Los Angeles has had its share of gruesome killings: the severing of the Black Dahlia, Manson family mass murders, and the Menendez brothers double homicide among them. But the kidnapping and slaughter of a 12 year old Marion Parker may be the most horrifying L.A. crime of all.
On December 15, 1927, a man claiming to work with Perry M. Parker at a local bank walked into Mount Vernon Junior High School (now Johnie Cochrane Jr. Middle School) saying Parker had been in an automobile accident, and he needed to pick up Parker’s daughter Marion to see him. School staff overlooked any suspicions, or that it was odd the man didn’t also ask for Marion’s twin sister Marjorie, and brought the girl to him.
Later that evening, the first of numerous ransom letters were sent to the Parker home at 1631 S. Wilton Place demanding cash for the release of his daughter, threatening to kill the girl if the demands weren’t met. Two days later, the father evaded the police and agreed with the kidnapper to return his daughter in exchange for the money.
Shortly before 8pm, Parker arrived at the arranged meeting place on the street at 428 Manhattan Place, and a car pulled along side him. In the drivers seat was a man with a handkerchief covering his face, pointing a shotgun out the window. In the passenger seat, Parker could see Marion awake, looking forward. After Parker handed over the cash, the driver pulled forward a hundred feet, pushed Marion out of the car and drove off.
And then the real horror began.
Parker rushed to his daughter, and began screaming at what he found. Marion was motionless and wrapped in towels, her eyes were sewn wide open. Her arms had been cut off. Her corpse had been extensively mutilated.
A massive police hunt began immediately, with thousands of police officers, Secret Service agents, and even firemen throughout the state joining the hunt. Within a day police found the killer’s car in Manhattan Beach, with Marion’s arms and other body parts inside. By the end of the week a suspect was identified, captured in Oregon, and confessed on the train ride back down to Los Angeles.
William Hickman, a 19 year old who had been recently fired from the bank Perry Parker worked, was the culprit. A class valedictorian, he claimed to need the ransom money to pay for college. After kidnapping Marion, he brought her back to his apartment at 1170 Bellevue Ave. in Angelino Heights, where he had strangled her before dismembering her arms and legs.
On October 19, 1928, Hickman was executed at San Quentin State Prison, but not without complications: with the noose around his neck, he collapsed moments before the floor dropped beneath him, thus defeating the neck breaking snap that was intended. Instead, his feet kicked and buckled over a minute as he was strangled to death.
While the crime was gruesome, justice was served. But according to several sources, this does not mean the spirit of Marion Parker is at rest.
According to ghost lore expert Richard Carradine, the spirit of a young girl has been seen wandering the block near where Marion lived, often with an arm or leg missing, depending on who has seen her. He calls her the “Jigsaw Ghost.”
In 1990, Cecilia Rasmussen with the L.A. Times reported that the owners of the home had been “hearing footsteps on the stairs and finding certain objects displaced at times, lights going on and off for no known reason. They said they felt they were sharing space with a benevolent, childlike and non-threatening spirit.” Another article claims that a UCLA paranormal team confirmed paranormal activity in the home, and that another owner, who previously did not believe in ghosts, “said little things made him think that maybe, just maybe…. Someone (or something) kept turning the tea kettle off. And closing doors he had opened.”
For a detailed account of this case, visit Cemetery Guide.