FATE, DEATH & THE FOX
The Horrific Murder of Marion Parker
On this date, February 4, 1928, one of the most heinous killers in Los Angeles history went to the gallows for the kidnapping and murder of a young girl named Marion Parker. What started as a tragic, but ordinary, kidnapping turned out to be a horrible murder by one of the period’s most twisted killers. And it should come as no surprise that this horrific event left a haunting behind…
To a parent, there is no greater, or more heart-shattering, crime than the kidnapping – and death – of a child. This was exactly the horrifying event that faced Perry Parker, a prominent Los Angeles banker, on December 15, 1927 when his 12-year-old daughter, Marion, was abducted. The girl was taken from her junior high school. The kidnapper walked into the principal’s office that afternoon, claiming that Perry Parker was ill, and that he wanted to see his daughter. The kidnapper didn’t realize there were twin Parker daughters, and did not know either child’s name, but the school administrator turned one of the girls over to him. The next day, the first of three ransom notes arrived at the Parker home, demanding $1,500 in $20 gold certificates.
Letters began to arrive in the mail for Perry Parker over the course of the next few days. All of the correspondence, which taunted him with threats against his daughter’s life, was signed with names like "Fate," "Death," and "The Fox." The negotiations with the kidnapper continued until the price was agreed upon and a meeting was set. Parker placed the ransom money, $1,500 in cash, in a black bag and drove off to meet "The Fox."
Parker, alone in his car, met the kidnapper, a shadowy young man, at an isolated spot on the outskirts of Los Angeles. As both men faced off from their separate automobiles, Parker asked the abductor if his daughter was alive. He could see Marion, wrapped in a blanket and apparently sleeping, slumped in the passenger’s seat of the kidnapper’s car. “Give me the money and I’ll leave her down the road a way,” the kidnapper softly told him.
Parker threw the money from the window of his car into the young man’s auto. The kidnapper sped away. Minutes later, following the road, Parker saw a blanket-wrapped bundle on the side of the road. He stopped and ran back to his daughter. Throwing back the blanket, he moaned in despair. Marion was dead. She had been choked so hard that her head had been severed. Her eyes had been wired open to make it appear that she was still alive. Her killer had insanely – and inexplicably – severed her legs. Her internal organs had been removed and later, were found strewn about the L.A. area.
The shrouded torso of murder victim Marion Parker. Detectives found her severed body parts scattered throughout Elysian Park
The vicious killing shocked the country and set off one of the greatest manhunts in California history. The search involved over 20,000 police officers and huge cash rewards were offered to anyone who could provide information that led to the identification and capture of "The Fox." Suspicion quickly settled upon a former employee of Parker named William Edward Hickman. Several years before the abduction, Hickman was arrested on a complaint by Parker regarding stolen and forged checks. Hickman was convicted and did prison time, so investigators were able to compare his fingerprints on file with prints found on the ransom note. The fingerprints were a definite match. Hickman's photo was plastered all over the newspapers and sent to every police department on the West Coast.
Only a week after the murder, two police officers who recognized him from the wanted posters, found Hickman in Echo, Oregon, where he took a vacation with the ransom money. Hickman was sent south on the first train to L.A. He was docile while in captivity, but tried twice to commit suicide in the train’s washroom. They were feeble attempts, designed to convince his guards, and later the jury in his trial, that he was insane.
Thousands of curious spectators gathered at stations along the route of the train, hoping to catch a glimpse of the murderer who had been featured some prominently in the previous week’s headlines. Hickman idiotically waved and smiled at them. Some of them nervously waved back.
Hickman was grilled by investigators and was quick to admit his guilt. "This is going to get interesting before it's over," he told detectives. "Marion and I were good friends," he said, "and we really had a good time when we were together and I really liked her. I'm sorry that she was killed."
Hickman never said why he had killed the girl and cut off her legs. He was one of the earliest defendants to use California's new law that allowed pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury didn’t buy it, though, and he was sentenced to death.
William Hickman in court, just before his death sentence was announced
Hickman was hanged at San Quentin prison on February 4, 1928 – bringing in an end to one of the most tragic cases in Southern California history.
A number of years later, the owners of the former Perry Parker house on South Wilton Place in Los Angeles revealed that the house seemed to be haunted by a ghost of a young girl. The owners, skeptical of the idea of ghosts and completely unaware of the home’s tragic history, stated that they often heard footsteps on the stairs and that their cat often seemed to acknowledge someone in the room that everyone else was unaware of. The family dog, however, was disturbed by whatever presence was in the house. One day, he reacted to a noise that no one else heard (the family had caught a number of glimpses of a figure out of the corner of the eye), ran out of the front door and never returned.
Objects often disappeared from the kitchen, including utensils, cups and glasses. Things placed in one spot would often turn up in others. One week, the lights in the house began turning on and off on their own. This weird phenomenon continued all week long, to the puzzle of the owners. They later learned it was the 47th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Marion Parker.
The full story of the kidnapping, murder and subsequent haunting of Marion Parker is featured in Troy Taylor's "Hell Hath No Fury" series book, entitled, "I WANT TO COME HOME TONIGHT." It's available here as a Kindle title from Amazon