The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Cemeteries

Memorial Day, 1941

  May 31, 1941, Memorial Day  
  May 31, 1941, Memorial Day
May 31, 1941, Memorial Day

  May 31, 1941, Spanish American War Veterans  
  May 31, 1941, Spanish American War  

  May 31, 1941, Civil War  

  May 31, 1941, Memorial Day  

Memorial Day, 1941: “The crowd rose to its feet in acclaim to two troops of Boy Scouts marching along behind their unit banners and the national ensign.

“The boys were all Japanese.

“But none carried themselves more proudly than these boys of Los Angeles Scout Troops 197 and 379.

“And who could say that he was a better American than 16-year-old Yoneo Nakashima, color-bearer of Troop 197?”
History will provide an ugly answer to that question in a few months.

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Paul Coates, Feb. 7, 1961


  Feb. 7, 1961, Mirror Cover  

Feb. 7, 1961: Is it possible to write anything more about the Lady in Black? Actually, it is. Movie publicist Russell Birdwell tells Paul Coates that he hired an extra to “mourn” at Valentino’s crypt to
heighten the dramatic effect of movie he made titled “The Only Normal Man in Hollywood,” based on a story he had written. 

Before you rush to imdb, I’ve already been there and Birdwell is listed (he was supposedly the unit publicist on “The Son of the Sheik,” so he has some Valentino cred) but there’s nothing for “The Only Normal Man in Hollywood.” A true story? I can’t find anything on Google about Birdwell and “The Only Normal Man in Hollywood.”


The Lady in Black on the Daily Mirror

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On Assignment

Aug. 23, 2010, Times Eagle
Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times 

May 31, 1938, Times Monument
A Memorial Day ceremony at the monument in 1938.

I visited Hollywood Forever Cemetery over the weekend to see the memorial to victims of the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times. I was told that The Times’ eagle has been missing its wings since at least 1990 and indeed, they are gone.

Four of the victims were buried elsewhere. Assistant City Editor Churchill Harvey-Elder, for example, is in Rosedale Cemetery. After visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I went over to Rosedale to see if I could find his grave, but the office was closed. Rosedale, which is on Washington Boulevard just east of Normandie Avenue, is an older cemetery with narrow roads, and I ended up getting caught in a funeral procession that parked en masse for a graveside ceremony.

Matt Weinstock, June 6, 1960

June 6, 1960, Driverless Auto of Tomorrow!  

The miracle auto of tomorrow! No driver! No traffic! No accidents!

June 6, 1960: A fellow named Don gets a phone call from a woman selling cemetery plots and asks some tough questions. 

DEAR WAITRESS: There are no 'disgraceful' jobs -- just disgraceful people, Abby says. 
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Memorial Day, 1910

May 31, 1910, Memorial Day

May 31, 1910, Memorial Day

May 31, 1910 : “They were fewer and failing in strength but mighty in spirit. About 150 veterans gathered to pass in an annual review before the generations which have come into existence since the soldiers were mustered out .... Those who have not fallen from the ranks are a little more stooped and their hair is perhaps a trifle whiter, but the spirit in their hearts has not been dimmed a bit,” The Times said.

"What do we celebrate on this Memorial Day? What do we glorify in song and speech? Not war itself. My voice shall never be given to proclamation of the glories and grandeurs of deadly conflict.

"War is not glorious. The poet may sing, the orator may cast his magic spell, the hideous form may be covered with the magnificent robes of imagination, but war is not glorious.

"We celebrate not the bloody death but the sacrificial spirit of those who gave themselves to death. We celebrate not the anguish and suffering of those dark and dismal days, but the devotion that bore the burden on the behalf of the American republic."

--The Rev. Matt S. Hughes, Pasadena.
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A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.: Valentino's Funeral

Sept. 8, 1926, Valentino

Sept. 8, 1926: Valentino's funeral, invitation only, Church of the Good Shepherd, Beverly Hills.

Sept. 8, 1926, Valentino
Pola Negri "went to the casket moaning in grief and at times sobbing loudly. She lifted the old rose pall and her flowers upon it and kissed the coffin fervidly and many times. She collapsed. Friends lifted her to a divan, where she recovered shortly.

"When the casket had been placed in the crypt in the mausoleum corridor, Alberto [Guglielmi] stood before the unclosed aperture, head bowed and grief-stricken, a pitiful figure. He leaned toward the casket, touched its end with his forehead, kissed it and turned away. He was the last to touch it. The crypt was closed with a marble panel."

Voodoo at the Cemetery

Aug. 14, 1889, Voodoo

Aug. 14, 1889: An old man named Smith is a crank on the subject of buried treasure. And he conducts voodoo ceremonies.

LAPD honors dead officer's heroism, November 26, 1958


1958_1022_nash_2 Police Sgt. Gene T. Nash died after a shootout with robbery suspects in an apartment house on Budlong just south of Adams. In a televised ceremony, Police Chief William H. Parker presented his widow, Cynthia, with her husband's Medal of Valor.

But that's only the beginning of the story. Unfortunately, many pieces of the puzzle are missing from The Times, so the picture is incomplete. This is what we know:

Nash, 32, and Sgt. W.F. Bitterolf of the Robbery Division, accompanied by Sgts. S.O. Eastenson and C.E. Leonard, went to the apartment house at 2723 S. Budlong Ave. to investigate whether members of a crime ring were hiding there. According to The Times, a group of robbers had been holding up crap games, taking $7 to $140.

The Times says Eastenson and Leonard waited outside while Nash and Bitterolf forced their way into the apartment. They found Virgil Lee, 24; Herman Cosby, 35, Rebecca Turner Bly, 29; and Geraldine Brown, 24, who told them that the only other person in the apartment was her 6-year-old son, who was asleep in a back bedroom.

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Nash found the first bedroom locked. As he went through the bathroom into the second bedroom, he was shot three times in the chest, once in the right arm and once in the left hand. He dropped by the bed where the boy was sleeping. Despite his wounds, Nash drew his revolver and shot Bennie Will Meyes, 31, once in the leg and once in the hand that was holding the gun.

Meyes fell and then jumped out a window while Nash shot William Douglas, 29, in the back as he was hiding in a closet, leaving him in critical condition.

Bitterolf rushed into the bedroom and told Nash that an ambulance was coming. "He said 'I don't think it will do any good. I don't think I'll make it,' " Bitterolf told The Times.

Outside the apartment, Eastenson and Leonard heard the shots, saw Meyes jump out the window and caught him after chasing him for a block. And somehow, Bly's 6-year-old boy slept through the entire incident, The Times said.

All three men were evidently taken to Central Receiving Hospital and before he died, Nash identified Meyes as the gunman. Meyes denied shooting Nash while Douglas admitted owning the gun but said he had given it to Meyes.

In the ensuing investigation, police arrested another apartment resident, Walter Payne, 35, at Century and Sepulveda boulevards; Olivia Chapman, 25, identified as Meyes' girlfriend; James Williams, 23; Betty Logan, 23; and Willie M. Davis, 23, 1024 E. 75th St., just off Florence and Central.

The case was presented to the Los Angeles County Grand Jury, The Times said, and Meyes and Douglas were indicted on charges of murder.

Hundreds of officers attended Nash's funeral and he was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park.  In addition to his wife, Nash was survived by a 2-year-old daughter.

His widow was presented with his Medal of Valor. And then silence. As far as I can determine, The Times never wrote a word about the trial or sentencing.

But that's the not the end of the story.

For reasons that aren't clear, Douglas and Meyes weren't charged with murder. Instead, they were accused of robbery, assault with intent to commit murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

According to legal documents, Meyes and Douglas were given a public defender. But at the opening of the trial, the lawyer asked for a continuance, saying that he hadn't time to prepare the case. It was complicated, he had too many other cases, and Meyes and Douglas wanted separate attorneys, he said. 

Meyes and Douglas fired their attorney because he was unprepared, asked for a continuance and filed a request for separate defense lawyers. These motions were denied and the men were convicted. Meyes was judged a habitual criminal and given a life sentence. Douglas was sentenced to five years to life.

They first appealed to California courts, and because they had no money, asked for a lawyer to be appointed for them. The state Court of Appeal upheld their convictions without appointing an attorney for them, saying that "no good whatever could be served by appointment of counsel." The California Supreme Court denied their petitions for a review without giving them a hearing.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for the men, who were represented by Marvin M. Mitchelson, (yes he's the "palimony" lawyer) and Burton Marks. It's interesting to see two familiar names on the men's legal team: Fred Okrand and A.L. Wirin, who often worked with the ACLU, although it's not clear if this was an ACLU case.   

Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority: "Where the merits of the one and only appeal an indigent has as of right are decided without benefit of counsel in a state criminal case, there has been a discrimination between the rich and the poor which violates the 14th Amendment."

On June 20, 1964, The Times reported that Meyes and Douglas had been granted new trials. Unfortunately, The Times apparently never followed up on whether the men were retried.

I have one hunch about why The Times largely ignored this case, but it's only a hunch. Notice that we never ran pictures of Meyes or Douglas. Notice that the robbers were preying on crap games. Notice that one individual lived near Central and Florence. If either of the suspects were African American, it might explain The Times' lack of coverage. Stay tuned and I'll see what I can find out.

Read the Supreme Court decision >>>

Accident kills children of ex-football star, Dodgers beat Cardinals, 7-5, September 8, 1958

Football star watches deputy coroner examine site of tragedy

Tragedy strikes at Big Bear Lake

Lightning bolt kills two children as father and brother watch from a distance, unable to help.

Former football star's children injuredThe family's two-week summer vacation at the cabin in Big Bear was
nearly over. Soon they would be heading back home to La Crescenta, where Bob was a manager at Los Angeles Automotive Works and his wife, Betty, was a homemaker.

On that morning, Bob took their four children down to the lake while Betty
stayed behind at the cabin about three miles away. While Bob and his son, Bob Jr., went out fishing in a boat, the other three children
played along the shore: Mark, 7; Trudy, 13; and Diana, 14.

In a moment, there was a cloudburst and the three children ran into a shed
to get out of the rain. Before Bob and his son could get to shore, a
bolt of lightning hit the shed. Mark and Trudy were unconscious and
Diana was injured. Bob put the three children into the family station
wagon and on the way to Santa Anita Hospital at Lake Arrowhead, he and
Harvey Pedersen, a teenager from nearby Fawnskin, gave mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation to two of the youngsters.

At the hospital, emergency crews from the Big Bear and Fawnskin fire departments gave the children oxygen.

Mark and Trudy were pronounced dead. Although the first day's story said
Diana was burned, blinded and partially paralyzed, doctors found her
injuries to be far less serious. According to The Times, she suffered
only a slight eye injury that would not affect her sight. Her hand,
which had been paralyzed, returned to normal, and she hadn't been

At the funeral, the Rev. Bernard Traveille of First Baptist Church of La Crescenta urged mourners "not to let our memory enshrine despair." Instead, he said "to have faith, to harbor hope that Mark and Trudy have found a better life and to have
confidence in the love of God."

Mark Lawrence Reinhard, 7, and his sister Trudy Lee Reinhard, 13, were
cremated and their remains were entombed at Grand View Memorial Park.

Bob Reinhard, who was named All-American in 1940 and 1941, was captain of
the Los Angeles Dons. He was the No. 1 draft choice of the Chicago
Cardinals in 1950 but was traded to the Rams in exchange for Bob Shaw,
Tom Keane and Gerry Cowhig. He retired in 1951 to pursue a career in

Bob Reinhard Jr. went on to play football for Stanford, where he was a punter, and he was drafted by the Packers in 1970

More information about the problems at Grand View Memorial Park is here.

Dodgers win against Cards, 7-5 In sports, Gil Hodges hits two home runs (Nos. 21 and 22 of the season) as the Dodgers win against the Cardinals, 7-5. Charlie Neal also hit his 22nd run of the season.

Jockey Johnny Longden suffers a broken leg when Gallant Royal collapses from a heart attack at Del Mar and plunges into the rail ... Calvin Griffith, president of the Washington Senators, denies rumors that he plans to ask the American League to move the franchise to Minneapolis ... Althea Gibson scores a comeback victory over Darlene Hard in the U.S. finals at Forest Hills, N.Y. "I may never play tournament tennis again," Gibson says. Instead, she plans to focus on a singing career, she says.

Intruder kills former actress, August 28, 1958

LAPD at Hollywood murder scene, August 28, 1958
Murder victim Helene Jerome She is one of those cold cases that leave all kinds of unanswered questions even when the killer is finally caught, convicted and sent to prison. Nothing about it passes the sniff test.

We know her name was Helene Funk Jerome, born in New York on March 12, 1908, which makes her 50 at the time of the killing. She was living in a rear apartment at the Las Palmas Hotel, 1738 N. Las Palmas. That's the one used in "Pretty Woman."

She was supposedly a retired actress, but her credentials are rather vague. The Times said she was a graduate of either the Royal Dramatic Academy or the Royal Dramatic Society in London, so I'm guessing it was the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, which has no record of her -- at least online.

Most of her career was spent on the stage in China, The Times said. She never made any movies and shouldn't be confused with Helene Jerome Eddy, who died in 1990.

About 1943, Helene married Edwin Jerome, an actor who had a long career on Broadway before coming to Hollywood, where he appeared in such roles as a butler in "Gigi" and a doctor in "The Three Faces of Eve." They were estranged, he said, but remained friendly. He lived about 2 miles away at 1710 N. Harvard.

It's unclear whether Edwin called the hotel or the hotel switchboard operator called him, but either way, he became concerned when the operator said Helene's phone had been off the hook for a long time. He told police he went to the apartment to investigate and found Helene's nude body. The screen had been torn from a window near the door and detectives inferred that someone had broken in. The autopsy found that she had been strangled.

Murder suspect Edgar McAdooEdwin told police that he had been there late Tuesday, the night before the killing, and had answered the phone because she was asleep. Edwin said the caller was a man, but didn't get his name.

A few days later, police arrested Edgar Glenn McAdoo, 25, because he closely resembled the police sketch of a man seen with Helene in a bar a few hours before she was killed. McAdoo, who was working as a carhop after arriving from Lubbock, Texas, two months earlier, admitted being in a bar with Helene and said he escorted her back to the apartment but went home to 6674 Yucca St.

Investigators searched Helene's apartment for fingerprints to see if any matched McAdoo and he was given an extensive polygraph exam. However, prosecutors refused to file charges against him. He was released, charged with outstanding traffic warrants and freed on bail.

Next, based on an informant's report, police arrested Miller F. Dowdy, 42, who operated an all-night newsstand at Las Palmas and Hollywood Boulevard. Although the informant said Dowdy had been with Helene on the evening before the killing, Dowdy said he was working all night, although he admitted going on a date with her about three weeks earlier.

Dowdy was released a few days later for lack of evidence and police arrested Jordan Holt, 32, who was captured on a hotel roof and admitted being with Helene on the night of the killing, The Times said. The paper never reported what became of Holt, although he was apparently released.

In September 1960, police found another suspect, Henry Adolph Busch, 29, who admitted strangling three Hollywood women, including his foster mother's sister. He was questioned about Helene's killing, but apparently nothing came of it.

Murder suspect Miller DowdyFinally, in November 1962, a 26-year-old shipping clerk from La Puente, Michael John Donahue, walked into the Portland, Ore., police station and confessed to killing Helene. He said he left Los Angeles a week earlier to get away but decided to confess to clear his conscience. Donahue said he followed Helene and a young man (presumably McAdoo) home from a Hollywood bar, then broke in once the man left. They argued and he killed her, he said.

Donahue pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and in April 1963 was sentenced to five years to life in prison.

This is only chronology I can come up with for Helene's killing and it doesn't fit together terribly well: Edwin is at Helene's apartment. It's late and she's asleep. The phone rings and Edwin answers, then he leaves. For the rest of it to work, Helene would have to get up, go to the bar and meet McAdoo, come home with him, and then be killed by Donahue. And Holt is supposed to fit in there someplace.

This lady seems to have been hanging around with an awful lot of low-life men who were much younger; two of them were half her age. And then throw in the guy working at the all-night newsstand; not exactly prime date material. The Times doesn't say anything about what she did for a living. I wonder what was really going on. 

Helene was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park. In addition to Edwin, she was survived by sisters Josephine Laroza and Frieda Theis and brothers John and Bernard Funk.

Edwin died a little over a year after the killing, having moved to Altadena. He "reportedly never recovered from the shock of the unsolved murder of his wife," The Times said.

Public records are inconclusive on confessed killer Michael John Donahue. A man by that name died in Long Beach in 1999, but it's unclear if this is the same man.

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Front page, August 28, 1958 Reds win against Dodgers

July 14, 1908

Adjusted for inflation, the $15 refrigerator sold for $329.81 USD 2007, the $26 refrigerator was $571.66 USD 2007.


Cropcap_r_lincoln abid socialist Joseph H.N. Longy writes threatening letters to Los Angeles businessmen, saying that he'll burn down their homes unless they send him $5. Of course, if he had been psychic Victor Segno, and promised to send a daily "success wave" for $1, he would have been successful.  Longy, who was released in 1909, above, used the return address of Howell Hall, 814 S. Main St.

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Also note the story on early Los Angeles residents asking the City Council to preserve the Protestant cemetery on Fort Hill, which "has become unsightly through neglect," The Times says.

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Death in El Segundo



1957_0722_phillips_curtis July 22, 1957
Los Angeles

We're heading west on Rosecrans Avenue. It's early Monday morning, a few moments after 1:30 a.m., and the streets are dark. There's nobody out but a few drunks and some people heading home from the swing shift. It's all quiet.

Maybe that's what these two men on the graveyard shift thought.

Let's pull over here, at Palm Avenue. North of us is the tank farm for the Standard Oil refinery and south of us are new homes. Up ahead is a police car, all lit up. I make it out to be 1957 Ford 300, four-door black and white. The only sound is the police radio. You can see the front passenger door is open. It says: "El Segundo Police."

Before we get out, I need to say something: We're going to find two dead--or dying--police officers up there. At home, there's two widows who kissed their husbands goodbye and hoped they would see them in the morning. There are five kids who are going to grow up without their fathers. It's a terrible tragedy and I don't want to minimize that. But it would be another tragedy if one more police officer died because we didn't learn a lesson from what happened here. These men can't tell us, so we'll never know exactly what went on. But let's see what we can figure out about the shooting by picking it apart.

The officer in the driver's seat is Milton Gus Curtis, 27. He's fresh out of the academy in Riverside and has been on the El Segundo department for two months. Curtis has been shot in the upper right chest, right side and right forearm (or right wrist) with three .22-caliber short rounds.

His partner is Richard Allen Phillips, 28. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War and has been on the Police Department about three years. He's been shot three times in the back, also with .22-caliber short rounds. His service revolver is next to him, all six shots fired. He's supposed to be quite a marksman.

(Important discrepancy note: The Mirror says that according to officers who responded to the scene, Phillips' body was in the police car. The Times says Phillips was on the ground next to his service revolver).

Notice that even though it's dark, the killer hit his target six times. That seems like fairly accurate shooting.

Phillips' citation book is lying open on the right fender. (Note: The newspapers said it was on the roof). He started to write a ticket, but he had only filled out the date.

OK, here's a map.


Crime scene photos courtesy of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Notice Phillips' citation book on the hood and the police siren on the right fender.

Here's what happened:

1957_0722_segundo_citation Curtis and Phillips were parked on the north side of Rosecrans at Sepulveda about four car lengths east of the intersection. Margaret Osburn, who was heading home from work on westbound Rosecrans Avenue, said she stopped at the signal, in the right lane. A car later identified as a 1949 Ford pulled up to her left, then jumped the red light and roared through the intersection. "I said to myself what a stupid thing to do with the police car in plain sight," Osburn said.

Curtis and Phillips began their pursuit.

Alan King, 19, was heading west on Rosecrans, on his way home from a job at a service station when Curtis and Phillips came up behind him. King thought they were pulling him over, so he stopped, but they kept going. He went to his home around the corner from here on Poinsettia and watched the driver, Curtis and Phillips at Rosecrans and Palm.

Osburn passed by here and saw the two officers and the driver standing outside his car. One of the officers was shining a flashlight in the driver's face, Osburn said.

According to Osburn, the driver was taller than either officer, with husky shoulders. He was about 25 years old with curly blond or light brown hair and was wearing a red plaid shirt with the tail pulled out instead of tucked into his pants.

King, who was watching from the back porch of his home on Poinsettia, said he saw Curtis and Phillips remove the driver from the car. There appeared to be a struggle, King said. "When the man quieted down, one of the officers [presumably Curtis] went back to the prowl car and talked into the radio mike." Then King stepped out of view.

Another team of El Segundo police officers, C.D. Porter and James T. "Ted" Gilbert cruised past.

1957_0722_segundo_badges "It looked like Curtis and Phillips were writing a routine traffic citation," said Gilbert, who had been Curtis' partner until two weeks earlier. "We drove past slowly and continued west on Rosecrans. When we went past, Phillips was outside the car with his citation book starting to write a citation. Curtis was behind the wheel phoning."

El Segundo police dispatcher B.F. Bangasser said that at 1:29 a.m. (this time is reported elsewhere as 1:20 a.m.), one of the officers radioed to have him run the plates on the 1949 Ford. As he was checking, another police car came on the air. Then a voice cut in: "Ambulance." (Or "Send...ambulance.") "It was Phillips," Bangasser said.

King heard shots and ran back to the porch in time to see the driver get into the 1949 Ford and "speed down Rosecrans."

Police are going to find the killer's car about four blocks west of here with three shots through the back window and one through the trunk. Phillips was supposed to be quite a marksman and he hit the killer in the back, but maybe the killer wasn't injured too badly since the bullet went through part of the car first and lost momentum.

Two years after the killing, a homeowner digging up weeds at 555 33rd St. is going to find the murder weapon, a nine-shot Harrington and Richardson revolver, .22-caliber short. That's a small cartridge. A year later, he'll find the cylinder and some other items.

OK, let's go over what happened again and see if anything is missing.

Don't jump and look at the stories about how the case was solved in 2003 and what else the driver had done that night. For now, let's concentrate on what we have in the original news reports.

First of all: The driver ran a red light with a police car in clear view. That should be a tipoff that something is wrong with the guy.

Second: King says they got the driver out of the car. He said it looked as though they struggled with driver, but King was half a block away, so I wonder how much he could have seen. If what King saw was accurate--that they struggled with him and them calmed him down--I wonder why they didn't detain him right then. Police officers in the 1950s weren't shy about administering a little "street justice" to people who gave them a hard time. Or maybe that's how they "calmed him down."

Gail_russell_1957_0705a Third: Osburn drives by and sees both officers standing next to the killer outside his car with one of them shining a flashlight in his face. My guess--and it's only a guess--is that they performed a field sobriety test. It's done like this: Hold your arm out straight and touch the tip of your nose with your index finger. Like this one with Gail Russell.

Fourth: He shoots them. Which one first? Did the killer shoot Phillips in the back outside the police car and then shoot Curtis in the right side as he was behind the wheel? How did that work?

Maybe it will help if I act out the role of of Officer Curtis: I see the driver run the red light, I activate the lights and pull up behind him at Rosecrans and Palm. I get out of the car with my partner. We talk to the driver. I go back to the police car, get in the driver's side and radio the dispatcher with the license plate number. Unless I've written it down, that means I can see the license plate from where I'm sitting and read it to the dispatcher. The killer shoots my partner in the back. While I am sitting in the driver's seat, the killer shoots me in the right chest, right side and right wrist/forearm. The shots would have to come from the passenger side of the car.

Now I'll be Officer Phillips: I see the driver run the red light. We pull up behind him at Rosecrans and Palm. I get out of the car with my partner. We talk to the driver. My partner goes back to the car while I start writing up a citation. I put the citation book on the hood of the police car. I'm shot three times in the back. The killer shoots my partner three times. I turn around and fire six shots at the killer's car, hitting it three times in the back window and once in the trunk. I get into the police car, pick up the radio mike and say: "Ambulance."

1957_0722_ford_windowThe problem is that I can't get this scenario to work if I assume that the police car pulled up directly behind the killer's car. For that to work, the killer has to do some weird doubling back to shoot Phillips and then shoot Curtis from the passenger side of the police car.

The only way I can get it to work is if the police car is to the left of the killer's car, either side by side or off to the left rear of the 1949 Ford. If I'm right, I wonder why they parked there instead of behind him.

A couple other things bother me besides that scenario:

The first is the killer's driver's license--where is it? We know the police didn't find it at the crime scene and it's hard to imagine that Curtis and Phillips didn't ask for it. If the driver said he didn't have one, that should have raised their suspicions even further after he jumped the light--especially if he struggled with them.

For that matter, where's the registration on the car? I assume they asked for that too. If they got his driver's license and the registration, they would have noticed the car belonged to someone else and that should have made them even more suspicious.

My guess--and it is a guess--is that the killer shot the two officers and retrieved his driver's license from Phillips, who was writing the citation.

And that's the other thing that bothers me, maybe the most: Gilbert's comment about "writing a routine traffic citation." Obviously, it wasn't routine. If these two men were complacent, they certainly paid a terrible, tragic price.

Because what Curtis and Phillips didn't know is that the killer had just stolen the car after holding two teenage couples at gunpoint and raping one of the girls.

The investigation and solution of the case, which was turned over to the Sheriff's Department, is another fascinating story.

1957_0722_car_wheel In 1960, the man who found the murder weapon while digging weeds in his yard at 555 33rd St. turned the gun over to police, who learned that it had been purchased June 18, 1957, at a chain store (eventually identified as Sears) in Shreveport, La., by a man using the false name of George D. Wilson. A search of records at the nearby YMCA showed that a George D. Wilson registered there June 16, 1957. The handwriting sample will come in handy many years later.

Another equally important clue was the fingerprints found on the steering post of the stolen Ford (note the "necker's knob or "brodie knob" on the steering wheel--lrh). As we all know, two partial prints were assembled to make a complete print that was run through a computer database and revealed a suspect. In fact, he turned out to be the killer. 

And here's some dazzling insight from Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Howard Hopkinson, from 1960:

"The killer was soft-spoken and gentlemanly with the kids. He had an accent but we have been unable to put it down as to whether it was Southern. We think that it was. He was apologetic to the kids and he never used profanity before them."

Sheriff's Detective Lt. Al Etzel added: We have a strong suspicion that this guy is a reputable person. He may have a good job, a family he thinks a lot of and he figures that when he got caught on the traffic citation, he would be made on robbery and criminal attack. He panicked.

"Here is a man who goes out with a gun, a small flashlight and a roll of adhesive tape to commit robbery and criminal attack and he ends up killing two policemen. He is somebody the people least suspect, not a murdering 'cop hater.' He had something he didn't want to lose."

They were right. In 2003, Gerald F. Mason, a retired gas station owner with one prior arrest many years before, was convicted of the killings. He will be eligible for parole in 2010, according to the State newspaper published in Columbia, S.C.

Here come Porter and Gilbert. We better get going.



Curtis and Phillips were buried side by side at Inglewood Park Cemetery. Let's stop by and see them on the way back.



Update: Several people have asked why there is no mention of Officer Curtis' survivors. I don't wish to minimize the loss felt by his friends and family--in fact I try to put a face on the devastation that people feel when an officer dies in the line of duty. Curtis was survived by his wife, Jean; son, Keith; daughter, Toni Lynn; his sister, Dimitra Taruny; brother, Blaine; mother, Jessie Looney; and father, Gus Curtis. Phillips was survived by his wife, Carole; daughters Carolyn and Patricia; son, Richard Jr.; parents, Mr. and Mrs. T.G. Phillips; brothers, Charles and Eugene; and sisters Eunice Tabagio and Marcella Tuttle, The Times said.

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