Boy Burglar Nabbed

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Location: 330 South Flower Street
Date: December 22, 1904

Above, Hoyt Brown in 1910

Arrested at this lodging house in the act of burgling was the dapper, notorious Hoyt Brown (aka Frank Carlson), recently sprung from the Reform School at Whittier, but still rotten.

He was about 17 or 18 when, two Augusts back, while working as a bellboy at the Hotel Lillie at 534 Hill Street, Brown he was charged with having liberated valuables from rooms there, earning notice from detectives as "a sneak thief a grade above amateur at least" and "bearing the unenviable reputation of having made the biggest hauls of any local boy burglar in years."

Previously he’d been employed at the Hotel Savoy, and he confessed he’d made off with a watch and chain. But his biggest likely score was the Dice diamond robbery: he allegedly rifled the locked room of Mrs. F.H. Dice at the Berkeley Flats at Ninth and Main, stealing six still-warm diamond rings worth upwards of $1200 and numerous other gems while their owner chatted with a friend down the hall. Hoping to avoid publicity, Mrs. Dice hired her own detectives, and while a few baubles turned up in a local pawn shop, most of the rings were never found. Pawn broker I.J. Smith was himself convicted of a misdemeanor for buying two rings and sentenced to 50 days on the chain gang or a $50 fine. Smith doggedly gave the old gang a try, but came up with the cash after a few uncomfortable hours.

On the 1904 occasion, Flower Street residents had previously noticed Hoyt Brown hanging around suspiciously, and today he was found in the act of entering someone’s room. Arrested by Officer Hunter and frisked, his pockets revealed a variety of jewelry, including a wedding ring engraved within "John to Deed. May 1, 1890. Dec. 15, 1901" which no one in the house recognized.

Hoyt Brown will go on to spend his twenties robbing homes from San Francisco to San Diego, between stints in San Quentin and Folsom prisons. He next appears in the local record in June 1910, when he’s discovered lurking in the closet of Mrs. A. Maurice Low, a visitor from Washington D.C. who’s stopping at the Stratford Apartments at Sixth and Burlington. Chased from the room by the shrieking Mrs. Low, Brown became an object of interest to the neighborhood. The noise drew the attention of Leon Godshall, a skilled sprinter who was playing lawn tennis nearby. He tossed his racket aside and chased Brown for several blocks, then tackled and held him until police arrived. Brown would unsuccessfully plead insanity over this last pinch, but was almost certainly sent back to prison.

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Author: Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

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