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Murder flashbacks: Wineville Chicken Coop Murders

Northcott fired three attorneys during his trial and eventually made himself his own attorney; he even put himself on the stand, asking himself questions and answering them (seen above).

The year is 1928, Southern California is growing due to agriculture and the rise of Hollywood.

Wineville, Calif. was once known exclusively for its grapes, until a series of murders occurred, making it known for the Chicken Coop Murders.

Gordon Stewart Northcott was rumored to be an inbred child. His legal guardian, who he referred to as his mother, told police that he was the biological child of his sister and father.

Originally from Canada, Northcott moved to Wineville to become a farmer, and asked that his nephew, Sanford Clark, come down to help him tend the chicken coops. In addition to having him care for the chickens, Northcott beat and sexually abused Clark.

Northcott molested several young boys. He would typically drive the victims to their homes after the crime, but some were murdered. The only murders he was convicted for were those of the Winslow brothers and a teenage Mexican boy.

The “headless Mexican” got his name because Northcott disposed of the victim’s head by burning it and crushing the skull, leaving only the headless body on the side of a road in La Puente, Calif.

Lewis and Nelson Winslow were kidnapped from their home in Pomona, Calif. Northcott was convicted of abducting and killing them. Their bodies were buried at the ranch.

Another boy, Walter Collins, was kept in the chicken coop for several days when Northcott got an unexpected call from his mother informing him that she was going to come down from her home in Los Angeles for a visit. Upon finding Collins, Northcott’s mother proposed that Clark, Northcott, and herself murder the boy to keep her son innocent.

Clark’s mother, worried about her son, also came to visit him. When Clark had the chance away from his uncle, he informed her of the terrible acts; his mother returned to Canada, and alerted authorities.

The Los Angeles Police Department sent immigration services to the ranch. Northcott saw the agents driving to his ranch and threatened Clark to stall them while he tried to escape.

Northcott fled to Canada with his mother, but both were arrested in Vernon, British Columbia. He had confessed to killing more than five boys, while his mother pleaded guilty to killing Walter Collins. Northcott allegedly, at this point, killed over 20 boys, but the state of California did not have enough evidence to indict him of those killings, they were only able to charge him with the two cases of the Winslow brothers and the “headless Mexican.”

Northcott was sentenced to death in February of 1929 and hanged on Oct. 2, 1930 at the age of 23.

Due to the negative publicity Wineville received, the city changed its name to Mira Loma in 1930. Wineville Avenue, Road, and Park are the only remaining references of the community.

Today, the notorious series of murders are seen in productions such as the movie, “Changeling,” an episode of “Criminal Minds,” and the fifth season of “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

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