I have not red-lined this, it’s a first cut and incomplete, but I have been writing a few chapters. For chapter 1, I am toying with the idea of doing brief paragraphs to show the origins and background of the key players…. let me know what you think. There will be photos accompanying each person’s intro… I love including photos, because it makes the story so much more interesting. Maybe the book will also come with a CD of my audio interviews ;-)
I still have a few interviews to track down, of course. But, when I’m done I am going to self-publish the damn thing. If my friend’s neighbor can publish a boring book on his struggles with the bottle, then certainly anyone can get a book out there. I have a day job, so these things take time.
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TBA – probably will be written by Nils Grevillius or Kevin Deverell, if they oblige.
I am scared to death.
In a few minutes, I will be taking an interview with Wonderland private eye and author Nils Grevillius. I will be recording the call and with no plan B there is little I can do but take notes if there is an technical or electronics failure. And there will be. I am not a journalist, so I do not do this sort of thing for a living. My nerves kick in. That nervousness. Will I run out of questions and have my mind go blank? Will my voice crackle and waver, sound ridiculous and amateurish? How am I going to pull this off?
Ronnie Lee Launius was a middle class kid and the oldest of three boys to Arlin and Betty Launius. He was born in Illinois during World War II. His father, Arlin, was in the Army Air Force for about five years. From Lithuanian and German stock, Arlin Launius was a handsome country boy originally from the southern Missouri area and before the war he worked as a “Laborer” on his older cousin’s farm. The family lived off the land; they drank well water and still used an outhouse. 1940 was a particularly rough year, as Arlin only earned $120, according to the US Census. Before Arlin joined the service, he was living a very hardscrabble life. But, like so many other young American men, the army would provide opportunity, job training, references and a gateway to a better life.
Adel Nasrallah was a good looking kid. With his chiseled features, thick exotic dark hair and sexy olive skin there is no doubt that he would later try his hand at acting. Hollywood abides, and some get lucky. Adel had luck, even appearing in a bit part on the TV show, “The Cisco Kid” in 1952. He had come to America during the 1940s as a teenager, but was hard working and within a few years owned his own business, a hot dog stand in North Hollywood called Beef’s Chuck. Legend has it that Adel was from a family of Palestinian restaurateurs and hoteliers. Legend also has it that he came to this country with less than ten dollars in his pocket. It is not true. Eddie came here with his immediate family, a mother and a brother. It is doubtful to say that he was broke. Like Ronnie, Adel was also from a middle class family. He had come a long way, but still carried the nightmares of muzzle flashes and the shooting of his brother at the hands of the Israeli army. For his early troubles in life, Adel would later be granted every last ounce of the American dream, and he would live life to the fullest.
The central valley of California was booming with growth after World War II. The numerous military bases provided the launching pad for economic prosperity for the next few decades. Anyone could come there and find a job. Arlin Launius was one of these transplants. He immediately found work as a “Cabinet Maker” and his young family would prosper, even living in a new neighborhood for veterans that sprang up in Stockton. This small enclave called “Country Club” was indeed surrounded by golf courses and filled with new houses. Some even had swimming pools. Most of the homes were medium to large size ranch-style dwellings. Ronnie and his brothers, Rickey and Dave, would initially grow up here and in to middle school. They lived on West Princeton Street, a block from the golf course and a block from the little league fields. It was fifties America at its finest, a Norman Rockwell painting for the new post-war age.
In the late fifties, the first known address for Adel Nasrallah in L.A. would be a nice little white Spanish-style hacienda type cottage in West Hollywood. The home had curb appeal yet its size was deceptive. The house appeared diminutive from the street but it stretched back quite far on a narrow lot, had a nice driveway and garage which all connected to a large backyard and garden. Residential on the street side, the home’s backyard butted up against a few small commercial buildings and offices on a busy four-lane street. Nasrallah had done well, and his luck would only grow, if you could even call it luck. Adel had one hell of a work ethic, and he was smart and savvy. He was already beginning to know what Los Angeles wanted. He was one hell of a businessman.
David Clay Lind was the consummate jokester. With his tall stature, well built frame and thick dark hair, along with a smile designed to charm the ladies, he too was a good looking kid. David was the son of a loving mother, but of a father who walked out on him as a baby. His mother, Bernice, was a beautiful woman with long, raven hair and glamorous, breathtaking Hollywood features. After David’s father ran off, she would soon after marry a kindly ex-GI, a local hardworking war hero. This combination would provide a loving home life for the young Lind as he grew into maturity. Any dark stuff or trouble that David carried in life was most likely from his real father’s side of the family. Like most boys, David was a bit of a show off, and bought a motorcycle at a young age. According to his cousin, David was always on his motorcycle, always fun to be around, and always a character. According to his brother, David was a jokester. And although David took a few extra years, he would finally graduate from Lodi High School at about age 20 in 1961.
William Ray Deverell was a tough kid from central Los Angeles. Born in the late thirties, “Billy” would spend his early years growing up in the Figueroa area. The stocky and well-built Deverell would excel at quarterback while playing football, but he would later dropped out of school. He was quite good at football and at one point he even had a half-ass agent. Billy eventually got into some drug trouble, and it was enough to get him sent to a few state juvenile offender camps throughout California. The most notable being the infamous “Tracy” detention center outside of the Sacramento area. Although incarcerated as a juvenile offender, Billy would meet up with some good people, learn a few trades and was eventually enrolled in a state vocational program and institute for troubled kids called “DVI”, initials which Billy would later bear as a tattoo on his ankle, along with the many other tats that he had. Like the others, Billy was a handsome kid, with a head full of sandy brown hair, hazel green eyes, and one hell of a nice smile. At around age 20, Billy’s oldest child, Kevin, would be born. Billy was working in construction and heavy equipment by this time, a career that he would prosper at for the next twenty years. During the sixties and seventies, the Deverells would host some epic neighborhood football games, with Billy usually being recruited by the kids to serve as “all time quarterback”, while defenders tried to cover the various ends and receivers, running routes and going out for passes. Life was good, and it was a damn good time to live in southern California.
Barbara Lee Easton grew up in a new suburb east of Sacramento called Rancho Cordova. She was known in the family as “Barbara Lee”, as her mother and grandmother were also named Barbara. Her middle name came from her father, Leroy Easton. In high school, Barbara was a bit of a nerd. She attended Cordova High School and graduated during the year of America’s bicentennial in 1976. She grew up in a nice new neighborhood and her street was a few blocks from the high school. Just after graduating from high school, Barbara would fall in love with and marry a young man a few years her senior from the north Sacramento suburbs named Walter Richardson. Who knows what happened, but they would only be married a few years before getting divorced. According to her cousin, “Barbara was very pretty, kind and a blonde. She was the apple of everyone’s eye but by the late 70s, she was already going down the rocky road (with drugs)”. After being informed of the Wonderland murders, Barbara’s parents would drive all night to Los Angeles, with the false hope that their daughter was the one who had survived the assault.
Like Ron Launius, Joy Audrey Gold Miller was born in Illinois. But as Ron was born in the rural, central part of the state near the town of Dwight, Joy was born in the quaint well-to-do suburbs of west Chicago. Joy’s father was a Jewish businessman, and he would later move the Golds to sunny southern California where he would prosper as the proprietor of a liquor and wine business. Although a blonde later in life, Joy was a pretty brunette in her freshman photo in the 1950 yearbook at Beverly Hills High School. At this time, her family lived at some luxury courtyard apartments in the Pico Union area of east Beverly Hills. Within a few years of finishing school, Joy would marry a young attorney named Melvin Miller. They would have two daughters, Michelle and Marla, before divorcing in the early 1970s.
Susan Annette Murphy was the daughter of a well-off restaurateur in Marysville, California named Charles Murphy. Susan was a late addition to the family, as her father was in his forties when she was born. Her father was in his seventies at the time of the Wonderland murders, and he was too old and frail to make the trip to Los Angeles to visit his injured daughter. According to the widow of Ron’s good friend, Carroll Evan Sherrill, Ron and Susan seemed to be very much in love, but both were intent in getting what they wanted from the relationship. With all of the military bases sprinkled throughout the central valley region of California, there is no doubt that the young women in the area, were captivated by all of the young servicemen in uniform. Ron Launius was one of these handsome young servicemen.
Fay Wetzel was a young woman from the small central valley town of Atwater, California. In the early sixties, she would be impregnated by a young serviceman who was stationed at the nearby Air Force base. In fact, Fay would have her baby delivered at the infirmary there, and the fourteen year old girl’s family would immediately have the baby girl put up for adoption. A few years later, Fay would meet and marry a young Air Force man named Ronnie Lee Launius. This would be his first marriage and yet it only lasted about four years, half of which was when Ron was serving his two tours at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base in eastern Thailand. Sadly, Fay passed away in 1988 at about age forty due to unknown circumstances. Thus, with her troubled earlier life, giving a baby up for adoption and the pain that comes with that, along with being married to a man often away on military duty, there is no doubt that she must have lived a life of sadness, loneliness, depression and regret. The young couple would divorce in 1970, a year before Ron was honorably discharged from the Air Force, and a year before he and Susan Murphy were to be married.
Gregory Dewitt Diles was a large, hulking figure of a man, even as a teenager. Growing up near south central Los Angeles, he would excel at football at Los Angeles High School. In his senior year, the football team went undefeated and was barely scored on by other teams. They would be awarded the title of “City Champs” after steamrolling through the local competition. His mother must have been so proud, as Greg graduated from high school in 1966. His large size, reflected even in his yearbook photographs, was evident even back then. His powerful athletic physical prowess would in later life, turn against him, as he struggled with weight problems and obesity for the rest of his life. As a young man, Greg found work at the local L.A. clubs working as a bouncer and security man. In the seventies, Greg would eventually befriend his employer, one Eddie Nash, and serve as his driver, bodyguard and roommate. Their friendship would last until Greg’s eventual demise in 1997, as he suffered from kidney ailments, diabetes and obesity. He was about fifty years old. Greg’s little brother, Sammy, was a chip of the old block, as he also suffered from weight problems and he too was a bouncer for Nash. Sam died five years later in 2002 from unknown causes, but his decline was probably related to drugs, alcohol and the obesity and weight problems that also haunted his brother, Greg.
By the 1960s, Adel Nasrallah had kept his acting moniker and had legally changed his name to Eddie Nash. In 1969, Jeanna Beabout was a beautiful young eighteen year old girl from the San Fernando Valley. At Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, the gorgeous long-haired brunette was one of eight varsity cheerleaders. By the time Jeanna was twenty-one years old, she was being romanced by a forty year old wealthy restaurateur named Eddie Nash. At this time, Eddie was living in a big two-story house with a pool in Woodland Hills in the west valley. This home even butted up against part of the mountain range at the far west end of the San Fernando Valley. In 1973, a year after they were married in Las Vegas, Eddie and Jeanna would have a new addition to the family, a little boy, and a birth announcement was placed by the proud parents in the local newspaper. To escape the boonies of the quiet west valley, the happy couple quickly moved into the infamous Studio City home that same year, as the stylish and sprawling home was a wedding present to his new young bride. Ed and Jeanna would be married about ten years; finally having the divorce finalized a month after the Wonderland murders. The last five years of their marriage was marred by Eddie’s constant philandering, late night partying, and increasing drug use. Their once happy marriage would be concluded by one of the most brutal mass murders in American history.