Last week, I covered the Amityville Horror murders committed by Ronald DeFeo, Jr. This week, we’re back in California for a film-noir style murder case, that of Arthur Eggers. In 1948, Eggers killed his wife Dorothy and dumped her body in a remote mountain area. But his ineptness led to his quick arrest and ultimate conviction.
Arthur Eggers, Frustrated Husband
Arthur and Dorothy Eggers couldn’t have had a happy marriage. He was a shy and submissive man while she was the dominant personality in the marriage. She insulted him frequently, calling him “a little insect” among other things. She also slept around and didn’t care if Arthur knew it.
When Arthur discovered Dorothy with one of her lovers, he flew into a rage and tried to attack the man. Dorothy tried to stop her husband and her paramour escaped. She, however, was not so lucky. The gun Arthur was waving at the retreating Lothario “accidentally” went off, killing Dorothy.
With a dead body on his hands, Eggers went to work. He used a hand saw to remove Dorothy’s head and hands to make identification difficult. He then wrapped the body in a blanket and dumped it in what he though was a remote area of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Motorists Find Dorothy Eggers’ Body
On the morning of January 2, 1946, two men drove up the steep grade of Waterman Canyon. Their car began to overheat pulling up the steep mountain grade. So, they pulled into a wide turnout to let it cool and refill the radiator with water. There is no record today of what car they drove. But so soon after the end of World War II, it was likely no newer than a 1930s model. Cooling problems were not uncommon in older cars.
While waiting for the engine to cool, the two men took in the breathtaking view of the San Bernardino Mountains. One of them looked down into the ravine below. He saw a woman’s body wrapped in a green and white blanket tied with rope.
Sheriff’s deputies and detectives retrieved the body and noted the missing head and hands.The woman had been of middle age, probably mid-forties. The only distinguishing features were severe bunions on the feet. Police deduced that the killer was not familiar with the area. The dump site was an area where people often stopped to view the scenery, after all.
Arthur Eggers Confesses–And Recants
Eggers reported his wife missing at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Temple City substation, where he was a clerk. He attempted to mislead authorities, though, by misstating Dorothy’s height as 5 feet, 2 inches. Her true height was 5 feet, 7 or 8 inches.
On January 4, Eggers sold his wife’s wedding rings to a jeweler for $10 ($140 in 2021). He used a fake name and address. Two weeks later, he sold Dorothy’s 1940 Plymouth sedan to a deputy in the Temple City substation. He forged her name to the ownership certificate. Although he had cleaned the trunk, small spots of human blood remained. The blood was Type A, Dorothy’s type (this was decades before DNA testing).
Eggers was arrested on suspicion of murder on January 22. He maintained his innocence until questioned by retired deputy Robert Jones. The two men had worked together a long time and Eggers respected the older man. Before long, Eggers admitted that he’d killed Dorothy “accidentally” as they fought after he caught her with the other man. The next morning, he led deputies to the site where he’d dumped the body.
However, it wasn’t long before Eggers started revising his confession, tweaking it to minimize his level of guilt. Then he recanted completely, saying he never killed his wife, and the Waterman Canyon body wasn’t even hers.
Arthur Eggers on Trial
Arthur Eggers went on trial for murder on May 6, 1947. His attorney, James Starritt filed a motion to block the indictment. The motion failed, but Starritt did get Eggers’ confession set aside. However, there was plenty of evidence against him. One of Eggers’ nieces, who lived with the couple, identified the blanket used to wrap the Dorothy’s body. A neighbor testified to seeing Eggers vigorously scrubbing the trunk of his wife’s car.
There was also forensic evidence. There was, of course, the Type A blood found in the trunk of Dorothy’s car. Investigators found the same blood type in the couple’s bathroom. They also found bits of bone and flesh imbedded in a handsaw belonging to Eggers. Equally damning, test-fired from Eggers’ .32 calibre handgun matched the slugs retrieved from Dorothy’s body.
It was no surprise, therefore, when the jury of ten women and two men returned with a guilty verdict on June 29. Eggers still maintained that the Waterman Canyon body wasn’t Dorothy. As if that would negate the physical evidence and counteract his admission on the stand that he shot her.
After sanity hearing in which a jury rejected the argument that Eggers was insane, Superior Court Judge Clement Nye sentenced him to death.
Arthur Eggers died in the San Quentin gas chamber on Friday, October 15, 1948.
The Eggers case is one of the cases covered in Jason Lucky Morrow’s book, Famous Crimes the World Forgot.
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