Thank you, Deranged Readers!


Dear Deranged Readers:

When I began this blog in mid-December 2012 I had no expectations regarding how many people I might reach. Truthfully I was just compelled to do something I love, which to share twisted tales from L.A.’s deeply disturbed past.

The month of August was a personal best for the blog with over 26,000 visitors, most of whom had visited before! In the months since the blog began it has logged over 124,000 visitors — not just random hits. I know how busy everyone is, and I’m touched that so many of you find time for Deranged L.A. Crimes.

I take this endeavor seriously and I make every effort to keep the stories interesting and the facts straight.  I want you to know that I will always respond respectfully to your comments, even on those occasions when we may agree to disagree.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for your support.

Now let the bad behavior continue.



The Devil in Orange County, Conclusion


In mid-July 1970 the Orange County Grand Jury handed down indictments against
Steve C. Hurd, 20, Arthur “Moose” Hulse, 16, Herman Taylor,18, Christopher “Gypsy”
Gibboney,17, and Melanie C. Daniels, 31, for their roles in the murders of Jerry Carlin and
Florence Brown.florence brown

At his arraignment, Steven Hurd entered a plea of innocent by reason of insanity. While being held without bail in Orange County Jail, Hurd complained about being kept in solitary confinement. He whined that he had no television and nothing to read.

Claiming satanism as his religion he asked for three books on the subject, but Superior Judge Samuel Dreizen nixed the request — but he did allow Hurd to have two sci-fi books.

Craig Hulse pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity to the hatchet murder of Jerry W. Carlin. Craig’s attorney, Robert Green, petitioned for a separate trial for his
client. Green contended that Hulse couldn’t possibly get a fair hearing if he was tried for murder with his co-defendants because of “highly prejudicial” newspaper publicity. The judge agreed.

However, the motion to allow Craig to be processed as a juvenile was denied. He would
stand trial as an adult.

Christopher Gibboney unsuccessfully fought extradition from his home state of Oregon.
Gibboney petitioned to be processed as a juvenile but, like Hulse, he was ordered to
stand trial as an adult for the murder of Florence Brown.

Herman Taylor turned state’s evidence after the district attorney promised to reduce
his charges to two counts of accessory to murder. He was also promised a sentence
of one year in jail dating from his original arrest date, July 1, 1970. The deal was a no-
brainer for him and he took it.


MELANIE DANIELSmelanie daniels

Melanie Daniels, the thirty-one year old waitress with a boyfriend in San Quentin, was already serving time in Orange County Jail on a drugs charge when, in September 1970, she was sentenced to two consecutive one-to-five year prison terms after she pleaded guilty to being an accessory in the murders. Dep. Dist. Atty. Martin J. Heneghan urged Judge Dreizen to impose the consecutive sentences saying:

“If there ever has been a case where consecutive sentences were warranted, this is it.”


Steven Hurd was found insane and unable to assist in his own defense. He was incarcerated at Atascadero until such time as he was deemed fit to stand trial.

steve hurdIn December 1973 he was briefly found to be sane, but was re-confined in the state hospital by May 1974. One of the psychiatrists who examined Hurd declared him the most dangerous man he had ever seen.

Finally in 1975, the California Supreme Court ruled that Steven Hurd could stand trial while under the influence of powerful tranquilizers. Hospital doctors had pronounced him sane, but said he could function properly only if tranquilized.


Orange County jurors in the 1975 trial of devil-cult leader Steven Hurd listened to testimony at a Santa Ana gas station where attendant Jerry Wayne Carlin was murdered in 1970. [Photo courtesy of the O.C. Register]

A purported confession and other statements made by Hurd in 1970 were ruled admissible as evidence in his trial.

In mid-June 1975 Steven Hurd, self-professed devil worshiper, was found guilty of two
charges of first degree murder in the 1970 slayings. A jury of six men and six women deliberated for two days before arriving at the verdict. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.

At his subsequent sanity hearing, Hurd made frequent references to “my father, the
devil” as he proceeded to relate details of the murder of Florence Brown.

May 19, 1975. Steven Hurd , right, walks with an officer during the jury tour of the crime scene. [Photo courtesy of the O.C. Register]

May 19, 1975. Steven Hurd , right, walks with an officer during the jury tour of the crime scene. [Photo courtesy of the O.C. Register]

Hurd said that several days after Brown was stabbed to death in an orange grove he
disinterred her body from the shallow grave along Ortega Highway.

He told the court he removed the heart, burned part of it and ate the rest. He used
ashes and paper to make a “star of death” around the heart as part of a devil’s rite.
According to Hurd when he was finished the devil told him he was “proud of him”.

Hurd said “his father” told him he would die in 1977, but didn’t explain how or where. Of course the devil is a liar. Hurd would live beyond 1977 by 28 years.

Steven C. Hurd died of a brain hemorrhage on May 28, 2005 in a hospital outside Mule
Creek State Prison in Amador County. He’d often stated that when he died he would
go to hell. When asked what he thought hell was like he said:

“Everything I need and want. No one to call me names; no one to laugh at me and no one to fuck with my head.”

Maybe Hurd’s vision of hell was accurate–I’ve never talked to anyone who knows. .


In May 1972, Gibboney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the slaying of Florence Brown. He may have been allowed to plead to a lesser charge because the witness against him, Herman Taylor, had gone missing.

By October 1971, Taylor had spent 15 months in jail for being an accessory in the killing of Florence Brown and the hatchet slaying of Jerry Carlin. Judge Byron McMillan thought that was sufficient time and placed him on five years’ formal probation. He was ordered into custody of the California Youth Authority (CYA) because he was on parole at the time the murders were committed. He later vanished from the CYA faciltiy, even though he had agreed to be a state witness against Gibboney.

The penalty for second-degree murder is five years to life in prison. Gibboney was
ordered into the custody of the CYA to begin serving his time.

I don’t know what happened to Gibboney after he was sentenced.


Craig’s trial began in February 1971. The death penalty was off the table because
Hulse was only 16 years old when the murder occurred. craig_photo

As previously stated, Herman Taylor turned state’s evidence after the district attorney promised to reduce his charges to two counts of accessory to murder.

At Craig’s trial, Taylor testified that he drove his car the night of the murder of Jerry Carlin. Taylor said that he waited in the car while Hulse, who had a hatchet tucked into the waistband of his pants, and Hurd went into the station.

The two forced Carlin to accompany them to the restroom at the back of the station and Taylor later said that he heard “a thumping noise that went on for quite a while.”

When the two returned to the car Hurd told Taylor how easy the robbery had gone and “how good a job Hulse had done.”

According to Taylor, Craig told Hurd to shut up because “he didn’t feel too good”. Taylor also said that Craig got sick to his stomach and vomited once they’d returned to the motel. After the murder Hulse said that he “tried to stay loaded most of the time” on reds and alcohol. That was as close to demonstrating remorse as Craig ever got.

Craig’s attorney’s, Robert Green and Michael Gerbosi, questioned Taylor about the
amount of drugs their client had taken prior to the killing. Taylor described Hulse as “a
stone cold red freak” — a guy who would take four to five reds five to six times in an
hour. However as far as Taylor could recall on the day of the murder Craig had taken
only two reds — he mixed them with water and injected them.

Taylor testified that he’d seen Craig shoot up before, everything from beer and wine to
medicine used on baby’s gums. Taylor said: “He just kept on fixing things.” After
shooting up Craig would sit for several hours or more, arms folded, staring off into

Timothy Montag, the first of the group to be arrested in connection with the murders,
also testified against Craig. He told the court he stayed in Taylor’s motel room the night
of the murder, and the next morning was given a blue denim jacket he found on the
floor. The jacket, which had been given to Carlin by his sister, had some stains on the
back. Montag didn’t ask about them. He further stated that:

“There was a rabbit’s foot in the pocket, but I threw it away.”

On top of the damning statements made by Taylor and Montag, was Craig’s taped
confession to the cops. The confession was ruled admissible as evidence and his own
words buried him.

He had told the police that he “went kinda berserk” and kept hitting Carlin with a
hatchet because Carlin was “bugging him”. Craig said he didn’t recall what Carlin had
said, but he remembered that it made him angry and so he hit him with a hatchet.

In March 1971, after deliberating for about three hours, a jury of eight women and four
men found Arthur “Moose” Hulse guilty of first degree murder.

One of Craig’s attorney’s argued that:

“There was no premeditation and no evidence was presented that the robbery was planned, except for Taylor’s statements.”

A psychiatrist who had examined Craig diagnosed his condition as “pathological

Craig’s mind may have been addled by drugs when he took a hatchet to Jerry Carlin, but he was found to have been legally sane at the time of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was also sentenced to five years in prison for being an accessory in the murder of Florence Brown. Craig began serving his time on March 31, 1971.

In June 1973 a sanity hearing was ordered for Hulse when the District Court of Appeal overturned a finding by Superior Judge Ronald Crookshank. Judge Crookshank had ruled that Hulse was sane at the time of Jerry Carlin’s murder. The sanity hearing didn’t change anything, Craig was again found to have been sane at the time of Carlin’s killing.


craig hulse photoWhen I began researching this case I had no idea what had happened to Craig Hulse. On the rare occasions when I thought about him I assumed that he had been paroled, but that’s not what has happened.

In October 2012 Craig was denied parole for the thirteenth time — he will be eligible again in five years.

When I picked Craig up hitchhiking in 1970 he seemed sad and lost, but not evil. Days later when I learned that he’d been arrested in connection with two brutal murders I couldn’t believe it.

When I told my brother Rick that I was going to write about Craig’s case he recalled an incident he hadn’t thought of in years. He said when they were about 12 years old Craig pulled his arm up behind his back until it was painful.  Rick told him to cut it out, and then he noticed a scary expression on Craig’s face — he enjoyed inflicting pain. Their friendship didn’t last much past that.

If he wasn’t already dead inside before June 2, 1970, the kid my family knew perished for all time as soon as he crushed Jerry Carlin’s skull with a hatchet. During the four decades that he’s been incarcerated Craig has, according to the Orange County D.A.’s Office, made no attempt to become a person who can live outside of prison walls. He will almost certainly die there.

The families of his victims bear the toughest burden — the husband and children Florence Brown left behind will always have a void where she should have been all these years. Jerry Carlin died before his wife had the chance to tell him that he was going to become a father.

 It is those people whose loved ones were taken from them that have my empathy and compassion.  Craig is where he belongs.

The Devil in Orange County, Part 3

transient heldCraig Hulse was still on the loose when Timothy Montag, 21, was arrested in connection with the murders of Jerry Carlin and Florence Brown. It wouldn’t take cops long to determine that Montag had no involvement in the two murders, but while in custody he provided the authorities with some useful information.

Timothy belonged to the same bunch of drifters and druggies that Craig hung out with. None of the group had a fixed address, they wandered around Orange County crashing wherever they could: open fields, abandoned cars and occasionally a cheap motel room. The de facto leader of the group was Steven Hurd.

Hurd and Montag had met in February 1969 in a Garden Grove apartment. Montag described the scene:

“There used to be an apartment in Garden Grove where…there was like a brotherhood in dope…kind of like a supermarket…anyone that wanted to do something just went ahead and did it, and if it sounded good to the other people they’d go along.”

The drifters continued to hang out together even after the apartment ceased to be their hang-out.The guys could usually be found near the intersection of Fairview Street and Trask Avenue in Santa Ana getting high, they called the area “The Block”.

The cops had lots of questions for Montag, particularly about the days of the two murders.Timothy related what he could recall.  He said that one member of their group had a car and on June 1st, the night before Jerry Carlin was killed, he and others from “The Block” drove to a motel room in Costa Mesa to party. Montag spent the evening getting wasted and so he “was in no shape to remember anything” and crashed in the room. At 1:15 a.m. June 2, Jerry Carlin was bludgeoned to death with a hatchet — his killers stole $73 from the service station till.

Later the next day members of the group piled into the car and headed south down the Santa Ana Freeway to Scotsman’s Cove, a beach between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach.

Along the way the car stalled on the freeway near the Sand Canyon off-ramp. Montag said:

“We tried to get the car started by crossing the wires on the solenoid, and like the car just wouldn’t kick. Then a Highway Patrol car pulled up behind us.”

The Highway Patrol car was soon joined by three other CHP units and two sheriff’s cars. Montag said:

“Everyone inside the car was popping…reds (Seconal) like mad. So the police rousted us and they found some reds in the car, but like they couldn’t prove whose they were so they cut us loose. Everyone went to the orange grove and crashed except me. I stayed in the car and the next morning I woke up…and hitchhiked back down to Garden Grove. Just as I was splitting I saw the tow truck move up to the back of the car.”

Police theorized that after Montag left a tow truck pushed the car onto Sand Canyon Ave where it was left abandoned on a side street.

About 3 p.m. Florence Brown, driving her Pontiac station wagon, came down the Sand Canyon off-ramp from the northbound Santa Ana Freeway. She was only 200 yards from her destination, a PTA meeting.

Her assailants forced their way into her car and made her drive a few miles west on Sand Canyon to an orange grove. It was there she was repeatedly stabbed by Steven Hurd.

Hurd said he’d killed Brown because she:

“looked at me like I was a tramp, and she called me a bum.”

Following the slaying Steven Hurd, Christopher “Gypsy” Gibboney and Herman Taylor put Brown’s body into her station wagon,and then went back to pick up the rest of their gang of losers. The drifters then callously drove around with Brown’s body in the car.

Det. Lt. Richard Drake of the O.C. Sheriff’s said:

“They drove around the rest of the day–even stopping at Santa Ana to drop off some personal items–with the body in the station wagon. “Then later that night, they drove the station wagon down south (south of Santa Ana) again to get rid of the body.”

Upon investigation police thought it likely that the mutilation of Brown’s body occurred at the Riverside county burial site, and that it was Hurd who had removed the parts for use in a Satanic ritual. Brown’s heart and lungs had been cut out and her right arm had been severed. In addition, three ribs had been removed from her back and strips of flesh had been cut from her upper right leg. The body parts were never found and the cops feared the unthinkable, cannibalism.


Det. Lt. Drake said:

“There was something about the way in which the woman’s body had been mutilated which made us ask some unusual questions.”

After burying Mrs. Brown’s body in a shallow grave the group, which included a drugged out waitress, Mrs. Melanie C. Daniels, 31, reassembled and drove north.

weird trek satan slaying

Hurd wanted to see the man he called “the chief devil”. According to Hurd’s attorney Steven was not referring to the head of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey.

For his part, LaVey was dismissive of many of the so-called devil worshipers of the time and referred to them as: “kooks and creeps who are out of their minds on drugs.”  Maybe LaVey wasn’t Hurd’s chief devil, but I can’t imagine Steven passing up an opportunity to see LaVey’s documentary film SATANIS, released in March 1970.


The drive up north was particularly bizarre. Hurd was on a mission to visit with the chief devil, whoever he was, and Melanie Daniels wanted to visit a boyfriend of hers who was doing time in San Quentin. Daniels actually got as far as the gate of the prison where guards turned her away.

The group drove Florence Brown’s car south again where they abandoned and then torched the station wagon in Los Gatos. The drifters split up there, each hitchhiking back to Orange County where they were arrested.

murder suspects

Because the band of drifters included three juveniles, Craig “Moose” Hulse (16), Herman Taylor (17), and Christopher “Gypsy” Gibboney, the Orange County D.A. had to decide if the young killers would be tried as adults. Another issue for the law was whether or not the criminals in the case were sane enough to stand trial.

NEXT TIME: Case wrap-up.

The Devil in Orange County, Part 2


A trail of blood led from the late 1960s into the new decade of the 1970s: the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter at a December 1969 rock concert in Altamont, California; the August 1969 bizarre and brutal slayings of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca; the November 1969 revelation of the My Lai Massacre by American troops of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village; and the killing of 4 unarmed students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard during a protest of the U.S. government incursion into Cambodia.

John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

It seemed as though the world was on fire and everyone and everything was about to be consumed in a massive conflagration.

Columnist Art Seidenbaum wrote an editorial, The Wind of Fear, for the L.A. Times in which he described the summer of 1970:

“It (fear) swirls and grows around multiple murders. It whistles in the wake of terrorist bombings. It gusts along the roads for hitchhikers and drivers alike.”

In his annual report for the year 1969 J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, stated that while the population of the U.S. had increased only 13% during the previous nine years, the crime rate had increased by 148%. It was a terrifying statistic.

Despite the crime and chaos all around, life appeared to be quiet and safe in Garden Grove, California during the first half of 1970 — but appearances can be deceiving.


carlin beating deathAt approximately 2 a.m. on June 2, 1970, the body of Jerry W. Carlin was found beaten to death in the restroom of the Richfield Service Station at 3724 Westminster Avenue. The murder was discovered by David Miller, a driver for Southland Ambulance Service. Miller had made a routine stop at the gas station when he found Carlin face down on the blood smeared floor of the restroom. It was the third time Jerry Carlin had been robbed that month. Carlin was only 20 years old, a newly-wed, and he died not knowing that he was going to become a father.

A reward in the amount of $2,000 (approximately $12,000 in current dollars) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Carlin was offered by someone who asked to remain anonymous.


Two weeks after she’d gone missing, the body of thirty-one year old El Toro School teacher, Mrs. Florence Nancy Brown, was discovered by a hiker in a shallow grave 50 feet off Ortega Highway near El Cariso, about 19 miles southwest of Elsinore.body found

Mrs. Brown had been reported missing on June 4th by her husband, Ralph, after she had failed to return home following a routine errand. It was clear to investigators that Mrs. Brown had been killed elsewhere before being buried off of the Ortega Highway. The Riverside County coroner’s report disclosed Mrs. Brown had died of multiple stab wounds in the chest. The weapon used by her killer was believed to have been a large hunting knife or bayonet, and the victim’s right arm had been severed and her heart and lungs removed. Her wedding and engagement rings, a wristwatch and a number of oil company credit cards had been taken.

Cops didn’t yet know that the two killings were connected, but they would soon get a tip that would reveal the names of the possible killers.


craig_photoBy the 1st of July 1970 arrests had been made in connection with the murders of Jerry Carlin and Florence Brown. One of the alleged perpetrators was a 20 year-old transient, Steven Hurd — the other person who was arrested was an old acquaintance of my brother’s, 16 year-old Arthur Craig Hulse, the boy who had my brother’s back in junior high school, and the same the guy that my brother’s best friend and I had picked up hitchhiking shortly before we heard about the murders!

I had never thought of Craig as anything but a kid with an unhappy home life. He wasn’t the brightest of the assorted misfits and oddballs who hung out at our home while my brother and I were growing up, but that had never mattered to any of us. All you had to do to be accepted in our circle of friends was simply be yourself, contribute to the conversations if you wished, be able to take a joke at your expense and respect our home.

In our short lives my brother and I had known people who went had gone down a bad road. Some of the people we had known had died of drug ODs and suicide, others had survived minor brushes with the law, but no one and nothing had prepared us for the summer of 1970.

At first it was impossible to conceive of Craig as someone capable of killing, but then the tale of the two slayings started to unfold; and it was grotesque.

NEXT TIME:  Jerry Carlin, Florence Brown and their killers.

The Devil in Orange County



Groovy, baby.

Beginning with the Summer of Love in 1967 the Baby Boomers felt that they were on to something profound — all you had to do was wear a garland of flowers around your head, smoke a few joints, flash the Peace Sign, and major changes in society would follow. If only it had been that simple.

bombing for peace If you were in your teens or twenties during that time, life was a contact high; everywhere you went it seemed like there was great music and free dope, but no high lasts forever. Eventually a decent buzz becomes harder to sustain.  At first you chase the high in the bright sunlight with energy and enthusiasm because it feels so damned good; but there comes a time when the high proves elusive — you catch glimpses of it as it disappears down deeper and darker alleyways.

Less than a year after the Summer of Love, on April 4,1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. People barely had a chance to process the pain and horror of his death when, on June 6,1968, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The Age of Aquarius was on life support.

Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

The ultimate perversion of the hippie ethos occurred on August 9, 1969, with the cruel and senseless torture and slaughter of Sharon Tate and her unborn son, Abigail Folger, Wojciejk Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. The next night, Leno and Rosemary LaBiana were brutally murdered. The cryptic blood-scrawled words “Rise”, “Pig” and “Healter (sic) Skelter” at the crime scenes had terrified everyone. Had Satan had taken up residence in Los Angeles?  Maybe Hollywood was Sodom after all.

A raid on the Spahn Ranch in mid-August 1969 by L.A. County Sheriffs uncovered stolen car parts, teen-age runaways, drugs and weapons. While the raid was being conducted Woodstock (“Three days of Peace & Music”) was in full swing on Yasgur’s farm in New York.

By December 2, 1969 the Manson Family was being exposed for what they really were, remorseless killers. The month of December had started out bad and it wasn’t going to get any better.

Hell's Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

Hell’s Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

The final fuck you to the hippie dreams of Flower Power came at a free concert at Altamont in Northern California on December 6, 1969. The concert was meant to be Woodstock West, but instead it became an ugly confrontation between the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired as security for the event, and the musicians and concert goers. The night ended with three accidental deaths and the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter.

Despite its early promise of peace & love, the ’60s had died a terrible death — bathed in blood, choking on shattered dreams and littered with acid casualties.

Maybe the ’70s would be better.


Orange County, California, a collection of quiet suburbs, has long had a reputation for political and social conservatism. The inhabitants of Orange County are described as living behind “The Orange Curtain” a play on the infamous Iron Curtain which once separated communist and capitalist Europe.

orange_groveI grew up behind the Orange Curtain in Garden Grove, a middle-class suburb close enough to Disneyland for my family to be able to watch the summer fireworks from our living room window. There were orange groves and strawberry fields near our home and the smell of orange blossoms, not easy to find anymore, brings back memories. The city’s claim to fame was as the home of the Garden Grove Community Church (the “drive-in” church) designed by the visionary architect Richard Neutra.

Garden Grove Community Church.

Garden Grove Community Church.

The first summer of the 70s was just beginning, and my brother’s best friend and I were driving around in my 1964 VW Beetle. We were headed home when we noticed Craig Hulse, whom we hadn’t seen in ages, hitch-hiking at the side of the road. I pulled over and Craig got into the car.

Craig was sixteen years old, a big kid, at least six feet tall and well over 200 lbs. We’d known him for years, he and my brother had gone to junior high school together. My brother is cursed with the Renner mouth — it’s an affliction I share — we seem to lack a necessary filter between the brain and mouth so we often say exactly what we’re thinking — and that isn’t always wise. A sense of humor and the ability to take a wicked joke at your expense was de rigueur in my family, but my brother’s quick wit and missing filter caused him a few problems in school.  However Craig, who had earned the nickname “Moose”, occasionally came to his rescue.

It was no surprise to find Craig hitch-hiking, everyone did in those days. We heard that he’d dropped out of school, run away from home and was heavy into Seconal and booze. Once he was in the car we asked him how he was doing and if he was okay. He said that things weren’t going well and that he was thinking about enlisting in the military to try to get his life in order. Enlisting would have had him on a plane to Vietnam before the year was over, but we figured maybe his life was bad enough to warrant drastic action. We dropped him off a few miles down the road and wished him well.

Days later, as the Manson jury was being selected, we heard that Craig had been arrested in connection with two brutal murders. One of slayings was rumored to have been part of a Satanic ritual.

The 70s were off to a scary start.

NEXT: Two murders and the dark side of an old friend.

Deranged L.A. Crimes in Los Angeles Magazine


Los Angeles Magazine has added a crime page to its on-line content and Deranged L.A. Crimes is pleased to be a contributor! To check it out click HERE.

I’m researching some great new stories for the blog — including a trunk murder, so I’ll be back in a couple of days with more killer deranged crimes from historic Los Angeles.




Stella Darlene Nolan: Conclusion

new hunt

Ilene and Owen Nolan struggled to get on with their lives in the wake of Stella’s disappearance. They moved to the San Diego area, but I imagine that every time the story of a missing or abused child made the news their hearts broke a little more.

Sherriff’s deputies and LAPD investigators continued to pull in every deviant who even looked cross-eyed at a child. They busted other child molesters, but they couldn’t seem to get a break in Stella’s case which grew colder with every passing day.

In December 1955, Sheriff’s deputies interrogated Robert Louis Kracker, 20, on suspicion of kidnapping a 3-year-old Baldwin Park girl, Cynthia Hardacre. Kracker had been visiting a cousin in the Hardacre neighborhood when Cynthia, apparently mistaking Robert for her father, dashed toward his automobile calling, “Wait, Daddy.”  Kracker told the police
that: “When I saw her, something just came over me.”

Kracker was on parole and had a record, including sex offenses, going back to age 14!  In 1949 he spent three months in Juvie and was subsequently committed to the State Hospital at Camarillo.  In July of 1950, he was arrested in L.A. on suspicion of a sex offense, and in November, 1951 he was arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Robert was guilty of the attack on Cynthia, but he was not responsible for Stella’s abduction.

In August of 1961 the L.A. Times reported on five children who had mysteriously vanished in recent years; Stella’s name was among them.


On March 6, 1970 a 51-year-old Sylmar construction worker, Mack Ray Edwards, appeared at the LAPD’s Foothill Division station. He handed them a loaded handgun and then said the had kidnapped three Sylmar girls earlier that day.

quiet guyEdwards, a native of Arkansas, was booked on suspicion of murder in the 1969 death of a 13-year-old Pacoima boy — one of the six cases he voluntarily discussed with detectives.

220px-Mack_ray_edwardsEdwards and an unnamed 15-year-old companion told the police that they’d entered the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Cohen at 5 a.m., after the couple had left for work.  The two stole a coin collection and other items from the house and then took the three Cohen children, Valerie (12); Cindy (13); and Jan (14) by car to Bouquet Canyon in Angeles National Forest north of Newhall.

Two of the girls escaped and the third was abandoned by Edwards and his accomplice — they told her they’d send a sheriff’s car to pick her up.

It was during his confession to police that he admitted to kidnapping, raping, and then murdering 8-year-old Stella Darlene Nolan in 1953.  The girl was allegedly his first murder victim.

In mid-March 1970, the skeletal remains of Stella Darlene Nolan were unearthed by a highway crew who worked from directions given to them by her killer.

In addition to the slaying of Stella, Edwards admitted to murdering Gary Rocha, 16, in 1968, and Donald Allen Todd, 13, in 1960. He also admitted to three other murders of children but he wasn’t charged with them because their bodies couldn’t be found. Edwards was a heavy machine operator and often worked freeway construction sites, it simply wasn’t possible for the law to go around digging up Southern California freeways in an effort to unearth the other remains.

In Van Nuys Superior Court, Edwards entered a plea of guilty in three of the six slayings to which he had confessed. Sgt. George H. Rock was called to testify about Edwards’ voluntary admission that he was a child killer. All of the murders were horrible, but Stella’s was the worst.  Edwards had taken her from Auction City in Norwalk to his Azusa home where he molested and then attempted to strangle her. After he thought Stella was dead, he threw her body over bridge.  The following day he returned to the scene to bury his victim and found the little girl still alive. She had managed to drag herself about 100 feet. She was sitting up, dazed, when Edwards took out his pocketknife and stabbed her to death.

Edwards attempted to sell his surrender and confession as a guilty conscience.  He said:

“I have a guilt complex. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t sleep and it was beginning to affect my work.  You know I’m a heavy equipment operator. That long grader I’m using now costs a lot of money — $200,000.  I might wreck it.  Or turn it over and hurt someone.”

That doesn’t sound like a guilty conscience to me — it sounds exactly like the kind of profoundly stupid, self-serving statement a sociopath would make.  There was no expression of remorse for his victims, his primary concern appears to have been the deleterious affect the brutal child killings were having on his work.

deathEdwards claimed to want a death sentence. Maybe he did — he attempted suicide twice during his trial. On March 30, 1970 he slashed a 14-inch cut across his stomach with a razor blade and on May 7, 1970 he took an overdose of tranquilizers   The third time was the charm — he successfully hanged himself with a length of TV cord in his cell on California’s Death Row.

Edwards had always claimed six victims, never more; however, he is suspected in the murders of over 20 children between 1953 and 1970.

In 2006, a letter written by Edwards to his wife while he was on death row implicated him the 1957 disappearance of 8-year-old Tommy Bowman in the Arroyo Seco.

Ramona Price

Ramona Price

In 2011, the Santa Barbara Police Department took four teams of cadaver dogs to an area near a Goleta freeway overpass that was under renovation, looking for the remains of Ramona Price, a 7-year-old girl who disappeared in August 1961 — Mack Ray Edwards worked in the area during that time.  Ramona wasn’t found, but the search for other victims of Edwards continues.


A little over 40 years following Mack Ray Edwards’ suicide I stumbled across Stella Darlene Nolan’s photograph in a Los Angeles Police Daily Bulletin as I was archiving documents from 1953. Something about Stella pulled me in and when I couldn’t find a cancellation for her missing notice in a subsequent Bulletin I followed up, and that’s when I discovered her entire story.


I shared everything I’d uncovered with the L.A. Police Museum’s Executive Director and he telephoned a detective he knows at Foothill Division. She told him she couldn’t discuss details of the case with him because she was assigned to the cold case!  She’s seeking to solve many more murders and disappearances for which Edwards may have been responsible. The detective asked if we would send her a copy of the Daily Bulletin featuring Stella because she didn’t have one — it was an incredible feeling to be able to provide a small piece of information in an on-going investigation — my first cold case!

The Daily Bulletins aren’t merely artifacts to be cataloged and filed away; the impact of crime on victims and their families reaches across time. History lives.