Christine Collins c. 1928
Christine Ida Dunne Collins|
December 14, 1888
Los Angeles, California
December 8, 1964 (aged 75)|
Los Angeles, California
Christine Ida Collins (December 14, 1888 – December 8, 1964) was an American woman who made national headlines during the late 1920s and 1930s, after her 9-year-old son, Walter Collins, went missing in 1928. During the Trial Testimony of Gordon Northcott, the State of California concluded that Christine Collins' son (Walter Collins) had been murdered in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders led by a man named Gordon Stewart Northcott, who was executed at San Quentin in 1930. Her search for the whereabouts of her son was chronicled in the 2008 Clint Eastwood film Changeling, in which she was portrayed by Angelina Jolie. Jolie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Collins.
Christine Collins was born in 1888 as Christine Ida Dunne. She married an ex-convict named Walter J. Collins, who hid his past from her, and had a son, Walter, in September 1918. After his mother died and he had trouble holding a job, Walter Sr. resumed his criminal behavior. Following a robbery, he was jailed at Folsom State Prison. During her attempts to have him released, she learned of his prior record. Although disappointed, she continued in her appeals.
Disappearance of Walter Collins
Christine's son went missing on March 10, 1928, after having been given money by his mother to go to the cinema. Walter's disappearance received nationwide attention, and the Los Angeles Police Department followed up on hundreds of leads without success. The police faced negative publicity and increasing public pressure to solve the case, until five months after Walter's disappearance, when a boy claiming to be Walter was found in DeKalb, Illinois. Letters and photographs were exchanged before Christine Collins paid for the boy to be brought to Los Angeles.
At the reunion, Christine said that the boy was not Walter. Under pressure to resolve the case, the officer in charge, police Captain J. J. Jones, convinced Christine to "try the boy out" by taking him home. She returned three weeks later, again saying that he was not her son. Although she had dental records to prove her case and backing from friends, Christine said Jones accused her of being a bad mother and bringing ridicule to the police. Jones had Collins committed to the psychiatric ward at Los Angeles County Hospital under a "Code 12" internment—a term used to jail or commit someone who was deemed difficult or an inconvenience.
Jones questioned the boy, who admitted to being 12-year-old Arthur Hutchins Jr., a runaway from Iowa. Hutchens was picked up by police in Illinois and when asked if he was Walter Collins, he first said no, but then said yes. His motive for posing as Collins was to get to Hollywood so he could meet his favorite actor, Tom Mix. Collins was released ten days after Hutchins admitted that he was not her son and filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department. Collins won a lawsuit against Jones and was awarded $10,800, which Jones never paid.
During the trial for the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, Gordon Northcott was found guilty of killing Walter and sentenced to death. Northcott denied killing Walter. Christine, who believed that her son was still alive, corresponded with Northcott and received permission to interview him shortly before his execution. Northcott pledged to explain the true account of her son's fate, but he recanted at the last minute and professed his innocence of any involvement. Christine was further encouraged by the appearance of another boy that Northcott was accused of murdering. She continued to search for her son for the rest of her life. Christine attempted several times to collect the money owed her by Jones, including a 1941 court case, in which she attempted to collect a $15,562 judgment in the Superior Court. She died in 1964.
- Nothing is Strange with You, James Jeffrey Paul ISBN 1436366267
- The Road Out of Hell, Flacco, Clark, ISBN 1402768699
Portrayal in media
- Changeling, a 2008 film directed by Clint Eastwood, chronicles the story about her life and her son's kidnapping and murder. Collins was portrayed by actress Angelina Jolie, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Eastwood stated Jolie was cast because she was a mother and had the physical look that would fit the time period, and Jolie said of her role, "The character reminded me a lot of my mom, so it was nice to play somebody who had the nuances of somebody I loved."
- "Personal details for Christine Collins". FamilySearch. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
- Morgan, Michelle (2013). "Christine Collins and the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders". The Mammoth Book of Hollywood Scandals. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 9781472100344.
- "New Kidnapping Clew Furnished in Hunt for Missing Collins Boy: Glendale Man Helps Police". Los Angeles Times. Times-Mirror Company. 4 April 1928. Archived from the original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
- Howells, Sacha (7 November 2008). "Spoilers: Changeling - The Real Story Behind Eastwood's Movie". Film News. RealNetworks. Archived from the original on 10 November 2008. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
- "'Changeling' production notes". Universal Pictures Awards. Universal Pictures. Retrieved October 18, 2008. (Microsoft Word document)
- "Changeling stories -- Part I". Los Angeles Times. The Daily Mirror. October 26, 2008. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- Rasmussen, Cecilia (February 7, 1999). "The Boy Who Vanished--and His Impostor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- "The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders". Crime Museum. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- "Hoax Discussed in Collins Suit: Hutchens Boy's Deception Subject of Argument Witnesses Tell of Seeming Truth of His Story Capt. Jones Lays Damage Action to Politics". Los Angeles Times. 13 July 1929. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
- "Hutchens' confession". photograph: b&w. Los Angeles Public Library. 1928. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
The written confession of the boy who finally revealed he was Arthur Hutchens, Jr., not Walter Collins, then later told juvenile authorities he was not Billy Fields. He was later identified as Arthur Hutchens.
- "Enigma Boy Identified:Youth Impersonating Walter Collins Now Declared to be Arthur Hutchens, Jr., of lowa". Los Angeles Times. 21 September 1928. Archived from the original on 16 January 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
- "Suit to Renew Old Judgment Recalls Northcott Murders: Mother of Supposed Victim Who Was Imprisoned as Insane in Imposter Mixup Tries to Collect Damages". Los Angeles Times. 29 January 1941. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
- Dave Karger, "Best Actress," Entertainment Weekly 1032/1033 (Jan. 30/Feb. 6, 2009): 45.