Murder of Marion Parker
October 11, 1915|
Sebastian County, Arkansas
|Died||December 17, 1927 (aged 12)
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Cause of death||Homicide by strangulation|
|Known for||Murder victim, song inspiration|
Marion Parker (October 11, 1915 – December 17, 1927) was the 12-year-old daughter of Perry Parker, a prominent banker in Los Angeles. She had a twin sister named Marjorie. On December 15, 1927, Marion was abducted from her school by William Edward Hickman (February 1, 1908 – October 19, 1928), who called himself "The Fox." Her murder has since become the subject of folk songs. The Los Angeles Times referred to this as "the most horrible crime of the 1920s." Songs and some reports about Marion frequently misspell her name as Marian.
Hickman was born in Sebastian County, Arkansas, the fourth of five children (but the youngest son) of William Thomas Hickman and his wife Eva (Buck) Hickman, who were separated sometime before 1928. In that year, his father was living at El Paso, Texas while his mother and sister lived in Kansas City, Missouri.
Abduction and murder
Hickman took Marion from her school, Mount Vernon Junior High School in the Lafayette Square section of Los Angeles, by telling the registrar, Mary Holt, that Perry Parker had been seriously injured in an accident and wished to see his daughter. Hickman was posing as an employee of the bank where Perry Parker worked. He did not realize there were twin Parker daughters, and did not know either child's name, but the school administrator turned one of the girls over to him. Holt said during Hickman's trial that she "never would have let Marion go but for the apparent sincerity and disarming manner of the man."
The next day Hickman sent the first of three ransom notes to the Parker home demanding $1,500 in $20 gold certificates. All the communications over the next few days were signed with names such as "Fate," "Death," and "The Fox." A first attempt to deliver the ransom was ruined when Hickman saw police in the area. Continued communications from Hickman set up a new meeting to exchange ransom at the corner of West 5th Street and South Manhattan Place in Los Angeles. Mr. Parker arrived alone at the place with the ransom money. Mr. Parker handed over the money to a young man who was waiting for him in a parked car. When he paid the ransom, he could see his daughter Marion sitting in the passenger seat next to the suspect, wrapped up to her neck and apparently unable to move. As soon as the money was exchanged, Hickman drove off, pushing Marion's body out of the car at the end of the street. The coroner later testified that she had been dead for about 12 hours. Her arms and legs had been cut off and she had been disemboweled and stuffed with rags. Her eyes were wired open so as to make her appear alive. Hickman later said that he had strangled her and cut her throat first, but he believed that she was still alive when he began to dismember her. Her arms and legs were found on December 18 in Elysian Park wrapped in newspaper. A towel stuffed into her body to absorb blood led police to Hickman's apartment building, but he managed to escape.
A massive manhunt for Marion's killer began that involved over 20,000 police officers and American Legion volunteers. A reward of $50,000 was offered for the identification and capture of the killer, dead or alive, later raised to $100,000. Suspicion settled upon a former employee of Mr. Parker named William Edward Hickman. Several years before the abduction, Hickman was arrested on a complaint by Mr. Parker regarding stolen and forged checks. Hickman was convicted and did prison time. Police traced a laundry mark on a shirt found with Marion's body to an apartment house in Los Angeles, where they questioned a man named Donald Evans who matched Hickman's description. Evans allowed the police to search his apartment, but they found no evidence and left. Evans then disappeared but was later identified as Hickman. The getaway car used at the ransom exchange had been found by police, and it was identified as having been stolen weeks before. Investigators had Hickman's fingerprints on file owing to his previous arrest and incarceration, and they matched them to prints found on ransom notes and on the getaway car.
Capture and execution of Hickman
A week after the murder, officers Tom Gurdane and Buck Lieuallen found Hickman in Echo, Oregon, and recognized him from wanted posters. He spent some of the ransom in Washington and Oregon. He subsequently confessed to kidnapping Marion, but blamed her murder on a man who was actually in jail during the time of the crime. He was extradited back to Los Angeles, where he confessed to another murder he committed during a drug store hold-up, as well as many other armed robberies.
Hickman also confessed that he originally had no intention of killing Marion but did so because she had learned his identity and because he had been previously employed by her father at the bank. He also said that he had cut up the body with the intention of disposing of it, but later realized that the father would want to see his daughter before paying the ransom. He then attempted to reconstruct and disguise the body to make it appear alive.
Hickman told his attorneys that he had killed Marion on the directive of a supernatural being called Providence. He was one of the earliest defendants to use California's new law that allowed pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity. However, in February 1928 a jury rejected his claim and he was sentenced to hang. He appealed the conviction, but the verdict was upheld by the California Supreme Court. On October 19, 1928, he was hanged on the gallows in San Quentin Prison.
Motives for the crime
Hickman pleaded insanity as his official motive at trial, although he had initially told police that he needed the $1,500 to go to a Bible college. Evidence against his insanity defense included prison guards from Oregon who testified that Hickman had asked "how to act crazy." Prosecutors, however, speculated that he wanted revenge against Mr. Parker for testifying against him in his earlier trial for theft and forgery. There is evidence that he did it in part for the notoriety because he told a reporter he wanted as much press coverage as high-profile killers Leopold and Loeb.
Ayn Rand's The Little Street
In 1928, the writer Ayn Rand began planning a novel called The Little Street, whose protagonist, Danny Renahan, was to be based on "what Hickman suggested to [her]." The novel was never finished, but Rand wrote notes for it which were published after her death in the book Journals of Ayn Rand. In these notes Rand writes that the public fascination with Hickman is not due to the heinousness of his crimes, but to his defiant attitude and his refusal to accept conventional morals. She describes him as "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy" and speculates about the society that turned him into "a purposeless monster." Rand wanted the protagonist of her novel to be "A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me." Rand scholars David Harriman (who edited the book in which the notes were published), Chris Matthew Sciabarra and Jennifer Burns all interpret Rand's interest in Hickman as a sign of her early admiration (and misinterpretation) of the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, especially since she several times referred to Danny (the character which Hickman "suggested" to her) as a "Superman" (in the Nietzschean sense).
Stolen Away, Michael Newton, Pocket Books, 2000
- Findagrave.com grave location and images The spelling of Marion's name is confirmed by the urn containing her ashes.
- Marion Parker ballads
- Let Murderer's Hang, The Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1927
- 1910 Federal Census for Harford Township, Sebastian County, Arkansas
- 1920 Federal Census for Harford Township, Sebastian County, Arkansas
- Oakland Tribune, 20 Jan 1928
- "Fate, Death and the Fox" at crimelibrary.com
- The murder of Marion Parker by Mark Gribben
- ERBzine 1767: Hickman trial report by ERB
- Rand, Ayn (1997). Harriman, David, ed. Journals of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. p. 38. ISBN 0-525-94370-6. OCLC 36566117.
- Rand, Ayn (1997). Harriman, David, ed. Journals of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. p. 27. ISBN 0-525-94370-6. OCLC 36566117.
- Rand, Ayn (1997). Harriman, David, ed. Journals of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton. p. 21. ISBN 0-525-94370-6. OCLC 36566117.
- Sciabarra, Chris Matthew (1998). "A Renaissance in Rand Scholarship". Reason Papers 23: 132–159.
- Burns, Jennifer (2009). Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-19-532487-7.
- Zaballos, Nausica (2011). Crimes et Procès Sensationnels à Los Angeles. Au-delà du Dahlia Noir. Paris: E-Dite. pp. 56–103. ISBN 978-2846083102.
- "Hickman is Guilty; To be Sentenced Early Saturday", Zanesville (Ohio) Signal, February 10, 1928.
- "Mutilated And Lifeless Body Of Kidnapped Girl Returned To Father For $1500 Ransom", The Havre Daily News-Promoter (Havre, Montana) December 18, 1927.
- "Hickman Faces Trial Judge", Davenport (Iowa) Democrat, January 25, 1928.
- "Hickman Executed for Murder of Marion Parker", The (Danville, Va.) Bee, October 19, 1928.
- In Defense of the Fox: The Trial of William Edward Hickman by Richard H. Cantillon ISBN 978-0837567570