Thursday, February 12, 2009

Around Town: Another morbid midnight with Howard Hughes

It was a rainy night at Number One Valley Sun Lane. The doors were locked. Computers flickered throughout the newsroom. Miss Audrey Hepburn, our black Lab-chow mix, dozed in the shadows while I leafed through a box of old Los Angeles Times clippings about Howard Hughes.

Why was I doing this? A mysterious package had arrived, full of clippings about “the millionaire sportsman.”

The La Cañada connection? I had no idea. The clippings concerned Howard Hughes.

One Saturday night in July 1936, Hughes crashed his brand new Ford Phaeton into an innocent pedestrian. Hughes, who had been drinking, was arrested by the LAPD for negligent homicide. Almost immediately, an essential witness went missing, to the dismay of the police and the media. The missing witness? A woman, of course. Howard Hughes was on a date.
After the accident she stepped from the machine and boarded a westbound streetcar, according to witnesses.
“Hmmm,” I said to Miss Hepburn. “La Cañada Flintridge would have been due east of Third and Lorraine, where the witness grabbed the streetcar.”

Miss Hepburn did not reply. I continued reading: 
July 13, 1936: After a night in jail during which detectives sought vainly to learn the identity of the young woman accompanying him he said he did not ‘want to drag her name into this affair unnecessarily.’ Hughes steadfastly refused to disclose his companion’s identity to Detective Lieutenat Ralph N. David after two hours of questioning.
Howard Hughes? Who knew he was such a gentleman. 
Nor would he tell authorities whence he had come or where he was going when the accident took place
And then, the inevitable happened. His lawyers arrived.
Seven hours later his attorney, Neil McCarthy, obtained his release on a writ of habeas corpus.
Faced with what could only be viewed as Hughes’ irritating lack of cooperation, Detective Lieutenant Ralph N. David engaged in a sensible course of action. He scheduled a coroner’s inquest.
With the inquest scheduled early this week and Hughes’s answer to his writ of habeas corpus due in Superior Judge Ambrose’s court at 10 a.m. Thursday, detectives who investigated the tragedy admitted that they did not know who was the companion of the world’s swiftest airplane pilot.
Meanwhile, the family of the victim began their preparations. The victim’s name does not appear in the history books or on Wikipedia, so I include it here. His name was Gabe Meyer. He was 59 years old. He left four sisters and a brother. He was the son of a California pioneer named Samuel Meyer. Despite the press coverage, the victim’s family declined comment. The funeral services, conducted on July 15th, were private.

Meanwhile, back in La Cañada, another family anxiously awaited the inquest, which was scheduled to begin the next day.

To be continued

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

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