Narrating Deranged: Dear Hattie — Conclusion

Ten days ago I narrated the first part of the Dear Hattie post. Your feedback was encouraging, and I took your constructive comments to heart. I will get better as I go along. I truly believe that an audio version of Deranged posts is an idea whose time has come.

I have other ideas for content, too. In my research I often find newspaper and magazine stories that run the gamut — some are heartwarming, others sleazy or just flat-out horrifying, but I don’t feel they are enough to support a full written post. These gems are perfect to share via audio.

I’ll begin digging through my files to see what I can unearth.

Meanwhile, here is the conclusion of Dear Hattie.

Narrating Deranged L.A. Crimes

B.C. — Before Covid, I thought about adding narrated versions of Deranged L.A. Crimes blog posts to the site, but I never got around to it; until now.

For a long time I have dreamed of adding another dimension to the blog. I want to provide a variety of ways to access content. I realize it may not always be convenient to sit down and read an entire post. Maybe there are times when you would like to listen to a Deranged tale.

As an experiment I’ve narrated a recent post, Dear Hattie, Part 1. I’ve posted it here, and I’ll post the audio version of the conclusion to Dear Hattie soon.

What do you think about the idea of audio versions of Deranged tales? Is it something you might enjoy? I’d love your input. If you critique my reading be gentle, I’m definitely not a professional.

With unexpected time on my hands, thanks to the Safer at Home order here in Los Angeles, I’ve turned my attention to all types of content and considered various ways to take my passion for crime in new and challenging directions.

Last year I taught a course, The Dark History of Los Angeles, for a community learning organization. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. The biggest problem with teaching a course in person is enrollment. There are only so many people you can cram into a room. With that in mind, I’ve started to develop a curriculum for a series of crime courses I will teach online.

I’m excited about the challenge of online teaching. Whatever changes occur in the post-pandemic world, online courses seem a safe bet. My debut course is a free mini-course, Serial Killers 101. I will let you know as soon as it becomes available.

Thanks again for supporting Deranged L.A. Crimes. I am grateful for every one of you.

Please stay safe and well.

MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT –A CONVERSATION ABOUT HISTORIC LOS ANGELES CRIME

MY INTERVIEW WITH DAVE SCHRADER ON MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT

On March 10th, B.C. (before Covid) I was interviewed by Dave Schrader for his wonderful radio show, MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT. We talked for 3 hours about historic Los Angeles crime.

When I first agreed to do the interview I wondered how we would fill the time. By the 2 1/2 hour mark I knew we’d never be able to cover everything. The time flew. Dave is a terrific host and I recommend that you check out his show. I hope to make a return visit sometime during the summer.

Dave’s area of expertise is the paranormal, but he also has an interest in crime. Here’s a little more about Dave:

Dave Schrader has been one of the leading voices of the paranormal since 2006 when he launched his wildly popular talk show, Darkness on the Edge of Town on Twin Cities News Talk – Minneapolis’s top-rated AM talk station.

The show grew to become one of the station’s most successful shows and most-downloaded podcasts, expanding Schrader’s reach globally. Seeing an opportunity, Schrader moved his show to Chris Jericho’s network of shows on PodcastOne, where he further expanded his worldwide audience.

You can find Dave on MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT.

Ellroycast — Black Dahlia

I was interviewed by Grant Nebel and John Anderson for Ellroycast, their podcast which examines all things James Ellroy.

Grant and John are big fans of Ellroy’s work. His novels, screenplays, articles and LAPD ’53, the photo essay book I was fortunate to work on with James and his co-author Glynn Martin.

Grant, John, and I talked about Ellroy’s novel, The Black Dahlia, vis a vis the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. There is an astonishing number of misconceptions about Beth Short. Over the decades the myth has not just obscured reality, it has devoured it.

As a historian, I have an obligation to uncover and tell the truth. It isn’t easy with a case as infamous as the Black Dahlia.

Each time I read an article that begins with Beth arriving in Hollywood to pursue dreams of stardom I want to hurl the offending document across the room, or set fire to it.

Did Beth write to her mother and tell her she was seeking an acting career? Sure. Was it the truth? Emphatically no! There is no evidence that she went on a single cattle call, appeared as an extra, or did anything other than have the occasional Hollywood address.

Why, then, do the myths persist? Maybe because to some people they seem sexier than the truth. As far as I’m concerned Beth’s real life is more fascinating than the myth.

Her death reveals the dark side of the Greatest Generation. Beth’s story is not the trope for a wanna be Hollywood glamour girl. If you’re seeking a Hollywood tragedy metaphor, then read about Peg Entwistle who jumped 50 feet to her death from the “H” in the Hollywood sign on September 16, 1932.

Beth, and many other young, single women, coped with the chaos of Post-War Los Angeles by drifting from man-to-man, room-to-room and bar-to-bar. Los Angeles was a place where a fixed address was a luxury few could afford (even if they could locate a vacant apartment), and violent crimes committed by troubled vets frequently made headlines.

I’m glad that Ellroycast is visiting his world. His novels capture the zeitgeist of Post-War Los Angeles: the darkness and danger, the violence and the victims.

“I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them”
― James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia

Thanks again to Grant and John for inviting me to Ellroycast.

Dear Hattie, Conclusion

D.C. Kent survived his self-inflicted wounds. The bullet wound in his head was superficial and the gash in his throat healed. With no chance of succumbing to his injuries, D.C. decided to lay the groundwork for his defense.

Too bad D.C. wasn’t an actor or he would have known better than to break character in the middle of a performance. He pretended not to hear when someone spoke to him. He rolled his eyes and did everything but drool. Whenever someone took him by surprise, he dropped the pretense. The deputies in the jail ward at the receiving hospital saw through his act, and so did the trusties.

A clue to D.C.’s state of mind was obvious in his choice of a lawyer. An insane man would not care if he had a lawyer or not. D.C. cared enough to engage the services of one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country, Earl Rogers.

EARL ROGERS

Earl Rogers, admitted to the California bar in 1897, was an attorney of uncommon skill. He appeared for the defense in seventy-seven murder trials and lost only three.  During one of his most famous cases, “The Case of the Grinning Skull,”  Rogers introduced the victim’s skull into evidence to prove that what looked like a fracture caused by a violent blow from a blunt instrument, delivered by his client, was, in reality, the result of the autopsy surgeon’s carelessness with a scalpel. The jury acquitted Rogers’ client.  

If you think that “The Case of the Grinning Skull” sounds like the title of a Perry Mason novel, you’re not far off.  A decade after Rogers’ death in 1922, author Erle Stanley Gardner resurrected Rogers in the character of Perry Mason.  

ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

Rogers visited D.C. in jail. D.C. was despondent, whiny, and in a state bordering on nervous collapse. He dropped his insanity act and asked Rogers to tell him if he had any chance of an acquittal.  Rogers pulled no punches.  He told D.C. he would have to get a grip on himself or the chances of him walking out of the courtroom a free man were zero to nil.

D.C. then asked Rogers about the worst-case scenario.  What would happen if a jury convicted him?  Again, Rogers leveled with his client.  He told D.C. he might get from one to ten years in the penitentiary.  D.C. collapsed. D.C.’s next question was about Rogers’ fee. Rogers had had enough of D.C.’s hand wringing and complaining. He said,

“Even if it costs you everything you have; it would be cheaper than going to the penitentiary.”

Rogers urged D.C. to be a man, not a coward. His plea fell on deaf ears.

While D.C. and Rogers talked, a patient was admitted to the hospital.  To treat the patient, someone opened the large medicine cabinet near D.C.’s bed.

D.C. made a move to get up from his cot, but Special Officer Quinn entered the room and D.C. sat back down. As Quinn turned to leave, D.C. got up to follow him. He said he had to use the restroom.

Before anyone could stop him, D.C. sprang to the open medicine case, threw back the doors and grabbed a bottle of carbolic acid. He poured most of the bottle’s contents down his throat. Some of the caustic liquid spilled down his shirt and burned him.

Deputies grabbed D.C. and carried him to the operating room. He frothed at the mouth and writhed in agony, but said nothing.   

A doctor was at D.C.’s side within 5 minutes.  The doctor administered the antidote, but it was too late. Ten minutes later, D.C. died.

Deputies searched the dead man’s cell and found a letter to Hattie.

The letter read:

“Dear, Dear Hattie:  I suppose that sounds queer to you.  This is the longest time in seven years that I have not heard from you.  Now I ask you if possible, to forgive me.  Next, if possible, to assist me in my greatest hour of trouble.”

Unbelievable. D.C. had the unmitigated gall to beg Hattie, the woman he attempted to murder, to assist in his defense.

True to his character, D.C. continued:

“I am suffering the tortures of hell.  I wish you could know one-half of my life in the last thirty days. Now, Hattie, I shall be plain with you and am going to ask you to return kindness for unkindness.”

The letter rambled along in a self-serving fashion to its conclusion, which was a pathetic plea:

“Oh, I beg you, save me, for it is all with you. Think of me in jail, all covered with filth and lice; only beans and bread and treated like a dog.  Save filthy me, I beg of you.  Please tell Mr. Rogers your feelings in the matter.”

D.C. lied about  the conditions in his cell and his treatment.  Everyone who came in contact with him recalled him as, “troublesome, peevish, and fretting constantly because he could not do as he pleased.”

On the date scheduled for D.C.’s arraignment, Justice Morgan dismissed the case because of the “death of the defendant by suicide.”

A former associate of D.C.’s paid to ship the body to Burlingame, Kansas.

In his will, D.C. deeded Hattie his interest in the furniture of the Columbia lodging house.  Small recompense for the agony she endured.

EPILOGUE

Hattie survived her wounds and married. George thrived. He served in World War I. Following the war, he became one of the first motion picture art directors.  In 1924, he married Thelma Schmidt, and Hattie was there.

GEORGE HARRISON WILEY

Late in the afternoon on June 29, 1935, George and veteran cameraman Charles Stumar left the Union Air Terminal in Burbank. They headed to a location near Triunfo where they planned to scout locations for an upcoming Universal Pictures film. 

Stumar brought the plane in for a landing on an improvised field owned by the studio. It was twilight; the field was rough and uneven. Martin Murphy, a production manager for Universal, witnessed the crash. He telephoned the studio to report the accident and to let them know that he believed both occupants of the aircraft to be dead.

Upon hearing the news, Captain Morgan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s aero detail hopped into his plane to survey the scene. When he arrived he confirmed everyone’s worst fears.

George’s death devastated Hattie.

The 1940 census shows Hattie living in the Manor Hall Rest Home on 1245 South Manhattan Place in Los Angeles. She passed away on October 22, 1951.

Hattie and George are buried in adjoining plots at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.

Dear Hattie — Part 1

February 15, 1901/ Columbia Boarding House/South Broadway, Los Angeles

Hattie Wiley and her three-year-old son, George, stood in the kitchen and they talked as she fixed his lunch.   

George heard someone and turned to see D.C. Kent, Hattie’s former fiancé and co-owner of the boarding house, enter the room. Hattie turned from the stove to face D.C. and they argued about her recent decision to end their relationship, both personal and professional. D.C. brought up a revolver he had concealed in his pocket, leveled it at Hattie. and fired three rounds. George, who stood between the two, escaped injury as the bullets whizzed over his head.

Stunned and bleeding, Hattie screamed and lurched into the hallway dripping blood.  She collapsed on the floor and whispered, “My mother, my mother.”

George followed behind her. He cried, “Mommy, mommy, what is the matter?” She couldn’t respond.

Residents heard the commotion and crowded into the corridor. One chambermaid gathered her wits about her and phoned the police. Then everyone heard a sharp crack. Seconds later, D.C. reeled out of the kitchen, bleeding from his head. The blood ran down his face and soaked his shirt. He started toward his room at the top of the stairs.

Police arrived. The residents weren’t much help; they didn’t know what had happened.

An officer found D.C. in his room, He clutched a straight razor and stood over a washbasin filled with blood. Before the officer could intervene, D.C. brought the blade to his own throat and slashed. He stumbled against a trunk. The room was an abattoir.

Before D.C. could slice his throat a second time, the officer punched him. Dazed, D.C. dropped the razor. The cop grabbed D.C.’s arm and tugged him into the hallway. D.C. glanced over his shoulder at Hattie, who was still on the floor bleeding. George stood near her and wept, he begged his mother not to leave him.

An ambulance transported D.C. to a nearby receiving hospital where a doctor stitched him up. D.C., who had been mute during the ride from the boarding house, suddenly blurted out, “I’m sorry I didn’t succeed.” Then retreated into a silent sulk.

A reporter came to interview D.C, but he would not, or could not, speak.

Hattie went to the California Hospital where a friend of hers, Dr. C.G. Stivers, examined her. The prognosis was grim. She suffered three serious gunshot wounds. Two of them entered her chest, and a third went through the fleshy part of her arm. The bullets that entered her chest deflected into her liver.

While they waited to see if Hattie would live or die, detectives began their investigation.

When he was younger, D.C. was a well-to-do businessman in Burlingame, Kansas. For whatever reason, he turned to alcohol. Once he started drinking he couldn’t stop. At some point, D.C. summoned the strength to vanquish his demons. He pulled himself together and made a fortune in the dry goods business.

Material success didn’t satisfy him. D.C. was restless and told his wife that he was miserable in Kansas. He wanted to move away and start fresh–without her.  He told her to consider herself a widow, and he walked out.

He moved to Oklahoma, and later to Los Angeles where he got into the real estate business and bought the Columbia boarding house with Hattie.

Local newspapers speculated about the couple’s relationship. That they were engaged, or had been, and were living under the same were roof suggested an intimacy that could ruin Hattie’s reputation.

Mr. Harrison, Hattie’s father, took offense at the rumors and tried to set the newshounds straight.  He said,

“My daughter’s character is above reproach as anyone who knows her will agree, and although she and Kent lived in the same house for several months, there was never a whisper of anything improper between them.  They were engaged to be married, but Hattie broke it off. She told me she learned that D.C. was immoral.  She said he had grown repulsive to her, and that she did not love him.  Knowledge of this, coupled with an insane jealousy, undoubtedly prompted him to attempt her murder.”

Mr. Harrison then explained how his daughter knew D.C.

“D.C. was a friend of Wiley, my daughter’s divorced husband, and at various times lived with her and her family, both in Oklahoma and at Tropico, in this State.  About two years ago Hattie rented a ranch from D.C. in Tropico. He boarded with she and her husband, and the latter’s mother.  After Hattie’s divorce she lived for a time in East Los Angeles.  Last April she came to our home at Tonawanda, New York, returning in September to Los Angeles, where she immediately joined D.C. in the purchase of the lease and fittings of the Columbia lodging house.  My wife and I lived at the place with them, and there was never anything improper between them.  D.C. agreed that Hattie should conduct business at the lodging house while he would devote his attention to his real estate business.  He failed to carry out this agreement and spent most of his time at the house. He was insanely jealous of Hattie and would become angry when any other man talked with her.”

As D.C.’s jealousy increased and became more out of control, the Harrison’s sent Hattie to Long Beach for a week. She returned home determined to sever her ties to D.C.

Hattie was unaware that while she was in Long Beach. D.C. hired a private investigator to shadow her. The P.I. observed Hattie with a man and they seemed enamored of each other. D.C. was enraged by the news — he decided to seek revenge.

Dr. C.G. Stivers performed a laparotomy on Hattie. A laparotomy is a surgical procedure in which the doctor makes an incision in the abdominal cavity. The doctors opened Hattie up and traced the two bullets lodged in her chest to assess the damage. A lengthy operation to remove the bullets would kill her, so they left well enough alone.

Despite the earlier dire prognosis, Hattie rallied. She regained her strength and doctors felt confident that, barring anything unforeseen, she would live.

While Hattie recovered, D.C. paced the floor of his room in the jail ward of the receiving hospital. His biggest fear now was that he would go to prison for the attempt on Hattie’s life.

He mulled over his options. There wasn’t much he could do – other than feign insanity.  

NEXT TIME: D.C. Kent lawyers up.

Film Noir Friday — Saturday Matinee: Shadow of a Doubt [1943]

shadow of a doubt

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 SHADOW OF A DOUBT, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten and Macdonald Carey — with a fine performance by Hume Cronyn.

The script was a collaboration between Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson and Alma Reville (Hitchcock’s wife).  This was Hitchcock’s favorite of his films. 

Of course Hitch makes a cameo appearance in the film, and Wikipedia tells you when to look for him:

Alfred Hitchcock appears about 15 minutes into the film, on the train to Santa Rosa, playing bridge with a man and a woman (Dr. and Mrs. Harry). Charlie Oakley is traveling on the train under the assumed name of Otis. Mrs. Harry is eager to help Otis, who is feigning illness in order to avoid meeting fellow passengers, but Dr. Harry is not interested and keeps playing bridge. Dr Harry replies to Hitchcock that he doesn’t look well while Hitchcock is holding a full suit of spades, the best hand for bridge.

 

Before the feature, enjoy this short subject from the CRIME DOES NOT PAY series.

Crime Does Not Pay was an anthology radio crime drama series based on MGM’s short film series which began in 1935 with Crime Does Not Pay: Buried Loot. The shows were transcribed at MGM’s New York station, WMGM.

February 1947 — A Confession in the Dahlia Case & Another Murder

dumais_00010481

U.S. Army Corporal Joseph Dumais [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

On February 8, 1947 the Herald announced that the Black Dahlia case was solved. They had found the killer!

dahlia_herald_24_dumaisThe Herald story began:

“Army Corporal Joseph Dumais, 29, of Fort Dix, N.J., is definitely the murderer of “The Black Dahlia”, army authorities at Fort Dix announced today.’

Dumais, a combat veteran, returned from leave wearing blood stained trousers with his pockets crammed full of clippings about Short’s murder. According to the Herald, Dumais made a 50 page confession in which he claimed to have had a mental blackout after dating Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles five days before her body was found.

The good looking corporal seemed like the real deal. He told the cops, “When I get drunk I get pretty rough with women.” Unfortunately, when police checked his story against known facts the solider’s confession didn’t hold up. Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist.

Two days after Dumais’ false confession the Herald put out an Extra with the headline: “Werewolf Strikes Again! Kills L.A. Woman, Writes B.D. on Body”.

dahlia_herald_27_werewolf strikesThe victim of the “Werewolf Killer” was forty-five year old Jeanne French. Her nude body was discovered at 8 a.m. on February 10, 1947 near Grand View Avenue and Indianapolis Street in West L.A.

jeanne_french_scene_00057603

Cops at the scene of Jeanne French’s murder. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Jeanne Thomas French’s life was as fascinating as a Hollywood screenplay. She was an aviatrix, a pioneer airline hostess, a movie bit player and an Army Nurse. And at one time she was the wife of a Texas oilman. The way she died was monstrous.

jeanne and frank picA construction worker H.C. Shelby was walking to work around 8 o’clock that morning along Grand View Blvd. when he saw a small pile of woman’s clothing in weeds a few feet from the sidewalk. Curious, Shelby walked over and lifted up a fur trimmed coat and discovered French’s nude body.

French was savagely beaten–her  body covered with bruises. She suffered blows to her head, probably administered by a metal blunt instrument–maybe a socket wrench. As bad as they were, the blows to her head were not fatal. Jeanne died from hemorrhage and shock due to fractured ribs and multiple injuries caused by stomping–there were heel prints on her chest. It took a long time for French to die. The coroner said that she slowly bled to death.

Mercifully, Jeanne was unconscious after the first blows to her head so she never saw her killer take the deep red lipstick from her purse, and she didn’t feel the pressure of his improvised pen as he wrote on her torso: “Fuck You, B.D.” (later thought to be be “P.D.”) and “Tex”.

French was last seen in the Pan American Bar at 11155 West Washington Place. She was seated at the first stool nearest the entrance and the bartender later told cops that a smallish man with a dark complexion was seated next to her. The bartender assumed they were a couple because he saw them leave together at closing time.

Jeanne’s estranged husband, Frank, was booked on suspicion of murder. The night before she died Jeanne visited Frank at his apartment and they’d quarreled. Frank said Jeanne had started the fight, then hit him with her purse and left. He said that was the last time he saw her. He told the cops she’d been drinking.

David Wrather, Jeanne’s twenty-five year old son from a previous marriage was also brought in for questioning. As he was leaving the police station he saw his step-father for the first time since he’d learned of his mother’s death. David confronted Frank and said: “Well, I’ve told them the truth. If you’re guilty, there’s a God in heaven who will take care of you.” Frank didn’t hesitate, he looked at David and said: “I swear to God I didn’t kill her.”jeanne french_husband lie detectorFrank was cleared when his landlady testified he was in his apartment at the time of the murder, and when his shoe prints didn’t match those found at the scene of the crime.

Cops followed the few leads they had. French’s cut-down 1929 Ford roadster was found in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant, The Piccadilly at Washington Pl. and Sepulveda Blvd. Witnesses said that the car had been there since 3:15 the morning of the murder, and a night watchman said it was left there by a man. The police were never able to find out where Jeanne had been between 3:15 a.m. and the time of her death which was estimated at 6 a.m.

Scores of sex degenerates were rousted, but each was eliminated as a suspect. Officers also checked out local Chinese restaurants after the autopsy revealed that French had eaten Chinese food shortly before her death.

French’s slaying, known as the “Red Lipstick Murder” case, went cold.

Three years later, following a Grand Jury investigation into the numerous unsolved murders of women in L.A., investigators from the D.A.’s office were assigned to look into the case.

Frank Jemison and Walter Morgan worked the French case for almost eight months, but they were never able to close it. They came up with one hot suspect, a painter who worked for the French’s four months prior to the murder. He admitted to dating Jeanne several times. The cops discovered the painter burned several pairs of his shoes–he wore the same size as the ones that left marks on Jeanne’s body. Despite his odd behavior, the painter was cleared.

There were so many unsolved murders of women in the 1940s that in 1949 a Grand Jury investigation was launched into the failure of the police to solve the cases.

There haven’t been any leads in Jeanne French’s case in decades; however, there is always a detective assigned to Elizabeth Short’s murder case.  A couple of years ago it was a female detective and, surprisingly, she received several calls a month. To this day there are people who want to confess to Elizabeth Short’s murder. The detective was able to eliminate each one of the possible suspects with a simple question: “What year were you born?