Wonderland murders

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Coordinates: 34°06′42″N 118°23′10″W / 34.1117°N 118.3861°W / 34.1117; -118.3861

Wonderland murders
Location 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, CA
Date July 1, 1981 (1981-07-01)
Early morning (UTC−08:00 Pacific)
Target Billy DeVerell
Ron Launius
Susan Launius
David Lind
Joy Miller
Barbara Richardson
Attack type
multiple homicide
Weapon Striated steel pipe
Deaths Joy Miller
Billy DeVerell
Ron Launius
Barbara Richardson
Non-fatal injuries
Susan Launius
Assailants total unknown
Suspected perpetrator
John Holmes (acquitted)
Gregory Diles (acquitted)
Eddie Nash (acquitted)
Motive Revenge

The Wonderland murders, also known as the Four on the Floor Murders or the Laurel Canyon Murders, are four unsolved murders that occurred in Los Angeles on July 1, 1981. Five of the six targeted to be killed in the known drug house on Wonderland Avenue were present, and four of the five died from extensive blunt-force trauma injuries: Billy DeVerell, Ron Launius, Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson. Launius' wife, Susan Launius, survived the attack. The attack was allegedly masterminded by organized crime figure and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. Porn star John Holmes was arrested, tried, and acquitted for his involvement in the murders.

Robbery and murders[edit]

The Wonderland Gang was centered around the occupants of a rented townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles: Joy Audrey Gold Miller (whose name was on the lease[citation needed]), her live-in boyfriend William Raymond "Billy" DeVerell, David Lind, and the gang's leader, Ronnie Lee "Ron" Launius. All four were involved in drug use and drug dealing.[1]

Nash suspected Holmes had been involved and ordered Diles to bring Holmes to his house. Diles found Holmes on a street in Hollywood, wearing one of the rings that had been stolen from Nash, and brought him back to Nash. Nash directed Diles to beat Holmes, and Nash threatened to kill Holmes and his family, until Holmes identified the people behind the robbery. The beating was witnessed by a former boyfriend of Liberace's, Scott Thorson, who was buying drugs at Nash's home.[2]

Police action and trials[edit]

Los Angeles Police Department detectives Tom Lange and Robert Souza led the murder investigation and searched Nash's home a few days after the crime. There they found more than $1 million worth of cocaine, as well as some items stolen from the Wonderland house.

Because his palm print was found at the scene, Holmes was arrested and charged with four counts of murder in March 1982. The prosecutor, Los Angeles District Attorney Ron Coen, attempted to prove Holmes was a willing participant who betrayed the Wonderland Gang after not getting a full share of the loot from the robbery of Nash's house. However, Holmes' court-appointed defense lawyers, Earl Hanson and Mitchell Egers, successfully presented Holmes as one of the victims, having been forced by the real killers to give them entry to the house where the murders took place. Holmes was acquitted of all criminal charges on June 26, 1982. For refusing to testify or cooperate with authorities, he spent 110 days in jail for contempt of court.[3]

Holmes died six years later on March 13, 1988, as a result of AIDS complications, at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.[4] Shortly after the murders, in her first newspaper interview in July 1981, Holmes' first wife, Sharon Gebenini Holmes, stated that Holmes had told her he'd known the people in the Wonderland house and that he had been there shortly before the murders occurred. She did not divulge any additional information to police. During an interview several years following his death, Sharon stated that Holmes had come to her house the morning after the killings, with blood splattered all over his clothes. Holmes was personally uninjured, and he did not give her any details to explain the condition of his clothing. One month before Holmes died, two police detectives visited him at the VA hospital to question him about what he knew about the murders. Nothing came out of the visit because Holmes was barely awake and his responses to their questions were incoherent. Even on his deathbed, Holmes refused to answer the detectives's inquiries about whether he took part in the murders or divulge anything else about his involvement.[5]

In 1990, Nash was charged in California state court with having planned the murders, and Diles was charged with participating in the murders. Thorson testified against them, but the trial ended with a hung jury vote of 11–1 for conviction.[6] The second trial in 1991 ended in acquittal for both Nash and Diles.[7] Diles died in 1995.[8]

In 2000, after a four-year joint investigation involving local and federal authorities, Nash was arrested and indicted on federal charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for running a drug trafficking and money laundering operation, conspiring to carry out the Wonderland Murders, and bribing the sole holdout juror of his first trial. Nash, already in his seventies and suffering from emphysema and several other ailments, agreed to a plea bargain agreement in September 2001. He admitted to having bribed the lone holdout in his first trial, a young woman, with $50,000, and pled guilty to the RICO charges and to money laundering. He also admitted to having ordered his associates to retrieve stolen property from the Wonderland house, which might have resulted in violence including murder, yet he denied having planned the Wonderland murders. In the end, Nash received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.[9][10]

In popular culture[edit]

In films[edit]

  • The film Boogie Nights (1997), which is loosely based on the life of John Holmes, includes a sequence inspired by the Wonderland murders.[11]
  • The film Wonderland (2003), stars Val Kilmer as John Holmes.[12]

In television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stewart, Robert (14 April 1988). "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Thorson, Scott (1988). My Life with Liberace. New York Publishers. ISBN 1-877961-11-6. 
  3. ^ Scheeres, Julia. "Crime Library: Notorious Murders: Celebrity: John Holmes: The Wonderland Murders". TruTV. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ Goldsmith, Susan (September 20, 2001). "A Really Good Deal Ex-nightclub owner may serve only 37 months in Wonderland murders". New Times Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA). 
  10. ^ Osterwalder, Joan (October 12, 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service. 
  11. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (July 13, 2009). "Boogie Nights". The AV Club. 
  12. ^ "Wonderland". About.com Hollywood Movies. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  13. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. E!Entertainment Television. October 21, 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 
  14. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. IMDb (produced and distributed by E! Entertainment Television). 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]