Gun

A Second Chance

March 19, 1927
Long Beach, CA

longbeachshootingFred and Lela McElrath had been married for 25 years, and raised three children together, now grown. But just as the couple should have been settling down into contented empty nesthood, a violent disagreement nearly destroyed it all.

Fred wanted to leave Long Beach for Freewater, Oregon, where they owned a ranch; however, Lela was determined to stay put. She moved out of their home at 45 Atlantic Avenue, and Fred spent nearly a week trying to track her down. On March 18, they finally agreed to meet at a neutral location, their daughter's home at 32 Neptune Place, and try to talk things through.

However, Lela refused to reconsider, and walked away from the argument. As she was descending the stairs in her daughter's house, Fred pulled out a gun and shot her twice in the back before turning the gun on himself, firing into his mouth. The shots didn't kill Lena, and when she was admitted to Seaside Hospital, it was assumed that she would recover. However, Fred was barely clinging to life, and in fact, police arriving on the scene initially believed him dead.

Today, things looked drastically different. A bullet was lodged behind Fred's left ear, but doctors expected that he would make a full recovery -- and in all likelihood, be left to stand trial for his wife's murder. The shots fired into his wife's back had punctured her right lung, and she was not expected to live. Authorities stood watch at Fred's bed, waiting to charge him either with murder or attempted murder.

Shockingly, the story has a moderately happy ending. On April 11, a frail Lena McElrath, appeared at her husband's preliminary hearing and was helped to the stand by her son, where she made an impassioned plea on Fred's behalf.

"I do not want to testify against my husband, nor do I want him prosecuted. I believe our trouble was caused as much by me as by my husband. I want to go back to him and begin all over."

Judge Stephen G. Long agreed she should have that chance, saying, "This is a very remarkable affair, but if both parties are willing to forgive and forget and to endeavor to patch up their broken lives, I think the kindest thing for this court to do is to give McElrath a chance."

The charge was dismissed, and the McElraths left the courtroom with their arms wrapped around each other. Lena's wounds were expected to heal completely with time, though Fred would be forever incapacitated by the bullet, still lodged near his spine.

Of Pachydermatae and Murder

shootinMarch 2, 1927
Los Angeles

The Wonderly shooting of Emerson over an elephant's affection has been continued until March 15th.

George “Scotty” Wonderly is the keeper of the bloodhounds for the studios, George Emerson, trainer of the lions at Universal City.

The story has a Old West theme to it to boot: on 15 February last, the two were arguing over the affections of said elephant at Universal. Wonderly called Emerson out; Wonderly strapped on his single shot .45 and there, on a rain-soaked muddy street, surrounded by wooden shacks and gambling dens and dance halls, Emerson staggered and twisted and slowly fell, a bullet through his breast, out his back, and lodged into the Last Chance Saloon. Elephants and the Old West, together again.

emmerson

Here, Wonderly shows how his beloved raised its trunk...and went on to maintain that he acted in self-defense.

And of the love that dare not trumpet its name...the true heart’s desire of the elephant remains a sweet mystery.

Modes of Banditry, 1927

February 28, 1927
Los Angeles

Drivers in lonely climes like Topanga Canyon have recently been distressed when stopping to check on a "possum bandit" found napping in the middle of the road. Of course when the do-gooder leans over the prone figure, he leaps up with a gun, steals their valuables, and races off much faster than any marsupial.

Meanwhile, at 317 1/2 South Berendo, two dandified thieves of an agonizing refinement relieved Albert Zigman of $125 cash and $700 in jewels in his own apartment. The victim described one man as having kept his hands in his pockets while gazing at a picture on the wall, as the other flicked cigarette ashes from his lazy perch on the davenport. Shortly afterwards, they relieved neighbor Michael Kreel of his extraneous possessions before slipping off into the night with a yawn and a whip of their cashmere scarves.

Patricide Interrupted

February 15, 1927
San Pedro

It's a mysterious case indeed that enmeshes Mr. Alvin Hyder, wealthy inventor of diesel engines and proprietor of the motorship Nora, working the Channel Islands trade, and his daughter Nora Thomas, 22, wife of a local grocery man.

Seems that Nora went into her father's room at 2315 South Grand Avenue and shot daddy in the head with a .38, before creeping back to her home at 2224 South Grand. Hard-headed Alvin did not die, but repelled the bullet with the force of his personality, sending the leaden lump on a one way trip off his cheekbone, around his face and into the back of his neck, where it remained. Following treatment at San Pedro Emergency Hospital, Alvin returned to Grand Avenue to reflect upon all that had brought him to such a place.

Nora, meanwhile, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. She pled not guilty, with local tongues wagging that this was really all about Nora's baby who had died, or maybe $10,000 of her father's money that she thought ought be hers.

But in May, the girl was released after the DA declared he had insufficient evidence to convict. Perhaps dad and daughter reconciled in time to take advantage of the Cabrillo Beach grunion run, the dates for which were published in today's papers. It's the least a captain can do for his ship's namesake.

[update, July 2008: A descendent of the Hyder family kindly emailed with some additional information to add to this rather mysterious tale. We are always so appreciative when folks with personal knowledge write in to share it.

"Alvin was washed overboard off of his fishing boat the Nora II about 1936. A large sneaker wave overturned the boat off of San Nicolas Island. The Coast Guard responded, but his body never turned up. He was 56. His children Nora, Buster, and Alva are all gone now. Nora passed away at age 91 in 1995. She did not discuss her reasons for shooting her father until her 80s. Buster died in '94 at age 87. Alva died in '98 at age 73. In 1993, a book was published by the Santa Cruz Island foundation, edited by Marla Daily, entitled "Occasional Paper Number 6." She interviewed Buster about our family homesteading on Santa Barbara Island from 1914 to 1929. The National Park Service built a little museum onto the ranger house out there. In 1993, the TV program "California's Gold" did a half hour program on our family reunion and the opening of the little museum. We had 3 generations there. So, there is a little update to your newspaper clipping."]

Patricide Interrupted

February 15, 1927
San Pedro

It's a mysterious case indeed that enmeshes Mr. Alvin Hyder, wealthy inventor of diesel engines and proprietor of the motorship Nora, working the Channel Islands trade, and his daughter Nora Thomas, 22, wife of a local grocery man.

Seems that Nora went into her father's room at 2315 South Grand Avenue and shot daddy in the head with a .38, before creeping back to her home at 2224 South Grand. Hard-headed Alvin did not die, but repelled the bullet with the force of his personality, sending the leaden lump on a one way trip off his cheekbone, around his face and into the back of his neck, where it remained. Following treatment at San Pedro Emergency Hospital, Alvin returned to Grand Avenue to reflect upon all that had brought him to such a place.

Nora, meanwhile, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. She pled not guilty, with local tongues wagging that this was really all about Nora's baby who had died, or maybe $10,000 of her father's money that she thought ought be hers.

But in May, the girl was released after the DA declared he had insufficient evidence to convict. Perhaps dad and daughter reconciled in time to take advantage of the Cabrillo Beach grunion run, the dates for which were published in today's papers. It's the least a captain can do for his ship's namesake.

[update, July 2008: A descendent of the Hyder family kindly emailed with some additional information to add to this rather mysterious tale. We are always so appreciative when folks with personal knowledge write in to share it.

"Alvin was washed overboard off of his fishing boat the Nora II about 1936. A large sneaker wave overturned the boat off of San Nicolas Island. The Coast Guard responded, but his body never turned up. He was 56. His children Nora, Buster, and Alva are all gone now. Nora passed away at age 91 in 1995. She did not discuss her reasons for shooting her father until her 80s. Buster died in '94 at age 87. Alva died in '98 at age 73. In 1993, a book was published by the Santa Cruz Island foundation, edited by Marla Daily, entitled "Occasional Paper Number 6." She interviewed Buster about our family homesteading on Santa Barbara Island from 1914 to 1929. The National Park Service built a little museum onto the ranger house out there. In 1993, the TV program "California's Gold" did a half hour program on our family reunion and the opening of the little museum. We had 3 generations there. So, there is a little update to your newspaper clipping."]

Everybody Has to Fall Some Time

Luther Green headline

February 4, 1927
Los Angeles

A police dragnet is closing in on the killers of Luther H. Green.  A member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, Green was slain outside of his home at 1053 Bonnie Brae, as he attempted to thwart the hijacking of his $10,000 [$120,710.34 current dollars] stash of pre-prohibition booze. He was able to fire a single shot from his rifle before being mortally wounded by the burglers.

According to Chief of Detectives Cline, six men have been implicated in the aborted liquor heist. It is believed that the ringleader of the failed raid may be the notorious crook, Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas. Mile-Away’s mouthpiece, Attorney S.S. Hahn, told cops that he had conferred with his client and, “…he was not only a mile away this time, but sixteen miles away”. Harry and several of his confederates would soon be arrested in connection with Green’s murder, but none of them would ever stand trial for the crime.

More than a decade prior to the invention of Teflon ®, the often busted but rarely convicted non-stick felon would be released on the charges stemming from the Green killing. His lucky streak would end on the evening of April 21, 1927. Harry would be caught in a sting and gunned down by the law as he attempted to steal an expensive automobile from a private garage at 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street.

Riddled with machine-gun bullets, buckshot, and slugs from police revolvers, Harry staggered from the garage and collapsed in the arms of a uniformed officer. Mile-Away’s last words before he succumbed to his injuries were “Everybody has to fall some time.”

Second Time's the Harm

February 1, 1927
Whittier

Family annihilator George Hassell was convicted of killing his wife and her eight children by his late brother, and has an appointment with the Texas executioner shortly. While awaiting his last date, George recalled the wife he killed in Whittier in 1917 and the three children he buried with her beneath their little home at 236 South Whittier Avenue. There seemed no reason not to confess this, so today, with some direction from long-suspicious neighbor Myrtle Lark and a little more from the agreeable killer, Constable Bob Way crawled under the house and unearthed the body of an infant. Its mother and siblings soon followed, thus explaining the wretched odors that had long plagued the spot.

In slightly gayer news, the grand new Mayfair Hotel has opened in the Crown Hill district of Los Angeles, providing the ideal vantage point for a drunken oil company exec named Ray Chandler to hole up for days with his secretary while threatening suicide to all who'll listen.

Does Not Necessarily Result in Better-Smelling Bandits

January 30, 1927
Los Angeles, CA
 
banditry 
Today was a good day to be a bad guy in Los Angeles, and a profitable one, too.  Calls to police flooded in from the terrorized, the carjacked, the held-up, and the home invaded, for a total of 16 robberies and 30 burglaries in a single day.

Poor Catherine Schmidt, a clerk at the Van De Camp bakery at 3601 Sunset, was robbed for the second time in a single week.  The scar-faced stick-up man made off with $17, and Catherine recognized him as the same guy who'd rifled through her register just a few days previous.

Drug store owner Charles A. Elliott had already closed up shop when bandits struck, and was spared the indignity of having a gun waved in his face.  However, his safe was cracked and $300 liberated, along with 22 pints of medicinal whiskey.  Pharmacy grade -- nice!

John S. Smith was held up at Mulholland and Laurel Canyon, and dragged from his car.  When the thugs discovered that Smith didn't have any money on him, they swiped his hat and coat and cut his ignition wires.  Jack Olonglin was also stranded roadside when a carjacking pair set up a roadblock at Yale and Wilshire, and took $300 and two suitcases of clothing from him before disabling his auto.

K.E. Winters, laundry truck driver, was stalled at Avenue 37 and Dayton when he was set upon by another would-be robber.  However, as Winters  handed over the money, he whipped up a hard luck story about not being able to cover his bills as it was.  His assailant took pity on him, and returned the money, saying, "Oh well.  I guess I'm too soft-hearted to be a bandit anyway.  Slip me enought to buy a bed and some eats and I'll let you go."

Can't believe that one worked, but nicely played, Mr. Winters.

Cop Killer

cop killer headline

January 28, 1927
Los Angeles

The hunt is on for a cop killer. Traffic Officer Parley Bennett was mortally wounded when he attempted to halt a robbery at Brodin Millinery Company. Bennett was attempting to pull out his revolver when he was shot by the bandit. His weapon discharged as he fell, but fortunately no one was injured by the stray slug. Officer Bennett was dead before he hit the floor.

Services for the slain officer would be held at the Brown Brothers Las Flores Chapel, 935 West Washington Street, and he would be interred at Evergreen Cemetery.

Parley’s widow, Elizabeth, received $1,000 [$12,071.03 USD 2007] worth of police insurance, and merchants on Los Angeles Street (where Bennett died) passed the hat and collected a total of $1,071 for the bereaved woman.

While the fallen officer was being mourned, more that 150 policemen searched in vain for his slayer. Chief of Detectives Cline stated that the search for Parley’s killer would continue indefinitely.

Although 250 suspects would be taken in for questioning, none of them would be positively identified by witnesses to the shooting. There would be the usual sightings of men answering the description of the desperado, but each suspect would ultimately be released. Eventually the leads would dry up, and Officer Bennett’s murder would remain unsolved.

Demon Liquor

January 23, 1927
Pasadena, CA 
 
latourW.H. Latour, a 71-year-old night watchman at the Lamanda Park Citrus Packing Plant in Pasadena, was propped up with a bottle of white lightning when he caught Tom Clark working on his car on the plant grounds.  When Latour told him to leave, Clark nodded, and prepared to set off on his way.

But then, Latour became convinced that the car was trying to attack him, and pulled a gun on it.  After firing two shots at Clark's car, Latour raised his arm to wave off the terrifying apparition and fired again -- directly into his own hand.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles today, another man paid a less gory price for intemperance.

soberEarlier this month, police were called to Mt. Washington Dr. following reports of a dead body slumped in a car along the side of the road.  But James Proffit wasn't dead -- only dead drunk, and "there were several dead soldiers around him in the form of empty bottles from which the spirits had fled."

Today in court, Proffit had some interesting things to say for himself.  "It's the holidays and festivities that get me in trouble," Proffit told Municipal Judge Turney.  "I was in jail at Thanksgiving for being drunk, and it was the same thing at Christmas and New Year's.  I wouldn't be here now, but my brother got married, and of course, I was there as a guest."

Turns out, Proffit had forgotten his duty to drive the newlyweds home from the reception.  When he swerved off the road and got them all stuck in the mud, the bride and groom decided to walk the rest of the way home, leaving Proffit to fend for himself.  Proffit was fined $200.

Drunken Geezer Shoots Pal, Self

January 22, 1927
Altadena

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.

Bad, Bad Bert Best

Bad Bert HeadlineBad Bert

January 21, 1927
Los Angeles

Edward W. Xanders (aka Bert Best) was extradited from Portland, Oregon today to be tried for a series of robberies and burglaries committed in Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays.

Lindley mansionXanders spent most of the day with sheriffs, trading quips and calmly confessing to a litany of misdeeds. He admitted to burglarizing the home of John Lindley near Azusa (see photo), and he has also said that he and his crime buddy, Ray E. McCoy, robbed famed boxing manager Jack Kearns.

It was through his confession that police learned that Xanders and McCoy had stopped Kearns’ car on a lonely road near the beach. While the stick-up was in progress, a policeman had approached the car to see if the men needed assistance. McCoy jabbed a gun into Kearns’ ribs and told him to keep quiet, or die. Always the glib talker, Xanders chatted with the cop, offered him a cigar, and sent him on his way.

Xanders admitted to police that he had been in court a few times during 1926. He stated that he had been granted probation on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. It was during that case that he had told the court that a childhood head injury had led him to a life of crime. According to his story, ever since he had received the blow to his noggin, he has had an irresistible urge to commit crime. Based on an alienist’s report, the judge recommended that Xanders, if willing, should undergo an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. Xanders declined to have the surgery.

With the nasty pressure still on his brain, it wasn’t long before Xanders was in court again. In making his plea for probation, he said that he’d been offered employment for two years on a ship headed for the South Seas. The judge felt compassion for the youthful crook and gave him four years of probation, on the condition that he would accept the job and sail off into the sunset (and out of this jurisdiction) for at least two years. Of course Edward never boarded the ship; he stayed in Los Angeles and continued his crime spree.

Edward is still a young man, and his penchant for crime may easily lead to another crack on the cranium. Maybe a second smack upside the head will put him on the straight and narrow.

Local Man Sets Record

January 20, 1927
Los Angeles

A short notice in the paper today about Sidney (or Sydney) Adams who, on August 2, 1925 (most likely) mortally shot his wife Annie in their home at 1234 East Twenty-First Street.

august25Despite there being a chance for a difference—Adams steadily asserted that the woman committed suicide—on October 12, 1925 it took a Los Angeles jury a record twenty-five minutes to send him to the gallows.  (This being in part or wholly dependent on Adams’ race seems obvious—writ large as he’s routinely described as the “giant negro,” a term of which Times seems unusually fond.)

Hangings were on the mind of all Californians as executions ushered in C. C. Young’s gubernatorial regime. The previous four years of Friend Richardson’s governorship were marked by constant rejections of eleventh-hour appeals for executive clemency; in a show of consistency Young had five executions in the first five weeks of his stewardship and saw that each one went through unchallenged.  

payspenalty

There were six sitting in San Quentin’s death row when S. C. Stone  joined the bunch on January 6, 1927—making it lucky number seven.  Adams’ departure today took it back down to six.

Silence is golden, and so's the shooter's hair

January 17, 1927
Hollywood

When the doc refused to keep things quiet after treating oilman Grover Lawler's (happily superficial) bullet wounds at his home in the Dickerson apartments at Berendo and Beverly, Lawler told visiting cops that he'd shot himself. No, he would not produce the weapon. Damn, won't you flatfoots let a guy recuperate in peace?

Grauman Court apartments, Melrose & Kenmore

Not so fast, Grover. You wouldn't know anything about reports that a hysterical blond woman armed with a .38 had fired wildly at a car bearing two men and a woman tonight, just six blocks from your place, at the Grauman Court apartments at 4428 Melrose? No? Because G.A. Hessman, resident, has described the incident thoroughly, and turned over the gun that the woman threw into the grass at his feet when she was finished.

Grover reconsidered, and admitted some dizzy dame had shot at him as his party left a dinner engagement at the Melrose address, but refused the identify his assailant. Perhaps recognizing that Mrs. Lawler, now playing nurse, would provide better punishment than the law allowed, the officers went on their way.

Sailor's End

January 15, 1927
Los Angeles

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.

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