“Why Do You Suppose They Had That Pick, Shovel, and Canvas?”

February 28, 1927
Van Nuys, CA

Today, Dr. Burt Fullmer was savagely attacked, after being lured to a cabin in the Princess Auto Camp near Van Nuys. When Fullmer entered the cabin, he was bludgeoned in the head by Dr. J.H. Balzer, while Mary Wade stuck him in the arm with a hypodermic needle full of morphine. Fullmer fought them off, and the three rolled out the cabin door where they attracted the notice of neighboring campers.

Responding officers discovered a shovel, rope, and canvas in the cabin, and charged Balzer and Wade with suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and assault to commit murder.

And you’ll never guess the motive for the attack. No, seriously. You will never guess it.

The attack on Fullmer was the latest in a series of power plays between warring factions of a splinter sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Fullmer had recently been excommunicated from the Seventh Day Adventist Church, along with many others, for following the teachings of Mrs. Margaret Rowan, a self-proclaimed prophet who, the Times says, “rather startled the world by predicting its sudden finish two years ago.”

The excommunicated started the Seventh Day Adventist Reformed Church. However, the fledgling church ran into trouble in a hurry.

As President and Treasurer of the church, Fullmer found himself at odds with Rowan. He said, “I began to suspect that maybe things weren’t just right after her prediction failed to come true… I began investigating Mrs. Rowan’s activities and the things that developed caused a split in our ranks.” Fullmer claimed he had dirt on Rowan, and her followers intended for it never to come out. “They were planning to kill me. Why do you suppose they had that pick, shovel, and canvas for if it wasn’t to bury me?”

In turn, Balzer claimed that Fullmer had been trying to wrest control of the group and had embezzled the church’s funds. Balzer said, “We were driven to the limits of desperation by this man. His persecution has been terrible.”

Blessed with foresight, Mrs. Rowan skipped town right around this time, prompting a statewide search as police sought her in connection with the beating. A week later, she surrendered to police, and stood trial with Wade and Balzer. The three were found guilty, and sentenced to 1 to 10 at San Quentin.

A Home for Hotties in 2027

Omaha, Nebraska
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.

The Mustard Seed Murder


February 24, 1927
Los Angeles

In what the papers have dubbed the “Mustard-Seed Murder,” we see once again that, gentlemen, your sartorial decisions are always of importance. (Damn trouser cuffs! Were this 1960, this condemned man would’ve walked free.)

The murder in question dates back to October 20, 1926, when one Charles O. Westcott, 63 years of age and scion of General Grant, opened his door at 909 S. Cochran St. only to met by a gun-wielding assailant. Blam! Blam!-one to the heart, one in the stomach. Unfortunately for Charles’ son Carl, Charles’ dying words to his new wife were “Carl shot me.”


Apparently Carl, 40, was vexed that his father left a $300,000 ($3,486,687 USD2007) trust to the aforementioned new wife Hazel. And then there was the matter of the $100,000 trust that Carl’s grandfather was to leave to his son Charles-but with Carl’s father Charles out of the way-it would go straight to Carl.


Detectives didn’t really buy Carl’s long and rambling alibi, involving a gambler’s den at Seventh and San Pedro, and a dance hall on Hill off Sixth. Nor did they take his alibi’s verification for much, given as it came from a bootlegger and some other underworld habitués. Despite Carl’s regal upbringing, he’s a part-time barber with a record, having done time in Folsom and Stillwater on forgery charges.

And so today begins Westcott the Younger’s trial. The crux of the trial comes down to the mustard seeds found in his trouser cuffs-the assassin was spotted escaping through the the vacant lot to the north (now 905 South Cochran, not built upon til 1928), and dang’d if Carl wasn’t found with a few inconspicuous mustard seeds and a half-dozen broken blades of grass, indentical to those from the lot, in his cuffs. (Westcott also contended that he tore his trousers at the knee while tripping on the rough steps of that Sixth Street dive; investigation revealed those steps to be carpeted; the prosecution points to a plank with in the lot with matching fibers.)

He is convicted March 2, and March 9 sentenced to life imprisonment at Folsom; two more trials on points of law (and a botched suicide attempt) failed to free him. But his March 1929 sanity trial got him sprung from Folsom and committed to the State Hospital at Norwalk, to be held until such time as he was mentally competent to go on trial again for the murder charge.

As there’s no further mention of Westcott again, we can only assume he elected to stay put.

Today’s Adventure: Tarzan and the Incompetent Burglars

February 20, 1927
Reseda, CA

“The entire affair is shrouded in mystery,” said D’Arnot. “I have it on the best of authority that neither the police nor the special agents of the general staff have the faintest conception of how it was accomplished. All they know, all that anyone knows, is that Nikolas Rokoff has escaped.” — from The Beasts of Tarzan

Lord Greystoke bellowed with rage to discover that, while his humble creator, Burroughs, was quite suddenly called away to Ogden, Utah, his offices had been burgled. It seemed that nothing had been taken, all the papers and the small bit of cash that Burroughs kept onhand remained undisturbed.

However, the office’s lovely French doors had been jimmied open, and the hinges on the safe battered, as if by a hammer. Surely this had the stink about it of Nikolas Rokoff, recently escaped from a French prison, and bent on avenging the man whose testimony had locked him away!

And then, Lord Greystoke dropped his jaw in horror. He should have realized! Of course, the bungled burglary was no more than a diversion, meant no doubt, to distract him from Rokoff’s more sinister designs. Greystoke burst through the ruined French doors of Burroughs’s office, and raced home to determine whether his archenemy had kidnapped his wife and son. Again.

Carl D. Sutherland: Cop Killer, Coward, Chatterbox

Carl D. Sutherland
February 19, 1927

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.

L.A. Crimes of Passion Revealed!

This Thurday at Central Library, LAPL reference librarians Greg Reynolds and Mary McCoy will be sharing ghastly stories of love gone bad in the City of Angels.

  • The mild-mannered Marie Tucker claimed her husband stabbed himself in the stomach while making a ham sandwich – was it an accident or murder most foul?
  • Who shot Fred Oesterreich in his home in 1922?  Was it his lusty wife, Dolly, or her live-in lover, secreted away in an attic love nest?
  • And why did Hattie Woolsteen really kill her married lover?

Find out this Thursday, and learn the true stories behind some of Los Angeles’s most notorious crimes of passion. 

Los Angeles True Crime:  Crimes of Passion
Thursdays @ Central
Central Library, Meeting Room A
Thursday, Feb. 21, 12pm 

A Crime of Fashion

Bobbed Hair Headline

February 18, 1927

The Whittier social set was agog at the forcible bobbing of Mrs. Evelyn Thompson’s hair by two of her former friends, Mrs. Florence Nutt and Mrs. Lucille Roulston.

All three young women had married men in the local oil business. The couples had become friends who frequently partied together. At a recent dance, Lucille believed that Evelyn had spent too much time in the arms of her husband, and in a fit of jealousy she plotted her revenge.

Bobbed Hair Babes

The bobbing incident unfolded like this: Evelyn had been out shopping for stockings, and as she passed by Roulston’s home she was flagged down and invited inside to see Lucille’s new hat.

Once inside the house, Evelyn decided to try on her new stockings. She was seated in a chair with one of her shoes off when she heard a snip and saw four of her curls fall to the floor. It was at this point that Florence held her down while the scissors wielding Lucille hacked off the rest of Evelyn’s curls, snarling “You used to be the center of attraction, but no man will ever look at you now.” Evelyn told police “It was over almost before I knew what was happening. I started fighting them without avail.”

Prior to the forced shearing, Evelyn had sported lovely long chestnut curls – they were her crowing glory. She said “I had never wanted to be a flapper. That’s why I didn’t bob my hair.”

Florence Nutt was arrested and charged with mayhem. A warrant had to be issued for the arrest of Mrs. Roulston, because she’d taken it on the lam. She was sighted in places as far flung as the Orient!

The mayhem charges would be dismissed, thus ending the criminal case. Evelyn had the option to seek damages in civil court if she wanted, but there would be no further mention of the bobbers or bobbee in the LA Times.

Physician, Kill Thyself

February 17, 1927
Santa Ana

zappedThe widow Alice Hanmore has a bone to pick with Evangelists, or, more specifically, the College of Medical Evangelists.  Truth be told, evangelists should be, oh, evangelical, and leave the application of Röntgen rays to the professionals.  

In March of 1926 Alice’s husband M. J. Hanmore, a Fullerton oil worker, began experiencing stomach pains and loss of appetite; Drs. Claude E. Steen, Emerald J. Steen and John A. Whalen of the CME/White Memorial Hospital decided that an intensive course of that ever-beneficial ionizing radiation would do the trick.  Today, Alice is charging in court that “negligent and unskillful” employment of X-rays resulted in severe fatal burns—she’s asking for $30,000 ($348,669 USD2007).

(Our evangelical docs Steen & Steen will make the papers again in March, charged of malpractice by one Mary A. Greene of Fullerton—she goes in for an ingrown toenail, so they take that portion of the nail.  So far so good.  Steen & Steen subsequently amputate her big toe.  Then they amputate much of her leg.  Further operations result in anthropy of Mary’s thigh muscles.  She’ll ask for $25,000.)

We’re Saved!

February 16, 1927
Los Angeles

narcoheadlineThose junkies and hopheads that once provided the occasional bruise on this perfect ripe plum that is Los Angeles—shall be no more!  Though alcoholism was cured in 1908, drug addiction still remains to blight the landscape.  But Narcosan has arrived to save the day!  

Drs. E. H. Anthony and Benjamin Blank, their committee of peace officers and other physicians in tow, have at their disposal the first shipment from New York of this new European wonder drug.  

Any addicted Angeleno can trot down to Blank’s offices in the Quinby Building, Seventh and Grand, and take the cure free of charge.  They’ve got fifteen addicts lined up to undergo treatment and are looking to administer to at least another ten, so get down there you, you narc-addled fiend!

(Despite liberal Narcosan administration to the lucky souls who so evidently deserved it,  apparently the wonder drug didn’t work out so well.)