Murder Investigations and Convictions Up Since 1851

I’m really enjoying Google Book’s archive of public domain texts of which every page is searchable using their excellent search engine. I’ve been looking for some good Halloween stuff from a century ago, and I found this interesting tidbit about murders and their investigation from A History of California: The American Period which quotes the Star from 1851:

During the past year no less than thirty-one murders have been committed in the city of Los Angeles and its vicinity and who can name one instance in which a murderer was punished.

The next page gets even better:

Prisoners confined in the city jail were nearly always able to escape with the aid of friends or through connivance of the guard.

Nice, well at least that isn’t usually a problem any more. The book goes on to describe an act of mob justice in which three men were hanged, only to later find out that he was innocent, oops. I will say the current rate of unsolved LA murders is around 50%, so while there has been improvement, we still have a long way to go.

Reading further, it keeps getting better and better. I seems there was a man named Joaquin Murietta, who became some what of a Southern California Robin Hood. a $5,000 bounty was put on his head, literally and he was eventually killed by a band of rangers, under the command of the ironically named Captain Love, near Tejon Pass. They ended up pickling Murietta’s head in alcohol along with one of his chief lietenants “Three Fingered Jack’s” hand. The items were sold at auction and went for $36 and then later sold to a merchant named Natches for display in his store window.