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Margie Lee Winn was a 17 year old Redlands High School student who was murdered on California Highway 99 on February 8, 1948. The victim was slain by a gunman while riding in an auto four miles west of Beaumont, California. Winn died from a single blast of pellets from a small gun, fired at her from point blank range.

Contents

Returning from rodeo

Margie's companion was James Sloan, 18, a student at the University of Southern California. He lived in Redlands, California, residing there at 104 Prospect Drive. The couple attended a rodeo in Palm Springs, California and then stopped beside the road to set their wrist watches by the dashboard clock. The time was between 2:45 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. The engine of the car was still running.

Death scene

Suddenly a man approached from the rear and jerked open the right front door of the car. He threatened Winn and Sloan with a sawed off .410 shotgun. Margie shouted for him to Go! when he asked the two teenagers for money. Sloan said the car was in gear and he started to pull away. The gunman fired and Margie screamed I'm shot! Get me to the nearest place! Then the student slumped over.

Slayer was a home invader

James drove a mile before spotting the farmhouse residence of Adolph Ellis and his family. When he drove up with the dying Winn, Ellis was examining a green Packard auto abandoned at the roadside in front of his home. The family had been awakened an hour earlier by a prowler who forced his way into their home. Mrs. Ardell Ellis apprehended the man moving about the room with a flashlight and asked him what he wanted. The intruder told her not to move, saying I've got a gun on you.

Adolph Ellis awakened and drove the prowler from his home with his shotgun. After discovering the abandoned car he went with a neighbor to Beaumont and reported the man who entered his home to police. Later it was found that the Packard had been stolen from 14th and Howard Streets in Riverside, California, at midnight on February 8. The owner was Albert Strickland of 2627 12th Street, Riverside. Strickland told authorities there was a sawed off .410 shotgun in the Packard. It was concluded this was the murder weapon.

Coroner observations

Deputy Coroner A.M. Depew examined the body of Margie Lee Winn. He said her heart and chest had been penetrated by numerous small pellets, apparently about .410. The right sleeve of her coat was powder burned. The post-mortem examination was performed at the Ray F. Allen Mortuary in Beaumont.

Search for killer

The search for Winn's killer became one of the largest manhunts in the history of Riverside County, California. The sheriff's department requested three planes from the Hemet, California Aerial Squad. The planes crisscrossed the region in search of the fugitive. Mounted posses combed the wastelands and fringes of the nearby desert.

Roadblocks were established within twenty minutes after the crime took place. Additional roadblocks were set up in Indio, California, Palm Springs Junction, Beaumont, Riverside, and Redlands. Dozens of hitchhikers and others were queried, but with one exception, no arrests were made by Sheriff's Captain McCracken. One suspect held at Beaumont was Tobe Beams, 34. He was a seaman cook from Pleasant View, Kentucky who was removed from a freight train at Beaumont. Beams attire was described as a sailor's blue coat and a gray hat with a dark band. He claimed he was just recently off a ship and had been robbed of his money and baggage. He said he boarded the train at Colton, California.

Clues

Footprints in the soft ground linked the Ellis' home invader with Margie's slayer. Footprints in the mud plowed up by Sloan's car matched those around the Ellis farmhouse. An all points broadcast described the searched for man as a white male, 30-40 years old, 150 pounds, and 5'8" tall. He was presumed to be unshaven, with a narrow face. He wore a black leather coat and a gray felt hat with a black band.

Suspects

Tobe Beams footprints did not match those of the suspect and he was released. On February 20 Richard E. Olsen, 25, was held for questioning in the murder of Margie Lee Winn. He was a resident of Rodeo, California and was detained in Martinez, California by authorities. Contra Costa County officials said Olsen admitted writing the Redlands Police Chief, confessing to the killing.

Olsen denied having killed Miss Winn but confessed to having sent an unsigned letter, bearing a Rodeo, California postmark, to Police Chief A.O. Peterson of Redlands. Olsen was to be confronted by at least three persons, if and when, he was returned to Riverside for questioning. The three were Sloan, a Riverside cafe proprietor, and his bartender. Contra Costa police were tipped off concerning Olsen by a ticket agent whose name Olsen mentioned in his letter.

Officials at Martinez said Olsen was a World War II veteran. He had gone to Bieber, California in Modoc County, California after mailing the letter to Riverside. Then he returned home later.

Soon deputy sheriffs found a pair of rubber-soled shoes and followed a new trail. Police forensic chemist Ray Pinker said the shoe soles matched on four different points the plaster casts made of the footprints of the murderer. The Sheriff's Bureau announced the shoes were brought in by a man who said he found them in a vacant lot in East Los Angeles.

References

  • "School Beauty Murdered On Highway 99". Los Angeles Times. February 9, 1948. p. 1. 
  • "Man Held for Questioning in Girl Killing Case". Los Angeles Times. February 21, 1948. p. 5. 
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