June 16, 1964: 2 Dead in Bizarre Drowning, Overdose; ‘All Three Had Been Drinking Heavily’

L.A. Times 1964

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project. It was a follow-up to a post by Kim Cooper.

Let’s suppose you and your sister came home from a hard day and found your husband of 10 days at the bottom of your sister’s swimming pool—either dead or not doing very well. You’d call the police or an ambulance, unless you were Mrs. Ella DeSpain, 59.

Instead, Ella and her widowed sister, Mrs. Louise Strickland, 54, decided to have a little drinky. Or two. And maybe a few tranquilizers, because after all, poor old husband Richard, 39, is at the bottom of the pool.

It’s only the next day that Mrs. Ella DeSpain called the Fire Department to say that Richard H. DeSpain—the same Richard DeSpain who shot his mother with a war trophy Japanese Nambu pistol in 1947—was at the bottom of the pool at 17540 Parthenia. Oh and by the way her sister had a few too many drinks and tranquilizers and was dead on the couch.

It’s a story that confused the police, The Times reporter and remains confusing 41 years later. All that’s clear is that Ella DeSpain of 100 S. Rossmore Ave. was found not guilty of any wrongdoing. The only thing in the entire story that makes any sense is a detective’s observation that: “All three had been drinking heavily.”

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1964, Crime and Courts, LAPD and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to June 16, 1964: 2 Dead in Bizarre Drowning, Overdose; ‘All Three Had Been Drinking Heavily’

  1. Gretchen Crumpacker says:

    Delicious, and so mid-century. Husband at pool’s bottom, but cocktails first!


  2. This is the second thing I’ve come across on the internet today that sounds like the plot of a late-career Bette Davis movie. (The other was someone on Reddit who claimed their aunt murdered her sister and then assumed her identity.)


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