I originally wrote about Anna Corbin’s story on my blog “Dreaming Casually” way back between 2009-2011. My blog gained a lot of attention from that one post, and later on I added a chapter to my first book, “Behind The Walls” specifically delving into Anna’s life and death. The book came out in 2012, and since then I have uncovered even more information about Anna, her life, and of course her tragic death. I have wished to elaborate more about her story in a more in-depth way over the years, and I have tried to on my blog, but I felt it was best suited to add this new chapter in this book.
Thanks to permissions granted to me by Anna’s great-granddaughter Lily, I can share with you Anna’s life like no one else could but her own family. Along with sharing Anna’s life story, I ask everyone reading this chapter to always respect Anna’s memory and not get all caught up in the hype that has been circulating around her name when it comes to the paranormal television shows that have been featuring Preston Castle. The television programs that have covered her story in the past did not research or even know Anna’s real story; her life or death. They didn’t even tell the story of her death correctly either, and so, today I want to share the accurate and more detailed narrative of what is recorded about her life so she can be remembered and never be one of the forgotten ever again.
When I first wrote about Anna and published her story in my first book, I had only so much information on her backstory at that time such as: genealogical records, birth and death records, marriage certificates, census records and what not. Over the years I have found so much more life hidden between each gap in time. I remember once reading the quote: “Your life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash.” In reality, that is true.Over all the years that I have been researching and writing about history and people of the past, I first start out finding the two dates, but it’s the information within the “dash” that is most exciting to uncover. Anna did not disappoint in my quest to find out the details of her life.
Years ago, I was contacted by her great-granddaughter Lily, who had read my blog about her great-grandmother. She was so kind and genuine since our first contact. I can honestly say that we have been friends ever since. That is why it is so important to me to tell Anna’s story accurately, but most importantly with respect. Anna is a real person to me, not a ghost story. I think of her as I do my own grandmother and treat her life with the same care and concern as I would my own family history.
For starters, as I originally stated in my blog and book, Anna was born on January 16, 1898, on a little farm known simply as Bon Air, located in Americus, Kansas. Her parents were Etta Edna Little (1865-1945) and Wilber Austin Lawton (1857-1936). Anna’s father was a farmer who had also been a banker, postmaster, politician, Justice of the Peace, Under-Sheriff and member of the school board during his lifetime.
There is not a lot of information about why Anna left her parent’s home at a fairly young age to be brought up with an aunt and uncle, but records I have discovered showed that shortly after Anna was born, her mother was hospitalized. I do not believe Etta ever returned home to her family, for whatever reason that was. And out of respect for the family, I will leave Etta’s story alone. Some family stories are just meant to be kept tight to the vest. After all, not all business is our business! Since Anna’s father was unable to care for his youngest two daughters, Loverna and Anna, they were shipped off to live with relatives in nearby Emporia.
Originally, given the genealogical records and notes I had uncovered, I believed Anna grew up with her sister, Loverna, in the same household. I have since found out, through Anna’s great-granddaughter who has provided me with Anna’s own personal family records (written in Anna’s own handwriting), there’s a bit of a different story. Anna was adopted by her aunt Hattie and uncle Christie McColm, while Loverna was raised with another set of relatives still nearby in Emporia. They still grew up together, just in separate households.
The 1910 Census shows Anna at the age of 12, living with her relatives, Christie & Hattie McColm, as well as their son, Theodore, and Christie’s two spinster sisters, Allie and Ollie. They had legally adopted her by that point because her name was now McColm, not Lawton. According to another family paper provided to me by Lily, Anna’s aunt Hattie had passed away when she was very young, and her other two aunts, Allie and Ollie, were left to care for her until she reached the age to marry. Anna was very close to her cousin Theodore. She recalled how he would take her to baseball games and parties when they were both in school.
By the time Anna graduated from Emporia High School , she quickly enrolled at a Teacher’s College, where she even had a chance to teach for awhile. It was around that time she met and married Robert Travis Corbin on April 7, 1918. The young couple wanted to make their own start in life, and soon after their first child was born, Harold Jay Corbin on February 24, 1919, they sought out new adventure out of state where Robert had found a homestead. Family records indicate they had moved to New Mexico at some point, while birth records note that their youngest child, Avis, was born on April 3, 1924 in La Junta, Colorado.
By the 1930’s, the Corbin’s had moved to Whittier, California and owned their own home at 713 S. Bright Ave, which was near Whittier Blvd. Unfortunately, today a parking lot sits on top of the sight of the Corbin’s old neighborhood. According to family papers, Anna opened a “Dairy Queen place.” I imagine if it wasn’t a franchise owned Dairy Queen, it was more or less a Mom & Pop drive-in ice cream spot, and it was said to have done well. The Census records for 1930 show Robert working as a truck driver and Anna being at home, so I believe the ice cream shop happened after 1930. Besides her entrepreneurial spirit, Anna was also an artist who enjoyed painting as well as keeping journals of her thoughts and memories.
It was sometime after 1935 that the family relocated to Ione, California when Robert took on the job as Group Supervisor at the Preston School of Industry. Anna was hired soon after as a housekeeper there as well. By 1941, their son Harold enlisted in the Air Force, while Robert remained at home. Although Robert was listed on the draft registry, he was not called out to war during WWII.
Prior to shipping out, Harold married his sweetheart, Donna Marie Toole on Christmas Eve at the Army Post Chapel at Avon Park, Florida. Sadly, he would never return home alive, as his plane was shot down over France on September 27, 1943. His body would not be recovered or returned for over 7 years, when finally he was buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California on March 14, 1950.
That same year, 1943, Robert and Anna celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary which made it into the newspapers:
“The Robert Corbin’s Entertain Guests on Wedding Anniversary”— Wednesday evening, April 7, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Corbin held open house from seven to ten of their friends, the occasion being their 25th wedding anniversary. Mrs. Corbin dressed in the wedding gown she wore for the happy occasion 25 years ago, Mr. Corbin greeted the guests and had them sign the guest book, which was their marriage certificate. Mrs. Esther Throssel and Mrs. Ruth Warren presided at the table serving cake and coffee. The dining table was covered with lace cloth, a wedding cake place in the center and tall lighted candles on each side. The cake bore the inscription “Silver Wedding, April 7, 1943, Bob and Anna.” This was cut by the bride and groom of 25 years ago in the traditional style.
During the evening Mrs. Edith Steinmen playing violin and Mrs. Lucy Van Vorst accompanying, softly played music appropriate for the occasion. The honored couple took their marriage vows, 25 years ago in Emporia, Kansas. Anna at that time was a school teacher. Mr. Corbin was in the armed service in World War I, where he served until honorably discharged. They have two children, Lieutenant Harold Corbin of Avon Park, Florida and Mrs. Avis Barone of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Lovely baskets of talisman roses, cala lilies and coral bell decorated the home.”—-
Please stop and take note here that Anna did not live at Preston at any point in time, she always lived in her home in Ione. This contradicts what many television programs or paranormal investigators have tried to claim over the years, but their information is simply incorrect. Anna lived in town, not at the school.
Although Anna had just celebrated a happy occasion in April of 1943, with her son passing away that following September, it must have been a devastating blow to Anna and the entire family. Time went on as it always does, heartaches and all, but there was never any full closure for Anna because Harold’s remains had never been brought back for burial at this point. By May 29,1947, Robert passed away at the Veterans Hospital in Napa, California after suffering from a heart attack. By this time, since Anna’s daughter was married and had moved away, she was all alone.
After these two tragedies, this resilient woman with a heart of gold chose not to wallow in her sorrows but instead put a great deal of focus in her job now as the head housekeeper at Preston, spending time volunteering for her congregation at the Methodist Church in Ione and being good to the boys at Preston. The majority of the boys thought of her as being a motherly influence on them while they were serving their time at the school, which makes the rest of the story all the harder to tell.
Before I get to Anna’s death, I am going to stop right here and share with you what was also happening in the world around the time of Robert’s death. Just about 375 miles to the south, in South Central Los Angeles on July 18, 1947, the body of 17 year old Vesta Sapenter was found in her upstairs bedroom. Vesta was a sweet, smart and kind young lady who was an honor student at Jefferson High School. On July 18, after her friend Benjamin Allen had walked her home from school, she went upstairs and began hanging curtains in her room.
Soon after, a ne’er-do-well young man named Eugene Monroe (aka Jefferson) from the neighborhood came over, asking Vesta’s younger brother Carlisle who was playing outside if he could use their restroom. The newspapers claimed it seemed that he had delivered some sort of furniture to the house. One thing that was not mentioned in the newspaper is that Vesta’s father didn’t like this young man and he had adamantly expressed to his son that he didn’t want him anywhere near the house, and especially not to allow him inside their house. Sadly, Carlisle didn’t obey his father’s request.
Youth Quizzed In L.A. Slaying—
“Monroe, delivering furniture to the Sapenter home, talked to the girl’s younger brother and asked to use the bathroom, according to Coppage. While the brother remained outside, Monroe went upstairs, he said, and came back down. He asked the boy where his sister was and was told, that she was upstairs.
The suspect, according to police, said he had not seen her. The brother and Monroe then re-entered the house and found her bedroom door locked. This was broken down and the body discovered. Coppage declared. The slain girl had been keeping house for her father and brother and was hanging curtains when the murderer entered the room, the police officer declared.
Monroe, who was using his step-father’s last name at the time, was questioned but later released, Coppage said, since there no witnesses to the crime nor could evidence be corroborated. The knot that was tied in a rope around the young girl’s neck was also the same type of knot that was in the rope around Mrs. Corbin’s neck, investigators said. The knot had been pulled up tight behind the left ear in both cases, it was reported. Coppage declared today, “I am certain this boy did the job, but we were just never able to prove it. He was the only one in the house at the time and had ample time to commit the act.”--- (Newspaper Archive clippings)
I had the pleasure of speaking to Vesta’s sister over the telephone two years ago. According to Vesta’s sister, Agnes, her father was positive that Monroe had murdered her sister. She even mentioned that a police officer or detective would come by to check on the family from time to time. The family was very upset that Monroe had not been charged with the crime.
Much to the dismay of the Sapenter family, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Monroe with Vesta’s murder since there were no witnesses except an under age child who let him into the home but didn’t actually witness the murder. So, the District Attorney’s office dropped the ball and did not press charges on Monroe, virtually allowing the case go unsolved .
It is very telling that Vesta’s father had a bad feeling about Monroe from the get-go and he warned his kids not to ever let him inside the house. Perhaps he had seen a look or a glance from Monroe towards his beautiful young daughter and it was enough for him to get the vibe that this boy was up to no good. I am sure the saddest part, besides the death of Vesta, was the fact that her father had to go on remembering he sensed something bad but was unable to prevent it from happening.
I am also certain that the heavy weight of guilt rested upon Carlisle’s shoulders for the remainder of his life for not taking heed of his father’s direction which ultimately cost his sister her life. By 1950, Monroe had been sent up to the Preston School of Industry burglary charges, and soon he would cross paths with Anna Corbin which would prove to be deadly.
Follow along with me as I attempt to retrace the past. By sharing with you this tragic tale, along with additional research I have done over the years, I can to give you a broader spectrum of information in regards to what happened to Anna, and why I believe it had all happened before, and sadly, it would all happen again in Tulsa, Oklahoma only one year later.
According to the Stockton Record dated February 24, 1950, Anna’s body had been found in the afternoon on February 23rd, downstairs in the basement storeroom which was padlocked and adjacent to her office. Over the years, there has been much confusion over where Anna’s office was, and where Anna’s body was discovered. I have tried to clear up any sort of misinformation that has been spread by tour guides at Preston Castle for years.
First things first, Anna was not found in the small “cubby hole” area near the kitchen. Whomever came up with that idea surely didn’t do their research, nor did they know the facts. According to the newspapers of the time Anna was found in a larger room which was being used as a storeroom/supply area at the school.
Anna’s office was the first door to the left as you were entering the basement from the outside of the castle along the east side of the building. The room that was “adjacent” to her office was the room where the plunge bath is located. At the time in 1950, that pool had been long boarded over and so the room was used for storage purposes.
The discovery of Anna’s body was made by Lillian Lee McDowall, a housekeeper, and her ward, Robert Hall who was assigned to housekeeping duties under Ms. McDowall’s charge. It was Hall that discovered blood stains on the door jamb and the floor which led out of Anna’s office and into the locked storeroom.
“There was a lot of blood on the door leading to the storage room. It was locked with a padlock,” explained Hall. After breaking the door down, Anna was found in a corner with a pile of carpeting on top of her. Authorities determined that she was attacked in her office and dragged into the store room. In the beginning it was believed that besides being choked and beaten to death, that she might have been raped as well since her undergarments had been pulled down around her ankles and there was shoe polish marks on them which obviously came from a struggle with someone behind her wearing newly shined shoes. During the trial, Dr. Charles Blumenfeld testified that the autopsy revealed that she had not been sexually assaulted. It appears that Anna had fought off her assailant in that respect.
The cause of death, besides being choked from behind with a hemp cord, was a skull fracture from hitting her head on the concrete floor of the basement. A blood soaked rag was used in an attempt to wipe up the bloody mess, but was left at the scene for investigators to discover. State investigators, Owen Kessel, William White and Ernest Chamberlain were assigned to search all the clothing of the inmates for blood stains.
Eventually, after searching all 657 wards at the school, they did pinpoint their investigation from three possible suspects, down to just one, Eugene Monroe. And blood stains had been found on his shoes and his belt. He tried to make an excuse that he had previously cut himself the day before, and even had one of his friends, Clarence Tilman, later testify that Monroe had lacerated his hand in shoe shop the day before Anna’s killing. Still, this did not explain the fact that he would still have blood on his shoes or belt, especially when other inmates had claimed he had been continuously shining his shoes after the murder. Also, he had no explanation as to why he had thrown some of his clothes into the incinerator, which anyone with common sense would know that it was to cover up the blood stains that he couldn't wash away.
A.E. Riedel, the lie detector expert from Berkeley’s Police Department was called in to perform tests on 400 wards at the school. Sheriff Lucot sat in with each and every session, as one by one, each ward came into an office, was hooked to the lie detector machine and grilled tirelessly searching for answers. Upon Monroe’s questioning, Riedel sad that Monroe’s statements of his activities for the morning of the murder did not coincide with the statements given by other wards who had seen him before or after the slaying. He was one of three youths who were believed to be withholding the truth in some way or another, based on their failed lie detector tests.
Around the same time there were excerpts published from Anna’s own diary and a few letters to her daughter and sister that had been leaked to the press claiming that a few of the boys had made Anna uncomfortable. One ward even went so far as to make sexual advances on Anna.
“I’m rather concerned about the threatening letter from my boy, Robert Hall,” Anna’s diary read. It is interesting to note that Robert Hall was one of the two people who found Anna’s body on the day that she died, but he had an alibi. He was with Lillian Lee McDowall on housekeeping duties in another part of the school.
Another penned writing by Anna, this time in a letter she wrote to her daughter Avis stated:
“We took a sharp-blade knife from each of the two of our house squad boys. Just now one of the same boys asked me what I would do if a boy threatened me with a knife. I just said, ‘I don’t scare easy, Upton.’ “He said, ‘Against a knife you wouldn’t have a chance.’ “However, I didn’t act scared. I guess, for he started talking about other things then…..”
Avis declared “mother told me two boys had tried to make love to her, and that Upton wanted to marry her. Mother told him she was old enough to be his mother.”—-
Not much more was brought up about the other possible suspects, and eventually they were cleared, especially since investigators had felt they found their man. Remember, Monroe had been the chief suspect in Vesta Sapenter’s murder, and the M.O. of both cases were too eerily similar to ignore. We must also remember that Monroe had been assigned to sweeping detail just outside of the castle, and near the back entrance to the basement where Anna was arranging a bouquet of flowers. It would not have been difficult for him to walk 200 feet and sneak into the basement undetected. Monroe remained adamant that he didn’t know about the murder until the afternoon when everyone started talking about it. Riedel again claimed based on his reactions and answers to his questions, there was “every evidence and enough corroborating statements of witnesses to strongly indicate this boy is a murderer.” ---
After more intensive grilling by investigators which proved that Monroe had lied continually, and after having shown his ill-temper when he was being questioned in the Superintendents office, the authorities felt they had their prime suspect in custody. Preston Historian John Lafferty was kind enough to share with me an oral history he transcribed for the Amador County Archives years ago in respect to this case. The following quote was given by Goula Wait, who had been he Executive Secretary at Preston.
“In that office my desk was between the office they used to interview the boy they thought was the guilty one and on the other side was the Superintendent’s office. They kept having these meetings—the sheriff and everybody met over there and I was—I’ll never forget the—um—the psychiatrist that had been assigned to the job would go over there and interview the kid and I could hear the voices through the wall and then I’d hear the boy’s voice rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and rise and it would get up there very high like he was at the edge—you know—and then the psychiatrist came out and he indicated he [Monroe] was right on the edge—something awful happened there. He came around and told them they were right on the edge of getting a confession and Sheriff Lucot was there in the building and he misunderstood or something or something happened and he got up and took the boy—took him out and put him up in the [county] jail.’”—
I spoke with an old-timer years ago, he didn’t want me to disclose his full name, so let’s just call him “Harry.” So it was upon my interview with Harry that I learned some more information about Monroe that I hadn’t heard before. You see, he knew a lot of private details about the case, because he had worked there and he knew people involved in the investigation. According to Harry, Eugene Monroe was known at the school for his violent temper and when in isolation he was known to tear up his cell, including his mattress. He even ripped a pipe off the wall in one instance. He was also known for self mutilation, scratching his own face to the point that it left visible scars.
Youth Faces Charge in Ione Slaying
“Jackson, March 2. -Amador County District Attorney Gard Chisolm said today he would probably file murder charges tomorrow or Saturday against Eugene Monroe, 19, suspected of the brutal slaying of housekeeper Mrs. Anna Corbin at the Preston School of Industry. Chisolm said the Negro youth has been “lying deliberately.” His story contains “three or four” deliberate lies, Chisolm added.
Chisolm said stains on Monroe’s clothing tested to be blood. However, he said it was not considered conclusive evidence since Monroe and Mrs. Corbin had the same blood type. Monroe was being held in the county jail here. Chisolm said one of the main points of suspicion was the youth’s proximity to Mrs. Corbin at the time of the murder.” --- The Press Democrat, March 3, 1950.
Monroe was officially charged with murder on March, 3. 1950. The story made headline news, not just locally, but regionally and nationally, drawing the attention of an up-and-coming civil rights trial lawyer, Nathaniel S. Colley (who was affiliated with the NAACP) who was chosen to represent Monroe. From the beginning, Colley wanted to make the case out to be flimsy, and continually tried to request dismissal of the case, or to have every witness statement stricken from the record. He allegedly went so far as to visit William Mercer, a key witness at the preliminary trial, and threatened physical harm on the boy if he didn’t recant his testimony.
You see, Mercer made claims that he saw Monroe strike Mrs. Corbin in her office but he ran off and did not witness the murder. He claimed that Monroe attacked her because she had witnessed them (Monroe and Mercer) engaging in a homosexual act and she said she was going to report them. Although Mercer recanted his statement at the preliminary hearing, he later claimed at the trial that Monroe's attorney had threatened to have him killed if he didn't change his story. Mercer claimed that he had recanted the story at the time out of fear that Monroe's friends would "take care of him" after he got out, as told to him by Colley at the Amador County Jail.
In the end, it was his conscience that got the best of Mercer, so he risked everything to tell what he claimed to be the truth at the trial and admitting that his original statement was in fact true. Whether or not the jury believed he was credible was anyone's guess, but Mercer was adamant that the only reason he lied was out of fear. We do know that Colley did visit Mercer and obtained a new statement. We also know for a fact that Mercer was terrified to return to Preston out of physical fear, as Sheriff Lucot and the D.A. were both quoted saying that, which would coincide with the threats Colley allegedly made against Mercer.
Preston Murder Witness ‘Recants’
“Sacramento, April 7.- The attorney for Eugene Monroe, 19, Preston State School of Industry inmate charged with murdering the school housekeeper, claimed today the prosecution’s chief witness had changed his story. Nathaniel S. Colley, attorney for Monroe, said that William Jack Mercer, 17, Long Beach, had repudiated an earlier statement that he saw Monroe strike Mrs. Anna Corbin on February 23. She was found dead a few hours later. Colley said he took a new statement from Mercer at the Amador County Jail yesterday. The youth said he made the original statement on a promise from a school official he would be released if he told anything he knew about the killing. Colley said he would ask for dismissal of the charge against Monroe on the basis of Mercer’s changed statement. “-- Oakland Tribune 4/7/1950
Preston Murder Case Jury Disagrees
“Jackson, April 29.-The jury trying Eugene Monroe, 19, Preston School of Industry inmate, for the murder of a school housekeeper reported itself hopelessly deadlocked late last night and was discharged by Superior Judge Ralph McGee. The jurors received the case at 3:10 pm yesterday but spent little more than two hours in actual deliberations before reporting they were deadlocked at 8 to 4 for conviction at 10:49 pm. Much of the time was spent in recess as they awaited the arrived of requested trial testimony from Placerville, where it had been sent for transcription. Monroe, who pleaded innocent, went to trial Monday on charges he beat and strangled to death the school’s head housekeeper, Mrs. Anna Corbin, in a storeroom last February 23. District Attorney Gard Chisholm said today he would try the case again.”---- Oakland Tribune, 4/29/1950
Third Trial Likely For Slaying Suspect
“Jackson, June 19 –Prosecution attorneys say they “definitely” plan to try 19 year old Eugene Monroe for a third time on charges that he murdered a housekeeper at the Preston School of Industry last Feb. 23. Monroe’s second trial ended in a deadlock when the jury reported it was unable to reach a decision and was dismissed by Superior Judge Ralph McGee. At the time the jurors stood 11 to 1 for conviction. The first trial last April also ended in a hung jury.”----Press Democrat, 6/20/1950
“Sacramento, Oct 19. --Eugene Monroe’s third trial on charges of slaying a state reformatory school housekeeper ended in his acquittal today. The 19 year old Los Angeles youth was cleared of the death of Mrs. Anna Corbin, 53, by a jury of four women and eight men after two hours deliberation. His two previous trials, both in Amador County, ended in deadlocked juries. Mrs. Corbin was found beaten to death last February 23 at the Preston School of Industry at Ione. Monroe was an inmate there.”----San Bernardino County, 10/20/1950
The first trial was in April, where a jury comprised of five women and seven men could not reach a verdict in the case. This upset the community, and the D.A. scheduled the second trial to take place in June. That also ended in a hung jury with the jurors voting 11 for conviction and 1 innocent. At that point Monroe's attorney, Nathaniel S. Colley requested that the third trial be moved out of Amador County and into Sacramento, which was allowed. The third trial ended in an acquittal for Monroe, and injustice done to the memory Anna Corbin's life.
Again, despite witnesses statements, blood stains on his shoes and belt, unexplained clothing in the incinerator and discrepancies in Monroe’s answers on the lie detector test, still it wasn’t enough. It appeared that this case was no longer about Anna Corbin, justice or attempting to find her murderer, but instead this would turn into a three ring circus, with Monroe's attorney using this opportunity to insinuate Monroe’s singling out as a suspect as being racially biased in order to help his client avoid a conviction for murder.
It didn’t matter that Anna was murdered in a similar manner as Vesta Sapenter in 1947. Although Vesta had been raped, it appeared that Anna fought the attempted assault which is probably why she was beaten so badly during the struggle. This was rage. The person who murdered Anna had brutally bludgeoned her besides choking her from behind with a cord knotted behind her ear, just like Vesta had been found with a cord knotted behind her ear.
Unfortunately, those key details were not disclosed to either of the three different jury panels at all three trials. I believe that had they been given that most imperative information during the first trial, it would have literally sealed his conviction from the very beginning.
Anna was interred in the Palm Court Mausoleum at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento, California, where her husband was also interred several years prior. Although her life story was finished, it seems that Monroe’s was just getting started. So down the rabbit hole I went on an endless search to hunt Monroe down through the pages of history to prove my suspicions that although he got away with it, he was still a murderer.
After being acquitted for murder, Monroe was paroled to Oklahoma to live with his aunt in Tulsa. From the time of his release in late October of 1950 up until July of 1951, Monroe had been arrested four times on sexual perversion charges. It was while awaiting his day in court on one of those sexual perversion charges that he was caught slipping notes to fellow cell mates bragging about getting away with murder. Which murder was he bragging about? Could it have been the fact he managed to get through three trials in California only to be acquitted for one woman's murder?Was he bragging about the newest unsolved murder in Tulsa? Or could he have bragged about both? All it took was questioning him about the note and running his fingerprints through the FBI database to find out his prints matched those found on the venetian blinds that came from the home of a recent unsolved murder of a young pregnant woman.
Dorothy Waldrop's body was discovered on a grassy knoll near the apartment complex in which she and her husband lived. She had been brutally raped and strangled with a dirty handkerchief found knotted around her throat. Dorothy Waldrop was a 22 year-old, former Dance Teacher at the Murray Dance Studio in St. Joseph, Oklahoma. She was also the pregnant wife of Robert Waldrop, a taxi cab driver in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
On the evening of Dorothy's murder, her husband said goodbye to her around 8:15 p.m. when he left for work. Upon arriving home at 1 a.m., Robert discovered the front door wide open and his wife missing. One of their neighbors was later questioned and she remembered hearing a scream around midnight, but it was quick and she didn't know what to think about it so she didn't bother to wake her husband and went back to bed.
Young boys discovered her body on June 24th, 1951, on a grassy knoll just outside the apartment building where Dorothy lived with her husband. She had been strangled with a dirty handkerchief and raped post mortem. The partial lower section of the venetian blinds from the Waldrop's apartment was later found in a clump of weeds outside the apartments, near where Dorothy's body was found. According to the authorities, they found Eugene Monroe's fingerprints on the blinds.
Two boys came forward and stated that the night Dorothy was murdered, they saw a man driving a car with California plates around the apartment building and the same vicinity where they later found her body. Although the police questioned many suspects, including a four-time convicted rapist who had been in the area, all evidence was pointing to Monroe.
When Police Chief Fred Graves finally brought charges on him, they grilled Monroe for 11 hours. Eugene eventually admitted that he did kill Dorothy, and later on he added that he had help from a friend Odell McDaniel; some newspapers say his friend’s name was Eugene McDaniel. When he went in for arraignment, Monroe's public defender entered a not guilty plea, despite the fact the police had a written and signed statement from Monroe confessing to the murder. Monroe was faced with yet another murder trial, this time the odds didn't look good.
When it came time for his preliminary hearing, the prosecution had 13 witnesses, which included two African-American witnesses, (Edgar Rouseau, a newspaper editor; and Jim Cooley, the Police Department Janitor), who testified that Monroe bragged to them about killing Dorothy.
The defense had no witnesses to call. There was an interesting twist thrown into the mix, when Defense Attorney Amos T. Hall questioned the Police Chief on the stand about Harold Beddoe, M.D., who had seen Monroe during his interrogation. Attorney Hall insinuated that he believed Monroe had been hypnotized into confessing. The Police Chief stated he knew nothing of the sort, and that he wasn't in the room during the time the doctor was seeing Monroe.
Later, the doctor testified on the condition of Dorothy's body from the murder. According to people in the courtroom, when the Dr. Beddoe mentioned how Dorothy was murdered, Monroe "bent his head, covered his face with his left hand, wept, shoulders shaking heavily," and refused to look at Robert Waldrop's face when he testified.
Shortly after this court date, Robert Waldrop passed away. I have yet to find his initial cause of death, but I believe it is possible that he took his own life out of the sheer grief of losing his wife and unborn child. Only a few years before, Dorothy and Robert lost their firstborn son, Robert Jr., during childbirth, and undoubtedly, the loss of both his second child and his wife was too much for him to bear. I have spoken with a relative of Dorothy’s in the recent months, and it turns out that over the years the details of how Dorothy died had become somewhat of a mystery to the younger generation of the family. Thankfully, I was able to share the facts of this case with her distant relatives as well as what happened to Monroe.
The murder trial against Eugene Monroe began on January 21, 1952. By April of that same year, he had been convicted of the murder of Dorothy Waldrop and sentenced to life in prison, after County Attorney Lewis Bicking joined defense counsel requested to spare Monroe from the electric chair. District Judge Eben L. Taylor imposed the life sentence for Monroe, sparing the death penalty. He was also given a 35-year sentence for armed robbery of a Oklahoma City Theater in a separate trial and conviction. He spent a total of 29 years in prison and was later released in 1981. He remained on inactive parole and after disappearing off the “radar”, the Oklahoma Corrections office looked him up and found out that he passed away in October of 2007 in Los Angeles.
Eugene Monroe was born on January 31, 1931 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It appears that he may have been removed from his home at an early age, as the 1940 Census in Taft, Muskogee County, Oklahoma lists Monroe as an inmate at the Institution for Deaf, Blind and Orphans. At this point he was only nine years old, and records indicate the highest level of education he had up to that point was 2nd grade.
According to newspaper accounts, as an young man Monroe had lived with his step-father whose last name was Jefferson, and Monroe went by the alias “Eugene Jefferson" at different times. I cannot confirm this for certain, but I believe that more than likely Monroe's biological father was not in the picture. Why he was sent to an orphanage at a young age is still a mystery since he clearly had relatives who were living at the time. In his later prison records, it states his mother’s name was Georgia Jefferson. Also, newspapers mentioned that Monroe lived with his aunt in Tulsa, too.
What I can tell you for certain is that Eugene Monroe lived in both Tulsa, Oklahoma and Los Angeles during his lifetime. By the mid to late 1940’s he had ended up in Los Angeles, in Vesta Sapenter’s very same neighborhood, the place where it all began in 1947 with the first murder. Or at least the first murder we know about anyway.
When does storytelling cross the line?
Vesta Sapenter, Dorothy Waldrop and Anna Corbin were beautiful, vibrant women and sadly their stories are not happy ones to tell. Unlike Vesta and Dorothy’s murders which have remained in obscurity for over 60 years, Anna Corbin’s story has received a high amount of attention and sensationalism mostly due to the number of paranormal television programs that have exploited her death in exchange for high ratings.
Some might try to say that by publishing a blog or my two books on the subject of Preston, that I myself am, in a way, exploiting the dead. Of course, to an extent anytime anyone writes about a deceased individual, there is always a certain degree of attention the story will receive. However, with the work I do, I strive to honor the memory of those deceased ones with love and respect, so their stories will not be forgotten, and I do not make it a practice to delve into the paranormal realm, so I personally do not feel my work exploits anyone. But the real question is: When do others' allow their storytelling to cross the line?
With my writing, I choose to stick to the facts and tell the history as it was. I prefer to steer clear of the paranormal lore that often follows these stories. By getting to the facts of the stories I research, I am able to present the accurate details of each case and in turn the reader is informed properly of the facts.
With ghost stories, 99% of the time the information is inaccurate and overly sensationalized, not to mention a complete disrespect of the dead. It is one thing to share the historical facts of a person that is public record, but it is entirely something else to perpetuate false stories or even insinuate their ghost haunts a particular place when we have absolutely no concrete evidence of such things.
Let’s take Anna Corbin’s story, for example. I have spent many years researching both her life and her death. I have published my findings in my various blogs and both of my books. Again, it is one thing to tell the facts, but it is something else to perpetuate her ghost is lingering at the castle and allow film crews to come in one by one and continuously misrepresent Anna's story. Not only has it been a disrespect to Anna herself, but to her family as well.
Various television programs have been given permission to film at Preston over the years. And with each episode of each program came their own "version" of the paranormal activity that takes place at Preston. This is not only a disrespect to Anna’s memory but a disservice to the history of the castle. I get it, there are a lot of people interested in “ghost stories,” but when does your interest in this subject cross the line into complete and utter disregard not only for the facts, but for respect of the dead?
The Lowe Files, Unexplained Files, Ghost Asylum, and the worst one of all, Ghost Adventures all were given permission by the board members at Preston Castle to film there, and all of these programs not only spread misinformation about the school’s history but also about Anna Corbin’s death. Zac Bagans’ ridiculous “fake” possession at the Castle where he literally claimed Anna’s spirit took over his body, was not only the most disrespectful act that I had ever seen on one of those types of paranormal shows, but also embarrassing to see a grown man pretending to be possessed just to boost his career.
And last but not least, the different movies that have been filmed on the property have also done more harm than good in the way of spreading misinformation about the school’s history or Anna’s story in particular. Take the film “Haunting at Preston Castle,” for example. For one, the film was not based on true events. No boy was beaten to death in the yard, there are no evil spirits of boys there seeking to terrorize or kill you.
What about the new movie “Apparition” by Mark.S. Allen? That is another movie taking pieces of history and changing it to fit their wants and needs for a story line. I spoke to the producer before it was released because I had heard rumors about the storyline and I was hoping the rumors were not true. Sadly, this was not the case.
In fact, Waymon Boone, the co-producer of the film, emailed me back confirming that their horror film was based on Anna Corbin’s story, but they had changed her name to “Anna Collins” and that she is a ghost seeking revenge. In this film they made the Caucasian Superintendent, or “Warden” as he put it, the murderer instead of an African-American ward who actually was the prime suspect in the real story. This blatant disregard for the facts of the case and for making Anna into this fictitious ghost made me sick to my stomach at the very thought of it.
The Unexplained Files episode made Anna Corbin’s killer yet again a Caucasian male, this time sporting a trench-coat and fedora instead of going with the facts of the case and at least using a ward dressed in the customary Preston attire to do their re-enactment scene. Again, without researching the story accurately all of these television programs not only spread misinformation about the facts of the case but they also turned Anna’s story into a joke, and that is not okay.
Anna went from being a living, breathing human being with feelings, family, love, and a lifetime of good (and bad) memories into a brutally murdered woman whose ghost haunts an old abandoned school, when that just isn’t the case. I have spoken to Anna’s great-granddaughter and it is very apparent that Anna’s family does not like to dwell on the bad things in life, especially Anna’s death. Instead, they choose to focus on the good times and move forward. They believe Anna is resting in peace with her husband, Robert, her son Harold and now her daughter, Avis. They are all together now, resting in our Creator’s loving care.
So, with this information I have given you, I now ask whoever reads this chapter on Anna’s life, to please remember that she was a real person and that out of respect for her loved ones let us remember Anna for the kind and loving person she was, for the compassionate life she lived, not just dwell on how she died. And by doing so, we honor her memory moving forward.
Despite the fact that Eugene Monroe was not convicted of Vesta or Anna’s murders, but only Dorothy’s murder, does not change the fact that all the evidence pointed to him being the murderer in all three cases. In fact, in the recent months I was contacted by J. Paul, a former police officer from Kansas who has been researching a series of murders/rapes that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the 1940’s and 1950’s. As J. Paul started digging through the case files, he noticed Eugene Monroe’s name kept popping up as a suspect in many cases. With continued research he has come to believe that Monroe was the one who committed these crimes and he reached out to me after reading my blog where I mentioned my theory that Eugene Monroe might have been a serial killer. It appears that J. Paul feels the same way about Monroe.
To be honest, I was thrilled that another person out there in this great big world has been looking into Monroe’s life and saw what I saw, felt what Monroe was truly capable of, and went with their gut to keep digging for the truth. I hope that J. Paul continues in his efforts to find out the rest of Monroe’s story and sheds further light on the subject. Who knows how many other possible victims Monroe might have hurt, or even killed over the years, and now, because someone has decided to jump down that very same rabbit hole that led me to Vesta, Anna and Dorothy’s stories, they might just shine a light on the stories of more forgotten women whose lives have been masked by the dark abyss of time."----
Chapter 10, "More Stories of the Forgotten" - J'aime Rubio (Copyright 2019)