Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders


The convictions didn't grant closure the families of the three boys: there were no intact bodies—the technology to match the recovered remnants to any of the missing boys was decades away.

The father of the Winslow brothers, though, had no doubt that Northcott killed his boys. The night before Northcott's sentencing, Winslow stormed the jail with an angry mob, demanding that Northcott reveal the location of his sons' bodies—but law enforcement officials were able to keep the vigilantes at bay.

Gordon Northcott
Gordon Northcott

Northcott was hanged on October 2, 1930. Prison Warden Clinton T. Duffy afterwards found a hand-drawn map of the ranch in Northcott's cell. Its caption read, "I am not guilty," but it seemed to show the location of a number of graves, marked by coffins. It was Northcott's last perverse trick; the map led to nothing.

Sanford Clark served a short sentence in the Whittier State School for Boys for his role in the crimes, then moved back to Canada. He served in World War II, married, joined the postal service, and led a quiet, normal life.

In 1931, shortly after Northcott's execution, Wineville' s citizens changed the town's name to Mira Loma, Spanish for "hillview," in an attempt to put the scandal of the notorious Wineville Chicken Coop Murders finally behind them.

Christine Collins, though, could not so easily turn the page. She had brought a suit against Capt. Jones and Chief Davis for their handling of Arthur Hutchens' imposture and her resulting imprisonment, but the Police Commission protected the two men. The city council recommended their removal, but they were instead reinstated. Courts repeatedly ordered Jones to pay Collins restitution, but he never did.

Christine Collins met with Northcott before the trial and again two days before his hanging. He insisted both times that he didn't know anything about her son and did not kill him. She believed him, and spent the rest of her life searching and hoping in vain for Walter to return.

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