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Around Town: Books and murder on her mind

June 02, 2012|By Anita S. Brenner

The parade is over. The nights are short and the days are long. La Cañada, home to book worms and book groups, is the inspiration for the following books.

Thanks to the wonders of self-publication, some of us may be named in Arthur Johnson's “The Norman Rockwell Years” (CreateSpace, 2011), which recounts “an idyllic youth” in the La Cañada of the 1950s and early '60s, complete with references to the Youth House (now the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge), St. Bede's, Flintridge Prep and Skunk Hollow. More importantly, there's a list of the author's girl crushes, with names like Kobayashi, Farina, Clarke, Tibbs and others. One can only hope that these ladies will receive part of the royalties, if any.

Brooks W. Wilson's “The Newport Harbor Murders Revisited: The criminal justice system found guilty” (CreateSpace, 2012) revisits La Cañada's most famous murder trial. Walter Overell was one of the wealthiest men in Flintridge. His wife, Beulah, was a lovely socialite. Beulah Drive was named for her. On March 15, 1947, the Overells' yacht blew up in Newport Harbor. Unfortunately, they were on it at the time. Four days later, their daughter, Beulah Louise, and her boyfriend, Bud Gollum, were charged with murder. Brooks Wilson, a retired law enforcement officer, believes that their acquittal was an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

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The murder trial began on May 26, 1947. The defendants had known one another since childhood. Their mothers were friends. The investigators discovered that more than 30 sticks of dynamite had been wired to a clock attached to the yacht's battery. Inside Bud's car, they found matching machine screws and dynamite. Local radio station KVOE in Santa Ana was allowed to broadcast the trial, which was more riveting than the O.J. and Casey Anthony trials combined. While they were in jail, Beulah Louise and Bud wrote lurid letters to one another. The letters were leaked to the press, most likely by the prosecution, and considered to be proof of the motive. Despite this, defense attorney Otto Jacobs demolished the prosecution's case. On October 5, 1947, Bud and Louise were acquitted of all charges. People were outraged, nowhere less so than in our town.

Wilson's book picks up where the trial leaves off and happily notes that Louise died in 1965 in Las Vegas of alcoholism, and Bud died “in ignominy” in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2009.

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