Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
March 12, 1960: Roy Chapman Andrews is not an author I think about very often anymore, but he wrote one of the favorite books of my childhood, “All About Dinosaurs.” I suppose he’s one reason I took all those anthro courses in college.
|Regular Daily Mirror reader Mary Mallory notes that former Mystery Movie Star Ana Bertha Lepe, left, will be featured in "La Nave de los Monstruos" ("The Monsters' Ship") at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Hammer Museum.
The plot summary: "The last man on Venus has died. Beta and Gamma, two Venusian women, have been sent on an intergalactic mission to collect bizarre male specimens from throughout space. And a monstrous collection they are too, all scales and fangs and exposed brains."
Co-hit: "Santo vs. the Martian Invasion." Admission is free.
Aug. 23, 1975: Bombs are found under two LAPD cars.
| In the last 33 years, The Times has published varying accounts of the August 1975 incident in which the Symbionese Liberation Army planted pipe bombs under two LAPD cars -- a case that resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Sara Jane Olson/Kathleen Soliah.|
To settle the differences, the Daily Mirror turned to Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, who provided a transcript of testimony on the incident given to the grand jury in 1976. The following account is based on that testimony.
On the night of Aug. 21, 1975, Officers James J. Bryan and John David Hall were working the mid-watch patrol in Hollywood. About 11:15 p.m., the officers stopped to eat at the International House of Pancakes, 7006 Sunset Blvd. Bryan, who was driving that night, said they left about midnight and responded to a radio call.
As the police car was backing out of its parking space, it was seen by a group of friends pulling into the lot, according to Mervin William Morales. Morales testified that he and his friends parked in the spot next to the one vacated by the police and went into the restaurant. Morales said that when they left the restaurant 10 or 15 minutes later, they noticed what might have been a bomb in the vacant space where the police car had been parked. (To clear up one common misconception, the bombs were placed on the ground. Only a part of the trigger mechanism was attached to the police cars.)
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Morales said he ran about two blocks to contact officers he had seen earlier that evening, Paul McMillen and his partner, Larry Riviera. In the meantime, one of Morales' friends went into the restaurant to notify the manager.
Officer McMillen said he and his partner talked to Morales about 12:10 a.m. on Aug. 22, 1975, and arrived at the restaurant five or 10 minutes later.
"I saw what appeared to be the end of a pipe, a plumbing fixture, wrapped in some black plastic or a black covering," McMillen said. He went into the restaurant and made a telephone call to the watch commander to report what happened.
Officers responded to the restaurant, including Bryan and Hall, who were called to handle traffic control at Sunset and Highland as police blocked off Sunset Boulevard and several side streets and evacuated some areas.
About 1:30 a.m., Officer Lawrence L. Baggett arrived at the restaurant. Baggett, of the firearms and explosives unit of the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division, said he was met by a sergeant and investigators who told him about what might be a bomb in a parking space.
Baggett said: "I approached it; performed what we call an initial render-safe. And then called out the rest of my unit to assist me in the transportation of it."
In the meantime, Bryan and Hall had responded to a robbery call at Sunset and La Brea. Bryan said that officers had been informed about the bomb and he decided to look under their car.
"I saw a red U-shaped magnet attached to the frame of the car and attached to the magnet was a piece of fishing line," Bryan said. Shortly thereafter, Baggett went to Sunset and La Brea to examine Bryan and Hall's police car.
About 2 a.m., as part of a general inspection of LAPD vehicles ordered as a safety precaution after the restaurant incident, Officer Martin Joseph Feinmark and his partner, Officer Hohan, checked the black-and-white patrol cars at the Hollenbeck Division. After finding nothing under the marked cars, the officers checked three unmarked vehicles parked on St. Louis Street.
Feinmark said that he found a bomb in a trash bag placed beneath the oil pan of one of the unmarked cars. Baggett and an unidentified officer arrived and as Baggett watched, the other officer disarmed the second pipe bomb.
The BombsThe only way to resolve some questions about the SLA pipe bombs was to re-create one (without the explosives, of course). It's an interesting process, one that I won't fully describe for obvious reasons.
Although the bomb wasn't as large as described in initial news reports (The Times said it was about 18 inches long) it was still sizable. The bomb was housed in a foot-long piece of 3-inch galvanized pipe. The volume of the cylinder is 85 cubic inches, a little more than a quart, dry measure. When fully assembled as described in the transcript, including battery, nails and sand in lieu of powder, the bomb weighs about 20 pounds.
These days, the SLA pipe bomb is not something that can be made after a quick trip to Home Depot or even the average plumbing supply store. Tracking down the components was a scavenger hunt and some of them were so hard to find they had to be ordered.
Without revealing all the components, I have to say I was struck by how few nails were used. News accounts say the bomb was "tightly packed" with nails, and although that statement is true, it's misleading. The bombers used about 120 small nails, according to the transcript, a fairly modest amount considering the capacity of the pipe. Clearly, most of the space was used for explosives.
I was also curious about why the bombers used one particular component because it seems to be needlessly complicated, but I don't think I'll be asking them anytime soon.
We do know with some certainty what would have happened if the bomb had exploded. In 1976, according to the transcript, the LAPD reproduced the SLA pipe bomb and blew up an old patrol car with two mannequins inside at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The blast was photographed and videotaped, according to police testimony.
Baggett said: "It ripped a big hole in the floor of the vehicle, a number of them. It sent fragmentation through the floor of the vehicle; through the seats and through the roof of the vehicle, all out through the hood of the vehicle. It caused extensive damage to the interior of the vehicle.
"The mannequins, the passenger mannequin was shoved practically up into the ceiling. The driver mannequin was also moved around; distorted."
Baggett said: "had the device been placed under, say, the passenger side of the vehicle, putting the passenger officer directly above it or in extremely close proximity to it, I would say the odds of him being extremely or gravely injured, if not killed outright, would be very good.
Photographs by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times
When filled with sand and attached to a battery, this re-created bomb weighs 20 pounds.
"And the driver, the other officer, would be sitting to his left; would also stand a very good chance of being severely injured if not killed."
In some of the most chilling testimony, Baggett was asked what would have happened if the bomb had gone off while he was disarming it. He said: "Had I been in the position of trying to render it safe, then -- that is, in direct proximity to it, I am sure I would have been seriously injured and I, just from the overall power and the amount of fragmentation and shrapnel, I honestly believe I probably would have been dead."
The big question, of course, is why the pipe bomb didn't explode. Its failure wasn't due to SLA incompetence. The answer is simple mechanical failure of one improvised component of the bomb. The trigger mechanism used two metal contacts placed in the jaws of a wooden clothespin. The contacts were held apart by a small wooden wedge connected by fishing line to a magnet attached to the police car. When Bryan and Hall pulled out of the parking space, the wedge was pulled out of the clothespin, but the jaws closed off-center instead of coming together squarely, so the contacts missed each other.
Footnote: According to Clinton Erickson, an LAPD retiree who tracks the deaths of former LAPD officers, Baggett died in 2006.
| 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.
Edwin 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.
Finally, 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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Perhaps you remember publicist Desmond Slattery from Paul Coates' Aug. 22, 1957, column. In brief, he was selling crickets as pets.
This time, however, his problem is roaches--or rather, a roach.
Slattery and his roommate, actor Scott Brady (real name Gerald Kenneth Tierney), were arrested at 8929 Hollywood Hills Road in a major LAPD raid in which four officers, acting on a tip that drug parties were being held at the home, recovered: the butt of a marijuana cigarette and, yes, a single joint.
Aside from the humorous situation of Sgt. Marty Brennan from "He Walked by Night" being busted for drugs, there's a serious point here and not just the relatively minuscule amount of drugs, compared to today's arrests.
The district attorney's office dropped the case because it would reveal the identify of one of the narcotics details' "most reliable informants," The Times said. You might be asking why the police didn't think of this before they staged the raid. Me too.
"All I can say is a woman is the cause of it all," Slattery mourned, according to The Times. "You can't shake down every woman who comes into your place."
OK, here's how it went down. Promise not to laugh:
Brady "invited two girls up to blast some tea and get high," Sgt. John E. O'Grady said. (Right daddy-O. Let's throw on some hip platters and groove to Kerouac. He is a real gone cat).
Slattery said neither he nor Brady knew the women, but that one of them called and arranged for Brady to meet them in Hollywood.
Brady came home with a blonde and a Eurasian. When Slattery went into the kitchen, he found the blonde jiggling the shutters as if she were signaling police.
"They came in like the Russian army," Slattery said despite Brady's warning against "talking too much," The Times said.
Police rejected the men's allegations implicating the women. "The girls had nothing to do with the narcotics charge," O'Grady said. "They were brought there by Scott Brady from someplace in Hollywood. We released them after we were perfectly satisfied that they had nothing to do with the narcotics charge."
In December, however, an officer told prosecutors that to "disclose the identity of the two women would be to unmask one of his most reliable informants." The officer said he could not do that "in good conscience," The Times reported.
In other words, police got complaints that Brady and Slattery were throwing drug parties at the house. They had an informant contact the men, go to the home, get the men to smoke some dope and signal the police. The cops release the women and bust the men. Any lawyers in the audience want to weigh in?
Brady, who died in 1985, had a long career in TV. The Social Security Death Index lists a Desmond Slattery, born Sept. 19, 1914, who died in Houston, Jan. 4, 1977.
Sgt. John O'Grady apparently became a private investigator and wrote the 1974 book "O'Grady," in which he recounted being a bodyguard for Linda Lovelace. Later on, according to The Times clips, he was hired by relatives to find out what became of missing "Cotton Club" promoter Roy Radin. California death records list two men named John E. O'Grady, one of whom died in in Los Angeles County in 1990 at the age of 68.
As for the two women, we don't know. But you hipsters watch out for a blonde and a Eurasian. They're with the fuzz.
Bonus fact: John O'Grady also took part in the drug raid involving Saundra Maazel.
Sept. 16, 1957
Franklyn West Storer, 50, woke up on a Saturday morning to discover that his beloved 16-year-old daughter, Mary Alice, had taken a fatal overdose of sleeping pills. In despair, he also took a fatal overdose.
Mary had lived with her father since her parents' divorce and in her brief life, developed a love of classical music, so Franklyn bought records for her, about $1,000 worth, which police found scattered around the home. Before he killed himself, Franklyn placed a few autographed pictures of Mary's favorite classical composer around her body, The Times said.
His sister, Lucille Miller of National City, found the bodies in the Storer home at 5750 Camerford Ave. after becoming alarmed by two letters from Franklyn saying that he was afraid Mary would kill herself and that if she did, "there would not be anything for me to live for."
Beyond that brief, tragic story, The Times offers no explanation of what happened. Was Mary a performer? An aspiring composer? We simply don't know. But a further search reveals at least a few details.
California death records say that Franklyn was born in Ohio and reveal that his wife's maiden name was Bettencourt.
He doesn't appear in the 1929, 1936 or 1938 online Los Angeles city directories, but is listed in 1939 as living at 511 S. Wilton Place, apparently an apartment house.
Franklyn took out a legal notice in The Times on Nov. 14, 1940, saying that he would only be responsible for his own debts and the vital records for March 13, 1942, list a divorce action by Franklyn W. Storer vs. Victoria B. Storer.
According to the 1942 Los Angeles city directory, Franklin W. Storer was an assistant electrical tester at the Department of Water and Power and was living at 5722 Waring Ave., precisely one block from the death scene. Eliza C. McElwain, widow of J.W. McElwain, was also living at that address. Because it was during World War II, she could have been a landlady.
The 1956 street directory only lists Franklyn as living at 5750 Camerford.
The Social Security Death Index has nothing on Franklyn, but lists a Victoria B. Storer, born Aug. 30, 1913, died Jan. 14, 2002, in Turlock, Calif.
Unfortunately, none of these fragmentary details explain the tragedy. We can only speculate.
Anthony Brancato, killed Aug. 6, 1951, 1648 N. Ogden Drive, Hollywood, along with Anthony Trombino in the "Two Tonys Murder." Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno eventually confessed to the killings.
Photograph by John W. Wilson Los Angeles Times
And what did mobsters carry in their wallets in the 1950s? Trombino had a bunch of baby pictures.
Photograph by Clay Willcockson, Los Angeles Times
When Willcockson went to take the "crime doesn't pay" toe tag shot in the Los Angeles County morgue, the medical examiners were busy performing the autopsies on Brancato and Trombino. So the enterprising photographer borrowed the toe tags, put them on two other bodies and took his morgue shot. How do I know? It says so on the back of the photo.
July 31, 1957
In the continuing assaults across the city, a North Hollywood housewife fought off an intruder while a 60-year-old Hollywood woman was saved from strangling by the staff of her Hollywood apartment building after she was grabbed from behind in the hallway, gagged and raped.
"I guess I was foolish to take the chance, but the next thing I knew I was scratching at his face and trying to knock the gun out of his hand," she said. "He grabbed me with his free hand but I had him off balance. I knocked him against the washing machine. Then I screamed like crazy."
According to the Mirror, 30 LAPD officers joined by six officers from the Burbank Police Department made a house-to-house search for the attacker, who had been prowling the neighborhood for two months.
In Hollywood, an unidentified woman told police she was going into her 12th-floor apartment at 1811 N. Whitley on the afternoon of July 30 when she was grabbed from behind. She said she never got a look at the rapist who blindfolded her, tied her wrists with a silk stocking and gagged her.
Although she was tied up, the woman knocked the receiver off her telephone to summon help. The desk clerk and the janitor found her nearly dead from "a knotted garment in her mouth," The Times said.
Police Chief William H. Parker said the Hollywood attack was like the stranglings of Marjorie Hipperson and Ruth Goldsmith.
To be continued.
In the meantime, read more about 1811 N. Whitley. Search for Oct. 12, 1947, entry at the 1947project.
Detectives investigating the killing of nurse Marjorie Hipperson are questioning a con artist with ulcers who was an orderly at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where Hipperson and her fiance, Dr. Walter Deike, worked.
Monte Melvin Krier, 29, who is being held on forgery charges in the prison ward of General Hospital, says he knew Hipperson and saw her on the day she was killed. He says he left Hollywood Presbyterian shortly after the slaying out of fear of the police. "I quit my job because I knew they were going to find out about my record," said Krier, who had served a total of 11 years in prison for forgery and burglary.
"Miss Hiperson was a very friendly girl," Krier said. "We had lunch several times and we talked quite a bit while we were working. The last time I saw her was the day she was murdered."
Krier reluctantly admitted that he knew where Hipperson lived because both of them had gotten a ride home from work with a fellow employee.
After he was arrested on the forgery charges ("I have a champagne appetite with a beer pocketbook," he said) detectives began questioning him in the Hipperson case. "They fingerprinted me twice," Krier said. "They thought my palm print matched ones found in the apartment but now I think they have cleared me."
(Krier's con worked this way: He would check into a hospital for ulcers, then write hot checks for jewelry and clothing to merchants who assumed he was trustworthy because he was in a hospital. When he got enough merchandise, he skipped out of the hospital).
Detectives are also investigating an attack on Carol Boyer, 24, 2113 N. Rodney Drive in Los Feliz, who fought off a man who attacked her with a pipe about 4:30 a.m. while she slept. Neighbors say the attacker had canvassed the apartment building two weeks earlier by posing as a census taker seeking information on single people.
Monte Krier died Jan. 4, 1998, in Los Angeles. He was 69, according to California death records.
July 1, 1957
Detective Sgts. W.R. "Bud" Schottmiller and J.B. Close of the Hollywood Division have little to go on after a prowler broke into an apartment to rape a young woman somewhere on Irving Boulevard (the newspapers, incredibly, did not give the victim's address this time--more about this later).
Maybe he was the same man who killed Marjorie Hipperson, or the one who killed Ruth Goldsmith--and maybe not. Maybe he was even the same man who broke into an apartment on Fountain and struggled with a woman before leaving.
All police know is that he came up the fire escape and broke in through French doors about 3:30 a.m. There are some fingerprints on a 10-inch steak knife that he left in the apartment, officials say, but only enough to eliminate or implicate possible suspects.
To be continued...