A century of crime

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

Historical Society.

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

Dincara Road.

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

illegal operations.

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

insurance policy.

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.

Copyright © 2019, Burbank Leader
EDITION: California | U.S. & World