Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who Murdered the “Gay-Hearted” Girls of San Diego?

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Killers got away with murder
by Robert A. Waters

Eighty years later, the murderers of four San Diego girls and women are still unknown. While the media attempted to blame the crimes on a single killer, it’s seems more reasonable to assume that different killers murdered the four victims. There seemed to be little commonality except that the victims were white females, lived in San Diego, and were all murdered within a month of each other. Due to luck, incompetent police work, or the skill of the perpetrators, no one was ever brought to justice. The media then, as now, was anxious to condemn the victims and pronounce all suspects guilty. Except for Virginia Brooks, the press speculated that the murdered women were "modern" girls, meaning that they may have been somehow immoral.

On the morning of February 11, 1931, Virginia Brooks, 10, walked along University Avenue in San Diego. Carrying her schoolbooks as well as a bouquet of flowers for her teacher, she was headed toward Euclid School. Virginia’s older brother rode past her on his bicycle and waved. That was the last known sighting of the schoolgirl until her body was found. A month later and ten miles away, a shepherd’s dog came upon a gunnysack lying under a clump of sagebrush on Camp Kearney mesa. Virginia’s remains were in the bag.

An article from the Sandusky Star Journal described the body and the search for the slayer: “Two strands of matted blonde hair, found in the hand of the dead child, furnished a possible aid in the hunt, but were of no value until suspects were found. The girl's body, decapitated and with the arms removed, was found in a burlap sack on the Mesa Tuesday. She had been missing since Feb. 11. Tracks from a narrow tired automobile led away from the spot. The type of slayer was a matter of conjecture. Opinion among officers was that he was a degenerate with considerable knowledge of surgery.” It was thought that the corpse had been kept for a month, then deposited on the mesa less than twenty-four hours before it was found. Evidence suggested that the child had been raped.

That same week, while the search for Virginia was still going on, one of the most bizarre murders of the era took place. Seventeen-year-old Louise Teuber, the “comely” daughter of a business owner, decided to run away from home. She mailed her father a note that explained her decision: "Dear Dad: I have tried for a long time to be satisfied with the way you are running the house and I can stand it no longer. I am leaving home tonight and I am not coming back."

She was right—she didn’t come back. A family searching for a picnic spot on Black Mountain, near San Diego, came upon the body of a girl hanging from a tree. She wore panties, a bra, and black pumps, but the coroner stated that there was no indication of sexual assault. Investigators determined that the knot used to hang the girl was a double half hitch knot, common among sailors. Her clothes, except for what she was wearing, had been wrapped in an army blanket and discarded nearby. The coroner stated that she had been killed elsewhere, possibly hit in the back of the head with a "blackjack" or something similar. Baffled police stated that the murder may have been a “revenge” killing.

Newspapers reported that Louise had a notebook with the names of twenty men. This, along with an erroneous report that she was secretly married, was used by the media to smear her name. Despite an intense investigation, no one was ever charged.

Just four days after the body of Louise Teuber was found, the remains of Mrs. Dolly Bibbens were discovered in her ransacked home. “Diamond Dolly,” as the newspapers called her, had been strangled and beaten. A ring was torn from her finger, but nothing else was taken. Newspapers reported that Bibbens was a “born gambler” who was “known in the night life circles here and the Agua Caliente race tracks of Tia Juana.” The Hamilton Evening Journal reported: “One of her men friends had been H. C. Yardley, fishing boat cook. To him she had lent money. He also possessed a key to her apartment. Yardley had been in San Diego about the time of the crime. He was accordingly arrested in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, charged with the murder and held for a preliminary hearing. Later he was exonerated and freed.”

The character assassination of this victim may have sold many newspapers but it did nothing to help find her killer.

The fourth and final victim of the “series” was twenty-year-old Hazel Bradshaw. Described as a “beautiful switchboard operator,” her corpse was found in Balboa Park. She’d been stabbed seventeen times. Her fiance, Moss E. Garrison, was questioned by police. They’d been to a movie, he said, and he walked her back to her apartment at about midnight. Police wasted no time arresting him. Though the boyfriend strongly denied his guilt, cops developed a very loose circumstantial case against him and he was convicted in the press. Three months later, Garrison, who worked for the San Diego and Arizona Railway Company, was tried and acquitted by a jury. His attorney asserted that police arrested him only because they were desperate to finally solve a case.

The murders stopped as suddenly as they began, leaving a mystery behind: who murdered the "modern" girls of San Diego?

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