On March 14, 1928, Christine Collins went to police headquarters on West First Street to report that her 9-year-old son Walter had been missing for four days. Collins told Captain Joseph J. Jones, head of the juvenile division, that she believed Walter had been kidnapped by enemies of her husband- also named Walter- who was then doing time in prison.
The plight of the senior Walter Collins is both infuriating and far too typical. His name wasn’t actually Collins at all. It was Anson. His main crime was that of extreme poverty. Wealthy or well-connected habitual criminals like Albert Marco committed serious, violent crimes but almost always beat the rap- if they were ever charged at all while poor persons like Collins/Anson got convicted for petty thefts.
Anson 11/21/1910. LAH.
Anson been arrested in Los Angeles in November 1907 at age 19 for some fairly minor burglaries. Even the arresting officer in his case recommended leniency. After learning, however, that Anson had a juvenile record in Colorado, the court threw the book at him. He entered San Quentin on January 16, 1908. After his release, Anson and Christine married. He got a job working for the Los Angeles Railway Company (which operated the yellow streetcars, not the Pacific Electric red cars), but was arrested again in November 1910, this time accused of holding up a fellow motorman and robbing him at gunpoint of $23.80. He “confessed” to the crime under duress after 4 days in police custody.
San Quentin Prison, Marin County.
“Anson stoutly maintained his innocence at first, but under the rigors of the ‘third degree,’ broke down and confessed,” The Los Angeles Herald wrote on November 21, 1910. Anson was again sent to San Quentin. After his release, using the alias Walter Collins, he was arrested a third time in September 1923, accused of 10 holdups in the L.A. area. Caught as he was making a break for Mexico, he threatened suicide rather than face a long term in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times. A long prison term was what he got, only this time, as a “three time loser,” he went to Folsom Prison.
Now Christine Collins was raising her son alone, working at the telephone company to make ends meet.
The detectives that day in 1928 were skeptical of the revenge-kidnapping motive, since as yet there’d been no threat or ransom demand of any kind. Detective-Lieutenants Ervis Lester and Lesco Hanson of the juvenile missing persons bureau canvased the neighborhood near the Collins home at 217 North Avenue 23. Some residents reported having seen a man, about 35-40 years old, “resembling an Italian,” and his small “dark complexioned” female companion in a car on the block several days before Walter went missing, asking how to get to the Collins home. On April 1, a Glendale gas station manager seemed to corroborate this story, reporting that a well-dressed man, “probably Italian” and a dark-complexioned woman in a Nash sedan had asked directions to the police department; as they were pulling away, he spotted the lifeless form of a boy in the back seat, wrapped in newspapers but for the head. Another man tailed the “foreign-looking” couple to the Glendale police station, where they paused a moment before speeding off toward San Fernando Valley. Shown a photo of Walter, the station attendant ID’d him as the boy. The lead proved a dead-end, however.
Born in California in 1885, Jones had joined the LAPD in 1913. He was promoted to the rank of captain under Chief James E. Davis just the year before, in 1927. Captain Jones’ later treatment of Collins notwithstanding, the department’s juvenile division did conduct a diligent search for the boy, with 100 officers, then 200, assigned to the case. The beach town amusement piers were combed. The lake at Lincoln Park, where Walter had reportedly been seen the day of his disappearance, was dragged. Bulletins with Walter’s photo and description went out statewide, then to neighboring states, and ultimately nationwide.
The Lake at Lincoln Park
All too fresh were the criticisms of the department in the handling of the kidnap-murder of a 12-year-old-girl, Marion Parker, just a few months earlier- in December 1927. Chief of Detectives Herman Cline had ordered the reassignment of several high-ranking officers who’d worked on the case and had seemingly let the suspect, Edward Hickman, slip through their fingers (although Cline publicly denied that it had anything to do with the “shake-up.”). Less than two weeks before Walter’s disappearance, a civic group had lodged a complaint with the city council, calling for the removal of Chief Davis over the mishandling of the Hickman manhunt.
The revenge-kidnapping angle gained credence after Walter Sr. wrote from Folsom that, as boss of the mess hall, he was in a position to have to report fellow inmates for various infractions and therefore had been subjected to numerous threats.
Further, a schoolmate of young Walter’s suddenly remembered he’d been accosted by a “foreign-looking” man in the neighborhood on March 9, the day before Walter went missing, who asked the way to the Collins house. After the boy ID’d a photo of an ex-convict, Chief of Detectives Herman Cline ordered a state-wide manhunt. Nothing came of it.
Christine Collins, though sleeping very little and strained with worry, had to continue to report to her job as a telephone operator. She remained convinced Walter was okay, just hiding somewhere.
As the summer wore on, the search seemed to have reached a dead end. The case was turned over to Homicide.
Then on August 4, Herman Cline was contacted by Illinois state police saying authorities in DeKalb, Illinois had a boy in custody who said he was Walter Collins. He’d apparently been abandoned there by his kidnapper. A blurry wire photo sent out from DeKalb the following day resulted in Christine Collin’s tentative ID of the youngster.
After further back-and-forth, the boy was brought out to California at Christine Collins’ expense ($70) and reunited with Christine at juvenile hall in Los Angeles on August 18.
The boy was “in such a pitiable physical condition that he mother didn’t recognize him,” The Los Angeles Times reported in what would prove to be a candidate for Understatement of the Year.
“I do not think that is my boy.” Collins said.
“And Mrs. Collins maintained this attitude while she and the youth and Captain of Detectives Jones talked together.”
In the face of Collins’ doubts, Jones was firm. Just take the lad home, try him out, he urged.
Doctors who examined the boy seemed to agree. “Walter” was rather hazy about how he got from L.A. to DeKalb. “He has certain aisles of memory that apparently are blank. Toys that he played with before his abduction are strange now. Certain people that he knew well, prior to his disappearance now are perfect strangers, but this condition will pass soon and he will be sound mentally.” It was suggested that being at home around familiar objects might spark his memory. Some friends and neighbors seemed to have no doubt that the boy presented to them as Walter was indeed Walter. Collins reluctantly took “Walter” home.
The real Walter Collins. LAPL photo.
On Saturday, September 8, 1928, Christine brought the boy back to Captain Jones. This was not her son, she insisted. This child’s eyes were a different shape than Walter’s; his teeth were different; his voice was different; Walter was taller; his feet were not the same size.
Jones was livid. “What are you trying to do, make a lot of fools out of all of us?” Collins would later recall him saying; the Hickman case rebukes clearly still stung. He accused Collins of trying to shirk her duties as a parent, of wanting to let the State to pay for her son’s raising. She denied it. As Collins continued to insist the boy was not her son, Jones told her: “You’re insane. You ought to be in the madhouse.” He told Christine she was under arrest now and that he was sending her to the psychopathic ward of the General Hospital.
Normally such action required a warrant from the state Lunacy Commission. Because it was a weekend, however, and the office closed, Collins was admitted without a warrant and held in the ward throughout the holiday weekend (Monday was the observance of Admittance Day), locked up among actual crazy people.
As Collins later related: “The woman they put in with me started crying and screaming as soon as it got dark. First she would pray and then she would try to pull my hair. Every time I would doze I would feel her hands at my throat.”
This went on for five nights. On September 13, Dr. E. E. Steele examined Christine, declared her sane, and she was released. None of this was reported in the papers at the time.
Collins must have had mixed emotions at this moment: Anger at having been unfairly incarcerated. Relief at having regained her liberty. Worry about her job and missed wages. And where now to begin again the search for Walter when the police were convinced they had already returned him to her?
Less than 24-hours later, the Collins case would be back in the headlines but not in the way Collins had hoped.
On the afternoon of September 14, 1928, a fifteen-year-old boy in LA’s juvenile hall named Sanford Clark asked to speak to detectives. He told them a long, harrowing tale of his experiences for the last two years at his uncle Stewart Gordon Northcott’s chicken ranch in rural Wineville, about 14 miles northwest of Riverside, where four boys had been murdered. One of them, he said, was “the boy who was in all the newspapers,” Walter Collins. He picked out Walter’s photo from images of 30 other boys. Ironically, the boy Christine Collins had refused to accept as Walter was being held in the same institution- now officially a ward of the court.
Northcott had come to Los Angeles from Canada with his parents several years earlier. They lived in a duplex at 1239 Britannia Street. Gordon’s mother Sarah Louisa Northcott, worked nearby in the laundry of the County General Hospital, where Christine Collins had been held in the psychopathic ward. Gordon had induced his father to buy him the ranch about 1924.
Young Clark, son of the Northcott’s daughter Winifred and a native of Canada, had been picked up by Immigration officials and brought to juvenile hall on August 30 after his sister Jesse had visited the Northcott farm and, on August 26, reported to the American Consul in Vancouver that he was being kept a virtual prisoner there and had been brought to the US illegally.
Detectives found enough evidence at the ranch to substantiate young Clark’s story. Cyrus Northcott was taken into custody at the Britannia St. house as a material witness while authorities sought the son and his mother, whom Clark said had participated in the murder of Walter. The pair had sold the ranch furniture and fled to Canada the day after Sanford Clark was picked up.
On September 15, as Clark’s sensational story was made public, Jones’ told reporters that the previous morning Christine Collins had told him she was convinced the boy from DeKalb was not Walter. This conversation had, of course, taken place days earlier, on the 8th.
Nor did Jones make any mention of having had Collins committed to the psychopathic ward. Even now, he continued to insist publicly that the youth from DeKalb was the real Walter Collins, which also caused confusion for investigators working the Northcott case. “Chief among the anomalities is that Detective Lieutenants Jones and Harrah of the juvenile bureau yesterday were convinced that the youth returned here to his mother several weeks ago from Illinois as the Walter Collins kidnapped last March is the real Walter Collins, despite Sanford Clarks’ story that the Collins boy was killed several months ago on the Northcott ranch,” the Times wrote on September 16.
The same day this denial appeared in the paper, Jones questioned Cyrus Northcott. He came away convinced that Clark’s story of the “murder farm” was true; however, he stubbornly insisted that Clark must be mistaken in his identification of Walter as one of the victims because as far as Jones was concerned, Walter Collins was alive and well in juvenile hall. Jones now told the press that Walter’s mother had been taken to the psychopathic ward of the general hospital for “observation,” indicating this was a result of the murder confession and implying her incarceration occurred on September 17, not 9 days earlier.
On September 18, as a Riverside County grand jury indicted mother and son in absentia for the murder of Walter Collins and two other boys. (Gordon Northcott was also charged with sex crimes against his nephew), Northcott was apprehended in Okanagan Landing, B.C. His mother was picked up in Calgary two days later.
On September 19, the fake Walter confessed to Captain Jones that he was not really Walter Collins. He described in detail how he’d been able to make a fool out of Jones and everyone else (except Christine Collins) by making wild guesses and delaying his replies until someone “gave him a suggestion that made them ring true.” It soon came out that he was actually Arthur Hutchins, Jr., age 11, of Marion, Iowa. He’d run away from home and was in a café in DeKalb when a chance remark by a diner that he resembled the missing Walter Collins gave him the idea of pretending to be the missing boy in order to get a free trip to California.
The “enigma boy’s” stepmother arrived in Los Angeles to collect him on October 2 and since she recognized him right away, didn’t get thrown in the psycho ward. LAPL photo.
On September 24, Christine Collins went to the county grand jury, demanding an investigation of her imprisonment. The grand jury turned the case over to the Police Commission to police its own.
The Police Commission hearing took place on October 16, 1928. In a calm manner, Collins testified about her treatment at Jones’ hands. The Reverend Dr. Gustav Briegleb of St. Paul’s Presbyterian church spoke up on Collins’ behalf, noting that every home on California was in danger when a police captain could take a woman to his office and have her thrown in the psychopathic ward.
Ad for an upcoming Rev. Dr. Gustav Briegleb sermon: “Should ‘Collins’ witnesses testify before a biased Police Board?” Note he was also taking on DA Asa Keyes and vice lord Farmer Page. 11/3/1928.
No other witnesses for Collins were allowed to testify, nor was Jones compelled to take the stand. In the end, the commission concluded that it would not be taking any disciplinary action against Jones on the grounds that Arthur Hutchins had fooled lots of other people.
Through friends, Collins obtained the services of lawyer S.S. Hahn, and on October 19 (the same day William Hickman, Marion Parker’s murderer- having appealed his case all the way to the US Supreme Court- was executed at last at San Quentin) filed a civil suit against the city, Chief Davis and Captain Jones, asking $500,000 in damages for her false imprisonment.
Citizens rallied around Collins. The Women’s Political League wrote to the City Council asking that some punitive action be taken against police officials responsible for incarcerating her.
At a mass meeting organized by Rev. Briegleb held at Trinity Methodist Church on October 21, the police commission investigation was condemned as a “whitewashing” of Captain Jones and a resolution was adopted calling for an immediate reopening of the commission’s hearing on the matter.
On the 22nd the grand jury reopened its investigation, hearing from additional witnesses speaking on Collins’ behalf. In a huge concession, Collins agreed to withdraw her $500,000 lawsuit against the City, Chief Davis and Jones and refile it against Jones and Davis only, and ask $50,000 in damages.
The following day, Chief Davis and members of the Police Commission met secretly with Mayor Cryer, and afterward Davis belatedly suspended Jones, viewed as an attempt to head off the City Council’s hearing.
The City Council’s Welfare Committee, chaired by councilman Carl Jacobson, who had his own false arrest issue with the LAPD, proceeded withed its public hearing as planned, however, on October 24-26. Jones refused to testify. Chief Davis did so reluctantly, and at that refused to answer many of the questions put to him, and claimed he knew no details of the Collins case until Jones’ police commission hearing and believed Jones was sincere in his belief that he’d found Walter Collins just as he was certain Collins was insane when he had her locked up. In the end, the Commission asked for the resignation of Chief Davis and the permanent suspension of Jones, sparking a civic battle in the midst of already tempestuous times for the department.
Capt. J. J. Jones 1928. LAPL poto.
Mayor Cryer, after declaring that the people of Los Angeles had confidence in their police department and approved of Chief Davis, stated in a public letter: “I think that we may fairly conceded that Captain Jones made a grievous mistake in committing Mrs. Collins to the psychopathic ward. These new techniques require careful supervision or such errors are apt to occur. That does not mean that the officer who made such a mistake or the chief of police must be removed in order to pay for the mistake.” The pro-Davis Times was so keen to defend the chief, it quoted a club woman who asserted that “many people” still believed the boy sent east really was Walter Collins- even though the boy in question had himself admitted that he wasn’t and his actual parents had claimed him.
The Police Commission took no action against Davis, asserting there were no complaints against him. It held a hearing on Jones, at his request, to review his suspension on November 13, 1928, and ultimately voted to extend his suspension without pay for 4 months.
Two weeks later, Steward Gordon Northcott, who had been able to delay his extradition to the States for several weeks, was now en route to Los Angeles in custody of Riverside Co. Deputy D.A. Redwine. On the train heading south, he told Redwine that Walter Collins “would not be found again.” At the same time, contradictorily, he denied killing Walter.
Los Angeles Co. Chief Deputy DA Buron Fitts (who, having sucessfully prosecuted his boss, Asa Keyes, would be sworn in as DA himself on December 3) announced that Northcott would be tried in Los Angeles for the murder of an unnamed Mexican youth, believed to have been killed at the family’s Britannia Street home. Riverside County DA Ford agreed Los Angeles had the stronger case. Accordingly, on November 30, Northcott was brought from the train depot at Glendale to the Hall of Justice and booked into the County Jail for the murder of the unnamed youth, whose headless body had been found near Puente on February 2, a month before Walter went missing.
Northcott’s father’s home on Britannia Street. LAPL photo.
On December 3, at LA County jail on the top floors of the Hall of Justice, Northcott confessed in writing to murdering Walter before heading out to Cajon Pass to “help” authorities look for bodies he claimed were buried there. It was a wild goose chase, and later in the day, he recanted his confession. On December 4 he was arraigned in Riverside County for the murder of Walter and two other boys. Northcott put on a performance, alternately expressing a desire to plead guilty only to recant, then ultimately pleaded guilty. Newly sworn-in DA Fitts escorted him back to Los Angeles to be arraigned there the following day.
Northcott farm scene. LAPL photo.
Cyrus Northcott, who so far was not being charged as an accessory before or after the fact, (and never would be) then told reporters he would make a statement on December 8, incriminating his entire family and revealing where the bodies were buried.
On December 7, as Louisa Northcott was finally arriving in Riverside County, a desperate Christine Collins met with Northcott at the LA County jail hospital and asked him point blank if he’d killed Walter.
“I did not kill your boy.” Northcott claimed. He told Collins not to believe anything she read in the papers, that he hadn’t confessed to anything, nor did his father know anything because there was nothing to know. He then taunted Collins by admitting he’d worked at a Ralph’s market near the Collins home in the summer of 1925, but was “sure” he’d never seen Walter then. It was all theater, designed to obfuscate.
Collins, of course, wanted to believe her son was still alive, and came away from the meeting convinced Northcott was telling the truth. No body had yet been found, after all. Sanford Clark had identified Walter as the victim from a photograph, but then, Walter’s photo had been widely circulated, and Clark is known to have seen it in the newspapers.
Stanford Clark’s story had never wavered despite repeated tellings. He was not lying. A young boy was surely murdered at the Wineville ranch. Whether he was Walter Collins or not was the question.
Meanwhile, Fitts for some reason decided to let the Riverside Co. trial go forward before Los Angeles. Northcott was scheduled to be tried alone for the murder of Walter and 3 other boys (the Winslows and the unnamed youth) on January 2, 1929. Mother and son were due to go to trial jointly for the murders on January 10.
The Riverside County Courthouse.
On December 28, with a grand jury investigation into Jones’ false imprisonment of Collins proceeding albeit slowly, Jones refused to give a deposition in Collins’ civil suit on the grounds that it might incriminate him in the criminal case.
Two days later, Louisa Northcott abruptly confessed to the murder of Walter (or rather “that certain boy named in the indictment” aka Walter) and was whisked away by train to San Quentin the same day. She insisted, however, that the murdered boy was not Walter. “I want you to tell Mrs. Collins that it was not her son I helped slay.” Hours later she too would recant her confession, claiming officers had tricked her into it, blah, blah, blah.
Northcott stood trial on his own in January 1929, opting to act as his own defense attorney. On February 1, he called Christine Collins to the stand to testify- as a witness for the defense.
Collins told the jury that a rock had been tossed through her window shortly after Walter went missing with a note that read “Boy bad sick. Afraid to call doctor.” She turned it over to police, she said. No note had been mentioned in previous news stories; in fact, the kidnapping theory had been discounted due to lack of a note. L.A. Authorities later said it was the first they’d heard of it. Collins also repeated neighbors’ reports of the “tall dark-haired man” and “small, young woman” seen talking to Walter the day he disapeared. Finally, she said that Sanford Clark had been unable to decribe her son.
On February 7, 1929, Gordon Northcott was convicted of 1st degree murder for the deaths of Walter and Louis and Nelson Winslow and sentenced to death.
As his case wound through the appeals system, in July 1929, Collins returned to court to press her suit against Jones and Davis. Dr Huntington Williams a “mental specialist” called by Chief Davis’ attorney, testified that “it wouldn’t hurt anyone to be confined to be confined a few days in the county psychopathic ward.” In fact, the doc opined, it would be beneficial. Uh, okay- you first.
Jones, acting as his own attorney, asked himself: “Why didn’t you believe Mrs. Collins when she told you se thought the boy wasn’t her son?” “I honestly thought her mind had been affected by the strain of losing her son and being separated from him. I still think so.” He insisted that the whole thing was politically motivated, that she’d been induced to bring the suit by Rev. Shuler and Rev. Briegleb to “get” Jones and Davis. The case ended in mistrial, the jury unable to agree.
Davis was demoted as chief of police in December 1929, as part of the fallout from the scandal over city councilman Carl Jacobson’s false arrest and frame up. He was succeeded by Deputy Chief of Police Roy Steckel.
Collins refiled her suit against Jones in early 1930, this time asking $50,000 damages, $5000 in exemplary damages and $300 in special damages. The case was to be heard in May 1930 but Jones got it pushed back until June and then September. This time she did prevail, although the award was reduced to $10,800.
Collins said that she intended to use the money to continue her search for Walter, starting with a trip to San Quentin, where Northcott, having run out of appeals, was slated to be hanged on October 2.
Northcott continued to play games, baiting Collins. “I have only two days to live, Mrs. Collins and I am telling you the truth. I know nothing about your boy.”
Collins remained at the prison until Northcott was duly executed, hoping up until the last minute he would reveal the truth. He didn’t. As a final taunt, he left behind a note blaming Walter’s murder on his father and a map where he claimed the bodies were buried. It was just another wild goose chase. Walter’s body was never found.
Nor did Collins ever succeed in collecting her settlement from Captain Jones, who tried and failed to get a new trial in October 1930, contending that the award was “excessive.” He still didn’t pay.
Walter Sr. died in Folsom Prison in 1932.
In March 1933 Jones appealed to Division Two, District Court of Appeals, which upheld the judgement for Christine Collins. Still, Jones didn’t pay. On July 25, 1933, S. S. Hahn, lawyer for the now-widowed Collins, called on the Police Commission to enforce its rule that a police officer must pay his debts (under the law the officer’s salary could not be attached). The Commission opted to take no action on the word of Chief Steckel that “captain Jones expressed a desire to satisfy the judgement as soon as his financial circumstances permit.”
Ten days later, Steckel was demoted by new Mayor Frank Shaw, who reinstated James Davis as chief.
In February 1934, Jones offered Collins a “compromise:” he would pay her $500. What the hell? To recap, in 1930 the court rejected his plea that the award was eccessive, he draffed it out for 3 more years, until an appeals court, too, uphelad the award. So, he sweeps the law aside and offers her 5%?
Lawyer Hahn rejected the offer on Collins’ behald and demanded again that the Police Commission take action, disciplinary action, against Jones to pay the full amount. The commission punted the mater to City Attorney Ray Chesebro for an opinion. Chesebro heroically said it was up to Chief Davis whether to take any “further” disciplinary action.
Davis saw it somewhat differently. There would be no further action taken against Jones. He had already been suspended a whole 4 months without pay back in 1928! Davis told the Police Commission there was no point in applying a second penalty for the same offence. Of course, Davis had suspended Jones belatedly then and only because his hand was forced. Not to mention the original suspension was not for the same offence- it was punishment for his unlawful incarceration of Collins, not for his failure to pay a legally awarded cash judgement.
As of February 2, 1936, Collins had still not been paid, and refiled the case in keeping with a requirement to renew unpaid judgements every five years.
In July 1937, Jones was put in charge of the detectives bureau at Hollywood Division. In that capacity, he and his team helped look for clues in the October 1937 bombing of the Los Feliz home of restaurateur Clifford Clinton, then investigating vice conditions, graft and corruption in the city.
Clinton’s efforts led to the recall of Mayor Shaw in September 1938. Chief Davis was forced to “retire” from the force in November 1938. He was succeeded by Chief David A. Davidson.
In December 1938, more than ten years since her incarceration, Collins filed a new motion with the Police Commission, reporting that still had not received any payment from Jones. The matter was punted to Chief Davidson.
In March 1939, Captain Jones was one of 23 high-ranking officers “purged” from the department suspected of being in the pocket of the local vice syndicate run by Farmer Page, Tutor Scherer and ex-LAPD vice squad officer Guy McAfee, a contemporary of Chief Davis on the Chinatown beat. In April the police board rescinded the ouster, allowing the officers to “retire.”
Jones still hadn’t paid Collins a dime. As of 1940 he had a Beverly Hills address. In February 1940, the Times reported he and his wife and just returned from a round trip cruise to the Orient. Jones told reporters he “felt like he was in jail” aboard the ship. How about the psychopathic ward?
On May 30, 1940, Louisa Northcott was paroled, over the objections of Riverside D.A. Redwine, having served 11-1/2 years of her “life” sentence for Walter’s murder.
On January 28, 1941, again in accordance with the requirement to refile unpaid judgements every five years, Collins renewed her suit against Jones. With interest, the award now stood at $15, 562. She never saw it.
Top image of Christine Collins from LAPL.
Collins was his mother’s family name.
“Third degree” methods would be theoretically banished by the department a decade later as courts increasingly refused to accept confessions resulting from such methods, though accusations of police brutality by prisoners continued.
Already convicted and sentenced to hang in the Parker case, on March 10, the day Walter went missing, Hickman was convicted in a second murder, that of druggist C. Ivy Toms, which occurred during an armed hold-up on December 24, 1926.
Ervis W. Lester rose through the ranks to become an inspector in charge of juvenile crime prevention. In 1943, having become a Deputy Chief of functional operations, he was named by Governor Earl Warren named to a 15-member Citizens’ Committee on Youth in Wartime aimed at combatting juvenile delinquency. He retired from the LAPD in 1945 in order to accept an appointment by Governor Warren on the State Adult Authority 3-member parole board. By the mid-1930s, the juvenile missing persons bureau was reorganized with separate units for missing boys and missing girls to better increase its efficiency.
It was briefly theorized that the kidnappers (and Walter) had perished in the St. Francis Dam disaster, which had taken place March 12, just two days after Walter’s disappearance.
The same day, October 31, 1928, Los Angeles County DA Asa Keyes was indicted by the grand jury accused of “willful and corrupt” misconduct in office, charged with bribery and “fixing” in the Julian Oil fraud scandal.
Early in the new year of 1929, Los Angeles General Hospital authorities informed local peace officers that no person would be admitted to the psychopathic ward until a warrant of arrest had been issued by a magistrate and an affidavit of insanity properly served, in order to prevent unauthorized incarcerations such as Collins had been subject to. The State Legislature took up a similar bill. It remained shockingly easy to have someone committed to the county psychopathic ward, however.
Wineville changed its name to Mira Loma in 1930.
Louisa Northcott applied for parole previously, in 1937 and 1938 but it was successfully blocked. If he hadn’t died in prison in 1932, the senior Walter Collins would have done more time for his petty holdups than Louisa Northcott for her role in the murder of Walter and possibly other boys. It’s not clear what made the Northcotts so special. Money, maybe. They had enough, anyway, to drag out the extradition process and their legal defense. Cyrus Northcott was able to buy a new farm in Maryland, where his wife joined him after her release.
If Collins renewed her suit in 1946 and 1951, it didn’t make headlines. Jones died in June 1951. Collins died in Los Angeles in 1964.
A slightly fictionalized depiction of the Collins case can be seen in the film The Changeling (2008). The important detail of Walter Sr.’s imprisonment was omitted.