A Geography of San Diego Murders

Mob Jobs

Tamara Rand, 54
Bandini Street, Mission Hills
November 10, 1975

The victim, a real-estate broker and the wife of a wealthy physician, was found sprawled on the floor of her kitchen, a cup of tea untouched on a nearby countertop. She had been neatIy shot five times: once through the back, once through the ear, and three times under the chin. A few months earlier, she had sued Allen Glick, 33, La Jolla financier with Las Vegas gambling interests, for fraud stemming from a land deal.

In his biography of Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno, author Ovid Demaris reports that the slaying was the work of the mob:

"'Jimmy, this broad was going to drag Glick through a lot of shit,' [Frank] Bompensiero [a reputed mobsterJ said." They were in the cocktail lounge at the San Francisco Hilton, and Jimmy was pumping Bompensiero on the Rand murder.

" 'So you're still working?' Jimmy said. 'Where'd you get the silencer?'

"'Hey, not so fast,' Bomp said, chomping on his cigar. 'No shit, now, Jimmy, I'm an innocent bystander. I just took Tony [Spilotro] and showed him her house.'"

Frank "the Bomp" Bompensiero, 71
Phone booth, Lamont Street, Pacific Beach
February 10, 1977

The victim was a Mafia chieftain turned FBI informant. Ovid Demaris, in The Last Mafiosi:

"Frank Bompensiero enjoyed the both worlds. On the one hand he was permitted to pursue his criminal career with impunity, and on the other he could use the government to malign or dispose of his competitors and enemies."

According to Demaris, the FBI had tricked the Bomp into telling mob kingpin Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno about a pornography operation that was really an undercover government operation. When FBI agents concluded the sting by busting some of Fratianno's men, it blew the old mobster's cover: "[Bomp] was a snitch and he had set them up .... Whatever his doubts before, [Fratianno] knew now that Bompensiero was a dead man."

Four .22-caliher bullets in the head finished the Bomp as he returned from a neighborhood phone booth, where he had made a nightly series of calls to his confederates. Fratianno was dining at a luxurious Italian restaurant in Las Vegas when he got word the Bomp was dead. "Jimmy reached over and broke off a piece of Italian bread to sop up some of the sauce. 'What do you mean, what do I think? If you say he's dead, he's dead. It's one of them fucking things. Sit down and have some wine.'"

George McMahon
San Marcos Avenue, Burlingame
February 28, 1925

Scandal erupted following the trial of Thomas Johnson and Hugh McGovern for the murder of McMahon, with allegations that San Diego District Attorney Chester C. Kempley and his assistant, C. Guy Selleck, took a $40,000 bribe to rig the evidence in the defendants' favor.

According to sensational newspaper reports, the killing took place in a bungalow "discovered to be a combined arsenal and charnel house, with pistols, shotguns and blood-stained clothing and rugs scattered or hidden within." The body was discovered dumped on a "lonely road" in the Morena district north of Old Town. Since both the defendants and the victim were originally from Chicago, it was suggested that the slaying was mob-related.

The defendants were acquitted July 3, 1925, in part because two blood-stained suits introduced into evidence as proof of their guilt were too small to fit them. Then, on October 7, 1926, attorneys Kempley and Selleck were accused by the grand jury of having had the clothing altered to throw the trial for the defense. They were convicted of bribery on December 16, 1926, but were cleared nearly two years later, when the California Supreme Court reversed the verdict because key testimony against the men had come from Agnes Keller, a prostitute they had earlier prosecuted and sent to San Quentin.

Murder and Money

Estella Logans
North 27th Street, San Diego
May 6, 1959

The victim had checked into Mercy Hospital "suffering shock, infection of the uterus, and uterine bleeding," before dying. Logans's sister, Ruby Love, subsequently told police that both she and Logaos had gone to Vemedia Vivian Hawkins, a 40-year-old Southeast San Diego housewife, for abortions.

"Many persons interviewed by the police during the course of their investigation indicated that it was common knowledge in the colored district of San Diego that the defendant perfomed abortions for fees ranging anywhere from $35 to $75. Human blood was found on three of the five instruments examined; however, no blood was found either on the length of black {coat hanger} wire or on the catheters."

From the probation report: "The defendant is a soft-spoken Negress who, although she was encouraged to make an honest statement, continued to deny she is guilty of the present offense," Hawkins was convicted of second-degree murder and abortion and sentenced to state prison. She was paroled during the 1960s and later pardoned. During a recent interview, she continued to maintain her innocence. "I have always been against abortion," she said. "If it were on the ballot tomorrow, I would vote against it."

John R. Larendon, 86
Ludington Place, La Jolla
November 20, 1960

Scandall hit La Jolla when Larendon, a wealthy old gentleman, was taken to a hospital and died, and his longtime nurse and companion, Robert B. Dalton, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder. "The evidence in this case showed that defendant Dalton beat to death John Larendon, who had been his benefactor for 12 years, and from whom he had received monies well in excess of $100,000....

"It is believed, on the basis of the evidence, that defendant is a homosexual who would stop at nothing to satisfy his own greed. It is therefore the recommendation of the Office of the District Attorney that defendant Dalton never be released from prison." Dalton was paroled from state prison June 25, 1970, after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died December 21, 1970, in New York City.

Donald Edward Tubach, 47
Lowell Way, Point Loma
December 10, 1976

The decomposing body of teh victim, a wealthy travel agent, was found stuffed into the wet bar of his lavish Point Loma home on Christmas Eve, after his employees became concerned about his extended absence from work. A trail of tabs run up on Tubach's stolen credit cards led investigators to Mexico City, where they apprehended Isabel Zerda Beltran de Tubach, 37, the victim's ex-wife; her two attractive daughters, Patricia Zerda Zerda, 20, and Glorida Zerda Zerda, 19; along with Gloria's muscular suitor, Federico Frank. 22. The women were Colombian citizens . Frank was Swiss.

After a torture session by Mexican police ("They discharged electrical shocks into his penis and genitals," according to his attorney), Frank confessed that he had stabbed Tubach to death at the behest of the women, in order that they might collect on Tubach's life insurance. A splashy trial led to the convictions, on October 7, 1977, of Federico Frank and lsabel Tubach for first-degree murder. The daughters received lesser convictions for being accessories to and for conspiracy to commit murder. Three of the four were sentenced to prison for life. Gloria, a juvenile at the time, was sent to the California Youth Authority.

Isabel was sent to the California Institute for Women, where she remains. Patricia was paroled in February 1985 and discharged from parole February 20, 1988. Frank, the actual killer, was paroled March 20, 1986, and discharged from parole March 20, 1989.

David Hargis
West Laurel Street, downtown
July 21, 1977

Cocktail Bar at Fifth Avenue and Maple Street and made a call to the apartment of Tony Mirabile, a wealthy tavern owner and reputed Mafia chieftain. He invited her up to his place, but when he opened the door, Wilfred "Sonny" Robearge, aged 39, was with her, and Robearge declared, "This is a stickup." Mirabile's nephew, who was in the apartment with Tony, stabbed Horton. After shooting Mirabile to death, Robearge fled with the wounded woman.

Subsequent investigation uncovered a conspiracy among Horton, Robearge, and three others, including Victor Francis Buono, 50, a former member of the San Diego vice squad and a bail bondsman, who was the scheme's alleged mastemind. Buono was the father of Victor Buono, a young actor who was soon to make a name for himself with guest spots on hit television crime shows like Hawaiian Eye, Route 66, and Batman.

Horton, who pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, was paroled in 1962. The men were found guilty of murder on September 17, 1959, after a trial held in Los Angeles. Buono was paroled on the state charges after serving seven years, but federal authorities made him serve extra time because he had been out on parole for bird smuggling at the time of the murder. He died in 1981; his son, who weighed well over 350 pounds, died a year later.

Dennis J. O'Connor
Campus Drive-ln, El Cajon Boulevard
December 3, 1961

O'Connor, 21, the brother of now-mayor Maureen O'Connor, arrived at the drive-in in a car with three friends. According to the probation repon, "All occupants of the car had been drinking beer and rum and coke.... The driver of the car inadvenently turned on the headlights for approximately one to three minutes," Two lot boys, employed by the drive-in to keep order, approached the car, and a brawl ensued, during which Thomas Steinbeck O'Leary, 22, one of the lot boys, stabbed O'Connor in the stomach with a large knife. O'Leary was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to state prison February 14, 1962, He was paroled on Christmas Eve 1964. His parole was discharged January 26, 1967, and he was granted a full pardon October 30, 1969.

Murders of Families

Hope Morse, 58
Jennifer Morse, 12
Carla Avenue, Chula Vista
September 2, 1962

Joseph Bernard Morse, 17, used a baseball bat and rock to club his mother and invalid sister to death in their Chula Vista home. In 1964, while awaiting trial, he killed fellow jail inmate Thomas Taddei during an argument over a gambling debt. Three trials later, a sentence of death was overturned, and Morse was sent to San Quentin for life. While still on death row in 1965, Morse was interviewed by Truman Capote for a film about capital punishment. When the famous author refused to testify during the penalty phase of Morse's second murder trial in 1970, Capote spent three days behind bars in the Orange County jail for contempt of court.

Lois Jane Pendergast, 38
David Alexander Pendergast, 9
Thomas J. Pendergast, Jr., 6
Diane Lois Pendergast, 4
Allen David Penjlergast, 2
North Second Street, El Cajon
December 12, 1958

Carl Alfred Eder, 16, was arrested in Mission Beach two days after the murders and confessed to the crime. He had been hitchhiking along Highway 80 a few months before, when Thomas Pendergast picked him up and offered him a job handing out leaflets during a union election at Pendergast's place of employment. Eder claimed that Pendergast had also instructed him in the ways of petty crime, raking him on shoplifting sprees through local markets and drug stores, as well as buying marijuana in Tijuana. He could give no particular motive for the slaughter but pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He escaped from Tehachapi and was never recaptured.

Henry Goedecke, 42
Joan Goedecke, 39
Ellen Goedecke, 15
Mark Goedecke, 8
FIrst Avenue, Chula Vista
August 15, 1964

On the evening of August 14, Raymond Henry Goedecke, an 18-year-old pre-divinity student, departed his family's Chula Vista home to spend the night at Camp Caroline, a Lutheran church camp in rural Valley Center, about 50 miles north. About three o'clock the next morning, he drove back to Chula Vista, where he murdered his sleeping mother, father, sister, and brother with a steel rod and a hunting knife and then returned to the camp. He came back to Chula Vista with a neighbor girl and pretended to "discover" the bodies with her. He greeted arriving police with a casual "Hi." In spite of one psychiatrist's testimony that his nonchalance was really a form of insanity, Goedecke was convicted of first-degree murder on December 8, 1964. However, the verdict was subsequently reduced to second-degree murder by the state supreme court. At that time, the district attorney said, "This young man is a menace to the community and should not be considered eligible for parole." Goedecke was discharged from parole on July 23, 1984, and is believed to live in Northern California.

Savaw Greenhalgh, 27
Donnita Rahe Greenhalgh, 9
Robert Nelson Greenhalgh,
Mark Allen Greenhalgh, 6
Tamra Lynn Greenhalgh, 4
Enfield Street, Spring Valley
July 18, 1967

Savaw Greenhalgh, who had been divorced by her husband Barry, 30, a Navy chief radioman, locked herself and her five children in the car and turned on the ignition. She and son Kenneth, three weeks, were found barely alive in the car, along with the four other children, all dead. She died the next day of what was believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning. Only Kenneth survived. Custody of the children had been awarded to Barry by mutual agreement only four months before, on March 27, 1967.

William Altstadt, 45
Maxine Altstadt, 41
Nancy Altstadt, 19
Lake Ben Avenue, San Carlos
February 22, 1975

Dan A1tstadt, 18, an Eagle Scout and honor student at Patrick Henry High School, used his Boy Scout hatchet, among other weapons, to slay his mother, father, and sister and to cripple his brother Gary, 15. Said a report in the San Diego Union. "Neighbors could not believe that Dan Altstadt had anything to do with the incident, since he was such a quiet, polite young man, who had just received notice of acceptance at UCLA." He was convicted of first-degree murder and is currently imprisoned at the California Men's Colon in San Luis Obispo.

Ruth Sackett Muir
The foot of Cuvier Street, La Jolla
August 31, 1936

"FIEND SEARCH SHIFTS TO RIVERSIDE," blared the headline in the San Diego Union on September 3, several days after the lovers-lane bludgeoning of Muir, a young secretary who worked at the YWCA in Riverside. An unprecedented dragnet was cast over the city, scores of witnesses were questioned, but the case remained an enigma for almost 19 years. From the probation report: "On May 20, 1955, about 1 a.m., newspaperman Mark waters, Union-Tribune, received a telephone call from San Juan Capistrano, from a man who told him that he was ready to tell all about the Ruth Muir Murder Case and wanted to know if Waters would come up and meet him, to bring along a fifth of whiskey and he would give him the whole story," The man told Waters, "I killed her with a green club. I'm tired of living. You got to do me a favor, fellow. You got to get me the gas chamber."

Waters called police, and they arrested Wilbert Felix Friend, 45, who had recently lost his wife and now confessed that he had beaten Muir in an aborted robbery and rape attempt so many years before. In the interval between the killing and his confession, Friend, a manual laborer, had been convicted of rape and later castrated as a condition of parole.

Despite his voluntary confession, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder and gave him the death penalty, which was commuted to life in prison by Governor Goodwin J. Knight, October 8, 1958.

Edward W. Johnson, 53
Beatrice Jobnson, 72
Ocean Front, Del Mar
March 23, 1966

The wealthy Johnson couple, he a retired executive of the Automobile Club, she the fonner widow of a retired Chicago stock. broker, were found bludgeoned to death with a tile-setter's hammer in their luxurious beachfront home, which had once belonged to actor Pat O'Brien. Two "beatnik types" were reportedly seen running from the house but were never apprehended. Unsolved.

Madeleine Cliff Cramer, 63
Azul Street, La Jolla
May 23, 1972

Vernon Cleo Walton, Jr., 21, a self-employed gardener and a former boyfriend of the victim's younger daughter, was charged with the stabbing death of Cramer, a wealthy La Jolla matron. According to the court-appointed psychiatrist, "The relationship between Mr. Walton and the [daughter] was, in itself, a very stormy one. He describes her as a histrionic, hysteroid girl who would frequently make suicidal gestures of a flamboyant type. usually by slashing her wrists, usually following close upon the heels of a fight with him." Although admitting he did not get along with Mrs. Cramer, Walton consistently denied having anything to do with her murder. Hours after reporting that it was deadlocked, a jury finally acquitted him on November 1, 1972. Unsolved.

Ruth L. Quinn, 74
Pomona Avenue, Coronado
March 16, 1975

Arts patron and Jujube candy heiress Quinn was found shot twice in the head at close range. Her body, fully clothed and face-up on her bed, was discovered by her brother Henry T. Leyendecker, 70, when he came to visit that night. There were no signs of a struggle, and nothing had been taken. She had last been seen at the public library at about 5:00 p.m. on the evening of her murder. Unsolved.

Sandra Jean SerVass, 28
Tayor Street, Vista
September 6, 1975

The victim, who graduated summa cum laude from Wellesley, class of '69, had been managing editor of Holiday magazine, owned by her uncle Burt SerVass. Her body was found, battered by an axe and claw hammer, in the hillside house of her uncle and aunt, Herbert and Ellen Camp, a day after she arrived to visit them. Despite rumors of a falling out between her and her uncle Burt, as well as reports that she had been deeply involved in an investigation of the Kennedy assassination, local police attributed the murder to a prowler. A high-powered private investigator hired by the family did no better. Unsolved.

Aleta Sue Grosenbach, 9
Pomerado Road, ScrIpps Ranch
August 14, 1976

The brutal rape and slaying of Grosenbach, who had been visiting her grandmother in La Jolla at the time of her abduction, remained unsolved for almost six years. In addition to the offer of a large reward, notorious Texas private investigator J.J. Armes was retained at the behest of then-City Councilman Bill Mitchell. All was to no avail until January 1982, when Frankie Megariz, 23, came forward to claim that her late father, Louis Felton May. Jr., once told her he had murdered Aleta Sue. Megariz passed a four-hour polygraph test, and police proclaimed the case closed.

Burton Wragg, 53
MIke Suchar, 56
Cleveland Elementary School, San Carlos
January 29, 1979

Wragg, the principal of Cleveland Elementary School, and Suchar, the head custodian, were gunned down hy Breoda Spencer, 16, when they ran to assist young students upon whom she had opened fire. Spencer, who lived across the street from the school, told a reporter who called her house during the carnage that she "didn't like Mondays," a remark that later turned up in the lyrics of a punk rock hit. Spencer, who had a history of petty theft and drug abuse, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, was sentenced to 2S years to life, and will be eligible for parole in 1996. While visiting Brenda in custody at juvenile hall, her father Wallace, 41, met inmate Sheila McCoy. 17, and later married her.

Jackie Wright Reyes, 18
Carlos Reyes, Jr., 8 months
Paulina Aquino, 22
Blythe Regan Herrera, 31 Matao Herrera, 11
Neva Caine, 22
Lawrence Herman Versluis, 62
Claudia Perez, 9
Marla Elena Colmenero-Sliva, 18
VIctor Maxlmllllan Rivera, 25
Elsa Borboa, 19
David Flores, 11
Omarr Hernandez, 11
Alicia Aida Victoria, 70
Miguel Victoria, 74
Margarita Padllla, 18
MIchelle Carncross, 18
Jose Ruben Lozano, 19
Gloria Lopez-Gonzales, 24
Hugo L. Valazquez, 46
Arisdelsi Vuelas-Yargas, 31
McDonald's, San Ysidro
July 18, 1984

The worst massacre by a gunman in U.S. history was carried out by James Oliver Huberty, 41, an unemployed security guard who told his wife, "I'm going to hunt humans," before leaving home for a nearby fast-food restaurant, where he killed 21 customers and wounded 19 others before a SWAT team picked him off. An attempt to tum the story into a television movie-of-the-week was defeated by the community, which believed it would have been in had taste.

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