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Woman, boy strangled

July 24, 2008 |  8:58 am
July 24, 1958

1958_0723_ireneHer name was Irene. She was a 40-year-old secretary at an ad agency, divorced with two sons. The younger boy was visiting his grandparents that summer and the older one, Craig, was living with her at their apartment, 4569 Edgewood Place. Her ex-husband was in Miami.

Irene didn't show up for work Monday or Tuesday, so two men from the office went to check on her. She and her son Craig had been lying there dead for two days, apparently.

She was face-down on the couch with a gag in her mouth. A nylon stocking had been used to tie her hands, and another one was used to strangle her. Her shorts had been ripped off and thrown on the floor, The Times said, and a nightgown had been tossed over her body. Craig was lying nearby on the floor, in his pajamas. He had been struck on the head and strangled with the antenna wire from the television set.

Detectives found hors d'oeuvres on the coffee table and the remains of dinner in the kitchen. They also found an empty vodka bottle and some mix.

Charles worked at a nearby gas station and told Detectives Herman Zander and E.V. Jackson that he met Irene on Friday when he started her car after it stalled. According to Charles, Irene invited him over for dinner Sunday and that everything was fine when he left at midnight or 12:30 a.m. Under further questioning, Charles said a man named John had come to the apartment about 11 p.m. and became jealous that he was there.

Neighbors said they had seen Irene and Charles together before Friday and recognized him from his job at the service station.

View Larger Map

Above, the Edgewood Place neighborhood via Google maps' street view.

After hours of questioning and a polygraph test, Charles Earl Brubaker confessed to killing Irene Potter Morey and Craig Morey. The Times said: "Brubaker held his nerve throughout the polygraph test but later collapsed emotionally and babbled his confession of the brutal slayings.... The boy awakened and caught him attempting to attack the woman and he killed them both." 

Brubaker was also questioned in the unsolved stranglings of Ruth Goldsmith, Marjorie Hipperson and Esther Greenwald, all LAPD cases, but there's no mention of him being a suspect in the Geneva Ellroy killing, which was a sheriff's case.

1958_0724_brubaker_pix Brubaker, who had served time for petty theft and trespassing, was convicted of murder and sentenced to the gas chamber. In 1964, the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence and he was given life in prison by Judge Joseph A. Wapner. Although the court did not give a reason for overturning Brubaker's execution, The Times speculated that it was related to the Joseph Bernard Morse decision, which held that juries must not be told that convicted killers may be paroled if they receive a life sentence. 

In 1965, after the ruling that spared his life, Brubaker told The Times, "I'm glad to be alive."

1964_brubakerBrubaker, who had a job in the prison furniture factory, said: "There were times when I started to feel sorry for myself -- but I'd stop and think of my victims. They didn't want to die either, so I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I never intended anything like that to happen."

The Times added: "Technically, Brubaker could be paroled next January. By that time, he will have been in prison seven years. But his chances of getting out are nil."

Wapner said Brubaker should "spend the rest of his natural life in the state prison so that he may not be released to possibly prey on society or to commit another such heinous crime."

Brubaker told The Times: "I don't know when I'll get out -- but there's always a chance. I'm glad to see the courts acting. There have been a lot of cases before mine where they should have acted. People want to criticize you for fighting for your rights. If we didn't have those, the Constitution would be worthless."

It's unclear what became of Charles Brubaker after that. He never appeared in The Times again, and the Social Security Death Index lists a fair number of men by that name.

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