Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders

Family Affair

Gordon Northcott
Gordon Northcott

Authorities arrested Northcott at Okanagan Landing in British Columbia on September 20, 1928. They arrested his mother, Sarah Louise Northcott, in Calgary, Alberta. In December, local police took Northcott back to his ranch to prompt him for more information. There he verbally confessed to five murders (earlier, he'd hinted at nine), including the Winslows, Walter, and the Mexican boy, possibly named Alvin Gothea. He told police at the ranch that he'd made Walter kneel at an altar, and that he had kept the boy's body around the house for three days before burying him. In a written confession later that day, though, he owned up to just one homicide: "I killed Alvin Gothea on the ranch on Feb. 2, 1928. No self-defense. Gordon Stewart Northcott will plead guilty to the above charge in Riverside County tomorrow."

Sara Louise Northcott
Sara Louise Northcott

That same month, Northcott's mother confessed to Walter Collins' murder. At her trial, she testified that she dealt the final blow to the boy, and then they buried him in a hole next to the chicken coop, where they threw sick and dead chickens. Sanford Clark testified that his grandmother had said that they would each strike a blow, and thus each be equally guilty if caught. The jury convicted Sarah Louise Northcott of the murder of Walter Collins, and a judge sentenced her to life in prison.

She later insisted that the boy wasn't Walter, and that she didn't know who he was. Her son pulled the same trick.

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