The Murder Complex, Part 5

Chief County Investigator George Contreras supervised the disinterment of Grace’s decomposing body from her cement covered coffin in the cistern at her Beverly Glen cabin. News of the discovery spread, and soon morbid crowds paralyzed traffic in the Glen as they attempted to catch a glimpse of Thomas.

Dressed in a blue suit and appearing calm, Thomas, unaided, exited a car in front of the cabin. He was accompanied by Deputy D.A. Harold Davis and Investigator Charles Reimer.

“We want to talk this over a little,” Deputy District Attorney Davis told him. Since uncovering Grace’s body, the authorities had a lot of questions for Thomas. As soon as they arrived at the cabin, Thomas settled himself in a comfortable rocking chair, lit a cigar, and spoke.

Grace’s body found in cistern

He told the investigators, and the shorthand reporter talking notes, that his father was a chaplain at the Pennsylvania Penitentiary. Thomas also mentioned that he received his education at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and at Washington and Jefferson University.

Thomas recalled meeting Grace and courting her, culminating in their Santa Barbara marriage. According to him, on the day of the marriage, Grace told him she was to be the “boss of the family.”

Investigators were skeptical of Thomas’ account. They believed he had been laying plans for his “perfect crime” since the first day of his marriage, and that he had always planned to kill Grace and gain control of Patrick and the Grogan fortune. They revealed that a part of his plan included Thomas choosing a woman for Patrick to marry, killing Patrick, and then marrying the boy’s widow.

At first, Thomas said he could not recall how he had killed Grace. “I don’t know how I killed her,” he said. His pseudo loss of memory was, investigators felt, another calculated move by Thomas. They believed Thomas planned to feign insanity.

Davis wanted to know where Grace was killed. Was it in Thomas’ office or in his car? Or out on a lonely road, or at the cabin?

Prodded by Davis’ questions, Thomas said: “I don’t think we went to the office. How did I get her out of the office? How could I get her out of the office?”

Then he began an eerie mantra: “I don’t know how I killed her, I don’t know how I killed her, I don’t know how I killed her.”

“And you didn’t choke her to death?” Davis asked.

“I don’t think so,” he answered.

“And if you killed her when she was in the car, you didn’t kill her with gas, did you?”

“No sir,” Thomas replied.

“If you killed her with gas, you killed her at the office?”

“Possibly I did.”

“And if you killed her in the car, you choked her to death?”

“Yes.”

Thomas admitted to carrying a .38 caliber automatic pistol in the side pocket of his car on the night of the murder. The weapon was discovered by Investigator Reimer in Thomas’ dresser at the Kingsley Drive townhouse.

“Did you shoot her?” he was asked.

“No, I don’t think so. Was she shot?”

“What was the next thing you remember?”

“When she hit the bottom of the cistern, there,” he pointed toward the cistern. “I think I heard a thud.”

Grace in the morgue.

After hours of sparring with investigators and just as he was about to be taken from the cabin to the Strother & Dayton funeral parlor to view Grace’s remains, Thomas said: “I’m glad she is dead. I am glad she’s dead, because I am free.”

It was 3 a.m. when Deputy D.A. Davis and his associates arrived at the funeral home with Thomas.

Thomas walked right up to Grace’s ravaged body and said: “It doesn’t look like her.”

Then Thomas swayed on his feet and collapsed.

“It was a little bit of a hand.” He mumbled.

Thomas was taken to the front office, where he sat with a vacant stare for several minutes before recovering himself. He wanted to unburden himself.

Thomas said that on the night of the murder, he and Grace stopped at the Plantation Grill, where they argued, then they went to his office where they got a bottle of liquor and got “lit up.” While they were at the office, Thomas picked up a tube of Somnoform, a heavy anesthetic, and concealed it in his pocket.

Grace fell asleep in the car as Thomas drove out to the cabin. When they arrived, Thomas put a mask over her face, administering the Somnoform until she quit breathing.

After giving Grace the drug, Thomas told investigators: “I put cotton in her nose, and then I took that rubber bag off the Somnoform.”

They found the bag from the tube of Somnoform stuffed into Grace’s mouth, which was initially mistaken for a rubber glove. Thomas had used the cotton and the rubber bag to make sure that Grace “wouldn’t start breathing again.”

Before dumping Grace’s body into the cistern, Thomas stole $140 from her purse and relieved her of her jewelry. He gave his assistant, Dorothy Leopold, the diamond ring Grace had been wearing, as well as several items of expensive clothing.

Dorothy knew nothing about the murder and, in fact, she was staunch in her support of Thomas. She told reporters: “Of course, at first I did not believe that the doctor had killed Mrs. Young. But after talking with Mr. Harris (of the Nick Harris Detective Agency), I was satisfied he (Thomas Young) knew more about it than he had related. The fact that she had not communicated with Patrick was pointed out to me by Mr. Harris, and I told him I would do everything I could to find out for him and the officers.”

Police allowed Dorothy to speak with Thomas and she asked him if he knew where Grace was. “Why don’t you tell them?” she said. To which Thomas replied: “I can’t.”

The most revolting part of Thomas’ confession was the glee he took in having Patrick assist him in pouring cement on Grace’s grave. He thought it was a “good joke.”

Of course, the investigators wanted to know what had motivated Thomas to murder Grace. He said he’d killed her because after their fight she had slapped him and broken his glasses. It was enough to activate the murder complex.

“Someone was always imposing on me, beating me, verbally or physically. Yes, I was always the goat,” Thomas said.

NEXT TIME: Thomas Young’s fate.

This entry was posted in the 1920s and tagged Charles Patrick GroganCharles ReimerGeorge ContrerasGrace Hunt Grogan YoungHarold DavisNick Harris Detective AgencySomnoform by Deranged. Bookmark the permalink.

The Murder Complex, Part 4

Thomas told anyone who asked him that the last time he saw Grace was on February 21, 1925. They had stopped at a roadhouse, the Plantation Grill, for drinks and dancing. National Prohibition may have been the law, but finding a cocktail was easy if you wanted one.

Entrance to speakeasy.

Thomas saw a group of people enter the café and recognized a woman named Nina. He had known her for several years. He spent some time chatting with her. Thomas said that Grace became jealous, and they argued. Rather than make a public scene, they left the roadhouse and continued their argument in the car until they reached Western and Eighth Street, where they made up. Instead of calling it a night, they went to the Biltmore Hotel, for the orchestra and dancing.

When they arrived at the Biltmore, Grace excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. Thomas waited, but she never returned.

Thomas reported Grace missing, and he also hired a private investigator. He maintained Grace had left for Paris or New York to seek a divorce. According to Thomas, she carried with her $126,000 in Liberty bonds. Thomas said Grace would return when she was ready. Then he went on with his life as if nothing had happened.

Biltmore Hotel

A couple of days after Grace disappeared, Thomas asked Patrick to accompany him to the Beverly Glen cabin because he said he needed to pour a concrete floor in the cistern which he claimed was leaking. Patrick welcomed any activity that would distract him from worrying about his mother. He mixed and poured the cement while Thomas smoothed it out.

Over the next few weeks, Thomas arranged parties and other social events for Patrick to “keep his mind off things.” Among the guests at the soirees was Thomas’ attractive young office assistant, Dorothy Leopold.

When Grace’s father Frank first got word that she was missing, he felt in his gut that something horrible had happened to her. He wanted to force a confrontation with Thomas, so he filed a legal request to become Patrick’s guardian. If the guardianship request was intended to fluster Thomas, it failed. Thomas said that it was up to Patrick to choose a guardian.

Patrick didn’t want his grandfather to be his guardian, so he named an attorney he knew to take charge of his legal affairs until Grace returned. As a further slap in the face to his mother’s family, Patrick stated his preference was to live with his stepfather.

Weeks went by with no sign of Grace. Then Patrick began receiving letters from her with New York postmarks. In the letters, she said that her family was keeping her from Thomas and that they knew where she was. Patrick felt torn between two opposing forces, which left him in a state of inner turmoil. He loved his mother’s family, but Thomas was good to him. He had even bought him a new Chrysler.

By June, Grace’s family, joined by her friends from the Ebell Club and trust company officers from the bank, appealed to District Attorney Asa Keyes to launch a sweeping investigation.

Original Ebell Club located in Figueroa. By C.C. Pierce & Co.

On June 12th, an investigation into Grace’s mysterious disappearance, spearheaded by the D.A., kicked into high gear. Los Angeles Police Department officers interviewed residents of Beverly Glen. Among those interviewed were Donald Mead and Kenneth Selby. The boys related to police what they had witnessed that February night. If Thomas had been creeping around in the cabin in total darkness, people might have found it odd, but it didn’t make him guilty.

Adjacent to the Young cabin was a well which supplied water to several surrounding cabins. Using a gasoline pump, the residents drew the water and piped it to the surrounding cabins. Residents told police it had been an open well until February, when Dr. Young had sealed it with a concrete floor. They found it strange that the water, which had always been pure, emitted a foul stench after Dr. Young installed the concrete floor. One resident said, “The water never began to smell until a few months ago. No, we cannot use it, not even for shower baths or for dishwashing. It is slightly discolored and when drawn, a yellowish smelling sediment settles in it. We have no idea what caused this sudden change in the water.”

The number of questions surrounding the Beverly Glen cabin prompted the police to initiate a search. The cabin held several intriguing clues; a one-ounce bottle of Novocain secreted near the fireplace and bloodstains in a bedroom.

Prior to the search, Thomas made a cryptic statement: “I hold the key to this situation, and I have burned my bridges behind me.”

While many still had doubts about what had happened to Grace, District Attorney Asa Keyes was not among them: “I am as certain as I am sitting here that Mrs. Young is dead—that she has been murdered. By whom she was slain, we do not know. That we are trying to determine.”

Following their search of the cabin, authorities broke up the concrete in the cistern and made a gruesome discovery.

NEXT TIME: Grace is found.

The Murder Complex, Part 3

Thomas Young

Thomas complained often that Grace had wanted to “be the boss” ever since they had said their I dos, and he resented her for it. Thomas was sly, manipulative and had an unhealthy interest in the fortune Grace and Patrick had shared.

At least Thomas was a decent stepfather. He worked hard to ingratiate himself with Patrick, and he was successful. Patrick formed a strong attachment to Thomas. But while Patrick was becoming fonder of Thomas, Grace was growing fearful of him.

In late 1924 or early 1925, Grace asked her father, Frank Hunt, to meet with her. She went over to his apartment on Irolo Street and picked him up to go for a drive. She told him she didn’t want to have a private conversation anywhere but in her car. She thought Thomas had placed a Dictaphone in the house.

If Frank thought his daughter was being paranoid without cause, he changed his mind after he heard her out.

As they drove around, Grace told Frank of the indignities Thomas had forced on her. She told him of intimate photographs which Thomas had taken. He bullied her into posing in ways that sickened her. But Grace couldn’t see a way out. Thomas had threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone how he treated her. He had also threatened to take Patrick away or to have her committed to Patton State Insane Asylum. Grace knew Thomas well enough to be convinced that these were not idle threats.

Father and daughter devised a plan that would get her to safety, but in the end, their fear of Thomas’ retaliation immobilized them.

Frank hadn’t known about the photos, but he was aware of an incident which had occurred several weeks earlier–in fact, he and Grace had talked about it.

At Thomas’ request, Patrick had visited him in his office to have a tooth filled. Almost immediately following the procedure, Patrick became ill. His face swelled up to an abnormal size, and he was in excruciating pain. Frank believed Thomas had administered a slow-acting poison to Patrick to “get him out of the way,” and he didn’t think his grandson would survive for another thirty days.

After conferring with her father and in direct opposition to Thomas’ wishes, Grace brought in Dr. J. A. Le Deux, who saved Patrick’s life.

Was Patrick’s close call attempted murder? Neither Frank nor Grace wanted to say anything to him without proof.

Patrick was unaware of his mother’s and grandfather’s fears about his safety. He liked and trusted Thomas. Perhaps that is why, when Grace disappeared in February 1925, he didn’t question Thomas’ assertion that Grace had left him. And if Thomas said Grace would return, then of course she would. Wouldn’t she?

NEXT TIME: The lady vanishes.