Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Lowe Files - What Did They Get Wrong?

First and foremost let me say that out of all the television shows that have been done about Preston, Rob Lowe seemed the most genuine about looking for answers. It is unfortunate though that (a) his team didn't do their research ahead of time properly and (b) the docent at Preston didn't give him the right history of the school (at least the parts that were shown on film).

This blog isn't to bash Lowe or anyone else, but it is to bring up the obvious misinformation that the show promoted. This has been an ongoing issue ever since Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures started his B.S. (blatant sensationalism) about the school's history. 

Let's start out with some of the facts that were grossly misrepresented:

1. Anna Corbin's Story

For one, Anna Corbin was NOT found in that cubby hole near the kitchen, and I really wish the shows and the docents there would stop telling people the wrong information!

Both myself and historian John Lafferty have spoken about this before, and all records and witness statements show that she was found in the larger room across the hall. The room that has the plunge bath/disinfecting pool in it was the room in which she was found. In 1950, that room was used as a storage area and that is where her body was found, in a corner covered by carpet. Her office was literally adjacent to the room she was found in. 

Another thing I would like to ask is why does every show primarily focus on Anna? The administration building was open from 1894-1960, that is a long time. A lot of history took place there, good and bad. Why focus on one story over and over, when there are literally dozens upon dozens more they could have talked about? Her murderer was known, although he was acquitted. Technically, from a "legal" standpoint it is considered "unsolved," even if the evidence and common sense tells us he was guilty of the crime. Despite the fact that justice was never served for her death, the facts speak for themselves in her case as well as the other two murders he was responsible for. I just wish people would take the time to research the facts. And furthermore, why not let Anna rest in peace for once?

2. No Deaths of Spanish Influenza

During my research on Preston, I found one newspaper account reporting the first case of Spanish Flu at the school. This took place in January of 1919. It was a staff member, not a ward. Prior to that, there had been no instance of the epidemic because they had been under strict quarantine at the school to keep everyone healthy.  Historian John Lafferty was kind enough to send me more information from that particular time period (1918-1920) which was a cited source from Kenyon J. Scudder, who was the Psychological Examiner and Vocational Director at Preston during that time. His account states not one single person died from the Spanish Flu at Preston. Although many became ill, "half of the officers, and a third of the wards"; However, absolutely no one died from Spanish Flu at Preston.  In fact, this illness brought all the staff and wards together, because many of the wards who didn't get sick, helped take care of the school and were given even more responsibilities to keep things running smoothly until the epidemic passed. 

Another note, during 1918, 1919 and 1920, the time period that Spanish Flu was at its worst, the population of the town of Ione didn't even seem to change much. I went through all the records from the local cemeteries in Ione, and records show that only 12 burials took place in 1918, 15 in 1919 and 12 in 1920. Even then, we are uncertain if the flu played any factor in those deaths. The population in 1920 was 900 for both North and South Ione combined, so as you can see, the Spanish Flu didn't affect Ione quite as much as some may assume.

3. "Preston Republic" Facts

The "self governance" idea was to allow the boys who had a better attitude and intelligence level to be given more freedoms. There was a strict guideline the school followed, even with their "Republic". Not all boys were allowed to be in the groups of self-government. Many had to be monitored by officers of the school and if you were getting into trouble you would be in the "Disciplinary" group and if you didn't obey in that group you would end up in solitary confinement. They had a strict regimented system and various levels you had to move up to. If you did not, you would be demoted. 

Did some boys like to take over the groups? Yes, that is why they would segregate boys based on their personalities. If you had a follower mentality, or a leader mentality it would determine which groups you might be assigned to. The honor cottages were for the best behaved boys that were ready for parole, and working towards finishing their trade school training so they could find employment outside of Preston upon each one's release. 

The way that the docent made that part seem was like how the saying goes : "the inmates were running the asylum," and that just wasn't the case.  Preston may have had its times where they were strict, and then their times when they were more relaxed on things, but the school never allowed the wards to "take over." Yes, there was bullying, and incidents happened because of it, but the school was not taken over by self-governing wards.

For the record, there were three deaths of wards that I could find who died from gunshot wounds while "escaping", and two of the three were NOT on the Preston School grounds. Herman Huber was the ONLY boy shot and killed while trying to run away (escape) on the property, and that was in 1911. There is other stories of wards escaping, or attempting to escape, one of which a boy attacked a guard and was shot and killed, too, but he did not run away. He was trying to kill a guard and the guard shot him in self-defense. There were multiple escapes where the wards were not harmed.

Herman Huber was shot during his escape, and ward, Ernest Reed, who was paroled shortly after came before the Governor and told him that the guard, Jefferson French shot Huber wantonly. Nothing was done about it in the end, and the guard was exonerated. There were rumors that because of the "credit system" implemented there, that older wards who were just about to parole would "fake escape" and have the younger wards snitch on them in order to get enough credits to be released early. 

In order to leave Preston before the age of 21 you had to earn about 6,000-7,000 credits. From the moment you were there you had to earn a certain amount of credits a day to stay on track; However, those who snitched on escapees would automatically earn enough credits for an early release as a sort of reward for helping the school.  If you told on an escapee you would earn all  your credits in one shot, which would guarantee an early release. Also, the Preston School of Industry's Biennial Reports mention this "system" still going on well into 1918. 

To learn more about this please read "Behind The Walls." 

4. No Indian Burial Ground

According to research, Preston was built on top of of the remains of an ancient Miwok Village, but there has been no evidence that the castle was built on any type of "burial ground." Another thing to remember, the stories of ghosts and spirits haunting locations happen all over the world, so the idea that places are haunted because of an "indian burial ground" is about as far fetched as a Stephen King plot. (No offense Mr. King, I like your work!)

But really, come on...what about all the haunted "castles" in Europe? What about all the haunted places around the entire globe? Where are the "native burial grounds" there? There have been so many people living all over the world, that if we were to know where every single person had died or was buried we would be scared to build anywhere. Let's be realistic here. 

In ending, the information pushed as fact on the recent premiere of the Lowe Files was just about as fabricated as a Hollywood movie plot. The true accounts of events that took place at the Preston School of Industry are much more interesting than any made up story that Hollywood could conjure up, yet unfortunately it seems that no one in the film industry is interested in facts, just sensationalism. Such a shame.

(Copyright 2017 - J'aime Rubio,

Information from Historian John Lafferty: 
(Kenyon J. Scudder, Between the Dark and the Daylight; Berkeley: Univ. of Calif., 1972, )

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Was Eugene Monroe a Serial Killer?

Eugene Monroe
I have often pondered the thought that Eugene Monroe, the man accused of murdering Anna Corbin in 1950, at the Preston School of Industry may have actually been a serial killer. For those of you unfamiliar with Monroe or the fact that he was the prime suspect in three murders (one of which he was convicted), there were just too many similarities in the three cases for me to ignore.

This blog is to give you a little more background information on just who Eugene Monroe was and what sorts of crimes he was accused of and/or convicted.  It will also be a way for you to connect all the dots and make the decision on your own in regards to his guilt or innocence.

Eugene Monroe was born on January 31, 1931 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am unsure when his mother died, but I could not find any mention of her in any records. It appears that he may have been removed from his home at an early age, as the 1940 Census in Taft, Muskogee County, Oklahoma lists Monroe as an inmate at the Institution for Deaf, Blind and Orphans. At this point he was only nine years old, and records indicate the highest level of education he had up to that point was 2nd grade.

According to newspaper accounts, as an young man Monroe had lived with his step-father whose last name was Jefferson, and Monroe went by the alias "Eugene Jefferson" at different times. I cannot confirm this for certain, but I believe that more than likely Monroe's biological father was not in the picture, and perhaps after his mother remarried to Mr. Jefferson, she may have passed away, thus the reason he would have been sent to an orphanage. Maybe upon his release from the orphanage he reached out to his step-father who took him in? There really is no way to know as of yet, for lack of records. What I can tell you for certain is that Eugene Monroe lived in both Tulsa, Oklahoma and Los Angeles during his lifetime.

By the mid to late 1940's Monroe ended up in Los Angeles, and going by the alias Eugene Jefferson. This is when I think he was living with his step-father. It was on July 18, 1947, when a young honor student by the name of Vesta Belle Sapenter was found raped and murdered in her upstairs bedroom, that Monroe was held on suspicion of murder. She had been sexually assaulted and choked with a thin hemp cord tightened around her neck. After questioning another young man who had walked Vesta home from school earlier that day, and given the time frame of Vesta's murder and the statement by Vesta's brother that Monroe was at the house at the time of her death, investigators were certain they had their man.

"Monroe, delivering furniture to the Sapenter home, talked to the girl’s younger brother and asked to use the bathroom, according to Coppage. While the brother remained outside, Monroe went upstairs, he said, and came back down. He asked the boy where his sister was and was told, that she was upstairs.

The suspect, according to police, said he had not seen her. The brother and Monroe then re-entered the house and found her bedroom door locked. This was broken down and the body discovered. Coppage declared. The slain girl had been keeping house for her father and brother and was hanging curtains when the murderer entered the room, the police officer declared.

Monroe, who was using his step-father’s last name at the time, was questioned but later released, Coppage said, since there no witnesses to the crime nor could evidence be corroborated. The knot that was tied in a rope around the young girl’s neck was also the same type of knot that was in the rope around Mrs. Corbin’s neck, investigators said. The knot had been pulled up tight behind the left ear in both cases, it was reported. Coppage declared today, “I am certain this boy did the job, but we were just never able to prove it. He was the only one in the house at the time and had ample time to commit the act.”--- Youth Quizzed In L.A. Slaying

Unfortunately, because of lack of evidence and no other witnesses besides Vesta's little brother putting Monroe at the scene, the D.A. didn't pursue the case and let him go.  It wasn't very long before Monroe found himself in trouble again, this time arrested on burglary charges. It was then that he was sentenced to the Preston School of Industry to serve his time.

The school at that point, under the supervision of Robert V. Chandler was under minimum security regulations, which he felt gave the wards a feel of a proper rehabilitation program and less of an institutional or prison like atmosphere. The only problem with that was that many of the wards there were violent offenders and should not have been able to be roaming the grounds of the school like some of the other non-violent wards. Eugene Monroe was known at the school for his violent temper and when in isolation he was known to tear up his cell, including his mattress and even ripped a pipe off the wall in one instance. He also was known for self mutilation, scratching his own face to the point that it left visible scars.

On February 23, 1950, one of the housekeepers, Lillian Lee McDowall and her ward helper, Robert Hall discovered the brutally murdered body of Anna Corbin, the head housekeeper. She had been attacked in her office and dragged into the storage room area which is where the disinfecting plunge bath is located. At the time that room was used for storage and the pool had been boarded over.  Her murderer had strangled her with a thin hemp cord, but there was a vicious struggle. Items in the room had been knocked over, showing that she fought to the very end. Sadly, in a moment of vicious rage Anna was thrown to the concrete floor where she suffered a fatal blow to the head, fracturing her skull. Her autopsy showed no sign of rape, although it was very apparent that her murderer had tried, as her undergarments were down around her ankles and there was shoe polish on them from her assailants shoes rubbing against them during the struggle. She was then dragged to the corner of the room and rolls of carpet were placed to conceal her body.

The whole ordeal concerning the investigation leading up to Monroe's arrest was enough to make any one's head spin. I have so much research on this case that it would be impossible for me to put everything in this blog. Perhaps I will write more on this subject later, but to summarize, the school was literally put on lock down while each and every person, inmate and employee were questioned. The Berkeley Police Department's lie detector expert, A. Riedel came to help in the man hunt for Anna's murderer.

Sheriff Lucot sat in with each and every session, as one by one, each ward came into an office, was hooked to the lie detector machine and grilled tirelessly searching for answers. According to the records there were originally three boys that the authorities initially suspected based on the fact their stories didn't check out and they all failed their lie detector tests. After more intensive grilling that proved Monroe had lied and also showed investigators his ill-temper, witness statements that put Monroe within 200 feet of Anna's office at the time of the murder, the fact that blood was found on Monroe's shoes and belt, and the fact the staff found his clothes in the incinerator, there was enough to officially charge him.

Another thing to note was the testimony of William J. Mercer.  You see, Mercer made claims that he saw Monroe strike Mrs. Corbin in her office but he ran off and did not witness the murder. He claimed that Monroe attacked her because she had witnessed them engaging in a homosexual act and she said she was going to report them. Although Mercer recanted his statement at the preliminary hearing, he later claimed at the trial that Monroe's attorney, Nathaniel S. Colley had threatened to have him killed if he didn't change his story. Mercer then recanted the story at the time out of fear that  Monroe's friends would "take care of him" after he got out, as told to him by Colley at the Amador County Jail. In the end it was his conscience that got the best of Mercer, so he risked everything to tell what he claimed to be the truth at the trial and admitting that his original statement was in fact true. Whether or not the jury believed he was credible was anyone's guess,  but Mercer was adamant that the only reason he lied was out of fear.

Officially charged for the murder of Anna Corbin on March 3, 1950, the first trial was in April, where a jury comprised of five women and seven men could not reach a verdict in the case. This upset the community, and the D.A. scheduled the second trial to take place in June. That also ended in a hung jury with the jurors voting 11 for conviction and 1 innocent. At that point Monroe's attorney, Nathaniel S. Colley requested that the third trial be moved out of Amador County and into Sacramento, which was allowed. The third trial ended in an acquittal for Monroe, and injustice done to the memory Anna Corbin's life.

Preston Murder Case Jury Disagrees
Jackson, April 29.-The jury trying Eugene Monroe, 19, Preston School of Industry inmate, for the murder of a school housekeeper reported itself hopelessly deadlocked late last night and was discharged by Superior Judge Ralph McGee. The jurors received the case at 3:10 pm yesterday but spent little more than two hours in actual deliberations before reporting they were deadlocked at 8 to 4 for conviction at 10:49 pm. Much of the time was spent in recess as they awaited the arrived of requested trial testimony from Placerville, where it had been sent for transcription. Monroe, who pleaded innocent, went to trial Monday on charges he beat and strangled to death the school’s head housekeeper, Mrs. Anna Corbin, in a storeroom last February 23. District Attorney Gard Chisholm said today he would try the case again.”---- Oakland Tribune, 4/29/1950

Third Trial Likely For Slaying Suspect
Jackson, June 19 –Prosecution attorneys say they “definitely” plan to try 19 year old Eugene Monroe for a third time on charges that he murdered a housekeeper at the Preston School of Industry last Feb. 23. Monroe’s second trial ended in a deadlock when the jury reported it was unable to reach a decision and was dismissed by Superior Judge Ralph McGee. At the time the jurors stood 11 to 1 for conviction. The first trial last April also ended in a hung jury.”----Press Democrat, 6/20/1950

Acquits Monroe
Sacramento, Oct 19. --Eugene Monroe’s third trial on charges of slaying a state reformatory school housekeeper ended in his acquittal today. The 19 year old Los Angeles youth was cleared of the death of Mrs. Anna Corbin, 53, by a jury of four women and eight men after two hours deliberation. His two previous trials, both in Amador County, ended in deadlocked juries. Mrs. Corbin was found beaten to death last February 23 at the Preston School of Industry at Ione. Monroe was an inmate there.”----San Bernardino County, 10/20/1950

After being acquitted for the murder charge, Monroe was paroled to Oklahoma to live with his aunt in Tulsa.  From the time of his release in late October of 1950 up until July of 1951, Monroe had been arrested four times on sexual perversion charges. It was while awaiting his day in court on one of those sexual perversion charges that he was caught slipping notes to fellow cell mates bragging about getting away with murder. Who was he bragging about? Could it have been the fact he managed to get through three trials in California only to be acquitted for one woman's murder, or was he bragging about the newest unsolved murder in Tulsa? Or could he have bragged about both?

All it took was questioning him about the note and running his fingerprints through the FBI database to find out his prints matched those found on the venetian blinds that came from the home of a recent unsolved murder of a young pregnant woman. Dorothy Waldrop's body was discovered on a grassy knoll near the apartment complex in which she and her husband lived. She had been brutally raped and strangled with a dirty handkerchief found knotted around her throat. After 11 hours of questioning Monroe confessed to the murder, but based on the circumstances of the crime, Judge W. Lee Johnson ordered that he face a trial by jury, for sentencing purposes.  During the trial there were 13 witnesses for the prosecution who came forward claiming that Monroe had confessed to the killing. The defense had no witnesses. Monroe was found guilty of Dorothy's murder.  Although he was spared the death penalty, he was sentenced to life in prison.

“Youth, Freed of Preston Killing, Confesses Murdering Woman
Eugene Monroe, 20, acquitted last October of the strangulation slaying of the head housekeeper at Preston School of Industry, confessed last night to another strangulation murder. Monroe, once linked to still another unsolved garroting, made his confession in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he was hailed into the district court on a sex perversion charge. Police were informed while questioning him that his fingerprints matched those on a window shade in the apartment of an expectant mother, Mrs. Dorothy Waldrop, 22, who was found raped and strangled with a handkerchief on a nearby hilltop June 25.”--- Oakland Tribune, July 28, 1951

Records also indicate that he would also later be charged with an armed robbery at an Oklahoma City theater that had taken place prior to his arrest, where he received a 35 years sentence for that conviction, although he only served a total of 29 years in the Oklahoma prison system all together. During the 1970's he requested to be paroled but that request was denied. 

Eugene Monroe was sent to the state penitentiary in Oklahoma from April 25, 1952 to August 14, 1981, when he was paroled. He lived in Tulsa for a while but eventually moved back to Los Angeles and went M.I.A. in the ODOC system.  His last three residences were listed within Los Angeles County. Since he was listed on "inactive parole," eventually an officer within the ODOC started investigating Monroe's whereabouts and located his name on the Social Security Death Index. Monroe passed away on October 3, 2007. 

In conclusion, although Eugene Monroe denied having killed Vesta Sapenter and Anna Corbin initially, there is no way to know that he didn't brag about it while he was in jail later on. Witnesses claimed he did brag about getting away with murder, including Dorothy Waldrop's death. It is a known fact that if you are acquitted of murder, even if you brag about committing the act later on, you cannot be charged for the same crime twice due to Double Jeopardy laws. Perhaps his attorney told him about that, because it wasn't until after his acquittal that Monroe seemed to have become a bit too arrogant and mouthy which ultimately got him caught.

Although Dorothy and her unborn child received justice by way of Monroe's conviction, Vesta and Anna's deaths will forever remain officially "unsolved" and thus the justice for these two beautiful souls remains just out of our reach. I have researched all three cases meticulously and I truly believe that Monroe murdered all three of these women. Looking at all three cases, the M.O. was the same. Vesta Sapenter was raped and strangled, Dorothy Waldrop was raped and strangled. In Anna Corbin's case it was obvious by physical evidence left on her that her murderer had pulled down her undergarments in order to assault her, but Anna fought back. I don't think the perpetrator was expecting that, and I believe that is why she ended up beaten as well as strangled. Vesta was only 17 when she was murdered, and perhaps she was physically overpowered easier than Anna, who although she was older, was a tough lady and as her diary stated she "didn't scare easy." No, she was ready for a fight if it was going to come her way, and she did fight. Dorothy, being pregnant, I believe she was so scared for the safety of her unborn child that she was overpowered out of fear of her murderer punching or kicking her in the stomach.

I was physically attacked many years ago when I was pregnant with my second child. My stalker broke through the front door of my house and attacked me. I was scared for the life of my unborn child as well as my three-year old son who was clenching onto my leg for dear life, so I defended myself the best I could, but I was terrified that I might get kicked or punched in the stomach, which thankfully didn't happen.  I can see how Dorothy must have felt being attacked in such a fragile state, and to top it off, she was raped, which is way worse than just being physically attacked.

All three victims were strangled in the very same way, two of the three being choked with the same type of cord, while Dorothy was strangled with a dirty handkerchief. All three were knotted in the same way. Now you tell me these murders are all just coincidence? I don't think so. Whether or not you believe Eugene Monroe killed these women is entirely up to you, but if he did, who is to say he didn't kill more women, and he just never got caught? It is very possible that Eugene Monroe was a serial killer, and I for one believe that to be the case.  I am sure Vesta, Anna and Dorothy would have agreed, too.


(Copyright 2017 -- J'aime Rubio,

Photos of Vesta Sapenter and Anna Corbin (c/o archived newspaper clippings)
Photo of Dorothy Waldrop's grave (c/o Cameron Herrell @ Find-a-grave)

Some of my many sources:
Pittsburgh Courier (7/26/1947; 8/2/1947)
1947 Project- Larry Harnisch
Public Records
1940 Census
Stockton Record, 2/24/1950
Oakland Tribune, 3/9/1950;4/29/1950;7/28/1951
Press Democrat 6/20/1950
San Bernardino County 10/20/1950
Odessa American 1/11/1952
Albany Democrat Herald 7/28/1951
Fresno Bee 4/25/1952
Records from the ODOC
Social Security Death Index
California Death Records, etc.