A Back Alley Death Leads to A Witness’s Collapse

Mrs. Bernice ClancyLos Angeles
March 4, 1927

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 View Larger Map” target=”_blank” title=”Dr. Williams’s office”>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."

The Long Count to Death

LONG COUNT HEADLINE

September 17, 1927
Bell

young boxer 1920s

When two amateur fighters faced each other in the boxing ring at the Cudahy Athletic Club in Bell, each expected to emerge victorious…they could never have imagined that one of them would die.

The young pugilists had been promised two dollars apiece by fight promoter and referee, A. De Weese. Harold Williams, seventeen, of 580 Wilcox Avenue, Bell, was upright for barely two minutes before he was knocked to the canvas three consecutive times by James Campbell, nineteen, of 4549 East Sixth Street, Los Angeles. Harold died of a brain hemorrhage at the scene.

At the coroner’s inquest Harold’s brother Loren who had witnessed the fight, stated that Harold was given a “long count” (longer than ten seconds) by referee De Weese and so was allowed to continue fighting when he should have been counted out. De Weese and Campbell were arrested for manslaughter and each held on $10,000 (119,712.07 USD 2007 dollars) bail. Charges against them would be dismissed when Municipal Judge Baird ruled that there had been no violation of the California Penal Code.

Harold’s may be one of the saddest long counts, but the most famous long count in boxing history is still five days in the future.

Dempsey vs TunneyThe much anticipated rematch between defending heavyweight champion Gene Tunney, the “Fighting Marine”, and former champion Jack Dempsey, the “Manassa Mauler”, will be held at Solider Field in Chicago on September 26, 1927. Tunney will dominate for the first six rounds, but during the seventh round he will find himself in a corner being pummeled by a savage combination of punches that will drive him to the floor.

Referee Dave Barry ordered Dempsey to return to a neutral corner, but the former champ ignored him for approximately nine seconds. Those few seconds would prove crucial. According to the rules the referee was not allowed to begin the count until Dempsey had returned to a neutral corner. It is very likely that Dempsey’s delay cost him the championship. Tunney had thirteen to sixteen seconds to recover during the long count.

Tunney dropped Dempsey briefly during the eighth round – he retained his title and retired undefeated.

Dempsey retired after his bout with Tunney and opened a restaurant in New York City.

If I Had a Hammer

If I Had a Hammer headline

July 16, 1927
Los Angeles

“If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening…”
— “If I Had a Hammer”, written by Lee Hayes and Pete Seeger

Jacob Goldstein, President of Rothschild Mortgage and Finance, permanently ended his business partnership with the firm’s Vice President,Jacob Goldstein Joseph Stern, by bashing him four times over the head with a hammer and firing three bullets from a revolver into his body. It would have been less messy if only Goldstein had let an attorney handle the dissolution.

Goldstein denied premeditating the attack, which occurred in the company’s elaborately furnished offices at 505 Hellman Bank Building, and swore to police that he had acted in self-defense. According to Goldstein, Stern had behaved like a lunatic and had menaced him with a hammer during a quarrel over business matters. Goldstein further stated that he was in fear of his life when he wrenched the hammer away from his future former partner, and then used the tool to crush the man’s skull. The coup de grace was delivered with the revolver he had purchased the day before.

Police found Goldstein’s explanation unbelievable and charged him with first degree murder. Goldstein entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment but was later allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter, for which he received a sentence of from one to ten years in the state pen.

It’s not easy to get kicked out of California forever, but Jacob Goldstein managed it. On the condition that he would move to Forest Hills, New York to live with friends, 63-year-old Goldstein was paroled from San Quentin on February 24, 1933.

The Sad Story of the Red Rose Killer

May 9, 1927 
 
executiondelayedConvicted murderer Earl J. Clark was granted a stay of execution today as his appeal twisted its way through the State Supreme Court.  There was a time when Clark’s chances to avoid the gallows seemed promising; however, following an escape from prison, things were looking grim.

It all began in April of 1925 when Clark, a handsome, half-Cherokee bootlegger, stabbed Charles Silva, a Filipino sailor, in a dispute over a girl.  The girl in question was 17-year-old Mamie Stephens, herself a fugitive from justice since her escape from a girls’ reformatory the previous October.  Though accounts varied, when the three met at Clark’s home, Stephens apparently wore a red rose in her hair as a sign to Silva that she would leave Clark for him.   Tempers flared, and Clark refused to let Stephens leave the house.  When Silva stepped in to help her, a fight broke out, during which Clark stabbed Silva in the gut.  Silva apparently did not realize the severity of his wounds, and died later that night en route to his ship.  The papers dubbed the case "the Red Rose Murder" and Stephens "the Red Rose Girl."

earljclarkIn July of 1925, Clark was sentenced to hang, but his attorneys immediately initiated an appeal to save his life.  The appeal before the State Supreme Court was repeatedly delayed while Clark languished in the Los Angeles County Jail.  On March 16, 1926, just days before his appeal was scheduled to come before the court, Clark and five others escaped from jail.  While the five were quickly captured, Clark managed to go into hiding for over nine months.  He was finally found in Minot, North Dakota, the proprietor of a paint store across the street from the local police station and husband to the daughter of one of Minot’s leading citizens.

Following his extradition to California, Clark was resentenced to death; however, his attorneys had the appeals process reinstated.  However, it was all for naught.  Clark’s appeal failed, and his hanging was set to be carried out September 23, 1927.

Helen Scofield Clark, Clark’s 19-year-old wife, wept openly upon hearing Clark’s fate, saying, "I’ll never believe he is guilty."  However, she was not present for the judgment, having been forbidden by her parents to travel to California for the trial.

Clark was set to be hung alongside Joseph Sandoval, a Ventura man who had murdered his wife in a drunken stupor, but Sandoval’s sentence was commuted by Governor Young the night before the execution.  Clark received no such clemency.  On the gallows at San Quentin, he cursed the crowd of about 100 spectators who had gathered to watch the hanging, and as the black hood was placed over his head, whispered to his executioners, "Make it snappy."

Los Angeles police officers took up a collection for Clark’s widow so she could have the body shipped to Minot for burial.  She accepted the money, but not Clark’s remains.  No one else claimed them either, and he was subsequently buried in the prison cemetery.