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Voices--the Albert Dyer case

May 5, 2007 |  1:00 pm

Note: The murders of three little Inglewood girls was one of Los Angeles' most notorious case of the 1930s. Madeline Everett, 7,  her sister Melba, 9, and their playmate, Jeanette Stephens, 8, were lured to the Baldwin Hills by Albert Dyer, a WPA crossing guard, who raped and strangled the girls one at a time on June 26, 1937. Dyer was hanged  at San Quentin on Sept. 16, 1938. The girls are buried in unmarked graves at  Inglewood Park Cemetery.  

1957_everett_stephens Recently, Theresa Pinamonti Zeigler recalled:

I was born Nov. 19, 1929, in a house on Kelso Street in Inglewood, the youngest of six children of an Italian immigrant family.  When I was a year old, my family moved to  805 S. Prairie Ave., across the street from where the Inglewood racetrack is located now.
It was a huge area of swampy land with ponds, rushes, cattails, trees and bushes.  A couple of my brothers and I  had a good time playing there.  I believe that the house we lived in was torn down in the '60s.

My dad had a grocery store on Market Street in Inglewood  called the Midnight store, but lost it during the Depression and subsequently worked for the WPA, building roads and bridges.

I was 7 1/2 years old at the time of the murders of three little girls, who were kidnapped by Albert Dyer from Centinela Park in Inglewood  on June 26, 1937.   

My sister Josephine and I had  walked to Centinela Park, which was over a mile from our home.  We were used to that long walk because we walked every day to St. John's school, which was approximately a mile from where we lived on Prairie Avenue.

On our way we passed by the Inglewood Park Cemetery,  and I  always peeked through the fence out of curiosity at all the large, numerous tombstones that I could see behind the chain-link fencing.
I did not know how to swim, but played in the plunge (swimming pool) with my older  sister Josephine watching over me.  She  was 14. Afterwards, my sister allowed me to play in the park  so my swimsuit could dry.
I played  with the three little girls by a huge pipe.  I am not sure but it could have been a drainage pipe in the park.  We played together digging  in the dirt, running in and out of the pipe chasing each other  laughing and giggling like little girls will do,  then my sister called me to go home. 

Later in the day, we heard the news of the kidnapping  of the three little girls and then later, finding their bodies in  Baldwin Hills which was a few miles from Centinela Park. [Note: The girls were found June 28, 1937].

I knew at the time, from their description of the little girls,  that they were the ones that I had been playing with  in Centinela Park.
One of our neighbors, a bachelor who lived with a married sister on Buckthorne Street around the corner from our house, was a suspect.  My sister tells me that the police questioned me about this bachelor and they  also found out that I had played with three little girls that matched the description of the missing children, and asked me about that also,  but I don't recall that specifically.

I do recall all the excitement in the neighborhood and all the grownups gathering out in the alleys behind their homes, and  some standing around on the sidewalks talking about the missing children.  This bachelor was suspected of the kidnapping because he used to give  his niece and a couple of us  little girls, who played with her, rides in the back of his pickup truck.

I do remember the rides since that was as much fun as riding in the rumble seat of a Ford.  The bachelor  was eventually cleared.  I know that it was a scary time and I remember hearing the adults saying that some men wanted to lynch the man while he was in jail.