Tuesday, January 12

Douglas Sirk's Underbelly #12

Cary Johannesson, 18, on trial for murder, 1958, Los Angeles, CA. On April 4th, 1958, Cary picked up Phyllis Meltzer, aged 15, at her house in Reseda for a date, bought a case of beer then proceeded to rape her and choke her to death. He had been arrested the year before for battery when he choked another girl who managed to fight him off. This time, he told police, "Once I started choking Phyllis I thought I'd better go through with it because I didn't want to go to jail again. I guess I kind of get a thrill out of choking a girl." He later said that he "thought about trying to revive her but I didn't want to touch her again... I don't trust myself alone with a girl."

His trial concluded with a whopping seven minute jury deliberation before returning a verdict of "guilty" on the charge of 1st degree murder.

Source: Los Angeles Times Daily Mirror blog.


Arbogast said...

Cary Johannesson was sent to San Quentin, where he got involved in prison theater and even tried his hand at screenwriting. In 1962 (I think), he and other inmates recreated the 1961 Alcoa Playhouse production People Need People, which was about pioneering attempts at group therapy for those suffering from violent psychoses, and Lee Marvin actually came to the prison to see it. Johannesson also wrote a theatrical adaptation of the WWII execution of Private Eddie Slovik (in 1945 the first American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War), which had been the subject of a 1954 nonfiction book and later inspired the TV movie starring Martin Sheen.

Greg said...

Thanks for the info. Where'd you get it by the way? Once I pulled the archived trial photo I couldn't find any info except on the Mirror blog. It says there that he died at 27 but not how. I'm assuming he was killed in prison but I don't know.

Arbogast said...

I read about the production in The Joint Newsletter, which sounds like a prison newsletter but is actually a periodical of The Association of Therapeutic Communities. I didn't know that the guy died so young. Interesting.

Greg said...

The Joint Newsletter, huh? Pretty good memory to recall that upon seeing my post. I probably would've forgotten who the guy was.

Arbogast said...

No, I looked it up! I always wonder what happens to youth offenders, especially back then when youth crimes seemed rarer than they do now. I've even written to the organization that keeps the history of the San Quentin drama program to find out more because, you know, it won't make me a penny richer and takes away from my actual work - you can see how tempting it is!

Once you get a bee in your bonnet about something, you know how it is. I'm also currently talking with the filmmakers and cast of two different almost 40 year old movies about the making-of because, well... there's no money in it.

Greg said...

I have never gotten a bee in my bonnet about say, getting an MBA, or a law degree or a computer training certificate. I get bees in my bonnet about finding as many archival photos of non-famous people as I can because, you know, no money.

That no money thing, man it's just great!

Arbogast said...

I talked with a guy who did his time with Cary Johannesson at San Quentin and he told me that the guy committed suicide in 1966. He'd been denied for parole and, one would suppose, couldn't go on living life in prison, even though he'd done extraordinarily well (all things considered). Despite the heinousness of his crime, he was only 19 or so when he was convicted and I'm sure that 8 years inside felt like an eternity. But anyway, that's the deal. Sad tale from start to finish.

I also keep thinking about the victim of the original crime, who saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs before she was murdered. Can you imagine going from that much magic and fantasy right to your death?

Greg said...

That's great that you got that info. Maybe you can become the official researcher of The Invisible Edge.

It is sad. Reading the source article where his mother talks about his blackouts it's clear he had mental problems early on.

And yes, I was thinking the same thing about Snow White being the last movie she ever saw. Who thinks you're going to see Snow White and then get raped and strangled?

Arbogast said...

What's weird is that the movie is all about danger to a young girl.

Greg said...

Sadly, no prince came for her.

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