Insane

 

1957_0720_gates

1957_0720_pix
July 20, 1957

Riverside

A maid at a Riverside hotel found the battered, nude body of
5-year-old Hiedrun "Heidi" Nicholson bent over double and stuffed into
a closet.

It looked "as if someone had been pounding her with a
hammer," The Times said, quoting another hotel maid. The autopsy showed
she had a collapsed lung from a broken rib and bruises over most of her
body.

The girl and her mother, Felicitas Nicholson, a 31-year-old German war
bride, had checked into the motel with Harry Vern Gates, 40, a Santa
Ana salesman.

When he was questioned about Heidi’s death, Gates told police he had taken Nicholson to another motel
in Maywood but insisted that she said her daughter was staying with
friends.

Police discovered that Feliticas was
already in jail after an officer found her lying on the sand in Long
Beach at the end of 36th Place.

She was semiconscious and incoherent,
according to police, and her purse contained her last will and
testament, requesting a Christian burial.

In later interviews, she told
police she was a commercial artist and that her parents still lived
behind the Iron Curtain in Leipzig, East Germany.

She said she had been
married to Air Force Master Sgt. Raymond Nicholson of Stillwater, Okla.

She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to the gas chamber after
Gates testified that Felicitas told her daughter she didn’t love her
anymore and was going to get rid of her.

However, Feliticas was the first person to be tried under a new
California law requiring a sanity hearing for those sentenced to die.

After a 32-day trial, the jury deadlocked and the judge
declared a mistrial.

Halfway through the second sanity trial, the judge
halted the proceedings and declared Felicitas insane, committing her to
Patton State Hospital.

The judge ordered that she be retried if she ever regained her sanity.
And then Feliticas Solveig Nicholson vanished without a trace.

Email me

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, Homicide and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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