Details About The Horrific Unsolved Wonderland Murders And Prime Suspect John Holmes
There have been many notorious Los Angeles slayings, both solved and unsolved. Among the most famous passings include that of Elizabeth Short, AKA the Black Dahlia, who was found cut in half in a field in 1947. Also notable is the slaying of actress Sharon Tate, carried out by the Manson family. And then there's the case of the Wonderland slayings, an unsolved crime where four people were brutally slain in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, California on July 1, 1981.
The true story of the Laurel Canyon slayings involves illicit substances and drug dealers, an infamous adult actor, and one of the wealthiest, most powerful people in Los Angeles in the seventies and eighties, a skeevy businessman who owned a number of infamous Hollywood clubs. The killing, commonly referred to as the "Four on the Floor" murders, was vicious and bloody; authorities never truly figured out who committed the crime, although they're fairly confident in their suspicions.
Intruders Beat The Wonderland Gang With Hammers And Pipes
Around 3 am on July 1, 1981, a group of men armed with lead pipes entered 8763 Wonderland Avenue, a known drug house in Los Angeles, California. Five people - who were a part of what was referred to as the Wonderland Gang - were staying in the townhouse that morning, including Ronald Launius, the leader of the drug circle, his wife Susan, Billy DeVerell, DeVerell's girlfriend Joy Miller, and their accomplice Barbara Richardson.
The armed men brutally beat the group of five. Four of the occupants were murdered. Susan was left for dead but ultimately survived, although she suffered severe brain damage. Richardson's body was discovered in the living room next to the couch where she was sleeping. Miller and DeVerell's bodies were found in one bedroom, and Launius and his wife's in another. DeVerell was discovered upright, propped against a TV stand. The house was ransacked and covered in blood. Police identified the murder weapons as hammers and metal pipes.
Neighbors Heard Screams, But Nobody Called The Police
Neighbors reported hearing screams, but no one called the police until over 12 hours later at 4 pm. One neighbor said his girlfriend woke him up when she heard someone scream, "Oh, God, don't kill me," but the couple fell back asleep. Another neighbor said, "How can you tell if someone is really shouting or just being silly?" She lived two doors down from the crime scene and stepped onto her balcony to peer over when she heard screams. The murders were discovered when a professional mover heard Susan's moans.
The Wonderland Crime Scene Was Filmed And Shown In Court
When the police arrived at the Wonderland house, they were taken aback by the brutality of the crime scene. There was blood everywhere. The investigators compared the Wonderland murder house to the Tate/La Bianca killings carried out by the infamous Manson family. The police decided to videotape the crime scene, showing each of the bodies as they found them. It would mark the first time in history that a video was used as evidence in a criminal court case.
The Wonderland Gang Were Dangerous Drug Dealers
The Wonderland Gang was known for selling drugs, and they often carried out robberies to support everyone's drug habits. Ronald Launius, the leader, had an extensive rap sheet and in 1974 was linked to the brutal murder of a drug informant. However, Launius was never tried for the killing after one of the key witnesses died during a police shootout. A police officer once referred to Launius as “one of the coldest people [he's] ever met."
Adult Star John Holmes Allegedly Had A Major Role In The Killings
John Holmes allegedly played an integral part in the Wonderland murders. Holmes, known as one of the most prolific porn actors of all time, made over 500 films throughout the seventies and at one point was paid $3,000 a day. By 1980, he developed a severe addiction to crack cocaine, leaving him out of work and unable to perform in films. According to prosecutor Ron Coen, Holmes began delivering drugs for the Wonderland Gang, mostly to pay for his habit. When he wasn't working for the group, he was often at their house in an attempt to score free drugs.
Holmes Allegedly Assisted The Wonderland Gang In Robbing His Close Friend Eddie Nash
By June 1981, Holmes was allegedly in debt and stealing cash from his dealings - money belonging to the Wonderland Gang - to buy more drugs for himself. When the group realized what Holmes was doing, they allegedly took his keys to the Wonderland house, beat him up, and threatened his life if he didn't fix the situation. Knowing how dangerous the men were, Holmes, according to prosecutor Ron Coen, came up with a plan to assist the gang in robbing one of his wealthy acquaintances, Eddie Nash, who was known to keep a trove of drugs, money, and other valuables in his home.
Holmes was accused of drawing a map of the inside of his friend's house, which directed the Wonderland Gang on where to find the valuables. At midnight on June 29, 1981, two days before the Wonderland murders, the group gave Holmes $400 to purchase drugs from his friend. He hung out with him for six hours, and upon leaving made sure the back door was unlocked so the gang could gain entrance to the home.
Armed with guns and fake police badges, DeVerell, Launius, Tracy McCourt, and David Lind stormed Nash's house. Lind attempted to subdue one of Nash's bodyguards with handcuffs and accidentally shot him in the process. The men made their way to Nash's safe in his bedroom. They held Nash at gunpoint and forced him to give them the combination. The group stole jewelry, drugs, guns, and over $100,000 in cash.