May 24th, 2012 § 1 Comment
When we first started looking at the police files on Paula’s case, we consulted with our friend Paul Marks, who retired from the LAPD as a captain in 1999. In his 22 year career he worked in patrol, vice, detective, and narcotics assignments as an officer and as a supervisor. For three years he was the officer in charge of the Hollywood Vice Unit. Following the completion of that assignment he was the officer in charge of a squad of narcotics detectives. As a captain he commanded both patrol and detective personnel.
Here’s some of what Paul had to say about the police investigation into Paula Oberbroeckling’s death:
CRPD almost immediately concluded that Lonnie Bell killed Paula. When it became obvious even to them that he was not responsible for her death, then the CRPD seemed to have lost interest in solving this murder. I think that for racial reasons they wanted Lonnie Bell to be involved. They didn’t want to have to acknowledge, or have the town acknowledge, that one of the town’s prettiest women was having regular sex with a “colored” and that her baby would have been “colored” as well. Cedar Rapids is a town that in 1970 had a police department that was still referring to blacks as coloreds on their official police reports. God only knows what other members of the community were calling blacks.
Did CRPD keep a list of current abortionists and where they “worked” and where they lived? Because so many people suspected from the very beginning of this case that Paula had gone to an abortionist, why didn’t CRPD at least question the town’s known abortionists? The abortionists would have loved a legal reason to get rid of a competitor The police may have been able to arrest a couple of them for various unrelated crimes such as warrants, illegal possession of hypodermic syringes, violations of probation/parole, etc. and squeeze them for information in the process.
The street is full of information, but it doesn’t look like CRPD spent much time on the street trying to get it. They did a very good job of interviewing Paula’s family and known friends. It is unlikely, however, that with the exception of perhaps Debbie Kellogg or Robert Williams that these people would have known much about the crime itself. In this case the information was probably available on the street all along. The police needed to go out and get it. You don’t get information about hideous crimes by talking to saints. You get it by talking to, and dealing with, street people like Dale Peyton and Corby Powell. They should have used one of them as a true informant. The police should have questioned dope dealers and users, parolees, prostitutes, tricks and any confidential reliable informants they had.
Narcotics seem to have played a prominent part in the lives of the major players in this case. It would have been easy for the police to have made narcotics arrests on some of the case’s players and make deals with them in exchange for information.
There was no mention in any of the reports that the police ever executed a single search warrant during the course of this investigation. They should have executed search warrants on Sturgeon’s home and on the suspected abortion location on 5th Street. Search warrants should have also been conducted on Jordan’s and Harris’ homes, and the yellow Mercury (they may not have even needed one for the car. Case law acknowledges that vehicles are mobile and, therefore, the courts are less stringent about warrantless searches of cars, especially if the car itself is evidence rather than being a container of evidence.) There was a distinct possibility that there would have been trace forensic evidence in the car. There could have been residue from the cord or other material that was used to tie up Paula.
Once the police suspected that Sturgeon performed the abortion on Paula, did they conduct any kind of surveillance of him? Obviously the guy is gay, which I suspect, is an orientation not highly regarded in Cedar Rapids in 1970. Reading between the lines, he may have been a child molester. A surveillance of Sturgeon could have produced all kinds of results, including clues to the resolution of Paula’s murder.
Dale Peyton is the invaluable type of street person I was talking about earlier. Why didn’t the police question her more about Sturgeon when they began to suspect he was responsible for the murder? Why didn’t they put Dale out on the street and have her operate for information?
Paul currently lives in Southern California where he is working on his first novel.