Note: “Little Shoes,” about the murders of three little girls, may not be everybody’s idea of an appropriate holiday gift, but it is more than a “true crime” book. In “Little Shoes” Pamela Everett explores her family’s tragic history in one of Los Angeles’ biggest cases of the 1930s, and she raises compelling questions about the guilt of Albert Dyer, who was hanged for the killings.
A family’s history is tricky even in the best of circumstances; the past may be sanitized and rewritten for consumption by the next generation. When tragedy is involved, family stories become murky or are simply locked away.
So it was with the tale of the “Three Babes of Inglewood”: Madeline Everett, 7; her sister Melba, 9; and their playmate, Jeanette Stephens, 8; who were kidnapped from Centinela Park in Inglewood and killed June 26, 1937. The case, with the trial and execution of Albert Dyer, was one of the most sensational crimes of Los Angeles in the 1930s, along with the Harry Raymond bombing.
Pamela Everett, the niece of Madeline and Melba, embarked on a painful and arduous journey of discovery in unlocking her family’s tragedy. (Note: I played a small role in connecting her with a woman who was 7 at the time and wrote a piece for the Daily Mirror on her recollections of the girls).
The result is “Little Shoes,” a book that blends family stories with the history of the case, going far beyond the overexposed genre of “true” crime into another dimension that is part memoir and part investigation.
Everett also raises intriguing questions about the innocence of Albert Dyer, whom I had always assumed was the killer. Dr. Joseph Paul De River, later known for the Leslie Dillon fiasco in the Black Dahlia case, interviewed Dyer and wrote about him in “The Sexual Criminal.” The extremely graphic nature of “Sexual Criminal,” even though the book was restricted to law enforcement personnel, was one of the factors in De River’s dismissal as LAPD psychiatrist.
“Little Shoes” was singled out by the New York Times in its Summer Reading feature.