A Visit From the Sheriff — 2016

Ching-ching-a-ling! Ching-ching-a-ling!
Are those sleighbells I hear?
No.
It’s gunfire…

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T’was the week before Christmas, December ’54
David Cox’s house was filled with violence, mayhem and smashed crockery galore.

David’s Downey neighbors awoke to ruckus and clatter,
and wondered just what in the hell was the matter.

It must be that S.O.B. Cox, they concluded —
a few beers in his belly and he’s completely deluded.

They turned away from their windows and went back to their beds,
where they pulled the covers up over their heads.

David had arrived home three hours late,
with booze on his breath and his eyes filled with hate.

His wife, Billie, had made a modest request
for $25 to buy each of their girls a new dress.

“Mary and Katherine don’t need presents, you frivolous bitch!”
David picked up a lamp and smashed it to bits.

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He ripped out the windows, wood frames and plaster,
then sped off in his truck leaving behind a disaster.

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Later that evening when David came home
he drove his truck into a fence, then lurched around drunk and alone.

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Hello! Anyone home? He shouted to the empty house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

His children were frightened and his pregnant wife was alarmed,
she tooks the kids to her mother’s so they wouldn’t be harmed.

The Norwalk Sheriff’s station was called, and deputies rushed to the scene.
David was wielding a shotgun and he looked pretty damned mean.

“Drop your weapon!” the deputies shouted calling David by name.
But Cox opened fire and the cops did the same.

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Sgts. Lovretovich and Piper stood over David who was collapsed on the lawn.
He’d taken multiple rounds — he was deceased, he was gone.

Why didn’t he do as we said, they pondered aloud; to behave as he had —
he must have been crazy, he must have been mad!

david coxDavid’s drinking and anger had cost him his life,
he’d never again see his friends, children, or wife.

Christmas was dismal for the Cox family that year.
Instead of baby dolls, buggies and bears named Ted,
there was a casket, flowers and tears to be shed.

No doubt about it, David Cox had acted a fool.
A moron, an idiot, a jackass, a tool.

Neighbors were heard to exclaim, ere Deputies drove out of sight.

Don’t mess with the Sheriffs, they’ll put up a fight.

 

NOTE: I recently heard from a relative of the Cox family and was heartened to learn that Billie and her children went on to have good lives. David Cox wasn’t an evil man — he was just a guy who tried to solve his problems with a bottle of booze and a shotgun.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and have made it a holiday tradition.  I’m really just an old-fashioned dame at heart. A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS by Clement Clarke Moore  provided the inspiration for this post.  Of course it’s impossible to do justice to the original, but it was fun just the same.

I took very few liberties in writing this story. The details of the shooting are as they appeared in the Los Angeles Times report of the incident. One of my favorite Deputy Sheriffs of the era, Ned Lovretovich, played a role in this story. I’ve written about him  several times and his career continues to fascinate me. Thugs With Spoons is one of my favorite Ned stories.

A big thank you to Mike Fratantoni for bringing this story to my attention–he knows the most deranged tales..

 

Death Doesn’t Sleep

sleep_killer1While researching the THUGS WITH SPOONS post I became curious about Det. Sgt. Ned Lovretovich’s career.  I figured that if two bad guys had hated him enough to try to stab with him sharpened spoons in a courtroom, he must have been a pretty good cop.

I still haven’t discovered too much about Ned’s personal life.  He appears to have been born in the Los Angeles area in 1910, but I don’t know when he became a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. I’m continuing to dig.

Meanwhile, I’ve managed to find a couple more cases to which Lovretovich was assigned, and that made the news. This next case caught my eye because of the headline: KILLED WIFE IN HIS SLEEP, HUSBAND ADMITS TO POLICE: CARRIED BODY IN CAR FOR 19 HOURS, HE SAYS

sleep_killer3.jpgDrinking sprees don’t end well. It’s a fact. If you’re lucky you awaken with a headache that makes you wish that you were dead; if you’re unlucky, like Gerald Mosher was, you awaken from a stupor and discover that your wife is dead and that you strangled her.

Forty-eight year old Gerald, an oil field worker, and his wife of five months, thirty-eight year old Ina, had been drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol in a bar at 12473 San Fernando Road in Sylmar. When the bar closed the couple made their way to a friend’s apartment conveniently located a lurch and a stumble away at the rear of the bar.sleep_killer4
 
The recent bride suddenly told her husband  that she wanted to leave (it’s not clear if she meant she wanted out of the marriage, or just out of the friend’s apartment). In any case, Gerald tried to restrain Ina but fell asleep right in the middle of trying to hold on to her. When he regained consciousness some time later he discovered that his wife was dead.

Rather than report Ina’s death, Gerald carried her body out to his car and propped it up next to him on the seat. He then proceeded to drive around with her corpse for nineteen  hours!sleep_killer2

I wonder if Gerald tried to force Ida’s body into an upright position in the car, or if he just allowed her to slump over. Either way, I picture Gerald, maudlin, on the raw edge of sobriety but wishing he was still smashed, apologizing to Ida’s corpse. Something like: “Baby, I’m sorry — I didn’t mean it.”

Whether he had meant to kill Ina or not, and whether he was asleep when he killed her, as he’d later claim, or simply in a drunken blackout, he sat beside Ina’s dead body for nineteen hours worth of aimless crusing around Southern California until he got the brain storm to take her out to the Mojave Desert for burial.

Gerald changed his mind about interring Ina in the desert; he lost his nerve. But he laid some of her lingerie, shoes, and a purse containing identification papers to rest in a lonely stretch of land at Acton between Palmdale and Saugus. 

While he was digging did he get that prickly feeling at the back of his neck that people often get when they know they’re being observed?  He should have. Mrs. Martha Schulze, a seventy-three year old resident of Acton, was scanning the land around her home with her binoculars when she saw someone dig a hole, cover up some objects, and then drive away abandoning a new shovel. Even if Martha hadn’t been suspicious of a stranger digging near her property, she thought it odd that anyone would leave behind a perfectly good shovel. She called the police.

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Photo courtesy of LAPL Valley Times Collection. Photograph caption reads: “Det. Sgt. Pat Poe, left, questions Gerald Mosher, 48, oilman accused of strangling his wife in Sylmar motel

Sgt. Ned Lovretovich was assigned to the case — it wasn’t a complex investigation. The items that Martha had observed being buried were soon identified by Mary Jane Shields, Ina’s married daughter, as belonging to her mother. Not long after her personal belongs were ID’d, Ina’s body was discovered — it had been dumped along a private road about one-half mile south of San Fernando Road off Balboa Blvd near the San Fernando Reservoir.

Sheriff’s figured that Mosher had some explaining to do — the hunt for Gerald was on. 

Sgts. Ned Lovretovich and J.G. Lawton had a hunch that Mosher wouldn’t run far, and they were right. As they were cruising an area of Sylmar known to be frequented by Gerald they spotted his car parked at a motel and found him inside.

When asked by Ned and his partner what the hell had happened — why had he strangled Ina, Gerald replied:

“I guess I lost my head.”

Mosher insisted that he’d strangled Ina in his sleep, but asleep or in a drunken stupor the charge against him was manslaughter.

Gerald Mosher was found guilty and then sentenced by Superior Judge Clement D. Nye to from one to ten years in the State Penitentiary.

I found nothing to indicate when Gerald was released from prison — although if he behaved himself he likely didn’t do more than a few years.