Wonderland murders

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Wonderland murders
Location8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, CA
DateJuly 1, 1981 (1981-07-01)
Early morning (UTC−08:00 Pacific)
TargetBilly DeVerell
Ron Launius
Susan Launius
David Lind
Joy Miller
Barbara Richardson
Attack type
multiple homicide
DeathsJoy Miller
Billy DeVerell
Ron Launius
Barbara Richardson
Non-fatal injuries
Susan Launius
PerpetratorJohn Holmes (acquitted)
Gregory Diles (died before trial)
Eddie Nash (convicted, plea agreement)
Assailantstotal unknown
MotiveRevenge
 
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Coordinates: 34°06′42″N 118°23′10″W / 34.1117°N 118.3861°W / 34.1117; -118.3861

Wonderland murders
Location8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, CA
DateJuly 1, 1981 (1981-07-01)
Early morning (UTC−08:00 Pacific)
TargetBilly DeVerell
Ron Launius
Susan Launius
David Lind
Joy Miller
Barbara Richardson
Attack type
multiple homicide
DeathsJoy Miller
Billy DeVerell
Ron Launius
Barbara Richardson
Non-fatal injuries
Susan Launius
PerpetratorJohn Holmes (acquitted)
Gregory Diles (died before trial)
Eddie Nash (convicted, plea agreement)
Assailantstotal unknown
MotiveRevenge

The Wonderland murders, also known as the Four on the Floor Murders or the Laurel Canyon Murders, are four unsolved killings that occurred in Los Angeles on July 1, 1981. Five of the six targeted to be killed in the known drug house on Wonderland Avenue were present, and four of the five died from extensive injuries: Billy DeVerell, Ron Launius, Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson. Launius' wife, Susan Launius, survived the attack. The attack was allegedly masterminded by organized crime figure and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. Porn star John Holmes was arrested, tried, and acquitted for his involvement in the murders.

Robbery and murders[edit]

The Wonderland Gang was centered around the occupants of a rented townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles: Joy Audrey Gold Miller (whose name was on the lease[citation needed]), her live-in boyfriend William Raymond "Billy" DeVerell, David Lind, and the gang's leader, Ronnie Lee "Ron" Launius. All four were involved in drug use and drug dealing.[citation needed]

On June 28, 1981, the group met with friends Tracy McCourt and John Holmes, a porn star and known drug addict. They had decided to rob the home of Eddie Nash, né Adel Gharib Nasrallah, wealthy owner of several Los Angeles-area night clubs and drug dealer. Holmes, whom Nash had befriended, visited the house, ostensibly to buy drugs. While at Nash's home, Holmes unlocked a back door for the gang to enter later. Holmes then went back to Wonderland in order to report back to Launius and the others.

The next morning, June 29, DeVerell, Launius, Lind, and McCourt went to Nash's house. While McCourt stayed with the car, a stolen Ford Granada, the other three entered through the unlocked door. Invading the home, the trio handcuffed Nash and his live-in bodyguard, Gregory Diles. During the course of the subsequent robbery, the group took money, drugs, and jewelry; threatened to kill Nash and Diles; and accidentally grazed Diles with a bullet. They then went back to the Wonderland Avenue townhouse to split up the money.

Nash suspected Holmes had been involved and ordered Diles to bring Holmes to his house. Diles found Holmes on a street in Hollywood, wearing one of the rings that had been stolen from Nash, and brought him back to Nash. Nash directed Diles to beat Holmes, and Nash threatened to kill Holmes and his family, until Holmes identified the people behind the robbery. The beating was witnessed by a former boyfriend of Liberace's, Scott Thorson, who was buying drugs at Nash's home.[1]

In the early morning of July 1, 1981, two days after the robbery, an unknown number of assailants entered the Wonderland Avenue townhouse. Joy Miller, her boyfriend DeVerell, Launius and his wife Susan, and Lind's girlfriend, Barbara Richardson. Each occupant present was bludgeoned repeatedly with what was later determined by the medical examiner and detectives to be a striated steel pipe. Susan Launius was the only one in the home who survived, albeit with serious injuries. A left palm print belonging to John Holmes found on the bed railing above Ron Launius' head gave homicide detectives reason to believe John Holmes was present at the site of the murder. Holmes denied participating in the killings or being there when the murders happened. Later, however, he admitted to his ex-wife Sharon Holmes and girlfriend Dawn Schiller that he was forced to watch the killings, but he denied participating in them.[citation needed]

According to court testimony, David Lind survived because he was not at the house at the time of the murders, having spent the night at a San Fernando Valley motel with a prostitute and consuming drugs there. Shortly after the news media reported the murders, Lind contacted the police and informed on Nash and Holmes, thus giving them a start to their investigation.[citation needed]

Police action and trials[edit]

Los Angeles Police Department detectives Tom Lange and Robert Souza led the murder investigation and searched Nash's home a few days after the crime. There they found more than $1 million worth of cocaine, as well as some items stolen from the Wonderland house. Following arrest and conviction for the cocaine charges, Nash spent two years in prison.[citation needed]

Because his palm print was found at the scene, Holmes was arrested and charged with four counts of murder in March 1982. The prosecutor, Los Angeles District Attorney Ron Coen, attempted to prove Holmes was a willing participant who betrayed the Wonderland Gang after not getting a full share of the loot from the robbery of Nash's house. However, Holmes' court-appointed defense lawyers, Earl Hanson and Mitchell Egers, successfully presented Holmes as one of the victims, having been forced by the real killers to give them entry to the house where the murders took place. Holmes was acquitted of all criminal charges on June 26, 1982. For refusing to testify or cooperate with authorities, he spent 110 days in jail for contempt of court.[2]

Holmes died six years later on March 13, 1988, as a result of AIDS complications, at a VA Medical Center in Los Angeles.[citation needed] Shortly after the murders, in her first newspaper interview in July 1981, Holmes' first wife, Sharon Gebenini Holmes, stated that Holmes had told her he'd known the people in the Wonderland house and that he had been there shortly before the murders occurred. She did not divulge any additional information to police. During an interview several years following his death, Sharon stated that Holmes had come to her house the morning after the killings, with blood splattered all over his clothes. Holmes was personally uninjured, and he did not give her any details to explain the condition of his clothing. One month before Holmes died, two police detectives visited him at the VA hospital to question him about what he knew about the murders. Nothing came out of the visit because Holmes was barely awake and his responses to their questions were incoherent. Even on his deathbed, Holmes refused to answer the detectives's inquiries about whether he took part in the murders or divulge anything else about his involvement.[citation needed]

In 1990, Nash was charged in California state court with having planned the murders, and Diles was charged with participating in the murders. Thorson testified against them, but the trial ended with a hung jury vote of 11–1 for conviction.[citation needed] The second trial in 1991 ended in acquittal.[citation needed] Diles died in 1995.[citation needed][how?]

In 2000, after a four-year joint investigation involving local and federal authorities, Nash was arrested and indicted on federal charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for running a drug trafficking and money laundering operation, conspiring to carry out the Wonderland Murders, and bribing the sole holdout juror of his first trial. Nash, already in his seventies and suffering from emphysema and several other ailments, agreed to a plea bargain agreement in September 2001. He admitted to having bribed the lone holdout in his first trial, a young woman, with $50,000, and pled guilty to the RICO charges and to money laundering. He also admitted to having ordered his associates to retrieve stolen property from the Wonderland house, which might have resulted in violence including murder, yet he denied having planned the Wonderland murders. In the end, Nash received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.[3][4]

In popular culture[edit]

In films[edit]

In television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thorson, Scott (1988). My Life with Liberace. New York Publishers. ISBN 1-877961-11-6. 
  2. ^ Scheeres, Julia. "Crime Library: Notorious Murders: Celebrity: John Holmes: The Wonderland Murders". TruTV. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ Goldsmith, Susan (September 20, 2001). "A Really Good Deal Ex-nightclub owner may serve only 37 months in Wonderland murders". New Times Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA). 
  4. ^ Osterwalder, Joan (October 12, 2001). "Ex-Nightclub Owner Sentenced to Three Years in Prison". City News Service. 
  5. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (July 13,2009). "Boogie Nights". The AV Club. 
  6. ^ "Wonderland". About.com Hollywood Movies. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  7. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. E!Entertainment Television. October 21, 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 
  8. ^ 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders. IMDb (produced and distributed by E! Entertainment Television). 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 

Further reading[edit]