Suspects in 36-yr old WeHo murder brought to trial
Two suspects in a 36-yr murder West Hollywood murder that became an international cause célèbre will face trial in a Los Angeles County courthouse, decreed a judge last month.
On April 15, 1974, John Threlkeld and Leonard Turner and one other unidentified man all wearing masks allegedly went to the home of Australian socialite Patricia Galea while she, her friends and roommate were away to rob her.
According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, the defendants allegedly knew her business partner, one Mercury Washington, and knew she had a substantial sum of money - $6,000 (roughly equivalent to $45,000 today) - in the house.
They allegedly fatally shot her dead with a shotgun and seriously injured the other five victims, including Washington.
A surviving victim identified the pair when a mask slipped during commission of the crime.
News accounts from the time say that Ms. Galea, left her 10-month old baby, Emily, with her husband while she traveled to West Hollywood top set up a business with $6400.
According to The Age, a Melbourne, Australia, newspaper dated April 18 that year, Ms. Galea was "daughter-in-law of Sydney race horse owner Perce Galea, married to his son Bruce." Bruce Galea became, in the years since his bride’s death, a bookmaker and casino owner of some repute.
Arriving here, she leased an apartment at 1134 N. Alta Loma Drive, sharing it with a 22-year-old rock musician, Eugene Synegal.
The Sydney Daily Herald reports that on April 14, Ms. Galea and four acquaintances, including Mr. Washington and her roommate, Mr. Synegal, left the house for a flight to New Orleans, leaving the dog and apartment with Kristine Murphy, 24.
At 1:30 am the next morning, three men rang the apartment from the entrance announcing themselves as Ms. Murphy’s ex-boyfriend.
Allowing them in, she came face to face with a pistol.
They bound her and ransacked the apartment, looking for the money.
Ms. Galea and her crew missed their flight and returned home, buzzing for entrance. The robbers forced Ms. Murphy to let them in and attacked them, allegedly trying to cut Ms. Galea’s throat.
Accounts say she screamed, ’’Please don’t kill me!’’ when of the robbers pushed a .410 shotgun into her mouth and pulled the trigger.
Immediately, another robber stabbed Ms. Murphy in the neck. Camela Bussey, 30, jumped from a window to the ground, breaking her leg.
The robbers cut Mr. Synegal’s throat; Mercury Washington, 27, was "wounded" in the throat and Dinel Smith, 25, struck in the head with a rifle butt. All survived except Ms. Galea.
The robbers allegedly escaped with $400, a couple of diamond rings, a cigarette lighter valued at $1400 and two mink coats. They never found Ms. Galea’s $6400, hidden in the freezer.
Police discovered that three of the surviving victims knew John Threlkeld, including Mr. Washington, who said Mr. Threlkeld had been his friend, and who also knew Turner.
The pair allegedly used Ms. Murphy’s Ford Pinto to make their escape, abandoning it in Mexico.
A couple days later the district attorney signed a complaint against the three alleging murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. and later that day a judge signed warrants for the arrest of all three man.
Authorities, learning from surviving witnesses that they had family connections to Detroit, tracked them down.
Messrs Thelkeld and Turner had been arrested on other charges there and now awaited justice in Los Angeles, as authorities in Detroit told the LA DA thet he could have them after they were tried in Detroit.
That, apparently, is where things went awry, causing justice delayed for 36 years. Detroit never contacted Los Angeles and Los Angeles never followed up on the pair.
Spoke people for LA Sheriff’s Department say the paperwork simply went missing.
The crime ended up in the cold case files, only to be resurrected on a chance inquiry from a new building owner.
The new owner of 1134 N Alta Loma Road made inquiries into its history and came across news accounts of the slaying.
Detectives, unable to locate the files, referred the matter to a retired detective working with the cold case unit, Robert Barrier.
He discovered that the district attorney’s file, too, had disappeared.
Mr. Barrier conducted a check of names, addresses and social security numbers and was quickly able to identify and locate the pair.
John Threlkeld, now 57, and Leonard Turner, 64, had loyal denizens of the country’s penal system since that day in 1974; apparently both had been arrested, again, in August 2007.
One was still in prison, while the other was out on parole, making picking them up for trial for murder fairly easy.
Since the events of April 1974, however, and their release onto the streets in after their Detroit trial that year, they had been convicted of armed robbery, bank robbery and manslaughter.
The pair’s next court date is for trial setting and to hear defense motions on March 26 at the Airport Courthouse.