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 “Scottyâ€Â 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.

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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.

A Second Engagement

January 2, 1927
Los Angeles

FoeOBurch

The good people of Los Angeles were reminded today of a quieter, simpler time—a time known as "1921".  A magical time of Teapot Domes, and Tulsa Tumults, and shotgun blasts to the face.  We collectively remembered the sensational trial of Arthur C. Burch and Madalynne Obenchain, dismissed following jury disagreements, regarding the August 6, 1921 Beverly Glen shooting and .12 gauge buckshot that took apart J. Belton Kennedy’s head.  (And now, our obligatory Kennedy "Gaelic For Ugly Head" Kennedy evidence:  the shots were fired from a clump of bushes [California:  growing better grassy knolls since 1850]; the first shot missed; there was a beautiful woman at the scene, and mysterious tramps…anyway.)

TwoMenSeems that J. Belton’s father, John D. Kennedy, of 844 South Westlake, never got over the death of his son, or the exoneration of the accused.  So today the sixty two year-old is in court on the charge of assault and battery.  He headed over to the Terminal Warehouse Building on East 7th where Burch worked in the insurance game.  As Burch was innocently hauling some fire extinguishers from one place to another, he suddenly heard “I’ve been waiting a long time but now I’ve got you!” – and was then struck in the face and seized by the throat, but was rescued before he felt the last bit of life choked from him.  

Authorities were summoned, and said Kennedy the Elder, later, “The affair occurred when my emotions overcame me.  I have no regrets and will gladly account for my actions at the proper time and place.  When I went in the building no such idea entered my mind, but when I saw him [Burch] coming down the hall I could not restrain myself.
“This is the fist time I have met him fact to face since his trials for the murder of my boy.  At the sight of him I was seized with a frenzy and choked him until he began squealing and they came and separated us.”

“I believe he has some pathetic obsession toward me,” Burch declared.

Mrs. Obenchain, living in seclusion in Los Angeles, declined to comment on the matter. 

On February 21, John D. Kennedy changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and Municipal Judge Richardson gave him thirty days, suspended, with the caveat:  that if Kennedy saw Burch coming, Kennedy was to “go to the other side of the street.”

That, Kennedy said, he could do.

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.

Is a Woman Ever Really Sorry?

shotbywife 

January 13, 1927
Los Angeles

mabelGeorge and Mabel Drummond had nothing if not a tempestuous wedded life.  Married ten years, hitched when George was fifteen and Mabel twenty-one, their stormy union included many a sterling instance, including the time a jealous Mabel held George in a chair at gunpoint for three hours while she threatened to shoot him with every passing moment.

Today, after the usual morning argument in their Alhambra home, George announced he’d had his fill, and moved his stuff out to go shack up with…a widow.  Tonight Mabel followed George to 335+1/2 West 42nd Street, where George was involved with one Mrs. Helen Salyer. 

Along for the ride Mabel had taken her old friend the pistol.

In fairness, Mabel did, on the sidewalk in front of Helen Salyer’s house, give George one last chance, asking him to come back to her.  George approached and said, firmly, no.  With that, Mabel shot him in the stomach; the force of the blast turned him around and Mabel shot him again in the back.  Mabel walked back to her car, got in, and sat calmly there until authorities arrived.  

helenMabel was arrested by Detective Lieutenants Brown and Adams of University Station, who found her composed, and that she could only comment that if she couldn’t live with him, no-one could.  When asked if she felt any regret, she replied:

“Is a woman ever really sorry?”

(With no defense offered other than the “unwritten law,” on May 19 she was ordered held to Superior Court for trial by Municipal Judge Rosencranz on charges of assault with intent to commit murder.  She told the court “I shot him because I loved him” and reiterated “sure I shot him—if I couldn’t live with him I wasn’t going let anyone else live with him.”  The jury, out an hour, gave her a full acquittal on May 24.)

The Bell/CHCI3 Stradivarius Colligation

December 30, 1927
Redlands

kloro-formWell-known automobile distributor Lawrence S. Ferguson, 20 San Gorgonio Drive, was called to the telephone today.  A hoarse-voiced “Mr. Morris” declared that his auto had broken down five miles outside of town and that Lawrence’d better come quick.  Apparently Lawrence always does as he’s told, because he hot-footed it out of town.

But the hoarse-voice chap wasn’t five miles outside of town; he had instead hightailed it over to Lawrence Ferguson’s home.  Hoarsey and a buddy paid a visit to the abandoned Mrs. Ferguson, where they stuffed a large wad of chloroform-soaked cotton in her mouth and nostrils, knocking her out and, according to authorities, did so nearly permanently, which would have added murder on top of robbery, and making prank phone calls.

The robbery part, incidentally, netted the robbers three diamond rings worth $1,800 ($19,854 USD 2006) plus a silver saxophone, some jeweled wristwatches, overcoats, the money hidden in the mattress (how many times do we have to tell you people?) (and not in the Bible, either) and Mr. Ferguson’s revolver.  And his Stradivarius, valued at $400 ($4,411 USD 2006).

The Greatest Show on Earth

December 29, 1927
Los Angeles

Angelenos have stellar opportunities for entertainment this week—the Brothers Marx are performing in Sam HarrisThe Cocoanuts at the Biltmore Theatre (why, and future Marx cohort Thelma Todd can be seen on screen in The Gay Defender at the Metropolitan!), and Jolson’s Vitaphone picture The Jazz Singer, whose thrilling sound production presages a new era for motion picture sound effects, had its magnificent grand opening last night at the Criterion…but where was everyone this week?  At the Pantages.

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Hickmaniana

January 23, 1927
Los Angeles

hangingaround

Following up yesterday’s story about whether one Ray McCoy was lynched for looking too much like Edward Hickman…

The verdict of the Coroner’s jury?  Jail officials and other prisoners, all vindicated.  Nevertheless, it seems that Ralph “Ray McCoy” Fuller raised the ire of Angelenos in the grip of Hickman fever, whose Hickmanmania (Hickmania?  Hickmentia?) led an angry mob to chase down and beat Fuller something fierce, believing the twenty year-old to be Hickman, after Fuller robbed a store at 242 South Main and was chased two blocks on foot.

Fellow prisoner Fred Meadows told the Times that once in the hoosegow, the sullen and reserved Fuller was regarded as just another popped burglar.  Meadows related how he and the boys started playing “Sundown” in an outer tank and when he returned, Fuller had hanged himself with Meadows’ scarf.  (Must be nice to have scarves.  And pianos.)

In other lynching news, any and all information regarding Hickman’s departure and route from Pendleton (where he was exhibited in a cage like a circus animal) to Los Angeles County Jail is being kept under strict secrecy.  

damnyoufriedrich