Orville Forrester

In his “as told to” memoir, In My Own Words, Mickey Cohen recounts the time he held up a brothel, run by a woman he calls Hollywood’s “top madam,” noting that he became friends with the madam’s brother, whom Cohen calls a fellow criminal. Some sources have presumed the madam he refers to was Lee Francis. But he could have been talking about Ann Forrester. Her brother, Orville, was definitely a criminal. Or, as he saw it, the victim of vendettas and political frame-ups just for trying to be a good citizen who simply had the bad luck to be around when guns were being fired.

Orville Thomas Forrester was born in Paris, Texas on August 10, 1899, the second surviving child of Thomas (Tom) Luther Forrester and Minnie L. Raines. Orville’s sister Almerdell came along in July 1902.

Minnie and Thomas had married on August 29, 1894, the bride not yet 16. Tom went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. On July 15, 1906, while serving as a brakeman, he was killed in a terrible accident near Canadian, Texas. He remains were brought to Amarillo and shipped back to Paris for burial.

The Twice A Week Herald, Amarillo, Texas 7/17/1906

On July 22, Tom’s fraternal organizations, the Eagles’ lodge and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, held a benefit concert in Amarillo for his widow. The event raised $151.85.

Minnie and the children subsequently relocated to Amarillo, where by 1908, as “Mrs. Minnie Mardis,” she became proprietor of the Panhandle Hotel at 1200 East 3rd Street, the presumed wife of Robert J. Mardis, a farmer residing at the hotel.

Minnie in the 1908 Amarillo City Directory.

Orville is mistakenly listed as a girl, “Orabelle” Forrester, in the 1908 Amarillo City Directory. He and his siblings Almerdell and Mabel lived with their their mother (listed as Minnie L. Mardis) at the Panhandle Hotel, located at 1200 E. 3rd Street.

Notice of a property transfer made by Minnie Forrester and husband Robert Mardis in the [Amarillo] Weekly Herald in January 1908. The Weekly Herald 1/23/1908

Minnie in the 1909 Amarillo City Directory at 605 Arthur St. Robert isn’t listed.

Minnie and Robert Mardis appear to have separated by 1910. Although he is listed as living at 605 Arthur Street in the 1910 Amarillo City Directory, he was not there at the time the 1910 US Census was taken, which recorded Minnie, Mabel, Orville and Almerdell here.

Robert J. Mardis listed at 605 Arthur St. in the 1910 Amarillo City Directory.

Orville’s name almost never appears correctly in official records. Minnie (listed as “Matild”) and the children were living alone at 605 Arthur Street, Amarillo, in the 1910 US Census. She worked as laundress. Orville is listed as “Forrester Mardis” (mis-transcribed as Mardin). Mabel’s middle name was Iva. The F here likely stood for Forrester. Almerdell is listed as Alma.

Downtown Amarillo circa 1910.

In the 1911 Amarillo City Directory Minnie is listed as “widow of Robert J.” This may have been a polite fiction, a common practice at the time particularly in the South (see Notes below). More likely they were divorced.

In the 1912 Amarillo City Directory, she is listed as Minnie L. Mardis, but now she was “widow of W.M.” She is also mistakenly listed in the book as “Minnie Mordis,” same address.

By 1913, Minnie, still with the children at 605 Arthur Street, resumed using the name Forrester and is listed as the widow of Thomas. Her occupation is laundress. Mabel Forrester also worked at a laundry. Orville was a messenger for Western Union. Armadell isn’t listed. The same directory lists a Mrs. Minnie Shutt at the same address, a mangler at Amarillo Steam Laundry.

For the 1913 City Directory, Minnie resumed using the name Forrester and was the “widow of Thomas.” Orville was a Western Union messenger.

Mabel moved back to Paris briefly and worked in a laundry there. She married in Oklahoma City in December 1915. Almerdell married in Oklahoma City the following year. Minnie would also relocate to Oklahoma City, as did Orville. Both he and Minnie worked at the Palace Laundry for a time. In 1918 he got a job as a cook at the Lee Huckins Hotel and in February that year was arrested along with other kitchen staffers, charged with “loitering.” The following month, he married a local girl, Clara Franklin.

Orville in the 1917 Oklahoma City City Directory.

Palace Laundry ad, 1917.

The Lee Huckins Hotel, Oklahoma City.

Orville’s name is misspelled as usual. El Reno American 3/28/1918

As of 1920 Orville and Clara were living in Kansas City where Orville listed his occupation as a hotel cook. That didn’t last long and they went back to Oklahoma City and then apparently parted. Orville soon drifted West, to California- San Francisco, then Los Angeles. He was arrested in Pasadena for violation of the Volstead Act.

On April 22, 1926, Edward Bellani and Virgil Muscio were arrested in Los Angeles, accused of setting a “death trap” for Orville, who was identified as a “wealthy former San Francisco hotel owner,” now living in Los Angeles. Amazing how he became so successful, from cook to hotel owner, so quickly.

Monrovia Daily News 4/23/1926

According to Orville, the pair had followed him from San Francisco, stole his car, then telephoned him to “come and get it,” planning to murder him when he showed up to claim the automobile. The pair had often, he said, threatened to “get” him. Orville later claimed the bad blood was due to the fact that he had caused the arrest of Muscio on a “bad check” charge in San Francisco. Muscio and Bellani, a “member of his gang” had threatened Orville’s life and caused him to sell out and relocate to LA. The two were questioned and released. Not long after, Muscio was killed in a car accident at Geary and 31st streets in San Francisco on May 9, 1926. Speed was said to have been a factor.

Orville (seated, at right) is question in the attempted shooting of “rum ring” gangsters. LA Illustrated Daily News 7/14/1927

The following year, on July 13, 1927, Orville, who gave his address as 7224 Waring Avenue, was held at the Georgia Street police station, accused of trying to kill to “rum ring” gunman the previous night. He’d fired 4 shots at them as they fled from his pursuing car on Garland near Seventh Street. Orville claimed self-defense, stating that a “vendetta of many years” was behind the shooting, and told the bad check arrest story. Bellani was said to be “close” to Walter Hasketh, the recently-killed liquor hijacker, and Al Joseph, the “gambler” shot by Farmer Page at Bert the Barber’s Sorrento Club in February 1925. Page and his brother then ran liquor and prostitution as part of the Charles Crawford syndicate aka the Spring Street gang. Orville said he’d been laying low since the alleged attempt on his life in 1926 and had recently been found by another member of the gang, now involved with one of the “most powerful bootleg gangs in the Southwest.” Forrester was released after a so-called investigation. The participants were never revealed.

On November 9, 1927, police searching for a gang of hijackers and bootleggers who had attempted to steal some whiskey from a bungalow court at 753-4-5 North Van Ness Avenue in Hollywood, arrested a man called Homer White. White said the gang was run by an Eddie Lewis and Orville Forrester. Forrester, still living at 7224 Waring Avenue, was arrested on November 11. He didn’t know what the fuss was all about. A gangster had knocked on the door and demanded whiskey, he said. A fight broke out. Shots were fired. He was questioned and released.

LA Times 11/12/1927

On September 4, 1928, one man was wounded and another arrested for attempted murder after an alleged gangster drive-by shooting at Vermont and Francis avenues.Three men in a closed sedan opened fire on John R. “Jack” Wilson, wounding him in the leg. Forrester was identified by Wilson and arrested. Wilson’s wife Marie said Forrester had threatened Jack at 6 pm that evening. “We’ are going to get you.” Some newspaper accounts claimed it was a “love triangle” situation involving Orville and Marie Wilson; the police insisted it was a rum war. Orville claimed self-defense and again walked.

LA Record 9/5/1928.

LA Times 9/5/1928

On December 28, 1928, Orville was caught with a partner, Bruce Bannister, in Hyde Park, Los Angeles, with 2 trucks containing 67 gallons of liquor, seized by Federal prohibition agents working with the LAPD. Orville, who had on him a “little black book” full of prominent Hollywood personages, ostensibly his liquor clients (but more likely brothel clients, or both) bragged that “no policeman would arrest” him because he had protection. “I’ve got all you coppers fixed.” He was arrested, and would go to court on these charges in January 1929.

Orville had a “little black book.” presumed to be his bootleg clients. LA Evening Express 12/28/1928

In the wee hours of March 1, 1929, a rancher near Conejo Grade in Ventura County heard shots ring out. Or maybe it was a car backfiring. He glimpsed a roadster along the highway. About 2:30 am, a truck driver found a gun on the shoulder of the Conjo Grade. He picked it up and brought it along, then thought the better of it and tossed the weapon away (it would later be recovered). Two hours later, a So Cal Edison employee found the body of a man in a plowed field a few feet off the highway and reported it to authorities in Camarillo.

Conejo Grade as it looked in the 1920s.

Ventura County sheriff’s deputies identified the man as James “Jim” Brady, which they correctly presumed to be an alias. He had been shot three times in the head. There was little blood at the scene, leading the officers to conclude he’d been shot elsewhere and “taken for a ride,” his body dumped. In his coat pocket they found a piece of paper with the name Laura scribbled on it and a Los Angeles phone number and got in touch with their counterparts at the LA Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD.

Laura (also spelled Lora) was Mrs. Jack Mendoza of 4608 Kingswell Drive. Questioned at the LA sheriff’s office she had no idea why the dead man would have her name and phone number on him. Pressed, she recalled that her sister, who’d been living apart from her husband, had been hanging around some gangstery-looking Italian men in Venice. Her sister’s name, she said, was “Geraldine Forrester,” known as Jerry. Jerry’s husband was Orville Forrester.

Whittier News 3/2/1929

Within the hour Geraldine herself appeared at the sheriff’s office for questioning. Yes, she knew the dead man as “Jimmy.” She’d given him her sister’s number, she said, so he could reach her there. Within hours, the authorities, tracing Geraldine’s movements, had arrested three men who gave their names as Dominick Leo, Frank Rocco and Ruocco V. Vincenzo. Geraldine and another girl, Audrey Morasco, were held as material witnesses.

Ventura County DA James C. Hollingsworth, who would prosecute the case, hypothesized that Leo, Rocco and Vincenzo had come to LA in January 1929 and rented rooms at the Louise Hotel on West Sixth Street. They “became acquainted” with “Brady” and on February 19, 1929, “Brady” rented a double room at the King Apartments in Venice. Rocco and Morosco, and Geraldine Forrester and Brady were to occupy the quarters together.

Brady’s real name, it turned out, was Carmine Buorno. Born in Coney Island, New York in 1900, Brady was his mother’s maiden name. The man identified as Ruocco V. Vincenzo was his younger brother, Vincenzo Buono. The brothers were known back home for shaking down bookies and small shop keepers. In 1920, Carmine had been charged and acquitted for killing a man who had allegedly eloped with their mother.

Brooklyn Citizen 3/5/1929

Mostly because they were Italian, combined with the connection to Orville, well known on the police blotter for his bootlegging activities, the men were presumed to be part of a rum-running gang. Jealousy was also considered as a potential motive.

Geraldine, described as a beautiful “doll-like” blonde, said she’d last seen her husband at the Louise Hotel the afternoon of the murder, but insisted he couldn’t possibly know anything about it. Yes, she’d been with “the boys” at the time, she shrugged.

“Wouldn’t your husband resent seeing you with these other men?” Captain Bright of the sheriff’s office queried. “Isn’t it possible he might have killed this man, Brady, out of jealousy?”

Geraldine shrugged again. “I don’t know. He didn’t seem jealous.”

Authorities took the same line with Rocco. What had Forrester said to them when he saw them at the hotel? Forrester who? Rocco denied knowing Orville or Geraldine. “Oh, some guy had come up me and says ‘Where’s my wife?‘ There was a blonde there. Maybe he meant her. I don’t know her name.”

But as it turned Orville had a perfect alibi: at the time of the murder, he’d been in jail! He was arrested that night on suspicion of burglary. It had been a big misunderstanding- a neighbor had reported the “burglary” but in fact Orville was simply removing some of his own clothes from the residence.

Brought in for questioning Orville’s story dovetailed with Geraldine’s down to the shrugging. Yes, he’d seen her with “the Italians” at the Louise Hotel. Jealous? Heck, no. “Oh sure, it made me sore,” he said with a shrug. “But I figured she’d get tired of ’em and come home in a few days.” They’d had these little tiffs before.

“Say, d’you realize if I hadn’t happened to get knocked over last night, I’d probably get the rap for this murder?”

The self-styled Geraldine “Jerry” Forrester had been born in Nebraska as Esther Hewitt November 29, 1904, and had a twin brother, Lester. The family had settled in Los Angeles by 1910. In September 1918, Esther is reported to have run away to San Pedro with another girl, also age 13. The friend was found registered at a hotel with a man. Esther was later discovered to have married a sailor, Richard Zuniga, who deserted her within a week. As Esther Zuniga, she was taken into custody in February 1920 when she and another teen girl were found at a rooming house with two men. By the time she was 16, she’d married again, to a Randall Whitacre. It was presumably around this time that she met Orville. Under questioning in the Brady case, she told police she was 22 and had been married to Orville for 6 years, since she was 16. Disgraced LAPD detective Earl Kynette would assert in 1938 that according to Harry Raymond, Orville met the 16 year old in San Francisco and placed her in a brothel there. That is certainly possible, as Orville was by his own admission a San Francisco “hotel man” at that time. Later, Kynette said, Orville moved her to a brothel in San Pedro then married her at some point.

An early photo of Orville and the woman styled as Geraldine Forrester. From True Detective magazine, January 1930. (Author’s collection).

Five days after the body was discovered, the Ventura County grand jury handed down indictments for Leo and Rocco. Vincenzo Buono was released. The trial date was set to begin March 26, 1929. Orville, released in the burglary mix-up case, was told not to leave town. But on March 9, 1929, when Ventura County Deputy Sheriff Carl Wallace arrived to serve the couple with subpoenas to appear in court as witnesses, they were nowhere to be found. Finally, after a 10 day search they were spotted in Los Angeles and arrested by the LAPD. It was just a big mix-up, Orville said. They’d just gone to San Francisco for a little vacation, that was all. h, and the sheriff’s office had his phone number wrong. It wasn’t HEmpstead-5697, it was HEmpstead-5692. After promising not to take any more trips before the trial and swearing they would appear, the pair were released.

“Geraldine Forrester,” Orville’s wife, in court May 1929. From True Detective magazine, January 1930. Author’s collection.

Gertrude/Esther was called as a witness; Orville was not. He could often be seen pacing up and down in the halls during the trial. Leo was found not guilty. Frank Rocco aka Frank Muro, born in New York, was convicted and sent to San Quentin on April 10, 1929. In September 1931, he would be transferred to Folsom Prison.

Frank Rocco (Muro) as San Quentin prisoner #17369, 4/10/1969. California State Archives.

Geraldine promptly vanished after the guilty verdict. Whether she and Orville had really been married or not, they were no longer together.

That summer, Orville was arrested on a variety of charges, from traffic violations, to again violating federal liquor laws. It all bounced off of him.

LA Times 9/9/1929

On September 8, 1929, Orville and Patrick R. Mullen were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder in the case of Mrs. Pearl Sutcliffe nee Dascomb of 364 S. Orange Street.

Born in 1884, Pearl had married Walter J. Sutcliffe in Los Angeles in November 1905. In February 1929, Walter had attacked a musician, Carl Bengstrom, with a knife after the Burns PI’s he’d hired “found” him in a room with Pearl at the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco.

LA Daily News 2/11/1929

Walter, aka “The Love Stabber,” was convicted on June 13, 1929 and was sentenced to 3 years. From jail, he reportedly offered to pay $10,000 to have his wife bumped off. The messenger, Leo Wheeler, did search for someone to take on the job, but ultimately warned Pearl of the plot on August 8. An LAPD woman officer was assigned to protect her. Patrick Mullen was arrested the next month in a vice raid at 2749 San Marino Street and sang, telling police he was to have taken Pearl “for a ride;” Orville was to have been the payoff man. Walter Sutcliffe admitted knowing Orville; they had been friends for “three years” he said, but denied he wanted Pearl dead. In the end. the conspiracy could not be proven.

In October 1929, Orville was back in court on the December 1928 Federal bootlegging charges. He suddenly changed his plea to guilty and threw himself on the mercy of the court. He was fined $500, sentenced to a year in LA County jail and placed on two years’ probation.

On April 19, 1934, Orville was arrested as operator of the Professional Club at 1914 S. Vermont Avenue for violation of State liquor laws. Sgt. Sidney “Sweetie” Sweetham of the LAPD led the raid. He was convicted on May 22, 1934 on these charges as well as operating a dance hall without a permit, and fined $200 or 100 days in jail. Orville appealed the conviction and was freed on $1000 bail.

On May 24, 1934, a fight broke out at the Professional Club. A man named Pat O’Shea was shot in the thigh. H. Paul Mitchell, a figure named in the 1930 Salt Lake City murder for hire of Dorthy Moormeister, (a case not unlike the Sutcliffe caper) was beaten the the fracas. On May 27, Orville was held on suspicion  of firing the shot that injured O’Shea. As usual, nothing came of it.

It was in 1934 that Orville’s sister Almerdell, now calling herself Ann, would later state she began working at a brothel, one of nearly 3 dozen run by a syndicate that Guy McAfee controlled. Since the murder of Charles Crawford, McAfee, the ex-vice cop, had taken over the vice rackets.

Orville would happily admit to having been involved in bootlegging, and would say that after Prohibition ended he’d gotten into gambling (most male gangsters, however, took care to hide their association with prostitution and, above all, narcotics).

In early 1935, at the urging of religious leaders and citizen groups, the County grand jury launched an investigation into gambling and other vice conditions in Los Angeles. McAfee, Farmer Page, Nola Hahn and others were sought for testimony but scattered to the winds and nothing came of it.

In August 1935, Rheba Crawford, assistant pastor at Sister Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple, used her formidable pulpit to accuse Mayor Shaw of tolerating vice conditions- prostitution, narcotics, gambling. She wrote to Shaw that complain that he was ignoring her protests and threatened to put out a petition for his recall from office if he did not enforce the law and close the City to gambling, prostitution and other vice. Shaw retorted that “if vice conditions exist as described by Rheba Crawford, they will be cleaned up immediately.” He was, he said, just waiting for a report on vice conditions from the LAPD’s vice squad. Rheba (no relation to Charles Crawford) promptly provided a long list of vice joints. Harlan Palmer of the Hollywood Citizen-News editorialized in his paper on September 13, 1935 that the information was hardly a surprise to the mayor or police chief James E. Davis. Davis had been demoted in 1929 in part due to the fallout over the frame-up arrest of anti-vice City Councilman Carl Jacobson involving Harry Raymond and several other high-ranking police officials, but was restored to power by Mayor Shaw in 1933.

Reba Crawford (l) With Sister Aimee, 1934. UCLA photo.

Los Angeles would, Palmer stated, have to decide whether “underworld leaders should be permitted to take a share of the earnings of prostitutes and of the gamblers and use a part f them for the corruption of our elections and the control of the police department,” and that “the police department is operated under the control of the men who control the prostitution and big-time gambling,” noting that “at a single word, the all the vice joints in the city can be closed.” Joints found operating that were not run by these men, he said, were swiftly closed.

Crawford was one of several local religious leaders who along with citizens, were demanding investigations into vice and graft. Others included Dr. A.M. Wilkerson, Bob Shuler and Gustav Briegleb. Like another gangster, Jimmy Utley,  Forrester was likely using these reform efforts for his own purposes.

Illustrated Daily News 2/8/1936

On February 7, 1936, Orville and a woman calling herself Mabel Rogers, 32, were arrested following a police raid at 729 S. Normandie Avenue, the La Granada Apartments, accused of selling narcotics- when officers found opium stashed in the bathroom. Orville called it a frame-up, asserting that he was being targeted because he was helping expose the inner workings of the city’s vice operations.

“You know that [Earl] Kynette and [Tom] James and that gang down at City Hall have been trying to get me.”

Harlan Palmer theorized, more realistically, that Orville’s troubles likely began when he demanded a cut of the rackets.

Mabel Rogers was referred to in news reports variously as Forrester’s “friend,” his secretary, his friendly secretary, his sister, and his ex-wife. Orville did have a sister named Mabel who since her marriage was Mabel Rodgers (also spelled Rogers), but this was not her. This “Mabel Rogers” was a different lady. As usual with Orville, it was complicated. LA Illustrated Daily News 4/17/1936

Illustrated Daily News 3/31/1936

At his trial, on April 22, Orville asserted that the “City Hall Gang” had attempted to have Sister Aimee sign a complaint accusing Orville and Rheba Crawford of conspiring to assassinate McPherson so that Crawford could take over the Angelus Temple. There were rumblings around the courtroom that Forrester and Crawford were going t “blow the lid off” political corruption. Crawford testified on April 27, but when Forrester’s lawyer A Brigham Rose asked if she knew whether Earl Kynette had visited Sister Aimee and tried to get her to sign such a complaint, the prosecution successfully objected and Crawford was not permitted to answer.

On May 2, 1936, the jury deadlocked in the Forrester narcotics case. Two days later, the court announced that a date for a new trial would be set. But on May 8, DA Buron Fitts’ office asked for and got a dismissal of the charges.

On May 11, Orville reported that a bomb had been planted in his car. A smoke bomb. The police dismissed the claim as a “prank.”

The Times and the LAPD played the supposed bomb planted in Orville Forrester’s car as one big joke. In January 1938, Harry Raymond would not be laughing. LA Times, 5/12/1936

On May 19, a citizen’s group called the Committee of 41, chaired by former City Park Commission member William Humphries, wrote to the Police Commission, calling for ousting of the officers involved in the Forresster case as well as a thorough investigation. The Committee of 41 also accused Chief Davis (who was out of town, as he usually was when big doings were going on) of neglecting protected vice and said it had “reason to believe the police regime of James Edgar Davis was fraught with irregularities of the worst kind.” They believed Forrester was framed.

Hollywood Citizen News 5/20/1936

On May 29, Orville, now identified in local papers as a “vice exposer,” claimed to have found a dictaphone planted in his hotel room at 601 W. Sixth Street. If so, it was similar to the experience of Hollywood film industry figure John Langan, a victim of Chief Davis’ fascist “Bum Blockade” in February 1936. Langan sued the LAPD, then abruptly not only dropped his case but became the LAPD’s #1 booster. Though not made public at the time, he later revealed the details of the intimidation campaign waged by Earl Kynette and others, including the planting of a dictaphone, blackmail, and threats. (See my post on the Bum Blockade).

Hollywood Citizen News 5/29/1936

Rheba Crawford was subsequently ousted from Angelus Temple and filed a slander suit against Sister Aimee’s daughter Roberta and mother Minnie J. “Ma” Kennedy.  Orville, now calling himself a “real estate man” (as Charles Crawford had before he was murdered in his Sunset Boulevard “real estate office”) would be a witnesses in the case. All parties involved, including Orville, claimed to have received death threats. The suit was ultimately dismissed in May 1937.

Clifford Clinton, cafeteria owner and 1937 grand jurist, took up the effort to expose vice conditions in the city, forming a citizen-led group called CIVIC (See The Angels Take A Bath). As with previous such efforts, underworld would use these sincere endeavors to expose, and therefore eliminate the competition. But the old Spring Street Gang, McAfee, Farmer Page, et al were losing their grip on power as Bugsy Siegel sought to muscle in on their rackets. In January 1938, Harry Raymond was nearly killed in a car bomb that was soon traced to Earl Kynette’s spy squad and the ties went all the way to Mayor Shaw’s office.

In May 1938, Kynette, on trial for the attempted murder of his former colleague, would assert that the 1929 “Brady” killing actually took place in front of the Louise Hotel, not on the Conjo road, and it was committed either by Orville Forrester his partner Jimmy Gould (aka Jimmy Ashby), or another of their associates. Kynette said he’d been seeking information from Raymond about “Geraldine Williams” (Esther Hewitt). Geraldine had fallen in love with Brady, Kynette said, and was going to go back to “Boston” with him after divorcing Orville. Kynette claimed he asked Raymond where he could find “Williams” and others involved, as he knew “Raymond had connections in the underworld.” Kynette also said he talked to Frank Rocco, still doing time in Folsom Prison, and went to Stockton where “Williams” was supposedly working as a prostitute.

Ventura County Star 5/25/1938

James C. Hollingsworth, who served as Ventura County DA from 1926 to 1934, now in private practice, said there was no doubt who had killed Brady. Forrester, he added, had had a perfect alibi. He didn’t address the possibility that Forrester had arranged the murder.

Curiously, later that year, on October 5, 1938, Frank Rocco was transferred from Folsom to the Mendocino State Hospital for the criminally insane. He died there on June 8, 1939.

Orville kept a low profile after the Raymond bombing. His sister Almerdell, now calling herself Ann Forst, was arrested in April 1940, accused of operating a prostitution ring. She named Guy McAfee as head of a large prostitution syndicate. Nothing happened to McAfee. Ann was given a prison term and like Orville faded into obscurity.

Orville died in Los Angeles on September 17, 1965.



The name was sometimes spelled Forester.

It’s also possible Cohen was conflating the women; he tended to mix up people and places and is vague about dates.

Orville’s older sister, Mabel, was born in Texas in December 1895. Another child, born in 1898, died in infancy.

August 1899 birthdate is per the 1900 US Census and Orville’s WWI draft card.

Women would often identify themselves in city directories as “widows” when in reality they were either divorced. The fiction was maintained even when the man was clearly alive and well and, in some cases, still listed in the directory himself. It was also not uncommon, after a remarriage and divorce, for a previously widowed woman to resume using the name and widow status of her late husband.

1910 US Census erroneously recorded Minnie as “Matild Mardis.” The census also shows a “brother” living with Minnie: Sam W. Ginnings. Also spelled Jennings, he was the son of Matilda Victoria Dilday and her first husband, James A. Jennings. Matilda Victoria, whose parents were Simeon J. and Sarah Dilday, married Jennings in Fannin, Texas in July 1877. Minnie, as “M.L. Rains,” lived with the Jennings in 1880, per the 1880 US Census, and is listed as Victoria’s sister. It’s possible Sarah remarried and perhaps died giving birth to Minnie, as she would have been 39 or 40 years old at the time. If the two were (half) sisters, however, that would make Victoria’s son Sam Jennings Minnie’s nephew, not her brother. Sam Jennings also lived at the Panhandle Hotel in 1908.

In 1888 Victoria married George Washington Cass in Lamar County Texas and went on to have three more sons, Moses Cass, born in 1889; Lewis Cass, born in 1891, and Harvey N. Cass, born in 1897. Both Sam Ginnings/Jennings and Moses Cass lived at 605 Arthur St. in 1911.

By 1917, Minnie had a relationship with a man named William H. Tate, who resided at 607 Arthur Street. He lists her, as Minnie L. Tate, as his nearest relative on his WWI draft card in 1918 at the 607 Arthur Street address. Orville’s draft registration also lists her as his nearest relative, at the 607 address, but as Minnie L. Forrester. She relocated to Oklahoma City sometime after this. She is listed in the 1920 Oklahoma City City Directory as Mrs. Minnie Tate, an employee at the Palace Laundry, who roomed at 120 W. Washington Street. W.H. Tate is listed at the same address. She is also listed in 1921, but W.H. Tate is not. In 1925 Minnie did marry a man named Marcus A. Clingan. In the 1930 US Census, the couple lived in Oklahoma City with Clingan’s son from a previous marriage. They still lived in Oklahoma City in 1935. By 1940 they’d relocated to Los Angeles and lived with Almerdell, who was arrested in May of that year and charged with pandering.

Orville would list his occupation as cook in the 1930 US Census as well. What a kidder.

The Brady case was written about in the January 1930 True Detective magazine. “Take Him for a Ride” by Capt. James F. Bean of the LAPD as told to Madeline Kelley.

Vincenzo Buono did not live much longer than his older brother. He was killed at Coney Island on May 19, 1929, of a gunshot wound to the chest. He had allegedly been seeking revenge for the murder of his brother Carmine (aka James Brady), and believed Frank Rocco (aka Muro) had followed Carmine to Los Angeles because he thought Carmine had “squealed” to New York police about a holdup/robbery. The shooting on the Conejo Grade had been about that,  Vincenzo thought. He confronted Anthony Muro, the brother of Frank Muro (aka Rocco) at the Frankfort Club, a Coney Island night club and took a shot. Muro fired back, hitting Vincenzo and wounding an off duty police officer. Vincenzo died in the hospital. Tony Muro was later arrested.

Born in Nebraska in 1902, Lora Hewitt Mendoza as Lorraine Dorian Walsh, dubbed the “Lady in Red” by the press, was arrested in October 1935, accused of shooting her common-law husband, liquor salesman Joseph Walsh, at a dinner party on August 30, 1935. He survived. Though he refused to name Lora as his assailant, she was convicted of attempted murder and sent to San Quentin in November 1935. Paroled in February 1940, in September 1941, she caused a hit and run accident at Hollywood and Gower and was convicted in January 1942. She died in Los Angeles in December 1949.

Esther Hewitt maybe Forrester married again, to a Paul H. Goldsmith in April 1934.

Walter Sutcliffe had been arrested in Bakersfield in 1917 for violating the state rooming house ordinance with a woman who was not his wife. He was fined $100 and got 25 days in jail. Pearl had been the complaining witness. She filed for divorce in August 1929 after learning of the murder-for-hire plot, but not only withdrew the petition in April 1930 but also lobbied to get Walter released early on grounds of ill health. He was paroled on June 24, 1930 saying he and Pearl hoped to “start anew.” But in March 1932, she refiled. Walter counter-sued, asserting that Pearl had remained friendly with young Bengsten. She won, and was granted a divorce on May 6, 1932. She settled $60,000 on Walter and opened a short-lived cafe at 6029 Hollywood Boulevard called the Question Mark. Walter died in May 1934.

In January 1937, Utley, would be arrested for selling opium at a nearby location, 849 S. Normandie Avenue, in a remarkably similar set up. Like Forrester, his charges were dropped. (But unluckily for Utley, his case was pursued by the federal government and he was convicted).

On November 7, 1930, Orville had wed a woman named Mildred aka Matilda. They split up and on March 6, 1935, he married Eleanor Cimine, a divorcee with a young son from her first marriage. The union wasn’t legal because Orville was still married to his previous wife, Matilda/Mildred. On May 21, 1936, Orville sought an annulment from his 1930 marriage on the grounds that that union wasn’t legal because Mildred/Marilda was still married to her ex-husband at the time. He then re-wed Eleanor legally in November 4, 1936. Orville and Eleanor were still together, living at 1025 N. Serrano Street as of 1940. They later divorced, He would marry again, to a Minnie Kathryn Treat nee Dahlstrom in 1945.

Mayor Shaw was voted out of office in September 1938 in a recall effort spearheaded by Clifford Clinton. Chief Davis “retired” in November. In 1939, Shaw’s replacement, Mayor Fletcher Bowron, would purge the police department of 23 officers identified as on the payroll of the underworld. Orville’s sister Almerdell, following her 1940 vice arrest, would aid Bowron’s effort to expose protected vice.

Orville’s mother Minnie died in Benicia, California in 1956. His sister Mabel, as Mabel Rogers, died in Lake County California in 1980. Almerdell, as Almerdell Secress, died in Phoenix, Arizona in 1998.


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