Death By Murder In Laguna Beach

I can't really recall when I first became fascinated by celebrity murders.  Perhaps it was after first reading about the killing of Director, William Desmond Taylor, and the tragic fall from grace of the primary subjects involved.  I'd have to believe that fans of the day were shocked  by the sordid press concerning the beloved Mary Miles Minter, not to mention Mabel Normand, perhaps the greatest film comedienne to ever grace the silver screen.  Most fans were probably stunned beyond belief.  The unsolved homicide of Taylor is still discussed to this day.

Which takes us to 1930 and Mrs. Doris Murray Palmer.  If you've never heard of her, and I'm sure you probably haven't, Doris was the daughter of a prominent family near Chicago and the ex-wife of Dr. Clinton Foster Palmer, a dentist.

Apparently growing tired of the Windy City, and marriage, she made her way to Laguna Beach, California, where she became close friends with Adele Ritchie who, by most accounts, had a notable career as a stage actress.

Adele had recently divorced from actor Guy Bates Post, her third husband, and by what I've ever read about her my impression was always that she was a bit of an eccentric… an affliction which seems to run rampant in the entertainment world.  Aside from a successful stage career, Adele Ritchie also had several minor arrests to her credit the most notable of which involved Alice Crowninshield Rogers, an alcoholic who Adele had taken under her wing after having arranged for her to  be released from a mental institution.  The pair became roomates at Ritchies' Pelham NY farm.  To be fair, thinking about it a bit more, perhaps Adele wasn't so eccentric.  I've often believed that my roomie, Mrs. Huntington, belongs in a rubber room as well.

Before continuing, here's a photo of Adele Ritchie!

Actress Murderess Adele Ritchie

Actress Adele Ritchie During Better Days

I don't have any pictures of Alice Crowninshield Rogers.  I only mention her because her story reminds me of the good old days when drunkards were involuntarily committed to lunatic asylums instead of being rewarded with political jobs.  Alice was another prominent member of high society who had fallen off her perch.  Besides her friendship with Ritchie, she  had also, apparently, been friends with Mrs. Leslie Carter (Caroline Louise Dudley), another stage star and silent movie actress.  Carters'  husband had tried to post bail for the alcoholic after she was later committed to Bellvue, delirious from alcohol,  for causing a scene at the Park Casino.

All of that said, back to the story.  By all accounts, Adele Ritchie and Doris Palmer were good friends who were both involved with an amateur group of community players in Laguna Beach.  Adele had been a director, and Doris a set designer.  Soon, Adele had lost her role as director after some clashes with some of the actors.  Sometime afterwards, Doris had recieved an invitation to a high society luncheon to which Adele had been excluded.  Adele went into a jealous rage and ended her friendship with the 35 year old by putting a bullet in her back, followed by one to the head.

The investigation by Sheriff Sam Jernigan disclosed that Adele had dragged Doris into another room and, after realizing that the bleeding from the first wound couldn't be stopped, fired the second round. She then jumped into her car with the intent of driving to Santa Ana and turning herself in to the authorities.  But, instead, returned to the bungalow where she put the gun to her mouth and took her own life.  The bodies would be discovered by Vener Rush and Mrs. Kenneth Brown who had gone to return a lost dog… the only truly faithful friend in this story.

It all happened on April 24th, 1930.  The once famous principal players are now mostly forgotten by most people and Sheriff Sam would be looking for a new job after losing re-election later in the same year.

And now I'm off to watch the current generation of dingbats on television.

Phineous Zivick Huntington
July 28, 2013

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