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 Ron Launius
Billy DeVerell
David Lind
Tracy McCourt
Joy Miller
Attack type
Multiple homicide
Weapon Hammers or striated steel pipes
Deaths Barbara Richardson
Ron Launius
Joy Miller
Billy DeVerell
Non-fatal injuries
Susan Launius
Perpetrators Total unknown
Suspected perpetrator
John Holmes (acquitted)
Gregory Diles (acquitted)
Eddie Nash (acquitted)

The Wonderland murders, also known as the Four on the Floor Murders[1] or the Laurel Canyon Murders, are four unsolved murders that occurred in Los Angeles on July 1, 1981.[2] It is assumed that six people were targeted to be killed in the known drug house of the Wonderland Gang, five of whom were present. Four of those five, Billy DeVerell, Ron Launius, Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson, died from extensive blunt-force trauma injuries. Only Ron Launius' wife, Susan Launius, survived the attack, allegedly masterminded by organized crime figure and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. He, his henchman Gregory Diles,[3][4] and porn star John Holmes were at various times arrested, tried, and acquitted for their involvement in the murders. LAPD detectives were on record saying the crime scene was bloodier and more gruesome than that of the Tate-LaBianca murders.[5]

Nash robbery[edit]

The Wonderland Gang was centered on the occupants of a rented townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue, in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, California: Ronald Lee "Ron" Launius (the leader), William Ray "Billy" DeVerell (Launius' right-hand man), Joy Audrey Gold Miller (the lease holder and DeVerell's girlfriend), Tracy Raymond McCourt, and David Clay Lind. All five were involved in drug use and drug dealing.[6]

On June 29, 1981, Launius, DeVerell, Lind, and McCourt committed a brutal home invasion and armed robbery at Eddie Nash's home, resulting in Nash's bodyguard, Gregory Dewitt Diles, being shot and injured. Nash suspected Holmes had been involved as he had been the at his house three times on the morning of the attack (to leave the sliding door open). Nash sent Diles to retrieve Holmes for questioning; Diles supposedly spotted Holmes walking around Hollywood wearing one of Nash's rings and brought him back. Scott Thorson, Liberace's former boyfriend who was in Nash's house to buy drugs, claimed he witnessed Holmes tied to a chair and repeatedly punched until he revealed the assailants' identities.[7][8]

Wonderland Gang murders[edit]

Around 3:00 am, on July 1, 1981, two days after the Nash robbery, a number of unidentified men entered the townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue and bludgeoned to death Launius, DeVerell, Miller, and Barbara Richardson (David Lind's girlfriend who had been visiting); the weapons were believed to be hammers and/or striated metal pipes. Richardson's bloodied body was found in the living room beside the couch where she had been sleeping for the night. Miller was found on her bed with DeVerell at the foot of the bed in an upright position leaning against the TV stand (a hammer was also found on the bed). Ron Launius was found beaten to death on his bed with his gravely injured wife, Susan, beside him on the floor; both bedrooms had been thoroughly searched. Despite suffering severe brain damage in the attack, Susan ultimately survived and recovered, although she was left with permanent amnesia regarding the night of her attack, had to have part of her skull surgically removed, and lost part of one finger.[9] Neither Lind nor McCourt was present for the attack, as Lind was consuming drugs with a male prostitute called Shilo Watts in a motel, and McCourt was at his own home.[10] Lind died of a heroin overdose in 1995 and McCourt died in 2006.[11][12]

Although neighbors would later report having heard screams around that time, no phone calls were placed to the police until 4:00 pm on July 1, over 12 hours later, when furniture movers working at the house next door to the crime scene heard Susan moaning and went to investigate. The house was notorious for round-the-clock mayhem and debauchery[13]; and when questioned, neighbors said the Wonderland gang's drug-fueled parties often included loud, violent screaming and disruptive noise, so when they heard the murders occurring, they simply believed another party was taking place.[14]

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.

An initial theory of the bludgeoning murders centered around Holmes. As his left palm print was found at the murder scene on the Launius bed headboard, 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. After a three-week publicized trial, 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.[15] 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.

Holmes died six years after being acquitted, on March 13, 1988, as a result of AIDS complications, at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.[16] 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. Therefore, even on his deathbed, Holmes refused to answer the detectives' inquiries about whether or not he took part in the murders or to divulge anything else about his involvement.[16] During an interview several years following Holmes' death, Gebenini Holmes 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.

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.[17] A second trial, in 1991, ended in acquittal for both Nash and Diles.[18] Diles died from liver failure in 1995.[19]

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 pleaded 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.[20][21]

In popular culture[edit]

Film[edit]

Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lange, Tom & Souza, Bob. Four on the Floor book cover. 
  2. ^ Lemons, Stephen (June 9, 2000). "Return to Wonderland". Salon. 
  3. ^ Timnick, Lois (March 21, 1990). "Trial Begins for 2 in Grisly Laurel Canyon Murders of Mid-1981". LA Times. Los Angeles, CA. 
  4. ^ Becklund, Laurie (January 18, 1991). "Two Acquitted in Second Trial for '81 Laurel Canyon Murders". LA Times. Los Angeles, CA. 
  5. ^ http://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-shocking-details-about-the-four-on-the-floor-murders/
  6. ^ Stewart, Robert (14 April 1988). "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Wonderland (2003 film)
  8. ^ Thorson, Scott (1988). My Life with Liberace. New York Publishers. ISBN 1-877961-11-6. 
  9. ^ https://wonderland1981.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/the-testimony-of-susan-launius-at-john-holmes-trial/
  10. ^ Timnick, Lois (March 21, 1990). "Trial Begins for 2 in Grisly Laurel Canyon Murders of Mid-1981". LA Times. Los Angeles, CA. 
  11. ^ https://wonderland1981.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/david-lind-the-aryan-brotherhood-and-jerry-brown/
  12. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSmcid=47174050&GRid=97493987&amp
  13. ^ http://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-shocking-details-about-the-four-on-the-floor-murders/
  14. ^ http://www.therichest.com/shocking/15-shocking-details-about-the-four-on-the-floor-murders/
  15. ^ Scheeres, Julia. "Crime Library: Notorious Murders: Celebrity: John Holmes: The Wonderland Murders". TruTV. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "John Holmes, 43, Dies, Was Star of Sex Films". The New York Times. March 15, 1988. 
  17. ^ "Nash Bodyguard Jurors Deadlock, to Try Again". LA Times. May 30, 1990. 
  18. ^ Becklund, Laurie (January 18, 1991). "Two Acquitted in Second Trial for '81 Laurel Canyon Murders". Los Angeles Times. 
  19. ^ Kennedy, Dana (September 7, 2003). "THE NEW SEASON/FILM; John Holmes's Boogie Life". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ Goldsmith, Susan (September 20, 2001). "A Really Good Deal Ex-nightclub owner may serve only 37 months in Wonderland murders". The New Times. Los Angeles, CA. 
  21. ^ Osterwalder, Joan (October 12, 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service. 
  22. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (July 13, 2009). "Boogie Nights". The AV Club. 
  23. ^ Wonderland. IMDb. 2003. 
  24. ^ "Wonderland (2003". Variety. 
  25. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. E!Entertainment Television. October 21, 2006. Retrieved February 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  26. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. IMDb (produced and distributed by E! Entertainment Television). 2006. Retrieved February 2014.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

Further reading[edit]

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