Monday, July 1, 2013

John Holmes & The Wonderland Murders 1981


The Wonderland murders, also known as Four on the Floor or Laurel Canyon Murders, occurred in Los Angeles in 1981, when four people were killed in a drug-related plot that involved porn star John Holmes (above) and was allegedly masterminded by businessman and drug dealer Eddie Nash.


Robbery and murders

The Wonderland Gang was centered around four people who lived in a rented house at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles: Joy Audrey Gold Miller, William R. DeVerell (Miller and DeVerell were a couple), David Lind, and Ronald Launius, the leader. All four were involved in drug use and drug dealing.


On June 28, 1981, they were meeting with David Lind and Tracy McCourt, and John Holmes, porn star and known drug addict. They had decided to rob the home of Eddie Nash (below), another drug dealer and wealthy owner of several night clubs. Lind claims not to have known whom they were robbing. Holmes, whom Nash knew and liked, visited his house ostensibly to buy drugs. While doing so, Holmes scouted out the house and unlocked a back door. He then reported back to the gang.


The next morning, June 29, 1981, DeVerell, Launius, Lind, and McCourt went to the house. McCourt stayed with the car, a stolen Ford Granada, while the other three entered through the unlocked door. They took Nash and his live-in bodyguard, Gregory Diles, by surprise and handcuffed them. They stole money, drugs, and jewelry, and threatened to kill Nash and Diles. The group then returned to Wonderland Avenue to split up the money (shortchanging Holmes and McCourt).

Nash suspected Holmes had been involved and ordered Diles to bring Holmes to his house. Holmes was found on the street in Hollywood, wearing one of the rings that had been stolen from Nash. Nash had Diles beat Holmes until he identified the people behind the robbery. This was witnessed by Scott Thorson, alleged boyfriend of Liberace, who was picking up drugs at Nash's house.


In the early morning hours of July 1, 1981, two days after the robbery, the house at 8763 Wonderland Ave. was entered. Miller, DeVerell, and Launius were present, along with Susan Launius (Ronald's wife) and Barbara Richardson (Lind's girlfriend). All five were bludgeoned repeatedly with striated steel pipes. Susan Launius survived with serious injuries, but the other four were killed. John Holmes was present at the site of the murder, as evidenced by his finger prints, but it is unknown whether he participated in any of the killings.


According to court testimony, David Lind survived because he was not at the house at the time of the murders having spent the night at a San Fernando Valley motel, consuming drugs with a prostitute. Shortly after the news media reported the murders, Lind contacted the police and pointed the finger at Nash and Holmes and gave them an initial start to the investigation.


Police action and trials

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives Tom Lange and Robert Souza, who led the murder investigation, searched Nash's home shortly after the murders. More than $1 million worth of cocaine was found and Nash spent two years in prison.

Holmes was then charged with committing the murders. The prosecutor, district attorney Ron Coen, tried to show Holmes as a willing participant who betrayed the Wonderland Gang after apparently not getting a full share of the loot from the robbery of Nash's house. Holmes' court-appointed defense lawyers, Earl Hanson and Mitchell Egers, successfully presented Holmes as one of the victims having been forced against his will by the real killers to give them entry to the house where the murders took place. Holmes was acquitted on June 16, 1982. He refused to testify and cooperate with authorities and spent 110 days in jail for contempt of court.[1]


Holmes died six years later on March 13, 1988 of AIDS at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles. After his death, his first wife, Sharon Gebenini-Holmes, came forward, saying that he had come to her house on the early morning after the killings with blood splattered all over his clothes, but did not tell her any further details.


In 1990, Nash was charged in state court with having planned the murders and Diles was charged with participating in the murders. Thorson testified against them, but the trial ended with a hung jury voting 11-1 for conviction; the second trial in 1991 ended in acquittal. Diles died in 1995.

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. He also pleaded guilty to the RICO charges and to money laundering. He 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 that took place. He received a four and a half year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.[1][2][3]


Books and movies

The 1997 movie Boogie Nights is very loosely based on the life of John Holmes including some of the events related here. The Wonderland Murders are depicted in the 2003 film Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer as Holmes.


Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron mentioned the murders in his autobiography Three Dog Nightmare.


The murders were placed in the number seven slot in an E! Entertainment Television countdown of the 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders.


Sources

Some of the events described here are covered from John Holmes' perspective in his autobiography Porn King: The John Holmes Story.[4] The 2005 book Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine contains the complete transcript of the February 1982 preliminary hearing for Holmes.[5] An account of the Wonderland Murders and the life and death of John Holmes appears in L.A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times.[6]


References

1.^ Goldsmith, Susan (20 September 2001). "A Really Good Deal Ex-nightclub owner may serve only 37 months in Wonderland murders". New Times Los Angeles.
2.^ The Associated Press (12 October 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison".
3.^ Osterwalder, Joan (12 October 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service.
4.^ Basten, Fred; Laurie Holmes and John C. Holmes (1998). Porn King: The John Holmes Story. John Holmes Inc.. ISBN 1-880-04769-1.
5.^ Jacobs, Rodger. Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine.
6.^ Gilmore, Rodger. L.A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times.


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