Thanks to Sherry Smith for adding to my knowledge of Luella Pearl Hammer — one of Mary Skeele’s kidnappers. I’d been unable to find anything further about Luella in the Los Angeles newspapers after she went to prison for the crime; however, Sherry found a piece in the San Jose Evening News for May, 30, 1933 that said Luella was “moved from San Quentin to the asylum on June 6th”.
That piece of information motivated me to search for more. I discovered that Luella Pearl Hammer was born on September 22, 1895 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Her birth name was Luella Pearl Hammer so if she married, as the records reflect throughout her adult life, she never took her husband’s name.
Luella was listed in the Pasadena City Directory for several years, most notably in 1930 when she was living in the same house where she and Van Dorn would stash Mary Skeele for twenty-four hours in 1933.
The 1940 Federal Census has Luella residing in the Mendocino State Hospital for the Insane. Luella must have been able to convince the authorities that she was mentally ill, or perhaps she always was.Luella claimed her profession as concert pianist and music teacher. She had been a student in the College of Music at USC, which is how she knew of Dr. Walter Skeele (Mary’s husband) who was Dean there for many years.
Luella Pearl Hammer lived to be 94 years old; she died on May 14, 1990 in Ukiah, Mendocino, California — the location of the mental hospital.
While writing and researching this tale I’ve been humming a Beatle’s tune, but substituting “Luella’s Pearl Hammer” for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Joan in the song. Well, I hope that I can finally get rid of that ear worm!
P.S. Thanks again to Sherry Smith, and a huge thank you to Mike Fratantoni who introduced me to this case.