The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Homicide

Spade Cooley Held in Wife's Death

  April 4, 1961, Mirror Cover  

  Spade Cooley, Sept. 6, 1954  
  Los Angeles Times file photo  

April 4, 1961: Western music star Donnell “Spade” Cooley is accused of killing his estranged wife, Ella Mae,  in a jealous rage after listening to tape recordings of her phone conversations about what the defense would call “a free love cult.”

I have not had much exposure to the Cooley case, which occurred in Kern County, except that James Ellroy used to talk about it all the time and it is certainly one of the notorious killings of the early 1960s.

The details of the killing are particularly gruesome and part of it was witnessed by the Cooley’s teenage daughter, Melody, so I’m a little reluctant to dredge up all the gory details. A purported affair with Roy Rogers (yes, that Roy Rogers) — which he and others denied -- was also dragged into the courtroom.

It is a nasty, lurid case. 

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Another Good Story Ruined -- The Black Dahlia

  Medford Map  

This item comes from the Atlantic:

by Mark Bernstein

“My morning drive to Eastgate, our software workshop, is literary.

“In the car this morning, I listened to the estimable Katherine Kellgren reading  Connie Willis' new historical fiction, Blackout. This is fun (and better for my blood pressure than talk radio), but it's also work: Eastgate has always been very interested in interlinked electronic narrative and for years I've been trying to interest hypertext writers in  historical fiction. I've not always been convincing. If the argument doesn't go better soon, I may try my hand.

“My morning drive takes me past the former site of the Fannie Farmer School, deeply influential in popular American cookery and in American technical writing. Next comes the the house from which the Black Dahlia embarked for Hollywood and a different narrative than she'd contemplated.”



Sorry, no. I haven’t been to Medford, Mass., for years so I’m not sure what is being pointed out as Elizabeth Short’s house these days. In fact the triple-decker home at 115 Salem where her family was living when she was killed was torn down years ago. I have combined a 1920 map of Medford, with a red dot showing the approximate location of 115 Salem, and a Google map. Note the location of Fifield Court, where the Pacios family lived.

Paul Coates, Feb. 17, 1961


  Feb. 17, 1961, Mirror Cover  

Feb. 17, 1961: The death of Burdette E. Lowery, 67, was an accident – or was it? Lowery, a retired engineer, was tenant in a home at 514 Via De La Paz occupied by Turner Ashby Martin, 41, and his wife, Julie.

The Martins told police that Lowery had fallen and hit his head. However, psychologist Dr. Elias Porter  told the coroner’s inquest that Turner Martin had admitted during a counseling session “I crushed his head like an egg shell and I haven't been able to sleep since.” This made the investigation doubly complex because not only was the admission made during what was supposedly a confidential counseling session, but Porter was Julie Martin’s ex-husband.

The deputy coroner eventually testified that Lowery died of a condition caused by an old injury, and murder charges against Turner Martin were dropped.

And Paul Coates has some pointers for novice columnists like Al Capp: A columnist who wants to keep his readers must never malign, criticize, ridicule or write harshly about:

Dogs, Debbie Reynolds, Clifton's Cafeteria, Norman Vincent Peale, the Alamo, Toots Shor, Knott's Berry Farm, the Reader's Digest, Carl Sandburg, Whittier, Irene Dunne, Knute Rockne, Lady Bird Johnson, "What's My Line?", Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

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Alcala Appeals Conviction for Murder of Girl

  Feb. 14, 1981, Alcala  

  July 26, 1979, Rodney James Alcala  

Feb. 14, 1981: Rodney James Alcala appeals his death sentence in the killing of Robin Samsoe, 12, of Huntington Beach. Alcala, a former typist in The Times composing room, was convicted of kidnapping Robin after approaching her and a friend and offering to take their picture.


Rodney James Alcala on
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Paul Coates, Feb. 6, 1961


  Feb. 6, 1961, Mirror Cover  

Feb. 6, 1961: A religious group moves into a vacant storefront next to a country-Western bar and Paul Coates has the rest of the story...

Richard Daniel Johnson, owner of the Eaton Canyon Riding Club, is found shot to death less than six months after he reported being kidnapped. (Curiously enough, The Times apparently didn’t cover this killing).

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Atlanta Police Seek to Solve Slayings of Black Youths

  Jan. 28, 1981, Comics  
  Jan. 28, 1981, Atlanta Child  Murders  

Jan. 28, 1981: Lee Manual Gooch, 15, is missing four days after the discovery of the strangled body of Terry Lorenzo Pue, the 14th black child to be killed  in Atlanta in 1 1/2 years, The Times says. Freelance photographer Wayne B. Williams will be arrested in June on suspicion of killing as many as 28 victims between 1979 and 1981. Williams was convicted on two counts of murder in February 1982.

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Another Good Story Ruined – The Black Dahlia

Elizabeth Short fake picture
Here we have another popular faked picture of Elizabeth Short. The image on the left is genuine, as far as I know. The bizarre image on the right has been flopped and retouched. 


Another Good Story Ruined – The Black Dahlia

Death Reveals 'Burglar' Is Suspicious Husband in Disguise

  Jan. 18, 1911, Lynching


  Jan. 18, 1911, Lighting Fixtures  

  Jan. 17, 1911, Jealousy  

Jan. 18, 1911: Jealousy takes a tragic turn in Long Beach as a suspicious husband tries to catch his wife cheating on him with a house guest and is shot to death when the guest mistakes him for a burglar.

In Shelbyville, Ky., two victims escape from a mob trying to hang them from a railroad bridge over a creek. One man flees when the rope breaks and he plunges into the creek and while the mob is chasing him, the other man frees his hands and gets out of his noose. 

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In Remembrance, Elizabeth Short

The Daily Mirror is dark today.

L.A. Serial Killer Suspect Kills Himself in Jail

  Jan. 12, 1980, Comics  

  Jan. 12, 1980, Butts  

Jan. 12, 1981: Vernon Butts, a suspect with William Bonin in the Freeway Killer case, hangs himself with a towel in his cell at the Los Angeles County Jail. He was 23. 

People are struggling to pronounce L.A.’s latest food craze: croissants! 

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Another Good Story Ruined – The Black Dahlia

It is deceptively difficult to write with any degree of accuracy about the Black Dahlia case. Here’s a recent example of a mangled account by Scott McCabe of the Washington Examiner:

On this day, Jan. 9, 1947, Elizabeth Short, anaspiring actress, disappeared, triggering a criminal investigation in which she was dubbed the "Black Dahlia."

--In fact, there was no investigation until her body was found. Short was so disconnected from society that nobody realized she had vanished. [And yes, bonus points for the typo.]

A week later, her body was discovered cut in half and mutilated in a Los Angeles parking lot.

--In fact, the body was discovered in a vacant lot.


Huntington Beach Jane Doe, 1968

  April 15, 1968, Jane Doe  

My Google alert for “Black Dahlia” sent me to Tori Richards’ piece on an unsolved 1968 homicide being reopened by the Huntington Beach Police Department. Taking the case to the Internet has already dispelled decades of speculation that a purse and some photographs found the same day as the killing might have belonged to the victim. Police say that they have been contacted by the people in the pictures, which are completely unrelated to the killing.

The unidentified victim was found by three boys March 14, 1968, in a drainage ditch separating two plowed fields about 150 yards south of Yorktown Avenue and Newland Street, The Times said.

Police describe the victim as a white or Latino woman 20 to 25 years old, 5-foot-3 to 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds, with dark, shoulder-length hair and brown eyes. She was missing several back upper and lower teeth and her front teeth were somewhat crooked, police say. 

She was wearing a multi-colored flower print blouse, purple Capri-style pants, a black imitation leather three-quarter-length coat and flat, loafer-type shoes. She was wearing a ring with a square, light-blue stone in a silver metal setting. 

"Her clothing had been torn open, she had been raped and her throat had been cut," The Times said in 1968.

In 2001, the Orange County crime lab obtained a DNA profile from evidence recovered in 1968, but no match has been found in the FBI Combined DNA Index System, police say. 

In 1969, The Times reported that a woman named Jacqueline Smay had identified the victim as an acquaintance named Rhonda Fisher. At the time, detectives said the identification hadn't been confirmed. "We think we have found the person Miss Smay thought she knew," Det. Sgt. Monty McKennon said.

In 1972, The Times reported that a former friend had tentatively identified the victim as Teresa Marie Tippet, 29, formerly of Long Beach, who was also known as Mattie Meeker.

"The description she gave us was fairly close to our Jane Doe, and so was her description of a ring the victim was wearing," Det. John Cale said.

Still, detectives said the identification wasn't conclusive and continued to consider the victim a Jane Doe, The Times said.

Curiously enough, The Times referred to Jane Doe as 68-0745 and the Huntington Beach Police Department refers to Jane Doe 68-006079.

Anything with further information should call Det. Mike Reilly (714) 536-5940.

The Huntington Beach police news release is here.

Postscript: I’m unable to find any details on a solution to the other puzzling 1968 homicide in Huntington Beach, that of Marine Staff Sgt. Cecil T. Caldwell, who was shot in the back with a .30-30 while working in a gas station at Bolsa Avenue and Springdale Street.


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