The Death of Love, Part 3

Helen with her hands on her head. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Helen with her hands on her head. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Helen was arrested at the Del Mar Club for Harry’s murder. She was overheard saying, “His mother is to blame for all this.” Cora may well have been a mean spirited, selfish, bitch and Harry may have been a weak, wuss of a man, but nowhere in the California State Penal Code does it mandate a death sentence for wussiness. And if it did, it wouldn’t have been up to Helen to mete out justice.

Helen was booked at the Santa Monica Jail and then transferred to the County Jail where she was held without bail. She was so distraught that she attempted to hang herself in her cell with a polka dot scarf she’d been wearing. Fortunately for her a sharp-eyed matron saw what was happening and intervened.

Helen being booked. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Helen being booked. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Following her failed attempt at self-destruction, Helen spent the next few days wailing to anyone who would listen that she wanted to see Harry one more time. Because it was 1937 and not 2017, Helen was unbelievably granted permission to view Harry’s body at the funeral home. A request made by a killer her view her victim’s remains would never fly today.

When Helen arrived at the funeral home her first question for the undertaker was whether or not Cora Love had been by to view Harry. According the undertaker, Cora had come in earlier and and she was in deep shock.  Helen stiffened for a moment and then she nearly shouted, “Harry knows whose fault it was.  He knows and I know…” Helen walked over to Harry’s coffin and lifted the drape that covered it. She kissed him and said, “Darling, you are happier than me. You don’t blame me, do you , darling? I love you my dear, I love you. Your hands don’t feel cold to me. You won’t be lonely darling. My heart will always be with you.” Helen turned to the undertaker and made him promise to bury a tiny heart-shaped wreath of roses of Harry, “Do this for me. Please say you’ll do this for me,” she pleaded. Harry was buried at the Hollywood Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever Cemetery).

mrs-love-tells-shotHelen’s one way chat with Harry was creepy, but things were about to get stranger.

At the inquest Howard H. Spencer, brother-in-law of Mrs. Love, testified that Harry Love was a single man. Helen whispered, “He lies.” Among the other witness who appeared were Neil Johnson and L.B. Nelson, employees at the Del mar club; Max Daniels, in whose taxicab Helen rode to the scene of the shooting; George Hahn, wine steward at the club, who testified that the distraught woman asked to be allowed to touch her husband while he way dying in the clubhouse; Chester L. Dewey, who witnessed the shooting from a parking lot across the street; Capt. Elmer Lingo of the Santa Monica Police Department, and Officers Thomas Garrett and Charles Horn, who arrested Helen.

While the Coroner’s jury was deliberating, Helen sobbed out the story of her brief marriage to one reporter in particular, Aggie Underwood. “We were beautiful in love. But Harry was so afraid of his mother. His affection for his mother and hers for him were strange and frightening. Ten months ago Harry and I drove down into Mexico and at a little town below Ensenada we were married. It was a mysterious trip because harry wouldn’t tell me where we were going and when we started I didn’t know he planned to be married.”killer-kisses-mate

Because of Cora, Harry refused to announce the marriage, and that stung. “It was agonizing to be so in love with a man and not have him with me,” Helen said. “Three months after our wedding, I told Harry I was going to show his mother our marriage certificate. He took it from me and said he had placed it in a safety deposit box and that I would never see it again until we had a home of own.”

Helen pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Her defense was that she’d brought the gun to the club fearing that Harry would threaten her. What? She wasn’t invited to the Del Mar Club and it was her idea to take Harry’s pistol, get into a cab, and go to Santa Monica. At any point along the way she could have changed her mind and returned home. The fact that she didn’t speaks to her state of mind and her intention. Helen insisted that the pistol fired accidentally when she tried to pull it out of her pocket.

Cora Love testifies. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

Cora Love testifies. Photo courtesy of LAPL.

If you’ve ever handled a weapon you know that it takes about five to eight pounds of pressure to pull the trigger of the average hand gun. Then there was the fact that Helen shot multiple times. Even if one was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on the alleged accidental discharge, it wouldn’t explain the multiple shots she fired at Harry while chasing him out of the club and down the street. Helen’s account was also at odds with eye witness testimony and her original statement to the cops in which she confessed to the crime.

While she awaited trial, Helen sat in her County Jail cell and wrote poetry to her dead husband.

“Strange sea, strange air,
Ah, but let us not forget
All our happy days together.

Then let them sound one high call,
For I shall be waiting
On some plain
In gold field or satin rain.

Waiting for all that our love could ever bring,
Deathless in our remembering.”

Helen was no Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but her effort was heart felt.

The trial lasted several days, and finally the jury of seven women and five men were instructed by Judge Frank M. Smith:

“You may find this defendant guilty of murder in the first degree and fix the penalty at death.  You may return a first degree murder verdict, but set life imprisonment as the penalty.  You may return a second degree murder verdict, or a manslaughter verdict, or you may, after a careful study of the evidence before you determine that the defendant is not guilty.”

During deliberations one of the jurors, Mary Plettner, a 45 year old house wife, was found in contempt of court after the jury foreman, Harry Joannes, reported her for being drunk. Evidently Mary had hidden a bottle of booze in the women’s bathroom.  Joannes said that Plettner was in no fit condition to continue. Despite the problem with Mrs. Plettner, Judge Smith expressed his faith in the American jury system; however, he said he believed a juror in a case involving a homicide should remain sane and normal during deliberations.

Mary Plettner, drunk juror; jail matron; Helen Love.  Photo courtesy LAPL.

Mary Plettner, drunk juror; jail matron; Helen Love. Photo courtesy LAPL.

An alternate took Plettner’s place, and one hour later, Helen was found guilty of second degree murder. Helen stunned the courtroom by asking to waive her not guilty by reason of insanity plea. She said she wasn’t crazy when she shot Harry.

Due to her request, her sentencing was delayed.

Back in county lock-up Helen told fellow inmates “I can make myself die whenever I want to” and she told a jail matron “I can sit in this chair, or lie down on this bed and kill myself by strength of will power”.

Three days later, Helen lapsed in to a coma that appeared to have been self-induced.

NEXT TIME:  Is Helen faking a coma? What do the doctors think? Will she live to face sentencing for Harry’s murder?

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.

charles guy_portrait_usc_resize

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.