The First with the Latest! Aggie Underwood, Crime Reporter

Aggie interviews a tearful dame.

“There is no killer type.  Slayers range all ages, all sexes. . . Homicide is expected from the hoodlum, the gun moll, the gulled lover.  It isn’t from the teenager, the . . . sweet old lady, the fragile housewife, the respectable gent who is the proverbial pillar of society.

They kill with pistol, rifle, or shotgun; with the blade . . . with poison; with ax, hatchet or hammer; with cord or necktie; with fake accidents; with blunt instruments or with phony drownings.

Killers do not run true to form.  What they have in common is killing.”

The quote is from my favorite Los Angeles crime reporter Aggie Underwood, from her 1949 autobiography, NEWSPAPERWOMAN, and she knew what she was talking about.

During her career as a reporter, Aggie covered nearly every major crime story in the city. Law enforcement respected her and occasionally sought her opinion regarding a suspect. They even credited her with solving a few crimes.  

Cops and journalists have a lot in common. Both professions rely on intuition guided by experience and intelligence. They see the worst that humanity has to offer, but no matter what they witness, they strive to maintain their objectivity. 

Inspired by Aggie, I began this blog in 2012 and wrote her Wikipedia page. In 2016, I curated an exhibit at the Central Library on Aggie’s career and wrote the companion book.

Join me on November 17, 2020 at 7pm PST for the webinar and you will meet one of the most fascinating women in Los Angeles’ history.

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.

It’s Aggie Underwood’s Birthday Month!

Yesterday was the 117th anniversary of Aggie Underwood’s birth.  In her honor the Central Library downtown is hosting a party on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 2 pm.

I will speak about Aggie and her many accomplishments from her time as a switchboard operator at the Record to her groundbreaking promotion to city editor at the Evening Herald and Express.  And yes, there will be cake. 

Aggie inspired me to create this blog and her Wikipedia page on December 12, 2012.  Aggie loved the newspaper business as much as I love writing for the blog and connecting with all of you.

Aggie hoists a brew.

Deranged L.A. Crime readers are an impressive group. They include current and former law enforcement professionals, crime geeks (like me), and the victims of violent crime.  I have even been contacted by a serial rapist (a despicable scumbag).

Each December I reflect on the year that is ending and make plans for Deranged L.A. Crimes. In 2020, the blog’s reach will extend to encompass all of Southern California, which includes the following counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Imperial.

I look forward to new stories, personalities and challenges.

Please join me as we enter the Roaring Twenties.  This time, no Prohibition.

Four women line up along a wall and chug bottles of liquor in the 1920s.
Image by © Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis

November 1969: The Scientology Murders

On Saturday, November 22, 1969, a man living in the Pico Union district found the mutilated bodies of Doreen Gaul, 19, and James Sharp, 15 in an alley between Arapahoe Street and Magnolia Avenue, south of 11th Street.

Doreen was naked except for a string of multicolored beads—hippie beads—de rigueur for teenage girls in 1969. James wore a corduroy jacket, striped T-shirt and black Levis—the uniform of teenage boys.

Someone stabbed Doreen and James between 50 and 60 times each.  Seventeen of the stab wounds inflicted on Doreen were near her heart. She was raped. Their right eyes were cut out. The overkill recalled the brutality in the Tate/La Bianca murders in August, but police uncovered no link between Doreen and James and the other victims.

Following the autopsy, the coroner concluded that Doreen was a recent arrival in Los Angeles because her lungs were smog free. The coroner was right, Doreen came to Los Angeles from Albany, New York a few months earlier to study Scientology. James was also a recent arrival to Los Angeles. He traveled west from Crestview, a St. Louis, Missouri suburb.  He came to study Scientology, too. In fact, their study of Scientology was the only thing linking them.

DOREEN GAUL

Scientology, founded in 1950 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, was attractive to Baby Boomers, teenagers in the 1960s, who sought spiritual guidance in non-traditional religions, communes, and radical political ideologies.

In Los Angeles Scientology provided communal living arrangements in a few of the old mansions in Pico Union and near MacArthur Park. Doreen lived at 1032 S. Bonnie Brae Street and James lived less than a quarter of a mile away at 921 S. Bonnie Brae Street. On the evening of the murders Doreen left “Thetan Manor” to meet with James who was going to “audit” her.

For those of you unfamiliar with the basic tenets of Scientology, Thetan is “an immortal spiritual being; the human soul.”  An audit is conducted by a Scientology minister or minister-in training using an electropsychometer (E-Meter) to locate and confront areas of spiritual upset.  For Scientologists the E-Meter is a religious artifact used as a spiritual guide.

E-Meters are more sophisticated today than they were in 1969 when they were nothing more than a galvanometer with two tin cans attached—not unlike many quack devices marketed before and since to the gullible.

The Federal Drug Administration stepped in when L. Ron Hubbard made unsubstantiated claims about the E-Meter’s medical capabilities.  

In a Court of Appeals decision, still in effect today, every E-meter must bear a warning that states, “The E-Meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.”

The mainstream press characterized Scientology as a “cult” and a “mystical, quasi-scientific organization.” The organization cooperated with the Los Angeles Police Department at first, but dragged their feet when asked to provide a comprehensive membership list.  LAPD Det. Lt. Earl A. Deemer wanted to explore any possible connection between the murders of Doreen and James and a Jane Doe slaying from several months before. The marked similarities in the three murders struck Deemer as more than a coincidence. He described the crimes to reporters: “All three victims were stabbed, and their wounds appeared to be the work of a ‘fanatic’.  None of the three was slain where the bodies were found. The Jane Doe of the previous killing wore hippie-like attire which resembled that in which Miss Gaul had been seen and which is favored by many young females in the organization [Scientology].”

Deemer wanted to talk to Hubbard personally about the membership list, but the Scientology leader was adrift at sea, literally. He was on his private yacht to avoid a hefty tax bill that awaited him on land.

L. RON HUBBARD

On behalf of Scientology Rev. Natalie Fisher, resident agent of the organization quartered at 2773 W. Temple Street stated, “This organization has no facts or information regarding the circumstances of the crime, but we are doing everything in our power to assist law enforcement agencies to see that justice is done.”

The families of the young victims were devastated by their loss. James’ father was a prosperous salesman and he permitted James to leave high school to study Scientology in Los Angeles.

Doreen’s friends said that following her graduation from a parochial high school in the spring of 1968, she became a devotee of Scientology. Her switch from Roman Catholicism surprised her friends, but not her father. He described Doreen as a “. . . good kid, but an emotional kid.  She was always looking for green grass and rainbows.”

The investigation into the random slayings continued but police never located the place where Doreen and James were murdered.  Solving a crime without locating the place where it happened is challenging.  Police never solved the infamous Black Dahlia case in 1947 either.  The victim in that case, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, was murdered in a place they never found and her dismembered body was dumped in a weedy vacant lot in Leimert Park.

Police stated that there was no clear connection between the slayings of Doreen and James and 11 unsolved murders (including the five Tate murders) committed in the county since January 1969.

The two teenagers traveled to Los Angeles seeking spiritual enlightenment, why did they end up brutalized and discarded in an alley? Were Doreen and James the victims of a serial killer?  Did a member or members of the Manson family kill them as some suspect?  Fifty years later we have no answers, and we may never get them, the case remains unsolved.

Summer of ’69: September 22, 1969

THE TATE/LA BIANCA MURDERS GO COLD

If the police had any viable leads on the Tate/La Bianca murders they weren’t sharing them with reporters.

On September 10, 1969, the Los Angeles Times ran an ad which offered a reward of $25,000 (over $170k in current USD) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and the other victims at the Cielo Drive home.

Roman Polanski and friends of the Polanski family would pay the money.  The friends included Peter Sellers, Warren Beatty and Yul Brynner. 

JOYCE HABER & THE FRIENDS OF THE POLANSKI’S

On September 22, 1969, Los Angeles Times gossip columnist Joyce Haber had a few tidbits to share about what she described as the “Tate Case Chatter.”

Joyce Haber, gossip columnist

Haber said that Roman Polanski was back in town after a trip to New York where, according to her, he was “. . . kicking it up in and from his home base, a suite at Manhattan’s Essex House on Central Park South.” 

She continued, “The kicks included trips to Oh, Calcutta!, off-Broadway’s groovy, naked revue, and to such jivy joints as Elaine’s, a haunt for the literary-cum-anything set.”

Elaine’s restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, near the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 88th Street, was a hangout for everyone from Norman Mailer to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.  Elaine’s closed in 2011, following the death of the proprietress, Elaine Kaufman. In an interview, Allen said that he was “crushed” and that “despite the unrelenting bad food I went there every night for decades.”

Haber’s tone regarding Polanski’s unique manner of  grieving the loss of his family was disapproving. Understanding the intimate mechanics of how different individuals cope with loss is for someone with more knowledge on the topic that I have; but I find Polanski’s choice of venues for grieving very odd. Would most people faced with such a traumatic loss socialized in the way Polanski did?  I wonder.

GOSSIP KILLS

When reading Haber’s column,  you must consider the source. It was a gossip column – she inherited the gig from Hedda Hopper.  Haber had a reputation for snarky comments. In fact, there are people who blame her indirectly for Jean Seberg’s suicide in 1979.

Seberg ,an internationally known and admired actress, was a staunch supporter of civil rights and often gave money to the NAACP, Native American groups, and two gifts to the Black Panther Party.

JEAN SEBERG

During the late 1960s the FBI ran a Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO ) and targeted individuals and groups they identified as subversive.  Their tactics were abhorrent. Outright lies used to destroy people for their politics.

On May 19, 1970, Haber’s column was used to smear Jean Seberg. The actress, referred to as Miss A in the column, was Jean Seberg. Anyone familiar with Hollywood at the time would have recognized the characterization.  NEWSWEEK also printed the rumor.

The rumor was that the child Seberg carried wasn’t her husband’s, Romain Gary, but Raymond Hewitt’s (a member of the Black Panthers). 

Devastated by the rumor, Seberg went into premature labor and lost her baby daughter. At the funeral Seberg laid the baby in an open casket so that reporters could see for themselves that the infant was white.

Seberg was blacklisted and her career suffered.  So did her mental health. She was depressed for years. The  FBI continued their surveillance and harassment, which did nothing to ease her stress.

On September 8, 1979, nine days after she disappeared from her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement,  her body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her Renault.  Police found barbiturate’s and a note which said that she could no longer live with her nerves.

Seberg is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

MANSON FAMILY UPDATE – FALL, 1969

BARKER RANCH

Charles Manson relocated to Barker Ranch in Death Valley. Charlie and family members Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Watson must have felt invincible. They got away with murder.

Summer of ’69: August 12th — Rosemary & Leno LaBianca

The big story in Los Angeles on August 12, 1969 was the release of nineteen-year-old William Garretson, the caretaker at the Cielo Drive estate where five people and the unborn son of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski murdered a few days before.

William Garretson (center)

William was the only survivor of the slaughter which made him suspect number one. Police arrested William at the point of a shotgun and grilled him for hours. He agreed to take a polygraph test and passed.  Inspector Harold Yarnell said: “There is not sufficient evidence to hold Garretson.  There is no reason to suspect him.”

Wearing a deer-in-the-headlights expression, William’s attorney, Barry Tarlow, escorted him through the lobby of LAPD’s administration building. The nineteen-year-old, who appeared on the verge of tears, declined to answer any of the barrage of questions called out to him by eager news reporters.  He let his lawyer do the talking.

Tarlow told reporters his client said goodnight to Steven Parent at 11:30 p.m. Friday, then went back inside the guesthouse to listen to his stereo.  He wasn’t aware of anything until LAPD officers kicked in his door and took him away on Saturday morning.

William shared an address with Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, but they lived on different planets.  Sharon and Roman were in the movie industry; they were among the “beautiful people.” Roman’s big break came in June 1968 with the release of “Rosemary’s Baby.”  His career as an A-list director was underway.

Still a teenager, William wasn’t sure what he wanted out of life. He spoke to his mother of an interest in acting, but his aspiration was as common as a cold and easier to catch when living in L.A. Thousands of young people flock to the city seeking stardom – they have been coming here since the 1910s.  Far from hanging out with the beautiful people, William had more in common with “Hollywood Blvd drifters, hitchhikers, and drugstore cowboys,” many of whom he brought home with him when they needed a place to crash.

Police wanted to speak to members of both groups – killers defy social strata. William offered names of people he knew, but he didn’t believe any of them capable of the murders.

William’s release featured prominently on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, but there was another intriguing and disturbing story on page 3.  The double murder in Los Feliz of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Leno, 44, and Rosemary, 37, were stabbed to death Sunday in their home at 3301 Waverly Drive. The killing of the couple was similar in many to ways to the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends on Saturday.  Police Sergeant Bryce Houchin said, “There is a similarity in the slayings. But whether it’s the same suspect or a copycat, we just don’t know.”

Sgt. Houchin appeared open to the idea that the murders could be connected, but in their official statements LAPD wouldn’t go that far.

On August 12, 1969, reporter Bruce Russell wrote:

Whispers that a psychotic killer was after wealthy resident of isolated homes in the Hollywood hills continued after the murder of Miss Tate and the four others was followed a day later by that of a rich supermarket owner and his wife in a plush home 12 miles away.

IN BOTH SETS of slayings the word “Pig” was smeared in blood at the murder scene, hoods covered the heads of males slain and women had cords around their throats.

Police have showed that the two bloodbaths were unconnected. They said the more recent murders of a grocery chain owner Leno La Bianca, 44, and his wife Rosemary, 37, were those of a psychotic cashing in on the publicity of the so-called Tate murders.

But fear-stricken Hollywood residents rushed to buy guns yesterday for self-protection.

Hollywood glitterati panicked.  They ripped the names and numbers of their drug dealers out of their little black books and waited for the killer’s arrest so life could return to normal.

No one, except some Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide investigators, gave a thought to the gruesome killing that pre-dated the August rampage, the murder of Gary Hinman.

Summer of ’69: August 9th — Murder on Cielo Drive

It was a few minutes into August 9, 1969, and Mrs. Seymour Kott of 10170 Cielo Drive heard a series of claps. She couldn’t identify the source or location of the noise and so she went back to sleep.

Winifred Chapman, maid for director Roman Polanski and his wife actress Sharon Tate, arrived at their home at the far end of Cielo Drive at 8:30 a.m. to begin work. The quiet street is a cul-de-sac between Beverly Glen and Benedict Canyon. Birds chirping, a dog barking or the occasional coyote call are about the only sounds you hear; but there was an unnatural quality to the stillness that morning.

Winifred Chapman

Winifred saw a white two-door Rambler sedan in the driveway.  She didn’t recognize the car and approached it with caution.  She saw a young man behind the wheel slumped over toward the passenger seat. There was blood on his shirt and his left arm.

As she continued toward the sprawling home she found the body of Voytek Frykowski on the front lawn.

Under a fir tree, about 20 yards away, she found Abigail Folger’s bloody body.

The horror followed Winifred into the living room.  Sharon Tate, 8 ½ months pregnant and dressed in her bra and bikini bottom, had a bloody nylon cord wrapped around her neck. The cord looped around a beam in the ceiling.   Someone tied the other end of the cord around Jay Sebring’s neck and placed a black hood on his head.

Terrified, Winifred ran to a neighbor’s home for help.  Fifteen-year-old Jim Asim was preparing to leave when she stopped him screaming, “there’s bodies and blood all over the place!”

Victims being transported to morgue

Asim, a member of Law Enforcement Troop 800 of the Boy Scouts, called the police.  Moments later six LAPD black and whites roared up Cielo Drive to its end where there is a wire gate outside the Polanski residence.  Guns drawn; the officers entered the property. They heard a dog howling behind a guest house and a man’s voice shouted for it to be quiet.

Wire gate outside Polanski residence.

In the guest house, nineteen-year-old William Etson Garretson looked up to see his doorway crowded with police. They had shotguns trained on him.  He was still half asleep, dressed only in pin-striped bell-bottoms.  He did not understand why the cops were there.

After several hours of questioning, they took Garretson into custody and arrested him on suspicion of murder. As the only living person on the premises he was the obvious suspect.  Yet there was no physical evidence tying him to the deaths.

Police in Garretson’s hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, told LAPD investigators the kid had committed one offense of little consequence.  He received a two-year suspended jail sentence in 1967 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Mary Garretson, his 42-year-old mother, told police her son left home in October 1968 “without saying goodbye but had written saying he hoped to return home soon.”

William Garretson (center)

Garretson was a quiet kid and lacked the personality to take control of five adults and viciously murder them.

Garretson didn’t even work for the Polanski’s and had only a vague notion of who they were.  He lived in the guest house and kept to himself.  The property owner, Rudy Altabelli employed him as a caretaker

In Europe when he received the news of the slayings, Altabelli offered no reason for the murders.

Someone cut the telephone lines into the home, which suggested a plan. There was no weapon at the scene except for pieces of a pistol grip.

Telephone line

It was 1969, so it was no surprise that all the victims wore “hippie type” clothes – their mode of dress was enough for the police to search for drugs. They found none.  As far investigators could tell nothing appeared to be missing – which ruled out robbery as a motive.

They found evidence of a struggle and wondered; why had not one of the five victims escaped the carnage?

As LAPD detectives followed scant leads to dead-ends, talk on the street was of the upcoming Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York. Many people from L.A. planned to make the trek. Billed as three days of peace and music, the festival promised to be amazing. The younger generation had a chip on its shoulder and something to prove. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Fuck Nixon. Fuck the War. Life is beautiful, man.

The dream was already dead.

NEXT TIME:  Two more murders.

The Summer of ’69: The Murder of Gary Hinman

 

TOPANGA
July 31, 1969

None of Gary Hinman’s friends or colleagues had seen him for a week. Worried, his friends  Mike Irwin, John Nicks, and Glenn Giardinelli stopped by his house at 964 Old Topanga Canyon Road to check up on him.  They knew he was looking forward to a trip to Japan but he wouldn’t have gone without saying goodbye.

When they arrived, they noticed Gary’s Fiat was missing.  They climbed the stairs to the porch where they detected a foul odor. They were alarmed enough to go to a neighbor’s home and call the L.A. County Sheriff’s Malibu Station.

Deputies Paul Piet and Donald Lang rolled out to the location. When they arrived Piet climbed a ladder to look in the main window. He saw decomposing body, covered with maggots around the head. The man was partly covered with a blanket and a pillow covered the left side of his face.  There was blood on the floor and the blanket.

The deputies contacted Detective Sergeant Paul J.  Whiteley in the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.  Whiteley advised them to secure the location. He would be there as soon as possible.

At 9:45 p.m. Detective Whitely and Sergeant Gunther arrived. Deputy Coroner Green arrived at 11:30 p.m. and removed the body for autopsy and assigned it a case number, 69-8448.

Hinman’s death was classified as a routine “dead person” until the autopsy proved he was murdered.

SAN LUIS OBISPO
AUGUST 6, 1969

On August 6, 1969 at 10:50 a.m., a CHP officer on routine patrol observed a Fiat, license number OYX833, parked northbound on the east side of the 101 on the Cuesta grade. The officer ran the license plate for outstanding warrants – the car was reported stolen out of Los Angeles.

La Cuesta Grade

The officer asked for ID, but the man didn’t have a driver’s license. He said he was Jason Lee Daniels, born November 11, 1946. The officer  transported Daniels to the Highway Patrol Office in San Luis Obispo and booked him for 10851 V.C. Auto Theft.  Once at the station, Jason admitted that his true name was Robert Beausoleil.

As the officer was writing up the stolen car report he saw an APB [All-Points Bulletin] dated 8-3-69  which stated that the owner of the car was murdered. He advised Beausoleil that he was under arrest for 187 P.C. murder and read him his rights.

NEXT TIME: A murder spree in Los Angeles.

[NOT] Film Noir Friday: The Trip [1967]

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 a departure from our usual film noir fare — it’s THE TRIP starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg and Bruce Dern. It was written by Jack Nicholson and directed Roger Corman. I think this is the perfect follow-up to the post about Diane Linkletter.

IMDB says:

Paul Groves (Peter Fonda), a television commercial director, is in the midst of a personality crisis. His wife Sally (Susan Strasberg) has left him and he seeks the help of his friend John (Bruce Dern), a self-styled guru who’s an advocate of LSD. Paul asks John to be the guide on his first “trip”. John takes Paul to a “freak-out” at his friend Max’s (Dennis Hopper) pad. Splitting the scene, they score some acid from Max and return to John’s split-level pad with an indoor/outdoor pool. Paul experiences visions of sex, death, strobe lights, flowers, dancing girls, witches, hooded riders, a torture chamber, and a dwarf. He panics but John tells him to “go with it, man.” Would you trust John?

Learning to Fly, Conclusion

Emergency vehicles screeched up to the Shoreham Towers. Diane Linkletter was on the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from her head. She was still alive. A near neighbor, Jimmy George, witnessed Diane’s fall.  He ran outside to see if he could render aid. She looked up at him but could not speak. Jimmy didn’t know what to do. Even if he had been a trained paramedic he could not have altered the outcome.

Diane was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the University of Southern California Medical Center. She was dead on arrival. The pretty girl with the bright smile, and future to match, was two weeks away from her 21st birthday.

Everyone wanted to know what had happened to Diane.  Sheriff’s investigators began to piece together her last several hours to see if her death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide.

The last person to see Diane was Edward Durston.  Durston said he saw Diane on the day before her death.  He said she was depressed and he was concerned about her. Following her date with Robert, she stopped in at Durston’s apartment. It was 3 a.m.  She asked him to come by her place because she was going to bake cookies.

Durston told investigators that Diane had dropped acid that night. He said they talked for hours and she told him she was depressed. She went into her bedroom and telephoned her brother and, according to Durston, Diane seemed calmer.

Her calm demeanor is what fooled him, he said. He thought everything was fine until she walked into the kitchen, climbed onto the drainboard and into the window.  Durston said he was frantic. He tried, but failed, to grab Diane’s belt.  He said she went out the window and there was nothing he could do to stop her.

Durston’s account of events changed several times. He changing story made investigators suspicious, so they dug into his background. What they found gave them cause for concern.

The Tate/LaBianca murders were fresh in everyone’s mind and Durston was an early suspect in the slayings. Detectives asked Durston if he was willing to take a polygraph regarding the circumstances of Diane’s death and he agreed.  The results were never made public.

Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski

At the same time Durston was grilled by Sheriff’s investigators, Diane’s father addressed reporters.

As you would expect, Art was devastated by Diane’s death. He told reporters he knew what killed her –  LSD.  It wasn’t until after the autopsy revealed that Diane had no drugs in her system that Art offered a revised version. He said that Diane experienced an acid flashback and that is what propelled her out of her kitchen window.

Building on a tale of dubious origin, the media added a few flourishes and the next thing anyone knew Diane Linkletter had gone out the window of her apartment, high on LSD, because she thought she could fly.

The story degenerated into a false, but often repeated, narrative of Diane’s life. According to various sources Diane was into heroin at 13 and her drug use continued at a mad and dangerous pace until her death.  None of it was true. Did Diane experiment with drugs? If she did, it wasn’t a big part of her life.

Sheriff’s homicide detective, Norm Hamilton, interviewed Diane’s ex-husband Grant Conroy.  Theirs was a whirlwind marriage and it seemed doubtful Grant could offer any substantive information, but he had to be asked.

Grant said Diane used LSD and speed while they were married. How he knew intimate details of her life is a mystery—Diane never lived with Grant. During their brief marriage she lived at home with her parents.

Detectives turned again to Durston.  He was the last person with Diane. Could he have pushed her? They never found any evidence to suggest foul play. However, Durston was present at another mysterious death in 1985.

Actress Carol Wayne appeared regularly on TV shows during the 1960s and into the 1970s.  Her biggest role was in sketches on the Johnny Carson Show. She always played a ditzy blonde. When Carson asked the network to reduce his show from 90 to 60s minutes, Carol’s role was over.

She began to abuse alcohol and cocaine and it is rumored that she became an escort for wealthy men. In January 1985 she accompanied Durston to a resort in Mexico. The couple reportedly had a disagreement and Carol went for a walk on the beach to cool off.  When she didn’t return for their flight back to Los Angeles, Durston left without her.  He left her bags at the airport with a note that she would come and pick them up.  She never arrived.

Carol’s fully clothed body was found floating in four feet of water off the beach near the hotel where she and Durston stayed. There were no signs of foul play. People who knew Carol found it strange that she drowned. She was terrified of water.

It is ironic that the person most responsible for trashing Diane’s reputation was her father. With no verifiable evidence that Diane abused drugs, Art embarked on a nationwide anti-drug campaign using Diane as a tragic example of how drugs can kill.

Why was Art so keen to tarnish Diane’s reputation by alleging she was a drug user? The simplest explanation is that Art was in denial about Diane’s death and experiencing the pain and guilt that can come with surviving a loved one’s suicide. It isn’t unusual for the survivors to cast around for a scapegoat . Art chose drugs.

 

NOTE: If you or a loved one is contemplating suicide, please reach out for help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255  Available 24 hours everyday