Northcott, Gordon Stewart
Canadian born in 1908, Northcott would later claim that his father sodomized him at age ten.
The old man finished his life in a lunatic asylum, and one of Northcott's paternal uncles died years later, in San Quentin, while serving a life term for murder.
A homosexual sadist in the mold of Dean Corll and John Gacy, by age 21, Northcott was living on a poultry ranch near Riverside, California, sharing quarters with his mother and a 15-year-old nephew, Sanford Clark.
For years, Northcott mixed business with pleasure in Riverside, abducting boys and hiding them out on his ranch, renting his victims to wealthy Southern California pedophiles.
When he tired of the boys, they were shot or brained with an ax, their flesh dissolved with quick lime and their bones transported to the desert for disposal. Only one was ever found - a headless, teenage Mexican, discovered near La Puente during February 1928 - but homicide detectives identified three other victims.
Walter Collins disappeared from home on March 10, 1928, and Northcott's mother was convicted of his death, but evidence suggests that she was acting under orders from her son.
Twelve-year-old Lewis Winslow and his brother Nelson, 10, vanished from Pomona on May 16, 1928, and Northcott was later condemned for their murders, despite the absence of bodies. Gordon might have gone on raping and killing indefinitely, but in the summer of 1928, he visited the district attorney's office, complaining about a neighbor's "profane and violent" behavior. The outbursts reportedly upset his nephew, who was "training for the priesthood" by tending chickens at age 15. Under investigation, the neighbor recalled seeing Gordon beat Clark on occasion, and he urged detectives to "find out what goes on" at Northcott's ranch.
Immigration officials struck first, taking Clark into custody on a complaint from his Canadian parents, and the boy regaled authorities with tales of murder, pointing out newly-excavated "grave sites" on the ranch. Detectives dug up blood-soaked earth, unearthing human ankle bones and fingers on September 17.
They also found a bloodstained ax and hatchet on the premises, that Clark said had been used on human prey, as well as chickens. Northcott fled to Canada, but he was captured there and extradited back to Riverside. His mother claimed responsibility for slaying Walter Collins, but Clark fingered Gordon as the actual killer.
Convicted on three counts of murder, including the Winslow brothers and the anonymous Mexican, Northcott was sentenced to death. Spared by her sex, his mother received a life sentence in the Collins case.
Marking time at San Quentin, Northcott alternated between protestations of innocence and detailed confessions to the murder of "18 or 19, maybe 20" victims. A pathological liar who cherished the spotlight, he several times offered to point out remains of more victims, always reneging at the last moment. (Northcott also named several of his wealthy "customers" at the ranch, but their identities were never published.) Warden Duffy recalled his conversations with Northcott as "a lurid account of mass murder, sodomy, oral copulation, and torture so vivid it made my flesh creep."
Northcott mounted the gallows on October 2, 1930, finally quailing in the face of death. Before the trap was sprung, he screamed, "A prayer! Please, say a prayer for me!" His mother subsequently died in prison, of old age.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders — also
known as the Wineville Chicken Murders — was a series of kidnappings and
murders of young boys occurring in Los Angeles and Riverside County,
California in 1928. The case received national attention and events
related to it exposed corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department.
The 2008 film Changeling is based upon events related to this case.
In 1926, Saskatchewan-born ranch owner Gordon Stewart
Northcott took his 13-year-old nephew, Sanford Clark, from his home in
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Before his sister, Jessie Clark, told
the police about the situation, Northcott had beaten and sexually abused
Clark. In September 1928, the Los Angeles Police Department visited the
Northcott Ranch in Wineville. Police found Clark at the ranch and took
him into custody.
Clark claimed that Northcott had kidnapped, molested,
beaten, and killed several young boys with the apparent help of
Northcott's mother, Sarah Louise Northcott. He had also forced Clark to
participate. Clark said quicklime was used to dispose of the remains,
and the bones had been dumped in the desert. The Northcotts had fled to
Canada and they were arrested near Vernon, British Columbia.
Police found no complete bodies at the site, but they
discovered the personal effects of missing children, a blood-stained axe,
and body parts including bones, hair, and fingers from three of the
victims that were buried in lime near the chicken house at the Northcott
ranch near Wineville - hence the name "Wineville Chicken Coop Murders."
Wineville changed its name to "Mira Loma" on November
1, 1930, due in large part to the negative publicity surrounding the
murders. Wineville Avenue, Wineville Road, Wineville Park and other
geographic references provide reminders of the community's former name.
Sanford Clark returned to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Sarah Louise Northcott initially confessed to the
murders, including that of 9-year-old Walter Collins. She later
retracted her statement, as did Gordon Northcott, who had confessed to
killing five boys.
Upon her return from Canada, Sarah Louise pled guilty
to killing Walter Collins. Superior Court Judge Morton sentenced her to
life imprisonment on December 31, 1928, sparing her from execution
because she was a woman. Sarah Northcott served her sentence at
Tehachapi State Prison, and was paroled after less than 12 years. During
her sentencing, Northcott claimed her son was innocent and made a
variety of bizarre claims about his parentage, including that he was an
illegitimate son by an English nobleman, that she was Gordon's
grandmother, and that he was the result of incest between her husband,
George Cyrus Northcott, and their daughter. She also stated that as a
child, Gordon was sexually abused by the entire family.
On February 8, 1929, a 27-day trial before Judge
George R. Freeman in Riverside County, California, ended. Gordon
Northcott was convicted of the murders of an unidentified Mexican boy
and brothers Lewis and Nelson Winslow (aged 12 and 10, respectively).
The brothers had been reported missing from Pomona on May 16, 1928;
however, it was believed Gordon may have had as many as 20 victims. The
jury heard that he kidnapped, molested, tortured, killed, and
dismembered these and other boys throughout 1928. On February 13, 1929,
Judge Freeman sentenced Gordon to be hanged. The sentence was carried
out on October 2, 1930.
Gordon Stewart Northcott
Gordon Northcott (c. 1906 – October 2, 1930)
Gordon Stewart Northcott was born in Saskatchewan,
Canada and raised in British Columbia, Canada. He moved to the Los
Angeles area with his parents in 1924. Northcott later purchased a plot
of land in Wineville, California and built a chicken ranch and home.
Sanford Wesley Clark (March 1, 1913 – June 20,
Sanford's older sister, Jessie, became suspicious of
the letters Sanford was forced to send home from Northcott's ranch that
assured the family he was well. She went to the ranch and stayed several
days. However, she became terrified of Northcott, left and told
authorities her brother was in the country illegally.
Sanford Clark was never tried for murder, but was
sentenced to five years at the Whittier State School (later renamed the
Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility). His sentence was later
commuted to 23 months. After his release, he was deported back to his
native Canada. Clark's son, Jerry Clark, credits Clark's sisters June
and Jessie, associate prosecution counsel Loyal C. Kelley, and the
Whittier State School for helping save Sanford from Gordon Northcott.
Clark served in World War II, and then worked for 28
years for the Canadian postal service. He married, and he and his wife,
June, adopted and raised two sons. They were married for 55 years and
were involved in many different organizations. Sanford Clark died in
1991 at age 78.
Christine and Walter Collins
Walter James Collins, Sr. (February 1, 1890 –
August 18, 1932)
Christine Ida Dunne Collins (1891 – 8 December 1964)
Walter James Collins, Jr. (September 23, 1918 – March 1928) presumed
Nine-year-old Walter Collins disappeared from his
home in Mt. Washington, Los Angeles on March 10, 1928. His disappearance
received nationwide attention and the Los Angeles Police Department
followed up on hundreds of leads without success. The police faced
negative publicity and increasing public pressure to solve the case,
until five months after Walter's disappearance, when a boy claiming to
be Walter was found in DeKalb, Illinois. Letters and photographs were
exchanged before Walter's mother, Christine Collins, who worked as a
telephone operator, paid for the boy to be brought to Los Angeles.
A public reunion was organized by the police, who
hoped to negate the bad publicity they had received for their inability
to solve this case and others. They also hoped the uplifting human
interest story would deflect attention from a series of corruption
scandals that had sullied the department's reputation. At the reunion,
Christine Collins claimed that the boy was not Walter. She was told by
the officer in charge of the case, police Captain J.J. Jones, to take
the boy home to "try him out for a couple of weeks," and Collins agreed.
Three weeks later, Christine Collins returned to see
Captain Jones and persisted in her claim that the boy was not Walter.
Even though she was armed with dental records proving her case, Jones
had Collins committed to the psychiatric ward at Los Angeles County
Hospital under a "Code 12" internment—a term used to jail or commit
someone who was deemed difficult or an inconvenience. During Collins'
incarceration, Jones questioned the boy, who admitted to being 12-year-old
Arthur Hutchins Jr., a runaway from Illinois, but who was originally
A drifter at a roadside café in Illinois had told
Hutchins of his resemblance to the missing Walter, so Hutchins came up
with the plan to impersonate him. His motive was to get to Hollywood so
he could meet his favorite actor, Tom Mix. Collins was released ten days
after Hutchins admitted that he was not her son, and filed a lawsuit
against the Los Angeles Police Department. This aspect of the case is
depicted in the 2008 film Changeling, although in the film Hutchins
does not confess until after Mrs. Collins has been released.
Collins went on to win a lawsuit against Jones and
was awarded $10,800, which Jones never paid. Five years after Gordon
Northcott's execution, one of the boys previously thought to be murdered
by Northcott was found alive and well. As Walter Collins' body had not
been found, Christine Collins still hoped that Walter had survived. She
continued to search for him for the rest of her life, but she died
without ever knowing her son's fate. The last public record of Christine
Collins is from 1941, when she attempted to collect a $15,562 judgment
against Captain Jones (by then a retired police officer) in the Superior
Arthur J. Hutchins, Jr.
Arthur J. Hutchins Jr (c.1916 – c.1954)
In 1933 Arthur J. Hutchins, Jr. wrote about how and
why he impersonated the missing boy. Hutchins' biological mother had
died when he was 9 years old, and he had been living with his stepmother,
Violet Hutchins. He pretended to be Walter Collins to get as far away as
possible from her. After living on the road for a month he arrived in
DeKalb. When police brought him in, they began to ask him questions
about Walter Collins. Originally, Hutchins stated that he did not know
about Walter, but changed his story when he saw the possibility of
getting to California.
After Arthur Hutchins reached adulthood, he sold
concessions at carnivals. He eventually moved back to California as a
horse trainer and jockey. He died of a blood clot in 1954, leaving
behind a wife and young daughter, Carol. According to Carol Hutchins, "My
dad was full of adventure. In my mind, he could do no wrong."
Rev. Gustav Briegleb
Dr. Gustav A. Briegleb (September 26, 1881 –
May 20, 1943)
Briegleb was a Presbyterian minister and pioneer
radio evangelist. He was the pastor of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church,
Jefferson Boulevard at Third Avenue, Los Angeles, California. He took up
many important causes in the City of Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s,
most notably the poor handling of the Walter Collins kidnapping case in
1928. He fought to have Christine Collins released from a mental
hospital after she was committed there as retaliation for not going
along with the LAPD's version of events.
Lewis and Nelson Winslow
Lewis Winslow (c.1916 – c.1928)
Nelson Winslow, Jr (c.1918 – c.1928)
Lewis, age 12, and Nelson, age 10, were the sons of
Mr. and Mrs. Nelson H. Lewis, Sr. They went missing on May 16, 1928 from
Pomona, California. On May 26, 1928, H. Gordon Moore, a local
Scoutmaster, reported that they ran away to Imperial, California to pick
cantaloupes and helped with the search for the two boys. Gordon
Northcott was convicted of kidnapping and killing the Winslow brothers.
Nelson Winslow, Sr. led a lynch mob with the intent of hanging Gordon
Stewart Northcott after completion of the trial but before sentencing.
The police convinced the group to disband before seeing Northcott.
"The Big Imposter," an episode of the radio series
Dragnet, which aired on June 7, 1951, was based on these events. When
the show moved to television, the radio script was adapted into a
teleplay and broadcast on December 4, 1952. The plot focuses primarily
on the story of Arthur Hutchins' impersonation of Walter Collins. In
this version, the parental figure who reports the disappearance of the
character based on Walter Collins is a widowed grandfather, raising the
child on his own after the deaths of the boy's parents, rather than a
Changeling, a 2008 film written by J. Michael
Straczynski and directed by Clint Eastwood, is also based on the
Northcott case. The film primarily depicts the plight of Christine
Collins (played by Angelina Jolie), the mother of Walter Collins, and
her search for her real son. The film depicts all the major figures
except for Sarah Louise Northcott. The film, however, suggests that at
least one of the Winslow boys and even perhaps Walter Collins escaped
Duffy, Clinton T. (1962). 88 Men and 2 Women.
Flacco, Anthony; Jerry Clark (November 2009). The
Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville
Murders. Union Square Press. ISBN 978-1-4027-68699.
Jenkins, Philip (2004). Moral Panic: Changing
Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. Yale University Press.
p. 221. ISBN 0300109636.
Jenkins, Philip (1994). Using Murder: The Social
Construction of Serial Homicide. Aldine Transaction. p. 184. ISBN
Paul, James Jeffrey (September 2008). Nothing is
Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott.
Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4363-6627-4.
Rasmussen, Cecilia (October 1998). L. A.
Unconventional: The Men & Women Who Did L. A. Their Way. Los Angeles
Times. ISBN 978-1883792237.