True Crime Sunday: The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders

Welcome back to True Crime Sunday! This week’s case was so shocking that a town changed its name after all was said and done.

Gordon Northcott was born in Canada in 1906. In 1924, he moved to Los Angeles with his parents and eleven-year-old nephew, Sanford.  After the move Northcott asked his father to help him buy a farm in Wineville. His father helped him build it, and his mother and nephew helped him run it—one more willing than the other. It is here the story takes place.

The story goes that Northcott would abduct boys, molest them at the farm, and then let him go. Except for a few (or more).

In March 1928, Walter Collins went missing from the area. He was soon followed in May by the Winslow brothers, Lewis and Nelson. The cases were not linked, nor were they connected to the finding of a headless young man even though a neighbor complained to police about suspicious activity and people being mistreated at the poultry farm.

Later that summer, Sanford’s sister, Jessie, became worried about her brother since he left with their uncle two years prior. She decided to pay the farm a visit. Though Northcott tried to prevent the siblings from being alone together, Sanford was able to let his sister know about the abuse and the murders. She went home to Canada and the Clarks’ mother called the U.S. authorities.

When questioned, Sanford told law enforcement that he witnessed, and was at times forced to take part in, the assaults and murders of the boys brought to the farm. He had also been abused. Northcott’s nephew specifically mentioned Walter Collins and the Winslow boys to the police. He also said he witnessed the murder of the headless Latino young man that had been found.

Reportedly, when Northcott was finished with his victims, he would take them into the incubation room and kill them. He would then bury them with quicklime under the chicken coop. From what Sanford told authorities, it’s possible there were up to twenty victims, but police only found evidence of three.

By the time authorities went to check things out, Northcott and his mother had escaped. In September 1928, he and his mother were arrested and were returned to the United States in October. While in custody, Northcott allegedly confessed to five murders. He then recanted and confessed to one.

In February 1929, he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. In October 1930, he was hanged at San Quentin State Prison.

His mother pled guilty to the murder of Walter Collins and was sentenced to life in prison.

In a story related to this one, a young boy was picked up by police and claimed to be the missing Walter Collins. Eager to solve the case, the police contacted Collins’s mother and turned the boy over to her. She tried to tell them the boy wasn’t her son. After a while, the boy admitted he wasn’t Walter Collins and allegedly said he was trying to get to Hollywood.

The town of Wineville changed its name to Mira Loma in an attempt to distance itself from those horrible crimes.

Thank you for joining me. Check back next week to see what we have for you next!

Looking for more?

Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott by James Jeffrey Paul

The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders by Anthony Flacco and Jerry Clark

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