You can pull a man from water but you can't make him breathe.
And in contrast to Yôko Azusa, who's very adept in water, here you see a photo of someone who didn't fare well in that medium. This shot shows cops fishing drowning victim John Ray Thompson from MacArthur Park Lake in Los Angeles today in 1951. This is another curious and macabre discovery from the digital archives of the Los Angeles Examiner. Such imagery fascinates us because this type of news content, now unseen in the U.S., was prevalent in Central America when we lived there. We assume it still is. It was known as nota roja, basically “red reports,” essentially, if it bleeds it leads. The Thompson photo shows no blood, but the principle is the same. We have no idea how he drowned. Whether by accident, suicide, or murder, that information doesn't appear anywhere online that we looked, and might not have been printed back in ’51 either. Examiner photographers shot rolls of film every week, and editors picked the best photos for the paper. There's no guarantee an item on Thompson's death ever ran. But however he drowned, it was a bad ending.
We get to the beach so rarely, shame to waste the trip. Who's up for a swim before we haul this stiff to the morgue?
Today in 1954 a man named Nathaniel Smith who was walking on Venice Beach in Los Angeles spotted something floating in the surf behind the breakwater of the old Venice Pier. He waded into the ocean and discovered the something was a person. Smith pulled him to shore, but the man was already dead, a victim not of drowning but of a gunshot wound to the head. Was he a murder victim or a suicide? There's no info available on that, nor on his identity. Whoever he was, we bet he never could have imagined thousands of people would be looking at photos of him nearly a lifetime later. We're doing that thanks to the University of Southern California, which holds these and tens of thousands of other images in its archive of Los Angeles Examiner press photos. You can see many more shots from the collection by clicking its keywords below.
Some people really don't like being in photos.
Here's a pulp style historical oddity we've seen floating around the web of late. This photo shows a frame from a bank security camera at the moment a bank robber shoots it. It's from United Press International, and first came to public attention thanks to an art exhibition called “Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play,” which was mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City back in 2016. Based on the fact that the men are wearing fedoras we would have guessed the robbery to have taken place during the ’40s or ’50s, but it actually happened in Cleveland, Ohio, today in 1975.
Interestingly, one of us was actually in an armed robbery. A young PSGP was in a Kroger grocery store when a guy charged in with a gun and yelled at everyone to get on the floor. People were so stunned they just stood there, and the would-be robber turned around and ran. PSGP's dad, decisive as always, said, “Let's get the fuck out of here,” and they took off mere seconds after the robber. Fast forward to later and the local news reported that the store had been robbed. It turns out the thief had come back just a few minutes later. One hates to imagine what would have happened if PSGP and his dad had bumped into the guy. Anyway, does that count as being in an armed robbery? We think so.
There's not much you can do when the river runs dry.
Above is a vintage photo taken in the concrete basin of the Los Angeles River showing police detectives standing near an unidentified corpse. Some websites call this a suicide, but if you look closely you can see that the body is pretty far from the bridge. If this person committed suicide, it wasn't by jumping. The photo first became publicly known thanks to a photographic 2019 exhibition by the Lucie Foundation, which shared 79 other shots of a similar type. They all came from a collection of about 2,000 photos taken by LAPD personnel between 1925 and the mid-1970s. This is a lonely end for a man, which the handwritten date tells us was today in 1955.
Unknown person takes an unplanned trip to nowhere.
A lot of places in the U.S. probably aren't having an official Halloween this year, but there's no reason we can't get a bit morbid on Pulp Intl. as the 31st approaches. The photo above shows a body wedged into a trunk, in a state of partial decomposition, found in Commerce, in Los Angeles County today in 1951. The town is usually referred to as the City of Commerce, and it falls into the jurisdiction not only of the local police, but also the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. It was the latter that dealt with the body, carting it off the LASD Crime Laboratory.
Decomposition made identification a challenge. Medical examiners cut off its fingers and preserved them in alcohol to try and get prints. The body also had a dental bridge, which police hoped would lead to a breakthrough. But when all was said and done, it was a tip from the public that actually broke the case. The victim was Margaret Kelley. Her killer, who you see in photos under arrest and in court below, was John M. Kelley.
We don't have more info on the crime, the cause of death, or the outcome of the court proceedings. We suspect, due to the names involved, that this was a case of domestic murder, but we can't find confirmation in newspapers of the period—at least not ones that are accessible to us. Despite the dearth of facts, we thought the photos were unusual, and perhaps even appropriate for Halloween 2020, one of the least pleasant years on record. So there you go—trick or treat!
Man tries to catch train, train catches him instead.
These photos show an unfortunate man named John Heldt, Jr. trapped under a Pacific Electric freight car in Gardena, California. Getty Images has this listed as happening August 7, 1951, but the USC digital film archive where the image is stored has the date as today. We trust USC over Getty, but whenever it happened, it was a bad day for Heldt, maybe not the worst of his life, but certainly in the top five, we can be sure. His rescuers had to bring in special equipment to lift the train off him, so he was probably pinned for hours, his indignity compounded by the fact that a Los Angeles Examiner photographer made these snaps of him. “Can you hold that pose? Heh heh, that's a joke, see, because you can't move at all, you poor, stupid sap!” There's no info on whether Heldt recovered, nor whether he lost any body parts. Still, as bad as this looks, it's better than flying Ryanair.
L.A. manhunt ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.
You see here three photos of Albert Schier, who committed suicide in Los Angeles today in 1954 by running a hose from the tailpipe of his car to its window and inhaling carbon monoxide fumes. What was bothering him? Hard to say, but earlier in the day he had stabbed an LAPD cop seven times and fled, so he probably wasn't going to live much longer anyway, considering he'd left his wallet in the cop's possession and every uniform in L.A. was searching for him and his car. We know what you're thinking. Maybe they got to him and made it look like murder. But we don't think cops would bother to run a hose from a tailpipe, nor to scratch a message in the dashboard with a knife. The message said: “Mom, life isn't worth the struggle.”
Prison guard gets Cocky, ends up behind bars.
Sexual relations between prison guards and prison inmates aren't that unusual. Stories appear at regular intervals. It takes a good hook to make the story go viral. In the recent tale of the sexual relationship between prison guard Stephanie Smithwhite and inmate Curtis Warren, the hook is a hole—Smithwhite cut a hole in her uniform pants so she and Warren could get down to business without having to strip. These assignations occurred over a period of months at Frankland Prison in Durham, England, where Smithwhite and Warren trysted in his cell, the prison kitchen, and the laundry facility. Smithwhite also reportedly sent Warren a photograph of herself wearing a catsuit, got tattooed with his name, and exchanged more than 200 calls with him thanks to an illegal phone he possessed.
Warren had the nickname “Cocky,” and no wonder. Turning a tough-as-nails prison guard into a slinky catgirl takes skills of all sorts, both above the neck and below the waist. It also takes the right environment. Other stories haven't noted it, but by environment we mean—and this isn't to sell Smithwhite's burning need for Cocky short—there's no possibility she would have felt she could take the risks she did unless there was a generally corrupt atmosphere at the prison. In other words, we bet other guards were breaking rules too. Not necessarily to the extent of cutting a glory hole in their pants to get freaky with prisoners, but when cellphones start making it into cellblocks, you tend to suspect it's because incoming contraband is not a rarity.
Smithwhite's colleagues finally became suspicious and began surveilling her, and they were probably plenty mad too. After all, she had chosen a drug felon named Cocky over all of them. Which, if one were inclined, might cause a neutral observer to draw conclusions about the sexiness quotient of the average prison guard. They finally caught Smithwhite committing the most innocuous of offenses—passing a note. Confronted in his cell, Warren tried but failed to eat the evidence, which we imagine said something like, “I heart drug felons. Do you heart the carceral state? If so check this box. Meooow. Purrrr.”
All these tawdry details came out during court proceedings that concluded this week. Smithwhite denied that the hole in her pants was to there to facilitate access for Cocky, but the sentencing judge said it was hard to imagine why else she'd have a hole there. Smithwhite was then hit with a two-year jail sentence for misconduct in a public office.
Since Smithwhite isn't in the same prison as Warren, the two will need something less like a hole and more like a long tunnel to maintain their affair, but if they split it won't be due to lack of commitment on Smithwhite's part. She's said she hopes the relationship will continue. Warren, meanwhile, was unavailable for comment due to being in the prison laundry room for an unusually long period of time, which will be investigated as soon as Frankland guards locate one of their missing colleagues.
Seems like the news in this paper is always bad.
This is an interesting piece of crime memorabilia. We've seen it around a bit, but decided to share it here anyway. It's a copy of the Daily Police Bulletin, a publication put out by the Los Angeles Police Department meant for internal use, updating cops on the department's focus items. We gather the LAPD did this from 1907 until the late 1950s. These were generally two pages in length, with printing on the front and back. We checked around and learned that the Chicago and San Francisco police also printed these newspaper style bulletins. It's a good bet other departments did too. This Bulletin on murdered and mutilated Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, is from today in 1947, about a week after her death. The photo used is a headshot she had made, something she needed because she intended to become an actress. She never got the chance. Her life ended at age twenty-two.
'Tis the season for generous giving—of prison time.
This unusual photo made today in 1953 shows a man named Edward Hallmark, aged seventy-three, being wheeled into a Pasadena courtroom to testify against twenty-four year old Donald Randazzo. Apparently, the previous September Randazzo kidnapped and beat Hallmark in an effort to rob him of his life savings. The shot is part of the large Los Angeles Examiner archive held by the University of Southern California, and which we've mined for interesting historical shots often.
In the photos below you see the defendant Randazzo conferring with his lawyer Edward S. Cooper. Randazzo is being shown a page from an edition of Advance California Reports. Advance reports or advance sheets are legal aids—specifically, pamphlets containing recently decided opinions of federal courts or state courts of a particular region. So basically Cooper is informing Randazzo of something relevant to their court appearance.
And we know exactly what that relevant something is—a standard in California case law stating that when the chief prosecution witness is trundled into court on a stretcher the defendant is seriously screwed. We have a feeling a wheelchair would have worked fine for Hallmark, but when you're facing your kidnapper you play your best card. The bedridden victim card beats everything king and below. Cooper is doubtless saying to his client, “As you can see here in Advance California Reports, Donald, legally you're fucked.”
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