Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sirhan Sirhan Convicted & Sentenced to Death 1969

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan (born March 19, 1944) is the convicted assassin of United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He is serving a life sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison, California for the 1968 killing of Robert F. Kennedy .

Sirhan was convicted on April 17, 1969, and was sentenced six days later to death in a gas chamber. Three years later, his sentence was commuted to life in prison, due to the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Anderson, (The People of the State of California v. Robert Page Anderson, 493 P.2d 880, 6 Cal. 3d 628 (Cal. 1972), which ruled capital punishment a violation of the California Constitution's prohibition of cruel or unusual punishment. The California Supreme Court declared in the Anderson case that its decision was retroactive, thereby invalidating all death sentences imposed in California.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Olga & Helen Convicted For the Black Widow Murders 2008

Olga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay appeared to be kindly old women spending their last days helping the less fortunate. They stopped by the Sunday lunch for the homeless at Hollywood Presbyterian Church.

Hollywood Presbyterian Church
But Olga and Helen were looking for victims.

Olga Rutterschmidt's Sycamore apartment
Olga lived in a well-worn Sycamore Avenue apartment building.

Olga Rutterschmidt's Sycamore apartment
Helen Golay's Ocean Park home
Helen owned rental properties on the westside and lived in one of her own buildings on Ocean Park Boulevard.

Helen Golay's Ocean Park home
Olga and Helen came from different L.A. neighborhoods, but they had greed and murder in common.

Olga and Helen preyed on homeless men, befriending them, and obtaining insurance policies for them. Afterwards, they'd kill the men, making it appear like hit and run accidents. They were arrested by the LAPD on May 18, 2006. On April 16, 2008, they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Black Widow murders were committed by two California senior citizens, Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt, aged 75 and 77 respectively at the time of their trial in 2008. They murdered two homeless men — Kenneth McDavid, aged 50, in 2005 and Paul Vados, aged 73, in 1999 — staging their deaths to appear as hit and run incidents. They then collected life insurance policies that they had taken out on the two men, for a total of $2.8 million.[1][2][3]

Golay and Rutterschmidt befriended Vados in 1997, housing him and persuading him to sign a life insurance policy. They then duplicated his signature in order to take out further life insurance policies, which they cashed in when Vados was killed, apparently in a hit-and-run accident, in 1999. They had done the same with McDavid, some years later. They had more than a dozen life insurance policies on Vados, and 23 life insurance policies on McDavid.[4] A third homeless man, Jimmy Covington aged 48, testified at trial that he had been approached by Rutterschmidt, who had taken him to Burger King and promised him shelter. He testified that he had moved out after growing suspicious when Golay and Rutterschmidt asked him to sign documents and give his personal details to them. By then, Golay and Rutterschmidt had already filled out one life insurance policy application for him.[5][6]

The case was described, by Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels who prosecuted it, as "like Arsenic and Old Lace, but it doesn't have Cary Grant."[4][7][8]

The prosecution's case included secretly recorded conversations between Golay and Rutterschmidt when they were in jail. Ruttershmidt told Golay in one conversation "You did all these insurances extra. That's what raised the suspicion. You can't do that. Stupidity. You're going to go to jail, honey. They going to lock you up." Suspicion had in fact been raised when a detective happened to overhear a colleague discussing a case whose features closely resembled that of another one.[5][6] After comparing notes, investigators found that both women were named as life insurance beneficiaries, variously cousins, business partners, or fiancées, for both victims.[9]

Both Golay and Rutterschmidt were convicted, in April 2008, of conspiracy to murder Vados and McDavid, and of the first-degree murder of Vados. Golay was convicted of the first-degree murder of McDavid.[6][10] Convictions on the several counts spanned a week, because one juror had to go on a trip and be replaced by an alternate. The original jury reached a deadlock over the final two counts against Rutterschmidt, but after the alternate juror was introduced the trial judge ordered the jury to recommence deliberations.[10] Both women were sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison, without parole.[11][12]

The Black Widow murders is featured in the February 10, 2010 episode of "American Greed" [1]"#26" on CNBC.


1.^ Catherine Elsworth (2008-04-17). "Black widow murders: Two elderly women found guilty of conspiring to kill homeless men". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited).
2.^ "'Black Widow' killers get life in jail without parole". Taipei Times. Agence France-Presse. 2008-07-17.
3.^ "Black widows face life for murder". The Australian. Agence France-Presse (News Limited). 2008-04-22.,25197,23579016-12335,00.html.
4.^ "Elderly 'black widows' in killer insurance sting". Sydney Morning Herald (The Sydney Morning Herald). 2008-04-11.
5.^ Suzanne Goldenberg (2008-04-18). "Elderly women face jail over insurance killings". Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited).
6.^ Linda Deutsch (2008-04-18). "Pair in Arsenic and Old Lace case guilty". The Herald (Herald and Times Group).
7.^ Karl Vick (2008-03-18). "In L.A., a Case Straight Out Of 'Arsenic And Old Lace'". Washington Post (The Washington Post Company).
8.^ Ed Pilkington (2008-03-19). "Murder trial recalls tale of Arsenic and Old Lace". Guardian (Guardian News and Media Limited).
9.^ Martin Kasindorf (2007-03-22). "2 charged in hit-and-run murder scam". USA Today (Gannett Co. Inc.).
10.^ "More "Black Widows" Guilty Verdicts". CBS News. Associated Press (CBS Interactive Inc.). 2008-04-21.
11.^ "Life Terms in 'Black Widow' Case". Washington Post. Associated Press (The Washington Post Company). 2008-07-16.
12.^ Linda Deutsch (2008-07-17). "BLACK WIDOWS WILL DIE IN JAIL; pounds 1.5m tramps murder plot.". Daily Record.

Further reading

Jeanne King (2009). Signed in Blood: The True Story of Two Women, a Sinister Plot, and Cold Blooded Murder. St. Martin's True Crime Library. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312949006.
Paul Pringle (2008-04-14). "Age, gender could play role in hit-and-run verdict". Los Angeles Times.,1,7172283.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-04-08). "'Little old lady' framed, defense suggests". Los Angeles Times.,1,2001855.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-04-06). "Greed, betrayal are themes in testimony at women's hit-and-run trial". Los Angeles Times.,1,1084347.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-03-29). "Witness says he feared accused killers". Los Angeles Times.,1,2055883.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-03-26). "Sister of a hit-and-run victim testifies in trial of two women". Los Angeles Times.,1,679621.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-03-22). "Jurors view car allegedly used to kill homeless man". Los Angeles Times.,1,6844598.story.
"Defendants' backgrounds". Los Angeles Times. 2008-03-19.,1,3005680.story.
Paul Pringle and Victoria Kim (2008-03-19). "Murder case against women outlined". Los Angeles Times.,1,5484610,full.story.
Victoria Kim (2008-03-17). "Age could be key part of hit-and-run trial". Los Angeles Times.,1,548549.story.
"Women plead not guilty in deaths of transients". Los Angeles Times. 2007-03-30.,1,4810673.story.
Paul Pringle and Hemmy So (2006-08-19). "An Unlikely Friendship That Finally Unraveled". Los Angeles Times.,1,5131614,full.story.
John Spano (2006-08-19). "Police Probe of Women Accused of Killing Men for Death Benefits Widens". Los Angeles Times.,1,108417.story.
Linda Deutch (2008-07-15). "Elderly women get life in L.A. insurance killings". Associated Press.
Jenny Booth (2008-03-18). "Fraud and murder trial of OAPs Olga Rutterschmidt and Helen Golay". The Times (Times Newspapers Ltd).
Page Rockwell (2006-09-14). "Quit calling defendants "black widows"!". Salon (Salon Media Group, Inc.).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Groucho Companion & Actress Erin Fleming Commits Suicide 2003

Erin Fleming (13 August 1941 – 15 April 2003) was a Canadian actress who was best known as the companion and caregiver to Groucho Marx in his final years.


Born Marilyn Fleming in New Liskeard, Ontario, Canada. She appeared in minor roles in five films between 1965 and 1976, during which time she became acquainted with Marx and moved into his house.

Her influence on Marx was controversial. Many close to him admitted that she did much to revive his popularity; these efforts included a series of one-man shows, culminating in a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall, and an honorary Academy Award that was presented to him during his lifetime. Others, including Marx's son, Arthur, described her in Svengali-esque terms, accusing her of exploiting an increasingly senile Marx in pursuit of her own stardom.

In the years leading up to Marx's death in 1977, his heirs filed several lawsuits against her. One allegation leveled against Fleming was that she was determined to sell Marx's favorite car, a Cadillac, against his wishes. When Marx protested, it was said, Fleming threatened, "I will slap you from here to Pittsburgh."

The court battles dragged into the early 1980s, but judgments were eventually reached in favor of Arthur Marx, ordering Fleming to repay $472,000 to the Marx estate.

Fleming's mental health deteriorated in the 1990s. She was arrested once in the Los Angeles area on a weapons charge, and spent much of the decade in and out of commitments to various psychiatric facilities. She committed suicide in 2003 by shooting herself.


The Legend of Blood Mountain (1965)
Hercules in New York (1970)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)
Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York (1975)
McCullough's Mountain (1976)


Adam-12 (1 episode, 1973)


Stefan Kanfer, Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx (2000)
Miriam Marx Allen, Love, Groucho: Letters from Groucho Marx to his Daughter Miriam (1992)
Arthur Marx, My Life with Groucho (1992) revised from Life With Groucho (1954)
Steve Stoliar, Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho's House (1996)

Actor Paul Kelly Kills Ray Raymond 1927

Paul Michael Kelly (August 9, 1899 – November 6, 1956) was an American child actor who later as an adult became a stage, film and television actor.

Child actor

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kelly began his career as a child actor at age 7 and was appearing on the stage. In 1911 Kelly began making silent films at age 12 with the Vitagraph Studios, which was based in Brooklyn, and where he was billed as Master Paul Kelly. Kelly was possibly the first male child actor to be given any starring roles in American films predating better known child stars such as Bobby Connelly and Jackie Coogan. Kelly appeared in over one hundred movies including the films made during his boyhood career. Later as an adult Kelly appeared in films mostly as a tough guy character actor in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Dorothy Mackaye
Prison term

His career momentum was briefly halted with a two-year (1927-1929) forced hiatus when he spent 25 months in California's San Quentin prison for beating to death actor Ray Raymond in a fistfight. Raymond's widow, Dorothy MacKaye, later married Kelly. She was briefly imprisoned for being an accomplice in the murder. Kelly later played the part of San Quentin Warden Clinton Duffy in the movie Duffy of San Quentin.

Ray Raymond

Kelly alternated between stage and screen as an actor. He was a handsome and popular male lead or costar in Broadway plays from the late 1910s and throughout the 1920s. Kelly made his talking film debut in 1932's Broadway Through a Keyhole. In 1948, Kelly won a Best Actor Tony Award his role in Command Decision. The award was shared with Henry Fonda for Mister Roberts and Basil Rathbone for The Heiress.

Susan Cabot and Paul Kelly

He died of a heart attack in 1956, aged 57. His interment was located at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

"The Champ" Actor Wallace Beery 1949 Forest Lawn Cemetery Glendale

Wallace Fitzgerald Beery (April 1, 1885 – April 15, 1949) was an American actor, known for his portrayal of Bill in Min and Bill opposite Marie Dressler, his titular role in a series of films featuring the character Sweedie, and his titular role in The Champ, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Beery appeared in some 250 movies over a 36-year span.

Early life and career

Beery was born in Kansas City, Missouri to Noah W. and Marguerite (Fitzgerald) Beery. He was a younger brother of actor/film executive William Beery and actor Noah Beery, who also had long careers in the motion picture industry. He was an uncle of actor Noah Beery, Jr.. According to U.S. Census records, all three Beery brothers were born to the same parents, making them full brothers and not half-brothers as many biographies have claimed.

Wallace Beery joined the Ringling Brothers Circus at age sixteen as an assistant elephant trainer. He left two years later, after being clawed by a leopard. Beery found work in New York City in musical variety and began to appear on Broadway. In 1913, he moved to Chicago to work for Essanay Studios, cast as "Sweedie, The Swedish Maid," a masculine character in drag. Later, he worked for the Essanay Studios location in Niles, California.

In 1915, Beery starred with his wife Gloria Swanson in Sweedie Goes to College. This marriage did not survive his drinking and abuse. Beery began playing villains, and in 1917 portrayed Pancho Villa in Patria at a time when Villa was still active in Mexico. Beery reprised the role seventeen years later in one of MGM's biggest hits.

Wallace Beery's notable silent films include Arthur Conan Doyle's dinosaur epic The Lost World (1925; as Professor Challenger), Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks (Beery played King Richard the Lionheart in this film and a sequel the following year called Richard the Lion-Hearted), Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Round-Up (1920; with Roscoe Arbuckle), Old Ironsides (1926), Now We're in the Air (1927), The Usual Way (1913), and Beggars of Life (1928; with Louise Brooks).

Transition to sound

Beery's powerful basso voice and gruff, deliberate drawl soon became assets when Irving Thalberg hired him under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a character actor.

Beery appeared in the highly-successful 1930 prison film The Big House, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The same year, he made Min and Bill (opposite Marie Dressler), the movie that vaulted him into the box office first rank. He followed with The Champ in 1931, this time winning the Best Actor Oscar, and the role of Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1934). He received a gold medal from the Venice Film Festival for his second performance as Pancho Villa in Viva Villa! (1934) with Fay Wray. (Lee Tracy was originally to appear in the film until he drunkenly urinated off the balcony into a crowd of Mexicans standing below; Tracy's career never recovered from the incident.) Other Beery films include Billy the Kid (1930) with Johnny Mack Brown, The Secret Six (1931) with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, Hell Divers (1931) with Gable, Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford, Tugboat Annie (1933) with Dressler, Dinner at Eight (1933) opposite Harlow, The Bowery with George Raft and Pert Kelton that same year, China Seas (1935) with Gable and Harlow, and Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! (1935) in the role of a drunken uncle later played on Broadway by Jackie Gleason in a musical comedy version. During the 1930s Beery was one of Hollywood's Top 10 box office stars, and at one point his contract with MGM stipulated that he be paid $1 more than any other contract player at the studio, making him the highest paid actor in the world.

He starred in several comedies with Marie Dressler and Marjorie Main, but his career began to decline in his last decade. In 1943 his brother Noah Beery appeared with him in the war-time propaganda film Salute to the Marines, followed by Bad Bascomb (1946) and The Mighty McGurk (1947). He remained top-billed and none of Beery's films during the sound era lost money at the box office.

Personal life

Beery's first wife was actress Gloria Swanson; the two performed onscreen together. Beery's second wife was Rita Gilman. They adopted Carol Ann, daughter of Rita Beery's cousin. Like his first, this marriage also ended in divorce.

According to E.J. Fleming's book The Fixers (about MGM's legendary "fixers" Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling), Beery, gangster Pat DiCicco, and Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli (who was also DiCicco's cousin and eventual producer of the James Bond films) allegedly beat comedian Ted Healy to death in a brawl. The book claimed that Beery was sent to Europe by the studio for a few months, while a story was concocted that three college students had killed Healy. Immigration records confirm a four-month-long trip to Europe on Beery's part immediately after Healy's death, ending April 17, 1938. A pencil drawing of Beery survives that was done on a film set by Healy, an amateur artist as well as the organizer and original leader of the Three Stooges.

In December, 1939, the unmarried Beery adopted a seventh month old infant girl Phyllis Anne. No further information on the child appears to exist, and she is not mentioned in Beery's obituary.

Beery left an impression of being misanthropic and difficult to work with on many of his colleagues. Jackie Cooper, who made several films as a child with Beery, called Beery "a big disappointment," and accused him of upstaging and other attempts to undermine the boy's performances out of what Cooper presumed was jealousy. Child actress Margaret O'Brien also worked with Beery, and she ultimately had to be protected by crew members from Beery's insistence on constantly pinching her.

One of his proudest achievements was catching the largest black sea bass in the world off Santa Catalina Island in 1916. It was a record that stood for 35 years.

A noteworthy episode in Beery's life is chronicled in the 5th episode of Ken Burns' documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea: In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order creating Jackson Hole National Monument to protect the land adjoining the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Local ranchers, outraged at loss of lands they wanted to graze and comparing this action of FDR's to Hitler's taking of Austria, were led by the aging Wallace Beery as they protested by herding 500 cattle across the monument lands without a permit.

Wallace Beery died at his Beverly Hills, California home of a heart attack in 1949. He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.

For his contributions to the film industry, Wallace Beery has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7001 Hollywood Blvd.

"Godfather" Actor Richard Conte 1975 Westwood Village Cemetery

Richard Conte (March 24, 1910 – April 15, 1975) was an American actor who appeared in numerous films from the 1940s through 1970s, including I'll Cry Tomorrow and The Godfather.


Richard Conte was born Nicholas Peter Conte on March 24, 1910, in New Jersey, the son of an Italian-American barber.

Conte held a variety of jobs before becoming a professional actor, including truck driver, Wall Street clerk and singing waiter at a Connecticut resort. In 1935, he was discovered by actors Elia Kazan and John Garfield during his job at the Connecticut resort, which led to Conte finding stage work. He eventually earned a scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, where he became a standout actor.

He made his Broadway debut late in Moon Over Mulberry Street in 1939, and went on to be featured in other plays, including Night Music and Walk Into My Parlor. That led to his first film performance in 1939, Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence, in which he was billed as Nicholas Conte. His career started to thrive during the Second World War, when many Hollywood actors were away in the military. In 1942 Conte signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. He then changed his stage name to Richard Conte. His first Fox film was Guadalcanal Diary (1943). During the World War II years, Conte played mostly soldiers in war dramas, including A Walk in the Sun (1945).

Conte appeared in many films noir after World War II. Conte appeared in such Fox crime dramas as Cry of the City and Call Northside 777 (both from 1948), and Thieves' Highway. Conte appeared in Otto Preminger's classic film noir Whirlpool, co-starring Gene Tierney (1949).

In the early-1950s, Conte, now not working for Fox, began appearing in films for various studios. Critics and fans consider his best films from that era include the film noir B-movies The Sleeping City (1950), The Raging Tide (1951), Highway Dragnet (1954) and The Blue Gardenia (1953). In 1959, Conte starred in The Twilight Zone episode Perchance to Dream.

Once film noir became less popular in the 1960s Conte’s career was at a standstill. In 1964, he and Anne Francis guest starred in the episode "Hideout" of CBS's short-lived drama The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino in the title role as New York City journalist Danny Taylor, with Gary Merrill as city editor Lou Sheldon. In 1966, Conte landed a supporting role in the short-lived CBS sitcom The Jean Arthur Show.[1]

Conte appeared as Lieutenant Dave Santini in two Frank Sinatra crime films, Tony Rome (1967) and Lady in Cement (1968) (He had also appeared with Sinatra in the 1960 film Oceans Eleven).

Conte eventually moved to Europe and acted in a number of films. Later in life, Conte acted one of his most memorable performances in The Godfather (1972) as Don Barzini (he was at one time also considered for the title role, a role that Marlon Brando eventually filled.)

He continued to work in European films until his death. His most notable of over sixty films include The Godfather (1972), Oceans Eleven (1960), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Call Northside 777 (1948).


Conte was married to the actress Ruth Storey, with whom he fathered a son, film editor Mark Conte. He married his second wife, Shirlee Garner, in 1973; they remained married until Conte's death.


He died of a heart attack on April 15, 1975, aged 65. He is buried in the Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Grandma Walton" Actress Ellen Corby 1999 Forest Lawn Cemetery Glendale

Ellen Corby (June 3, 1911 – April 14, 1999) was an American actress. She is most widely remembered for the role of "Grandma Esther Walton" on the CBS television series The Waltons, for which she won three Emmy Awards.

Early life

Corby was born Ellen Hansen in Racine, Wisconsin, the daughter of Danish parents. She grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An interest in amateur theater while in high school led her to Atlantic City in 1932 where she briefly worked as a chorus girl. She moved to Hollywood that same year and got a job as a script girl at RKO Studios and Hal Roach Studios, where she frequently worked on the Our Gang Comedies, next to her husband, cinematographer Francis Corby. She held that position for the next twelve years and took acting lessons on the side.


Corby began her career as a writer, working on the Paramount Western Twilight on the Trail and 1947's Hoppy's Holiday. She landed her first acting job in 1945, playing a maid in RKO's Cornered.

In 1948 she received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress playing a lovelorn aunt in I Remember Mama (1948). Over the next four decades, she worked steadily in both film and television, often playing maids, secretaries, waitresses or gossips. She was a favorite in western films (including Shane, 1953) and had a recurring role as "Henrietta Porter" in the western television series Trackdown (1957 – 1959). Other television appearances included Wagon Train, The Rifleman, I Love Lucy, Tightrope, Meet McGraw (as a maid), The Virginian, Channing, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, The Addams Family, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show. She had a recurring role in the 1965-1967 TV series Please Don't Eat the Daisies.

Her most famous role came on CBS in 1971 when she was cast as "Grandma Esther Walton" on the made-for-TV film The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, which served as the pilot for The Waltons. Corby would go on to resume the role on The Waltons, which became a weekly series from 1972–1981, and resulted in several sequel films. For her work in The Waltons, she won her three Emmy Awards and three more nominations as Best Supporting Actress. She left the show early in 1977, due to a massive stroke she suffered, which impaired her speech and severely limited her mobility and function. She returned to the series during the final episode of the 1977-78 season, with her character depicted as also recovering from a stroke. She remained a regular on The Waltons through the end of the 1978-79 season, with Esther Walton struggling with her stroke deficits, as Corby was in real life.

Corby resumed her "Grandma Walton" role in each of the three Waltons reunion movies, during the 1990s.

Private life

Corby was married to Francis Corby from 1934 until his death in 1944; some time was spent in Luzerne, PA where she raised two daughters who modelled and also began to act. She was an early practitioner and advocate of the Transcendental Meditation Program, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and appeared with the Maharishi on The Merv Griffin Show in the mid '70s.

She suffered a serious stroke in 1977 but recovered and went on to appear in several television films based on The Waltons. Her stroke was written into the show, with Grandma Walton also suffering a stroke and struggling to regain her speech. Her final role was in the Walton's reunion film A Walton Easter (1997).

She died of natural causes at the age of 87 at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She was entombed in the Great Mausoleum at Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.