In 1930, Gordon Stewart Northcott was hanged for the kidnapping and murder of four young boys on his chicken ranch in Wineville, California.
On 2 February 1928, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies found a burlap sack containing a headless body in a ditch in La Puente, LA County, California. The male teenager had been shot through the heart with a .22 calibre automatic weapon. On 10 March 1928, nine-year-old Walter Collins disappeared while on his way to see a film. On 16 May 1928, the Winslow brothers, Lewis, 12 and Nelson, 10, went missing from Pomona, apparently on their way home from a model yacht club meeting.
Accounts differ on how the police found their way to the Northcott ranch. One account states that Sanford Clark’s 18-year-old cousin, Jessie Clark, from British Columbia, Canada, came to visit Sanford on the ranch, was appalled by the conditions in which he lived and the way Northcott treated him, and thus alerted the police. Another simply states that Clark escaped from the ranch and approached the police with his story. Some accounts claim that it was Clark’s Canadian parents who complained to police about his mistreatment. One account also states that Northcott was Clark’s uncle but this is not corroborated by any other reports.
Whatever it was, the authorities were horrified by the tale Clark had to tell. According to him, he was forced under threat of death by Gordon Northcott and his mother Sarah to help dismember and bury the bodies of children that Northcott had kidnapped. Clark told the police that the decapitated body found in La Puente was the first victim, it was speculated to be Jose Gonzales, a teenage Mexican ranch hand. Next was Collins, who Northcott tied to a bed and tortured for a week, after which he was killed by Sarah with an axe. Finally, Lewis and Nelson Winslow were kidnapped. Nelson perished by the hand of Clark, while Lewis was hacked to death by Northcott. Some accounts report sexual molestation of the children by Northcott before their murder but this aspect was not mentioned in the LA Times newspaper report covering the Northcott trial.