By Larry Harnisch
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,
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
the remains of dinner in the kitchen. They also found an empty vodka bottle and
Charles told Detectives Herman Zander and
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.
By Don Noyes-More
My grandmother remarried when I was 7 years old,
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.
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
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.
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.”