Police are searching for "bandit queen" Rose Berk with renewed effort after today's arrest of one of her henchmen, Fred J. Cook. Berk (aka Rose Buckingham, aka Rose Burke) is suspected of masterminding more than half a dozen "feminine lure" robberies during the last week alone. During the course of these hold-ups, Berk pretended to be a helpless female seeking "assistance in starting a stalled automobile." She was perhaps particularly suited to this role because, "unlike the usual type" of bandit queen, Berk was described by police as "homely, awkward in her manner and so old-fashioned that she still wears her hair long."
However out of style she may have been, Berk evaded capture by the L.A.P.D. On April 13, 1927, she was behind the wheel of the getaway car when a group of hold-up men, Fred Cook among them, robbed the Seaboard National Bank on Wilshire Boulevard of $21,000. The hapless Cook was arrested two years later, when in August 1929, he was recognized on a visit to Rose Berk, then jailed in Indianapolis. Alas, her trail goes cold here—we'll never know if she finally bobbed her hair.
Modeling the "old-fashioned" look is one of the winners of the Times's Mary Pickford look-alike contest in 1924.
Fifteen-year-old Lloyd Alley, arrested today in Los Angeles, is said to have made statements "tantamount to a confession" of his involvement with the "Sacred School of the Great White Brotherhood," an Oakland-based "love cult" with branches in San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Chicago, and Texas. At the same time the teenager was spilling the beans in L.A., San Francisco police raided the cult's Bay Area headquarters, where they found an "effigy of a woman with a sword piercing her heart, incoherent messages, cards bearing linked names of males and females and other equally weird evidence." Cultists are said to have "encouraged free love in its most exotic forms" in its attempts to breed a "superman" and "superwoman." "Mystical marriages" were arranged and "the sacred phallic laws" studied. Also in custody in Los Angeles is Russell Alley (Lloyd's father, cult name "Omar"). Cult founder and high priestess, Mrs. Gertrude Wright ("Zareda" to her followers), is being held in Oakland, along with her disciple, Irma Gibbs ("Ermengarde," a domestic in the Wright home). All were charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors: Lloyd Alley, plus two young women, Thelma Reid, 17, and Caroline Merwin, 18.
Lloyd Alley and Irma Gibbs both made confessions said to "be reeking with unprintable details," though the paper managed to squeeze in a mention of two "new Messiah" ceremonials Lloyd performed with Caroline Merwin. Caroline (whose stepmother's complaint set the raid in motion) was quite the little minx: when she appeared in juvenile court later in the week she relished telling the judge that she wore only "filmy underthings" during her initiation ceremony, and that her "vibration robes" were scanty as well. When she "admitted intimacies with Lloyd Alley," the two of them laughed until the judge admonished them to be quiet.
Times columnist Harry Carr thought the juicy case was nothing but "Bunk":
The attempt to paint these girls—and their beef-fed sheiks—as innocent, wide-eyed victims of a freak religion is enough to make anybody laugh.
Girls of this day and age are wise guys.
And any one of them knows that a so-called religious cult that involves being "initiated" in the presence of men with most of clothes off is merely an excuse for a debauch.
There is at least some hope for a girl who is frank enough to laugh.
Caroline Merwin was eventually released into her stepmother's custody. Lloyd Alley was remanded into the custody of the Juvenile Detention Home and was later made a ward of the court. In May 1927, a jury deliberated for ten minutes before it found Russell Alley guilty of contributing to the delinquency of minors. Gertrude Wright and Irma Gibbs flew the coop before they could be tried; they remain at large.
Late last summer, 21-year-old Evelyn Frances Taylor and her 22-year-old friend, Mrs. Bernice Clancy, visited the offices of Dr. W.E. Williams at 1548 West Sixth Street. Evelyn, it seems, was a girl in trouble—she was looking for what the Times referred to as an "asserted illegal operation." Williams provided one, but there were complications, and Evelyn Taylor eventually died from the botched abortion (exactly when was open to question—the Times gave three different dates during their ongoing coverage of the matter). When the State brought murder charges against Dr. Williams in October, Bernice Clancy became the star witness for the prosecution. After all, she had accompanied Evelyn Taylor on the fatal day, and, she told the grand jury, Williams explained the details of the operation to her.
Clancy began receiving written and oral threats. Then, as she stood on the back porch of her father's house one day in January, "a gloved hand closed over her face and mouth and she lost consciousness." Half an hour later, her father found her in the yard on the other side of the house. "A dish towel had been tied over her face and her feet bound." Clancy recovered from the attempted kidnapping.
Today, as the trial looms closer, Bernice Clancy collapsed in a faint at the home of Inspector Horn, where she has been living under guard. Apparently, "a lineman working on … the property made some joking remark to her, which she misinterpreted [or so says the Times]. She was unconscious for almost half an hour and it was necessary to call a physician to revive her," the Times reported. As a result, the district attorneys prosecuting the trial have ordered that she be held incommunicado "with instructions to not permit her to out on the street unless accompanied by an armed escort."
Update: Bernice Clancy testified without incident on March 9, 1927. On March 24, after twelve hours of deliberation, the jury found Dr. Williams guilty of manslaughter. His motion for a new trial was granted, but before it began, the original charge against him was thrown out on a technicality. The State of California wasn't done with Dr. Williams just yet, however; in June, he was listed as one of six physicians who were to appear before the State Board of Medical Examiners on charges of behavior "inimicable to their profession."
February 26, 1927
David Bourdette Burgert passed away in Toledo, Ohio last year. Described by friends as a "genial gentleman" and an "exceptional conversationalist," Burgert was also wealthy. Stinking rich, in fact; his estate was valued at $500,000 (almost $6 million in current money). A bachelor, Burgert dictated that all but $500 of his estate be put in a trust fund, the income from which would accrue to the benefit of the Kirkendall family of Omaha, Nebraska.
This was all well and good, especially for the Kirkendalls, but Burgert was a man with a vision. His will stipulated that fifty years after the death of Bourdette Kirkendall, Jr. (two years of age in 1927), the remainder of the trust would be used to build "a home for girls between the ages of 16 and 28 years, of small stature (no fat girls need apply), bright, ambitious, stylish, and good to look at," the Times explained. The newspaper speculated that it might be as long as 100 years before "The Burgert Apartments" (the will provided the building's name) took shape. Whatever decade the ground was finally broken, no expense was to be spared; at least $50,000 was to be spent on the building's construction in Toledo.
The home would provide accommodation for between 30 and 40 girls, slim and "ambitious to live and to see brighter and better environments of life than what they are used to," the will stipulated, "for young women who have to provide a living for themselves in the business world; who have natural ambitions to see things as their more fortunate sisters see them.
"Nature has given this type of young woman [the will continued] a love for beautiful things that unfortunately parents can not provide." Perhaps with this last codicil in mind, Burgert attached a photograph of himself to the document and requested that it be reproduced as a painting to be hung where "I may look down on the good work that this will is intended to do" (and perhaps a pillow fight or two).
"May the world be bright and happy for those girls as it has been for me," the will concluded. One can only hope the "comely and ambitious" young women of sometime around 2027 appreciate their benefactor from the past, who clearly didn't anticipate the advent of fat discrimination lawsuits.
On the morning of September 9, 1908, 26-year-old career criminal Carl D. Sutherland shot and killed Los Angeles police Captain W.H. Auble in the course of a robbery gone bad. Two thousand people participated in the manhunt that followed. That night, Sutherland was tracked to the brush near the city limits. Surrounded by police, he threw down his revolver, then drank the contents of a vial of cyanide that hung from his neck. Officers had just enough time to place cuffs on his wrists before Sutherland fell to the ground, dead. The next day's headline read: "Killer of Brave Officer Takes His Own Worthless Life."
Today, nineteen years after Sutherland shot Captain Auble and committed suicide, a Glendale man searching under his house for his dog found a box half buried in the dirt. In it was a 50-page handwritten document in which the cop killer confessed to dozens of other crimes, including burglaries, train and stage coach robberies, as well as a plan to kidnap a California pioneer businessman who once criticized Sutherland when he worked as a waiter. An attached note was addressed to Jack Hendrickson, who, in 1908, was an L.A.P.D. officer Sutherland considered honest.
The son of the first City Marshal of Pittsburgh, Kansas, Sutherland was no Confessing Sam; he was a hardened criminal who for unknown but probably psychological reasons had a need to confess his misdeeds without actually taking responsibility for them—-hence the vial of cyanide. He hoped the confession would be published and some of the proceeds given to his wife. Nobody knew how or why the document turned up under the house at 209 North Columbus Avenue in Glendale.
Another mystery, not mentioned by the Times in 1927, is that when Sutherland's body was searched shortly after his death, police found a number of stamped and addressed letters. Among them was "a remarkable history of Sutherland's life as set forth by himself. It covered fifty pages of manuscript," reported the Times in 1908. The Times published copious portions of that document, which was also addressed to Jack Hendrickson and referenced the planned kidnapping. Was the document found in 1927 a copy of the 1908 letter, hidden by Sutherland or one of his cronies lest the letter go astray? Was it a separate document? How did Sutherland have the time to pen two fifty-page documents after killing Captain Auble in the morning and his own death that evening? Why didn't the police in 1927 realize how similar the newly discovered confession was to the letter they presumably read in 1908?
As of February 1927, the police were busy checking their list of unsolved crimes against Sutherland's confession.
The sad story of Blanche and Grace Stauber was revealed today when the sisters, ages 44 and 51, respectively, landed in the poky after a trip to Judge Baird's court. It seems the college-educated spinsters fell on financially hard times after they moved to California in 1910 from their native Kansas. After their pleas to friends and family for monetary assistance went unheeded, Grace started forging checks. She did her best to keep knowledge of her wrongdoing from younger sister—they were daughters of a Methodist minister after all. But when Blanche inevitably discovered her sister's malfeasance, she made a pragmatic decision: they would "join forces in an effort to keep themselves above poverty" and, above all, avoid being separated from one another.
It worked like this. Blanche and Grace would move into a small town somewhere in southern California. They'd rent a house, and Blanche would write a check in the amount of $300 to $600 (roughly $3,600 to $7,200 in today's currency), drawn on a bank in another city. Grace would take the check to a bank in their new town, where she would open both savings and checking accounts, depositing half the check in each. Thus funded, the sisters went on a shopping spree, buying merchandise and often receiving change on their purchases. They'd be gone before the bank opened the following day.
Over the years, Blanche and Grace Stauber passed worthless checks to the total tune of about $25,000 (almost $300,000 today) in twenty-five different towns. The sisters "prayed frequently" for the success of their nefarious operations, prayers that appear to have been granted as they eventually opened a store in Palms to dispose of their hot items.
Judge Baird remanded the "elderly" sisters to General Hospital, where it was determined they were sane, though lacking in "moral appreciation." Blanche and Grace faced possible sentences of from two to twenty-eight years in San Quentin, but it was said their greatest fear remained being separated.
Update: Blanche and Grace Stauber were each sentenced to serve one year in County Jail for forgery and issuing checks without sufficient funds. They were also sentenced to five years' probation on a separate forgery charge. The sisters didn't go quietly: they "told probation officers they felt the church owed them a living" and only started passing paper when it didn't come through.
The twisted tale of Avalona Carnevale began last December 8, when the 30-year-old housewife from Venice made a phone call to her jeweler husband, Vincent. She couldn't meet him in Los Angeles after all; he should take the street car home. And with that, she disappeared—-dressed in what was described as an expensive fur coat and wearing $1800 worth of jewelry (almost $22,000 today). Vincent waited two weeks, then reported her missing, along with her car.
Police originally suspected foul play. Then, on January 13, the Times ran excerpts from a letter Avalona had written to her parents the previous week. "Honestly, Mama dear," it read in part, "I have wanted so badly to let you know I am all right. As you know, I have been perfectly miserable the last few years and I was never contented. The climax came and I simply ran away from everything and everybody." She was happy now, living in Long Beach with "a real he-man" named Bob. Bob, in turn, enclosed a note telling Avalona's parents that she was "in safe and devoted hands."
Happy, safe, devoted—-it sounded perfectly peachy. Until today, that is, when Avalona made a statement to the police testifying that she had been lured from home by "a Barnes City circus employee" who kept her in such a state of constant intoxication that "she was by turns both unable and fearful to leave him." It started with a few drinks in the circus man's room. From there they went to a hotel in Culver City, where more alcohol was consumed. Her "mind was somewhat clouded from that moment on," she told police, but her drinking buddy eventually pawned one of her bracelets for $25, which he then spent on liquor. They went to San Francisco and later to Oakland. Avalona didn't contact police in those cities because the man beat her frequently, and she was afraid he would kill her if she tried to leave him. Eventually she did, seeking refuge in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Chisholm. Mr. Chisholm sent a telegram to Vincent Carnevale a week ago, informing him of his wife's whereabouts.
That letter to her parents, the one telling them how happy she was with her "he-man" in Long Beach? Avalona told police she "faintly remembered" writing it.
Her husband retrieved her from Oakland (both the car and the jewels were gone) a few days ago. "She is my wife; she is in my home—-that, I think is all the evidence you need of my intentions," Vincent Carnevale told newsmen.
It was a noble sentiment, but it turned out that Carnevale had signed and sworn to a divorce complaint on January 31—-the day after he received notice that his wife was in Oakland. But just as Avalona couldn't quite remember writing that damning letter to her parents, Vincent was sketchy about the divorce papers, which were filed with the court on February 7—-in error, according to Carnevale. "I did not mean to have the complaint filed," he told the Times. "I'd forgotten all about it in my worry and joy at finding her [his errant missus] again. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is now a closed book."
And so it remains.
The Artful Dodger would have been nothing without his teacher, Fagin, but the Dare-Devil Club of Gardena didn't need anybody to train them in the techniques of thievery—they did it themselves. Indeed, the cops called their social club a "crime school." Today, on the cusp of the club's first "graduation," police arrested five of its officers, all between the ages of 10 and 14. The charges? Burglary. The enterprising young criminals first broke into the Gardena schoolhouse. They also plagued Gardena resident T. Tsuchiyare, breaking into his house on three separate occasions and stealing his Kodak camera, jewelry, even the money from his children's piggybanks. The boys are scheduled to appear before Judge Archibald next week. Further arrests are expected before then.
January 22, 1927
Mayhem ruled the backyard at 1795 Beverly Drive in Aladena this morning, when two 70-year-old pals ended a friendship of almost two decades with a gun. It all started when little Jimmie Jamison, 8-year-old grandson of George Ehret, heard noises from the cellar. The youngster investigated, and discovered Nicholas Tuck drunkenly stumbling around a pile of boxes in the basement. Tuck usually occupied a cottage at the rear of the lot, but for reasons unknown (but probably having to do with his alcohol-soaked condition) climbed through a small side window into the cellar at the main house. He then discovered all the doors were locked—and he couldn't get back through window. "Let me out and I won't hurt you," he told Jimmie, who obligingly opened the cellar door for grandpa's drunken buddy.
Meanwhile, George Ehret, armed with a heavy cane, was headed to the backyard to see about all the commotion. When Tuck, climbing out of the cellar, saw Ehret, he pulled a gun (or so Ehret says). As the two men scuffled, "the gun exploded," lodging a bullet in Ehret's thigh. Tuck then fired a shot at Ehret, but missed. He ran a few steps, placed the muzzle against his own head and pulled the trigger. He is close to death.
Ehret told police that Tuck was a mean drunk, and had on more than one occasion threatened him with a gun. He is expected to make a full recovery.
January 15, 1927
The body of a young man, dressed in sailor's togs, was found today by four children playing in an open field near Eighteenth Street and Point View Avenue. The youngsters reported their gruesome discovery to the police, who identified the man as Henry Von Bulo.
Von Bulo was the third member of a love triangle gone tragically wrong. (Do they ever end happily?) Last month, Curran C. Samuels, age 40, shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. He died. The missus, though pierced by a bullet that entered her ear and exited her mouth, survived. While in the hospital, Mrs. Samuels told detectives that her husband had probably killed her friend, Henry Von Bulo. She even led them on an unsuccessful search of the vicinity in which his body was eventually found. Mrs. Samuels believes that Von Bulo was killed on December 15, as he did not keep an appointment in Long Beach on that day. Three days later, Mr. Samuels shot his wife near Rossmore Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard "where she was engaged as a box-lunch saleswoman."
Despite the fact that Von Bulo was dressed in sailor's clothing and Mrs. Samuels's assertion that he was a member of the merchant marine, Von Bulo's stepfather declared that the young man had purchased the uniform and shoes last month in Oakland. He also suggested that his stepson might be the victim of a "bootlegger's war," but declined to further elaborate.
Yesterday's news told of poison booze victim Dennis Cavanaugh. Now it looks like everybody's trying to get into the act. Take, for example, Mrs. Helen Delamere, who in court papers filed today claims that her husband, P.F. Delamere, has been trying to poison her for several years. First there was the time he tried to get her to eat some poisoned pie. Mrs. Delamare's nurse wouldn't let her—but when the nurse ate it (waste not, want not!), she became ill. When on several occasions Mrs. Delamere consumed chicken and soup prepared by her hubby, sickness followed. And when Mrs. D, her sister, and mother nibbled on sandwiches made by the sinister Mr. D—-you guessed it—-the ladies were seized by illness.
Even Aimee Semple McPherson has been gripped by the poison fad. Suspicion was aroused today when a man hurried into a downtown messenger bureau carrying a brown package tied with purple string addressed to the evangelist and marked "rush delivery." The man then refused to leave the office until the package was dispatched. Due to his erratic behavior, the delivery service sent a messenger boy out with the package, but instructed him to double around the block. The sender (who paid in cash and did not state his name) followed awhile, then disappeared. In the interim, the police were called.
The officers immediately suspected "an infernal machine," but when the package and a burning dynamite cap were placed side by side, nothing happened. The cops thereupon opened the box and discovered it was filled with candied figs—sweetmeats now suspected of being poisoned. They await analysis by the city chemist.
January 1, 1928
A year ago prohibition agents observed that "last-minute calls for holiday cheer" skyrocketed on New Year's Eve, so this year detective chief George Contreras and his men staked out area roadhouses. When "suspicious-looking characters" drove up, they were searched. Five flivvers were confiscated and thirty bootleggers arrested—and yet heads are splitting all over Los Angeles this morning for, despite the last minute roundup, the hooch flowed freely last night.
Indeed, by 7 o'clock this morning, the Coroner's Office and Receiving Hospital listed two dead, eight critically—perhaps fatally—injured, and another seventy people slightly hurt in booze-fueled traffic accidents, including a pedestrian who was "partially scalped" in a hit-and-run at 39th and Vermont.
Over at 1827 W. 78th Place, Justus Gunn woke up after the party he and his wife hosted for their friends and discovered that his wife was missing. Gunn told police he "retired [or passed out?] as the guests were leaving" and didn't notice the little woman was gone until this morning. Friends didn't know where she was, and Gunn declared there had been "no quarrels or disagreements which might explain her sudden departure." There was no further mention of Mrs. Gunn in the pages of the Times, so whatever the cause of her disappearance, it probably wasn't criminal.
More ominously, 14-year-old Florence Ellison left her father's house (723 Bonnie Beach Place) yesterday afternoon to visit her mother (522 Clifton Street). Around 7:30 last night, Florence rang the doorbell at 620 South Wilton Place and told C.R. Morrison she was lost. Morrison drove Florence to the streetcar, gave her directions, then returned home and called Florence's mother. But Florence never arrived.
Epilogue: Florence Ellison was found, fatigued and possibly drugged, on January 2. She told police that after becoming lost, she joined the New Year's celebrations downtown where she met cabdriver Edmund D. Kearney at about midnight. They had drinks, and after a drive through Chinatown, Florence spent the night at his apartment. Kearney was held on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. No information was given as to just how Florence spent New Year's Day.
December 25, 1927
It's a blue Christmas for the family of Marian Parker this year, though they may take some pleasure in the knowledge that accused killer William E. Hickman tried to kill himself today—both times conveniently in front of a guard (Hickman was planning an insanity defense). The child murderer celebrated the holiday in a Pendleton, Oregon jail cell, prior to being transported back to Los Angeles for trial. Guards reported that Hickman roused himself from hours of lethargy by tearing pages from a bible and scattering them on the floor. He then asked for a handkerchief, and when his jailer obliged, quickly knotted it around his throat and pulled tight. The guard rushed into the cell, where Hickman climbed to the top of his bunk and attempted to dive headfirst to the concrete floor. The State of California went on to accomplish what Hickman failed to on October 19, 1928.
December 18, 1927
This morning's headline was set in the giant typeface reserved for only very good or very bad news. This time it was the latter: "Kidnaped [sic] Child Slain By Fiend." For three days now, Angelenos have followed the story of 12-year-old Marian Parker, lured away from Mount Vernon High School by a man who said her father was ill. The kidnapper demanded $1500 (close to $18,000 in 2007) for her safe return, and Marian's father agreed to pay it.
Shortly after 8 o'clock last night, the kidnapper drove up to the agreed-upon meeting place. Marian's small form was visible in the passenger seat. "Here's your child," he told Parker. "Give me the money and follow instructions. She's asleep now." The ransom changed hands; the criminal drove a short way and deposited Marian's blanket-wrapped figure on the lawn at 432 South Manhattan Place. Perry Parker rushed to his daughter, scooped her up and—in a waking nightmare that must have haunted him for the rest of his days—discovered she was dead, her eyes wired or sewn open in a hideous simulacrum of life. A wire was bound so tightly around her neck that it cut deeply into her flesh; she had been disemboweled and her legs hacked off close to her body. The Times was filled with stories comparing the Parker case to Leopold and Loeb and a host of other grisly child murderers. Crowds of bloodthirsty thrill seekers (the Times estimated over 25,000) thronged past the Parker household at 1631 South Wilton Place (address helpfully supplied by the paper).
The horror continued today. While most of Los Angeles was still reading its morning papers, citizens aiding the police found five gruesome bundles on a lonely road in Elysian Park. The first contained Marian's arms and legs; the last, found by "two small boys, carrying on the search," held her viscera. A blood-soaked suitcase previously discovered in the gutter at 620 South Manhattan place is believed to have held the child's body. Then, late this evening, the police found an abandoned Ford roadster, license number 667-67. It is believed to be the automobile driven by the kidnapper to the meeting with Marian's father.
A massive manhunt is underway for the fiendish killer.
December 11, 1927
The death of motion-picture actor George Donald Bailey was announced this morning. The 63-year-old thespian complained of feeling ill yesterday. A doctor was summoned, but Bailey died within a few hours. The death certificate, signed by Dr. C.D. Baker (a friend of the deceased), stated the cause as heart disease.
The matter would seem to rest there, but this afternoon Bailey's widow was visited by her daughter, Blanche Olivarias, and Blanche's sister-in-law, Miss Tommy Olivarias. The women brewed a soothing pot of coffee, sipped from their cups, and immediately were gripped by nausea. Tommy, in particular, became violently sick and felt a choking sensation in her throat.
Unusual, you think, but this is where the plot thickens: "'My husband clutched at his throat just prior to his death,' Mrs. Bailey said. 'He kept mumbling he was being choked to death'"—just after having a cup of coffee from the same fatal pot. Indeed, doctors say the only reason Tommy recovered was emergency treatment.
The county coroner requested a chemical analysis of Bailey's organs. The coffee pot and whatever liquid remained in it were turned over to the county chemist. Results were expected sometime the following week.
Did heart disease kill George D. Bailey—or was it poison? Were his widow, daughter, and her sister-in-law victims of the same toxin? Alas, the Times never reported on the outcome of the autopsy or tests on the coffee pot.