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[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 were present, and four of those 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. He, his henchman Gregory DeWitt Diles,[3][4] and porn star John Holmes were at various times arrested, tried, and acquitted for their involvement in the murders.

Nash robbery[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, California: Ronnie Lee "Ron" Launius (the leader), Joy Audrey Gold Miller (the lease-holder), William Raymond "Billy" DeVerell (Launius' right-hand man and Miller's live-in boyfriend), and David Lind. All four were involved in drug use and drug dealing.[5] Tracy Ray McCourt was also involved with the gang.

Members of the gang had committed a brutal home invasion and armed robbery at Eddie Nash's home two days earlier, on June 29, 1981. Nash suspected Holmes had been involved. Following the robbery, Holmes ended up at Nash's home. Accounts vary as to how and why Holmes arrived there; according to some sources Holmes went there himself to try and make himself appear innocent,[6] whereas others claim Holmes was kidnapped by Nash's henchmen when they recognized Holmes walking around wearing some of Nash's jewelry. For example, Scott Thorson, a former boyfriend of Liberace's, who was buying drugs at Nash's home, wrote in his memoir My Life with Liberace (1988), that Nash had ordered Gregory Diles to bring Holmes to his house, and 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. Thorson witnessed the beating.[7]

Wonderland Gang murders[edit]

Around 3:00 am, on July 1, two days after the Nash robbery, Holmes and a number of unidentified men entered the Wonderland house and bludgeoned to death Launius, Deverell, Miller, and Richardson; the weapons were believed to be hammers and/or striated (threaded) metal pipes. Ron Launius' wife, Susan, suffered severe brain damage in the attack but 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.[citation needed] 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.[8]

Although neighbors would later report having heard screams, 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 Wonderland heard Susan Launius moaning and went to investigate. When questioned, neighbors said that the drug-fueled Wonderland parties often included loud, violent screaming and disruptive noise, so that when they heard the murders occurring, they simply believed another party was taking place. The house was notorious for round-the-clock mayhem and debauchery.[citation needed]

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.[9]

Holmes died six years later on March 13, 1988, as a result of AIDS complications, at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.[10] 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 Holmes' 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' inquiries about whether he took part in the murders or divulge anything else about his involvement.[11]

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.[12] The second trial in 1991 ended in acquittal for both Nash and Diles.[13] Diles died in 1995.[14]

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.[15][16]

In popular culture[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. ^ Stewart, Robert (14 April 1988). "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Wonderland (2003 film)
  7. ^ Thorson, Scott (1988). My Life with Liberace. New York Publishers. ISBN 1-877961-11-6. 
  8. ^ Timnick, Lois (March 21, 1990). "Trial Begins for 2 in Grisly Laurel Canyon Murders of Mid-1981". LA Times (Los Angeles, CA). 
  9. ^ Scheeres, Julia. "Crime Library: Notorious Murders: Celebrity: John Holmes: The Wonderland Murders". TruTV. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ [4]
  14. ^ [5]
  15. ^ 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). 
  16. ^ Osterwalder, Joan (October 12, 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service. 
  17. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (July 13, 2009). "Boogie Nights". The AV Club. 
  18. ^ Wonderland. IMDb. 2003. 
  19. ^ "Wonderland (2003". Variety. 
  20. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. E!Entertainment Television. October 21, 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 
  21. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. IMDb (produced and distributed by E! Entertainment Television). 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Basten, Fred; Holmes, Laurie; Holmes, John C. (1998). Porn King: The John Holmes Story. John Holmes Inc. ISBN 1-880047-69-1.  Describes some of the events from John Holmes' perspective.
  • Gilmore, John (2005). "Bad Eddie & Other No Good People". L. A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times (JohnGilmore.com).  Includes an account of the Wonderland Murders and the life and death of John Holmes.
  • Jacobs, Rodger (1995). Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine. LuLu Press.  Contains the complete transcript of Holmes' February 1982 preliminary hearing.
  • King, Larry (August 12, 2002). "Interview with Scott Thorson". CNN/Transcripts: Larry King Live. 

External links[edit]