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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Teenage hitchhiker killed, November 12, 1958


1958_1112_cover Daryle Kelch was one of the most popular seniors at William S. Hart High School. He had a good friend, Douglas Austin, and a girlfriend, Karen Deadmon. And he was a dependable boy, according to the eulogy delivered by the Rev. Fred Dawson of Foursquare Gospel Church in Newhall.

He was from a big family, The Times said, with four sisters and two brothers. His parents were separated and he lived with his mother, Gladys.

For all the good things about Daryle, the 17-year-old had one bad habit: hitchhiking. And however many times he caught a ride with some stranger, it was once too often.

On Monday, Nov. 10, 1958, Daryle and Douglas decided to hitchhike to Los Angeles to see Douglas' friend, Nancy Rogers, whose parents had a vacation home in Saugus. For those who are unfamiliar with Los Angeles geography, that's about 32 miles and although that area of Santa Clarita is developed today, it would have been remote in the 1950s.

View Larger Map
A map of locations in the Daryle Kelch case.
The young men evidently spent the day at the Rogers' home, 10550 Butterfield St.

Daryle left about 5 p.m., saying that he was eager to get home for his date with Karen. About 6:40 p.m., he called Karen from a gas station at Santa Monica and Sepulveda boulevards, about two miles from the Rogers' home, to cancel their date.

About 5:30 p.m., Mrs. Rogers gave Douglas a ride to Sunset and Sepulveda boulevards. They looked for Daryle on their way, but didn't see him.

Douglas said friends picked him up and gave him a ride home. But Daryle never arrived. His mother assumed he was spending the night with his father, who figured Daryle was staying with his mother.   

A rock hunter named John Brualdi, 7661 Wish Ave., Van Nuys, found Daryle's nude body the next day under a pile of rocks on Grimes Canyon Road, about three miles south of Fillmore. He had been sexually attacked and shot three times with a .25-caliber semiautomatic, once from each side and once in the throat. He was identified by the William S. Hart High School class ring he was wearing.

Investigators made plaster casts of tire tracks at the crime scene and searched the area for his clothes, but evidently never found anything. The Times said that scrapings were taken from under Daryle's fingernails to see if he had scratched his killer, but the results were never reported.

Unfortunately, the trail quickly grows cold. The Los Angeles Police Department booked Charles Watts Jr. on suspicion of murder after finding stains on the seat of his car, but further investigation showed that it was blood from an animal. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department questioned Jack Blume, a "canine hairstylist," about what appeared to be bloodstains in his car, but it was only rust.

The killing evidently remains unsolved. 

About 150 classmates attended Daryle's funeral. He was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall.

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Comments (3)

It was nice of the Time to run this, at least the boy has not been forgotten.

Ah those idyllic '50s when So. Cal was an eden. Walking and hitching between Berdoo and LA regularly was a survival test, perverts, nut cases and mean groups of guys looking for trouble were all too common. I carried a gun so the experiences were instructive inconveniences, too bad the young man wasn't a bad kid like me. One of my rides had small pearl handled automatic about the right size or 25 caliber. The cops weren't interested in '58 or '59. I still wonder about that.

Sad and fascinating story.

I suppose there is some moral lesson here in the dangers of hitchhiking, but how many young people today have been gunned down just by merely walking home from school?


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