Death in Wonderland

It’s Freaky Friday again.  Let’s get down to business.

Those five words cast a magic spell on my muse.  Once they flash across the screen, I need to know what the actors’ real-life counterparts looked like, and how things turned out for them.  Nerd Girl (me) makes notes while I watch the movie.  When it’s over, Nerd Girl goes online and researches.

Today, we’re going all the way to California to visit the wilds of Laurel Canyon.  Next stop, Wonderland.

Wonderland is my favorite of the Based on a True story genre.  The music is fantastic.  The cast was all star.  The murder was sensational.

Click here to watch the movie trailer.  (It opens in IMDB, and I couldn’t figure out how to embed it.)

The movie is based on the Four on the Floor murders, which occurred July 1, 1981 at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles.  As the story goes, the Four on the Floor murders were retribution for a robbery the Wonderland Gang committed at the home of  Eddie Nash.

The murders were, shocking.  Brutal.  The members of the Wonderland Gang present at 8763 Wonderland on the early morning hours of July 1, 1981 were bludgeoned to death by striated steel pipes.

If you’re brave, how about a video of the crime scene?  This video is historically interesting because it was the one of the first videos used in a US murder trial.

WARNING: This is GRUESOME.

Part One:  click here

Part Two: click here

Part Three: click here

Part Four: click here

FYI on the videos: they are listed on You Tube as over 18 only.  You will be asked to login to a google account or your You Tube account in order to watch them.

The dead included Joy Audrey Gold Miller, William R. DeVerell, Ron Launius, and Barabara Richardson.  Susan Launius, Ron’s wife, survived but lost a finger.  She had brain damage.  David Clay Lind survived by being absent, but his girlfriend, Barbara Richardson, was among the dead.

What made this crime sensational, other than its sheer gruesomeness, was the involvement of one washed out, drug addicted porn star named John Holmes.

John Holmes, if you believe the right people, set up both the robbery and the murder.  He was in debt with the Wonderland Gang over some cocaine and stolen guns.

To pay them back, he left a door to Nash’s home unlocked so the Wonderland Gang could rob the joint.  He got in even deeper trouble with Eddie Nash when Nash found out he set up the robbery.

Holmes helped the murderers get buzzed into the house because of his acquaintance with the Wonderland Gang.  He either helped in the commission of the murders or stayed to watch.  Some sources say his bloody handprint was found on a wall over the bed of Ron Launius, one of the victims.

Holmes was charged in 1982 of committing all four murders.  He was acquitted.  In 1990, Eddie Nash was charged in planning the murders. The trial ended with a hung jury.  In 2000, Nash was faced charges under the RICO Act, conspiring to commit the Wonderland Murders and bribing the juror who caused the hung jury in his 1990 trial.  He ended up serving four-and-a-half years.

This is stuff you can find anywhere, so I’m going to keep it brief.  I want us to get to the good stuff.

If you want to learn more about the crime:

Mike Sager wrote a good article about it.  (No pictures here.)

John Gilmore has an even better account, complete with gruesome pictures.

TruTV.Com has the most extensive account of the crime I’ve ever seen online. (No gross pictures here.  Plenty of biographical information on John Holmes.)

Find a Death gets an honorable mention for biographical information on John Holmes and the Four on the Floor Murders.  Scott Michaels has a fantastic website and is a truly interesting guy. (Gross pictures, vulgar language, and gruesome video.)

If you’re interested in seeing pictures of the real folks involved in the Four on the Floor murders, click here.

If you want to read books about John Holmes, I know of three.  I recommend them all.  They each bring new dimension to he story.

Porn King by John C. Holmes.  Sometimes you can get a copy autographed by John’s widow, Laurie Holmes, who was also a porn star.

John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson.  This book is beautifully researched.  Lots of pictures.  Lots of interviews.  Here’s their website.

The Road Through Wonderland by Dawn Schiller.  Dawn was fifteen when she started dating John Holmes, who was, at the time, in his thirties.  She remembers sitting in front of the Wonderland house while John was inside doing drugs with the Wonderland Gang.  Her book is a compelling, harrowing read.  If you want to visit her on the web, here’s her blog.

Video:

Wadd – Documentary on Holmes’s life and career.  Centers more on Holmes than on his involvement in the Four on the Floor Murders.  Wadd used to come with the DVD of Wonderland.  I can’t guarantee it still does, but it’s worth a watch if you can find it.

Boogie Nights — This is not a documentary about John Holmes.  It is work of fiction loosely based on his life, though.  If you have watched Wadd, you can pick out episodes that that are taken almost verbatim from Wadd.

Some of John Holmes’s pornography is still available.  You’re on your own finding it, though.  Wink, wink.

We’re at the best part of our journey–the mysteries and the hard-to-verify stories.

Susan Launius — She survived that night.  At the trial, she testified she only saw shadows.  Was she afraid or had her memory been obliterated by the near death beating?  Both are equally horrifying.  She restarted her life and is lost to the world wide web.  Good for her.

David Clay Lind — Lind was out of town the night of the murders.  Had he been in the house, he would have surely died with the rest of the Wonderland Gang.  Lind supposedly died of a heroin overdose in 1997, but some accounts claim he actually disappeared into the witness protection program.  If you get interested in researching Wonderland and come across the moniker Killer Karl, it might interest you to know Killer Karl is believed to be an alias of David Lind.

I saved the best for last:

Ron Launius — Mr. Launius’s corpse can be seen in the opening credits of Wonderland, if you look closely.  Josh Lucas plays Ron Launius in the movie.  Let’s talk about the real Ron Launius, though.  This dude was interesting.

I own a book called Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine by Rodger Jacobs.  In this book is an anecdote about Ron Launius that is pure gold to the writer in me.

According to Jacobs, the character Ray Hicks* in the film Who’ll Stop the Rain (and the Robert Stone novel, Dog Soldiers, which inspired the film) was based on Ron Launius.  Watch the preview on You Tube.

[*Note: The character Ray Hicks is also said to be based on Neal Cassady, a beat generation figure.]

Ron Launius, who served in the Army during Vietnam, was convicted of smuggling heroin back to the U.S. in the corpses of fallen soldiers.   After his release, Launius got involved with bikers in Northern California.

These bikers gave Launius a large sum of money to travel to Mexico to procure heroin.  Launius took his wife, Susan—the only survivor of the murder, remember—with him.  The drug deal, which had been set up by Launius’s biker friends, went sour.  Susan was kidnapped by the drug dealers, who demanded ransom.

Launius went back to California.  To get the ransom money, he robbed two banks and an armored car.  He then paid the ransom and got his wife back.  Once he had her safely sequestered in a motel room, he went on a killing rampage that ended with both the drug dealers and the former biker acquaintances dead.

I’ve found some sources on message boards online saying this whole story is BS.  That might be, but the writer in me loves this story with a purple passion.

If you want to dig deeper into the Wonderland stuff, I strongly recommend this blog and this Facebook page. The author has done way more research on this topic and gone to way more effort than I have.

I hope you enjoyed reading this free article. I am sorry, but there will be no updates, corrections, or expansions to the content you’ve read. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing non-fiction. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

74 thoughts on “Death in Wonderland

  1. on ,
    Texanne said:

    Laurel Canyon. It’s a very pretty drive, winding, with trees and what appears to be wild places. Crosses Mulholland at the top. Also crosses Ventura Blvd. Between Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. it becomes Crescent Heights (Blvd., of course). All parts of the drive from Ventura Blvd to Melrose are pretty. Part of the way, there are big jacaranda trees on both sides of the street. Ah. Jacarandas.

    The period between WWI and WWII fascinates me, and so do the gangsters who rose to prominence during that time, and the law enforcement apparatus that grew to oppose them. Let’s don’t even mention the parallels between that period and our own. But as for the specific crime that fascinates me, it has to be the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Not just the fact of his death, but the underlying motives and the whole conspiracy surrounding it. The effect that assassination had on the South and on the mythology of Lincoln’s presidency. True thriller material.

    King David’s assassination of Uriah shows that power does corrupt. That story breaks my heart every time I read it.

    You really know how to touch off a brainstorm, Catie! Great going.

    • Re: Lincoln’s Assassination — You remember I mentioned Pawn Stars in Monday’s blog? In one of the recent episodes, someone brought in a John Wilkes Booth wanted poster. It turned out to be a fake, but the expert brought in a real one. Rick, the owner of the pawn shop, tried to buy it. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      As for touching off brainstorms, this kind of stuff always does it for me. I get so many good ideas for characters and situations from this sort of stuff.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. This was all news to me. I never knew the porn star was involved in anything shady. I’d heard his name, only in jokes though, and wasn’t aware of what happened to him. This was a lesson in history for me. And I loved the trailer. WOW!
    Thanks.
    Patti

    • I got interested in John Holmes after seeing Wonderland. He is an odd figure in history. He’s sort of the Elvis of pornography, you know. The Johnny Wadd movies were the first movies in porn that had a so-so storyline. Holmes also interested me because if you listen to five interviews about him, you hear about five different sides of his personality. It also fascinated me that he became a porn star *after* he got married and against his wife’s wishes.

      Thanks for stopping by, Patti,

  3. I had heard of John Holmes connection to this once and remembered being fascinated by both the tawdry nature of it all and the thought of “well if you look at it then yeah, this all makes total sense”.

    Great post Catie!

    • The tawdry factor is definitely what attracted me. Put three stories in front of me, and I’ll pick the one with lurid elements. Thanks for stopping by, Gene. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. on ,
    Alica said:

    I’m not a big fan of true crime stories- but I love Sherlock Holmes and for years I thought he was a real person- does that count?

    • That definitely counts. I thought he was a real person for quite some time, too. :D

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Wow, that is really life in LA. Everybody is a star of some caliber, but a dark and sinister place when the camera stops rolling and you have to live your life. Great story and links! I’m hooked, mark me ‘subscribed’.

    • That’s an interesting assessment of LA. I can see the truth in it. You know, I read that the first crime noir books were set in LA because of the contrast of the constant sunshine vs. the dark sinister element.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog, Mary Jo. Welcome to Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie!

      • on ,
        John W said:

        L.A. Has always fascinated me, but I have never been there, will make it on day. So many interesting but also so many sad stories. It attracts pervs and criminals just like it does wannabe stars. Years ago, I read about a young woman from my area, Houston Texas, who moved to West Hollywood to pusue acting and modeling. She was so pretty that a few months later, a group of men followed her home from the grocery store and assaulted her in her home. She was so ashamed that she never reported it and moved back home immediately and thats so tragic. I think young women need a chaperone or something when going there.

        • I used to think we’d eventually visit California. There is so much cool history there, especially in LA. There has been a lot of money and and lot of tragedy in that town. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited Scott Michael’s Find a Death website, but he knows a lot of LA’s less savory history. He’s totally worth a few hours of your time. He has also produced a movie that traces Charlie Manson’s movements around the LA area. It’s both spooky and fascinating. LA is one of those places you might go to find your happy ending but end up finding a horror story instead. And that’s terribly interesting to me.

          Thanks for your comment.

  6. Fabulous post, Catie. I’m in awe of your research abilities! I am severely research-challenged. lol.
    I love the Ron Launius story – true or not, it definitely feeds the muse. I do have to wonder why Susan stayed with him, though. Jeez. Kidnapped by drug dealers, beaten, losing a finger – all because of the man she LOVED? Wow. As a protagonist in fiction, she wouldn’t be believable and would be probably be labeled TSTL (too stupid to live)! Truth is indeed stranger – and more gruesome – than fiction.

    • Debbie–I’m thrilled someone else can see the attraction of the Ron Launius anecdote. Mr. Launius was a dangerous man. Make no mistake about that. At the time of his death, there were up to twenty-seven open homicide cases, in which investigators believed Launius might have been involved. I suspect, if the story about the kidnapping is true, Mr. Launius’s motives would have had as much to do with protecting his reputation. If people think you can be played, they’ll try to play you.

      Susan Launius –Ron must have had something special for Susan. Right before the robbery–and subsequent murders–she and Ron had separated. Susan came back to Ron to work things out, like, two days before the murders. If she had stayed away another week, she’d have never gotten mixed up in it.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for being interested.

  7. Pingback: Blog Treasures 6-11 « Gene Lempp's Blog

  8. Well-written and thoroughly researched, Catie! Ever since I read my older sister’s paperback copy of Helter Skelter as a pre-teen, I’ve been both horrified and fascinated by Charles Manson and his associates. I had such vivid nightmares after reading that book and viewing the murder scene photos I’d wake my parents, petrified the Manson family was coming to kill us, too. Needless to say, I was banned from reading or watching horror films or murder mysteries for a very long time. LOL

    • Jolyse–Charles Manson is an horrifyingly interesting figure. Did you know he had an album? You can listen to it on iTunes. He wasn’t half bad. I feel funny about buying it, so I don’t own it. If you’re interested, there’s a movie Scott Michaels made called Six Degrees of Helter Skelter. He actually shows the places the Manson gang frequented. It kept me riveted.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Something I have wondered about this crime ever since I started following it is who opened the door at the house on Wonderland to let the Nash crew in? I have read that it was Barbara Richardson. However she was found on the floor in front of the couch where she slept. Pretty obvious she was attacked while she slept. The movie shows Deverell opening the door. He was found on the floor of his bedroom. I doubt that Holmes had a key to the house considering the way the rest of the crew viewed him. I cannot find a copy of Det. Lange’s book to read his version of what occurred. Something to think about.

    • I’ve thought about this, too.

      Billy DeVerell was found sitting in front of the TV in the bedroom he shared with Joy Miller. He was the only one who didn’t seem to be attacked while he was sleeping in bed. I’ve imagined Billy opened the door and was driven back (or ran back) to his room.

      There would have been more than one pipe swinger, Holmes or no Holmes. Probably, someone fought with Billy while someone else killed Barbara. It’s very possible there were even more pipe swingers than than two, and, after entry, the attacks were happening simultaneously.

      I’ve read, however, that the Wonderland Gang was going to Maui on the Eddie Nash money and got too stoned to leave. The “too stoned” angle creates the possibility that the Wonderland gang was so out of it, they didn’t even stir as the pipe swingers made their way thought the house.

      Here’s another possibility, one the movie shows: Holmes went to the Wonderland house in the early morning hours of July 1. He visited and got stoned as usual. When Holmes left, he left the security gate ajar. The front door itself may have been pretty easy to get open since the Wonderland Gang had a security gate and dogs they left out there.

      When I first started researching the Four on the Floor murders, I tried to get a copy of Detectives Lange and Souza’s book. I never could find a copy. However, at the time, Lange and Souza had a website up. The website made it look as though the book had never been published. I also hit upon people at Dawn Schiller’s blog saying Souza and Lange’s book had never been published. I would be very interested to know what Detectives Lange and Souza had to say, though.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the great conversation!

  10. I think you may be right with the idea that Holmes left the door ajar. Didn’t Holmes admit that he was present and made to witness the assault? Odd that he would have been left alive to possibly tell police who commited the crime. I don’t think Nash would have left him alive once it got the dirty the dirty work over and his purpose had been served. Something else to ponder. I don’t know why the book Lange and Souza wrote is so hard to find.

    • Gayle, I read online that Detectives Souza and Lange were writing the book (Four on the Floor: The Laurel Canyon Murders) with Nils Grevillius. Some places say the book is out of print; other places say it never got published.

      My advice, if you’re really determined, would be to contact Tom Lange, Robert Souza, or Nils Grevillius. I have no idea how to get in touch with any of these dudes.

      Check this out:

      http://www.mattersofsize.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-2057.html

      Look for the entries by “still want more.” That’s where I got the info above.

      Nils Grevillius does seem to be on Facebook. He might not mind being contacted. Good luck!

      • Thanks Catie. I went to the LAPD retirees site to try and contact Lange and Souza but have not heard anything yet.

  11. I have never heard of the Wonderland murders, and I’m obsessed with true crime! I had to pay extra a few years ago to have access to Court TV (now TruTV) for all of the forensic files, Dominick Dunne stories, and Murder by the Book.

    My favorite true crime took place in Odessa, TX when my mother was in high school (B.T. as she would say – “Before Tiffany”). A young girl, named Elizabeth “Betty” Williams, asked her ex-boyfriend to kill her. They’d recently broken up because he was a star football player (life in West Texas) and she was not in the popular crowd (she’d probably be considered Goth today – very out of place in the 60s). Mack Herring picked Betty up one night, drove out to his father’s land, and blew her head off with a shot gun. He pretty much immediately confessed, and he was the first ever to be acquitted in the Texas court system for reason of insanity.

    Betty’s cousin, Shelton Williams, wrote a book called “Washed in Blood.” I highly recommend it! Shelly went to school with my mom at Permian; she and my aunt remember him vividly. But, then again, how could you forget anyone involved in a case like this?

    I’ll write a Friday FabOoolousness post about it soon….

    • Great story! I might try to find the book. What I wonder is this: Did he go to an asylum or did he continue playing football?

      Thanks for sharing such an interesting story. You’ve got my muse’s wheels turning.

      • He didn’t go to an asylum or continue playing football – he did go off to college but while he was considered a movie star in Odessa by all the high school girls during the trial, he was somewhat of a pariah at college (according to my mom – same college too).

        • It’s so interesting to hear about this stuff from people who knew the “players” IRL. I’m totally waiting for your blog about this case.

  12. I’m not a crime story fan, but “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote (author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) is superb. The true story is based on the murder of a Kansas family and Capote’s relationship with one of the killers.

    • In Cold Blood is in my TBR (to be read) pile. I’m totally going to have to read it now. :D

      Thanks for stopping by.

  13. Great job. The Wonderland story will always continue to fascinate. I’d just like to mention that at the time of the murders the L.A. Times (and other sources) falsely reported that Holmes’ left palm print found on the bed frame above the head of Ron Launius was bloody. It was not. We had specifically questioned Tom Lange about that when we interviewed him. Much to the dismay of Lange and the prosecution, John’s acquittal was due to lack of any hard evidence. “Four on the Floor” was never published for several reasons that Lange did not want to divulge at the time we spoke with him. He doubts it will ever see the light of day which is one of the reasons he had agreed to talk with us for our book. John Holmes would have been 67 years old yesterday. The beat goes on. :)

    • Jill, how very cool for you to stop by. Folks, Jill Nelson is one of the authors of John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches.

      Thank you for clarifying about Holmes’s handprint. As I wrote this post, I kept reading that the information about the palm print was false, but I couldn’t figure out what was true. That palm/hand print was not bloody clicks it all into place for me. I really appreciate this extra tidbit.

      Also, thank you so much for mentioning Tom Lange’s Four on Floor. So many people are curious about that. Truth is, if it came out, I’d read it, too. Too bad that it will likely never see the light of day. :D

      Again, thank you for stopping by and thank you for sharing your expertise.

    • on ,
      John W said:

      Thanks Jill. Thats great info, cant wait to read your book!

  14. on ,
    silent_count said:

    I’ve always had a curious fascination with the Wonderland case.

    On the surface, it’s incredibly simple: a bunch of junkies rob a kingpin… who, in retaliation, has them all killed. Simple, huh? And then there’s the inexplicable details beneath the surface.

    John Holmes: Propose the following to a guy… ANY GUY! “Your job, henceforth will be to shag attractive women. That’s it. Why yes, there is a catch. The ‘catch’ is that we’ll pay you wheelbarrows of cash for your hard (haha!) work”. Apparently this deal was so unbearable that it drove Holmes to take drugs, lots and lots of them. There isn’t a competition for “the dumbest guy ever” but, if there were, I’d suggest that Holmes would definitely be a contender.

    Dawn Schiller: I can understand girls/women being attracted to celebrities, rock stars, actors and what-not. I can’t understand choosing to be with a washed up druggo who beats you and prostitutes you for the noble cause of getting more drugs for himself. I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.

    The Wonderland gang: Why were they still at the Wonderland residence the morning of the murders? Did they really think they were going to rob someone like Eddie Nash and then what? He was going to forget about it?

    How did it not occur to them to skip town IMMEDIATELY after they left Nash’s house? It could be argued they were druggos and not fully in command of their mental faculties. I’d counter that druggos should be far more aware than the general populace about quite how dangerous it is to tangle with someone high up the drug food-chain (it’s not like Nash is going to make a complaint to the police, is he?). When someone like him comes looking for payback, it isn’t going to be with a subpena.

    Anyhow. A simple, straight-forward story surrounded by some genuinely bizarre details. That’s what made the Wonderland case stick in my mind.

    • That’s a good assessment, especially what you said about the bizarre details. That’s definitely what fascinates me.

      I’ve read the Wonderland Gang planned to go to Hawaii, but got stoned and ended up not going. How true that is, I don’t know. Perhaps they were waiting for David Lind to return after fencing the stolen items. Who knows? I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense.

      How Dawn Schiller ended up with John Holmes is a long, involved story. I highly recommend reading The Road Through Wonderland by Dawn Schiller. Before I read the book, I had the most difficult time understanding how this fifteen year old got involved with a drug-addicted porn star. Turns out, there’s quite a bit more to the story than just that.

      As for John Holmes, I suspect he was a sociopath or had some sort of other personality disorder. If you’re ever up for it, watch Wadd (a documentary about John Holmes). He was really an odd individual.

      Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed your comment.

  15. on ,
    John W said:

    Great job on this post!

    I was especially drawn to the story after watching the movie, because many of the real people, like Ron and Barbara, reminded me of my father’s siblings and my brother in the early 80s…. in trouble with drugs, wrong crowd, etc. I’m glad my relatives survived. Sad story for their families, just awful. I have not been touched by a story like this in a long time. RIP, ya’ll.

    Thank you again,
    John in Houston

    • This story never fails to interest me. There’s so much there. Faded porn star. Underworld kingpin. Then the backstories for Ron Launius and David Lind are so fascinating. Like you say, I think we’ve all known people like the victims. Or else we’ve been people like the victims. So even that part is relatable.

      As far as I know, Eddie Nash is the only one still living. All the rest–even the guys who committed the murders–are dead. Creepy, huh?

      Glad the story interested you and thanks for stopping by. :D

  16. on ,
    H Brown said:

    .Whats even more interesting is David Lind’s testimony in the first of two trials in the states precaution of Nash & Diles. While Lind may have been scared for his life while testifying in The Holmes trial in the early 80’s, he showed absolutely no fear of Nash or
    Diles in their subsequent trials.

    In the Holmes trial, Lind claimed he didn’t know the person they robbing was Eddie Nash.
    When questioned on the witness stand about the planning of the robbery Lind made this statement: ” I was very apprehensive, there were certain drug dealers you didn’t rob
    and Ed Nash was one of them. It was clear once we got into the house we were over our
    heads” – David Lind.

    Lind would go on to say this. ” no matter what I’ve done, I’ve never killed anyone. They
    did” Lind point’s directly at Eddie Nash in open court, something he would have never done nearly a decade earlier. Why David Lind behaved this way ( showing no fear of Eddie Nash is known only to Lind )

    Lind’s prior knowledge of the Nash robbery seam’s to back up Tracy McCourt’s statement
    in the Holmes trial. McCourt: “everybody backed out, so me and Billy decided we were
    going to do it”

    Everybody and their brother knew the person they were robbing was Eddie Nash and they were smart enough to have some reservations about it with the exception of McCourt and Deverrel. Whatever John Holmes said to convince the people on Wonderland Ave to go thru with the robbery will never be known.

    Despite the fact Holmes died two years prior to the Nash trial and all of Linds co conspirators in the robbery were killed in the July 1 massacre, when questioned
    about who’s idea it was to rob Eddie Nash, without hesitating, Lind replied John Holmes.

    • That’s great info, thanks for sharing.
      I was wondering about the mindset of the Gang at the time… and could not find Lind’s testimony via Google. Your post clears up some things I was curious about. It’s obvious, that although an addict, Ron wanted his estranged wife Susan back in his life. Maybe all or most of the Gang assumed this money would give them a fresh start somehow, starting with a trip to Hawaii. Or, they could’ve just shot up the $$$ and been broke again in 8 weeks? Either way, it didn’t happen. They were all guilty of one thing, trusting John Holmes.

    • I heard audio of John Holmes discussing the Nash burglary years later and soon before he died. His wife Laurie posted the audio on youtube. It was recorded at a coffee shop. He states that the “Gang” just wanted to hide in the bushes at Nash’s home while John knocked on the door, then, they would jump out guns drawn. Holmes, knowing about Diles and others who may be there said no way, it will become a shootout, and LAPD will be there in 30 seconds. The tapes are cool to listen to, but you get the self-indulgent Holmes’ side of the story.

      • on ,
        Hbrown said:

        Yeah, I’ve listened to these tapes some time ago. The problem is, it’s impossible to believe anything John Holmes say’s. The story about the Wonderland gang hidding in the bushes and then surprising Nash is beyond ridicules the only person who believes that story was Holmes himself. Your right Wonderland 81, they should have never trusted
        Holmes. John Holmes was a pathological liar and sociopath who only cared about one
        thing… himself. If there was anyone single individual who truly deserved to have their
        brains beaten out of thir skull with quarter inch threaded pipe, it was Holmes.
        Just ask Joy Miller’s two surviving daughters, Marla and Michelle they attended both
        the Holmes and Nash trials.

    • Great discussion here. I try to stay off the blog and get some–you know–actual writing done on all days except Wednesdays and Fridays. I wanted to thank you both for your contributions and ask a few questions.

      1) H Brown — is your source for David Lind’s testimony Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine? If not, please share your source. I’m always in the mood for more Wonderland.

      2) Wonderland1981 — Is the John Holmes audio you’re referring to the one titled “John Holmes “Wonderland” in his own words? If not, please share the right one.

      3) H Brown — are there any interviews with Joy Miller’s surviving daughters about the trial, their thoughts on the murders, etc.?

      If you’d rather talk privately about your sources, my email is catierhodes (AT) yahoo (DOT) com.

      Again, I thank you both for stopping by. Reading what you have to say has made my week. Wonderland is one of my favorite topics.

      • on ,
        Hbrown said:

        Sorry for the delay, just got back from vacation. A lot of David Lind’s testimony can be found in the LA Times archives, although you will have to pay for most
        of the articles some of them are free though. Some of the articles over lap each other
        meaning parts of the testamoney intertwine with other’s.

        There was indeed an interview with Joy miller’s daughter Marla. I can’t remember where
        I read this but is was around the time when Nash was convicted in 2000 I believe.
        I’m sure its on line somewhere. The interview wasn’t very long, I just remember she was
        still very upset for obvious reasons and she wished Nash would die in prison as best
        as I can remember.

        I hop this helps.

        • No problem on the delay. I hope you enjoyed your vacation. That sounds really nice. Thanks so much for the information. Next time I have a few hours to surf, I’m going to hunt this stuff down. I am not sure what is so interesting about this case, but it never fails to fascinate me. :D

  17. on ,
    edmund cheng said:

    Hi Catie,

    Ever since seeing the film “Wonderland”, I have become utterly devoted to understanding the crime and more so in particular the nature of the people that became the victims… like how they became involved in crime themselves and the psychology behind their intentions… I’d love to hear what you have to say about the crimes, as a chapter in Californian history intended to be long forgotten…

  18. Thanks for the plug for my book, Catie, which still continues to sell quite well, month after month; seems there is an unending fascination in the events that went down on Wonderland that fateful eve.

  19. on ,
    traci said:

    Hello there. I too am so fascinated by wonderland! I have been for almost 5 years now! Could u please tell me where I can find the four on the floor book.

    • The Four on the Floor book was never released. From what I have been able to understand, it is unlikely that it ever will be. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :D

  20. on ,
    Keith said:

    Catie, are you sure the info on Launius is on the up-and-up? It turns out he was in the Air Force while in Nam, and was involved in supply and logistics. As somebody on line has said, if he was a wild killer there, he did it with a clipboard. Also, is it for certain he was really the inspiration for Nolte in Who’ll Stop the Rain? No offense or anything, but my best guess is that his backstory has been way enlarged.

    • The Launius ransom anecdote comes entirely from the book Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine. I never come across it anywhere else, and I have looked. So…I make no claims as to its validity.

      Additionally, I am uncertain of the validity of the claim that Ron Launius was the basis of Ray Hicks in Who’ll Stop the Rain. When I researched this post, I learned it has also been claimed that Ray Hicks was based on Neal Cassady, a beat generation figure. That reference has to do with the final scene in the film when Ray Hicks dies on the railroad tracks. Apparently, something similar happened to Neal Cassady. I’m not a beat generation historian, though, so I’m only paraphrasing stuff I’ve read.

      I’ve read comments online that make the same assertion you’ve made here–that Ron Launius’s history has been exaggerated. That may be the case. I included both the Launius ransom anecdote and the film reference because it interested me. I write fiction, and some stories–true or not–just have a great ring to them. :D

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • on ,
        Keith said:

        If the stuff about Launius isn’t true, then, hell, it ought be. Oddly enough, when Ron was on the slab, it was discovered he was in the onset of a bad strain of hepatitis–uncommon for someone who lived as healthy a lifestyle as he did! But the way he, and the others, went…well, I’m not sure I’d wish that on anyone. If you run into Joe R. Lansdale in East Texas, tell him I said hello!

        • Gross factoid about the hepatitis. I love stuff like that! I remember reading Launius’s corpse showed the onset of cirrhosis, too. He and the other three died extra nasty deaths for sure.

          Joe Lansdale is on my to meet list. He lives in a town about thirty miles from where I grew up. That guy is such a talented writer.

  21. on ,
    Craig said:

    Wow an attractive woman that likes true gruesome murder stories….you just jumped 4 levels of hotness…LOL

  22. on ,
    Page said:

    Glad to find some1 else who loves wonderland and is as intrigued by all of it as I am! Just sat here & read every post:) Read Dawn’s book& loved finding out her story-really explains a lot…as well as the extras like Sharon’s incident… I have searched for years for the Four on the Floor book; so glad to know the story on that:) My fascination with Wonderland murders as well as Manson

  23. on ,
    Page said:

    (cont.) has my daughter thinking her mom is nuts! Lol
    Sorry but I could not make my cursor take me to the end to finish:( you may combine if u want:) thanks!

  24. on ,
    Libby Farina said:

    What a wonderful and incite full article Catie! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your website. I just finished reading The Road Through Wonderland : Surviving John Holmes. Excellent book. I too was in an abusive relationship and really identified with Dawn Schiller. I also own Wonderland on DVD and have watched it at least a hundred times. I have always been fascinated with american crime stories, and have probably read Helter Skelter about half a dozen times. I was only 6 when the Wonderland murders took place, and don’t remember seeing it in the media. I’m so glad they made a movie about it, and I have recommended it to several people. I have seen the YouTube crime scene walk through…very chilling! I appreciate the extra information on certain details about the people involved that I was not aware about. Thanks again, it was very interesting reading

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Libby. Wonderland is one of my favorite topics. If you haven’t, you might read John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches. Very well researched book.

      • on ,
        Libby Farina said:

        Thanks, I’ll check that one out as well. Funny lil bit of info I thought I would share. Something I noticed after reading the Dawn Schiller book. The original address of the Wonderland house was 8763 Wonderland Ave…in the movie, they flip-flopped the address, 3678…out of curiosity I Google Mapped the address. 8763 doesn’t exist anymore. I entered the address, and there it was…the infamous murder house, but the address is now 8761 Wonderland. I could be mistaken, it was done from my phone, but I looked @ every house and recognized the identical railing on the balcony from the crime scene video….if you haven’t yet, you should google map the address and check it out! :)

          • on ,
            Libby Farina said:

            Doesn’t surprise me, actually, that’s not too shabby of a price for such a famous house. You said it was for sale, did someone buy it?

          • I don’t know. I just remember finding it in an online real estate site. Scott Michaels (the Find a Death guy) has a video of himself walking through the murder house at the time it was for sale. It had been freshly painted and carpeted. Scott probably still has the videos on his website (Find a Death).

  25. on ,
    Jay Jae said:

    Ronald Launius hung out in the Stockton/Lodi area of California, following his discharge from the Air Force in 1970. He was presumably born and raised in the area, since his mother, Betty Bryson, listed as his only survivor, still resided in Valley Springs, near Stockton/Lodi at the time of Ronald’s death.

    Contempory Account in Hometown Paper, “Lodi News Sentinal”:
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2245&dat=19810706&id=ZeMzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QTIHAAAAIBAJ&pg=3629,577759

    He was arrested in Sacramento, in June 1973, and convicted on federal charges of conspiracy to smuggle heroin and amphetamines into the United States from Mexico. Launius salvaged wrecked cars, drove them to Mexico, and hired others to drive the cars — now stocked with Mexican heroin and other pills back to the Central Valley. After his arrest, Launius jumped bail and fled to Mexico; it had nothing to do with motorcycle gangs kidnapping his wife, but may be the source for that story. He was caught and sentenced to eight years at a federal prison in Washington State. Clearly, he did not serve the full sentence or he would not have been in Laurel Canyon in July 1981, thieving and getting himself and innocent victims murdered in the process.

    Contemporary Account in the “Sarasota Herald-Tribune”
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=IZ0cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=C2gEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5867,2693360&hl=en

    Ronald Launius was also charged in 1974 with the murder of another man, Gary Moore, in Sutter County, California in July 1973 over a $10,000 drug deal gone wrong. This would have been when he was out on bail, before fleeing to Mexico. The case was dismissed when the chief witness was killed in a police shoot-out.

    “Palm Beach Post;”
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=IZ0cAAAAIBAJ&sjid=C2gEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5867,2693360&hl=en

    A lot more background on Ronald Launius from his mother in this contemporary account. She blames Agent Orange for Launius’ problems. She also asks that the names of his father and brothers not be published. She was with a friend when she spoke to the reporter. Sadly, but perhaps tellingly, it sounds as if she and her friend were the only ones to mourn Launius.

    “Lodi News Sentinel”
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2245&dat=19810708&id=Z-MzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QTIHAAAAIBAJ&pg=5818,794077
    Please note that you’ll have to click and drag your mouse up to the top of this page to read this story. These old archived papers take some getting used to in order to manipulate.

    I’ve read elsewhere on the web that Betty Bryson died fairly recently, but I could find no accounts of her death. She was 58 years old at the time of Launius’ murder, so she would be 89 if still alive today. You are also correct that the web appears to be swept of any mention of Susan Murphy Launius — it is impossible to determine even when she married Ronald Launius. The only mention of her family is the notation in the article above that her father refused to comment for the story. Marysville, CA is a small town; you’d expect some mention of such a huge event as the murders, but I could find nothing.

    • Thanks for sharing all this!

      I *think* I remember seeing somewhere the date Susan and Ron married. I’ve scanned through my notes and am not finding it, though. I do have in my notes that Susan Launius was 29 in 1981. So if you know either hers or Ron’s age when they married, you might be able to figure it out from that.

      I found a message board discussing the Wonderland murders some time ago. There was a commenter who claimed he or she knew Susan Launius. This person said Susan had remarried and changed her name (probably well before the Internet came into wide use) and still suffered from her injuries.

      Again, thanks for sharing all these articles.

  26. on ,
    Jay Jae said:

    You’re welcome. I grew up in the Central Valley, to the north of Stockton/Lodi, and, even though Laurius was significantly older than I am, I am very familiar with his type — they were/are prevalent in the area: ‘theiving and chiving’ they used to call it, ‘chiva’ being slang for Mexican heroin, and ‘theiving’ being the typical way of getting the chiva fix.

    The Stockton-Lodi area has a really dark history of being home to some truly disturbed characters. This was also the hunting grounds for the infamous ‘speed freak killers,’ Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog, who began their killing spree (mostly girls and young women, but also men they robbed, or who had drug deals with the two go wrong) of as many as 72 victims, beginning in the early eighties.

    Shermantine, who is on death row, finally disclosed the location of the bodies of a couple high-profile missing girls from the eighties just recently. The FBI and local authorities found the girls’ bodies as well as those of victims who have yet to be identified. They are currently looking at other burial grounds disclosed by Shermantine.

    Herzog, whose conviction was overturned on a technicality, had recently gotten out of prison. He hung himself as soon as Shermantine started talking. God knows, how many other girls would have gone missing again if he hadn’t.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/30/speed-freak-killer-wesley-shermantine-_n_1926938.html

    Oddly, LInden, where Shermantine and Herzog lived, east of Stockton and Lodi, is only 20 miles down Highway 12 from where Betty Bryson lived in Valley Springs. Shermantine grew up in San Andreas, only about ten miles up HIghway 12 from Valley Springs. It is interesting to speculate if Laurius’ life interesected with that of Shermantine and Herzog. These are all small foothill communities; it is very possible they knew each other or, at least, were aware the others’ identities.

    Thanks for the info on Susan Laurius. I’m not interested in finding her. I agree with you; she managed to get off the internet grid and remain off of it, so good for her. I just always assumed that her head injuries meant that she was permanently impaired, but I suppose that wouldn’t preclude remarriage.

    • Thanks for the info on Wesley Shermantine. I may do a future blog post on those crimes. I had never heard of him, so it’s all new to me.

      As for Susan Launius, I’d never disturb whatever life she’s made for herself. I’m glad you feel the same way. I read somewhere that she suffered permanent brain damage. Apparently, it was not so severe that she is disabled.

  27. on ,
    Greg said:

    Very interesting info. Just saw the Wonderland movie and am now beginning to read Dawn Schillers book. BTW, ‘based on a true story’ is 5 words…

    • I hope you enjoy Dawn’s book. I really liked it.

      Thanks for pointing out that “based on a true story” is 5 words. If I have a prize for being on top of your game, you’d win it.

  28. on ,
    Margie Bakker said:

    Have u read the shoemaker? Read this book all at once. Kept me awake after reading it! Really delves into how parents mess up their children. Written by same author as Sybil. No movie tho…