BURBANK -- One hundred years ago, a single city marshal employed by
the county was all the township of Burbank required to maintain law and
Still, it wasn't long before the demand for law enforcement grew. In
fact, during the second decade of the century -- with about 1,000 people
living in town -- two marshals were killed in the line of duty in a span
of six years.
In November 1914, City Marshal Luther Colson was shot while clearing a
hobo camp at the Southern Pacific railroad tracks near Victory Place. But
while records indicate suspects were caught who eventually confessed to
the shooting, there is no information about what happened to the killers.
Six years later, on July 30, 1920, Deputy City Marshal Robert Normand
was shot to death after stopping a car with three men at Tujunga Avenue
and Third Street.
Normand died instantly but Constable Henry Purrier, who was shot three
times but survived, identified the killers. All three served lengthy
prison sentences and one died in San Quentin.
When the Burbank Police Department was formed in 1923 it employed fewer than 10 officers. One of those was Chief George Cole, whose
daughter Mary Jane Strickland is a former president of the Burbank
Today, the department has grown to 160 sworn police officers. In 1998,
the department moved into a state-of-the-art $30 million headquarters it
shares with the Burbank Fire Department.
Burbank has seen its share of sensational crime during the 20th
Century, including several cases that made headlines around the country
and a few that inspired Hollywood movies.
Perhaps the most infamous homicide ever in Burbank involved the murder
of Mabel Monohan, a widow who lived in the 1700 block of West Parkside
On March 9, 1953, the 62-year-old Monohan was settling down in her
favorite red leather chair with "The Purple Pony Murders" when someone
knocked at her door.
Outside was 29-year-old Barbara Graham, who lied that her car had
broken down to get into Monohan's home and then pistol-whipped the woman.
Graham's accomplices, Baxter Shorter, Emmett Perkins, John True and
Jack Santo, entered the home. Some searched the residence for money and
jewelry while others tied and strangled Monohan. Monohan's badly beaten
body was dragged into a closet where it was found by her gardener the
next day. Besides its brutality, the Monohan murder made headlines
because Graham, the primary suspect, was young, beautiful and a mother of
a baby boy. Along with Santo Perkins, Graham was convicted and executed
at San Quentin. True testified against the others and was not prosecuted.
Shorter disappeared after speaking to police officers. He was never
"They were a hard bunch," said retired Det. Harry Strickland, who
interviewed Shorter before his disappearance. "Apparently, [Monohan]
didn't have a chance."
The murder inspired the 1958 movie, "I Want to Live!" in which Susan
Hayward won a best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Graham.
In the late 40s and early 50s, gangster Mickey Cohen ran several
illegal gambling halls in Burbank, including one out of an old farm on
In May 1948, Strickland and his partner, Sandy McDonald, received
instructions from then-Police Chief Elmer Adams to check out the farm and
raid it if they found evidence of gambling.
Strickland said they coerced a lookout to bring them to the entrance
-- a door with a large peephole.
"We heard a lot of movement," Strickland said. "Inside, there were
about 50 people and gambling paraphernalia."
After more raids and further investigation, Chief Adams and several
city politicians were forced to resign when they were linked to the
Cohen was never prosecuted in Burbank.
On April 22, 1968, 22-year-old Cheryl Perveler was gunned down as she
parked her convertible in the carport of her Grismer Avenue apartment.
Paul Perveler, a former Los Angeles Police officer, was convicted of
shooting his bride of seven weeks for her $25,000 double indemnity
Perveler and his girlfriend, Kristiana Cromwell, were also convicted
of killing Cromwell's husband, a department store stock clerk whose badly
burned body was found in the couple's home in 1966. The motive once again
was insurance money.
Though the evidence against Perveler and Cromwell was mostly
circumstantial, the prosecution -- led by Vincent Bugliosi who later
prosecuted the Manson Family -- prevailed. Bugliosi accused the Perveler
and Cromwell of acting out the plot of the 1944 movie "Double Indemnity."
Cromwell was sentenced to life in prison and paroled in 1979. Perveler
was sentenced to death for his wife's murder and the attempted murder of
his ex-wife, Lela Halverson.
In 1972, the state banned the death penalty and Perveler remains in
An NBC-TV movie based on Bugliosi's book about the murders, "Till
Death Us Do Part," aired in 1992.