Old Murders Never Die
by Bruce Anderson, October 15, 2008
The nude body of 18-year-old Barbara Stroud was found by a County road crew north of Willits on Wednesday, January 10th, 1973. The honors graduate of Willits High School had been missing since the previous Sunday.
Miss Stroud and her boyfriend, Bob Burke, had enjoyed a movie at the Willits Theater, then, Miss Stroud, driving the sporty blue '65 Mustang convertible her doting parents had given her, had dropped Burke, also 18, at his home in the burgeoning rural suburb of Brooktrails northwest of town.
The only people who saw her after that were the six young men who raped and murdered her.
The Strouds had moved to Willits in 1971 to get their studious only child away from the crime and violence of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Strouds thought bad things were less likely in Willits than they were in San Jose where Barbara, always a good student, had never failed to appear on the Westmont High School honor roll.
The Strouds lived for their daughter, and their daughter was devoted to them, so devoted she had delayed entering college for a year to help her parents manage the Ridgewood complex south of Willits, then a thriving motel and restaurant complex.
Reno Bartolomie was Sheriff, Micky Chapman his ace investigator. Ernie Carlson was principal of Willits High School where Ruth Rockefeller taught ambitious students, Barbara Stroud among them, the finer points of composition. The principal described Barbara as "a very fine young lady who was quiet and reserved, and mainly interested in her classes." Ruth Rockefeller described the diligent Miss Stroud as "honorable," by which the elderly Rockefeller seems to have meant that the girl's earnest, well-mannered demeanor was more like the young women of Rockefeller's generation than the raucous youngsters she now saw roaming the halls of Willits High School.
Having dropped off her boyfriend in Brooktrails a little before 11, the last non-lethal person she would see, Barbara drove her collector car Mustang back down Sherwood Road to Highway 101 where she unaccountably turned north towards Laytonville rather than south towards Ridgewood where she lived.
Or did she?
Her Mustang was found north of town, she lived south of town.
It is speculated that the girl was sideswiped then abducted somewhere on Sherwood Road. The seemingly abandoned Mustang was soon observed by a Sheriff's Department deputy parked on the shoulder of 101 north of Willits. It was midnight, maybe an hour after its young owner had been strangled to death just up the road. The doors were locked and the keys were still in the ignition. The girl's purse, coat and shoes were in the vehicle. The convertible's canvas top had been sliced open. The driver's side of the perfectly maintained Mustang was dented. The Sheriff's Department immediately announced they were looking for the green vehicle whose paint remained on the battered door of Barbara's car.
A petite girl weighing little more than 110 pounds, Barbara's body had been thrown over a fence near a grove of trees a few yards from a railroad siding not far from where her Mustang was found. A hundred yards from her body was a small cabin, a green truck parked in its driveway.
Mr. and Mrs. Stroud were so distraught at the unimaginable loss of their only child that young Bob Burke, the bereft boyfriend, had to identify Barbara's body.
35 years later, October of 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Stroud still live in Willits. They are much encouraged by the cold case diligence of Andy Whiteaker, a detective with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. Whiteaker seems to have the goods on the killers.
The police had the goods on the six killers in 1975 when they arrested them.
The case was wrapped up.
Or should have been wrapped up, but the killers walked.
The Sheriff's Department and the Willits Police Department had known within days who'd been involved, and arrests were duly made. Although the killers put the fear in their friends and associates, many of whom were also "known to law enforcement," informants were lining up to tell the cops who did it — six unrepentant young men, one of them so casually depraved he went home to his cabin a hundred yards from his dead victim, his green truck parked out front.
Phillip Wood had testified against his fellow killers and rapists in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The Sheriff's Department and the DA's office had injected Wood with sodium amytal, truth serum as it's been called, to help Wood's memory.
A judge said the chemical memory enhancer was illegal, and the killers, Mr. Wood among them, went free.
Randy Rowan, Larry Phillips and his brother Milton Phillips, Dennis Weeks, and Harold "Puff" Harrington were named by Wood as the killers. Wood exempted himself from responsibility.
He said the others had cut thought the ragtop of Miss Stroud's Mustang to open her locked car door from inside so they could pull her from the Mustang and throw her into their green truck.
Wood said he was following in his car. He said he could hear the girl screaming, and he could see her clothes flying out the window of the green truck, but he said he didn't see the rapes or the murder. The other guys did all that, he said. Wood had merely looked on.
Two of the killers — Weeks and Rowan — are still alive. Weeks lives in South Dakota, Rowan in Oklahoma. It is these two who Detective Whiteaker hopes to bring back to Mendocino County and try for murder.
Again. They got away with it 35 years ago, as Whiteaker says, "Back then, all we had were fingerprint cards and magnifying glasses."
Deploying DNA testing and other contemporary investigative tools, Whiteaker thinks he may at last have the slam-dunk evidence from the Justice Department lab that will put Weeks and Rowan in prison for whatever life is left to them.
The other four killers?
In 1989 in Montana, Milton Phillips shot his brother Larry to death. Milton eventually died of liver cancer, a painful way to go but not painful enough given the dismal facts of the man's life. Wood and Harrington are dead from the dual ravages of drugs and alcohol intensified, perhaps, by their memories of that cold January in Willits, 1973.
* * *
A much colder case began five years before Barbara Stroud was murdered. No one is working on it. Most of the people who remember it remember it only in the bizarre context of the Manson Family because it's mentioned in the books on Manson, and it's mentioned in these books because the Manson Family lived in the Anderson Valley at the time.
On the rainy morning of October 14th, 1968, six miles south of Ukiah, a seven-year-old boy ran out of his trailer home and found his mother dead on the wet ground outside the front door. The boy ran for his grandmother's trailer nearby. She was dead too, garroted like the boy's mother with a pair of long leather boot laces.
The dead women were Nancy Warren, 64, and her granddaughter, Clyda Jean Dulaney, 24, wife of CHP officer, Don Delaney.
Clyda was eight months pregnant.
The seven-year-old was Johnny Ussery whose younger brothers Lane, 5, and Brett, 4, were still asleep. The three boys were from Clyda's first marriage to a logger named John Ussery of Eugene, Oregon. Clyda had left Ussery for Don Dulaney, a Ukiah-based CHP officer twice her age. She was pregnant with Dulaney's child when she was murdered.
Clyda's former husband was quickly eliminated as a suspect when it was verified that he'd been in Medford, Oregon, at the time of the murders.
Finding his mother and his grandmother dead, Johnny had calmly returned to his trailer to get his younger brothers dressed, then, his two little brothers in tow, the three boys trudged south to the home of Don Torell where Johnny told Mr. and Mrs. Torell that "Mommy and Grandma are dead."
A swarm of deputies led by Sheriff Reno Bartolomie was soon on the scene.
The sole witness to the previous night's mayhem, which occurred in a driving rain that obliterated the footprints assumed to have surrounded Clyda Dulaney's outdoors corpse, was Mrs. Warren's miniature dachshund.
The two dead women were fully clothed. They'd both been brutally beaten about the face before they'd been strangled with brand new hightop leather boot laces, two turns of which had been pulled tight around the neck before the laces were knotted in back.
Mrs. Warren operated Nancy's Antique Sales on Highway 101 south of Burke Hill on the two-lane portion of the highway about where the strawberry fields and sales stand are today.
Clyda Dulaney was a graduate of Ukiah high school who, only months before, had left her husband for officer Dulaney, 49, a man several years older than her father.
Subject: Home Movies of Clyda Dulaney
From: Deborah Silva
I don't know why I didn't think to send you this link when we ran the post at the blog. We were able to get two short clips of Clyda Dulaney that were in home movies of a childhood friend of Johnny Ussery. She contacted us wanting to know how to get in touch with Johnny, she hadn't seen him since his father spirited him away after his mother's murder.
Look at the first and second posts at this link, I think you've seen the other posts.
Clyda's former husband had been engaged in a bitter custody dispute with Clyda for his three boys. Mr. Ussery said Clyda had deserted him and the boys for Dulaney, evidence, he insisted, that Clyda was unstable and therefore not a fit mother.
Robbery was the apparent motive. A metal cash box had been rifled and left on a table although a plastic box and glass jar containing approximately $300 in cash rested in plain sight in a closet of the older woman's trailer.
Officer Dulaney lived in Ukiah with a teenage daughter from his previous marriage while Clyda and her children lived on her grandmother's property at the south end of Burke Hill. Dulaney said they lived apart while he looked for a house in the Ukiah area that would accommodate him, his pregnant new wife Clyda, her three boys and his daughter. When Clyda gave birth to their child, Dulaney would be supporting a family of seven, and he said he wanted a house big enough for all of them.
Dulaney was in Sacramento for a special CHP training course when his new wife and her grandmother were found dead. The investigative assumption from the beginning was that the two women were murdered after he was either in Sacramento or on the road there.
The CHP officer told the Sheriff's office that he dropped his wife and stepchildren at Nancy's Antique Shop at 9:30 the previous night with the intention of continuing on to Sacramento. But, he said, he'd forgotten his uniform, so he returned to his Ukiah apartment, picked up the uniform and continued on to Sacramento via Highway 20 east where he signed in at the Academy at 1:45am.
A neighbor said she saw a blue pickup truck leaving an orchard near the antique shop about 8:15 the morning the women were found. She said five persons "wearing hippie-type clothing" were in the vehicle.
Dulaney, 49, who was described as genuinely distraught by investigators, quickly returned to Ukiah.
"The only information I had was what I had read in the newspapers," Dulaney told the Ukiah Daily Journal at the time. He said he and his expanded family had been watching "The Wonderful World of Disney" at Dulaney's Ukiah apartment before he, Clyda and the boys headed south for Clyda Dulaney's trailer six miles to the south. The family had left Ukiah about 8:45. Dulaney said he dropped his wife and the three boys off at their temporary home and headed for Sacramento where he was scheduled to begin a CHP refresher course the next day, Monday morning. Dulaney said that he had reached Highway 20 before remembering that he had failed to bring his uniform. He then returned to Ukiah, picked up his uniform, and resumed his trip to Sacramento where he logged in at 1:45am.
Dulaney hired Timothy O'Brien, a Ukiah attorney who often represented law enforcement people. O'Brien, who soon afterwards became a superior court judge, said that Dulaney had been "deeply concerned over any false impression which might have been gained regarding his cooperation with the Sheriff's Department following the death of his wife and child."
O'Brien helped Dulaney with his statement for the police.
"When the statement was completed, I signed it," Dulaney said. "There was no lack of consideration."
Sheriff Bartolomie said he interviewed 35 suspects, referring in one newspaper account to "the hamstrings of the Warren Court" which, the Sheriff suggested, had prevented him from detaining a trio of roaming purse snatchers who'd robbed a Ukiah matron in the days prior to the Burke Hill murders. The Sheriff thought the three transients could well have murdered the two women, but, lacking evidence to hold them, sent them on their itinerant way.
A year later, in 1969, following the gruesome killings of Sharon Tate and friends in Los Angeles, Bartolomie said he thought the Manson Family may have also been responsible for the unsolved murders of Clyda Dulaney and Mrs. Warren. The Sheriff said both the Tate murders and the two murders south of Ukiah were "in the senseless category."
And the Manson Family had been in Mendocino County at the time of the Dulaney and Warren murders.
Seven persons belonging to a nomadic cult were arrested on drug charges in Navarro in the Anderson Valley on June 22, 1968. Susan Denise Atkins, 19, aka Sadie Mae Glutz, was among those arrested. Additionally, "Several Mansonites were guests of a Ukiah man at his home off Boonville Road," reported the Ukiah Daily Journal.
But there was never any evidence linking the Manson Family or Dulaney or Clyda Dulaney's former husband to the crime.
Someone or someones came in off 101 in the night, took the money they could see, strangled the two women they found there, and continued their journey to whatever unlucky destination called them. (Research by Deborah Silva.)