Fry Cook Killer

lindsay headline lindsay headline

It was a quiet February day in Seattle, Washington when Frank Lindsay ended the argument that he was having with his wife Audrey by bashing her over the head with a hammer, slashing her throat, sewing her body into a burlap bag, and then burying her behind the barn on their property.

pearl talksGrabbing his 12 year old foster daughter Pearl Grant, and a few hastily packed bags, Frank fled his home and high-tailed it south.  He would later say that he took the girl with him because he thought that traveling with a child would give him a better cover story.  It wasn’t long before he realized that being on the lam with Pearl was a bad idea, and he subsequently abandoned her in a rooming house in Oakland. 

Frank finally landed in Napa, where he befriended the parents of 11 year old Beatrice Dellamore . He picked fruit alongside the family for several days, eventually convincing the couple to turn the girl over to him. Mr. Lindsay said that he knew a woman with money who could provide Beatrice with everything that she lacked as the child of itinerate laborers. In truth, he kidnapped the girl and took her with him to Los Angeles, where he checked in at the Hotel Cecil for a few nights.hotel cecil

Then Frank did what so many other fugitives had done before him – he sought refuge in a Bunker Hill rooming house.

Representing himself as Mr. R.F. Williams, he told people that Beatrice was his daughter.  Lindsay kept the girl for two weeks in the rooming house, and then decided to put her on a bus back to Napa. Upon her return home, Beatrice was able to provide information about Frank, but the elusive spouse slaughterer continued to evade capture.

Audrey’s brutal slaying and speculation about Frank’s whereabouts were big news up and down the west coast.  However, it wouldn’t be professional law enforcement officers who would eventually locate Frank, it would be an amateur detective named William Sanborn.

sanbornFor a few of the months he was on the run, Frank had worked as a fry cook in the restaurant that Sanborn managed on Vermont.  When Frank left the job, William lost track of him. William continued to devour his favorite true detective magazines, and in one of them he read a lurid tale about the grisly murder of a Seattle housewife. In the same magazine he found a description of the missing husband who was being sought for the killing – and William strongly suspected that the wanted man was none other than his former cook!  

It was by chance that William bumped into Frank at another restaurant on Vermont where the absconder was again employed as a fry cook.  Fueled by the spine tingling exploits of the detectives he idolized in his beloved magazines, Sanborn vowed that he would apprehend the killer on his own.  During their past conversations, the restaurateur had learned that Frank was a jack of all trades. Not only was he a cook, he was also an accomplished plumber. Sanborn told Lindsay that he needed some work done at his home and, sweetening the pot with the offer of some under-the-table cash, Sanborn was able to get his plumbing repairs completed before he dropped the dime on the wife killer.

amateur

As an upstanding citizen and detective wannabe, Sanborn needed to be absolutely sure that he was pursuing the right man. He contacted the homicide squad and was handed a photo of Lindsay, which he immediately identified as an image of his former employee.  In a move that was dangerous at best and completely insane at the worst, Sanborn then confronted Frank with the photo at the restaurant where he was working. Frank took the picture and held it in his fingers, thereby conveniently fingerprinting himself. When cops ran the prints, they matched those of the runaway murderer.  Detectives turned up at the Stanley Apartments at 210 South Flower later that evening, and took Lindsay into custody without incident.

There were many facts about which Frank hadn’t been forthcoming – like his real name, which was discovered to be Charles E. Murphy, as well as his place of birth, which was not Massachusetts as he’d claimed, but rather someplace in the UK. We should give the devil his due though, because at least he was truthful about having served in both the British and U.S. armed forces. However, what he’d neglected to reveal was that he had deserted from both.  And if all of those lies weren’t enough, it was uncovered that Frank was already married when he met and married Audrey!lindsay on plane

Because Frank had lied about most of the details of his life, police were skeptical of his claim that it was Audrey’s nagging that had compelled him to spontaneously murder her. And the authorities also didn’t buy his alternate version of Audrey’s murder in which he was not the attacker, but instead was valiantly defending himself from certain death at the hands of his enraged wife!  His story may have been more credible if he hadn’t pre-dug the grave into which he’d dumped Audrey’s corpse.

It took them a while, but police finally untangled Frank’s web of lies. They concluded that when Audrey had accused him of the criminal assaults on several young girls in the Seattle area (including attacks on their foster daughters), and then threatened to turn him in, Frank snapped and murdered her.

Frank was shackled and extradited from Los Angeles back to Washington, where he was tried and convicted for Audrey’s murder.  He was sentenced to 65 years in Walla Walla Prison.

The sound of the prison gates slamming shut behind him should have signaled the end of the story, but Frank would make news again in 1947.

Frank was on his best behavior in prison and would eventually earn trustee privileges. By January 1947, he was working as the cook in the warden’s home.  One day, Frank simply walked away from the prison and vanished. On the run for most of the year, he was finally recaptured in a restaurant in Denver, Colorado, where he was found plying his usual culinary trade.After his unsuccessful escape from prison, Frank would disappear from the newspapers entirely.

 

I Want to Live!

baxter shorter headline 

121 North Flower Street

April 15, 1953

 

The most sensational trial of 1953 has to have been that of Barbara Graham. The defendant was accused, along with Jack Santo, Emmett Perkins, Baxter Shorter, and John True of the beating death of Mrs. Monahan during a home invasion robbery.  The crime itself was so banal that it may not have made it to the front page of the LA Times at all, and it definitely wouldn’t have stayed there for as long as it did had it not been for Barbara, an attractive 29 year old prostitute and drug addict. 

 

The story had all of the elements of a lurid tale from a sleazy detective magazine.  Barbara Graham, abandoned by her Santo Perkins Grahamteenaged mother in Oakland years before, had spent time in the same reformatory where her mom was an alumnus. Barbara had worked as a prostitute, and had become addicted to drugs. She’d been introduced to her co-defendants by none other than her husband, Henry, a small time career criminal. It was rumored that not only was Barbara having an affair with Perkins – but also that she, Perkins, and Santos were frequently engaged in threesomes. The press had a field day.

The crime itself was apparently the result of misinformation given to Perkins. He was told that Mrs. Monahan (former mother-in-law of Las Vegas gambler Tutor Scherer) had a sack full of money and jewelry that she kept in her home (the same kind of tragic misunderstanding would result in the brutal murder of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959, and become the subject of Truman Capote’s brilliant novel, “In Cold Blood”).

On the night of March 9, 1953, the gang drove to Mrs. Monahan’s home in Burbank. Barbara knocked on the front door and told the woman that her car had broken down, and asked to use the telephone.  The men were waiting right behind Barbara and before Mrs. Monahan could respond, they all pushed their way into the house where they immediately started screaming at her. The gang of strung out miscreants kept demanding to be told where she kept her money and jewelry. Mrs. Monahan repeatedly told the crooks that she didn’t keep cash at home, but they were so hopped up on drugs and adrenaline that they didn’t believe her.  One version of the story was that Barbara started to beat the victim with a pistol while the men laughed and egged her on. The older woman was beaten to the floor by “Bloody Babs”, as she would later be dubbed by the press, who then smothered the victim to death by tightening a pillowcase over her head.  Not surprisingly, Babs’ version of the story shifted the blame onto her partners.  But as far as the law was concerned, since all the defendants were present during the commission of the murder, they all shared the guilt.

Baxter Shorter

It wasn’t until the suspects had been identified and arrests had been made that the tale would take a turn onto Bunker Hill.  Once the drugs and false bravado had worn off and the specter of possible death sentences began to loom large, it was a sure thing that a member of the gang would look to the law for a deal. It was Baxter Shorter who decided to save himself by spilling his guts to the DA. Shorter was an ex-con and a known associate of LA’s premier gangster, the diminutive but lethal Mickey Cohen. Shorter’s friends got wind of his visits with the DA, and they became very nervous. 

Baxter and his wife Olivia lived in an apartment at 121 N. Flower, and it was from that location that Shorter was kidnapped by two men. In a photo shown to her by police, Olivia identified one of121 N Flower the kidnappers as Emmett Perkins. The other man was almost certainly Santos. No shrinking violet, Olivia tried halting the kidnapping by brandishing a 30-30 carbine at the husband snatchers, but they told her that they’d shoot her where she stood if she didn’t back off. Olivia told the cops that she had seen a female in the men’s car. She wasn’t able to get close enough to provide a description of the woman, but she was able to describe the car as a 1951 Dodge or Plymouth five passenger coupe – coincidentally, the same kind of car owned by Barbara. Once the car sped away, Baxter Shorter vanished forever.  Nary a bone fragment nor a tooth would ever surface, and he would be declared legally dead in 1960.

Barbara maintained her innocence until the end. Being a mother of three, she may have avoided the death penalty if sheBarbara Graham hadn’t made the mistake of offering a fellow inmate $25k to provide her with an alibi for the night of the murder. Unfortunately for her, the cellmate was actually a cop, planted to befriend her and gather information. Barbara’s blunder had doomed her to death. Santo, Perkins, and Barbara would all die in San Quentin’s gas chamber on the same day.

Graham’s execution was the paradigm for cruel and unusual punishment and would be the topic of many impassioned editorials, even by supporters of the death penalty. On the morning of her execution she’d dressed in a beige wool suit and brown pumps, and had tried to prepare herself to face death. She was scheduled to die at 10:00 am on June 3, 1955, but was granted a stay until 10:45 am. Her execution would be delayed one more time, causing Barbara to ask “Why do they torture me?”  Finally at 11:28 am Barbara was blindfolded at her request, and was led from the holding cell to the gas chamber.

In a macabre moment the executioner, Joe Feretti, gave the condemned woman a bit of advice: “Now take a deep breath and it won’t be so bad” – to which she replied, “How the hell would you know?”

For a fictionalized account of Graham’s story, rent a copy of the 1958 film, “I Want to Live!” starring Susan Hayward.

The Strange Tale of Ladda’s Captivity

ladda headline

215 North Hill Street
April 18, 1911

LaddaLadda Trcka didn’t realize when he played in the vacant lot adjacent to his home in Columbus, Ohio, that he was being watched. The angel faced ten year old boy was too young and innocent to find anything sinister in the behavior of his forty-four year old widowed neighbor, Nellie Hersey. He thought nothing of being invited into her parlor, where she would caress him and offer him more candy than he could consume in a single sitting.

One day Nellie suggested to Ladda that they go off together and see the world. How could any ten year old boy pass up an adventure like that? Ladda crept stealthily out of his family home one night and biked to Toledo, where he was joined by Nellie. It was then that Ladda’s slavery began.Nellie

At first Nellie and Ladda moved from town to town, and he did see some of the world as he’d been promised. Then in 1898 he and Nellie arrived in Redondo Beach, where he was immediately forced to go to work. He worked every day, and each week he dutifully turned his paycheck over to his captor. Keeping Ladda as her slave proved simple for Nellie – she provided the boy with few clothes and no pocket money, and didn’t even take him to a barber to have his hair cut.

For several years the boy followed the routine dictated to him by Nellie. To prevent him from becoming restless and attempting to leave her, the woman told Ladda that she had heard that his entire family had passed away. Making him believe that he was an orphan was another way in which Nellie made the boy dependent upon her.

The boy was unaware that his family was alive and that, even as the years rolled by, they continued to search for him. Ladda’s brother Otto even became a detective so he could solve the case of his missing brother.

215 N Hill

Finally, in April 1911, Nellie was at her home at 215 North Hill Street when she received word that she was being sued by Ladda for damages in the amount of $13,090 – payment for his years of captivity.

The news that Ladda was alive and well in Southern California reached Ohio. Otto came out to offer his support as a brother, and his services as a detective.

Evidently, Ladda’s circumstances first began to change when he fell in love with a girl, Belle Strathorn, whom he’d met on the beach. Belle helped him to acquire new clothes, and a haircut!

The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the twisted tale made veiled references to some of the darker aspects of Ladda’s years as Nellie’s slave. The newspaper described details of the law suit as “lurid” — the story hinted that Nellie’s interest in Ladda had been anything but maternal, yet never went further.

That Nellie was infatuated, even obsessed with the boy seems obvious. Less obvious is the date when he and Nellie cease to cohabitate. When did she move to Bunker Hill? And why did Ladda decide to sue for eleven years, and not the full sixteen years that he appears to have been a captive? Also, according to Ladda, Nellie had been married several times, and she’d taken many lovers as well. Was Nellie married or involved in affairs while simultaneously keeping Ladda as a prisoner?

There were so many tantalizing questions without answers, as the newspaper never followed up on the story beyond the initial report.