Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Ninja Murder Case

The Roots

Vera and Gerald Woodman grew up in England and met when she was 13 years old. She was the daughter of Jack Covel, a wealthy distributor of silent motion pictures. Gerald's father was a garment manufacturer. Covel emigrated to America, as did Gerald, who had married Vera. They settled in West Los Angeles, with Covel buying homes for his daughters on the same street as his own. Every morning Covel would take a walk and deliver bagels and cream cheese to his offspring, a ritual that was taken up by Gerald in later years.

Vera & Gerald Woodson
Vera & Gerald Woodson

The extended family was very close, celebrating birthdays and holidays together with lavish parties and enjoying various financial successes. Gerald founded Woodman Industries, a manufacturer of lighting fixtures. Business boomed in the post-World War II era.

To an outside observer, the Woodmans seemed to have it all. According to a 1989 Los Angeles Times article, Neil received a new Corvette for his 16th birthday and Stewart a Mustang convertible. The family took frequent trips to Las Vegas where Gerald indulged a penchant for gambling. They wanted materially for nothing. But a closer look revealed a darker side. Gerald was known as a stern taskmaster. He yelled at his children and insulted them, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"He was very gruff and cutthroat," Detective Holder said. "He was a gruff mean old bastard that you and I probably wouldn't like."

Such a persona served him well in business as he bested his competition and made his company into a multimillion dollar business. He brought on Stewart and Neil, eventually giving them half of the business. It would prove to be a costly mistake.


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