Film Noir Friday: Slaughter on 10th Avenue [1957]

slaughter on tenth avenue

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 SLAUGHTER ON 10TH AVENUE, a 1957 crime drama, starring Richard Egan, Jan Sterling and Dan Duryea.

From IMDB:

Three men gun down Solly Pitts, ‘rebel’ against the racket-ridden Longshoremen’s Union. Before dying, Pitts tells his wife ‘Cockeye’ Cook was one of the killers…but won’t repeat it to the police, nor will anyone else help them. It seems it’s a dockyard tradition to handle private battles without help. Bill Keating, new to the D.A.’s office, is just naive enough to think he can make a case against Cook; but his efforts seem to be leading only to further violence.

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.




Film Noir Friday: The Lady Vanishes [1938]

lady vanishes

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 nifty Hitchcock thriller from 1938, THE LADY VANISHES starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and Dame May Whitty. Two of the film’s incidental characters, Charters and Caldicott, who are mad for cricket, were featured in a 1985 BBC television series. I love this movie — I hope you’ll enjoy it!

TCM says: 

Aboard a train bound for London, Miss Froy, an elderly English governess, makes the acquaintance of young Iris Henderson. When Miss Froy disappears, Iris asks for the other passengers’ assistance in finding the old woman, only to have all contend that Miss Froy was never on the train.

The Body In The Garage, Conclusion


Harriet Terrell

Jimmy Reid told the cops that he had been nagged so relentlessly by his girlfriend, Anne Terrell, that he’d snapped and killed her He said that she wouldn’t leave him alone on the subject of bootlegging.  No, she didn’t want him to stop — she wanted him to begin again because they needed the money.

However, once it was revealed that the dead woman’s eleven-year-old daughter, Harriett, had been molested by Reid  the original reason for the murder was abandoned in favor of another far more disturbing and sinister motive.

The doctors proved that eleven-year-old Harriet Terrell had been criminally assaulted, and she was able to name her attacker — her “stepfather”, Jimmy Reid.

Inspector of Detectives Davidson said:

“This evidence throws new light on the case and establishes an entirely different
motive for the crime. Mrs. Terrell undoubtedly learned of the relations Reid had
with her daughter and probably threatened him with exposure. This most likely
caused the quarrel which resulted in her death.”

As a motive it made one hell of a lot more sense that a violent argument over
Reid’s refusal to return to bootlegging.mistreatment denied

Reid continued to deny harming Harriet, but he related to the Coroner’s jury how
he had killed Ann by cracking her over the head with a gas pipe after she had
kicked him.

“I temporarily went insane.” he said.

As far as his reason for refusing to get back into the bootlegging business, Reid
said he was afraid of being arrested again and he didn’t want to get Harriet into
any trouble. Huh? Unless the kid was helping him to run the booze around town it
seems unlikely that she’d be in any trouble over contraband liqour.

girl witnessThe D.A.’s office filed a complaint against Jimmy Reid for two counts of mistreating Harriet — once prior to the murder, and one time afterwards. Harriet was required to face Reid in court. It must have been traumatizing for the little girl; and if that wasn’t awful enough, in an utterly nauseating display during the court proceedings Reid leaped from his chair and fell to his knees in front of Harriet sobbing that he did not kill her mother. He had to be forcibly returned to his chair by the bailiff.

In spite of his confession to the cops in which he had recounted details of Anne’s murder, Jimmy later testified that another man beaten Terrell to death. He admitted, however, that he had buried the body.reid life

The spectacle of Reid prostrating himself in front of Harriet claiming to be innocent of her mother’s murder was revolting, but his encore was even more despicable. When he appeared for sentencing in Anne’s slaying he brought with him a sheaf of papers which he dropped on the clerk’s desk. The papers were sentimental poems in which the thirty-nine-year-old Reid professed his love for eleven-year-old Harriet.

Here is a sample of Reid’s verse:

“Oh God upon high, won’t you please hear my cry
And show me the way to come home?
Don’t pass me by, I am ready to die,
I’m deserted and left all alone.

Jimmy Reid was convicted of having murdered Anne so that he could run off with Harriet, and he was sentenced to life. The judge recommended that he never be paroled. I think he should have received the death sentence for his crappy poem.

Harriet’s birth father, Frank C. Terrell, petitioned the court for custody, but Veteran’s Administration physicians reported that he wasn’t able to provide properly for his little girl. Harriet’s maternal grandmother, Eva Gram of South Minneapolis, was given guardianship.

James Reid vanished from the news until September 1946 when he escaped from a prison road camp near Quincy, Plumas County. Warden Duffy of San Quentin said Reid had been sent to the road camp because he had a record of good behavior. In fact he would soon have been eligible parole.

I don’t know if Reid was returned to prison or if he remained on the lam. There were no further reports on him (at least none that I could find) in the newspapers.

The Body In The Garage

bootlegging quarrel“I just don’t know why I did it. We had an argument about bootlegging and I hit her over the head with an iron bar.”

That was the explanation given to cops by James A. (Jimmy) Reid, a thirty-nine-year-old bootlegger, for the death of forty-year-old Mrs. Anne Terrell, whose body was discovered buried beneath the floor of the garage at 323 North Flores Avenue on February 23, 1932.

garageAccording to Jimmy he and Anne argued constantly, but he lost it when she nagged him about going back into bootlegging:

“She wanted me to go back to bootlegging but I didn’t want to-

I’d been arrested twice before and I didn’t want to get knocked over again. I wasn’t drunk, but I got so mad I picked up an iron bar and let her have it. I was sorry right away, but that didn’t do me any good.”

Reid was busted in a bungalow at 2618 Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica. With him was Anne’s eleven-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, Harriet.

Harriet had come very close to waking in on Jimmy as he was digging her mother’s grave. Reid described the close encounter:

“I dragged her (Anne) into the garage and had almost succeeded in digging the hole and covering her up when Harriet came hone from school for lunch and almost walked in on me. I gave her some lunch money and told her to go back to school. Then I finished covering up the grave and later I got some fresh gravel and sprinkled it over the broken ground”

Until cops informed Harriett of her mother’s death, she thought that Anne had taken a job with a motion picture company and had gone on location for a while.child deceived

If not for a strange sequence of events, Reid may have gotten away with the killing

Reid and Terrell had first moved in to the bungalow in January of 1932. They’d
made a deal with the rental agent, Mrs. Lillian Stover, to take the place furnished.
Stover thought that there was something mysterious about the new tenants and
she took the license plate number of Reid’s car — just in case.

anne_terrellIn March, Stover dropped by the house to collect the rent but when she arrived she got the feeling that Terrell and Reid had flown. She let herself inside the house and noticed that a rug and some sheets were missing from a bedroom. She made a theft report at the Hollywood Police Station.

Detective Lieutenants Dinneen and Wheeler went to the house to look around — they even went into the garage. It wasn’t until they searched the bedroom again that they found a spot that looked like blood and tracks of dirt that looked like they had come from the garage. They found a soft spot in the garage floor and brought some men in to dig; four feet down they discovered Anne’s body.

A trace went out on Reid’s license plate and cops found out that the car was registered to George Forant of Santa Monica. Detectives paid Forant a visit and he told them that Reid had declared that Mrs. Terrell had run away with another
man and left him with little Harriet.

Forant’s wife was taking care of Harriet while Reid was down town on an errand.
Cops waited for Reid to return home. It was shortly after 3 p.m. that Jimmy pulled
up to the house. He saw the officers waiting for him, but made no attempt to flee.
He said:

“I know what fellows want. On my way downtown I saw a bunch of cars parked on Flores street and when I came back there was a crowd of people there. I knew they had found the body. I even drove by to make sure. I guess it is all up but the shouting.”

Well, not quite all up.

Harriet was taken to Juvenile Hall where she was scheduled to be examined by
physicians to eliminate the possibility that she had been molested by Reid.
Jimmy told cops that he was always good to Harriet, and acquaintances of his
said that he always liked children.

NEXT TIME: Harriet tells her story.

Aggie Underwood: In Memoriam

aggie_perry fowler collection

Portrait of Aggie Underwood taken by Perry Fowler. Courtesy of Scott Martinez.

Agness “Aggie” Underwood passed away 29 years ago today. We never met but she has had a profound influence on my life, particularly during the last several years.

I’ve been obsessed with crime novels and true crime since I was a kid, and my compulsion to read it has never diminished. Writing about true crime is a relatively new endeavor for me and I attribute that, in large part, to Aggie’s influence. She is the inspiration for this blog and for the Deranged L.A. Crimes Facebook page, and I am proud to have authored her Wikipedia page — she was long over due for recognition.

As I’ve dug deeper into the crimes that have shocked and, in some ways, defined Los Angeles, I’ve felt Aggie’s presence.  Aggie worked in Los Angeles from the late 1920s through the late 1960s — and for nearly two decades she was a reporter. My interest in history and crime set me on the path to write about it, but it’s been my admiration for Aggie that has made me want to tackle many of the same cases that she wrote about.

I gave a lecture at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles on June 29th entitled SLEEPING BEAUTIES: DERANGED L.A. CRIMES FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF AGGIE UNDERWOOD — here is an excerpt from my presentation. I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for everything, Aggie.


In 1926 as a young wife and mother Aggie had no interest in working outside the home, but she wanted a pair of silk stockings in the worst way. When her husband, Harry, told her that there wasn’t enough money in the budget for her to buy them, Aggie said she’d get a job and earn the money.

Aggie & Harry [Photo courtesy CSUN Special Collections]

Aggie & Harry [Photo courtesy CSUN Special Collections]

Aggie quickly realized that she may have put her foot in her mouth rather than into a new pair of silk stockings; she didn’t have a clue about where to find work. Fate intervened when a friend of hers, who worked at the THE RECORD, phoned and told her that the newspaper needed someone to temporarily operate the switchboard.  Aggie took the job and it would turn out to be one of the most important decisions of her life.

Aggie came to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the newsroom and she loved being in the midst of a breaking story.  In December 1927, the city was horrified when William Edward Hickman, who called himself “The Fox” murdered and then butchered twelve year old school girl, Marian Parker. Hickman fled after the murder and the resulting manhunt was one of the biggest in the West.

00027428_marian parker

Marian Parker [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

In her autobiography Aggie recalled how she felt when they got the word that Hickman had been captured in Oregon:

“As the bulletins pumped in and the city-side worked furiously at localizing, I couldn’t keep myself in my niche.  I committed the unpardonable sin of looking over shoulders of reporters as they wrote.  I got under foot.  In what I thought was exasperation, Rod Brink, the city editor, said:

‘All right, if you’re so interested, take this dictation.’ 

I typed the dictation—part of the main running story.  I was sunk.  I wanted to be a reporter.”

She eventually got her wish and began reporting on stories for THE RECORD. Smart and hardworking, she made a name for herself locally and was courted by William Randolph Hearst for his publishing empire.

She resisted his overtures (and even his offers of more money) because she was happy at THE RECORD. The smaller paper gave her the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business – she thought working for Hearst might pigeon-hole her.

It wasn’t until THE RECORD folded in 1935 that Aggie agreed to become a reporter for THE HERALD.  She said that she had heard the term “working for Hearst” uttered contemptuously; but she had been too busy learning her craft to pay much attention to the gibes.

Aggie interviewing a mourner at Angelus Temple.

Aggie interviewing a mourner at Angelus Temple.

She said:

“…I did not feel I stigmatized myself when I accepted the HERALD-EXPRESS offer.  The invitation was a life line, and one did not need to be bereft of ideals to tie onto it.”

In her 1949 autobiography, NEWSPAPERWOMAN, Aggie described what it was like to be a reporter on the Herald:

“The Herald-Express is too fast for the sort of reporter who flounders when he is required to produce a new lead on a running story for each upcoming edition “

Aggie never floundered. She had reported from the scenes of disasters like the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, and she’d also covered some of the most heinous crimes committed in the city.

1933 Long Beach earthquake [Photo courtesy LAPL]

1933 Long Beach earthquake [Photo courtesy LAPL]

During the 1930s there were several daily papers in Los Angeles and Aggie had to be a fierce competitor.  In her autobiography Aggie wrote about the time she beat another reporter to some photos:

“Once, on a rather cheap murder and suicide, Casey Shawhan, then an Examiner reporter, and I were rifling a bureau drawer for pictures—no we weren’t housebreaking—when we grasped a pile of photographs simultaneously.  The tug of war was unequal, for Casey had played football at U.S.C.  So I kicked him in the shin.  He let go of the pictures and, clasping his bruise, danced on his other leg, howling, ‘O-o-h, gahdammit.  I’ll get even with you, Underwood.  You wait and see.’”  I didn’t wait.  I was scurrying off to the office with the pictures.”

Aggie thought of herself as a general assignment reporter; however, she gained a reputation as a crime reporter.  Good detectives are observers and so are good reporters, which may explain why stories circulated that Aggie had solved crimes.

aggie_harry raymond_Page_29

Aggie interviewing an unknown bad dame at Lincoln Heights Jail. [Photo courtesy of CSUN Special Collections]

In late 1939, Aggie went out on a story that appeared to be a tragic accident – a family of five had been killed when their car had tumbled hundreds of feet down a mountainside near the Mt. Wilson Observatory.  There was one survivor, the husband and father of the victims, Laurel Crawford.

laurel_crawfordAggie wasn’t allowed to interview him because cops felt he’d been through enough; however, Aggie made a deal with one of the deputies who allowed her to listen in while Crawford was being questioned.  Aggie observed the man, and she had a hunch.  One of the Sheriff’s department homicide investigators asked Aggie:

“What do you think of it, Aggie?”

She didn’t hesitate, and replied:

“I think it smells.  He’s guilty as hell.”

Aggie had observed not only Crawford’s demeanor, which led her to believe his display of grief was disingenuous, but she had also noticed that his shoes weren’t scuffed, and his clothing wasn’t dirty, torn or wrinkled, which made his story of climbing down the mountain to the wreckage of the family sedan pretty tough to believe. Additionally, Crawford had stated that he had picked up the body of one of his daughters and held her, but there was no evidence of blood on his clothing.  Aggie’s Spidey-Sense was engaged.freespidey2sense2

A thorough investigation of the case proved that Crawford had taken out insurance policies on each of the victims, worth a total of $30,500 (that’s over half a million in today’s money!)  Laurel Crawford was sentenced to four consecutive life terms with a recommendation that he never be paroled.

For years Aggie covered everything from celebrity trials to gruesome murders. In January 1947 arguably the most infamous murder case in L.A.’s history broke; the mutilation slaying of twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short.

Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Underwood was assigned to the story. There have been several people over the years who have claimed credit for naming the victim The Black Dahlia; and Aggie was one of them.  Aggie said that the Black Dahlia tag was dug out on a day when everyone was combing blind alleys. She decided to check in with Ray Giese, a Det. Lt. in LAPD homicide, to see if any stray fact may have been overlooked.

According to Aggie, he said: “This is something you might like, Agness.  I’ve found out they called her the ‘Black Dahlia’ around that drug store where she hung out down in Long Beach”.   Like it?  She LOVED it!

Aggie interviewed Robert “Red” Manley, the first serious suspect in the Black Dahlia case, and she was prepared to follow the story to its conclusion when without warning, she was benched.

Robert "Red" Manley [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Robert “Red” Manley [Photo courtesy LAPL]

After a couple of days of cooling her heels in the newsroom she decided to bring in her embroidery hoop.  Pretty soon she heard snickers.  Aggie said that one of her colleagues laughed out loud and said:

“What do you think of that?  Here’s the best reporter on the Herald, on the biggest day of one of the best stories in years—sitting in the office doing fancy work!”

Aggie was quickly reassigned to the Dahlia case, and just as quickly yanked off of it. It was then that she was given the news that she was being promoted to city editor!  Aggie said she never understood the timing of her promotion – she would have preferred to follow the Dahlia story until it went cold.  But it was an important moment in her career and for women in journalism – Aggie was the first woman in the U.S. to become the City Editor of a major metropolitan newspaper!


P.S. I’m currently researching the Laurel Crawford case  — it’s diabolical.