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MEET CHUCK: 
MY MURDERING GRANDFATHER 

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READ ANOTHER OF DON'S TRUE STORIES BY CLICKING HERE

 

INTRODUCTION

By Larry Harnisch

 

July 24, 1958 - Los Angeles, California

     Her name was Irene. She was a 40-year-old secretary at an ad agency, divorced with two sons. Her younger son was visiting his grandparents that summer and the older one, Craig, was living with her at their apartment on Edgewood Place. Her ex-husband was in Miami.

Irene didn't show up for work Monday or Tuesday, so two men from the office went to check on her. She and her son Craig had been lying there dead for two days, apparently.

She was face-down on the couch with a gag in her mouth. A nylon stocking had been used to tie her hands, and another one was used to strangle her. Her shorts had been ripped off and thrown on the floor, The Times said, and a nightgown had been tossed over her body. Craig was lying nearby on the floor, in his pajamas. He had been struck on the head and strangled with the antenna wire from the television set.

Detectives found hors d'oeuvres on the coffee table and the remains of dinner in the kitchen. They also found an empty vodka bottle and some mix. 

Charles told Detectives Herman Zander and E.V. Jackson that he met Irene on Friday when he started her car after it stalled. According to Charles, Irene invited him over for dinner Sunday and that everything was fine when he left at midnight or 12:30 a.m. Under further questioning, Charles said a man named "John" had come to the apartment about 11 p.m. and became jealous that he was there.

Neighbors said they had seen Irene and Charles together before Friday and recognized him.


SPITFIRE

By Don Noyes-More

     My grandmother remarried when I was 7 years old, his name was Charles Earl Brubaker. Charles was a very outgoing man with whom everyone liked. He would tell endless jokes. He was eight years younger than my grandmother. I thought of him as more an uncle than a step grandfather and he liked it that way. I called him “Chuck” and only Chuck. He stood 6 feet tall with dark hair and a pencil mustache, and was on the thin side. I thought he looked like Boston Blackie.

One of the things Chuck enjoyed doing was getting together with the rest of the family and going on an all day picnic. On one outing the family met next to a stream way out in Palmdale’s hills. There were few homes in the area since it was parkland and there was a wonderful stream that flowed most of the year. It was wooded with pines and California oak trees. I would play in the water most of the day. I'd also play catch with a tennis ball with Chuck and my Dad. It was very beautiful. My mother would start a barbecue going early. There would be steaks and chicken, roasted corn, and cake. The beer flowed all day. By 8 PM most of the adults were weary and drunk. Mom would clean up and we headed for home. Chuck was passed out in the back of his car. My grandmother drove home.

Chuck was a religious Catholic and whenever I was with my grandmother he took me to Mass with him. After Mass we would go for a big breakfast in Downtown Los Angeles at the Pantry restaurant. After breakfast he would take me for a long ride before returning to my grandmother. He seemed to take an interest in me; he seemed to care.

I don't remember Chuck and my grandmother ever really fighting. Oh there were words from time to time but nothing much except one time Chuck was at the front door of my grandmother’s house and my grandmother wouldn't let him in. He just kept knocking and saying, “let me in, let me in, let me in,” said in a gruff low voice. She didn't let him in and he finally went away. That frightened me.  She never told me why he was not allowed in, but she looked worried, and relieved when he was gone.

One weekend while with my grandmother, Chuck walked in with a bag, “Here Donnie this is for you,” he said with a big smile. I opened up the bag, “Wow, a Spitfire!” He had bought me my first model plane. “I'll help you build it. We'll do it together.” We spent a few hours working on that airplane, laughing, and joking, I always laughed at his corny jokes. He was kind and gentle; a good teacher.

He would throw into our conversations bits and pieces about history and famous people; I thought there was nothing he didn't know. We had a special relationship. Chuck was warm and supportive. I loved him. I also loved that Spitfire model.

One summer day Chuck showed up at my parent’s house. It was about noon and I was eating lunch. Chuck looked worried and was sharp in his tone. He sat down with me at the breakfast nook and my mother made him a hot dog and potato salad. He grumbled that my mother didn't clean a radish right. “Do it again!” He barked.

“What's his problem?” I wondered? He then said to me “Hey Donnie you want to go to the beach with me?” “Oh yeah!” And I ran to my bedroom to get my swimming trunks. When I came back Chuck was standing next to my mother just smiling. “You go out and I'll call ya when to come in,” he said with a demanding tone. “But you said we could go to the beach,” I said. “Out! Now!” He barked. I went outside and played. About a half hour later he came walking out of the house. My mom was looking out the window at us. He paused next to me. “We going to the beach?” I asked. “Nope, not today. Some other time.” He placed his hand on my head, “You're a lucky boy,” he stroked my hair slowly and left. I ran into the house. My mom was half-dressed and crying.

“Go into your room and play, now!” What was going on? I heard my mom talking to someone on the phone. I crept down the hall. I heard a word but what did it mean? “Rape.” Later there were police outside, four or five of them, I could hear my mother crying. I was scared. I was alone.

Rampage

What happened? A couple of days before Chuck came to the house, he had gone out with a girlfriend, unknown to my grandmother. His girlfriend had a boy ten and the three of them spent the day together. That evening Chuck murdered both the mother and the boy. The boy's body was found in the living room. They had both been strangled to death. After killing, Chuck went to my aunt's home, my aunt was single at the time. He took her out for a drive along the beach and raped her at knifepoint. That next afternoon he visited my mom and me, planning perhaps to kill us both. He decided to rape my mom and then take me to the beach. He had told my mom he was in trouble with the police. She talked him out of taking me to the beach, by saying she would give him money and not tell anyone he had been by the house. It worked.

Two weeks before the murders, I was later to find out, he attempted to strangle my grandmother. She passed out while he was strangling her and he left her for dead. My grandmother did nothing. She didn't call the police. Terror produced inaction? Fear produced numbness?

During Chuck's trial my parents and grandmother allowed me to know most all the graphic details of the murders and about the struggle of the murdered little boy. Chuck wrote my grandmother and said he never intended on killing me. Everyone doubted that. I was allowed to write him a letter in prison, who thought that appropriate? “I still have the Spitfire you got me.”… We're talking reality gap at best. Chuck got the death penalty but this was changed to life in prison for the murders. I'm unsure if that was true justice.

My grandmother divorced Chuck and his name was never to be mentioned again.

A few months after the killings I had dreadful nightmares and storms of grief and guilt unknown and unspoken to my parents or others. For a long time I said special prayers for the murdered little boy. Picturing him in my mind, grasping my rosary, I said prayer after prayer. I pretended once that I knew his birthday and had a pretend birthday party for him. I had thought he had been killed because Chuck couldn't get to me, and my grandmother first. My grandmother was to tell me a number of times, “You know who Chuck really wanted to kill, don't you? You and me.” The terror of potential violence grasped me and never fully left my mind.

Epilogue

Chuck was paroled in 1976. I have not seen him since 1958.

&

“Human blood is heavy; the man that has shed

it cannot run away.”

African Proverb

READ ANOTHER OF DON'S TRUE STORIES BY CLICKING HERE

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THE BUNGALOW APARTMENT WHERE THE MURDERS TOOK PLACE

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THE BODIES IN THE LIVINGROOM

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