Shootout at the Selma Hotel, Conclusion

shirt clueAccording to the attorneys for Tom Bay and Ed “Red” Carmichael, the red shirt that James “Yakima Jim” Anson died in was going to clear their clients of murder.  The shirt would supposedly show that there had been a terrific battle prior to the shooting, thus clearing Tom and Red of a cold-blooded slaying. Unfortunately,  the shirt had disappeared.

On August 26, 1925 a telegram originating from Shosone, Idaho cleared up the mystery of the red shirt. It wasn’t lost and the cops hadn’t concealed it, it had accompanied Yakima’s body to Idaho where it was burned.

Tom and Red’s preliminary hearing lasted for several weeks. At the end of it only Tom was held to answer for Yakima’s murder. Justice Russell released Red, apparently believing the man’s story that he’d been out of the room when the fatal shot was fired. Even though Red had left Yakima’s room for a short time he seemed to know that Tom had produced a revolver, faced Yakima, and said: “Now I’ve got you just where I want you.” He said he heard a scuffle and then a shot. He ran back into the room in time to see Tom escape out the hotel window.jury baffled

As a Hollywood cowboy Tom spent much less time on a horse than he did with a cocktail glass in his hand. His wife Pearl testified that whenever he came home drunk, which was often, he would attempt to crawl under a chiffonier that was only six inches from the floor.  On the day that Yakima was shot Tom came home and again tried to hide under the furniture. Pearl intervened, and then she listened as he told her a garbled tale of Yakima’s shooting. Pearl said: “He told me there had been a shooting and that Anson was badly hurt, but I got the impression he had shot himself. Tom didn’t say anything about having shot him and didn’t seem to know who had.”

Tom Bay c. 1931

Tom Bay c. 1931

When Tom took the stand in Judge Kectch’s court he offered his version of Yakima’s death. He readily admitted that he’d been drinking, but he claimed there were several other men in the  hotel room–which didn’t square with Red’s account. Tom said that Yakima had drawn the gun and started waving it around. It was during a struggle for possession of the weapon that it discharged. Yakima staggered back against the wall and slowly slid into a sitting position on the floor. According to Tom, Red came back into the room (he’d been in the bathroom) and told the wounded man to “snap out of it” and “the cops might come because that gun went off.” Rather than wait for the cops, or check to see if Yakima was okay,  Tom crawled through an open window and dropped to the sidewalk–leaving Red to face the music. Red picked up the revolver, realized it was his, and headed for the door. He didn’t even get out of the hotel before the cops took him into custody. Tom was picked up later.

tom freedThroughout the trial Tom maintained that he didn’t know that Yakima had been shot when he fled from the room. For me that stretches the bounds of credibility, but evidently the jury bought the story because following twenty hours of deliberation they acquitted him. Dozens of men in high-heeled boots, holding ten-gallon hats, and grinning swarmed Tom and slapped him on the back in congratulations.

There are several unanswered questions in this case. Who brought Red’s gun to the room, and why? It seems likely that Tom had somehow managed to get his hands on the weapon and, in his inebriated condition, thought he’d scare an apology out of Yakima for making rude comments about Pearl. Did the gun go off accidentally as Tom insisted or was he drunk enough to pull the trigger in anger?tragedy

We’ll never know for sure and all that matters is the jury’s decision. However if you believe, as I do, that Tom was at the least guilty of involuntary manslaughter then you’ll be interested to know how he fared following his acquittal.

In May 1931, Pearl sued Tom for divorce. She said that she had sold her piano and car to pay for his attorneys; however, he was not only ungrateful, he treated her badly. He was physically and emotionally abusive and he cheated on her over and over. Pearl had discovered love letters and overheard Tom talking to another woman on the phone in a tone of voice that went beyond friendly. To buttress her case Pearl produced a handful of letters written by a woman living in Deadwood, South Dakota. They were torrid enough to have courtroom spectators on the edge of their seats. Pearl won her divorce. Tom continued his film career. He appeared, mostly uncredited,  either as a stunt double or as a heavy in popular horse operas into the early 1930s.

Mary Frances Miller

On October 11, 1933, actress Mary Frances Miles received a telephone call from her friend Alta Lessert. Alta said she and her live-in lover, cowboy actor Tom Bay, had been fighting. Alta may have been looking for moral support or a referee–in any case Mary went to help. She arrived at Alta and Tom’s house at 602 North Lincoln Boulevard, Burbank and tried to keep the peace. She thought she had succeeded in getting the combative couple to calm down–she saw them embrace and kiss–but moments later she heard a gunshot.

Alta ran from the living room to the bedroom.  Alta was standing with a gun in her hand  Tom’s back was to her and he had his hands raised above his head. Alta fired another shot and Tom fell to the floor.

Mary ran from the house to phone the police. On her way to get help she passed the bedroom window. She looked in and saw Alta hold the muzzle of the gun against her breast and fired twice. She collapsed on the floor beside the dead cowboy. lessert_mailbox

Tom died at the scene, a bullet through his heart. Alta’s ribs deflected the bullets and she survived to stand trial for his murder. She claimed self-defense. Tom had been violent with her before and the day he died he had been drinking heavily and threatened to kill her. She had grabbed the gun before he could reach it and fired. Several character witnesses testified on Alta’s behalf–most of them were cowboy actors: Buck Bucko, Roy Bucko, Jack Castle, and Jack Padjan. The men said Tom was a known troublemaker.

The jury deadlocked 6 to 6. The D.A. wanted to re-try Alta, but Judge Fricke dismissed the murder charge saying that he didn’t believe a conviction was possible.

Just as Tom had done nine years earlier, Alta walked out of court a free woman.

Jealousy and Gin

ruth maloneBy December 1927 twenty-three-year-old Ruth Malone had been in Los Angeles for about 4 months. She’d fled Aberdeen, Washington to escape her husband John, a jealous and violent drunk. She used her mother’s address at 244 North Belmont Avenue, but lived with a girl friend in an apartment at 9th and Flower. She kept the address of the apartment a secret just in case John tried to find her. She worked half a mile from the apartment at a drug store on East Twelfth between Santee Street and Maple Avenue. Ruth had spent the last few months seriously contemplating divorce but she wasn’t in any hurry to confront John.

It was 11 o’clock on the morning of Wednesday, December 7, 1927 and Ruth had started her work day when John turned up. She hadn’t even known he was in town. He was obviously drunk and made a scene. He wanted Ruth to come back to him, but she wasn’t interested in a reconciliation and John stormed out. He returned at noon and began to plead with Ruth.  Again she accused him of being drunk. He copped to it–in fact he said that he’d been drinking for three weeks straight and would stay drunk until Ruth agreed to come back to him. She refused. He pulled a revolver from his pocket. Ruth clocked it and made a dash for the rear of the store. Her escape route was cut off by some partitions–she was trapped. As twenty people watched John began firing and each shot hit its mark. Ruth was hit in the chest, face and hip. Satisfied that he’d killed her, John turned the gun on himself. One bullet entered his chest a few inches above his heart and then he raised the weapon to his head and fired.malone shooting in store

The police were called and when Detectives Lieutenants Hickey, Stevens and Condaffer, of the LAPD’s Central Station Homicide Squad arrived they found Ruth dead and John nearly so. Detective Hickey was shocked when John summoned the strength to say “I’m sorry I killed her, but give me a smoke before I croak, will you?” Hickey later said that even though John believed he was dying his first thought appeared to be of a cigarette. The detectives also found an incoherent note in John’s pocket, the ramblings of a man driven to murder by jealousy and gin.

malone_near deathInvestigators learned that John was 29-years-old and that he had an arrest record. He’d been busted in Oakland on October 10, 1917 on a burglary charge and later in San Francisco for violation of the State Poison Act (a drug charge). John had been in Los Angeles for a few weeks. He was staying at a hotel just a few blocks away from Ruth’s workplace.

As John lay in a bed in General Hospital fighting for his life, a Coroner’s jury charged him with Ruth’s slaying. If he lived he would be tried for her murder. Ruth was buried in Graceland Cemetery following a private funeral at Mead & Mead undertaking parlor.

It was touch and go for a few weeks but John pulled through and by February 1928 he was well enough to stand trial. L.V. Beaulieu, his court-appointed attorney, unsuccessfully attempted to use John’s three week long drinking spree as an excuse for the murder but the judge sustained the prosecution’s objections. Alcohol induced amnesia was a poor defense strategy. The jury quickly returned a guilty verdict with no recommendation for leniency. Under the law Judge Fricke had no alternative but to sentence John to be hanged. He was transported to San Quentin to await execution.malone_hickman2On March 20, 1928 John and several other death row inmates welcomed a newcomer to their ranks, William Edward Hickman. Hickman, who had given himself the nickname “The Fox” had been sentenced to death for the brutal mutilation murder of 12-year-old Marion Parker, a crime he had committed only ten days after John had killed Ruth. The two dead men walking had met in the Los Angeles County Jail while each was awaiting trial. John cornered Hickman on one occasion and blamed him for inciting the public to a renewed interest in capital punishment–resulting in his own date with the hangman.

malone_mug2John’s sentence was automatically appealed but the State Supreme Court upheld the death penalty. Judge Fricke re-sentenced John to hang. Unless something changed he would meet his end on December 7, exactly one year to the day since Ruth’s murder. John had evidently changed his mind about dying since his suicide attempt because he was part of a Thanksgiving escape plot that failed. To prevent him from any further attempts to tunnel out of San Quentin he was moved to the death cell.

As a condemned man, John’s final requests were honored. He was given a record player and listened repeatedly to “I Want to Go Where You Go” until it was time for him to climb the thirteen steps to the scaffold. One year before, just moments after killing Ruth, John’s first thought had been for a cigarette. Nothing had changed in the year since. John was still smoking as guards placed the black cap over his head. As he dropped he quipped: “Well boys, I got a run for this one.” The cigarette was jerked from his lips. Three witnesses, one of them a guard, fainted. John Joseph Malone was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

Jealously and gin make a lethal cocktail.

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.

 

 

The Fall of a Gridiron Great, Conclusion

hawkins_idol_arrested_photoFormer USC football idol, Johnny Hawkins, was arrested for burglary in the home of Biltmore orchestra leader, Earl Burnett. He was found in the living room holding a flashlight and listening to the radio. Hawkins immediately confessed to more than two dozen residential burglaries over the period of a few months, and he told the police that he had committed the crimes because he desperate for money in part because his wife had major medical bills.

Hawkins was about the last guy that anyone would have expected to turn to crime. He had been the captain and quarterback of the USC football team, in fact he was an all around fine athlete playing football, baseball and basketball with equal skill. He could have had a career in any of the sports in which he excelled, but the first couple of years following his graduation from college had proved difficult for Johnny.

Cops were baffled when Johnny led them to the attic of his parent’s Fullerton home and showed them his ill-gotten loot because he had made no attempt to sell any of the items. If he was in serious need of money why would he have kept the loot?

Another odd wrinkle in the case came when it was discovered that about a week before Johnny’s arrest one of his younger brothers, Jimmy, had been taken into custody for grand theft.hawkins_brother_accused

In early June 1928, just days prior to Johnny’s arrest, Jimmy Hawkins had stopped in at the home of Mrs. Betty Sheridan on Normandie Avenue. While Betty was on the telephone with her sister Jimmy disappeared, taking with him $1500 worth of her jewelry. It isn’t clear how Jimmy became acquainted with Betty — she said she knew his father was a prominent citizen in Fullerton but didn’t seem to know anything else about the young man or his background.

Jimmy was taken into custody by the LAPD, and while he was cooling his heels in a jail cell he got a visitor — his older brother Johnny. Johnny delivered a severe lecture to his sibling and convinced the younger man to return the stolen jewelry. The D.A. declined to press charges and Jimmy was released.

Unfortunately, Johnny’s encounter with the law didn’t go nearly as well as his brother’s had and he was charged with thirty-one counts of burglary. If Johnny thought his life couldn’t get any worse he was wrong. His brother Jimmy was arrested again — but this time it was as an accomplice.

The L.A. Times likened Johnny to Fagin, the receiver of stolen goods and leader of a group of thieving children in the Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist”. Not a flattering comparison, and it demonstrated how far Johnny had fallen, at least in the eyes of the press.

hawkins_headJimmy didn’t hold up well under interrogation and he confessed, but he shifted the bulk of the blame onto his older brother. He told cops that when he became unwilling to continue the residential crime spree, Johnny became domineering and forced him to continue the illicit activities.

Johnny hired an attorney, Joe Ryan, who appeared to believe in his client. Hawkins had confided in Ryan that he was stealing because he was seized by an uncontrollable mania, which he believed had been caused by an injury to his head while playing football. He had a lump over his left eye that may have been the outward sign of severe brain trauma.

Johnny finally got a piece of good news when his brother Jimmy recanted his confession. Jimmy said:

“I was so sleepy. They (the cops) wouldn’t let me sleep for two nights and I didn’t know what I was signing.”

In August 1928, Johnny Hawkins appeared in Superior Court to plead guilty to five out of thirty-one counts of burglary and to file an application for probation so that he might avoid a prison term. Hawkins’ attorney, Joe Ryan, told the court that his client was under the care of Dr. Cecil Reynolds, a brain specialist, who intended to perform brain surgery to relieve pressure believed to have been caused by a football injury — an injury on which Johnny blamed his recent criminal tendencies.

While awaiting a probation hearing Johnny fainted and fell to the concrete floor of the attorney’s room in the jail and received another serious skull injury.

Despite the compelling argument that his repeated head injuries had caused Hawkins to pursue a brief life of crime there was no recommendation for probation, and Superior Judge Fricke sentenced the former college gridiron great to from five to seventy-five years in prison!

Given an opportunity to address the court, Johnny said:

“Don’t you think I would be a respectable citizen after all this trouble if I were given another chance?”

To which Judge Fricke replied:

“I am sorry, but I am not certain that you would be.”

After the pronouncement of sentence, Johnny shook hands with his counsel, who was also a friend of his from his glory days at USC, then bowed his head and walked from the courtroom manacled to a deputy sheriff.hawkins_prison_term

Nothing ever came of the  brain operation that Johnny had hoped for.

Hawkins served twenty-nine months in San Quentin before he was paroled. For seven years following his release he held a position in M.G.M’s art department; he even coached the studio basketball team to championships.

On May 22, 1939, thirty-seven year old Johnny Hawkins died of an apparent brain abscess. Dr. Louis Gogol, assistant county autopsy surgeon, stated that in his opinion the injury Johnny had received while playing football at USC was the probable reason for the string of burglaries that he’d committed eleven years earlier.  He went on to say that the previous injury was definitely the cause of his premature death.

hawkins_vindicatedIt is profoundly sad that only death could vindicate Johnny Hawkins, but shockingly things haven’t changed much in 85 years. Other than repeated brain trauma, the risk factors for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) remain unknown. The disease can only be definitively diagnosed postmortem.