Thursday, July 26, 2012

Deadly Game Leads To Murder- Another Preston Castle Mystery

Billy Forester and Paul Daedler

It was December 5, 1923, in the suburbs of Pasadena, California.  Two boys set out onto S. Raymond Avenue that day on a mission to play in an old abandoned building at 950 S. Raymond Ave. One of the boys had brought their father's loaded .22 pistol. It was never clarified who instigated the act of actually shooting the weapon for fun, but both boys ended up doing it. This was to be the start of a deadly game, that led to the murder of one Arturo (Arthur) Martinez, 5.

Many newspaper headlines write that the boys were both 14 yrs. old at the time of the murder but that is not correct. Paul Daedler was 14 yrs. old, having been born Nov. 3, 1909. William "Billy" Forester on the other hand, was actually 12 yrs. old, being that the Census records for 1920 show he was born in 1911. The two boys met while attending the Monroe School for Subnormal Children in Pasadena.

The Day of The Murder

According to the boys confession, they had come to the abandoned building to play with the loaded gun that they had taken from one of their homes. Apparently, five year old Arturo Martinez had crawled through a window into the building to follow the boys. Arturo was a playmate of the boys when they had no other kids to play with.  Arturo jumped into a dug up section in the ground and according to Billy, Paul had seen Arturo within his shooting range and started shooting at him like he was shooting at a scared rabbit in a hole. Arturo then began squealing and screaming, so to shut him up the boys threw bricks at his head until they knocked him out.

Arturo had been shot twice in the head, once in the back, plus the bricks had also injured him in the head profusely.  Paul was afraid that the boy would run back to his mother to tell on them so he went and got some wire and tied one end around Arturo's neck and Billy tied the other end to his feet. Then they fastened the little boy to a post and shut the door to the building tight.

They left poor little Arturo there, bleeding to death all night long. The next day, the boys returned to see if he was still alive, but he was not.  They later went to the police and claimed they had found Arturo's body in the building that way. According to the papers, after a long interview with the Chief of Police they confessed to the crime. Paul had claimed he was worried he would hang for this crime, while Billy was only worried about going to jail. That tells you about their conscience's or lack thereof.

Who Were Paul Daedler And Billy Forester?

Paul was the son of Louis O. Daedler and Pauline Daedler of Beloit, Wisconsin. Apparently the Daedler's moved around a lot. Paul's father came from Sibley, Minnesota and later married his wife Pauline in Wisconsin. They later settled in Rockford City, Winnebago, Illinois (as the 1920 Census records show).
For whatever reason, the Daedlers moved to Pasadena for a short period of time, but long enough to have their name become infamously attached to one of Pasadena's grisliest  murders.

Paul attended school in Pasadena which was labeled for "Subnormal Children." I had to figure out what this meant so I looked into it. According to Webster's Dictionary it reads:

Subnormal : 
1.  lower or smaller than normal 
2 having less of something and especially of intelligence than is normal

Looking further into it, I found that this school was for children who were below the normal IQ levels that were considered "normal." Any IQ score below 70 was considered "subnormal."

It was easy to assume that perhaps due to both Paul and Billy's history of juvenile delinquency ( as they were both on probation at the time), that the State would automatically assume they were dumb, imbeciles or even slow.  This wouldn't surprise me at all if they were labeled that after having been put on probation, since the State at the time was very ignorant about mental state of mind in minors and assumed that if you broke the law or were incorrigible that you automatically were stupid or a moron.  I am not saying these boys didn't have some sort of mental problem as this is a heinous crime and its obvious there were issues here, but I don't believe they were stupid.

Billy was the son of William Forester and Margaret Forester of Pasadena. According to some newspaper articles he had been adopted, there is no way to know this for sure as I could not locate any records. It is possible he was adopted, perhaps as a baby, but then he was named after his father so it makes me wonder.

Their Day At Court

When the court day came around, Paul's family had him all "lawyer'd up."  His parents, friends, family and several others including his pastor and school teacher were there to be a witness for him. Although Paul had signed two confessions, they decided to change their story and he claimed he had never been there and that his pastor could vouch for him that he was at church at the time of the murder. The pastor of Paul's church claimed that Paul had been in class, however, his schoolteacher, said that she had not seen him after 2pm on the day of the murder. Billy only had his mother show up for his court hearing. His parents did not pay for a lawyer and no one testified on his behalf.

The Judge ruled that Billy would be sent to the Preston School of Industry to await trial, while Paul was sent to the Whittier School. 

Cover-Up? Pay Off? Threat?

According to records, not one month after Billy had been sent to Preston (PSI) he had withdrawn his earlier confession and submitted to the court a new full confession that he alone was to blame for the murder of Arturo Martinez.  In his confession he states:
 "I pulled the gun and shot him.  Then I though I would put the blame on someone else, so I shot him two more times.  I happened to think that whenever Paul Daedler got mad, he always threw bricks, so I decided to throw bricks at Arthur so it would appear that Paul hit him."

Speculation and rumors spread when word got out that a person who had an "interest" in Paul Daedler's case came all the way up to Preston to see Billy and convinced (or possibly threatened) him to take the blame for it all.

Okay, so let's really think about this for a moment.  Forget the crime for just one second, let's think of these two boys. Paul was connected, he had money, his family had the finances to afford attorney's and get his pastor to even testify that Paul wasn't even there that day, even though Paul himself admitted he was there and he did shoot Arturo.  Then there was Billy, he was younger than Paul by two years  and didn't have the upbringing that Paul did. Would it be hard to believe that he could have been fearful of his life or his mother's life so he took the blame? I think its possible.  Could he have been paid off to admit the the murder and possibly get some sort of plea bargain deal? Absolutely! 

What I find rather interesting though is that after Billy confessed to the entire crime, he only spent a little over a year and was paroled from Preston in November of 1925 and he vanished without a trace. I researched for him through every record and Census and there was never a trace of this man that I could locate. I did find his parents in following Census records, but never one with Billy on it. He literally disappeared.

What then happened to Paul? Well, after serving for 17 months at the Whittier School, he was released to the court who then ordered that he leave the State of California and never return (does that sound like someone paid off that Judge or what?)

Paul's father Louis Daedler then moved the entire Daedler family back to Rockford City, Illinois.  By 1927,  Paul had found his way back to California and in front of a judge facing the charge of vagrancy. He was then ordered to be sent up to Preston School of Industry where he remained until the end of his "vagrancy" sentence.  Paul later lived out the rest of his life in Los Angeles and died in 1981.


This story tugged at my heart from the beginning of my research for it. It pangs me to know that these two boys, whether one peer pressured the other to do it, or they both had equal share in the crime- they both killed an innocent baby. Arturo was only five years old.  Arturo was the son of a Pasadena gardener, Salvador Martinez. No one ever wrote about who little Arturo was, who his family were or how devastated they were after their baby was killed. All the stories speak of Billy and Paul, but never of Arturo and what this little boy was like. What were his dreams? What was his favorite toy? Favorite color? Favorite song? He was a baby, so young and his memory has been lost within the archives.

No photos were printed of this poor child, but there were plenty photos of Billy and Paul. I wanted to write this story about what happened to little Arturo to give his family the honor and respect that they so deserve. To give Arturo the respect and honor he deserved. He was born around the same time as my grandfather, and look at the life he could have had. All the years he could have enjoyed and the family he could have grown up to have, the person he could have grown up to be. All lost because of two mischievous boys playing with a loaded gun.

Why didn't those boys serve longer sentences? Was the Judge paid off to let them off easy? What happened to Billy after he was released from Preston?

So many unanswered questions, that I hope to one day uncover.

J'aime Rubio (Copyright) 7/26/2012  Republished 3/28/2018 

Evening Independent
Los Angeles Times


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