Love Hoax

In early March 1927, twenty-year-old Tony Santi arrived at the Burbank Police Department to report an assault on his girlfriend, a fifteen-year-old Burbank high school girl, Mary Garard.

BURBANK POLICE

Tony sat in the station and related a bizarre tale to officers. Two weeks earlier, the couple drove out to a cabin in Kagel Canyon in the hills west of Roscoe. They wanted to prepare it for a party later that day. Tony said the cabin had no running water, so he went out to a stream to fill their bucket. He told Mary he would be gone for about fifteen minutes.

When he returned, he found Mary bound and gagged. He released her, and she told him what had happened. She said shortly after he left to get water, two men, reeking of alcohol, turned up at the cabin door. They asked her if she was alone and she told them no. She said her boyfriend was due to return any minute. Then, without warning, the men grabbed her arms. They bound her and stuffed a rag into her mouth to stifle her screams. They dragged her to a cot. One man produced a knife and, as Mary struggled, he cut into the flesh of her left shoulder the letters NR. The men said, “We are Night Riders. Let this be a lesson to you.”

Mary’s parents knew nothing about the assault until they arrived home from a trip to Colorado a few days later. Tony told police he was making the report against the wishes of Mary and her parents. They wanted the matter dropped.

Because the attack occurred in Los Angeles County territory, Burbank police referred the case to Captain William Bright of the Sheriff’s Department. Captain Bright told reporters that because Mary and her parents were unwilling to pursue the matter, he had no choice but to drop the investigation.

On the heels of Captain Bright’s announcement, Mary and her mother arrived at the Sheriff’s Department ready to swear out a complaint against the perpetrators of what newspapers referred to has a branding. Bright requested a John Doe warrant.

On the day following the Garard’s change of heart in the case, Mary and Tony appeared again in Captain Bright’s office. This time, they told him a different story.

The entire branding incident was a hoax perpetrated by the young lovers. As a minor, Mary required her parents’ consent to marry. They refused. Mary and Tony then concocted the branding scheme so her parents would see the wisdom of granting her a full-time protector. Sheriffs arrested Tony for assault and held Mary as a witness. Tony appeared in Judge MacCoy’s court to answer for two statutory charges. They fixed his bail at $1000.

It took until July to unravel Mary’s and Tony’s lies, but investigators finally sorted it out. In Superior Judge Elliot Craig’s court, Tony pleaded guilty to one of two counts charging a serious offense. (I think we can read between the lines and assume that Tony and Mary had intercourse.)

Mary confessed it was she who carved NR into her left shoulder to convince her parents to allow her to marry. Mutilating yourself is not the best way to show maturity. Her parents were wise to turn her down.

Mary and Tony went to an extraordinary amount of trouble to be together. So, what became of them? A superficial search of ancestry.com shows they married after all in December 1927, and may have divorced in the late 1930s. The course of true love never did run smooth.

Film Noir Friday: International Crime–The Shadow [1938]

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. Today’s feature is INTERNATIONAL CRIME–THE SHADOW starring Rod La Rocque and Astrid Allwyn.

Enjoy the movie!

IMDB says:

Lamont Cranston (Rod La Rocque), amateur criminologist and detective, with a daily radio program, sponsored by the Daily Classic newspaper, has developed a friendly feud that sometimes passes the friendly stage with Police Commissioner Weston (Thomas E. Jackson). He complains to his managing editor, Edward Heath (Oscar O’Shea), over the problems that have developed in his department since Phoebe Lane (Astrid Allwyn) has been hired as his assistant. He is advised to forget it since she is the publisher’s niece. During his broadcast about Honest John (William Pawley), a famous safe cracker who has served his time, Phoebe gives him a note that the Metropolitan Theatre is to be robbed at eight o’clock and she is so insistent that he adds it as his closing note.

Black Dahlia: Conclusion

[NOTE: The Long Beach Independent-January 15, 1949. I believe the detectives in the photo are Harry Hansen and Finis Brown ]

Two years passed with police no closer to a solution for Elizabeth Short’s murder. The 1949 Los Angeles Grand Jury intended to hold LAPD’s feet to the fire for failing to solve the Dahlia case and several other unsolved homicides and disappearances of women during the 1940s.

On September 6, 1949, the jury’s foreman, Harry Lawson, told reporters that a meeting of the administrative committee was scheduled for September 8.

Lawson said:

“There is every possibility that we will summon before the jury officers involved in the investigation of these murders. We find it odd that there are on the books of the Los Angeles Police Deportment many unsolved crimes of this type. Because of the nature of these murder and sex crimes, women and children are constantly placed in jeopardy and are not safe from attack. Something is radically wrong with the present system for apprehending the guilty. The alarming increase in the number of unsolved murders and other major crimes reflects ineffectiveness in law enforcement agencies and the courts, and that should not be tolerated.”

In his statement, Lawson places the blame for the unsolved homicides squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement and the courts. What Lawson failed to understand was that crime was changing. No longer could police assume a woman’s killer was her husband or boyfriend. Stranger homicides were nothing new, but neither were they common.

The population of post-war Los Angeles skewed young and, because of a variety of factors, like the acute housing shortage, they were transient. A potent and deadly mix of opportunity and a large victim pool made it easy for the criminally inclined to do their worst. Women had a false sense of security about men in uniform. Behavior considered risky by today’s standards was acceptable during the 1940s.

From the outbreak of the war, the government encouraged women to support men in uniform. Newspapers and women’s magazines devoted countless column inches to ways in which they could aid fighting men. Women formed “Add-A-Plate” clubs. The mission of the clubs was to invite a soldier home for a meal. Women also routinely picked up soldiers and sailors hitchhiking because it was their patriotic duty.

On April 2, 1943, the Pasadena Post wrote about a “ride waiting zone” which gave military men a place to stand and be visible to passing motorists who would then give them a ride. Most of the men were decent and law-abiding, but some returned home severely damaged by their war experiences. How many of those men were capable of murder?

Pfc. George Morrow, left, and Pvt. Dennis Ward could not wait until painters had completely finished the first service men’s waiting zone before they tried it out.

LAPD detectives spared nothing in their investigation of Short’s slaying. They took over 2700 reports. There were over 300 named suspects. They arrested fifty suspects who they subsequently cleared and released. Nineteen false confessors wasted law enforcement’s time and resources.

In 1949, the DA’s office issued a report on the investigation into Short’s murder. In part, the report stated:

“[she] knew at least fifty men at the time of her death and at least 25 men had been seen with her within the 60-day period preceding her death. She was not a prostitute. She has been confused with a Los Angeles prostitute by the same name… She was known as a teaser of men. She would ride with them, chisel a place to sleep, clothes or money, but she would then refuse to have sexual intercourse by telling them she was a virgin, or that she was engaged or married. There were three known men who had sexual intercourse with her and, according to them, she got no pleasure out of this act. According to the autopsy surgeon, her sex organs showed female trouble. She had disliked queer women very much, as well as prostitutes. She was never known to be a narcotic addict.”

Distracted by the continuing saga of local gangster Mickey Cohen, the jury turned their attention away from the carnage. In the end, they passed the baton to the 1950 grand jury–which also found itself sidetracked.

Mickey Cohen and his bullet proof car.

What happened to the women who disappeared? It is unlikely that we will ever know. It is also unlikely that the identity of the killer(s) will be discovered. People will always speculate about the cases, and every few years a book about the Black Dahlia slaying will emerge claiming to have solved the decades long cold case. None of the books I’ve read so far is credible.

I do not accept theories which rely on elaborate conspiracies perpetrated by everyone, from a newspaper mogul to a local gangster to an allegedly evil genius doctor. My disbelief is based in part on the fact that most people are incapable of keeping a secret. Benjamin Franklin said, “Three (people) can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Eventually, someone talks.

Elizabeth Short’s killer probably kept his depraved secret but, even if he didn’t, anyone who may have known the truth is long dead.

NOTE: This concludes my series of Black Dahlia posts for now. I hope you will stay with me as I unearth more of L.A.’s most deranged crimes.

Film Noir Friday, Saturday Matinee–Night Editor [1946]

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. Today’s feature is NIGHT EDITOR [1946] starring William Gargan, Janis Carter and Jeff Donnell.

The film is based on a radio program of the same name, which ran from 1934 to 1948. Sponsored by Edwards Coffee, the program featured Hal Burdick as the “night editor”. Burdick received readers’ requests for stories, in a “letter to the editor” format, which he would tell on the program. Burdick played all characters in each episode. The radio series was adapted for Night Editor, a short-lived TV series on the DuMont Television Network in 1954, also hosted by Burdick.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

At the offices of the New York Star , Johnny, a troubled young reporter, slumps despondently at his desk. Johnny’s problems cause editor Crane Stewart to reminisce about another troubled young man he knew years earlier: Homicide detective Tony Cochrane dotes on his little son Doc, but is estranged from Martha, his unsophicsticated wife. Tony’s estrangement arises from his love affair with Jill Merrill, a cold-hearted socialite. Although Tony has tried to break off their relationship, Jill keeps him ensnared with her sexual depravity. While passionately embracing at the beach one evening, Jill and Tony see a car stop along the road and hear a woman scream. When a man jumps out of the car and flees, Tony is about to give chase when Jill reminds him that his involvement would expose their illicit affair.