The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Oct. 17, 1957

Paul_coates He sat nervously in the chair opposite me. The staccato beat in his speech reflected his anxiety.

"Nothing would ever have happened to me," he said, "except that on her dead body was found my name.

"I had a job and everything was nice. I was living in Jersey, in Newark.

"It was headline in all the papers--that she was murdered.

"She lived in Phoenixville, in Pennsylvania, but it wasn't far from Newark. Sixty, 70 miles."

"When?" I interrupted. "When was all this?"

The young man paused. "That was...let's see--March of '54."

Unconsciously, he removed his dark glasses. He was probably older than his face showed, because it didn't show very old.

He continued. "Right off, I knew it was her. I was reading the story when I said, 'Holy cow, my name's in the paper!'

"My name and the names of 16 or 17 other soldiers. Written in a little book in her purse. You see, I was in the Army when I dated her. But that was half a year before--and I was stationed there--at Valley Forge Army Hospital.

"She was what we called a 'patriotic girl.' She dated anybody in a uniform."

He took a breath, a deep one.

"When I seen my name, I got scared. But I did what I thought was right. I called the sheriffs. I told them where I worked.

"They come and questioned me. Nice questions. The guys were all right. They left and I thought that was the end of it.

1957_1017_powers_ad "But then after a couple weeks, they come back and kept coming back and asking real rough questions. They kept asking me and accusing me. They said they was going to take me to Pennsylvania the next morning.

"The way they said it got me more nervous. So I didn't wait.

"I took off.

"I hitchhiked here, to California.

"I been doing real good here, too, but I always been afraid.

"Then last February I proposed to my girl. I known her quite a while. I hadn't told her nothing about it though.

"She looks at me and asks me:

" 'What are you running away from? Shouldn't you tell me?'

"Girls can feel things like that.

"Right then, I picked up the phone and called the Pennsylvania police so she could hear. I told them my name and that I was in Los Angeles. I even told them why they wanted me.

"They started giving me a hard time and when they finally asked me where I was calling from--where I lived--I was too nervous.

"I just hung up.

"Like I told you, that was February. Then, six weeks ago--out of no place--they show up at my apartment. Two Pennsylvania cops and this other one, from here, I guess.

"My dog didn't even growl. You'd think if they'd been cops or crooks, the dog would at least growl. But she didn't

"They said they were taking me and I just kept asking about my dog--could I find somebody to take care of her.

"But they wouldn't let me. They put the handcuffs on me--all my neighbors seen it--and took me downtown to jail. I told them all that I had told them three years ago--all I knew.

"They threw me in a little cell and kept questioning me every 20, 25 minutes. Other murders. Any murders. They had me hollering and crying and screaming.

"A young cop came in and called me a dirty name so I picked up my bed and threw it at him. Accidentally, I hit the wash basin and broke it. I kept telling them give me a lie detector.

1954_0306_keota"Finally, the third day, they did. I though they'd let me go after I passed, but they arrested me again for busting the basin.

"Next thing I know I'm in court. They're using some big words like persecution delusion or some baloney. They sent me to the hospital. No TV for the World Series. Nothing.

"Finally, they say nothing was wrong with me in the first place. That I deserved to be nervous. They let me go.

"That," my visitor said, "was a couple days ago. I come right home to my apartment and what do I find?

"It's been robbed, cleaned out--everything. All my clothes.

"And the lady who took my dog after I left won't give her back.

"I could go to the lady's yard and take her but that would be breaking and entering or something.

"And, mister, I just don't want any more trouble."

[Note: The man was apparently questioned in the slaying of Marguerite Keota, 22, who disappeared on her way home from a dance and was found strangled in a cesspool, March 6, 1954. As far as I can tell, the killing was never solved--lrh]




 
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