Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays: John "Bunny" Breckinridge and his Criminal Associates (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

This week, James delves deep into the criminal connections of Bunny Breckinridge.

John Cabell "Bunny" Breckinridge (1903-1996) lived the kind of florid, capricious life that is generally only possible through the medium of significant wealth [1]. Bunny was a charming, genteel, and eccentric individual with a dramatic flair for retelling the events of his life… real or imagined. He loved to inform listeners that First Lady Barbara Bush once told him that she could not introduce him to any of her handsome sons because they would surely fall hopelessly in love with him. As Joe Blevins (2023) observed, Bunny was "not just a flamboyantly gay man, but like the kind of over-the-top caricature of a gay man that you might see in a comedy sketch. And at the same time, his careful diction and quasi-regal manner suggest that he is a gentleman of considerable wealth and breeding. He gives off unmistakable 'old money' vibes."

Actor Bill Murray's hilariously coarse interpretation of Bunny in Ed Wood (1994), regardless of its inaccuracy, has become a touchstone for many where the socialite is concerned [2]. The movie's truncated timeline (ending with the March 15, 1957 preview of Plan 9) allowed director Tim Burton to avoid darker aspects of both Bunny's and Ed Wood, Jr's lives. In 1959, Bunny was at the center of a child molestation case that resulted in him being sent to Atascadero State Hospital [3], one of California's secure psychiatric hospitals for offenders with mental disorders. Overlooked all these years is the window that the case opened onto Bunny's connection with the criminal underbelly of 1950s California. The indiscriminate associations that he pursued as part of his itinerant lifestyle were not without consequence.

The Molestation Case: NoE and Bunny's Versions

The account of the molestation case involving Bunny that most people are familiar with is that found in Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992). It's a long quote from a man named Jack Randall, who apparently knew Breckinridge socially.

Bunny's case is described in Nightmare of Ecstasy.

Bunny initially provided his biographer (Woodard, 2018b) with the following account of the case. It employs pseudonyms for everyone but Bunny.
First Version: His friend Caroline Garratano wanted to go to Mexico to divorce her philandering husband. She asked Bunny to look after her boys (ages 11 and 13) while she was gone for a week. He agreed to do so, after all they were friends. Everything went well for the first few days as the boys stayed with Bunny and his friend Bert. During the day, the boys went for long walks along Carmel Beach or hiked in Carmel's Garland Ranch Park. At night, Bunny read poetry to everyone or they all played cards. 
The problems started when the older boy wanted to see a film premiere in downtown Monterey. [Bunny stated that the movie was A Summer Place starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue, but this is impossible as the movie was not released until months later.] They went to the movie, but left early because its content was inappropriate for children. This annoyed the older boy to no end. Nothing else remarkable occurred and at the end of the week Caroline retrieved her children.
After Woodard made it clear that he knew some details of the actual case, Bunny provided the following significantly different account.
Second Version: Bunny went to a cocktail party at a lovely residence in Pebble Beach. There he met a woman who asked him to watch her two boys. She was leaving town tomorrow; none of her friends would help, she had no nearby relatives, and she was afraid to leave them with her husband. She seemed desperate, so Bunny agreed to watch the boys. Caroline and the boys came by at 9 pm that night. 
The first week passed as told in the first version. Caroline called Bunny at the end of the week to say that her return was delayed for another week. She did not ask to speak with her sons and they were hurt by that. The older boy wanted to be a pianist and he asked Bunny if they could go to Las Vegas to see Liberace, who was the headlining act at the Riviera Hotel and Casino throughout the 1950s-1960s [4]. Bunny, Bert and the boys drove down to Hollywood (325 miles) where they stayed overnight in Bunny's apartment. Bunny and Bert went out to dinner that night leaving the boys with his neighbor named Thomas. 
The next morning the quartet got back into Bunny's Cadillac and drove to Las Vegas (270 miles). They stayed at the Flamingo Hotel. Bunny made reservations for Liberace's show that night and was assured that the star would meet them backstage after his performance. Liberace sent a note that he could not meet them until the next night. Upon meeting Liberace, the older boy seemed put off by his effeminate mannerisms. The next day Bunny purchased swim trunks for the boys so they could swim in the Flamingo's pool. The older boy flirted with girls his age. 
The next day they drove back to Carmel and Bunny dropped the boys off with their mother. Everything seemed fine. Bunny and Bert drove back down to Hollywood. Several days later, Bunny was shocked to hear that the police had shown up at his Carmel house with a warrant for his arrest. Bunny contacted his lawyer. Several hours later the lawyer told Bunny the problem had been solved – for a $150,000 payment to the mother. 
The next day Bunny found out that the police were going to arrest him and Bert. Both were arrested and taken to prison. Bunny had a brief hearing with a judge the next morning before being released on bond. At another hearing a week later, the parents claimed they overreacted to what their sons had told them. The judge, however, pointed out that the boys had been taken across state lines. 
On the stand Caroline claimed she told Bunny that she and her husband were going on vacation; she explicitly denied the Mexico/divorce story. Bunny claimed that the mother testified that her boys were properly treated and the "child molestation charges were pretty much thrown out, at least as far as I can remember." Then suddenly Bunny's mother and lawyers decided that he should plead insanity because of a documented history of mental instability in the Breckinridge family. Bunny was horrified, but went along with the plan. Confirmatory evidence and psychological evaluations were requested from Paris, England, and San Francisco. 
According to Bunny, over the course of several more hearings his lawyers accepted "a lesser charge of something or other" resulting in a sentence of two years in an institution for the criminally insane (rather than prison), as well as ten years' probation and continued psychological monitoring. Bunny says he was sent to Atascadero State Hospital, but was released after only six months for good behavior. Bunny did not think Bert ever went to jail or that the parents received the proposed $150,000 payment. 
Bunny said Atascadero was almost like a hotel. He spent his time mingling, reading, and playing bridge. He also worked in the laundry and was known as the Queen of the Folding Department. Bunny flirted with the staff and even had sex with a delightfully well-endowed young janitor named Peter. His daughter Solange visited him several times while he was confined at Atascadero.
Bunny was, at the best of times, an unreliable narrator who dispensed a highly curated version of his life. The accounts that he provided his biographer follow in a general way the actual events to the extent that they can be reconstructed after so many years. Bunny's memory and truthfulness abandon him concerning the most critical points however: his own culpability in the sordid affair, the true scope of what actually occurred, and the legal consequences for the ten adult men involved. Bunny insisted that he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The entire affair was merely a case of rank extortion by the boy's parents. Bunny ultimately tried to hedge his bets though by claiming that the boys were promiscuously gay, as if that would excuse an adult for having sexual relations with an 11- or 13-year-old child.

The Molestation Case: Reconstructed Narrative

The month of August 1954 found the family of U.S. Navy Commander Richard Holden living in a new house at the intersection of Bird Rock Road and Sloat Road, adjacent to the Monterey Peninsula Country Club, in upscale Pebble Beach, CA. Richard was a Vermont native, a graduate of the U.S Naval Academy at Annapolis (Class of 1937), and a highly-decorated submarine commander during the Second World War (Silver Star, Bronze Star, etc.) [5]. He would ultimately attain the rank of Rear Admiral before retiring from military service. In 1943, Richard had married Dorothy Cecilia Bosley, an Indiana native who was a former model, stage performer, and movie actress (Fox Movietone, Warner Brothers) [6]. They subsequently had two sons, Richard Hartley Coe Holden (born 1944) and Timothy Hiland Holden (born 1946).

After twelve years, all was not well with the Holden marriage. Sometime soon after moving to Pebble Beach, then 39-year-old Richard met and began a relationship with 24-year-old Jacqueline Norma Work Fielding [7], an attractive local socialite from a prominent family. Richard divorced his wife and left the family home. He then quickly married Norma in October 1955. Richard's second marriage only lasted for a few months before ending in another divorce. In July 1957 he married yet again, this time to Peggie Jane Davis Marby at Norfolk, VA. Throughout all of this upheaval, his first wife Dorothy and his two sons continued to reside at their original Pebble Beach home.

Dorothy Holden and Bunny apparently met at a Pebble Beach cocktail party on Friday, July 18, 1958. The agreement they reached was that starting the next day Bunny and his friend Cecil would look after Dorothy's sons at her home while she vacationed in Lake Tahoe. Why would Dorothy have trusted mere acquaintances to look after her children? I can only surmise that she felt this was a safe arrangement since Bunny was a well-known local figure and of the proper social class. Had Dorothy been aware of Bunny's longstanding practice of frequenting the roughest bars in San Francisco and Los Angeles in search of companionship, it's unlikely she would have left him in charge of her children.

It is unclear from surviving evidence exactly how long Dorothy planned to be away. In any event, while in Lake Tahoe she received a postcard from an unspecified informant reporting that her sons were being sexually abused. Dorothy returned to Pebble Beach on Saturday, August 2nd and tracked Bunny down. He claimed that he did not know where the boys were. Without providing a reason, Bunny said that he had given the boys to an acquaintance named Ross Wilson for whom he did not have an address. Dorothy immediately reported the boys missing to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office. The boys were found four days later (August 6th) at a motel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. They were temporarily held in juvenile division custody before being returned to their mother.

Later that same day Bunny was arrested as he checked into the iconic Beverly-Hilton Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard [8]. Bellboy Thomas H. Jordan was arrested at the same time. Ross Edison Wilson, Jr. and Cecil Greene Mahaffey were taken into custody elsewhere in the city. Two other suspects, Doyle Alva Terry and David S. Hayes were arrested a few days later. The boys testified that Bunny, Cecil Mahaffey and Thomas Jordan drove them from Pebble Beach to Las Vegas where they stayed for four days. They were then driven to Los Angeles and kept for thirteen days in a Hollywood motel. 

In all likelihood, it was the Sunset Highland Motel at 6830 Sunset Boulevard [9], next door to Cecil Mahaffey's residence. Including four John Does that police were never able to identify, a total of ten men were accused of sexually abusing the two boys over a 17-day period. The standard penalty for a Lewd Act with a Child Under 14 specified in California Penal Code §288 was 1 year to life in prison (life sentence with parole possible after the first year served). California also had a statewide registration law requiring convicted sexual offenders to notify local police any time they remained in an area for more than five days.

John Cabell "Bunny" Breckinridge [10]
(Paris born, 55-year-old San Francisco resident)
1 count of conspiracy and 2 counts of child molesting
later upgraded to 10 counts of sexual perversion and crimes against children

Cecil Greene Mahaffey [11]
(Louisiana native, 22-year-old waiter, residing at 6822 Sunset Blvd)
1 count of conspiracy and 2 counts of child molesting

Thomas H. Jordan
(New York native, 25-year-old bellboy, residing at 1920 North Las Palmas Avenue)
4 counts of sodomy and 1 count of conspiracy

Ross Edison Wilson, Jr. [12]
(Oklahoma City native, 22-year-old salesman, residing at 1920 North Las Palmas Avenue)
4 counts of child molesting, 1 count of sodomy and 1 count of conspiracy

Doyle Alva Terry [13]
(Tulsa, OK native, 31-year-old salesman, 122-A North Cordova Street, Burbank)
2 counts of child molesting and 1 count of sodomy

David S. Hayes
(22-year-old Hollywood writer)
2 counts of child molesting and 1 count of sodomy

4 John Does: charges not specified

Bunny was held on $25,000 bail, Mahaffey and Jordan were held on $10,000 bail each, and the remaining men were held on $5,000 bail each. Only Bunny was able to post bail and he was released from prison the next day. The press coverage was relatively muted with most of the attention focused on him. Newspapers reported that Bunny was wealthy, eccentric, liked to wear perfume and mascara, and had a record of arrests on moral charges (a reference to police raids on San Francisco gay bars that he was caught up in). Sgt. Tom Kennedy of the LAPD issued a statement that all of the men, except for Wilson, had admitted their guilt.

The accused were faced with two possible outcomes should they be found guilty. Since all homosexual relations were de facto criminal acts, a stretch in state prison was guaranteed. But these acts were committed against children and convicted pedophiles have often had short lifespans in the U.S. prison system. These dark clouds had a silver lining of sorts. Since homosexuality and other forms of "sex perversion" were considered mental illnesses, they could form the basis of an insanity plea under California's McNaghton Rule. Under this legal precedent, a defendant could not be convicted of a crime if they were legally insane at the time of commission. You were considered legally insane if you either:

Did not understand the nature of your criminal act.


Did not understand that what you were doing was morally wrong.

A defendant judged legally insane would be committed to a state mental hospital for observation and treatment, instead of being sent to state prison. Over the years, thousands of homosexuals sent to mental hospitals were subjected to experimental procedures such as aversion therapy, electrical and pharmacological shock treatments, and lobotomy to "cure them of perversion."

On August 14th Bunny, Mahaffey, and Jordan appeared in Superior Court in Los Angeles for preliminary hearings. At his own request, Ross E. Wilson, Jr. underwent an expedited bench trial the next day. He was convicted of two counts of child molesting and 1 count of sodomy. The court psychiatrist concluded that Wilson was a sexual psychopath and he was committed to Atascadero State Hospital for an indefinite period of observation and potential treatment. The legal proceedings against David S. Hayes and Doyle A. Terry were also handled separately from the main Breckinridge trial and seemingly out of press view. The case against Hayes progressed slowly. Terry was convicted on two counts of child molestation and 1 count of offering marijuana to a minor. He was released on an appeal bond. When it expired, police went to Terry's Burbank apartment to take him into custody but he eluded them by jumping out a window.

On August 28th Bunny, Mahaffey, and Jordan returned to Superior Court in Los Angeles for their formal arraignment. All three men pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. They were represented by attorneys Jerry Giesler [14], Rexford Egan (Giesler's assistant), and Deputy City Public Defender Floyd W. Davis. Giesler was the defense attorney of record for many of the highest-profile litigations in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. He defended such notables as Clarence Darrow, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Bugsy Siegel, and Marilyn Monroe. Giesler had a reputation for winning cases that appeared to be unwinnable.

On November 25th the defendants were granted a continuance until March 2, 1959 to allow their lawyers sufficient time to gather medical affidavits from European psychiatrists in support of the insanity pleas. On March 4, 1959 the three men were convicted on all counts in a bench trial. A date was set in May for the court to hear the insanity pleas in a separate penalty phase trial. Meanwhile, on March 10th David S. Hayes pleaded guilty to charges of sexual perversion and crimes against children. He received a sentence of one year to life in state prison.

The penalty phase bench trial for Bunny and his co-defendants lasted four days (May 5 – 8, 1959). Deputy District Attorney Arthur L. Alarcon [15] described Bunny as a "sexual sadist" who suffered from "mental abnormalities." One of Bunny's attorneys responded, "My client has been declared insane under the law of England and I will prove him insane under the McNaghton Law of California." As a young man, Bunny had been committed by his mother to various English hospitals and sanitariums due to his erratic behavior. 

The court heard testimony concerning Bunny's behavior and character from psychiatrists Dr. Frederick Hacker (Los Angeles based expert on aggression and terrorism) and Dr. Bernard L. Diamond (a forensic psychiatry specialist at UC/Berkeley). The psychiatrists agreed that he was potentially dangerous to himself and society. On May 8th Bunny was found innocent by reason of insanity and was committed to Atascadero State Hospital for an indefinite period of observation and potential treatment. Mahaffey and Jordan were both found legally sane and ordered to return to court on June 5th for sentencing. Although the press did not report on these proceedings, they both would have received the standard sentence of 1 year to life imprisonment.

Bunny was transferred to Atascadero State Hospital the next day (May 9th) where he joined a population of nearly 1,400 patients. According to Eskridge (1997), doctors there performed "a steady but small stream of lobotomies" although the main form of treatment "involved the drug succinylchloride… a muscle relaxant which makes the victim unable to breathe. He feels like he's dying. And while he lies there unable to breathe, but fully conscious, the 'therapist' tells him that unless he's a good boy, and quits jerking off in the shower, or whatever, he will die." 

If Bunny's account can be trusted, his time at Atascadero was not difficult nor was he subjected to any treatments to cure him of his homosexuality. Perhaps his wealth and class shielded him from the standard experience there. On May 18th Atascadero psychiatrists concluded that defendant Ross E. Wilson, Jr. was not a psychopath after all, but rather a paranoid personality. He was paroled soon thereafter, having been under observation for a period of nine months. The only limitation placed on Wilson was that he regularly consult a psychiatrist for the next ten years.

On July 22, 1959 a $3.7 million damage lawsuit was jointly entered against Bunny and the nine other defendants [16]. It was filed by attorney Thomason J. Hudson in California Superior Court on behalf of the two Holden boys, who by now were living with their father in Arlington, VA. The lawsuit sought general and punitive damages ("for lewd and lascivious acts upon the boys"), plus the cost of medical care for them ("for permanent disability"). As the only defendant with any money to speak of, Bunny would be left holding the bag if the lawsuit succeeded. 

Despite seemingly knowing everyone and having homes filled with photographs of the many celebrities he knew on a first name basis, when it came to this scandal, Bunny suddenly had no influential friends. In February 1960 Bunny finally received a visitor at Atascadero. Unfortunately, it was his daughter Mrs. Solange Breckinridge Quintin [17] recently arrived from France in order to begin a legal battle to be appointed his guardian and be granted control over a $2,000,000 trust fund. She visited him several times at the hospital over the ensuing months, but ultimately gave up her legal challenge when she realized the difficulties involved in such an undertaking. After a year of observation, Bunny was paroled from Atascadero in May 1960 and returned home.

Robbery and Murder

Sometime in mid-June 1960 Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Raymond W. Brown questioned one Ross Edison Wilson, Jr. about a 1950 Cadillac [18] registered to him which had reportedly been seen in connection with an armed robbery. The police did not realize at this time that Wilson was a paroled defendant in the recent Breckinridge child molestation case and he allayed their suspicions concerning his involvement in the armed robbery.

Several days later on June 24, 1960 at 6:30 pm Long Beach policemen Vernon J. Owings [19] and Richard A. Brizendine [20] were patrolling West Seaside Blvd on Terminal Island when they spotted two cars (a 1950 Cadillac and a 1950 Chrysler) proceeding slowly through the Navy's Gate 1 parking lot at Reeves Field. The cars left the parking lot heading west on Seaside and parked opposite of Reeves Field [21]. The hood of the Cadillac was raised and the two men began working on the car. The police pulled up and got out of their cruiser to assist the two men who appeared to be having mechanical problems.

There was nothing wrong with the Cadillac. The two men were criminals dumping the car (removing its battery and stripping the license plates) after it had been used in a recent armed robbery and spotted by witnesses. Doyle Alva Terry, convicted child molester in the Breckinridge case who had been on the run for a year since jumping bail and fleeing, immediately produced a .44 caliber Ruger Magnum revolver [22] and opened fire on the two policemen without warning. Patrolman Owings (father of two young children) [23] was struck once in the head and died instantly. His partner, Patrolman Brizendine, was hit several times in the left leg. He returned fire twice hitting Terry's accomplice – Ross Edison Wilson, Jr. – both times. Brizendine then took cover behind his patrol car, and radioed for help [24].

A dragnet of 40 police cars scrambled from multiple jurisdictions to scour the Los Angeles harbor area. Terry and Wilson jumped into their Chrysler. Terry frantically backed the car up (running over Patrolman Owings in the process) and then fled the scene. After a short distance, a profusely bleeding Wilson bailed out of the Chrysler and continued away from the crime scene on foot. Terry drove on, but was soon being pursued by police cruisers. When the Chrysler developed engine trouble after a mile or so, Terry abandoned it. He was chased down on foot and surrendered after a fistfight with three police officers on the Pier E access road [25]. Terry was taken to Seaside Hospital where he was treated for a head injury suffered during the brawl. Terry was then moved to Long Beach City Jail where he was booked under the alias of Warren J. Durfy (122-A North Cordova Street, Burbank) [26]

Wilson was arrested an hour later at Seaside Hospital (a passing motorist gave him a lift) [27]. He initially feigned innocence, providing the alias of Michael Dupree (1769 N. Orange Drive, Hollywood) and claiming to be a wounded bystander. Wilson was taken to the General Hospital Prison Ward to be treated for gunshot wounds in the right arm and left hand [28]. Both men were initially charged on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder.

One week later (July 1), police announced that they'd smashed an infamous robbery gang that operated in the Los Angeles area for the past three years. It was later determined that the gang committed more than 70 armed robberies netting them nearly $250,000 ($2,800,000 in 2024 dollars). A red spiral notebook with coded writings was found in one of the abandoned vehicles involved in the murder of Patrolman Owings. Police cracked the code after many hours of study and its contents exposed Doyle Alva Terry as the leader of a gang of six armed robbers. Ross Edison Wilson, Jr. was also a member. Information in the code book led police to the gang's safehouse at 4633 Ben Avenue (North Hollywood) where they found numerous small arms, a gas gun, a machine gun, robbery equipment such as disguise kits and radios for monitoring police frequencies, and assorted narcotics including peyote and marijuana. The notebook also directly led to the arrest of two gang members [29], one of whom led police on a high-speed chase away from the safehouse.

Charles Walter Stanford
(Texas born, 23-year-old, residing at 108 S. Poinsetta Ave., Manhattan Beach)

Donald Lee Deitrick
(Los Angeles native, 23-year-old, prior burglary convictions)

Two gang members remained at large and continued to commit robberies. They were not apprehended until November 1960 after jailed gang member Ross E. Wilson, Jr. decided to cooperate with authorities and gave them up to get the best deal possible for himself.

Jack Scott Corcer [30]
(Michigan born, 24-year-old, residing at 2858 ½ Glengreen Avenue, Hollywood)

Richard Omer Vashon [31]
(Tulsa, OK native, 23-year-old, residing at 17190 Lassen Avenue, Sepulveda)

All of the men were charged with accessory to murder, robbery, and conspiracy based on their gang membership and knowledge of the Owings killing.

The cracking of the Terry gang's codebook allowed the police to solve many crimes, but two robberies were of particular concern because of the violence involved. On October 24, 1958 Richard O. Vashon robbed restaurant owner Herschel S. Lund (age 53) in a Los Angeles parking lot at 8495 W. Third Street. Vashon shot Lund twice in the side, seriously wounding him. Vashon then jumped into a 1957 pink and white Chevrolet coupe driven by Jack Scott Corser to make his escape. 

The gang's only crime outside of the Los Angeles basin occurred on August 14, 1959. Doyle A. Terry robbed Brink's armored car guard Converse Smallwood [32] of $19,000 as he left the open-air Stonestown Emporium shopping center [33] in San Francisco (current-day Stonestown Galleria). Terry shot him five times at close range with the same .44 Magnum that was later used to kill Patrolman Owings. By incredible luck, Smallwood survived his wounds and was later able to identify Terry.

The legal proceedings against Doyle A. Terry in the murder of Patrolman Owings began in July 1960. His defense was that the death was accidental; the gun went off when the policeman grabbed for it. No evidence supported this claim. During the trial, Terry's previous criminal history in Oklahoma came out. He had conducted a series of armed robberies and was accused of molesting three teenage boys after giving them drugged whiskey. Along the way Ross E. Wilson, Jr. turned state's evidence and testified against Terry in return for reduced charges. Wilson would ultimately be found guilty on two counts of armed robbery and was placed on probation for ten years. 

In September 1960 a San Francisco Grand Jury voted to indict Terry and Richard O. Vashon each on three counts in the Stonestown Emporium holdup (assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder, robbery, and burglary). No effort was ever made to try this case as both men were facing more serious charges in Los Angeles. Vashon was later sentenced to serve consecutive terms of five years to life for first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

On November 25, 1960 Terry was sentenced to die in the gas chamber at San Quentin. An automatic appeals process was begun. Terry briefly escaped from custody on April 8, 1961 during a court appearance at the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles. He managed to slip out of his handcuffs, jump from a sheriff's car, and run down several streets with police in hot pursuit. Terry was captured a few minutes later when he was trapped in the dead-end stairwell of a nearby Federal Building. Thus began an extended odyssey of wrangling in the California courts. 

Relying on two years of formal pre-law education plus an additional two years of correspondence school, Terry acted as his own lawyer in all future legal matters. On April 19, 1962 the California State Supreme Court upheld Terry's first-degree murder conviction, but by a 4-3 vote reversed the death penalty verdict on the basis of prejudicial error by the prosecution. He was granted a new penalty trial. Over the next decade, Terry would win two death penalty appeals and cause another to end in a hung jury.

On April 24, 1972 – while Terry was in court for his 5th penalty trial – the California State Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. His convictions were automatically converted into sentences of life imprisonment. In 1979 Terry was paroled without fanfare despite numerous objections by both lawyers and judges who had taken part in the many legal proceedings against him. He went to work as a legal researcher for a Los Angeles attorney.


The two Holden boys went on to successful lives as a cabinet maker and a naval engineer. They are both retired and in their sunset years.

Bunny survived the scandal of his trial and commitment, returning home to live a somewhat more chastened lifestyle in the years to come. It is unknown whether he ever had to pay out any part of the $3.7 million lawsuit that was filed against him and the other defendants. Although, estimates of Bunny's wealth decreased by $6 million from 1954-1960. By the end of his life, Bunny was an impoverished ward of the state living in a California nursing home.

In 1982 Doyle A. Terry was arrested again and sent back to prison for selling narcotics and counterfeit drugs to a police informant. Curiously, in a bitter prison interview he changed his account of the Owings murder. Terry now claimed that the shooting was not accidental, but in self-defense against two belligerent policemen who were trying to "set him up." Terry died in June 1994; it is unclear whether he was still in prison or not.

The remaining eight known defendants in the robbery and molestation cases (Corser, Deitrick, Haynes, Jordan, Mahaffey, Stanford, Vashon, Wilson) all served their time and appear to have subsequently lived lives without any further police involvement. Vashon and Wilson are known to be alive today.

Sources (newspapers)

Akron (OH) Beacon Journal
Anaheim (CA) Bulletin
The Berkeley (CA) Gazette
The Californian (Salinas, CA)
The Daily Law Journal-Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Daily Review (Hayward, CA)
The Day (New London, CT)
The Desert Sun (Palm Springs)
Enterprise-Record (Chico, CA)
Escondido (CA) Times-Advocate
Evening Vanguard (Venice, CA)
Hanford (CA) Sentinel
Honolulu Star Bulletin
Independent (Long Beach, CA)
The Indianapolis News
The Indianapolis Star
The Journal (Meriden, CT)
Ledger-Star (Norfolk, VA)
Los Angeles Evening Citizen News (Hollywood, CA)
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Mirror
(CA) Sun Star
The Modesto
(CA) Bee
Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV)
News-Pilot (San Pedro, CA)
The Oakland Post Enquirer
Oakland Tribune
The Oklahoma Courier
(Oklahoma City, OK)
Oroville (CA) Mercury Register
Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)
Record-Journal (Meriden, CT)
Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
The Register (Santa Ana, CA)
Reno (NV) Gazette-Journal
The Roanoke (VA) Times
Rutland Daily Herald
The Sacramento Bee
The San Bernardino
(CA) County Sun
The San Francisco Examiner
Santa Maria
(CA) Times
Simi Valley
(CA) Star
(CA) Evening and Sunday Record
The Times
(San Mateo, CA)
The Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Tulsa (OK) Daily World
The Tulsa (OK) Tribune
Tulsa (OK) World
Valley News (Van Nuys, CA)
Valley Times (North Hollywood, CA)
Van Nuys (CA) News and Valley Green Sheet
The Virginian Pilot (Norfolk, VA)

Sources (online and print)

Blevins, Joe, 2023, "Blue Blood, Black Sheep: The Legal Problems of John 'Bunny' Breckinridge (1903-1996)," Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 166

Eskridge, William, N., 1997, "Privacy Jurisprudence and the Apartheid of the Closet, 1946 – 1961," Florida State University Law Review, volume 24, issue 4, p. 703 – 840.

Grey, Rudolph, 1992, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., Los Angeles: Feral House Press, 231 pp.

Library of Congress, U.S. Telephone Directory Collection, White Pages and Yellow Pages, Monterey – San Benito Counties, 1951-1961; Los Angeles Central Area, August 1958.

University of Southern California Libraries, Los Angeles Examiner Photographs Collection, 1920-1961.

Woodard, Ron, 2018a, Bunny Breckinridge: Exalted as an Early Hero of the Gay Rights Movement, Book One, self-published, 401 pp.

Woodard, Ron, 2018b, Bunny Breckinridge: Exalted as an Early Hero of the Gay Rights Movement, Book Two, self-published, 440 pp.

NOTE: There is an extensive, four-part gallery of images related to this article at the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. All images, including vintage news clippings and maps of key events, were provided by James Pontolillo. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.