|Clarence "Tuffy" Reid|
During the process of writing "Behind The Walls," I discovered the published findings of journalist Leon Adams. His articles were written while working undercover as a ward at Preston. Leon Adams was given the assignment to infiltrate the Preston School of Industry and expose them for their mistreatment. In order to do that, Adams was purposely framed for a crime. He then was sent to the Preston School of Industry under the guise of an average young criminal, so that the staff and administration would be unsuspecting of his intentions.
Adams had heard of some of the most deplorable conditions and harsh treatment to wards while in the detention building at Preston. In order to really get a taste of "solitary," Adams had to get into trouble. After allowing himself to get into a fight, and then refusing to "stand the line," he was then sent away to the detention building, exactly where he wanted to be. In my book I go into further details about Adams' experiences there and the harsh realities that he brought to light via the San Francisco Daily News.
While Adams was in solitary confinement in the detention building, he described the conditions of his cell No. 22:
"Two gates clanged, four locks clicked, and I was alone--for 15 long days and nights. My cell was ten feet high and nine feet square. A faucet, a bowl, an iron bunk, two dirty blankets, a little wad of cloth for a pillow---that was my furniture.....Before an hour had passed, I began to calculate how long it would be before I left my dungeon. Fifteen days, each with 24 long hours, seemed like years.
What I am trying to tell about is impossible to conceive. Think, think and suffer. That's all one can do in a cell. Sleep affords no rest....My tomb, I called the place. It was the tomb of many boys before me. Scratches on the wall revealed the presence of an assemblage of notables."
Adams goes on to recall that he read the name "Tuffy" Reid etched into the wall, following "third time over the hill." Other names were also scratched into the walls along with marks of how many days spent in solitary. Adams claimed that the name "Tuffy" kept standing out in his mind, and later he remembered where he had heard it, the media! Tuffy was a death row inmate who made headlines in the newspaper for a murder in Los Angeles in 1923.
Who Was Tuffy Reid?
Clarence "Tuffy Reid was born in Texas around 1903, according the California State Archives records. Not much more is known about "Tuffy," besides the fact that he was sent to the Preston School of Industry in 1922 on robbery charges, but he somehow escaped. While on the lam, Reid found his way down to Los Angeles, and on January 21, 1923, he made a choice that would change the course of the rest of his life.
According to Reid's filed appeal records, the incident occurred at 419 S. Spring Street, when Reid and his accomplice, Lawrence McMullen entered a trunk store owned by Charles and David Weingarten, and they proceeded to rob them.
"The murder occurred in the rear end of a trunk store, located at 419 South Spring Street, in the city of Los Angeles, at about 6 o'clock P. M. on January 21, 1923. There were present in the store at the time six persons, Munson, Safady, Mason, Ingham, Charles Weingarten, the deceased, and David Weingarten, brother of the deceased and proprietor of the business.
The defendant, accompanied by one Lawrence McMullen, entered said place of business through the front door, which was slightly ajar. As they entered the store they were met by David Weingarten, who thought they had come on business. Both the defendant and his companion were carrying guns. The defendant commanded David Weingarten to "stick 'em up" and forced him to walk back to the rear of the store where the safe was located. Charles Weingarten seized the defendant's arm and held it up. While in that position the gun in the defendant's hand went off, the bullets striking the ceiling. With his other hand the defendant reached into his pocket, procured another gun and fired straight at the deceased, killing him. The shuffling and the shooting all occurred in the space of a few seconds.
After the shooting the defendant and his companion fled from the store. Jumping on the running-board of a moving automobile the defendant succeeded in making his escape. In his flight the defendant had dropped the hat he was wearing in the store. Meeting the former owner of the hat that evening about 7 o'clock and knowing that the initials of the former owner were in the hat he told the owner that he had "bumped off" a man and for the owner of the hat to "watch out." At the trial the defendant was positively identified by an eye-witness to the shooting as one of the persons who had participated in the attempted robbery and his companion was identified as a workman in an electrical shop just across the alley from the trunk factory where the deceased was shot. The defendant upon the trial of the case did not deny the killing, but interposed the defense of insanity."--- (People v. Reid - 193 Cal. 491 (Cal. 1924) Crim. No. 2598, Supreme Court of California)
Reid went to trial, and was convicted of murder in the 1st degree, earning him a death sentence. Newspaper reports stated that a witness in the trial, Jesus Hoyuela, another inmate who had claimed that Reid confessed to the murder of Weingarten, later recanted his statements claiming that he perjured himself and that none of what he told the court was true. Reid still attempted to appeal the conviction, but failed.
Interestingly, Reid's attorney, Ernest Torchia was a very popular man within the Italian community. Being that San Quentin records claim that the only employment Reid had experience in was being a news boy, it made me wonder how could Reid afford to retain Torchia in the first place? Could Reid have been involved in organized crime in Los Angeles?
As I kept digging, I found that just a few months after Reid's appeal was denied and his stay of execution was lifted, Torchia received a very horrific gift in the mail that proved to be disastrous. What appeared to have been a gift-wrapped Christmas present for Torchia, ended up being an explosive device that went off in Torchia's home, critically injuring the attorney. The wounds were so severe the newspapers stated that they thought he would not survive the attack. Torchia's left arm, one of his eyes and part of his abdomen were blown off in the blast. Detectives discovered the package was postmarked in San Francisco, but it would be hard to figure out just who was behind the vicious act. Torchia had served as a divorce attorney in several cases of prominent Italian families over the years, making many enemies. The question of who sent the package, and why, continued to leave the police baffled.
After wearing out his appeals, Reid was finally executed at the gallows on April 23, 1925 at 10:02 a.m., at San Quentin Prison.
On another note, in July of 1930, David Weingarten- the brother of the murder victim, was found dead. Weingarten was found in his car, engulfed in fumes. He had locked himself in the garage and ran the motor of his car until he succumbed to the exhaust. The police ruled it a suicide, taking in account his wife's statement that he had suffered great losses in the stock market and had been very depressed.
1920's statistics for Preston
"Of every 100 criminals at San Quentin State Prison, four are "graduates" of Preston."
"Only two out of every 100 boys who are taught trades at Preston School of Industry follow those trades after being released."
"90 boys of every 100 who leave Preston are back again in some state institution within five years."
"Seven of the 127 prisoners in the San Francisco County Jail today, were at Preston at sometime or other."--- (San Francisco Daily News)
When looking back to the story, back to when Leon Adams had discovered Reid's name on his cell wall, one can only imagine where Reid may have learned to be so cold and cruel. He was obviously in Preston for a reason in the first place, but could he have became even more a hardened criminal having been there? Is it possible that the harsh elements the wards faced may have contributed to them leaving Preston worse than when they stepped foot on the grounds? I believe it is quite possible. I believe that many of the boys came to Preston in bad condition, more than likely past the point of rehabilitation. I also believe there were a lot of boys who changed their ways and were able to move on to live productive lives in society. There were also many boys who came there because of petty crimes, vagrancy, being orphaned or just incorrigible only to leave the school as calloused and cold as many inmates in the prison system. Perhaps at one point Reid had been one of those boys.
California State Archives, Sacramento, California;
Secretary of State of California
State Archives, San Quentin Prison Registers.
People v. Reid - 193 Cal. 491 (Cal. 1924)
Crim. No. 2598, Supreme Court of California
Berkeley Daily Gazette, 12/25/1924
Oakland Tribune, 12/26/1924
San Jose Evening News, 7/31/1930
Santa Cruz Evening News, 4/24/1925