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La Cañada's Second Murder Case: Overell Murders

January 05, 2006|By Anita Susan Brenner

And then, the police looked in the trunk of Bud's car -- there was more dynamite.

A witness was found. The witness said that he had sold dynamite to Bud Gollum on March 14, 1947, the day before the explosion.

The police theorized that Mr. and Mrs. Overell had been beaten to death, and that a bomb was detonated, blowing up the boat, to cover up the murder. The motive was twofold: Mr. and Mrs. Overell's dislike of Bud Gollum, and Beulah Louise Overell's expected substantial inheritance.

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Beulah Louise Overell and Bud Gollum were arrested.

While they were in jail, Beulah Louise and Bud wrote "lurid" letters to one another. These letters were leaked to the press, most likely by the prosecution, and considered to be proof of the motive.

By the time Beulah Louise Overell and her boyfriend, Bud Gollum, went on trial for the murder of Walter and Beulah Overell, the case was a nation-wide sensation, equivalent to the cases of O.J. Simpson.

The trial began in 1948 before the Honorable Kenneth Morrison, judge of the Orange County Superior Court. It was an interesting cast of characters. The prosecutor, Eugene Williams, was a charismatic trial attorney with political aspirations. The lead defense attorney was Otto Jacobs; he had over 80 criminal trials under his belt and he was not camera-shy.

One of Judge Morrison's first acts was to issue an order allowing radio microphones in the courtroom, with one caveat. The order permitted only "hometown" radio stations to broadcast the trial. In 1948, there was only one hometown radio station, KVOE, based in Santa Ana. The station contracted with the Mutual Broadcasting System to re-broadcast the trial all over the United States.

Soon, everyone in the country was listening to the trial testimony. All four months of testimony.

There were other microphones as well. During the trial, the local police bugged the law offices of the defense attorneys. Years later, Jacobs' son, Robert Jacobs, explained, "One day during the trial, I noticed Dad's diploma wasn't straight. I saw a microphone inside. We went to Gollum's attorneys and found another. We traced the wires to a room around the corner. We found a man with earphones on and made a citizens' arrest. The police captain came out and said, 'You guys arrested one of my lieutenants!' The episode was quickly forgotten."

These shenanigans did not dissuade defense attorney Otto Jacobs. Step-by-step, Jacobs began to demolish the prosecution's case.

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