From 1937: A Rape Victim’s ‘Night of Horror’

May 1, 1947, L.A. Sentinel

And here’s where we go down the research rabbit hole from the L.A. Sentinel, 1947: The California Venereal Disease Control Act of 1937.

Which brings us to “California and Western Medicine,” July to December 1937.

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But newspapers were squeamish about terms like “venereal disease” in the 1930s. So they used euphemisms like “social disease” or “social hygiene,” making searches difficult and time consuming.

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Frederick J. Byrnes, convicted of raping and kidnapping Patricia Park in 1932.


Feb. 1, 1937, Patricia Park Which inadvertently brings us to the case of Patricia Park, who killed herself Jan, 31, 1937, according to a story published next to one about “social diseases.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Park was the victim of a “night of horror” when she was “kidnapped from a Central Avenue cabaret” and attacked “by a pseudo Army officer and six Negroes.” She was “blamed for her act by police,” The Times said.

Lovely, so let’s set the Wayback Machine for May 1932, and see what we can find.

In the May 12, 1932, issue of The Times, we find an account that says Park, 24, was a stenographer living at 117 Bimini Place (yes, at the time, newspapers printed rape victims’ names and addresses).

Park told police that she had visited a “black and tan” nightclub on Central Avenue with Frank McCauley. Once at the club, McCauley vanished and Park was offered help by a white man in an Army uniform.

“She declares this man, aided by five Negroes, held her captive all night, returning her home at 10 a.m.,” The Times said.

Park, who sustained a broken nose and bruises, said she couldn’t remember where she was held captive because her captors forced her to drink alcohol that had been drugged.

May 20, 1932, Frederick J. ByrnesUpon reading the news stories, McCauley contacted police, The Times reported,  and said that he left the club because his drink made him ill. “He was ‘bounced’ out of the cafe, he said, by several Negroes and refused further admittance,” The Times said. He was later cited for reckless driving and being drunk after hitting another car at 57th and Hoover streets.

Police identified Frederick J. Byrnes, 23, as the man posing as an Army officer because he had rented a car used to take Park to a vacant field at 37th Street and Central Avenue, then abandoned the car in the field.

Investigators found Park’s hair, bloodstains and pieces of her clothing in the abandoned car.

The Times also reported that “to please the white man and a Negro, she was disrobed and forced to run nude along a deserted road.”

Jack Clay, 22, told detectives that he went with Park and Byrnes on one trip to the field and kept Byrnes from beating her. “He said he saw only the man in uniform with her,” The Times said. “Miss Park previously had told [LAPD Detective Lt.] Stevens she had also been attacked by three Negroes.”

May 12, 1932, Patricia Park

The Times reported May 18, 1932, that Byrnes and Clay admitted raping Park. The other suspects were identified as Cleo L. Harris, 31, and Thomas Kennedy, 32.

“When she sought to leave the cafe in a taxicab, she said, Byrnes pulled her from the cab and, forcing her into a car with him, compelled her to drink liquor and drove to the vicinity of the stockyards, where he attacked her.”

imagePark said Byrnes returned to the cafe, where they picked up Clay. “In company with the white man and Negro, she said, she was driven to an airport, where she was forced to submit to attacks by both and then to parade nude before them.”

Park said she was taken to a cabin, where she was attacked by “other unidentified Negroes.” Wearing nothing but a coat, Park was taken home by Byrnes who got into a fight with Park’s mother when she tried to stop him.

Ultimately, Byrnes, Clay, Harris, Raymond Turner and three others were indicted by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury.

Byrnes was sentenced to 90 years plus an additional four to 130 years for other charges in the case. Clay was acquitted, The Times said, because he was acting out of fear of Byrnes.

Byrnes later won a new trial because the judge barred the public from the courtroom. In 1948, the conviction in his second trial was voided, but he was returned to prison to serve out his term from his first trial.

I can find no further information on him.

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1932, 1947, African Americans, Crime and Courts, LAPD and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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