Born Out of Tragedy

August 22, 1927
Van Nuys

orphan One August night in 1927, Edgar Burnett of Van Nuys shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself, leaving their four children orphaned.  The children were separated, and taken in by different families.  Eleanor Ray Burnett, 7, was adopted by a wealthy Anaheim family; Ermie Jean, 3, was sent to Toronto to live with Miss Myrtle Hendrie; and Edgar Jr., 16 months, went to a Van Nuys family.

And today, the Burnett’s newborn daughter, Nona Lee, was adopted by Patrolman James Hayden of the Van Nuys police station and his wife.  Nona was only 5 days old at the time of the killings, and the babe had been in her mother’s arms when Edgar Burnett fired the fatal shots.  In 1927, it was reported that the Hayden’s would rear Nona "never to know the tragedy of her early life," or about her brother and sisters.

However, at some point, the Hayden’s must have decided to tell Nona the truth about her past.  And it seems a good thing they did.

You see, on Halloween night, 24 years later, 24-year-old Louis Shandra wrote a note, and went to his estranged wife’s apartment.  The note read, "I am going to kill my wife and myself tonight.  I love her more than anything else in the world."

guntragedyShandra had recently served 30 days for beating his wife, Carmela, who had moved into her own place while Shandra was in jail.  He went to the apartment at 808 E. Palmer Ave., Glendale, and shot Carmela to death with a rifle in front of the couple’s 2-year-old son, Bobby.  Then, Shandra went into another apartment in the building, and killed himself.

A Ventura housewife married to Deputy Sheriff Warren Paul read about the tragedy in Glendale, and was so moved that she and her husband offered to adopt the child themselves.  Nona Hayden Paul told the Los Angeles Times the circumstances of her early childhood and said, "I wondered what would happen to that poor little boy.  I talked to my husband about it and we’ve decided we’d love to raise him on our own."  Warren Paul agreed readily – he, too, had been adopted as a child.

No word on whether the adoption ultimately went through, or whether Mrs. Paul was ever reunited with her lost brother and sisters.  Here’s hoping.