Ann Forrester – the So-Called “Black Widow”

Almerdell Forrester, using the name Ann Forst, first made headlines in Los Angeles in April 1940 for her involvement in a large prostitution syndicate. LA County sheriff George Contreras seems to have given her the nickname “The Black Widow” apropos of nothing. The press ran with it and the name stuck.

She was born in Paris, Texas on July 28, 1902, the third and youngest surviving child of Thomas L. Forrester and Minnie L. Rains. Tom Forrester, a trainman for the Santa Fe Railroad, was killed on the job in July 1906 near Amarillo shortly before Almerdell’s fourth birthday.

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

Minnie and the children relocated to Amarillo, then a bustling railroad hub, where in 1908 Minnie (now Minnie Mardis) ran the Panhandle Hotel at 1200 E. 3rd Street.

The 1908 Amarillo City Directory. Almerdell’s brother Orville Forrester is mistakenly listed as a girl, “Orabelle.” The three siblings lived with their mother (listed as Minnie Mardis) at the Panhandle Hotel.

The 1910 US Census. Minnie was still using the name Mardis (incorrectly transcribed as Mardin) and here it is also applied to the children. Orville is listed is Forrester” Mardis. Eight-year-old Almerdell is “Alma” Mardis.

Mabel married in Oklahoma City in December 1915. Almadell, now calling herself “Anna Bell” Forrester (sometimes spelled Anna Belle, Anabelle, Annabelle or Annabell) also moved to Oklahoma City, where she worked as a waitress. On May 26, 1916, she married a local man, Cecil Leland Wills, a movie theater projectionist. He was 22. She gave her age as 18. In fact, she was not yet 14.

The Oklahoma News 5/26/1916

Almerdell’s marriage license. She was using the name Anabell Forrester.

Dreamland Theater, at 310 W. Main Street, Oklahoma City c. 1910, where Cecil worked as a projectionist. Oklahoma Historical Society Photo.

North Broadway, Oklahoma City

The young couple initially lived on North Broadway but later moved in with Cecil’s mother. On October 6, 1917, Anna Wills (as she was now known) and Cecil had a son, Maurice Cecil Wills (sometimes spelled Morris). But the relationship was rocky. Anna and the baby went to live with Minnie, who as “Mrs. Minnie Tate” had since also relocated to Oklahoma City.

Just before Christmas 1918, Cecil filed for divorce.

In April 1919 Anna had her brother-in-law Clarence arrested for assault and battery, charging that he’d beaten her numerous times. In addition, a woman named Lydia Board who lived with Anna swore out a complaint against Clarence for disturbing the peace. In turn, Anna’s mother-in-law Gertrude Dissing, charged Anna with disturbing the peace.

Oklahoma City Times 7/3/1919

On July 3, 1919 Minnie filed a divorce cross-complaint on Anna’s behalf, on the basis that Anna had been a minor when she and Cecil married. Anna stated that not only had Clarence beat her, so had Cecil and her mother-in-law, Gertrude. But whatever Cecil said about Anna must have been worse, as the divorce was granted in his favor on October 11, 1919. In an even bigger blow Cecil was given full custody of Maurice. Anna was not even permitted to visit her child.

A young and pretty divorcee, Anna may have read in the local papers on January 25 1921, the tragic story of Louise Miller, 19. Louise had been lured into a brothel by men known as “curbstone cuties,” who cruised along Main Street and North Broadway in “swell-looking automobiles” looking for unsuspecting girls.

“They ask them if they’d like to take a ride and the foolish kids, some of them only 15 years old, fall for the good clothes and accept the ride. Sometimes they induce the girls to go into the houses voluntarily. Sometimes they drag them in by force. The women who own the houses…work hand-in-hand with the ‘cuties,’ receiving $10 for each one, giving the men their share. The girls are allowed to keep the rest, if there is any. Whisky is passed around and filled with dope. The girls are so young and some of them I know to be real good girls, think it is smart to drink the whisky. They are given more by the other women until they become unconscious, then they are taken to the back….”

The Lawton Constitution, 5/13/1921

The Oklahoma News 5/17/1921

In May 1921, Anna, as Annabelle Wills, attacked another girl with a knife, reportedly after the girl, Maude Bain, attended a dance with a “former sweetheart” of Anna’s. Anna threatened Maude at the dance, and she wasn’t kidding around. When Maude returned to her apartment, Anna and another girl were waiting. The other girl held Maude down while Anna attacked her severely with a knife. Anna (who local papers felt obligated to describe as “pretty”) was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and received a sentence of 18 months in the State Reformatory, but it was immediately suspended and she got off with parole.

The Oklahoma News 4/7/1928

In April 1928, Anna, still using the name Annabelle “Babe” Wills, was charged with kidnapping her now 10-year-old son. Minnie, who had remarried in 1925 to a local man, Marc Clingan, was arrested and also charged with kidnapping along with Marc. Cecil had remarried in 1924. But Maurice had been cared for since the divorce by his paternal grandmother, Gertrude. According to Gertrude, Minnie had picked the boy up from school and turned him over to Anna. The family believed Anna was in “Los Angeles or Chicago.” Maurice was returned and the incident was apparently smoothed over as a misunderstanding as nothing came of the kidnapping charges.

The Daily Oklahoman 1/22/1930

By January 1930, Anna was living in Chicago and using the name Mrs. Anna Green. She returned to Oklahoma City to plead for custody of Maurice. Cecil had remarried a second time and lived in Amarillo. Maurice remained in Oklahoma City with his paternal grandmother. Caught in the middle, when questioned by the court, Maurice refuted his mother’s claims that Cecil was a drunkard who beat him; he didn’t want to go to military school, as Anna had suggested. He wished to continue living with Gertrude. The judge said he was inclined to modify the decade-old custody agreement to allow Anna to have partial custody of Maurice, or at least be allowed visitation.

Anna’s movements over the next 10 years can only be speculated.

Was she, for example, the “Anna Green” of 3920 Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, who in December 1930 put up this property- valued at $85,000 in lieu of cash to bail out gangster Frank Frost (aka Frankie Foster), in custody on suspicion of murder in the Alfred “Jake” Lingle case? Frost had been arrested in Los Angeles on  July 1, 1930 in connection with the Lingle murder and extradited to Chicago (See my previous post, Bugs Moran’s Boys in Los Angeles).

Was she the “Ann Forst” arrested in May 1935, for harboring a fugitive: Vahan Rejisian, alias Albert Green, suspected ringleader of a Wilshire burglary ring?

LA Evening Post Record 5/22/1935

Was she a Follies girl as her 1940 request for parole would state?

We know that Orville was in Los Angeles by the early 1920s, racking up bootlegging arrests and getting mixed up with a murder.

Ann later testified that she began working for Guy McAfee’s prostitution syndicate in 1934, which then included “at least” 31 brothels. McAfee and June Taylor ran it. Wade Buckwald was the collection guy. Buckwald was an old pal of McAfee’s going back to the 1910s. June Taylor had been a syndicate madam since the Charles Crawford days.

Ann started out as a maid, she claimed, adding that as many as 10 maids were employed by syndicate-run “houses” at the time. “When the town was open, we had between 40 to 50 roomers paying from 50 cents to $2.50. We were told to keep the money and split it among us. It amount to between $4 and $8 above our salaries.”

The hardest part of her job, she said, was trying to distinguish between paying patrons and vice squad raiders.

Eventually, Ann claimed, she came to run 7 of the houses. They brought in $3500 to $5000 a week. She paid $50 a week per house out of her own cut for protection: $5 a week for uniformed police, $10 a week for sergeants.

She was apparently doing well. In August, 1938, as “Mrs. A. Forrester,” Ann purchased a 10 acre plot of land in Northridge and in November obtained a permit to built a sprawling hacienda-style house on the property. Later, Guy McAfee would claim he had only met Ann once and that was in connection with the construction of this house- the builder had wanted to consult him about it, or some such malarkey.

Ann’s 10 acres. She never did build that wall or the pool. The Van Nuys News 8/4/1938

The local paper assumed “A Forrester” was a man. San Fernando Valley Times 11/22/1938

Ann’s permit to build a house and garage at 19240 Devonshire Boulevard, 11/22/1938. LADBS record.

Ann Forrester’s 19240 Devonshire Boulevard residence. LAPL photo.

Northridge, known until late 1938 as Zelah, had recently become an exclusive enclave of the Hollywood horsey set. Ann’s nearby neighbors included Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Paul Kelly and Richard Arlen.

Northridge, “Home of Celebrated People.” LA Times 4/10/1938

In November 1936, Barbara Stanwyck and her agent Zeppo Marx had purchased a 130-acre tract at the southwest corner of Devonshire and Reseda boulevards that they planned to develop as a thoroughbred race horse ranch, known as “Marwyck.” In February they applied for permits to build homes fronting Devonshire Road- Stanwyck at 18050, Marx at 18600.

The Stanwyck and Marx residences at 18050 and 18600 Devonshire Boulevard. Marc Wanamaker/Bison Archives and Alfred Eisenstaedt /The LIFE Collection, Getty images.

In March 1937, Robert Taylor bought a 27-acre parcel on Devonshire Boulevard (across the street from Ann’s future home) and built a house and outbuildings on it.

Robert Taylor’s Northridge Estates ranch, c. 1938.

Paul Kelly and his wife Dorothy Mackaye bought a 40-acre ranch property in 1936 known as “Kellymac Ranch” and in February 1937 began constructing a house, guest cottages and a stable, at 20005 Devonshire Boulevard.

Hollywood Citizen-News 2/6/1937

In February 1938, Richard Arlen and wife Jobyna Ralston bought a 12-1/2-acre ranch they would call “Breezy Top,” then addressed at 19001 Devonshire Boulevard, that contained an existing home designed by Paul R. Williams in October 1936.

Richard Arlen’s Breezy Top Ranch house on Devonshire Boulevard, designed by Paul R. Williams for the previous owner, R. R. Howden. From Screenland magazine November 1938.

On the whole, however, 1938 was not a very good year for the underworld. It began with the attempted murder via car bomb of Guy McAfee’s former co-worker Harry Raymond, who was allegedly looking into contributions funneled by McAfee through fronts to the mayoral campaign of Frank Shaw back in 1933. The incident was soon traced to the LAPD with direct links to Shaw’s office. Clifford Clinton of the citizen-led vice investigation group CIVIC successfully petitioned to recall Shaw from office, which Los Angeles voters did in September 1938. Shaw’s replacement, Superior Court judge Fletcher Bowron enacted a series of reforms designed to clean up the City, starting with the LAPD.

After Mayor Bowron’s election, Ann said, the syndicate’s operation changed. Instead of maintaining houses where the girls “entertained” clients, it was now run on an on-call basis, not unlike the one formerly used by Lucky Luciano in New York, whereby girls were sent to certain apartments or hotels on certain nights to meet clients.

She served as the assignment secretary, she said, telephoning the girls to tell them where to meet their “dates,” a “small but important cog” in the syndicate’s machinery. She worked out of headquarters, on the second floor of 444 South Spring Street, where maids in the old days and later the “girls” brought 50 percent of their earnings at the end of the night, shoving the cash through the bars of a grilled window. It was put into envelopes, Ann said, and the envelopes locked in a closet until delivered or picked up.

She originally turned over her collections to McAfee weekly originally at Buckwald’s home, at their office on Olive Street, or on occasion at a gas station parking lot near Cahuenga and Selma. More recently, the money would be delivered to June Taylor at a hotel located in unincorporated County territory on La Canada Road.

In February 1939, there were rumors flying that Guy McAfee and the other remnants of the old Spring Street gang were packing up and leaving town. In June of that year. it was definitely confirmed that McAfee and company were pulling up stakes for Las Vegas.

But McAfee retained significant business and real estate holdings in Los Angeles, including two residences and a yacht kept at Santa Monica; there were also hints from DA Buron Fitts and others that the real reason the old Spring Streeters departed was not Mayor Bowron’s reforms but a “new man” in town, a man from the East who was taking over the rackets- by force if necessary. Los Angeles wasn’t Chicago, however. The local underworld preferred to let the law get rid of their competition by raiding and arresting them.

On April 23 1940, the news broke that the sheriff’s vice squad was investigating a “white slave ring” based in Los Angeles. Several persons involved had already been arrested.

Hollywood Citizen News 4/23/1940

It happened on April 22 when two teenage girls, Maxine Rayle and Helen Hains Smith called the sheriff’s office to report that a man was trying to recruit them as prostitutes at a Hollywood cafe. The girls pretended to go along, telling the man that they needed to go home and get some clothes. Sheriff’s deputies was there to meet them and arrested the man, Charles W. Montgomery. They also arrested Brenda Allen Burns, and Donna Stewart, two young women suspected of being additional victims of the ring.

Brenda Allen Burns, LAT 4/25/1940

Ann Forst aka Ann Forrester in 1940. LAPL photo

Simultaneously, deputies arrested Ann, as Ann Forst, at 444 South Spring Street.

Ann would later testify that when Capt. Walter Hunter of the sheriff’s office took her in, he said she was only wanted for questioning. Once there, she was taken to Capt. George Contreras, then head of the vice quad. She asked if they had to book her. The papers had gotten hold of the story, Contreras said according to Ann, so it would be pretty hard to not book her, but it could be done- for say, $2500. Contreras would deny it, and Ann was indeed booked. she was released almost immediately on a writ of habeas corpus.

Two other men, Bristol Barrett and Tim Tullis, were rounded up, suspected of being ‘talent scouts,” recruiting girls and getting a cut of their wages in exchange for these “services.” Two women from San Bernardino were arrested, Dolly Dupree and Helen Reid, suspected of running brothels there were Burns and other girls said they had been taken and forced to work as prostitutes, most of their earning going to the madams. Edith Johnson, a rooming house proprietor, was also charged.

In remarks to UP reporters on April 27, Contreras said that although they had no definite proof, they believed the ring operated from Mexico to Canada and as far East as Chicago and involved 150-200 women, many of them recruited from the Skid Row section of Los Angeles.

Contreras said that Ann was known as “the black widow” but gave no explanation. The press liked it though, and thereafter would refer to Ann by that nickname.

On May 1, 1940, the grand jury returned indictments against Ann, Barrett, Tullis,  Montgomery, Dupree, Reid and Johnson for pandering and conspiracy to commit pandering. Charges against Dupree and Reid were dropped when they agreed to be witnesses for the State. Brenda Allen talked to the grand jury at length and would be a key witness.

Ann, released on bail, called it frame up, just as her brother Orville would call his 1936 narcotics arrest a frame up. She could “blow the lid off” the City, by revealing connections between high public officials and organized prostitution, she said. “I’m being made a political football in this thing.”

San Pedro News-Pilot 5/2/1940

During jury selection, on July 9, 1940, one of Ann’s lawyers, George Stahlman, said he could provide evidence that public officials had received bribes in connection with the ring.

In his opening remarks, Stahlman said that Ann had been arrested solely because she’d crossed the “political racketeering machine” run by Guy McAfee, Bob Gans (the slot machine king) and DA Fitts. He also wanted Contreras cited for contempt for having written or contributing to the writing of not one but two articles about Ann and the white slavery case that had just appeared in the latest issues of True Detective and Daring Detective magazines. The articles implied that Ann was guilty before she’d even gotten to trial. Contreras denied he’d had any involvement.

Hollywood Citizen News 7/9/1940

Testimony began on July 12. Bench warrants were issued for June Taylor and Wade Buckwald’s former wife Barbara when they failed to show up in response to a subpoena from Ann’s defense team. They never appeared.

June Taylor’s association with Albert Marco was recalled by the Daily News. As usual, Taylor was a no-show. LA Daily News 7/12/1940

On July 16, the County grand jury opened an investigation into Stahlman’s claims of graft. But, subpoenaed before the body, he refused to reveal anything in the presence of DA Buron Fitts, charging that Fitts himself was involved and ought not to be in charge of the investigation. The grand jury paused its case the same day, pending outcome of the trial.

LA News 7/17/1940

The trial proceeded with a parade of witnesses for the prosecution. The victims told truly frightful stories of being coerced or tricked into prostitution by Barrett and Montgomery with promised of high pay and luxury. Front and center was Brenda Allen Burns, who took the stand on July 19.

Brenda Allen Burns, star witness in the white slave trial, July 1940, telling the jury how Charles W. Montgomery and Bristol Barrett had recruited her to a life of shame, forcing her to work in a San Bernardino brothel for a pittance before bringing her back to Los Angeles. She would go on to be Hollywood’s next top madam and the subject of her own “lid off” scandal. LAPL photo.

LA Times 8/6/1940

LA Daily News 8/6/1940

Ann took the stand on August 5. She told her story of Contreras shaking her down, and named McAfee, Buchwald, and Taylor as heads of the prostitution ring, insisting that she had only been a maid/secretary.

Ann testifies 8/5/1940. LAPL photo.

The many faces of Ann 8/8/1940. LAPL photo.

Prosecutor Don Avery introduced pictures of Ann’s home on Devonshire Boulevard and asked how a mere “maid” had been able to afford it. Ann claimed the place had only cost her $6000.

George Stahlman wryly countered that he could introduce pictures of DA Fitts’ ranch and threatened to ask how Fitts could afford it on his salary from the County.

Interviewed by Times reporters, from Las Vegas McAfee denied that he had anything to do with the white slave ring and called Ann’s story “just another attempt to blame everything on my that ever went on in Los Angeles’ underworld.”

He wasn’t asked about his connection to 444 South Spring Street, where his late wife, a madam, had advertised “furnished rooms” from at least 1913 to 1922.

Contreras also flatly denied that he’d tried to shake Ann down for $2500 and demanded the grand jury investigate the claim. He also asked the grand jury to investigate Ann for perjury.

Continuing her testimony on August 6, Ann was asked by her lawyer Paul Hornaday whether she ever turned over her weekly collection money to McAfee in front of any other person. Ann replied that indeed she had: the witness was LAPD detective lieutenant J.D. McMullen, formerly of the vice squad. She had also seen McAfee and Buckwald pay McMullen $300. The prosecution objected to any line of questioning that had to do with payoffs and shut her down, but not before she mentioned that the detective had received this amount weekly for “several months.”

Taking the stand on August 7, McMullen denied both claims, and countered that he had arrested Ann for prostitution “about 4 years ago.”

LA Daily News 8/8/1940

In his closing remarks, Deputy DA Marcus Brandler said it was obvious Ann had been the brains behind the operation. Ann’s defense team called the State’s case “vague and uncertain.”

After resting over the weekend, the jury began deliberations on Monday, August 12 and on an August 13, found Ann, Montgomery and Johnson guilty. (Barrett and Tullis had pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial).

Convicted on 3 counts of pandering, Ann was given 1-10 years at Tehachapi women’s prison. She was freed on bail, vowing to appeal. Minnie and her husband had moved from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles and lived with Ann at the Northridge estate, which she put up for sale in November, likely to fund her ongoing legal battle. On December 23, 1940 she filed an appeal of her conviction.

Facing prison time and perhaps needing cash for her continued defense, Ann advertised the Devonshire Boulevard estate for sale in November 1940. On the witness stand she’d claimed it had only cost her $6000. LA Times 11/17/1940

Ann’s ranch sold for $35,000 in February 1941. LAT 2/23/1941 Norman Summerell was a front or a broker.

The “well known and prominent” Ann Forrester’s interior decor was sold an offsite auction in May 1941. LAT 5/25/1941

If it was any consolation, things weren’t going so well for Ann’s foes either. On November 5, 1940, Los Angeles had finally had enough of Buron Fitts and he lost reelection to the reform candidate backed by Clifford Clinton, John F. Dockweiler.

Contreras was removed as head of the vice squad on December 19, 1940. Sheriff Biscailuz insisted it was not in punishment for anything.

LA Times 9/30/1941

On September 29, 1941, more than a year after her conviction during which she had remained free on bond, Ann’s appeal was denied.

With no other recourse open to her, Ann hoped to get her sentence reduced to parole as she had done all those years ago in Oklahoma City. To aid this effort, she cooperated with Mayor Bowron’s ongoing reform efforts. With a transmitter equipped to her car, she drove around trailed by Bowron’s investigator Wallace Jamie, identifying supposed brothels. Bowron wrote to his former colleague, Superior Court Judge Clarence L. Kincaid, asking for leniency given Ann’s “valuable assistance.”

LA Daily News 11/8/1941

On December 2, 1941, Ann was called to testify in a deposition hearing in former Mayor Frank Shaw’s libel suit against Liberty magazine for a September-December 1939 series of articles titled “The Lid Off Los Angeles.” Ann was called by the defense, who hoped she would testify about corruption she’d witnessed. After all, following her arrest and at her trial, Ann herself had expressed a keenness to “blow the lid off” political corruption.

Now, however, with her parole hearing pending later that week, she refused to talk, “on the grounds that it may incriminate me.”

It didn’t matter anyway. The woman parole officer in charge of her case recommended against parole at the hearing on December 4, 1941, and despite Mayor Bowron’s support, her request was denied by Judge Kincaid.

Ann would finally have to report for the Women’s Prison at Tehachapi.

From Tehachapi, on January 17, 1942, she did give a deposition in the Shaw libel case, which was read in court. In it she reiterate the claims made during her own trial regarding payoffs by Guy McAfee and Wade Buckwald to former vice squad detective J. D. McMullen and further accused Shaw’s brother Joe of “doing business with Buckwald” in a downtown hotel room back in the day. Joe Shaw denied it.

Ann, quoted from her January 17, 1942 deposition in the Shaw Liberty magazine libel trial. LA Daily News 1/ 19/ 1942

LA Times 1/20/1942

On August 24, 1942, Wade Buckwald was shot and killed at McAfee’s Frontier Club in Las Vegas by Farrington Graham Hill, a robber on the lam wanted for the shooting death of a clerk at the Garden of Allah hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

In September 1942, Ann would also testify in person- having been brought to Los Angeles from Tehachapi, in the pandering trial of Joseph DiMorzo, who was convicted and sentenced to prison and deportation. The case was linked to the pandering trials of Chito Sasso and Rose “Mumsie” McGoniquil.

On June 3, 1943, Ann applied for parole. She had then served 1-1/2 years. The parole was apparently approved, as Ann listed her address as San Francisco in 1943.

The press forgot about the so-called “black widow.”

Minnie and her husband moved from Los Angeles to Benicia, California as of 1944 and lived there until Minnie’s death in 1956.

Ann married Robert Secress, an ex-Navy man living in Benicia, sometime around 1950. In the 1950 US Census Secress lived with his brother Fred and Fred’s wife and lists his marital status as “single- never married.” By 1962, was using the name Anna and Ann Secress.

Ann died in Phoenix Arizona May 20, 1998.



Ann’s age is based on the 1910 US Census. In he 1940 US Census she lists her age as 33. Her gravestone has her birth year as 1907.

No, Ann did not murder her first husband. Cecil Wills died in Oklahoma City on December 6 1956.

In the 1930 US Census, Maurice still lived with his grandmother Gertrude. He was in Los Angeles in October 1940, where he registered for the draft. But, although Ann, his uncle Orville and his maternal grandmother Minnie were in the area, he listed as his next of kin a relative (by marriage) of Gertrude’s living in West Hollywood. The following month he would join the Navy and returned to Oklahoma City after his service. Gertrude died in Oklahoma City in 1957. Maurice died in Las Vegas in 1979.

Along with Rejisian, police arrested “Mrs. Francis Krug” for receiving stolen property in connection with the Wilshire burglary ring. A “black book” was found on Krug, said to be a list of the ring’s potential victims. Krug, who also used the aliases Margo Lux, Margaret Krug, Margaret Lux and Margaret King, had arrests for burglary in Los Angeles going back to 1926.

Krug and Rejisian would be arrested for burglaries again in June 1938. Rejisian got 15 years but was paroled in February 1942 on the condition that he leave the state. In May 1946, Krug made headlines as the common law wife or companion of murdered gangster Paulie Gibbons. In 1949 Krug and Rejisian were arrested in Miami on suspicion of a series of burglaries there. In October 1957 he was again arrested in Los Angeles for a series of burglaries in Beverly Hills.

The 1935 burglary arrests touched off a police scandal, with the county grand jury investigating “irregularities” in the handling of the case by Wilshire division including accusations of delayed arrests, payoffs and witness intimidation. The grand jury suspected that certain officers had known the identity of the thieves for months and allowed them to operate, but the police refused to testify against each other and the case went nowhere.

The name change from Zelah to Northridge became official effective October 1, 1938.

For a map and overview of the Northridge Hollywood set at the moment in time that Ann was building there, see “The New Dons of California” by Mary Bartol, in Screenland magazine November 1938.

Paul Kelly had been convicted of manslaughter in 1927 after fellow actor Ray Raymond died following a brawl with Kelly over Kelly’s affair with Raymond’s wife, Dorothy Mackaye. He was set to San Quentin and paroled in 1929, having served roughly two years. Kelly and Mackaye married in 1931. Dorothy herself had done time in San Quentin (women prisoners were sent here before Tehachapi opened in 1933), convicted for her role in covering up the event, including denial that there was any affair. She wrote a play about her experience called Gangstress, Or Women In Prison, which was made into a movie in 1933, Ladies They Talk About, starring her future neighbor, Barbara Stanwyck.

This rural idle was short-lived. Stanwyck and Robert Taylor married in May 1939 and soon after sold their Northridge properties. Though surrounded by modern suburban development, a 9.5 acre remnant of Stanwyck’s ranch is still there, including her home. Now known as the Oakridge Estate, it is being preserved by a nonprofit organization and can be visited by the public. For more information see

Dorothy Mackaye died on January 6, 1940, the result of her injuries sustained in a car accident on Reseda Road near the couple’s home. Peter Kelly sold Kellymac Ranch in January 1941.

Jobyna Ralston and Richard Arlen announced a “trial separation” in July 1938. Arlen resided at Breezy Top alone. The home was featured in Architectural Digest in January 1939. Ralston filed for divorce in July 1945 on grounds of abandonment. Arlen sold Breezy Top in April 1942. The house remains, though now addressed as 1500 Wystone Avenue, Porter Ranch.

And of course, as noted above, Ann offered her property for sale in November 1940. The subsequent owner were Richard H. Conklin, an insurance and yacht broker, and his bride Barbara Jane Mangus, the 20-year old Busch brewery heiress. Tragically, they did not enjoy the property long as Barbara died of leukemia on March 4, 1942. By 1944, the owner was Marco Wolff- of the brother and sister dance/choreography duo Fanchon & Marco– who called it Sunny Acres Farm. The buildings were demolished in 1985.

Luciano was convicted in New York in June 1936 on more than 60 counts of compulsory prostitution and was sentenced to 30-50 years in prison. His sentence was commuted in 1946 in return for his supposed assistance in WWII and he was deported to Italy.

In some of her testimony Ann (or her defense) asserts that after McAfee supposedly “left town,” she set up in business, on a small scale, for herself and that was when her legal troubles began. At other times, her lawyer George Stahlman suggests her troubles began because she was talking to the federals investigating Guy McAfee’s taxes. But this talking appears to have occurred after Ann’s arrest. As for whether Ann was working for the syndicate or in business for herself, at another point in her testimony, her lawyer asks who she made the payments to “now” (that is, 1940) and she replied that it was June Taylor, then using the name Mrs. Goodwin.

In addition to these articles about Ann, the July 1940 Crime Detective magazine contained an article under Contreras’ byline titled  “Smashing Hollywood’s Secret Sex Racket” about the raid on another syndicate madam Lee Francis. Francis had been arrested back in January 1940. It was very unusual for true-story detective magazines to publish stories about ongoing cases.

Fitts had a ranch in Duarte that he’d purchased in 1930 as his winter home. In the previous decade there had been allegations that Fitts, through a complicated series of real estate transactions, had accepted an orange grove in Claremont as a bribe from John P. Mills in the 1931 Love Mart white slave case.

John David McMullen joined the LAPD in 1923 and was a partner in the early Prohibition days with Charles Hoy, one of the 23 high ranking police officers purged from the Department by Mayor Bowron. McMullen later worked with Dick Lucas, who along with Harry Raymond had been forced to resign in 1929 after facts came to light regarding their part in the frame-up arrest of vice-crusading city councilman Carl Jacobson. McMullen retired from the LAPD in December 1941 citing ill health. He operated a gas service station in Topanga Canyon and died in 1947.

Montgomery was born in Mississippi in 1903 and came to California in 1936 with previous convictions for robbery under his belt. Convicted of conspiracy to commit pandering and 6 counts of pandering, he was sentenced to 2-20 years in San Quentin. Like Ann, he appealed the conviction on December 23, 1940. It was denied and he began serving his time one day before Pearl Harbor, on December 6, 1941, more than a year after he was sentenced. He received parole in December 1945 but it was revoked in May 1946 and he returned San Quentin and also served time at Chino and Folsom prisons. He died in Los Angeles in 1979.

Barrett and Tullis had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit pandering before the trial began.

Treasvant Tullis (alias Tim Tillis) who also had previous convictions, got 1-10 years in San Quentin. He began serving his time there on November 16, 1940 and was paroled on July 13, 1943. Born in 1906, he died in Los Angeles in 1983.

Barrett, the pasty-faced con who had induced so many girls into prostitution, got 8 months in County jail and probation. He returned home to his parents in Indiana. His World War II registration card list him as “unemployed.” Born in Kentucky in October 1919, he died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1980.

Edith Johnson was convicted of conspiracy to commit pandering.

John Dockweiler died in office on January 31, 1943. His hastily-appointed replacement, Fred Howser, was much more to the underworld’s liking.

Contreras died on July 1, 1945.

Robert Secress died in Phoenix in 1995.


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