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.

Behind Every Great Man…

onanism

 

 

March 16, 1927
Los Angeles

 

 

 

Clarence and Ona Brown were married in 1922, but now Ona wants a divorce. “When I married him,â€Â said Mrs. Brown, while weeping bitterly during her testimony before Judge Summerfield, “he was a second-rate assistant director, and I made a director out of him. That cost me my home, for he got to thinking so well of himself he attempted to boss the house. He went nearly a year without even speaking to me.â€Â

 

 

(She may have a point; see this page under "salary.")

 

Ona’s testimony was neither denied nor contested, and she won her decree.

 

 

Think of that the next time you watch "Garbo’s favorite director".

 

 

 

Stone Cold

Stone Cold Headline

February 11, 1927
Los Angeles

Valentine’s Day is coming up and most couples will celebrate their love with cutesy cards, candy, and maybe some pre-prohibition champagne.Margaret Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Fillmore will not be among the celebrants. Margaret Fillmore has filed for a divorce. Their love has turned as cold as a stone floor.

Margaret had said that she was annoyed by Hugh’s refusal to give her money, and by his arrogant attitude. But she may have been willing to overlook everything if it hadn’t been for the stone tile.

In her divorce papers Margaret claimed that Hugh had bankrupted her by insisting that she use tile, manufactured by his company, in the home they were building (and she was financing). Margaret claimed that all of her money had gone into the construction of the house, and that the additional $2000 [$24,142.07 current USD] that it cost for the custom tile had left her destitute.

HughHugh was thinking only of the advertising potential of having the tile in his home, especially since his sister-in-law was the actress Mary Miles Minter. Perhaps Mary would bring some of her Hollywood cronies over to see the tile. She still had lots of friends in town, even though she had featured prominently in the 1922 mysterious, and still unsolved, slaying of director William Desmond Taylor.

Margaret is having none of it – she’s determined to end her marriage. All she wants now is a divorce and an inexpensive carpet. Sadly, the road to true love is often a rocky (or stony) one.

Was He The World’s Most Understanding Husband?

Mrs. CarnevaleFebruary 5, 1927
Venice

The twisted tale of Avalona Carnevale began last December 8, when the 30-year-old housewife from Venice made a phone call to her jeweler husband, Vincent. She couldn’t meet him in Los Angeles after all; he should take the street car home. And with that, she disappeared—-dressed in what was described as an expensive fur coat and wearing $1800 worth of jewelry (almost $22,000 today). Vincent waited two weeks, then reported her missing, along with her car.

Police originally suspected foul play. Then, on January 13, the Times ran excerpts from a letter Avalona had written to her parents the previous week. “Honestly, Mama dear,” it read in part, “I have wanted so badly to let you know I am all right. As you know, I have been perfectly miserable the last few years and I was never contented. The climax came and I simply ran away from everything and everybody.” She was happy now, living in Long Beach with “a real he-man” named Bob. Bob, in turn, enclosed a note telling Avalona’s parents that she was “in safe and devoted hands.”

Happy, safe, devoted—-it sounded perfectly peachy. Until today, that is, when Avalona made a statement to the police testifying that she had been lured from home by “a Barnes City circus employee” who kept her in such a state of constant intoxication that “she was by turns both unable and fearful to leave him.” It started with a few drinks in the circus man’s room. From there they went to a hotel in Culver City, where more alcohol was consumed. Her “mind was somewhat clouded from that moment on,” she told police, but her drinking buddy eventually pawned one of her bracelets for $25, which he then spent on liquor. They went to San Francisco and later to Oakland. Avalona didn’t contact police in those cities because the man beat her frequently, and she was afraid he would kill her if she tried to leave him. Eventually she did, seeking refuge in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Chisholm. Mr. Chisholm sent a telegram to Vincent Carnevale a week ago, informing him of his wife’s whereabouts.

That letter to her parents, the one telling them how happy she was with her “he-man” in Long Beach? Avalona told police she “faintly remembered” writing it.

Her husband retrieved her from Oakland (both the car and the jewels were gone) a few days ago. “She is my wife; she is in my home—-that, I think is all the evidence you need of my intentions,” Vincent Carnevale told newsmen.

It was a noble sentiment, but it turned out that Carnevale had signed and sworn to a divorce complaint on January 31—-the day after he received notice that his wife was in Oakland. But just as Avalona couldn’t quite remember writing that damning letter to her parents, Vincent was sketchy about the divorce papers, which were filed with the court on February 7—-in error, according to Carnevale. “I did not mean to have the complaint filed,” he told the Times. “I’d forgotten all about it in my worry and joy at finding her [his errant missus] again. As far as I’m concerned, the matter is now a closed book.”

And so it remains.

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.

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.

Poison—Everybody’s Doing It!

poisonJanuary 8, 1927
Los Angeles

Yesterday’s news told of poison booze victim Dennis Cavanaugh. Now it looks like everybody’s trying to get into the act. Take, for example, Mrs. Helen Delamere, who in court papers filed today claims that her husband, P.F. Delamere, has been trying to poison her for several years. First there was the time he tried to get her to eat some poisoned pie. Mrs. Delamare’s nurse wouldn’t let her—but when the nurse ate it (waste not, want not!), she became ill. When on several occasions Mrs. Delamere consumed chicken and soup prepared by her hubby, sickness followed. And when Mrs. D, her sister, and mother nibbled on sandwiches made by the sinister Mr. D—-you guessed it—-the ladies were seized by illness.

Even Aimee Semple McPherson has been gripped by the poison fad. Suspicion was aroused today when a man hurried into a downtown messenger bureau carrying a brown package tied with purple string addressed to the evangelist and marked “rush delivery.” The man then refused to leave the office until the package was dispatched. Due to his erratic behavior, the delivery service sent a messenger boy out with the package, but instructed him to double around the block. The sender (who paid in cash and did not state his name) followed awhile, then disappeared. In the interim, the police were called.

The officers immediately suspected “an infernal machine,” but when the package and a burning dynamite cap were placed side by side, nothing happened. The cops thereupon opened the box and discovered it was filled with candied figs—sweetmeats now suspected of being poisoned. They await analysis by the city chemist.

Christmas Cheer in a Razorblade

monroy

December 27, 1927
Los Angeles

Carlos Monroy, 35, was that precarious combination, a glazier and lush, and the missus no longer wished to live with him. So Anita, 29, took Carlos Junior, 10, and moved in with mama, Antonia Barron of 626 East 36th Place, while Carlos stayed with his mother and brother at 2915 New Jersey Street.

It being Christmas, Carlos found himself missing his family, and dropped by the Barron home, with a bottle of whiskey and a long line of apologies. Anita didn’t want to hear it. She intended to be divorced, and further, she and her sister Leonora were going downtown to shop. Would he please leave?

Anita went to the bathroom, and Carlos followed her in, where he drew a razor from his coat pocket and slashed at her throat. Anita ran, bleeding and screaming, through the spare bedroom and into the dining room. Carlos finished her off there, then turned the blade on himself. Their son and the Barron women were witnesses to the carnage, then called for aid, though it was far too late for anything but tears.

Coffee, Tea … or Murder?

Coffee, Tea ... or Murder?

December 11, 1927
Hollywood

The death of motion-picture actor George Donald Bailey was announced this morning. The 63-year-old thespian complained of feeling ill yesterday. A doctor was summoned, but Bailey died within a few hours. The death certificate, signed by Dr. C.D. Baker (a friend of the deceased), stated the cause as heart disease.

The matter would seem to rest there, but this afternoon Bailey’s widow was visited by her daughter, Blanche Olivarias, and Blanche’s sister-in-law, Miss Tommy Olivarias. The women brewed a soothing pot of coffee, sipped from their cups, and immediately were gripped by nausea. Tommy, in particular, became violently sick and felt a choking sensation in her throat.

Unusual, you think, but this is where the plot thickens: “‘My husband clutched at his throat just prior to his death,’ Mrs. Bailey said. ‘He kept mumbling he was being choked to death'”—just after having a cup of coffee from the same fatal pot. Indeed, doctors say the only reason Tommy recovered was emergency treatment.

The county coroner requested a chemical analysis of Bailey’s organs. The coffee pot and whatever liquid remained in it were turned over to the county chemist. Results were expected sometime the following week.

Did heart disease kill George D. Bailey—or was it poison? Were his widow, daughter, and her sister-in-law victims of the same toxin? Alas, the Times never reported on the outcome of the autopsy or tests on the coffee pot.

God Granted Him the Serenity

 killsself

francisDecember 8, 1927
Pasadena 

The next time you need to go to a 12-step meeting, or better yet a full detox, or just be hospitalized for that durn’d dementia praecox, do yourself a favor and head on over to Las Encinas. Take in the rolling lawns, the mature trees, and gorgeous hundred year-old shingle cottages.  Watch as Dr. Drew administers kindly words to one or more Osbournes, and perhaps they’ll put you in the bungalow where W. C. Fields drank and breathed his last.  Then tell us if you happened upon the ghosts of Francis Stevens and his sons Georgie and Francis Jr.  

Francis E. Stevens was a Prominent Pasadenan—Vice-President of the First Trust and Savings Bank of Pasadena and the First National Bank of Pasadena, member of Pasadena’s War Finance Committee, a man with a newly built home and a…lovely family.  

Lovely enough, but not entirely.  His wife Elizabeth was prominent socially, certainly, and of his 16 year-old daughter Carol’s charms there can be no doubt.  But his sons…little George, 14, has been almost an invalid since birth, and “backward”.  And as such the entirety of Francis’ hopes and expectations for the future rode on his namesake, Francis E. Jr., 20.  Unfortunately, the star pupil at Univeristy of Michigan, where Francis Sr. had attended school, Francis Jr. crashed his car into a telephone pole near Ann Arbor and suffered a basal fracture that affected his mind, landing him what looked to be a permanent place back in Pasadena…at Las Encinas Sanitarium.

And so Francis Sr. did what any concerned, dutiful father would do.  He went to work at eight a.m., made light and cheery conversation the cashiers, and made certain all was in order; then went home to fetch George to take him off to James A. Garfield Grammar School (once at the NE corner of S. Pasadena and California Street).  This he did, and the two sat outside the school, talking in the car, until about 9:15, according to witnesses.  Then they drove off, to where, we’ll never know.  All we know is that Francis Sr. shot George in the head.  And then arrived at Las Encinas at 10:15.

weeksofplanning

Francis left George’s corpse in the back seat covered in a laprobe, and walked to administration to inquire after his other son.  He chatted with the attendants, then made his way to the bungalows.  He went to the bungalow where Francis Jr. lived with his male nurse, Frank B. Schaefer, and handed Schaefer a well-wrapped package, instructing him “Don’t let anybody have these and don’t open them until you hear from me.”  And with that he and his son took a lovely walk around the grounds.

thetenniscourtThey walked and talked along the shady paths and across sun-dappled lawns until they came to the tennis court in the rear.  It was 12:15 when father pulled out and brought a pistol to his son’s temple and fired.  He was then seen sliding the barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger, his body crumpling directly next to his son’s.

Some time after the excitement of having the wife and daughter brought to the sanitarium, and the bodies had been removed, that someone thought of having the Stevens sedan hauled away.  It was only then an attendant noticed the slow moving stream of blood oozing over the fender.

The package Stevens gave to Schaefer contained securities, bonds, his will, multitudinous letters to banking concerns indicating that their finances were in order (which checked out just fine), and the ashes of Sylvia Stevens, a daughter he’d lost and cremated some time ago.

The funeral for the Stevens men was held shortly thereafter, though in spirit, the trio were still, of course, at Las Encinas.