The Mitchell Brothers: Sex, Murder, and a Pioneering Video

Last week, we met a tony British murderer and poseur. Our crime journey this week takes us to San Francisco, California, where we meet the infamous Mitchell brothers. Jim and Artie Mitchell established a porn empire in 1969 that took porn mainstream.

The Mitchell Brothers Discover Porn

Jim Mitchell was a part-time film student when he took a job at the Follies theater. He noticed that the short films with little or no plot but copious on-screen nudity often drew a full house. This gave him the idea that porn might be a profitable business.

On July 4, 1969, Jim and brother Artie, recently discharged from the U.S. Army, opened the O’Farrell Theater. It was to be a combination strip club and adult movie theater. They chose a run-down building at the corner of O’Farrell and Polk streets near San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Artie’s wife at the time, Meredith Bradford, put her Ivy League education to use helping the pair.

The Mitchell Brothers, Jim (L) and Artie (R)  in 1977
The Mitchell Brothers, Jim (L) and Artie (R) in 1977

Starting with the theater’s upstairs room and later expanding into an additional location, the Mitchell Brothers began making pornographic movies. Even their fans conceded that their films were mediocre at best, if not outright terrible. The lack of artistic quality didn’t bother the brothers and they kept making movies.

A recent photo of the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater
A recent photo of the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theater

A Stunning Success and an Equally Stunning Flop

In 1972, the Mitchell Brothers produced a feature-length porn picture, Behind the Green Door, staring an unknown actress named Marilyn Chambers. Chambers had previously been the model for the box cover of Ivory Snow detergent. The juxtaposition of Chambers’ wholesome image on soap boxes with her new identity as a porn icon was great publicity. It also sent staid Procter & Gamble, makers of Ivory Snow, scrambling to pull boxes with her image off store shelves.

The Mitchell Brothers, Artie (L) and Jim (R) at the O'Farrell Theater in 1989
Artie (L) and Jim (R) at the O’Farrell Theater in 1989

Behind the Green Door cost $62,000 (in 1972) to make and grossed $25 million. The Mitchell brothers used profits from it to fund a series of additional adult films. Their last major film was Behind the Green Door: the Sequel. This film starred Artie’s girlfriend, Missy Manners (real name: Elisa Florez), who had no experience with acting or public sex. Furthermore, this was a “safe sex” film in response to the burgeoning AIDS crisis. The result was one of the worst adult films ever made. Washington Post writer Michael J. Ybarra wrote that “[the] movie—a smorgasbord of latex and lubricants—proved to be just as unsexy as the concept sounds.”

The Mitchell Brothers’ Deadly Showdown

Being in a hedonistic business, it isn’t surprising that the Mitchell brothers enjoyed partying. But Artie took partying to an art form. His alcohol and cocaine consumption were prodigious. Friends and associates demanded that Jim “do something” about an out-of-control Artie.

On the night of February 27, 1991, Jim took a .22 rifle to the rented house where Artie lived with Julie Bajo, his girlfriend at the time. In the encounter, Jim shot and killed Artie. Bajo called 911.

Jim’s trial for murder set a legal precedent. The court allowed the prosecution to present a 3D animated video “recreation” of the shooting to the jury. Jim’s defense attorney attacked this early version of virtual reality. However, its success led to the use of similar videos in subsequent trials. It’s perhaps ironic that Jim, who made a career of producing movies, faced video evidence in court.

Jim Mitchell on the witness stand during his trial for murder.
Jim Mitchell on the witness stand during his trial for murder.

The jury rejected the murder charge and instead convicted Jim of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years in prison.


Jim Mitchell served three years in San Quentin. He was released in 1997 and returned to run the O’Farrell Theater. He died in 2007 of an apparent heart attack at age 63.

Jim’s son, James “Rafe” Mitchell, was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend with a baseball bat in 2011. His daughter, Jasmine, became addicted to methamphetamines and was arrested in 2014 for her alleged part in an identity theft ring.

Marilyn Chambers tried, largely unsuccessfully, to cross over into mainstream films before returning to porn acting. Years of alcohol and drug abuse led to her death at age 56 in 2009.

Marilyn Chambers in 2008
Marilyn Chambers in 2008

The Mitchell brothers case inspired two non-fiction books: X-Rated by David McCumber (1992) and Bottom Feeders by John Hubner (1993).

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Roger Payne: Startling Murder in a London Suburb

This week’s case takes us from murder involving NFL player Rae Carruth across the Atlantic to Bromley in South London. There we meet Roger Payne, a.k.a. “Thomas Fairfax.”

Roger Payne Has a Rough Start in Life

Roger Payne was born in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey in 1941. His father, a chartered accountant (English equivalent of a CPA) bullied him terribly. One of his bizarre rules was that young Roger couldn’t enter a room, not even the toilet, without permission.

Not surprisingly, Payne’s parents split up by the time he was 12. His mother sent him to King Edward’s, Witley, a prestigious boarding school in Surrey. Normally, the tuition would have been impossible, but as a boy from a single-parent home, he received a free ride. By 1968, Roger Payne was married and living in Bromley.

Roger Payne a.k.a. Thomas Fairfax in the 1960s
Roger Payne a.k.a. Thomas Fairfax in the 1960s

Roger Payne Kills His Neighbor

On February 7, 1968, Bernard Josephs came home and found his wife, Claire, dead, her body stuffed under the bed. Her throat had been cut almost to her spine. Defensive wounds on her hands pointed to a serrated knife as the murder weapon.

Claire Josephs, the neighbor Roger Payne murdered
Claire Josephs, the neighbor Roger Payne murdered

Clues in the Josephs’ house pointed to the killer being someone Claire knew. They quickly latched on to Roger Payne. Claire was a friend of Payne’s wife.

In the days before DNA, investigators had to rely on fibers and blood typing. Claire had been wearing a dress made of cerise wool, a course fiber. Payne had washed the clothes he had been wearing, but police found cerise fibers in the seams and hems anyway. Bloodstains in Payne’s car matched Claire’s extremely rare blood group.

The knife used to kill Claire Josephs
The knife used to kill Claire Josephs

Roger Payne protested his innocence, claiming that police tampered with the evidence. However, at his trail in London’s Old Bailey, he was sentenced to life. It was the first English murder case where prosecutors obtained a conviction on forensic evidence alone.


Roger Payne refused to admit to the crime, which may explain why he was repeatedly denied parole. After his eighth failure to secure parole in 1991, he absconded while on unescorted leave from prison. (One wonders why prison authorities would allow a convicted murder unescorted leave).

After spending some time in Bristol, Payne settled in Lydney, Gloucestershire. He dyed his hair to hide the gray and look younger, wore fine clothes, and drove an expensive car. Payne also gave himself a new name: Thomas Fairfax. The name came from the commander of the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War.

As “Thomas Fairfax,” Payne began hanging out with the elite of Lydney. In early 1994, he met and began a romance with a married woman named Ruth Ellis. (Side note: a different Ruth Ellis was the last woman hanged in England, for murdering her lover). Distraught, Ruth’s husband, John, eventually committed suicide. Perhaps the scandal surrounding John’s death had something do to with it, perhaps not. But someone tipped off police that “Fairfax” and Roger Payne were one and the same..

As of 2020, Roger Payne resides in HMP Oakwood. Now that parole is a real possibility, he no longer wants out.

In 2014, author Joy Grant Hill published a book about the case, Lifer: 45 Years in Her Majesty’s Prisons.

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Rae Carruth: Murder and Almost a Lifetime in Prison

In last week’s stirring tale of the Old West, we saw the Dalton Gang’s bid for fame go horribly wrong. This week, we meet Rae Carruth, formerly a promising football player who spent nearly 20 years in prison for murder.

Rae Carruth

Rae Theotis Carruth was born Rae Lamar Wiggins on January 20, 1974 in Sacramento, California. When he graduated from Valley High School, the University of Colorado offered him a football scholarship. He played four seasons as a wide receiver for the Buffaloes. He made first team All-American in 1996 while completing a degree in English.

Rae Carruth in his playing days
Rae Carruth in his playing days

Carruth’s college football career was impressive enough to earn a first-round pick in the 1997 NFL draft. The Carolina Panthers chose him as the 27th overall pick. The team offered him a $3.7 million deal with a $1.3 million signing bonus.

The Murder of Cherica Adams

Rae Carruth and Cherica Adams went to the movies Monday night, November 15, 1999. According to some, Adams was Carruth’s girlfriend, although he later claimed they had merely “hooked up” a few times. Regardless, Adams, a real estate agent, was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s child.

Leaving the theater, they each got into their own cars and drove to Adams’ home. Shortly after 12:30 a.m., a car pulled alongside Adams and shot her four times. She was able to call 911 and indicated that Rae Carruth was involved in the shooting. Her story was that Carruth had slowed or stopped his car in front of hers. This boxed her in as the car with the shooter positioned itself beside her. When the shooting was over, Carruth drove away. He was gone when paramedics arrived.

Cherica Adams
Cherica Adams

Shortly after arriving at a hospital, Cherica Adams slipped into a coma. Doctors used an emergency caesarian section to deliver her son. But the baby, Chancellor Lee Adams, had suffered permanent brain damage and had cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen. Adams herself never regained consciousness and died on December 14.

Rae Carruth Eventually Faces the Consequences

After the shooting, Rae Carruth posted a $3 million bond. There was a condition: he would turn himself in if either Adams or the child died. However, when Adams did die on December 14, Carruth did not turn himself in. Instead, he ran, but police captured him a day later in the West Tennessee town of Parkers Crossroads. He was hiding in the trunk of his car in the parking lot of a Best Western motel.

The following day, December 16, the Carolina Panthers waived Carruth citing a morals clause in his contract. The day after that, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. But Rae Carruth had bigger problems than his football career. He was going on trial for murder.

A jury found Carruth guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. They did not find him guilty of first-degree murder, sparing him a shot at the death penalty. He was sentenced to 18-24 years in prison. The actual shooter, Van Brett Watkins, Sr., received a sentence of a minimum of 40 years and 8 months.

Rae Carruth leaving prison, October 2018
Rae Carruth leaving prison, October 2018


Rae Carruth served 18 years and was released in October 2018. Maybe it wasn’t a lifetime, but he missed his son’s growing up years. While in prison, he earned his certification as a barber. He later reached out to Adams’ mother, who raised his son, Chancellor.

Chancellor Lee Adams, son of Rae Carruth
Chancellor Lee Adams

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The Dalton Gang: A Daring Bid to Become Famous

Last week we saw how a dashcam video led police to capture the murderers of Constable Darrell Lunsford. This week, we again take a trip back in time to the Old West. We’ll see how the Dalton Gang tried to become famous by robbing two banks at once. Spoiler alert: the attempt led to disaster.

The Dalton Brothers

Brothers Robert (Bob), Gratton (Grat), Emmett, and William (Bill) Dalton formed the nucleus of the Dalton Gang. They were four of twelve children born to saloon keeper James Lewis Dalton and his wife, Adeline Younger. Adeline was an aunt of Cole and Jim Younger of James-Younger Gang fame.

Robert "Bob" Dalton ca. 1889 (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Robert “Bob” Dalton ca. 1889 (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

The boys grew up near Kansas City in Western Missouri, close to the border with Kansas. Their father, Lewis, was often away for months at a time, running racehorses in California. Eventually, all his sons made the trips with him. But Lewis wasn’t all that successful racing horses. He ended up gambling away the family home in Belton, Missouri, after which Adeline bought a piece of land near Kingfisher in Oklahoma Territory.

William "Bill" Dalton (U.S. Marshal's Museum)
William “Bill” Dalton (U.S. Marshal’s Museum)

In 1880, brother Frank Dalton became a deputy U.S. Marshal for Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), based in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Toward the end of 1887, a bootlegger he tried to arrest shot and killed Frank. Afterwards, brothers Bob and Grat took over Frank’s position, hiring Emmett to look over prisoners.

Gratton "Grat" Dalton (Public Domain)
Gratton “Grat” Dalton (Public Domain)

The Brothers Become the Dalton Gang

At first, Bob and Grat earned good reputations as marshals. But after he killed a man in the line of duty, Bob began to drink heavily. Then the brothers started stealing horses, their first foray into illegal activity.

During the night of February 6, 1891, two masked men held up a Southern Pacific passenger train near Alila, California. The robbers didn’t get any money, but the expressman accidentally killed the fireman. Though unidentified at the time, Bob and Emmett later told brother Littleton that they had held up the train. Thus, was the Dalton Gang born.

Grat Dalton didn’t participate in the Alila robbery (his horse had gone lame). But through undue influence from the railroad and a corrupt defense attorney, he was convicted anyway. Just before sentencing, he and two other prisoners escaped from jail.

Meanwhile, back in Indian Territory, Bob and Emmett were recruiting members for a larger gang. They began planning their robberies, which meant their future crimes were more successful than the Alila holdup.

The Dalton Gang Raids Coffeyville, Kansas

Bill Dalton was ambitious. He claimed he would “beat anything Jesse James ever did—rob two banks at once, in broad daylight.” They planned to hold up the C.M. Condon & Company Bank and the First National Bank in Coffeyville, Kansas. Bob and Emmett were to take the First National Bank. Grat and gang members Dick Broadwell, and Bill Powers would knock over the Condon Bank.

The Condon Bank, Coffeyville, Kansas (Kansas Historical Society)
The Condon Bank, Coffeyville, Kansas (Kansas Historical Society)

On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville. Despite improvised disguises, townspeople quickly recognized them. A storekeeper saw them and yelled, “The Daltons are robbing the bank!” Forewarned, the two hardware stores in town began passing out rifles to the alerted citizenry.

Four members of the Dalton Gang lie dead after the ill-fated Coffeyville robbery. Left to Right: Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell (Cramers Art Rooms of Cherryvale, Kansas)
Four members of the Dalton Gang lie dead after the ill-fated Coffeyville robbery. Left to Right: Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell (Cramers Art Rooms of Cherryvale, Kansas)

Before they even left the bank, armed townspeople began shooting into the banks. When the gang tried to exit the banks and make their getaway, they walked into a hail of bullets. The gunfire killed Grat and Bob Dalton, Dick Broadwell, and Bill Powers. Emmett Dalton suffered 23 gunshot wounds. Four townspeople also died in the melee.

Law officers hold up the bodies of dead outlaws Bob (23) and Grat (31) after their attempted robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas (Kansas Memory)
Law officers hold up the bodies of Bob (23) and Grat (31) Dalton after their attempted robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas (Kansas Memory)


Emmett Dalton survived his wounds only to find himself sentenced to life in the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. He served 14 years before receiving a pardon in 1907. Then he moved to Hollywood, California where he became a real estate agent. Also, he wrote two books and occasionally did some acting. In 1918, he played himself in an early film version of his first book, Beyond the Law. He died in 1937 at the age of 66.

Emmett Dalton prison photo, 1892 or 1893. Note prison number 6472.
Emmett Dalton prison photo, 1892 or 1893. Note prison number 6472.

Bill Dalton waited in vain for the gang to return from Coffeyville to help them escape. He continued his outlaw career, forming the Doolin-Dalton gang with Bill Doolin. Deputy U.S. Marshals killed him when he tried to escape capture on September 1, 1893.

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