Saturday, May 22, 2010
Notable crimes in the 1920s
This is the first in a series of notable crimes that occurred in the 1920s.
Mention the 20s and people think Prohibition and the usual crimes associated with that. Bootlegging. Rum running. Speakeasies and blind pigs and gangsters roaring around in Model T's and Buicks blasting each other with machine guns. Bonnie and Clyde, Bugsy Seigal, The Valentine's Day massacre, Al Capone.
But like today, there were other crimes, more heinous in many ways because they victimized ordinary families and could just as easily be taken from the headlines in today's news stories.
Two of the most notable were the crimes of William Edward "The Fox" Hickman. On December 15, 1927 12-year-old Marian Parker, daughter of a prominent and wealthy Angeleno was kidnaped by Hickman, ransomed and brutally murdered. The second was the disappearance and subsequent fumbling by the LAPD of their search and attempted cover-up of a botched investigation into the missing boy Walter Collins. (This is the true life incident behind Clint Eastwood's movie, Changeling)
Hickman, who called himself 'The Fox' showed up at Marian Parker's school and talked the school officials into releasing the 12-year old girl into his care, telling them her father, Perry Parker, had been in a car accident. Shortly after Marian's father, a banker, began receiving ransom notes. Instead of being straightforward demands for money, the notes taunted the family and signing them with names like 'Death', 'Fate' and 'The Fox'. Hickman also forced Marian to write a note to her father to do as he was told or "You'll never see me again."
Following an aborted ransom drop where Hickman knew the police had been alerted. After more threats from 'The Fox', Perry Parker delivered the $1500 demanded, in gold certificates to the arranged drop spot. He arrived in his car and shortly after, a Ford Roadster coming the other way pulled up beside him. Parker tossed the money into Hickman's car. He could see his daughter beside Hickman, eyes open but non-responsive. Parker assumed she was drugged.
Hickman drove away with the money. Once he was some distance from Parker the passenger's door opened and his daughter was ejected from the car. Hickman sped off and Parker raced over to Marian only to discover she was dead. The exact cause of death was never determined, the coroner postulated it could have been asphyxiation or exsanguination. But beyond being brutally killed and, reports suggest, sexually molested, the girl had also been dismembered and disemboweled. She had been dead for at least 12 hours. Other body parts were recovered in Elysian Park as well.
A massive manhunt ensued, with thousands of officers checking out hundreds of tips. A $50,000.00 reward was offered. The police found the abandoned Ford and lifted fingerprints which led them to Hickman, who already had a criminal record for check forging and petty theft. He was finally apprehended when he tried to cash one of the gold certificates in Pendleton, Oregon. Extradited, he was tried, and despite attempting to use the insanity defense (the first time such a defense had been tried) he was found guilty and hanged in San Quentin on October 19, 1928.
To make the case even more bizarre, it was reported Hickman staged the kidnapping to raise money for Bible college. Ayn Rand was apparently so enamored of Hickman as a fine example of her Superman, saying this "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.) She used him as a model to craft her Renahan, in The Little Street. Apparently she admired him as a the epitome of what a 'real man' should be.