Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hawley Crippen & The World's First Media Frenzy Murder Case-- But Was He Really Innocent?

The year was 1910. The setting, 39 Hilldrop Crescent in Camden Town, London. That is where the partial remains of a human was discovered by police who were searching for any trace of Cora Crippen. After showing up to her home to question her husband Dr. Hawley Crippen for the second time, the police found that Crippen had moved out in a rush. At first glance you may assume that Mr. Crippen fled the scene of the crime and was then a fugitive on the run, trying to evade the police. But things aren't always as they appear, as history and now forensic science proves.


Dr. Hawley Crippen was from Michigan and had moved to London in the early 1900's with his young wife Cora Crippen in order for him to provide service to patients in homeopathy, which was quite popular at the time. His expertise in the field provided him and his wife with a decent living for the times. Cora was born of Polish descent and was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her parents changed their names to Mersenger shortly after coming to the United States. Cora dreamed of being a famous singer, even using the stage name "Belle Elmore", but was an unsuccessful during the Vaudeville days.

The marriage was anything but happy. Dr. Crippen was the exact opposite of that of his wife. Cora was a robust, lively, flirtatious lady who spoke her mind. While Dr. Crippen was a quiet, mild mannered and small framed gentleman. While Cora enjoyed parties and gatherings with friends, Dr. Crippen would rather be at home with his head in a book. The unlikely pair most definitely sought the attention of other people during the marriage. It was mentioned that Cora enjoyed drinking and the company of her lover, Bruce Miller. While Dr. Crippen fell for a quiet and kind young lady named Ethel LeNeave.


One day, Cora left Crippen without so much as a note, leaving him to be with Ethel. When Cora's friends realized that Cora was gone, they questioned Crippen endlessly of her whereabouts. He grew tired of them bothering him so he just said "She went back to the United States, she grew ill with pneumonia and died". Of course, this did not sit well with her friends so they requested Walter Dew, the Head Inspector of Scotland Yard to investigate this further.

Dew had been an investigator 20 years earlier for the unsuccessful hunt of Jack the Ripper, where his career as an investigator had taken a downfall. Dew showed up to the residence of Dr. Crippen on that Friday, July 8, 1910. Dr. Crippen had already moved Ethel in and they were living together happily. He told the inspector he had nothing to hide and that Cora had left him for another man. He admitted that he lied to Cora's friends because he didn't want them to know that Cora was cheating on him and he wanted them to leave him alone. He claimed that Cora was not dead, and that her whereabouts were unknown to him. He allowed the inspector to search the property inside and out, and nothing was discovered.

Now, my personal opinion is that Inspector Dew made some sort of threat to Dr. Crippen, something that scared him so bad and that's why he fled back to his homeland of the United States. Imagine if you were in his shoes for a moment, and that people were accusing you of doing something to your spouse. Perhaps even the police were dead set convinced you did something and they threatened you that they were going to get you, no matter what. What would you do? You are in a country that is not your native country, now wouldn't you want to go home? I think that's exactly what Dr. Crippen did because that following Monday when the police came to question him some more, they discovered the home vacant.

By that time the media began to speculate. On the third day of searching the premises, an officer 'discovered' the partial human remains which contained internal organs, hair, skin tissue and a piece of cloth in a small hole under the tile in the coal cellar. He claimed the stench was so bad in most of the house that people in the home investigating could not stomach the smell. Now, I find that quite odd. Dr. Crippen and his mistress were living there along with their dog. They spent most of their day in the bottom level of the house, right next to the coal cellar and yet they noticed nothing of the smell. Also recall that Inspector Dew had came to the home just days earlier and smelled nothing in the house, also noting that he checked out the coal cellar and found nothing unusual. How could the smell suddenly appear?

The remains found prompted Scotland Yard to act on hunting Dr. Crippen down at all costs. It was all over the papers, becoming the first high profile case in history to be played out by the media.


On an ocean liner in the middle of the Atlantic, Captain Kendall noticed that a man who boarded the ship bore a striking resemblance to the man wanted for the murder of his wife back in London. He wired messages to Scotland Yard, which in turn became headlines in the newspapers for weeks. He was convinced that the two passengers on his ship were none other than Dr. Crippen and his mistress Ethel LeNeave. When the ship was about to make port in Quebec, the authorities boarded the ship, capturing Crippen and LeNeave. He was then expedited back to London and held in Pentonville Prison awaiting the trial.

With all the news and speculation swirling around for months, it was obvious that the court of public opinion had already convicted Crippen for the murder of his wife even before the trial. When the trial did start on October 18, there was little hope that he would receive a fair hearing.


Prosecutors called Dr. William Wilcox (toxicologist) as a witness who testified that the victim had been poisoned by hyascine, a anesthesia used in surgical and obstetrical procedures. The defense found it quite odd that Dr. Wilcox knew exactly what poisons to look for in his report, and not following standard protocol of doing different tests to rule out toxins that entered the body.

Dr. Spilsbury, the Prosecutions pathologist testified that he believed that the remains were that of Cora's, pointing out that the scar she had on her abdomen was apparent on the one piece of skin found. The Defense called their own expert witness that explained that the piece of skin recovered at the scene had sweat glands and hair follicles which was not consistent with scar tissue, thus it was not a scar at all but merely a fold of skin.

Another key piece of evidence Spilsbury claimed was that of the Hyascine poison. He claimed that Crippen would have had access to that type of medicine, being that he was a doctor. He also claimed that a piece of cloth that was mixed in with the remains could be tied to Crippen, as it matched a pair of his pajama bottoms. I find it quite odd that out of the 98% of the body that was somehow disposed of and to this day never found, that the 2% that was found just happened to have a piece of skin that would identify Cora? And what about the pajama cloth? The house was vacant for days after Hawley left, it is not unlikely to assume that the police planted it with the remains to ensure a conviction.

Until just recently the reports have become de-classified and are public record. It shows that the prosecution was aware that Crippen was more than likely innocent. You see, they failed to mention to the jury that a woman reported to Metropolitan Police that she saw Cora speaking to a carriage man and telling him to move 5 trunks of hers to another location around the same time Dr. Crippen claims Cora left him. Also, the banks concurred that Cora attempted to empty out their joint savings account around the same time. Had the jury heard this news, they may have thought twice.

Hawley remained adamant that he was innocent and that perhaps the decomposing remains had been planted there or that they were there before he even moved into the property. All in all he felt he was being framed for something he did not do. After hearing the testimony of both parties, the jurors deliberated for only 27 minutes before convicting Dr. Crippen of murder. He was sentenced to die by hanging.

During the 4 weeks leading up to his execution, Crippen received a few letters postmarked from Chicago, IL. The return address was marked, Belle Elmore Crippen. The letters were short and to the point. One even stated "I have read about your conviction in the papers, I am not going to come forward to help you...good luck". The investigators, prosecution and even Winston Churchill was made privy to that letter and yet no one bothered to admit that Cora was actually alive, therefore Crippen was an innocent man. No one wanted to admit fault that after all the media frenzy and becoming famous for capturing such a heinous murderer, that in actuality they made a mistake. On November 23, 1910 Dr. Hawley Crippen was executed at Pentonville Prison.


Years later, many people still question the guilt of Dr. Crippen. He is known in infamy despite the fact he didn't kill his wife. Some speculate, could he have killed someone else and disposed of their body, perhaps during a botched abortion? Not likely, as said before, the stench was so bad no one could have lived in that home had there been a body decomposing under the floor for any period of time. That proves to me that the police planted those body parts on purpose.

Crippen's family in the United States also felt the brunt of the media frenzy, by the conviction forever tarnishing their well respected name. After many years his story was re-investigated and startling evidence has come to light. The DNA of the remains was tested against those of Cora's distant relatives and there had been no match. In fact, there were 5 distinct differences in the mitochondrial DNA strand showing there was no way that the remains were that of Cora's.

Also, the DNA tests proved that the remains weren't even female, they were that of a male. So the forensic science of 1910 wasn't accurate at all. And it proves that Crippen was in fact an innocent man.

Do you remember the letters that Belle Elmore Crippen had written to Hawley Crippen while he sit in jail awaiting his fate? Genealogists have tracked down that a Belle Rose boarded the oceanliner Bermudian headed for the United States just days before Hawley was hunted down for Cora's disappearance in London. It was apparent she moved to Chicago with Bruce Miller in 1910. Ten years later, the 1920 U.S. Census records indicate that Cora's sister, Bertha Mersenger was living with someone by the name of Belle Rose in Brooklyn. It also states that Belle's occupation was a singer. Interesting isn't it? What a horrible person Cora was for allowing him to die for a murder he didn't commit.

In a letter Hawley Crippen wrote to his beloved mistress Ethel LeNeave he stated that he knew one day the truth of his innocence would be made public to the world, thus clearing his name of such a heinous accusation of murder. Although its was sad that an innocent man died due to corruption and lies, I am glad to see that Dr. Crippen finally received redemption by the recent forensic evidence clearing his name.

J'aime Rubio (Copyright) 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Radium Girls & Undark- A Deadly Combination

When I first heard about this story, it shocked me. I was watching a television program called "1000 ways to die," when they had a brief segment about the 'Radium Girls.' Immediately I began to be intrigued by the story that was told. After the short segment was over, I decided to do some more research of my own about this sad and tragic story.

In the 1920's a company known as US Radium Corp. (formerly Radium Luminous Material Corporation) hired 4000 workers, mainly women in their Orange, New Jersey facility. The starting pay was $18.75 per week, which was higher than the median wage of that time, $15.00 per week. The owner of US Radium Corp. had acquired radium salt crystals from William J. Hammer, who had originally bought the crystals from Scientists Pierre & Marie Curie.

When the crystals were mixed with zinc sulfide and glue it turned into a luminous paint, which they named 'Undark' due to the glow-in-the-dark properties. The paint was then used for the surface dails of wristwatches made for WWI infantry men to be able to read their watches in the dark. The luminous paint would make any surface it touched glow in the dark.

Although US Radium Corp. knew the dangers to that sort of exposure of radioactive materials, they assured their workers that the paint was harmless. In fact, the young women who were hired to paint the dials on the wristwatches were even told to lick the ends of the camel hair paint brushes each stroke in order to keep the shape of the brush pointed. These young ladies had no idea they were slowly poisoning themselves. The paint had no smell and no flavor. The women were told that it was harmless materials so they never gave it a second thought. After time the women began to paint their nails with it and even paint their lips with it, because it glowed in the dark, making it fun while they were working. All the while, their bosses never said anything about their safety. In fact, some of the managers even encouraged the girls to paint themselves with it, saying it would give them a beautiful glow.

Some women began taking small amounts of the Undark paint home to paint their bodies and share it with their husbands or boyfriends for fun. Little did they know that all the paint was being absorbed into their bodies, slowly building up over time. You see, the Undark paint's chemical makeup was not unlike Calcium in the fact that the body mistook it as Calcium thus it was absorbed into the women's bones. After so long with the radioactive materials being absorbed regularly into their bodies, they developed bone cancers and their bones started deteriorating abnormally.

I've read about reported cases of Irene Rudolph, Katherine Shaub and Grace Fryer. These are just a handful of the many girls who suffered from this terrible poisoning. So many suffered from anemia, bone fractures, bone loss, necrosis of the jaw and bone cancers. Grace Fryer, went to the dentist because her teeth began to fall out. The dentist found small holes in her jaw, like honeycomb patterns showing serious bone loss and deterioration of the entire jaw.

Meanwhile, several other dentists were noticing that too many cases in the area were similar to that of Grace's. When Grace saw a so-called 'Specialist', Frederick Flyn from Columbia University, he told her that she was perfectly normal. Later on it was discovered that Mr. Flyn was a toxicologist working for US Radium Corp. It was obvious he was paid off to lie to that poor girl.

As time went on more and more girls were affected, and more and more girls started to die. Doctor's couldn't figure out what was causing their deaths and so they blamed the deaths on STD's such as Syphilis, which ruined the girls' reputations even in death.

After there was some media attention to US Radium Corp, the company hired Cecil Drinker to investigate the employment conditions at their facility. Cecil's findings showed the truth, that there was highly unsafe conditions for these girls and that serious changes needed to be made to remedy the situation.

So did US Radium Corp. take into consideration Mr. Drinker's findings? Absolutely not. In fact, they re-wrote his report and tried to pass it off as Mr. Drinker's original file. Everything that Mr. Drinker had found and noted, they erased and instead put praises of how great and safe the facility was. US Radium Corp. then turned the false file to the New Jersey Department of Labor.

Eventually Mr. Drinker caught on to the lies that US Radium Corp. forged in his name and he published a copy of his original findings. That brought even more media attention to US Radium Corp. exposing them as liars and frauds.

In 1927, the Class Action Suit against US Radium Corp. was on its way. Sadly, the women were dying so fast that it was stated that they were "too weak to even raise their hands to take the oath" in court. Word got to Marie Curie, the Scientist who had originally sold the radium crystals. She felt so badly for the girls and vowed that she would help in any way she could. She also quoted her scientific findings, " There is no means of destroying the substance once it enters the body". A few years later, Marie Curie died of the same radiation poisoning due to her exposure to radioactive materials.

US Radium Corp. was planning to drag the court case as long as they could, hoping the girls would die off before they could ever make it to trial. But, at the last minute they reached a settlement agreement due to an emergency mediation hearing prompted by the girls' Attorney.

Each girl would receive $10,000, all medical and legal fees would be paid and they would receive compensation in the amount of $600.00 every year for as long as they lived. As you can imagine, most of those girls never got to see their compensation money due to passing away soon after the trial.

Sadly, there is no happy ending for these women as they all eventually died from their exposure to those radioactive materials. However, their victory in the media influenced US Industrial Safety Standards that all employers are bound by today. They also established rights for workers to sue their employers if they contract occupational diseases or injuries while on the job.

Yes, US Radium Corp. was an evil, money-hungry company who did what they wanted, and tried to shut up anyone in their way, but in the end they were shut up. Its just sad that it took so many young women's lives in order to do it. I have to sit here today and thank the Radium Girls for their part in history, and for making the workplace safer for us today.

Thank you ladies.

J'aime Rubio (Copyright) 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Who Was Anna Corbin? One Of The Stories Behind The Preston School of Industry

Photo by: J'aime Rubio

There have been many sites that speak of Anna Corbin, yet no one had revealed anything about her life prior to her death. You see, when I heard about the untimely death of Mrs. Anna Corbin at Preston Castle, I noticed one thing, no one could really say who she was or what her life was like. It’s almost as if the ghost stories took on a life of their own and for some apparent reason people seemed to be far more interested in what happened after her death, rather than what happened before her death.

Anna’s Earlier Years

Anna Corbin was born on January 16, 1898 in Kansas as Anna Laura Lawton. She was the daughter of Etta Edna Little (1865-1945) and Wilber Austin Lawton (1857-1936) of Americus, Kansas. Her parents were farmers, although Wilber had been a banker, postmaster, politician, Justice of the Peace, under-Sherrif, and member of the School Board during his lifetime. (See Anna's Family Genealogy Notes). As a child Anna went with her older sister Loverna to live with their aunt and uncle in order to attend school in Emporia, Kansas.

After graduating from Emporia High School, Anna met and married Robert Travis Corbin in 1918. A year later a son, Harold Jay Corbin was born in 1919. Since Robert T. Corbin was a Truck Driver it seemed to have made them move around quite a bit. They moved to Colorado where their daughter Avis M. Corbin was born in 1924.  The US Census Records for 1930 lists that the Corbin's were living in Whittier, California (East Los Angeles). The records also show Robert as being 34 years old, Anna 32, Harold 11, and Avis 6. Sometime around 1935, they relocated up to Ione, California, where Robert became a group supervisor at the Preston School of Industry, while Anna became a housekeeper.  In 1941, Harold Jay Corbin was listed on a draft register card during WWII. Sadly, in 1943 Harold Jay Corbin, only 24 years old, was killed in action during the war. His name is featured as one of the first Amador County residents who were killed in action while serving in the military on the recently made War Veterans Memorial in Ione. He was stationed out of Presidio of Monterey, Army Air Force (2LT # 0-666635). Buried March 14, 1950 at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.  The Social Security Death Index records indicate that her husband, Robert Corbin, died on May 29,1947 at the Veterans Home of California in Napa, California. He is buried at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento.

Let’s try to step into Anna’s shoes for a moment, shall we? Now imagine you are a middle aged woman, a wife and mother,  and both your son and husband had died. Anna's parents had died as well years prior. Now how would you feel inside? Think about it. There she was, the only parent left for her newly married daughter, Avis. How do you think she felt? Now imagine it is 1950, and here she was not only grieving for two of the most important men in her life but she also had to work full time as a head housekeeper as her only means of support.

Think about this also, her son Harold died in 1943, and yet the US Air Force had not brought his body back to be buried until 1950. His internment was March 14, 1950 a whole month after Anna’s death. So in her lifetime she was never able to visit her son’s grave or know exactly what happened to his body in order to find closure. That must have been agonizing to say the least. I am a mother and I know for a fact losing a child, at any age would be devastating. No doubt she was worn out about life, although many say it didn’t stop her from being a loving and nurturing person. Anna was considered as a second mother to many of the inmates at Preston.

“When I said she was a mother to the boys, I meant just that. She did a great deal to rehabilitate many of the inmates and was one of the greatest contributors to the fact that many of the youths who leave here never again wind up being police problems.”  -- Quote from Superintendent Chandler, Stockton Record. (2/24/1950)

 Another tidbit to add, Anna DID NOT live in an apartment at Preston,  as so many reports and television shows claim. In fact, the newspapers at the time wrote that Mrs. Corbin lived in a five-room home on Marquette Street in Ione. Well, anyone who knows Ione knows that there is no Marquette St. However, there is a Market Street and a Marlette either street is a possible choice. I have yet to learn the exact address of Anna's former home, but I hope to share this information with the public as soon as it becomes available.

The Day Of The Murder

It was Thursday- February 23, 1950. Many say that just before a staff meeting held by the Superintendent Robert V. Chandler, a ward discovered the body and notified the staff of the grisly finding. According to the Amador Ledger, dated February 24, 1950, it stated that a fellow staff member Lillian McDowell was the one who found Anna.

Many online sites that speak of Anna Corbin's death start to contradict themselves about this point. Some say she was killed in the kitchen, some say she was killed in a room in the basement, known as the “mattress room”. Some say she was stuffed in a cupboard while some say she was left on the floor.**

** (One note to add, I am posting what all the newspapers claimed at the time, it doesn't mean each account is accurate. As you will read on in this article, you will see that Anna was  found in a room in the basement, as other archives, witness accounts and official reports confirm).

c/o Oakland Tribune 2/24/50
According to the Amador Ledger's article (2/24/1950) it states that Anna was found several hours after her death in a store room, wrapped in a rug and she had been beaten severely on the head and body with a rope wrapped around her neck. What people always leave out in their stories is the fact that the room Anna was found in was locked and the staff member had to unlock the door to access the room in which Anna's body was found. It was also mentioned in the paper that Director of the California Youth Authority Program, Karl Holton stated that not only the inmates would be investigated but also the staff.

Another newspaper article that confirms this (Oakland Tribune dated February 24, 1950) also states,  housekeeper Lillian Lee McDowell and her helper-inmate Robert Hall both noticed a trail of  blood from Anna's office leading into the school store room and into a padlocked closet where Lillian unlocked it to discover Anna's bludgeoned body.

The Head Gardener at Preston, Jeff Machado seemed to be the last person to see her alive as he claimed to have brought her the acacia blossoms around 9:30 a.m. Anna's body was discovered around 1:30-2 pm. Another housekeeper, Elizabeth Goodman stated that around 10:23 am she came into Anna's office and left an apple on her desk. That apple was still there upon the discovery of Anna's body.

According to Lillian McDowell, after seeing the blood trail leading to the store room from the supply room,she and her helper Robert Hall noticed that a ladder was overturned, mop buckets were tossed around and rugs covered in blood along with a pool of blood on the floor. The Coroner stated that she had been dead for at least 3-4 hours when her body was discovered. That meant she died between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. that morning. Another thing I want to point out is that according to other archives, the boy who found Anna's body,  Robert Hall gave a statement that Anna was actually found behind rolls of carpet in the storage room, not a closet, but a padlocked room that was 16 x 35 feet in size in the basement.

A source of mine revealed to me that another ward that was at Preston during that time that Anna was murdered, came to Preston as an adult and spoke about his memory of the event saying that he actually saw Anna's body in the basement, in the larger room when investigators had just got to the scene, which corroborates Hall's statement.  Another employee of Preston who has been interviewed also made a statement that Anna was found in a larger room and not a closet.  No matter where people want to claim she was found, an exact location is left for us only to speculate, one thing is for sure, we know that Anna was found in the basement, covered by carpet.

UPDATE: 6/24/2015-"So after speaking with John Lafferty yesterday, and after discussing the murder of Anna Corbin, we both have agreed that Anna Corbin’s body was found in the basement, but not where most people think. We believe she was found in the room where the disinfecting pool was. – This information corroborates the statements from Lillian McDowall & Robert Hall who found Anna’s body. They claimed the room she was found in was 16 x 35 feet in size (another news account said 10 x 17 foot room).  I always knew she wasn't found in the cubby hole that has been told over and over for years, and thankfully combined with that information and the evidence John Lafferty has now found, which was the record of a witness statement claiming her body was found in the room with the pool that was boarded over, we finally know the exact location of where Anna was discovered.--- I am glad this part of the mystery is finally put to rest. Thank you Mr. Lafferty for confirming a theory I had always suspected. ---- Rest In Peace Anna--" J'aime Rubio, Author. 


Initially the Superintendent, along with Sheriff  George Lucot and other investigators singled out the 22 wards on "housekeeping detail" before questioning other wards there who had been convicted of assault and sexual crimes. After those groups were questioned, they detained all wards to their rooms to further question and investigate each one. Superintendent Chandler made it very clear that everyone was a suspect, even staff and that they would be investigating thoroughly. Out of the 657 wards questioned only one was charged, Eugene Monroe. He was a 19 year old African-American inmate who was from Southern California.

What many don't realize is that Monroe was the chief suspect in a murder of a 17 year-old girl, Vesta Belle Sapenter in Southern California in 1947. The details of Vesta's murder were eerily “similar” to the details of Anna’s murder, as noted in my book, "Behind The Walls". But as I state in my book, due to lack of sufficient evidence, the authorities couldn't hold him on murder charges. How Monroe ended up in Preston was for a separate conviction of burglary charges.

One inmate William J. Mercer, who basically ruined his own reputation on the witness stand in the preliminary hearing, claimed he and Eugene were having a secretive homosexual relationship and that during a time when they were engaging in a sex act that Anna had walked in and witnessed them. He claimed that it infuriated Eugene and he said he was going to kill her for that.

Monroe's attorney tried to throw out any testimony of Mercer's at the trial due to the fact Mercer recanted his statement, and then during the trial he claimed that the entire story was in fact true, but that Monroe's attorney, Nathaniel S. Colley had threatened his life when he visited him at the Amador County Jail and told him that if he didn't take back his story that he would make sure Monroe's friends took care of him after he was released.  Despite his fear of retaliation, Mercer testified in the trial and aired out the whole story, stating that his initial statements were true, including his claims that the defense tried to intimidate and threaten the prosecution's main witness.

Everyone, including the inmates were shocked and infuriated that Anna had been killed. Inmates were even reported to have told the staff that if the assailant was found within Preston, that they better hire more guards because the inmates may "take the law into their own hands" in order to avenge the death of their beloved Housekeeper and motherly friend, Anna Corbin. Both Monroe and Mercer were too afraid to go back to Preston, so both were held at the Amador County Jail during the trials. 

I find it rather suspicious that after the three trials, two of which were ended in hung juries, and the third a final acquittal, that one year later in 1951 Eugene was convicted and confessed to the murder and rape of a pregnant woman, Mrs. Dorothy Waldrop in Tulsa, OK. He was sentenced to life in prison but only did 29 years.

TO READ MORE ABOUT EUGENE MONROE:  "Was Eugene Monroe A Serial Killer?" 

Sheriff Lucot with  a rope

The fact that Karl Holton's statement that not only the inmates but the staff were going to be investigated can make people think twice about this story. If you do research you will find that there had been several unexplained deaths of the wards at Preston. Some even say that the guards themselves were strict enforcers and even overly so, however if you read my book "Behind The Walls" you will come to the conclusion, as I have, that it was not a staff member who committed the crime.

Sheriff Lucot and other investigators searched the evidence to try and find any clue as to who could have committed this horrible crime.They even called in a fingerprint specialist to go through the room dusting for the killer's prints. Investigators also noticed that the killer used the rugs in the store room to mop up some of the blood on the floor to cover their tracks.

(see photo to the right: Sheriff Lucot holding a rope similar to the one used to strangle Anna Corbin, bottom: Lucot looking over the bloodstained rug in room where Anna's body was discovered)

Sheriff Lucot investigating


According to the Oakland Tribune (2/24/1950, page 25) it states that Anna's keys were found on a desk along with a vase of acacia branches and blossoms without water. The Superintendent explained that he believed she was starting to arrange a bouquet of flowers in a room right off of her office, before she was killed and didn't even have time to put water in the vase.

Regarding Anna's keys being left on the desk,  the Superintendent went on to say that it was a "Cardinal Offense" to leave your keys lying around and that Anna would NEVER in all the years she had worked there, have left her keys out on the desk that way intentionally.

The day before Anna was killed she appeared in the "Community Fashion Show" in Ione, as one of the models on the cat walk. She was a cheerful and happy person who tried to make the best of her situation. It was obvious by the archives and the way the inmates spoke of her that she was well liked within the community inside and outside of Preston.

This terrible tragedy was not only a horrific story but also a sad tale for all who knew her and loved her, including many of the inmates. To this day I have spoken to several people who worked at Preston and some who served time at Preston (the "Castle" and the newer school), and nearly every one states how sad they were that an innocent woman died on those premises.

Even after her death, her motherly reputation lived on through word of mouth over the generations of inmates coming in and out of that place. Despite the fact that evidence pointed to Eugene Monroe being her murderer, Corbin's murder is still considered to be an unsolved "cold case." Anna's body was taken to Daneri Mortuary in Jackson for her viewing and later was buried at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento (CLICK HERE TO VISIT ONLINE GRAVE). Anna was survived by her only daughter and last surviving child, Avis Corbin Barone of Sacramento.

Anna Corbin 



To read: When Two Similar Stories Collide- Anna Corbin & Bessie Lewis, click here.


UPDATE: Thank you to Scott Thomas Anderson for briefly mentioning this article and blog in his article published in the Sierra Lodestar Newspaper JULY 18-24, 2012

All the content that is published on this site under my profile DREAMING CASUALLY © is my property and is protected by all applicable Copyright Laws. No part of my work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from me, the publisher/author J'aime Rubio.

Amador Ledger Archives. - Feb. 24, 1950
Oakland Tribune Archives, -Feb 24, 1950 
Stockton Record- Feb 24, 1950
other various archived newspapers
US. Census Records
US Military Enlistment Records
Amador County Records
The Crisis (Magazine) June, 1950

Top Photo of Anna Corbin's grave in the cemetery is property of J'aime Rubio. 
Newspaper photos of Anna and Sheriff Lucot from Oakland Tribune (2/24/50)
Photo of Anna Corbin  on bottom to the right - I took a photo of a photo, although I restored my copy and saved it in a Sepia tone.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sacramento Mystery: Hart Mansion Secrets

One day when I was visiting downtown Sacramento I drove down a quiet street to admire the historical homes that were built in the "Merchant Row" of H Street. On the corner of 22 Street and H Street there sat a very stately mansion that stood out like a sore thumb. Now I could see how someone could mistake the old appearance as having a bit dark, almost Gothic style to it. But you have to remember that this house was built in 1907 and was probably one of the first, if not the first house built on that street.

I came back home with thoughts swirling in my mind about the house. I knew there had to be some sort of story behind its doors, good or bad. It was then that I wanted to know the history behind the house. I stumbled across websites mentioning 2131 H Street as The Martinez Home. Many sites claim that its haunted, and go on to state ridiculous rants that the original owner was a mad doctor who performed experiments on people and tortured them in his basement and even some claimed that he murdered his wife and that no one could prove it.

There were other claims of people having taken pictures of the house and seeing orbs and blue smoke coming from within the photograph. Even some others commented on paranormal websites stating that they had toured the home and witnessed apparitions of a Asian man and two children roaming the halls of the upstairs part of the house.

There were myths that the family patriarch suffered from a mental disorder and murdered his entire family. Others claimed that the 'unidentified' Martinez family lived in the house in 1973 and that the entire family witnessed ghostly apparitions and objects being thrown across the room or glasses breaking in the middle of the night. Some people claim to have seen a ghostly dog peering out of the upstairs window. Even one person mentioned that if you Google the address that Google maps photo of the house shows ghosts sitting on the front porch.

Yes, these Urban Legends are good for scaring and telling creepy stories to freak people out but really there are no facts to any of these stories and I am here to debunk all the myths you may have heard or read about this beautiful home.

I am a history fanatic, you could say. If there was a story to tell here I most certainly would have found one. I have dug through archives and books about the history of Sacramento and found nothing that would substantiate any claims of murder, torture, medical experiments or even one single death at that residence.

Uncovering the Truth- Debunking the Rumors-
Why do people call it The Martinez Home?

First and foremost, the home was never under the ownership or residence of any family with the name Martinez. In fact, I was fortunate enough to have spoken with the current owner of this beautiful home and he explained that the only possible conclusion as to how that rumor came to be is that when the house was on the market for a short time in 2002 there had been a family who had a "walk through" of the home to look inside, nothing more. He could not recall whether they were the Martinez's or not but he stated for a fact that the home has only had two owners since being built, Dr. Aden C. Hart and then his Grandparents who bought the home in 1942.

Who Actually Built The House?

In 1907 an Architect known as Alden Campbell designed the house for Dr. Aden C. Hart and his wife Alice. Hart was a founder of Sutter Hospital and the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement. He was elected an honorary member of the American College of Surgeons and often traveled to study advanced medicine at both The Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins.

Dr. Hart and his wife lived in the home from 1907 until his retirement in 1942 when the property was sold to the Amaruso family. Dr. Hart and his wife then moved to San Francisco to live out the remainder of their lives together along with their family. The house has remained within the Amaruso family for nearly 68 years.

Why Was The Architecture So Dark?

Alden Campbell designed the house specifically according to Dr. Hart's taste. There is no doubt in my mind that the fact that Dr. Hart was a member of the Union Lodge of Masons, The Sacramento Commandery Knights Templar, Temple of the Shrine and Sacramento Chapter Royal Arch Masons played a role in where the masculine and almost Gothic influence came from.

Did Anyone Die In The House?

Sorry to disappoint you but the answer is no. Dr. Hart and his wife passed away in their late eighties in San Francisco. There is no record of them having children, however Dr. Hart's obituary reads that Mrs. Hart and her grandson Lloyd F. Chase Jr. were the last surviving relatives. It also states that his step-son was Lloyd F. Chase Sr. meaning that Mrs. Hart must have been married previously and gave birth to a son. Sometime later she married Dr. Hart. There are no records of them having any biological children together.

According to Peter Amaruso (the current owner) he stated to me personally that no one in his family has ever passed away at the home.

Is The House Haunted?

The house is old, there is no doubt about that. The house has a bit of a creepy vibe to it some people say. But is it haunted? No. There is no reason why it would be. Two families lived their lives together in that home that was built over 100 years ago. The first family lived there for 35 years until Dr. Hart decided to retire and move to the Bay area, possibly where his step son was since his grandson was said to have been from Palo Alto. The Amoruso family has had this home for 68 years and it doesn't seem as if they are planning to sell it any time soon. It makes no sense to conclude that any evil presence inhabits that home.

Why Do People Keep Creating Stories About The House That Are Untrue?

Personally I think people just want to believe in something scary and unreal. But I think it is shameful for people to create such slanderous stories about a man who contributed so much to the medical field and to the community of Sacramento, especially when there has never been any sort of evidence to prove any one of the ghost stories. Dr. Hart, a man who worked so hard to make a good impression on his patients and yet in death he is unable to defend himself against ridiculous accusations that seem as far fetched a horror movie plot. I even read a article where someone claimed that the home was similar to a house in the Harry Potter Movies.

This house is a part of Sacramento history. And the lives of the people who lived in that home are a part of history as well. It is wrong to start these urban legends about people who do not have the ability to set the record straight.

What Does the Owner Think?

I spoke with the current owner of the home, and frankly he is tired of everyone making up stories about the house as well. He was one of the nicest people I had ever met and remember that he didn't have to speak with me, but he did. I was intruding on his space, and yet he was so kind and willing to answer my questions. I know he could feel in his heart that I was searching for the truth, not far fetched paranormal fantasies that others bother him with. I wanted to show the history of this house and to reveal that there is no ghosts, no deaths, no murderous plots, no tortured souls in the basement, or ghost dogs peering out windows. The orbs people see, just dust (it is a old house you know).

Bottom line is that this house was special, to the Hart family and the Amoruso's. This is their family home, a place where they have happy memories. A place they called HOME. Remember that next time you hear a story such as this one and think about the real history not the lies. Although its easier to believe the bad things you hear, sometimes the good stuff is the real truth.

* I want to thank Peter Amoruso for being kind enough to speak with me about this subject and allow me to photograph the home.


Some of my sources:
Sacramento Boulevard Park, Don Cox.
Sacramento Bee Archives

Peter Amoruso