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In the teeth of the evidence

October 18, 2007 |  7:29 am


Evelyn and L. Ewing Scott during a cruise on the Queen Mary.

Oct. 16-18, 1957
Los Angeles

Arthur_g_hertel_1957_1016_j_miller_ In its opening days, the Leonard Ewing Scott murder trial has focused Evelyn Scott's eyeglasses and dentures, which were found behind the couple's Bel-Air home by police investigating her May 16, 1955, disappearance.

The presentation by Deputy Dist. Atty. J. Miller Leavy (at right with Capt. Arthur G. Hertel, Times photo by Jack Gaunt) was part of a mountain of evidence he planned to present exhausting all possibilities that the 63-year-old woman was still alive. This would include establishing a detailed pattern of her behavior that came to an abrupt halt when she vanished.

Not that Ewing Scott was terribly upset that his wife was gone. He never filed a missing persons report and, in fact, rebuffed questions from friends and relatives about where she might be, saying that she had run off or he had put her in a sanitarium to cure her alleged alcoholism. The matter only became public in March 1956, when her brother E. Raymond Throsby filed a petition asking to be appointed guardian of her estate.

On March 10, 1956, The Times photographed detectives using 6-foot steel rods to probe the grounds around the home at 217 S. Bentley in search of a body. Although they didn't find anything, Capt. Arthur G. Hertel was more successful in exploring an area on an adjoining lot behind the incinerator, which was built into a retaining wall along the property line.

"For a while I walked along the top of the wall," Hertel testified. "Then I got down on the ground and removed some leaves and scratched--with my hands."

The first item he found was a set of dentures under 4 or 5 inches of leaves, partially buried and encrusted with dirt and mud. Hertel cleared the leaves from an area about 2 feet by 18 inches, discovering partially dissolved gelatin capsules and white pills, an empty Eff-Remin can, a hairbrush, a tube of oily material (presumably hair dressing), a short piece of dog chain, a cigarette holder, a large number of cigarette filters and "wampum jewelry."

About 10 feet down the hill west of the incinerator, Hertel found a pair of glasses. "They were on the surface of a thin layer of leaves above the ground, exposed to view at a casual glance directly under a heavily leaved bush," he said. Another 10 feet away, Hertel found another pair of glasses.

"They were partially embedded in a heap of ashes," he said. "The lower portion of the lens was covered by ashes but the bow was exposed," The Times said. "They were encrusted with dirt, mud and ashes."

Hertel testified that the items had apparently been on the adjoining property for some time because the leaves that covered them were loose on top but matted and partially disintegrated underneath. His impression was that the glasses had been washed downhill by rain rather than thrown.

" 'Tossed' is not a good word," he said. " 'Thrown' is not a good word. 'Placed' is not a good word. They were just there."

Defense attorney P. Basil Lambros objected vigorously, but was overruled when Leavy moved to introduce the items into evidence.

"They have not been tied in any manner to the problem that faces us with corpus delicti. They are immaterial, incompetent and irrelevant. There is no proof of how they got there, if they were there... It would be just as easy to introduce Mrs. Scott's hat and say it was found in the yard. The prosecution is saying that because they were found there Scott killed his wife."

On cross-examination by Lambros, Hertel testified that the items had not been checked for fingerprints, blood or hair because their weathered condition convinced him that nothing would be found. He also said that none of the items had been photographed before they were recovered.

Hertel testified that Ewing Scott watched from a balcony as he explored the area where the items were found. He testified that he heard Scott ask: "What are they doing down there?"

What followed was exhaustive testimony from Evelyn Scott's dentist, Dr. R.L. Coldwell,  who identified the dentures, Dr. Harold R. Mulligan, who wrote the prescription for her glasses, and Dr. Albert Chatton who made them.


Photograph by Bruce H. Cox / Los Angeles Times
Detectives Grover Armstrong, left, and Frank Gravente use steel rods to probe the ground around the Scott home as police spokesman Edward Walker uses a radio-telephone, March 10, 1956.

Coldwell said Evelyn Scott had worn the dentures since he made them for her in 1943 to replace an earlier set. He noted that police had failed to find a device she wore when sleeping to hold her teeth in place. The Times said that the clear implication was that whatever happened to her had occurred while she was asleep. Under defense questioning, Coldwell said that she would have been able to use her previous set of dentures if she still had them.

Chatton and Mulligan testified that Evelyn Scott would have been unable to read without her glasses. Chatton noted that the frames of one pair of glasses had faded to yellow, caused by aging and weather, rebutting the defense implication that they had been placed there more recently, The Times said.

To be continued...

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