Unspeakable Times

12 Grim Facts About The Northcott Family And The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders

The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders may sound like something out of a crime novel, yet the acts that caused a nationwide sensation in 1928 are true. Gordon Stewart Northcott, a chicken farmer turned serial killer, lived and worked in the small town of Wineville, CA. From 1926 to 1928, he abducted, assaulted, and murdered young boys with the help of his mother, Sarah Louise Northcott, and his nephew, Sanford Clark. Northcott claimed the lives of at least three victims, though he may have been responsible for many more. The Northcotts fled the country to escape the police but were caught in Canada. The state of California found Northcott guilty and executed him via hanging in 1930 at the age of 23.

The case led to widespread media coverage across the country. And then there was a twist in the case: the police claimed to have found one of the missing boys, Walter Collins, and returned him to his mother. However, the child wasn’t actually the woman’s son, and authorities refused to believe her. The incident inspired the 2008 thriller Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie.