1948 "Crystal Ball murder" Santa Cruz, CA

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1948 "Crystal Ball murder" Santa Cruz, CA

Post by ophion1031 on August 17th 2015, 11:12 pm


LARKIN VALLEY - On a January night in 1948, the crystal ball that fortune teller Vera Marshall used to predict the future didn't work.

The eccentric 75-year-old widow was bludgeoned to death with a ball-peen hammer in her Larkin Valley cottage.

Although sheriff's deputies were optimistic about finding the elderly woman's killer early on, the trail went cold. The Sheriff's Office still keeps evidence from the case - the hand-drawn diagram of the crime scene is matted, framed and hung on the wall of the Sheriff's Office property warehouse - but detectives hold little hope of solving the murder.

"Given the resources we have right now, we have to pick and choose cases that will be viable," said sheriff's Sgt. Ian Patrick, who oversees violent crime investigations.

Marshall's death is one of the oldest unsolved homicides in the county. In the past year, sheriff's detectives have launched new efforts to reignite cold cases. A retired officer has volunteered her time to organize the office's cold case files and the Sheriff's Office revamped website includes short stories about 10 of the 60 unsolved homicides sheriff's deputies have investigated since 1968. They plan to add more.

Still, detectives acknowledge there are some murders they may never have answers for. Marshall's death likely is one of them.

Once maybe a simple robbery-murder investigation, the case of the slain seeress has been complicated by time.

Everyone with first-hand knowledge of the crime has probably died and many of the files are weathered or missing. Even evidence kept closely-guarded for years - like the ball-peen hammer still stored in a cardboard evidence box - has not been preserved well enough to be submitted for forensic testing that was not available, or even imaginable, six decades ago.

Old Sentinel stories paint a chilling picture of the violence that befell the fortune teller.

Two neighbors found Marshall stretched out in a chair in her house about 12-18 hours after she was killed. The coroner reported she had been struck in the head eight times with the hammer, which was later found under a thicket of bushes about 100 yards from Marshall's cluttered home. Blood trailed across the cottage floor and was splattered on the walls, deputies said.

"You can be certain she put up a fight to protect herself," deputy sheriff Gary Smith said in 1948. "Of course, a woman of her condition and age would be a pushover for a strong 10-year-old boy to overpower her."

Early on, the sheriff's deputies working the murder case were hopeful they would find the men who killed Marshall, a recluse who told fortunes with cards and with an egg yolk in a glass.

Detectives thought the man or men who attacked Marshall meant to rob her and may have stolen some money from her home, which was cob-webbed and packed with "an unbelievable supply of canned goods," but it was difficult to tell what had been taken.

If her killers intended to steal her money, they missed the old woman's hidden stashes. Deputies found shoe boxes, match boxes, flour sacks, salt bags and satchels full of silver and cash when the cottage was cleaned out about three months after Marshall's death. Two paper bags discovered stuffed into a cardboard box in Marshall's bedroom alone held $4,480 in cash.

Investigators tried to track down the car seen fleeing the mystic's home the night she was killed. They set up periodic road blocks to find the car, but were unsuccessful.

One suspect, a former San Quentin State Prison inmate, was questioned but never charged and about 40 of Marshall's clients from Santa Cruz to Monterey were contacted.

And a "very murky crystal ball resting upon an equally dust-covered table" found at her home revealed no clues to Marshall's death, deputies said at the time.

"It's a long way from being a dead issue," Smith, the lead investigator on the case, said in 1948. "Someday someone will give us a clue and we will start on the trail again."

EDIT: If you ever need to prove to anyone that fortune teller's are full of shit, here is your proof!

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