Wonderland murders

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Coordinates: 34°06′42″N118°23′10″W / 34.1117°N 118.3861°W / 34.1117; -118.3861

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Wonderland murders
Location8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles
DateJuly 1, 1981 (1981-07-01)
Early morning (UTC−08:00 Pacific)
TargetRon Launius
Billy DeVerell
David Lind
Tracy McCourt
Joy Miller
Attack type
Multiple homicide
WeaponHammers or striated steel pipes
DeathsBarbara Richardson
Ron Launius
Joy Miller
Billy DeVerell
InjuredSusan Launius
PerpetratorsTotal unknown

The Wonderland murders, also known as the Four on the Floor Murders [1] or the Laurel Canyon Murders, are four unsolved murders that occurred in Los Angeles, California, USA on July 1, 1981. [2] It is assumed that five people were targeted to be killed in the known drug house of the Wonderland Gang, three of whom were present. All three of them, Ron Launius, Billy DeVerell, and Joy Miller, along with their accomplice Barbara Richardson, died from extensive blunt-force trauma injuries. Only Launius' wife, Susan Launius, survived the attack, allegedly masterminded by the organized crime figure and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. Nash, his henchman Gregory Diles, [3] [4] and porn star John Holmes were at various times arrested, tried, and acquitted for their involvement in the murders. LAPD detectives are on record saying the crime scene was bloodier and more gruesome than that of the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Nash robbery

The Wonderland Gang was centered on the occupants of a rented townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue, in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, California: leader Ronald Lee "Ron" Launius; second-in-command William Raymond "Billy" DeVerell; and DeVerell's girlfriend Joy Audrey Gold Miller, who was also the lease holder for the townhouse; Tracy Raymond McCourt; and David Clay Lind. All five were involved in drug use and drug dealing. [5]

On June 29, 1981, Launius, DeVerell, Lind, and McCourt committed a brutal home invasion and armed robbery at Eddie Nash's home, resulting in Nash's bodyguard (Gregory Dewitt Diles)'s being shot and injured. Nash suspected that porn star John Holmes had been involved, as Holmes had been at Nash's house three times on the morning of the attack (at which times Holmes left the sliding door open). Nash sent Diles to retrieve Holmes for questioning; Diles supposedly spotted Holmes walking around Hollywood wearing one of Nash's rings and brought him back. Scott Thorson, Liberace's former boyfriend who was in Nash's house to buy drugs, claimed he witnessed Holmes being tied to a chair, and repeatedly punched and his family threatened, until he revealed the assailants' identities. [6] [7]

Wonderland Gang murders

Around 3:00 AM on July 1, 1981, two days after the Nash robbery, an unknown number of unidentified men entered the Wonderland Avenue townhouse and bludgeoned to death Launius, DeVerell, Miller, and Richardson (Lind's girlfriend who had been visiting); the weapons used by the killers were believed to be a combination of hammers and metal pipes.

Richardson's bloodied body was found on the living room floor, beside the couch where she had been sleeping that night. Miller was found on her bed, with DeVerell at the foot of the bed in an upright position leaning against the TV stand. (A hammer was found on the bed.) Launius was found beaten to death on his bed with his gravely injured wife, Susan, beside him on the floor. Both bedrooms had been thoroughly searched and ransacked. Despite suffering severe brain damage in the attack, Susan ultimately survived and recovered, although she was left with permanent amnesia regarding the night of her attack, had to have part of her skull surgically removed, and lost part of one finger. [8]

Neither Lind nor McCourt was present during the attack, as Lind was consuming drugs with a male prostitute called Shilo Watts in a motel, and McCourt was at his own home. [9] Lind died of a heroin overdose in 1995, and McCourt died in 2006. [10]

Although neighbors would later report having heard loud screams around 3:00 AM, no phone calls were placed to the police until 4:00 PM on July 1, over 12 hours later, when furniture movers working at the house next door to the crime scene heard Susan moaning and went to investigate. The house was notorious for round-the-clock mayhem and debauchery, and when questioned, neighbors said the Wonderland Gang's drug-fueled parties often included loud, violent screaming and disruptive noise, so when they heard the murders occurring, they simply believed another party was taking place.[ citation needed ]

Police action and trials

LAPD detectives Tom Lange and Robert Souza led the murder investigation, and searched Nash's home a few days after the crime. There they found more than $1 million worth of cocaine as well as some items stolen from the Wonderland house.

An initial theory of the murders centered around Holmes. After his left palm print was found at the crime scene on the Launius' headboard, Holmes was arrested and charged with four counts of murder in March 1982. The prosecutor, Los Angeles District Attorney Ron Coen, attempted to prove Holmes was a willing participant who betrayed the Wonderland Gang after not getting a full share of the loot from the Nash robbery. However, Holmes' court-appointed defense lawyers, Earl Hanson and Mitchell Egers, successfully presented Holmes as one of the victims, who had been forced by the real killers to give them entry to the house where the murders took place.

After a publicized three-week trial, Holmes was acquitted of all criminal charges on June 26, 1982. For refusing to testify or cooperate with authorities, he spent 110 days in jail for contempt of court. [11]

Shortly after the murders, in her first newspaper interview in July 1981, Holmes' first wife, Sharon Gebenini Holmes, stated Holmes had told her he'd known the people in the Wonderland house, and he had been there shortly before the murders occurred. She did not divulge any additional information to police.

Holmes died six years after being acquitted, on March 13, 1988, as a result of AIDS complications, at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles. [12] One month before he died, two police detectives visited Holmes at the VA hospital to question him about what he knew about the murders. Nothing came out of the visit because Holmes was barely awake, and his responses to their questions were incoherent. Therefore, even on his deathbed, Holmes did not answer the detectives' inquiries about whether or not he took part in the murders, nor divulge anything else about his involvement. [12]

In April 1988, one month after Holmes' death, Sharon Gebenini Holmes stated in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that on the morning of July 1, some hours after the murders took place, Holmes arrived at her house with blood splattered on his clothing, told her that he was at a murder, and recounted how he led three thugs to the tightly secured drug house on Wonderland Avenue, escorted them in, and stood by as they bludgeoned the five people inside, spattering Holmes with blood. Gebenini said Holmes never told her the names of the three other assailants. [13]

In 1990, Nash was charged in California state court with having planned the murders, and Diles was charged as a participant. Thorson testified against them, but the trial ended with a hung jury vote of 11–1 for conviction. [14] A second trial, in 1991, ended in acquittal for both Nash and Diles. [15] Diles died from liver failure in 1997. [16]

In 2000, after a four-year joint investigation involving local and federal authorities, Nash was arrested and indicted on federal charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for running a drug trafficking and money laundering operation, conspiring to carry out the Wonderland murders, and bribing the sole holdout juror of his first trial. Nash, already in his seventies, and suffering from emphysema and several other ailments, agreed to a plea bargain agreement in September 2001. He admitted to having bribed the lone holdout in his first trial, a young woman, with $50,000, and pleaded guilty to the RICO charges and to money laundering. He also admitted to having ordered his associates to retrieve stolen property from the Wonderland house, which might have resulted in violence including murder, yet he denied having planned the murders. In the end, Nash received a 4 1/2-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. [17] [18]

Films

Television

Numerous television shows have covered the Wonderland murders, such as:

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References

  1. Lange, Tom; Souza, Bob. "Book cover". Four on the Floor.
  2. Lemons, Stephen (June 9, 2000). "Return to Wonderland". Salon.
  3. Timnick, Lois (March 21, 1990). "Trial Begins for 2 in Grisly Laurel Canyon Murders of Mid-1981". Los Angeles Times . Los Angeles.
  4. Becklund, Laurie (January 18, 1991). "Two Acquitted in Second Trial for '81 Laurel Canyon Murders". Los Angeles Times . Los Angeles.
  5. Stewart, Robert (April 14, 1988). "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved May 20, 2014.
  6. Wonderland (2003 film)
  7. Thorson, Scott (1988). My Life with Liberace. New York Publishers. ISBN   1-877961-11-6.
  8. "The Testimony of Susan Launius at John Holmes' Trial". wonderland1981.wordpress.com. September 18, 2012.
  9. Timnick, Lois (March 21, 1990). "Trial Begins for 2 in Grisly Laurel Canyon Murders of Mid-1981". Los Angeles Times . Los Angeles.
  10. "David Lind, the Aryan Brotherhood and Jerry Brown". wonderland1981.wordpress.com. March 12, 2013.
  11. Scheeres, Julia. "Crime Library: Notorious Murders: Celebrity: John Holmes: The Wonderland Murders". TruTV. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  12. 1 2 "John Holmes, 43, Dies, Was Star of Sex Films". The New York Times. March 15, 1988.
  13. "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders". The Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1988.
  14. "Nash Bodyguard Jurors Deadlock, to Try Again". Los Angeles Times . May 30, 1990.
  15. Becklund, Laurie (January 18, 1991). "Two Acquitted in Second Trial for '81 Laurel Canyon Murders". Los Angeles Times .
  16. Kennedy, Dana (September 7, 2003). "THE NEW SEASON/FILM; John Holmes's Boogie Life". The New York Times.
  17. Goldsmith, Susan (September 20, 2001). "A Really Good Deal Ex-nightclub owner may serve only 37 months in Wonderland murders". The New Times. Los Angeles.
  18. Osterwalder, Joan (October 12, 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service.
  19. D'Angelo, Mike (July 13, 2009). "Boogie Nights". The AV Club.
  20. Wonderland. IMDb. 2003.
  21. "Wonderland (2003)". Variety.
  22. 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. IMDb. October 21, 2006. Retrieved February 1, 2014. (Produced and distributed by E! Entertainment Television)

Further reading