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Doctor murdered

November 17, 2007 | 10:30 am



Nov. 17, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_1117_vanhorne_2 Let's go back about six months before it happened out on a lonely road half a mile from the cemetery.

Monty was 19 and had just gotten out of the Deuel Vocational Institution for Men at Tracy, Calif., after serving 14 months for stealing a car. Homer was 61, a distinguished bridge player who was the attending physician at Olive View Sanitarium, a facility for tuberculosis patients. He lived on the sanitarium grounds with his ailing wife, Adele. They apparently had no children. 

Homer saw Monty hitchhiking in San Fernando and picked him up. After that, Monty said, Homer helped him out financially. It's unclear how well they were acquainted, but Monty knew for certain where Homer lived and when he got paid.

Monty was living in a hotel at 118 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando, with his 16-year-old girlfriend, Diana Kay Maupin. He figured they'd drive to Las Vegas and get married. But he needed money and a car.

So he thought of Homer. Thursday was payday at the sanitarium, but a day passed before Monty acted on his plan.

A friend named Frederick G. Rhoads, 18, stopped by the hotel and as they were speaking, Rhoads was sharpening his 3-inch, pearl-handled knife. Monty asked if he could borrow it.

Once he had the knife, Monty went to Homer's house. Monty said he needed Homer's money and his car so he could drive to Las Vegas and marry Diana. Homer gave Monty $4. He wouldn't let Monty have the car, but offered to drive him back to the hotel.

Monty said fine, but he insisted on driving and Homer let him.

He knew Homer had kept back a dollar and Monty wanted that last dollar bill. So instead of driving back to the hotel, where Diana was making dinner, Monty drove up Lopez Canyon Road and parked with Homer a mile north of Kagel Canyon Road, about half a mile from Glen Haven Cemetery.   

Monty told police that as they sat in the car on that lonely stretch of road, Homer made "improper advances," according to The Times.  As Homer struggled, Monty stabbed him once in the heart, once through the neck and three times in the abdomen.

Then Monty took the remaining dollar from Homer's wallet, shoved him out of the car and down a culvert, and drove back to San Fernando.

Although he was bleeding terribly, Homer crawled up the roadway, where he was found by a passing motorist. He died before anyone could save him.

1957_1117_johann_2 But instead of going to Las Vegas, Monty, Frederick and their girlfriends went to a drive-in. When the young women excused themselves from the car, Monty returned the bloody knife, saying: "I killed a guy this afternoon. Let's go up and bury him."

Frederick thought it was a joke. "He's always blowing steam. So I went along for kicks. I didn't believe him," Frederick said.

The young men dropped off the girls and went to the home of Monty's parents, 10092 Vena Ave., Pacoima, to borrow a shovel with the excuse that a friend's car was stuck in some sand up in the hills.

They dug a shallow grave at the end Maclay Street, but Frederick still thought it was a joke. "I went along with the gag, but still thought he was only kidding," Frederick said.

Monty drove back to the murder scene on Lopez Canyon Road, where he and Frederick were arrested by sheriff's deputies. Delmont F. "Monty" Johann told investigators that Dr. Homer Van Horne had made "improper advances" but police said "they had uncovered no evidence to substantiate his story," The Times said.

Johann pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Frederick G. Rhoads, 2026 1/2 Glenoaks Blvd., pleaded guilty to being an accessory. The Times said he was to be sentenced April 22, 1958, but never reported the outcome.

The Times never said anything further about Johann or Rhoads. According to California death records, Adele Van Horne died in 1963 at the age of 78.

So what are we to make of this? Was Homer really gay and the police and The Times covered it up because of the stigma? Was Monty merely lying to justify the killing and save himself?

We may suspect, but we may never know for sure. What's certain is that Monty expressed absolutely no remorse for the killing but said that in hindsight he wished he had only hit Homer. He would have still taken the money and the car.

I have to think that there is more to this story about an older man and a troubled 19-year-old than what was in The Times. I suspect Monty had something else in mind besides eloping to Las Vegas when he told police: "I decided last Monday that I would have to do away with Dr. Van Horne."

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