los Angeles bureau, began researching the Ewing case. She wanted to write a book about the landmark case.

Diane successfully located Ewing, who didn’t mind talking to an attractive young woman in the least, and asked him all the tough questions. She got the standard Ewing responses.  He told her that he had gone out for tooth powder on May 16, 1955 and when he returned, Evelyn was gone.

Diane interviewed Ewing several times but never got past the wall of denial, until August 5, 1984.  Ewing phoned and said that he wanted to see her one more time because he had something important to tell her.

Expecting nothing, but hoping for the best, Diane went to see Ewing. She brought her tape recorder with her, and she asked Ewing to state his full name and acknowledge that he was being recorded. Once the formalities were concluded, Ewing began to speak: “Well, I arrived in Las Vegas about dusk…” Then, to Diane’s amazement, Ewing confessed to killing Evelyn.

Ewing said that on May 16, 1955, he entered Evelyn’s bedroom with the mallet in his hand. Evelyn looked up and said: “But I haven’t done anything.”  Ewing told Diane, “I hit her in the head with a mallet, a hard rubber mallet. Just once. On the head, right on top.”

Ewing told Diane that he wrapped Evelyn’s naked body in a tarp and loaded it into the trunk of a 1940 Ford and drove into the desert six miles east of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He dumped the body into a sandy grave and then drove over it numerous times to cover his tire tracks.

The murder, digging the grave, and the drive to Vegas had taken a toll on Ewing. He “went to sleep in the car for awhile. Then I drove back to Los Angeles.”

Ewing expressed no remorse for the murder. In fact he bragged to Diane that he was smarter than the police and prosecutors because they never found his wife’s body. His arrogance defies comprehension. If he was so smart then how the hell did he end up in prison for two decades? Ewing also told Diane that Evelyn “deserved to die…she was a terrible person.” And once again he claimed that Evelyn had attempted to poison him. A claim that J. Miller Leavy, the prosecutor in the case, dismissed as completely ludicrous.

Had Ewing finally told the truth, or was the confession another lie like the hundreds he had told over the course of his life?

J. Miller Leavy believed Ewing told the truth when he said he killed Evelyn. But Leavy didn’t believe Ewing had hit Evelyn just once with a mallet, and he wasn’t convinced that Ewing had buried the body in the desert and not reduced it to ashes in the backyard incinerator.

Evelyn and Ewing Scott at the Queen Mary. [Photo found at the LA Daily Mirror blog]

There were several neighbors who recall seeing Ewing tending to a fire at the incinerator on that night in May, and they further remembered the awful stench produced by the smoke. Thirty years after the deed it hardly mattered how he had killed her or disposed of her remains. All that was important was that Ewing had fessed up to the crime.

But nothing was ever simple with Ewing.

About three months after Diane got Ewing’s confession on tape, Tom Towers, a reporter for the Herald Examiner, dropped in on Ewing who was bedridden in a Silver Lake convalescent hospital.

When Tom asked Ewing about Diane he said that she was his third wife and that they had honeymooned in South America.

Ewing also said that he hadn’t seen Diane’s book, “Corpus Delicti” but said that “the publisher is in trouble” for printing it. Tom Towers read to Ewing from the book and Ewing suddenly stopped him and demanded “What do you want?”

Tom wanted to know what had prompted Ewing to acknowledge the murder after three decades of protesting his innocence. Ewing said: “Acknowledge it? I’d be a damn fool to acknowledge it–they never found the body.”

On August 17, 1987, ninety-one year-old Ewing Scott died at the Skyline Convalescent Hospital in Silverlake. He was destitute and alone. His body was taken to the Los Angeles County Morgue where it lay unclaimed for more than a week after his death.

Ewing’s cremains are buried in a mass grave with the other unclaimed dead in Los Angeles County at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

Evelyn’s remains have never been found.

Corpus Delicti, Conclusion

Ewing’s attorneys told reporters they were worried that their client had met with “foul play”. Both the police and the district attorney were convinced that Ewing’s convenient disappearance was a hoax.

District Attorney Ernest Roll said: “By this disappearing act he (Ewing) has apparently again avoided taking the stand and testifying under oath in one of our civil courts. It is further interesting to note that no missing person report has been filed with the Los Angeles Police Department in connection with Scott’s alleged disappearance.” Roll added that if Ewing didn’t appear for his next scheduled court appearance then, “proper legal steps will be taken to produce him.”

With $179,000 (equivalent to $1.5M today) of his missing wife’s assets unaccounted for,  and likely in his possession, Ewing could buy a ticket to anywhere in the world. In his case it would likely be a place with no extradition treaty with the U.S.

If his disappearance was voluntary, then he was in contempt of court in connection with the $6,000 judgement against him by the Wolfer Printing Company for the costs they incurred publishing his book, “How to Fascinate Men.”

Ewing’s recent companion, Marianne Beaman, might have been worried about Ewing after the sedan he’d been driving had been discovered in Santa Monica with bullet holes through the windshield. But her worry paled in comparison to that of Louis and Irving Glasser. The Glassers were the bail bondsmen who had guaranteed Ewing’s bail. If Ewing was a no-show, they’d be out the money.

So, was Ewing sitting on a distant beach sipping a cocktail with a colorful little umbrella in it; or was he dead and buried in an unmarked shallow grave along Angelus Crest Highway? Nobody knew for sure.

As in in many missing persons cases there were reported sightings of Ewing everywhere from Long Beach to Mexico. None of the sightings were verified.

On May 15, 1956, after Ewing failed to show up for his court appearance, District Attorney Roll requested bail in the amount of $100,000, but Superior Court Judge Herbert V. Walker had a better idea. He ordered Ewing’s original $25,000 bail forfeited and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

District Attorney Roll read California Penal Code Section 32 aloud in the courtroom. He intended to drive home his point that anyone who “harbors, conceals or aids a principal … with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment…” would be in an enormous amount of trouble with the law.

If Ewing was missing under his own steam, a likely accessory would be Marianne Beaman, and the police and the district attorney intended to hold her feet to the fire. They had a list of questions that she would be required to answer if she wanted to remain a free woman. One of the questions had to do with a few gifts given to her by Ewing. Items of clothing that had belonged to Evelyn.

A credible sighting of Ewing came from Bishop, California where he had allegedly spent the nights of May 2, 3, 4 and 5. Chief of Detectives Gordon Bowers of the Sheriff’s Department said he had alerted law enforcement entities from Los Angeles north to the Canadian border.

Ewing remained at large through the rest of 1956. On April 15, 1957, eleven months after Ewing had vanished, a man who gave his name as Lewis E. Stewart was arrested in Windsor, Ontario, Canada just across the Detroit River from Detroit. Mr. Stewart strongly resembled Ewing Scott.  And what a coincidence — his initials were the same.

Lewis Stewart was quickly confirmed to be the fugitive Ewing Scott and was confined to a cell on the fifth floor of the Wayne County Jail. As always, Ewing was impeccably dressed and vocal on the topic of his innocence in the death of his wife. “I’m the goat,” he said. “They are trying to make me take the rap for somebody else. I am innocent. I am being prejudged. I do not want to go back to California.”

Ewing was charming and friendly during his interview until a reporter asked him point-blank if he had murdered his wife. Scott replied, “That is an asinine question. It is just plain ridiculous and stupid. It is the last thing I would want to do.”

Ewing unsuccessfully fought extradition to California, and by mid-May he was returned to Los Angeles.

Ewing’s attorney filed a plea to dismiss the murder charge against him, but the judge wasn’t having it. Ewing’s trial for the murder of his wife was set for mid-September.

As Ewing awaited trial he spent a lot of his time attempting to sell his story to the movies. He wanted $200,000 for the tale and he claimed he planned to spend a significant portion of the sum to “follow up on a number of hot leads on the whereabouts of Mrs. Scott.”  According to Ewing Evelyn was missing, not dead.

As far as any possible film, the charming, sophisticated and good looking English actor, Ronald Colman, seemed to Ewing to be the obvious choice to portray him on the big screen. Who would play Evelyn? Ewing wasn’t so sure. “As far as Mrs. Scott goes, I don’t know who would be exactly right. perhaps an older Peggy Lee, or Mary Astor. I’d have to see the woman first.” After further thought, Ewing said about the as yet unnamed actress, “I do know that she’ll have to be smart, dignified and rather good looking–and definitely not the wisecracking type.” Okay. I guess Joan Blondell wouldn’t be considered — although personally I think she would have been a fantastic choice.

Ever the optimist, Ewing said he had no desire to portray himself in the film. He was, of course, certain that he would be free to accept the role if offered and not pacing the yard at San Quentin, or awaiting execution on death row instead of sitting in a canvas director’s chair with his name emblazoned on the back.

The district attorney’s decision to prosecute Ewing for Evelyn’s murder when her body had not been found was an enormous risk. Ewing was the first person in California to face such a trial, making his case one for the books.

Despite the lack of a physical body, Deputy District Attorney J. Miller Leavy, was confident that the corpus delicti of murder could be established. There was a mountain of compelling circumstantial evidence to bolster the State’s case. Leavy was not only certain of a conviction, he asked for the death penalty.

One of the highlights of Ewing’s trial was a visit, by the jurors, to the Beverly Hills home he and Evelyn had occupied. Of particular interest to the jurors was the backyard incinerator where the remains of women’s clothing were found, and also the spot where Evelyn’s denture and eyeglasses had been discovered. One of the female jurors opened the door to the incinerator and peered in — although what she expected to find wasn’t clear.

The defense attempted to cast doubt on the murder charge by claiming Evelyn had been spotted living on the East Coast, but they fell far short of refuting the prosecution’s robust case.

On December 21, 1957, the jury in the Ewing Scott murder trial returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree for the slaying of Evelyn Scott. Ewing showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Several days later, following four hours of deliberation, the jury returned with their sentence: life in prison.

The jurors who agreed to speak with reporters said that they had tried to find a way to acquit Ewing but “we just couldn’t.”  The evidence of Ewing’s greed, manipulation, and the physical evidence of Evelyn’s glasses and denture, and the ashes of clothing, were too great to overcome. Nobody bought his contention that Evelyn was a drunk who left home of her own volition.

Ewing appealed his conviction.  The appeal was denied.  He also had the balls to petition for $600 per month so that, according to him, he could pay to mount an investigation into Evelyn’s disappearance. In February 1963, Ewing was legally denied his request to share in Evelyn’s estate.

In 1974, seventeen years after his conviction for Evelyn’s murder, Ewing was granted parole.  He refused to leave prison. His reason for refusal was that he felt accepting parole would be tantamount to accepting guilt for Evelyn’s murder.

Still vociferously denying his guilt, Ewing was released from prison in 1978.

NEXT TIME: Corpus Delicti Epilogue

Marion Linden’s Life of Crime, Conclusion

Marion Linden morphed from a Ohio high school football star in 1932, to a failed felon with a death wish in Nebraska in 1936. His plan to die in a hail of police bullets in Omaha, thereby easing his parent’s Depression era monetary woes, went south faster than a freight train to Georgia. Marion was given a break, three years probation, and didn’t do any prison time for his dangerous and idiotic behavior.

Marion wasn’t supposed to leave Nebraska, but that didn’t stop him. He married 18-year-old Arlene Fagor in Denver, Colorado, on December 5, 1936. Marriage can be a maturing experience for some, but evidently not for Marion. His good behavior and his marriage lasted all of two months before ending in gun fire. Marion shot Arlene in the heart when he learned that she had been unfaithful to him while he searched for work in Texas. Found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, Marion was sentenced to from seven to eight years in a Colorado prison.

linden headline2By now may be wondering what Marion’s criminal behavior in Ohio, Nebraska, and Colorado has got to do with Los Angeles. Simple. Like many others before him, following his release from prison the ex-con moved to Los Angeles–land of bright blue skies, sunny beaches and, in Marion’s case, third chances. Prison may have mellowed him, and perhaps it did–for a while.  From 1940 to 1957 if he committed any crimes they weren’t serious enough to get his name into the newspapers. Unfortunately, Marion proved to be incapable of keeping his life on track.

On Sunday, March 17, 1957, St. Patrick’s Day, Leo Wise, a 34-year-old LAPD officer from  University Division, was on his evening rounds when he responded to the shouts of a bartender at a bar at Pico and Figueroa. Wise arrived to find an extremely intoxicated man creating a disturbance. Wise pulled the man onto the sidewalk outside the bar and patted him down, but didn’t find a weapon. Officer Wise said, “I don’t want to see you on the street anymore. Go home.” The patrolman then walked off in one direction and the drunk lurched off in another. After watching Officer Wise depart, the man returned to his spot in front of the bar.

When Officer Wise returned later in the evening he found the man where he’d left him. Wise said, “I thought I told you to go home.”  He patted the man down and once again he didn’t find a weapon.  Because the man hadn’t complied with his suggestion to go home and sleep it off, Officer Wise had no other option but to arrest the scofflaw.

Wise walked over to the police call box to request transportation for the man’s trip to the drunk tank–he never saw the pistol.  The man shot twice, hitting Wise in the neck and side. The wounded officer fell to the sidewalk but he managed pull out his service revolver. He got off two shots before the man jumped into a car and drove away.

A small crowd gathered around the fallen officer to render aid. Wise waved them off and gasped, “Take the number of those plates and call the police!”  Officer Wise died of his wounds.

Mexican national Luis Alatorre was driving by the bar with three companions. He witnessed the shooting and didn’t hesitate to drive after the suspect.  Alatorre and his friends flagged down motorcycle officers, Charles Sturtevant and Lloyd Nelson, who continued the pursuit. They stopped the man at Alvarado and 11th.  Alatorre and his companions, who had followed in the motor officers’ wake, pulled up and shouted, “Be careful, he has a gun. He just shot a policeman.” The man yelled at the officers, “you took me, but I got one …  I would like to shoot some more, just like I did the last copper. I’ll bet he is dead.”  The suspect spat in the face of the officer who was handcuffing him.

More officers arrived and one of them said, “Let me have him for a while and I will fix him.” The arresting officer replied that the suspect  “is under arrest and in my custody, so leave him alone.” The suspect said: “Thank you, buddy, for stopping these $#!%&* from beating me up. I’ll beat this in court. You are a good guy.”

linden booked photoLieutenant Gebhart took the suspect to Homicide Division. As they drove, the suspect said:  “I hope you have me for murder. I shot that #@$%&*cop and I intended to kill him. If I had an opportunity I would kill all of you. … I tried to shoot him in the heart. … I shot him with a .32 and I didn’t think it would do that much damage, but I hoped it would.”

The suspect was taken to LAPD’s Homicide Division where he was identified as Marion Linden. Lieutenant Gebhart, and several other officers later testified that Linden, even though he was handcuffed, had kicked and spat at officers and knocked furniture about. Lieutenant Gebhart heard Marion say that three years earlier he had been “framed” by two policemen on a charge of interfering with an officer.  He insisted that the officers had perjured themselves . He was convicted of the charges and during his 90 days in jail he made up his mind that he was going to kill a cop.

Marion bragged that: “it took the jury eight hours of deliberation on a misdemeanor charge to convict me …I’m very tough to beat.”  He also said that he had beaten one other murder rap and he would beat the charges against him for the murder of Leo Wise.

Marion was wrong. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Two years later, on July 30, 1959, Lt. Governor Glenn M. Anderson granted Marion a clemency hearing. The hearing came just in time. Marion was scheduled to go to the gas chamber in about a week. Governor Brown told reporters he wouldn’t interfere in the case, and left for a junket in Puerto Rico.

Marion’s execution was delayed while he acted in Pro Per and filed his own appeals. A few minor errors were corrected in the trial record but, apart from that, nothing substantive was changed. Marion’s death penalty stood.

On January 1, 1960, a fist fight broke out on death row. Marion and several other inmates, including the infamous “Red Light Bandit”, Caryl Chessman, got into an argument in their exercise area as they were about to watch the Rose Bowl game on TV. The fight ended when one of the combatants smashed the television on the floor and guards came in to separate the inmates. The fray was likely instigated by Chessman, but each of the other men saw an opportunity to mix it up and jumped in. They had nothing to lose.linden executed

Marion’s early life had showed promise, but somewhere along the line he lost his way. He became a violent and bitter man intent on murder. On July 12, 1961 forty-three year-old Marion James Linden paid for his life of crime in California’s gas chamber.

Marion Linden’s Life of Crime, Part 1

In March 1932 the Elyria, Ohio Chronicle Telegram sang the praises of an Avon High School sophomore for scoring ten field goals, bringing his team to its eleventh straight win for the season. The young man had his whole life ahead of him.

Fast forward to Omaha, Nebraska, April 1936. Marion James Linden, former high school grid iron star from Ohio, was living up to the speed he showed in scoring ten field goals. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old was speeding towards a life of crime. Marion was busted for stealing two automobiles, kidnapping three men and staging a holdup in only 45 minutes. Quite an accomplishment.

News-UT-OG_ST_EX.1936_04_03_LINDEN_headlineWhy was Marion on a crime spree? He told reporters: “I wanted to commit self-destruction in such a way my insurance policy would not be invalidated through the suicide clause.” Suicide by cop would have been his parents the princely sum of $1200 (equivalent to $20,814.77 in current USD). No doubt the cash would have helped his family weather the Depression. Marion entered a guilty plea, but a few days later he reappeared in court and changed his plea to innocent. He was placed on probation for 2 years.

By early February 1937, Marion was living in Denver, Colorado. By mid-February he was in jail on a murder charge. Marion shot Arlene, his 18-year-old bride of two months, in the heart.NEWS-NE-EV_ST_JO.1937_02_22_LINDEN_headline

Marion believed that while he was in Texas trying to find employment as an oil field worker, Arlene was in Denver having an affair. When Marion returned from Texas he immediately went to the home of his in-laws, the Cochrans, where Arlene was staying. He told Detective Captain James E. Childers that he pleaded with Arlene to give up her lover, and when she refused he shot her. But there may have been more to Marion’s motive than jealousy. Capt. Childers quoted Marion as saying that a divorce would have revealed a violation of his Nebraska probation agreement and he would have been compelled to return there to serve out the three year sentence for his mini-crime spree in April 1936.

News-CO-GR_DA_TR.1937_04_24_LINDEN_headlineMarion was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Judge Henry A. Hicks pronounced sentence–from seven to eight years in the state penitentiary. Lewis D. Mowry, Marion’s attorney, said that the his client had no plans to appeal, nor would he seek a new trial.

After serving only three years of his sentence, Marion was released in 1940. At that point he falls off the radar. Did Marion go straight? As an ex-con he may have found it difficult to get a fresh start, but If he committed any further crimes they weren’t newsworthy.

Marion resurfaced in Los Angeles in 1957 where he would once again be the topic of news stories.

Next time:Marion’s story concludes.

Nightfall [1957]

nightfall_ver2

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 NIGHTFALL, directed by Jacques Tourneur (known for CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and THE LEOPARD MAN). The movies stars: Aldo Ray, Brian Keith and Ann Bancroft.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

As James Vanning furtively roams the street of Los Angeles, a man stops him and asks for a light. Afterward, Jim wanders into a bar and meets Marie Gardner when she asks him to lend her five dollars because she misplaced her wallet. After she shows him her driver’s license and promises to send the money to him the next morning, he hands her a five dollar bill and invites her to dinner. Meanwhile, the man in the street, an insurance investigator named Ben Fraser who has been trailing Jim for three months in hopes of retrieving $350,000 Jim allegedly stole from a bank, returns home and confides to his wife Laura that he thinks Jim may be innocent.

The Wilshire Prowler, Conclusion

bashor-doomed_picDonald Bashor, 27, confessed to dozens of local burglaries and to the bludgeon slayings of Karil Graham and Laura Lindsay. Under intense police questioning Donald didn’t admit to any further offenses, and as far as investigators could tell he’d revealed the extent of his crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Finnerty issued a subpoena for Officer Donald C. Wesley, who had shot and wounded Bashor during his attempt to evade capture. Among the others called to appear before the grand jury were Detective Lieutenant Jack McCreadie, and autopsy surgeons Dr. Frederick Newbarr and Dr. Gerald K. Ridge.

Bashor was indicted on two counts of murder and two counts of burglary. The burglary charges stemmed from the looting of the apartment at 215 South Carondelet Street shared by Dorothy Cowan, Marcella Drews and Eunis Wingel. Lester E. Olson of 325 South Occidental Boulevard, was also burglarized by Bashor. Both crimes were committed about thirty minutes prior to the murder of Karil Graham.

The twenty-seven year-old killer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and his trial was set for August 14, 1956 in Judge Allen T. Lynch’s court. Because of the insanity plea Bashor would undergo examination by alienists for the State and the defense before the trial.

There are often delays in murder trials and Bashor’s was no exception, it didn’t get underway until October 4, 1956.  The four alienists who examined Bashor deterined that he was sane when he committed the murders.

With the ultimate penalty on the table it was going to be a tough trial. But before the jury could be sworn in the defendant interrupted the proceedings to enter a guilty plea. Terrence Cooney, Bashor’s attorney, was as dumbfounded by his client’s move as was everyone else in the courtroom. Cooney didn’t want any part of placing a banana peel between his client and the gas chamber so he refused to go forward. Bashor fired him.

With Cooney still standing next to Bashor, Superior Judge Allen T. Lynch explained to the defendant that the law prohibits acceptance of a guilty plea in a capital case without benefit of counsel. Cooney must have decided to bend to his client’s will because Judge Lynch accepted the guilty plea. Along with the plea, Judge Lynch also accepted responsibility for determining Bashor’s sentence.

On October 16, 1956, Judge Lynch was ready to pronounce sentence. The courtroom was quiet as the judge began to speak. “This is the most difficult duty I have ever had to perform. For the last four days I have been able to think of nothing else. These were cruel, brutal killings. I find no mitigating circumstances.”

According to newspaper reports Judge Lynch appeared to have difficulty speaking. He paused for several long beats and then continued. “On counts one and three (the two murders) the court sentences you to suffer the death penalty. May God have mercy on your soul!”bashor-doomed

It took about a year for the California State Supreme Court to review the automatic appeal and affirm the death sentence in Bashor’s case.

On October 10, 1957, the night before his scheduled execution, Donald Bashor refused a last meal and then he slept from 1:05 a.m. to 7:05 a.m. When he awoke he had toast and coffee. He read a handful of letters he had recently received and then turned to the Bible.

Photograph by Edward Gamer / Los Angeles Times Senior Deputy George Coenen, left, and Sgt. Howard Earle, right, escort convicted killer Donald Keith Bashor on his trip to San Quentin, Oct. 25, 1956. Bashor's story was the basis of a "Playhouse 90" episode by Jules Maitland. Bashor's slaying of Graham also plays a prominent role in Jack Webb's "The Badge," a not terribly accurate book reissued in 2005.

Photograph by Edward Gamer / Los Angeles Times Senior Deputy George Coenen, left, and Sgt. Howard Earle, right, escort convicted killer Donald Keith Bashor on his trip to San Quentin, Oct. 25, 1956. Bashor’s story was the basis of a “Playhouse 90” episode by Jules Maitland. Bashor’s slaying of Graham also plays a prominent role in Jack Webb’s “The Badge,” a not terribly accurate book reissued in 2005.

Unlike many killers, Donald Bashor seemed genuinely remorseful for the murders. His last words were: “I’m glad my crimes are coming to an end. I am sorry I cannot undo the horrible things I did.”

Gas began to fill San Quentin’s death chamber at 10:03 a.m. and at 10:12 a.m. Donald Keith Bashor was pronounced dead.

EPILOGUE

There was something about Donald Keith Bashor that set him apart from many other killers. It may have been his movie star good looks, or it may have been the fact that he  sought atonement for his crimes in the gas chamber. Whatever it was, Bashor’s story became an episode of the prime time TV series PLAYHOUSE 90 in 1958.  Bashor was portrayed by Tab Hunter and the episode was narrated by former Los Angeles Mirror columnist Paul Coates. The highly rated episode was directed by Arthur Penn who would later direct such great films as The Miracle Worker and Bonnie & Clyde.

The episode was not without behind-the-scenes drama. One of the sponsors for the  episode, entitled “Portrait Of A Murderer”, was the Southern California Gas Company. They wanted to eliminate Bashor’s trip to the gas chamber from the script. Producer Martin Manulis flatly refused and the episode aired as written.

Donald Bashor’s story also claimed the attention of ten-year-old James Ellroy.  In 1958, his father gave him a copy of THE BADGE written by TV cop Jack Webb who portrayed Sgt. Joe Friday on DRAGNET. Bashor’s case is the first one covered in the book. In large part it was THE BADGE that inspired Ellroy to become a novelist. It definitely sparked his interest in Los Angeles crime.  Now it’s time for a shameless plug — I was fortunate to work with James Ellroy, Glynn Martin, Megan Martin, Nathan Marsak, and Mike Fratatoni on the book LAPD ’53. The book project was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

EXTRA CREDIT

First, let me direct you to a clip from James Ellroy’s CITY OF DEMONS (2011) in which he glibly recounts the Bashor case.

Next, a far more serious scene from the PLAYHOUSE 90 production of PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER

Film Noir Friday: Plunder Road [1957]

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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 OCEAN’S ELEVEN a caper film starring Rat Pack members: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and auxiliary member Angie Dickinson.  Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

On a dark night of pelting rain, five men stage a well-planned train robbery and get away with a 10,000,000 dollar, nine-ton gold shipment. Dividing the massive haul into three concealed truck loads, the team (only one of them a professional thief) make a would-be inconspicuous escape across country to what they hope will be a perfect getaway…

 

https://youtu.be/0o-ITRQJnxQ

Film Noir Friday: M-Squad – The Golden Look & The Watchdog [1957]

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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.  To shake things up a bit tonight’s offering isn’t a feature film but rather the first two episodes of M SQUAD starring Lee Marvin.  If you’re unfamiliar with the series–you’re in for a treat.

From the description of the DVD box set:

M Squad stands apart because of its unique combination of story, production values, musical score and a great cast portraying crime fighters getting down and dirty on the mean streets. Lee Marvin, a decorated WWII Marine veteran of the South Pacific,where he received the Purple Heart in the Battle of Saipan, stars as Lt. Frank Ballinger, a no-nonsense Chicago plainclothes cop in the elite M Squad Division. The Squad’s (M-for Murder) task is to root out organized crime and corruption in America’s Second City. Marvin’s portrayal of a tough undercover officer, whose perseverance and potential for violence, but with utter cool, permeates each gritty episode, gave Marvin name recognition with the public, and did much to make him a star.

Frank Ballinger’s boss, Captain Grey, is played by Paul Newlan, a fine actor who brings weight and substance to the role of running the M Squad. It is perhaps his most memorable role. In addition to the regular cast, a who’s who of television luminaries and stars-to-be made guest appearances on the show. Among the guest stars were Angie Dickinson, Charles Bronson, Janice Rule, Leonard Nimoy, Ed Nelson, DeForest Kelley, H. M. Wynant and a young Burt Reynolds. But is wasn’t just the crisp, taut story lines and great cast that made M Squad memorable. First, it was shot in gritty, film-noir style black and white. The excellent high contrast cinematography brings Chicago to life, with all of its easily recognizable landmarks, swanky penthouses on Lake Michigan, and the seedy darker side of the city. In fact, M Squad did for Chicago what the Naked City did for New York. Second was the musical score. In keeping with the film noir look of the series, the producers enlisted conductor Stanley Wilson to lead the orchestra in arrangements by legendary jazz men Benny Carter, and a young John Williams (Star Wars). For the second season, the great jazz artist Count Basie wrote the enduring M Squad Theme. It was a perfect marriage of image and sound.

http://youtu.be/48BIFPJld5c

http://youtu.be/nhi5LGwmLGQ

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.

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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.