2 Girls Rescued; Chaperones Slain

From Times Wire Services

A team led by FBI agents smashed into a mobile home here and rescued two young models but found the bodies of two older women, apparently their chaperones, authorities announced Tuesday.

Officers who rushed the trailer Monday night arrested Herbert James Coddington, 28, of South Lake Tahoe. He was booked for investigation of murder and kidnaping, FBI Special Agent Terry Knowles said.

Knowles, in charge of the Sacramento office, said officers knocked on the door of the mobile home and identified themselves, then burst through the door when the lights in the mobile home went out.


He said the first person they encountered was Coddington, who was overpowered immediately. Knowles declined to say whether Coddington was armed, but said weapons were found in the mobile home. He said no shots were fired and declined to say what kind of weapons were confiscated.

Knowles said they found the two girls unharmed but “scared to death” in a boarded-up bedroom of Coddington’s double-wide trailer home. The two bodies were found in green plastic bags on the floor of the adjoining master bedroom.

A lead provided by another model led to the rescue of Alecia Thoma, 14, and Monica Berge, 12. The girls were immediately reunited with their parents in the Reno area.

The bodies of the girls’ chaperons were tentatively identified as modeling agency owner Maybelle (Mabs) Martin, 69, and her friend Dorothy Walsh, 67.

The four apparently went to meet the suspect Saturday morning. When they did not return later in the day, police began their search.

First police contacted other modeling agents in the Reno area, and one “young lady gave us some information pertaining to the vehicle,” according to Dick Kirkland, Reno assistant police chief. She had written down the license number of the car because of her suspicions and police traced the vehicle to Coddington, Kirkland said.

FBI agents from Nevada and California and seven California-Nevada law enforcement agencies launched an intensive manhunt of the Tahoe-Reno area for the four when Martin’s white 1984 Chrysler was found in a South Lake Tahoe shopping center parking lot on Sunday.

A spokesman for Martin’s office said her students have included Linda Lee Mead, who was Miss America in 1960; Donna Douglas, who played Elly Mae Clampett in the “Beverly Hillbillies” television series, and Jeanne Cangemi Stone, Miss Nevada in 1979.