Thursday, June 02, 2005

Crazy Like A Fox

June 2, 1947
Los Angeles

Congenital insanity compounded by war jitters is the desperate claim of Erwin M. Walker, 29, confessed slayer of California Highway Patrolman Loren C. Roosevelt on June 5 of last year. Roosevelt was fatally shot when he approached Walker, who was casing a market at Los Feliz Blvd. and Brunswick Ave., and asked for identification; Walker also admitted to wounding Det. Lt. Colin C. Forbes last April 25, when Forbes sought to arrest Walker, a pre-war civilian employee of the Glendale Police Department, on a charge of seeking to unload $40,000 in “hot” motion-picture equipment to Willard Starr, sound engineer of 1347 Fifth Ave. Starr had called police to stake out salesman “Paul C. Norris” when he came by with the goods.

All true, says Erwin, but wait—there are mitigating circumstances. Like dear old grandmama on dad’s side, a mental patient for these last 32 years, her case described by Erwin’s father Weston, a County Flood Control worker residing at 1013 Cordova St., Glendale. Or the half dozen other nuts on the family tree. As for Erwin, so what that three psychiatrists say he’s sane? The family knows otherwise. He’s been hinky ever since coming home from the South Pacific. Mrs. Irene L. Walker, Erwin’s mother, contrasted the affectionate boy she turned over to Uncle Sam with the weird loner who returned.

Erwin himself described his guilt over his best friend’s bayoneting on Leyte Island, an attack he believed might have been averted had he given an order to dig foxholes. His colleagues agreed, and shunned him thereafter.

Erwin was finally arrested December 20 at his apartment at 1831 ½ N. Argyle Ave. after a gun battle with detectives who surprised the sleeping ex-GI as he cradled a sub-machine gun and .45 caliber automatic. They shot him a couple of times. At the hospital, he was found to have old bullet wounds, a souvenir of the April battle with Forbes’ partner, Sgt. S, W. Johnson. These Erwin said he had treated himself.

After returning from service, Erwin refused to return to his dispatcher’s gig at the Glendale P.D., citing the lousy pay scale. Instead, it is alleged, he entered into a career of robbery, safecracking and hold ups, obtaining approximately $70,000 in these fields until the time of his arrest.

In addition to his daffy relatives, the enterprising Erwin is the nephew of former Deputy District Attorney Herbert Walker.

The case inspired an acclaimed noir film starring Richard Basehart.

Medium Image


Larry said...

The Erwin Walker case is the crossroads of several important stories. The victim was Loren Roosevelt, fired in the 1930s as Arcadia’s police chief in an ugly political fight that included an attempt to recall the mayor and allegations of bookie joints near Santa Anita.

The detectives included two famous names from the Black Dahlia case: Capt. Jack Donahoe, head of homicide, and Detective Marty Wynn, who became friends with actor Jack Webb while serving as a technical advisor on “He Walked by Night,” a 1948 film based on the Roosevelt murder.

And finally there’s Walker, whose father committed suicide a few days after visiting him in San Quentin, where he had been sentenced to die in the gas chamber.

On April 14, 1949, the day before his scheduled execution, Walker tried to strangle himself with an electrical cord. He was judged insane the next month and moved to a state mental hospital with the provision that if he ever regained his sanity he would be executed. He escaped from Atascadero State Hospital in 1959, fearing that he was about to be sent back to prison, but surrendered to a quail hunter near Santa Margarita.

In February 1961, a judge ruled that he was sane and Walker was transferred to San Quentin, where Gov. Pat Brown granted him clemency March 28, 1961. According to Internet sources of unverified accuracy, he was released from prison, changed his name, married and earned a living as chemist.

After the success of “He Walked by Night,” Wynn and Donahoe became technical advisors on Webb’s “Dragnet” radio show.

Roosevelt was buried at Forest Lawn. He was survived by his wife, Jessie, and daughter, Joanne.

Detective Stewart Jones, who was wounded by Walker, handled the 1948 slaying of real estate agent Gladys Kern. As of this writing, he is still alive and in his 90s.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 1938; Jan. 8, 1939; Feb. 23, 1939; May 23, 1939; May 24, 1939; May 25, 1939; May 28, 1939; Aug. 5, 1939; Aug 21, 1939; Aug. 22, 1939; Aug. 31, 1939; Sept. 2, 1939; Sept. 20, 1939; Oct. 3, 1939; Oct. 9, 1939; Feb. 25, 1940; June 6, 1946; June 11, 1946; Dec. 21, 1946; Dec. 12, 1947; April 1, 1948; April 15, 1949; May 5, 1949; Nov. 4, 1959; March 12, 1961; March 24, 1961; March 29, 1961

M.T. Fisher said...

Typical of Pat Brown. No wonder he lost re-election.