Through Any Given Door

1.99.4 Summer Solstice, 1953 (2)

June 22, 1953 • Sonora (part 2) ~ For the next few hours they drove around in the isolated hills and did things to my sister she would not want spoken of again. Ray intended to kill her but Wiley stopped him; he had a sister her age, and pleaded to let Betty go. In the dead of night after sobering up some, they finally did, dumping her naked in a ditch near the long abandoned Harvard Mine near Jamestown.

Betty waited until she could no longer hear them. The nearly three-quarter moon had taken over the sky and was directly overhead. In its light she made a painful crossing back to the road and hobbled her way into the mining area, crawling over gravel and tailings. Stumbling through gravel pits into the mine’s deserted work area, she found refuge in the cab of an abandoned, dilapidated truck. She climbed inside. Hiding in the chilly darkness, curling into a tiny ball like a sow bug trying to protect what little was left of herself, she broke down. After crying herself out and when certain her attackers weren’t coming back, she felt her way in the lunar-lit darkness to the plant office, shattered the window with a rock and hoisted herself through, oblivious to the broken glass.

Miraculously, the phone still worked. Betty dialed the operator who relayed her whereabouts to the sheriffs and within minutes Dad and a flank of officers arrived, braking in a cloud of dust and flying gravel. Every available Peace Officer in Tuolumne County: the Tuolumne and Stanislaus County Sheriffs, the Sonora and Oakdale Police, the California Highway Patrol, and the constable of Jamestown had been searching for her. Earlier that day a report had come into the sheriff’s office that four riff-raff reportedly from Oakdale and Riverbank fitting the same description had unsuccessfully tried kidnapping two young girls in Jamestown. They were out looking for a target, and my sister just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The flashlight beams of the officers found Betty cowering in a corner behind a chair, trying to cover herself. Dad stepped in front of them and carefully wrapped his daughter in his jacket, then held her close. The officers grilled her but she wouldn’t tell them what happened. She couldn’t. They were men. Dad carried her to the police car and they were taken to the Columbia Way Hospital. After she was cleaned up and Dr. Boice, our family doctor, had examined her, the sheriffs tried to question her again. Dr. Boice had given Betty a sedative. He stepped in. “Leave the girl alone, she’s had enough for tonight.”

It wasn’t until hours later, after the terror she’d survived, the humiliation of the interrogation, and the added shame of the doctor’s exam that my middle sister finally spoke. She was alone with Carleen outside by the car. Slumping against her and burying her blackened eye and swollen face in the soft coat of our oldest sister’s pregnant side, Betty sobbed, “Oh, they hurt me so bad Carleen, they hurt me so bad.”

Within twenty-four hours Betty’s assailants were tracked down based on her description of their car. They were held in jail with $20,000 bail. At their arraignment, all four pleaded guilty, so there would be no trial. The whole town wanted to see those boys hung. My father wanted them dead. The bailiffs held Dad back when he went after Betty’s attackers in the small courtroom during the arraignment when he tried to grab the deputy sherrif’s gun. The ringleader, Ray, the one that wanted to kill her, and Clyde, the other eighteen-year-old, were sentenced as adults from one to fifty years for felony kidnap and rape. They were sent to the State Penitentiary at San Quentin where both served six and a half years. The two youths, Charlie and Wiley, were placed under the jurisdiction of the California Youth Authority and sent to the Preston School of Industry at Ione until age twenty-five.

Betty just wanted it all to go away. But everyone in town knew, even without the six straight days of The Union Democrat headlines. She hated the presents people brought over, didn’t want to read the cards, ignored the looks of concern and nods of sympathy from friends and neighbors. Everything added to her continued, painful exposure. She refused to leave the house and have anyone look at her until the swelling and bruises were completely gone.

She wasn’t herself for months. Other than chiropractic care, my sister had no counseling, little explanation, and even less comforting. Mom found out when someone sent her one of the newspaper clippings, but she didn’t call or come home after it happened. Larry was away at college, Carleen and Chuck lived up on Shepherd Street, and my father had completely shut down, unable to deal with any of it. Nothing was ever said to Betty other than that night when she asked Carleen, “Will I have a baby like you now?”

Carleen stroked her younger sister’s head of dark hair and quietly responded, “No sweetie, Dr. Boice took care of that.”


The Union Democrat, June 24, 1953

Note: remainder of June 24th newspaper column:

The attacks on the girl were first learned when the girl telephoned an operator in the Sonora office of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company that she was stranded in the office of the Harvard Mine near Jamestown.The operator relayed the message to the sheriff’s officers who investigated and found the girl in a distraught condition in the office.

Though details of her kidnap and attack were somewhat incoherent, she told officers that she had been picked up by four boys on the streets of Sonora sometime Monday evening, that in the course of three or four hours she had been attacked seven times, and then left at the Harvard Mine. Officers could not learn clearly from the girl how she had gained entrance to the office, and were unable to further question her yesterday as she had been placed under a sedative by doctor’s orders.

When word of the assault was learned, all office of the sheriff’s office, California Highway Patrol, Sonora City Police and Constable of Jamestown were called in on duty and made a thorough search of the roads and highways of the county, but no trace of the men could be found. The officers were working only on the meager description of the men and car given to them by the girl. Evidence of the fight she put up was shown by the severe facial bruises and several loose teeth which the girl suffered. She told officers that she screamed and kicked but was subdued as two or three of the men held her during the ride.

The Union Democrat, June 26, 1953

Note: remainder of June 26th newspaper column:

Juvenile Court
Two of the youths, both 18 year olds, were bound over to the Superior Court. They are Clyde ___ of Oakdale and Ray ___ of Riverbank. The 17 year-old and 15 year-old youths involved were bound over to the juvenile court to await report of the probation office. Dual kidnap-rape charges were filed against all four according to District Attorney T.R. Vilas and Sheriff Don L. Vars. The youths were not represented by an attorney at the dramatic arraingment here Wednesday, and no indication was made that they could provide the $20,000 bail in the case.

Nabbed in Valley
The four were nabbed in the valley towns following an intense 24-hour search that saw every law enforcement office in the county participating in the manhunt. The youths allegedly abducted the girl on a down town Sonora street, later releasing her near the Harvard Mine at Jamestown.

The Union Democrat, July 25, 1953

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. This is tragic.

  2. Marian Clemens says:

    I’m crying.

  3. This hurts my heart for Betty. Poor little girl.

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