Sunday, April 28, 2013

California Serial killings and Parsonburg Maryland

Recently there appears to be local interest in a California Serial killing that dates back to 1928.  Know as the Wineville Chicken Coop murders it would result in killing, hanging, prison time, name changes, books and a movie, and a couple of the participants moving to Parsonburg, Maryland.   

The short version of it (do an internet search there are a number of websites with information on the case) is in the mid 1920 in what was then Wineville, California there was a number of missing children.  At that time it was not unusual for young boys to leave home and search for work to help their families and some ended up on Gordon Northcott's chicken farm.
Above Gordon Northcott
Gordon Stewart Northcott, born in Canada,  had a chicken farm in Wineville.  A young boy who was a relative came to his farm and the boy sent word to his mother that Gordon was not only killing chickens but also was killing young boys.  This lead to an investigation in 1928 that lead to the arrest of Gordon and his mother Sarah Louise, also a Canadian, for murder. 
Above Cyrus Northcott
Gordon's father, Cyrus George Northcott, told police that Gordon had said he had killed several boys.  The newspapers had a field day with the story.  Due to the details of the case being too gruesome for female jurors, the jury was all males.  The boys ( it was unsure how many - between 4 to 20) were kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered  chopped up and buried on the farm.  The mother, Sarah Louise, helped dispose of the bodies and at least one she helped her son murder.
Above Sarah Louise Northcott
The case became bizarre with Gordon Northcott defending himself.  Sarah Louise, his mother testified and told the jury  that she was not in fact his mother but his grandmother; her husband, she said, had raped their daughter Winnefred, and Gordon Northcott was the product of that union. Gordon Northcott even hinted that he'd had an incestuous relationship with his mother or grandmother, Sarah Louise and that his father, Cyrus,  had molested him.

On February 8, 1929. Judge George R. Freeman sentenced Gordon Northcott to death.  In Riverside County in December 1928, his mother/grandmother Sarah Louise Northcott was convicted of the murder of Walter Conrad Collins and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. She served four and a half years at San Quentin, was later transferred to the Institution for Women at Tehachapi, and was paroled on May 30, 1940.
In 1931, shortly after Northcott's execution, Wineville' s citizens changed the town's name to Mira Loma, Spanish for "hillview," in an attempt to put the scandal of the notorious Wineville Chicken Coop Murders finally behind them

In 1931, her husband, Cyrus George Northcott, left California and bought a small farm in Parsonsburg, Maryland.  No ideal why he choice Parsonburg but I guess he viewed it as being as far away from California as you could get.  His farm was on Shavox road and his neighbors were James Darby, Gary Sontz, Clifford Parker and Homer Shockley.  Cyrus Northcott was already an old man, in his sixties, when he moved to Parsonburg.  He would die in April 1944 at the age of 74, be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Ocean.

On May 30, 1940, Sarah was paroled. She promptly joined her husband in Maryland and spent the rest of her life on the farm in Parsonsburg.   Sarah died on November 21, 1944 of chronic myocarditis. Everything they owned was left to their only surviving child, Winnifred.

Books were written about the murders and in 2008 the movie "The Changeling" was released about parts of the murder investigation.


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