Baby Farm

 

March 10, 1927
Bellflower

baby farm headline

Police received a tip that next to the home of Ray Foss in Bellflower, several people had been observed burying something that may have been the body of an infant. Thankfully, no bodies would be found. Police had discovered however, that Ray had an outstanding felony warrant from 1925 for operating a "baby farm" in Moneta (near Gardena). The fear of being nailed on the baby farm charge loosened his tongue, and Ray Foss began to relate a sordid tale of baby trafficking, illegal adoption, an alimony racket, bigamy, and narcotics addiction.

Ray told the cops that a woman being held in County Jail on forgery charges under the name of Minnie Williams was actually his wife, and that she had been the proprietress of the Moneta baby farm.

The baby farm had come to the attention of the authorities in 1925 when Minnie sold a baby girl to a woman who gave her name as Mrs. Johnson. The infant was found to be blind, and Mrs. Johnson returned the child and demanded a refund. The child later died. Mrs. Foss gave the woman $25 in cash, and in lieu of the remaining $35, she gave her another baby! Ray and Minnie fled a short time later to avoid standing trial.

During the next two years Minnie trafficked in babies, ran an alimony racket, and fed her drug addiction. She provided infants for women to carry into court when seeking alimony. Prior to being identified as Minnie Foss, she’d tried a variation of the alimony con in Judge Hardy’s court. Using the Williams alias, she made an emotional plea for probation on the forgery charge, alleging that she was about to become a mother. The court soon discovered that she was not actually Minnie Williams, and that she was wanted in the Moneta baby farm case. With the masquerade over, Mrs. Foss began to confess to Deputy District Attorney Costello.

Things got off to a strange start when Minnie was asked to state her name for the record. She told the Deputy DA that her last name was really Hines, not Foss. She said that she’d married Ray Foss when she was only 15 years old, and then met Clarence Hines in 1921. The three lived together in a ménage a trois until Foss left. Minnie claimed that she then married Clarence, but never went to the trouble or expense of divorcing Ray.

How did Minnie end up trafficking in babies? According to her, she was in fact, a "serial adopter". In 1922 she had noticed a newspaper ad about adopting a baby. She said that she went to the Mexican quarter near the Plaza and met with a couple who told her that they had a child they couldn’t keep. Minnie took the baby home and passed him off to Clarence as his own child. She told him that the child had been born to her while she was away in Burbank!

Clarence may have been a very dim bulb, because over the next few years Minnie said that she brought home several other infants including a set of twins, and that she had informed him that he was the father! According to Minnie, Clarence never questioned her about any of the babies, so she continued to adopt.

Maybe Clarence wasn’t quite as gullible as Minnie had thought, however. When questioned by police, Clarence told a slightly different story. He said that he’d known that his wife sometimes placed “not wantedâ€Â babies. He also told investigators that he was aware of a black trunk which may have been used to store baby clothes or as a coffin for some of the unwanted babies. The trunk was later found at a home near Bakersfield that had once been occupied by Ray Foss.

baby farm trunk

When the trunk was examined by police it was found to contain baby clothes, a hypodermic needle, and a marriage license issued to Ray Foss and Minnie Magnolia Williams. Also found in the trunk were approximately twenty-four photographs of young girls and babies.

Even though Minnie said that she’d adopted the infants, the most likely scenario was that she occasionally kept unwanted babies born to women in her care. Where did all of the babies go? Police traced many of the children to foster parents who subsequently adopted them. Several infants remained unaccounted for.

Although there were many unanswered questions – particularly regarding the fates of the infants who could not be found, Deputy DA Costello dropped the baby farm charges because Minnie and Clarence had confessed everything to his satisfaction – including an addiction to narcotics for which Minnie was treated with Narcosan. The DA’s office couldn’t pursue the bigamy charges because the statute of limitations had run out.

Minnie pleaded guilty to issuing a fraudulent check and was given a sentence of from one to fourteen years in prison. Clarence received a similar sentence.

The Candy Man Can

candy man headline

March 3, 1927
Los Angeles

"Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew,
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?
The candyman, the candyman can,
The candyman can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good."

When local school children crave a hand full of gum drops and a pint of whiskey, where can they go? Rumor has it that if they visit Frank Belioi’s candy store at 5973 South Broadway, they may leave with a few new cavities and a major buzz.

Sgt. Childers was in charge of the squad that raided the local sweets shop, and revealed in court that although the police department had reports that Frank was selling liquor to minors, they had failed to produce evidence against him.

Frank was lucky – the only thing the cops managed to bust him for was the one and one-half gallons of whiskey on the premises. He said he kept it on hand for party guests.

Frank pleaded guilty to the possession charge, and Judge Ambrose fined the candy man $300 [$3,639.31 current USD].

I could go for a pint of gin and a chocolate bar right about now. Are you with me?

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.

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.

foxycaptors

The Fox in Captivity

December 25, 1927
Pendleton, Oregon

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.

Cup of Sorrow

marion parker

December 24, 1927
Los Angeles

Dominating newspaper headlines for the past several days has been the slaying of twelve year old school girl, Marion Parker. Her killer, William Edward Hickman, is currently in Oregon awaiting extradition. He’ll return by train under heavy guard to Los Angeles, where he faces the death penalty for the horrific crime.

Long before newspapers were delivered to the doorsteps of most American homes, information was spread by song – and it’s a practice that continues to this day. Ballads have been written about floods, mining disasters, shipwrecks, and murder. Marion Parker’s tragic story inspired prolific song writer Reverend Andrew Jenkins of Atlanta, Georgia to pen the poignant “Ballad of Marian [sic] Parker”.

The Ballad of Marian Parker

‘Way out in California,
A family bright and gay
Were preparing for their Christmas
Not very far away.

They had a little daughter,
A sweet and pretty child.
And everyone who knew her
Loved Marian Parker’s smile.

She left her home one morning
For her school not far away.
And no one dreamed that danger,
Was lurking near that day.

But then a murdrous villain,
A fiend with heart of stone,
Took little Marian Parker
Away from friends and home.

The world was horror-stricken,
The people held their breath,
Until they found poor Marian,
Her body cold in death.

They hunted for the coward,
Young Hickman was their man.
They brought him back to justice,
His final trial to stand.

The jury found him guilty,
Of course they could not fail.
He must be executed
Soon in San Quentin jail.

And while he waits his sentence,
Let’s hope he learns to pray
To make his black soul ready
For the great judgement day.

There is a great commandment
That says, "Thou shalt not kill"
And those who do not head it,
Their cup of sorrow fill

Find The Fox!

December 20, 1927
Los Angeles

As police scour the Bellevue Arms apartment*of "Donald Evans" (an alias for Marion Parker’s purported slayer Edward Hickman, otherwise known as The Fox), they find portions of a chocolate cake, broken golf clubs, and dirty dishes suggesting a hurried departure. Marion’s father Perry, upon discovering that the suspect is a former employee at his Seventh and Spring Street bank who he dismissed on fraud charges, says that the voice on the telephone demanding the $1500 ransom was similar to Hickman’s peculiarly blasé speech patterns when discussing his offense, but that at no time did he believe the young man meant harm to him or his family.

Little Marion’s outraged body lies in the morgue, a tiny, heartbreaking bundle with her missing limbs, hollowed core and unseeing eyes sewn open in doll-like pretence of life. In one small mercy, the Parker’s neighbor is the Autopsy Surgeon, and it’s this Dr. Wagner who makes the identification and pieces his little friend together from the parts that are brought in, wrapped in newspaper, from where they were scattered in Elysian Park.  

The reward for The Fox’ capture has swelled to $62,400, with new pledges from outraged citizens, radio stations and fraternal organizations arriving hourly. Will The Fox be snared, or will he slip away to menace other cities, other daughters? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

*attention, modern readers: the Bellevue Arms is the partly boarded up, expansive brick apartment building flush against the 101 freeway heading north out of downtown. The Fox’ lair was upstairs in the middle rear of the Western, burned-out wing. If you decide to visit, you’ll come via Sunset Boulevard, and via… MARION.

A “Grisly Rendezvous of Death”

Marian Parker (1915-1927)

December 18, 1927
Los Angeles

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.

The suitcase

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.A "Grisly Rendezvous of Death"

The calm before the storm

December 14, 1927
Los Angeles

The holiday is nearly upon us, and all across the city, citizens are Christmas mad. The Pacific Electric Hollywood car stalled, halfway through the First Street tunnel, and when the wire fell down and sent sparks arcing across the darkened windows, scads of package-laden shoppers panicked and stampeded, despite attempts by train staff to calm them. Several passengers suffered bruised knees, ankles and backs.

There’s naught but sadness at 4528 Amber Place, where the John Vernon Rosses mourn the death of their only child, John Vernon, Jr., aged 4. Mother was working days and father nights in downtown shops, to save enough to give the tyke his best Christmas ever, while a neighbor, Mrs. J.W. Loyal of 4600 Topaz Street watched the babe. When mother called for him around 1pm, he was dead in his cot, victim of some mysterious internal hemorrhage. An autopsy was ordered, but if any cause of death was found, it was never reported in the papers.

And down on Wilton Place, the Parker Twins, Marion and Marjorie, whisper together about what to give their father Perry for his birthday tomorrow. They cannot know that tomorrow Marion will be kidnapped from her school by The Fox, and that despite the ransom Perry pays, she will never come home again.

Hair Today…

October 27, 1927
Los Angeles

naughtygirl

Of course we know that pigtails have gone the way of the dodo for the li’l ‘uns, torn asunder by the terrible rake of modernity, but we never thought the bob would be stomped extinct by carnality and venality, modernity’s ugly little twins.  But the bob is gone!  Long live the permanent wave!

Here, five year-old Dottie Landvogt, of the Seventy-Sixty Street Landvogts, sits at Johanna’s Permanent Wave Shop in the Pantages Building on Broadway.  She’s hooked up to one of those Charles Nessler contraptions—a crazy of octopus holding two-pound brass rollers on a system of counterweights, suspended from a chandelier; the curlers, filled with a Borax paste reagent, are electrically heated to 200+ degrees to boil and steam the hair and, because Nessler didn’t have a shop in Los Angeles, this was probably one of the many cheap knock-off machines.  Which meant Dot likely ended up with a nicely burned scalp to match her ‘do.

But such is the price of beauty.

By the time Dorothy is ten, heatless waves will be all the rage, so we wish her the best of luck in still having hair.