Chapter 1 The Crime Scenes (sample chapter)

The Colder Case Series

Centinela Park: June 26, 1937 – Morning

Melba Marie Everett, age 9, and her sister, Madeline Everett, 7, left with their friend Jeanette Stephens, age 8, for Centinela Park in Inglewood, California, at about 9:30 A.M. Saturday morning, June 26, 1937. Madeline took a picture book and a teddy bear. They had a blanket and a ball and they each packed a lunch in addition to having had breakfast at about 9:00 a.m.

Centinela Park was built during the 30s depression and funded in part with the Works Project Administration (WPA), which through local contractors paid wages with federal government money. The local and state government paid a percentage and supplied transportation and equipment. Millions of men put to work this way built roads and schools and parks all over the country. The Everetts lived at 571 East Hazel, and the Stephens at 531 East Hazel Street, marked with red, where the row of apartments built in the 50s and 60s are now. Here is a Google Earth of the park as it is today.

park google earth

“CENTINELA PARK (plunge, wading pools; bowling, tennis, and horseshoe courts, baseball field, picnic ground with equipment), Redondo Blvd. and Prairie Ave., is a sixty-acre beauty spot about Centinela Springs in the ravines and gulches along the banks of Centinela Wash. Part of the area is landscaped; the rest is maintained in a natural state. Fossil remains of Pleistocene animals uncovered in the gravel wash have brought the conclusion that the springs were a prehistoric watering place. In the park are a large outdoor amphitheatre and the VETERANS’ MEMORIAL BUILDING, built with WPA aid as a meeting place and recreational center for veterans.” 1

Centinela Park is now the Edward Vincent Junior Park and Redondo Boulevard is now Florence Avenue.

Centinela Park: June 26 — Danger at Noon

calendarSaturday, June 26, was a busy day in Centinela Park. The weather was Southern California warm. The Los Angeles Times reported temperatures of a high of 81 and a low of 58 in Long Beach, and a high of 78 and a low of 59 in Culver City. The barometer held at about 29.78 to 29.79. It is no surprise the parents of these little girls understood them wanting to go to the plunge.The Colder Case Series

No one noticed anything that could be called an emergency alerting the various park personnel of any danger. There was a man doing rope tricks and lassoing children as they ran by. There were adults and older children in the pool and younger children in the wading pool. There were baseball players thinking it was a typical warm Saturday. There were picnics as always during summer vacation. Nothing unusual, except for what 10-year-old Lillian Popp and her 12-year-old cousin Amy would report after the girls went missing.

Along about two o’clock Jeanette Stephens’ mother sent her son to fetch Jeanette. He didn’t find her but Mother wasn’t worried because the kids would “go to the plunge and play and at five o’clock” Jeannette had a favorite radio program. She knew she would come home when she got hungry. 2

The Search for Missing Children: June 26-28

A daughter late for dinner is not news. That is an occurrence that happens perhaps a million times every day in the United States. But when the three missing little girls young enough to be scared of the dark did not come home as nightfall approached, their families notified the police between 8:00 and 10:00 pm. As Inglewood Police Chief Oscar E. Campbell explained:

We have four or five of these reports each week, but, nevertheless, Capt. Muir ordered a radio patrol car to start the search for the children. When no trace was found of the children at 11 p.m., Saturday, Capt. Muir dispatched a uniformed officer to the Everett home. It was then that the officer advised Mr. Everett to go to headquarters and make out a missing persons report. This was done sometime between 11 and 12 p.m., Saturday.

So the search was already active by Saturday night. By Monday morning, June 28, the missing girls “feared kidnaped” was national news. The authorities and the community made a noble effort to find them. Hundreds of legionaries, Boy Scouts, police, anyone who would pick up a torch or a flashlight, they searched night and day in garages, abandoned houses and the Baldwin Hills north of Inglewood. The police questioned everyone who resembled the suspect and many who didn’t. They broadcast a description of the girls hoping to find them safe and sound.The Colder Case Series


Madeline Everett, four feet tall, forty-five pounds, dark brown hair, blue eyes, wearing a white dress with brown-figured flowers and a lace neck, brown shoes.

Melba Marie Everett, four feet, four inches, sixty-five pounds, brown hair, blue eyes, slight build, wearing a blue dress with red spots, white shoes and red socks.

Jeanette Marjorie Stephens, four feet, four inches, seventy pounds, medium brown hair, dark brown eyes, two chicken-pox scars on the right cheek, two front upper teeth partially grown in, vaccination scar on the right arm, wearing pink underclothing, an outing flannel slip and a pale blue dress with small daisy figures.

Their pictures were also prominent on the front page of the Los Angeles Times morning edition of June 28 with the headline: “Three Children Feared Kidnaped; Hundreds of Police Join Hunt” with the known facts:

Who were the victims?


So far it is possible that a serial killer let two other men suffer the sentences he deserved. S.C. Stone (Book 1) and Albert Dyer (Book 2) were both convicted of murdering little girls. Stone was convicted of murdering May and Nina Martin and after his death sentence was commuted he was eventually released from prison in 1941 due to a “lack of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.” Albert Dyer was convicted for murdering Melba and Madeline Everett and their friend Jeanette Stephens. He was executed.

There is evidence that connects these two Los Angeles crimes near the Baldwin Hills with the murder of Virginia Brooks (Book 3) and Louise Teuber near San Diego, both still cold cases. Investigators in central California also thought the death of 11-year-old Jackie Sykes, who was found nude and hanging from a tree in 1932, was related.

Book 4 of The Colder Case Series, one of the most difficult to stomach, if that seems possible, takes us East, where another little girl was murdered in the same manner as Virginia Brooks. 1937 was a very deadly year for children. It seems our serial killer got around.

Changeling (film)

Some films are so moving it becomes necessary for me to learn more to try to resolve it somehow, as if the emotion is left unfinished. There was some satisfaction in the form of resolution in the Wikipedia article about “Changeling,” staring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. The article is surprisingly in depth and insightful. Angelina Jolie wasn’t sure she wanted to do the film because the subject was “distressing” and that sure is understandable, but the film approaches the subject from her character’s POV, and she carries that oh so well. She is able to speak volumes without saying a word. Other times she says exactly the right word at the right time. Indeed, I think it was the double take of the subject, the looking at it from different points of view, mostly hers, that make it so effective. Another interesting point was that SFX were used to make Los Angeles more 1920s (it was set in the late 20s) and it sure had me fooled. It was like being there. Speaking of emotion, the ending was extended to allow for more emotional release, so we see Jolie’s character Christine Collins walking through a crowd to end the film.

Powerful movie and highly recommended.

Snake Avenue: The Cold Case of Ten-year-old Virgina Brooks


Snake Avenue released!

Virginia Brooks was missing for a month before her body was found. Was a serial killer responsible? The two little Martin sisters were murdered in 1924, and two more sisters in 1937, the Everett sisters along with their friend Jeanette Stephens. This third book is a detailed report that puts together the facts found at the time of this similar murder of little Virginia Brooks in 1931. The investigators did all they could with the science available to them, and tried so hard to solve the case it is now a fascinating look into the history of forensic science, including entomology and horticulture. Virginia’s story will never end, but this account ends by daring to take a guess at who the police may have overlooked due to them not having the forensic science and criminal profiling tools that are available today. Can you guess who was overlooked?