|The Naked City||Jun 29 2010|
At trial Martin pleaded insanity. The jury wasn’t buying. Rhonda Belle Martin was executed in October 1957 in the Alabama electric chair. As to whether she was truly insane like the aunts in Arsenic and Old Lace, we’ll never know, but her third husband, an orderly at a Veteran’s hospital that housed hundreds of insane people, said she wasn’t. “Rhonda Belle, she ain’t no good-looking woman,” he said, “but she’s got personality and she’s smart.” In the end though, she wasn’t smart enough to elude detection. And as far as her magnetic personality went—when she was buried there were fewer people at her graveside than she had killed.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Apr 30 2009|
You learn something new every day. For one, we never knew police height identification charts went as low as two feet six, but even Tom Thumb is probably capable of murder. We got curious today whether the cases referred to on the covers of these true crime magazines we like to post are factual. After a little deep background we found sources confirming two of the three cover blurbs from this issue of Police Files. Reading the stories was informative, and also made us question whether the past was indeed gentler, as is widely believed. We agree there is more crime now, which follows from the simple fact that there are more people. And we also agree we hear bloodier details about crimes than in the past, mainly because journalists and editors stretch the envelope a little more every year to shock people. But have we really gotten more brutal? We’re not so sure about that. Jaded, we agree. Brutal? Ultimately, to kill you have to spill enough blood, and we think it takes just as much brutality now as it did in the past. But don’t take our word for it—read on.
“Nude Nurse in the Seabag” refers to the case of Virginia Covel, who was beaten to death in Los Angeles by her ex-boyfriend Hilding Fridell on July 4th, 1957. Upon realizing he had killed her, Fridell took an overdose of sixty sleeping pills, but did not shuffle off this mortal coil. Instead he awoke July 5th next to her stiff corpse, whereupon he opted for plan B, which involved wedging her in a canvas bag along with rocks and barbell weights, hauling her out to berth 233 in San Pedro, and consigning her to the deep blue sea. We don’t know if she sank temporarily and was buoyed up later by decompositional gases, or if she never sank in the first place, but in any case, the bag was spotted on July 12th floating right where Fridell had dumped it. A Los Angeles Times article from the next day tells us the corpse had a cord tied so tightly around its neck and beneath its knees the body was folded in half. Virginia Covel became known as the Sea Bag Victim, and Fridell the Sea Bag Murderer.
Meanwhile across the U.S. that same summer in Vineland, New Jersey, the story referred to by the header “Voodoo Love Kill” was reaching a climax. It had begun the previous autumn, when a farmhand named Juan Aponte fell in love with his boss’s fifteen year-old daughter. Aponte was a believer in the Caribbean religion of santería—voodoo to us squares—and decided he needed supernatural help to make the girl reciprocate his feelings. He located a love spell that required multiple ingredients. Bat wings—check. Lizard entrails—checkeroo. Powdered skull of an innocent boy—um. While sane men might have abandoned the gory enterprise, Aponte went ahead with his plan, so consuming was his lust for the teen girl. The boy he picked to kill was 13 year-old Roger Carletto, who was chosen not so much for his innocence, which was a given, but because he was Italian and Aponte had a thing about fascists. Aponte snatched the boy up as he returned from a movie. It was October, and nobody had a clue what happened to Roger Carletto until the next summer.
Aponte was a simple man, a farmer. He didn’t know much, but he knew the trick to powdering bone was it needed to be dry first. So he buried Roger Carletto under a hen house and waited. Finally, on July 1st he dug up the body and took most of the skull, along with a few other pieces. But he was drunk, and consumed with horror over his actions. In the final stages of manufacturing his love potion, he simply cracked. He became catatonic, and when police were called, he admitted to them that he had killed someone. He led police to the hen house of horror, where they found Roger Carletto, minus a hand, a foot, and most of his skull. Aponte never completed the spell, so it’s impossible to say whether it would have worked. But he believed it until the end. He told a cellmate, just before being transferred to state prison, “I know that it would have worked. I would have had the power to have any woman I wanted.”