Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff
Trials: 1960 & 1961
Defendants: Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Don Bruggold, Grant
Cooper, Rexford Egan, and Robert A. Neeb, Jr.
Chief Prosecutors: First trial: Clifford C.
Crail, William H. McKesson, and Fred N. Whichello; Second trial:
Clifford C. Crail; Third trial: Clifford C. Crail
Judges: First trial: Walter R. Evans; Second
trial: LeRoy Dawson; Third trial: David Coleman
Place: Los Angeles, California
Dates of Trials: January 4-March 12, 1960; June
27-November 7, 1960; January 3-March 27, 1961
Verdict: First trial: Mistrial; Second trial:
Mistrial; Third trial: Guilty — Finch,
first degree; Tregoff, second degree
Sentences: Both received life imprisonment
SIGNIFICANCE: Despite overwhelming evidence in
favor of conviction, a jury deadlocked, primarily because racial
tension had pervaded the jury room.
Rampant greed, sex, and a considerable dose of comedy ensured
that this trial of a wealthy doctor and his mistress as joint
defendants on charges of murder dominated newspaper headlines for
By 1959, Finch, 42, a wealthy Los Angeles, California
physician, yearned to elevate his affair with 20-year-old Carole
Tregoff to something more permanent. Standing directly in the path
of this ambition was Finch's wife, Barbara, backed by the
formidable California community property laws. Divorce would
entitle Barbara Finch to half of Finch's estimated $750,000
fortune. Furthermore, if Barbara Finch could prove adultery and
there was every indication that she intended to do just that Finch
faced financial ruin, since the court could then apportion any
percentage of the community property it deemed fit to the
Unwilling to accept such a calamity, Finch and Tregoff schemed.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, where Tregoff had gone to work, they
attempted to hire someone, anyone, to seduce Barbara Finch, and
thereby provide Finch with evidence for a countersuit of adultery.
This notion brought them into contact with self-confessed gigolo
John Patrick Cody, a seedy ex-convict entirely untroubled by
matters of conscience. Talk of seduction soon turned to plans of
murder. Cody assured the couple that homicide was also high on his
list of accomplishments. After accepting a down payment of $350
and an airline ticket, Cody departed, ostensibly to kill Barbara
Finch in Los Angeles. (Actually he spent the weekend with one of
his several girlfriends.) A few days later he resurfaced and told
Tregoff that the matter had been taken care of. She paid him the
agreed balance of $850, only to learn later that Barbara Finch was
still very much alive. Cody professed astonishment, then explained
that he must have killed the wrong woman. For another couple of
hundred dollars he promised to rectify the error. With this
payment in hand, Cody disappeared, leaving Finch and Tregoff
sadder, wiser, and infinitely more desperate.
At 10:00 p.m. on July 18, 1959, the couple arrived at Finch's
opulent house on Lark Hill Drive in suburban West Covina. Barbara
Finch was not at home. Just over an hour later, she drove up in
her red Chrysler. Finch went across to talk to her. A struggle
broke out. At some point in the dispute, Barbara Finch was shot
dead by a. 38-caliber bullet. For reasons never fully explained,
Finch and Tregoff somehow became separated. Finch, after stealing
two cars, made his way back to Las Vegas, where he was joined
early the next morning by Tregoff. That same day, Finch was
arrested and charged with murder. Eleven days later Tregoff was
Their trial began at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on
January 4, 1960. Prosecutor Fred Whichello called his first
witness, Marie Anne Lindholm, the Finch maid. She told of running
to the garage after hearing Barbara Finch scream and seeing Dr.
Finch, gun in hand, standing over his semiconscious wife. Finch
had then banged Lindholm's head against the garage wall,
apparently in an effort to stun her. He'd ordered both women into
the car but Barbara Finch had broken free and run. The doctor gave
chase. Moments later Lindholm heard a shot, whereupon she ran to
the house and called the police.
Equally damaging were Lindholm's allegations that Finch had
regularly abused and threatened his wife. Over strenuous defense
objections, a letter Lindholm had written to her mother in Sweden
before the murder was admitted into evidence. In it she described
a beating that Finch had given Barbara Finch, and also his
oft-repeated threats that he had hired "someone in Las Vegas" to
When Cody took the stand, defense lawyers must have felt
confident of demolishing his testimony. If so, it was confidence
misplaced. Cody's cheerful admissions to just about every form of
reprehensible conduct imaginable he
had been a thief, a sponger, and an occasional swindler gave
his testimony a curious verisimilitude, an honesty, that the
defense could never quite shake. Attorney Grant Cooper tried hard
but it was useless:
Question: What did you do?
Answer: I loafed.
Question: How did you support yourself?
Answer: By my wit.
Question: (Later in reference to one of Cody's girlfriends):
Did she support you?
Defense attorney Rexford Egan fared no better:
Question: Would you lie for money?
Answer: (After a long, thoughtful pause) It looks like I
Cody also told the court of a homily that he had delivered to
Finch in an effort to dissuade him from murder:
Killing your wife for money alone isn't worth it.
Let her have every penny.
up on a mountaintop and live off the wild. If the girl loves
you, she's going to stick with you.
But by far the deadliest thing that Cody had to say detailed a
conversation with Carole Tregoff, in which she had snapped: "Jack,
you can back out. But if you don't kill her, the doctor will; and
if he doesn't, I will."
When the prosecution rested, things looked bleak indeed for the
doctor and the redhead.
Rumors that the defense had a surprise in store guaranteed a
packed courtroom when Finch took the stand. The doctor didn't
disappoint. He described how his wife had pulled a gun on him.
Regrettably, in his efforts to take the gun away, he had been
forced to club her with it, inflicting two skull fractures. At
that moment, the maid Lindholm had entered the garage. Finch's
misconstrued attempts to placate the maid's obvious distress — already
referred to — gave
Barbara Finch the chance to snatch up the gun and take off. Finch
went in pursuit. Some way up the drive he saw Barbara Finch taking
dead aim at Tregoff with the pistol. A further struggle ensued.
Finch grabbed the gun. Barbara Finch began running again.
Inexplicably, as Finch attempted to toss the gun away, it went
off, neatly drilling his fleeing wife between the shoulder blades.
Claiming ignorance of this fact, Finch ran across to his prone
"What happened, Barb?" he cried. "Where are you hurt?"
in … chest,"
"Don't move a thing.
I've got to get an ambulance for you and get you to [the]
Barbara held up a restraining hand. "Wait.
I'm sorry, I should have listened."
"Barb, don't talk about it now. I've got to get you to [the]
"Don't leave me. Take care of the kids."
As Finch described feeling for a pulse and finding none, his
voice broke: "She was dead." He wiped away a tear. Sobs could also
be heard in the public gallery. Others preferred to concentrate on
the likelihood of a murder victim actually apologizing for being
killed, and found the story a little thin, to say the least.
Under cross-examination the doctor regained his normal
buoyancy. When prosecutor Whichello, referring to numerous affairs
with other women before Carole Tregoff, asked him: "Did you tell
these women that you loved them?" the doctor responded jauntily:
"I think under the circumstances that would be routine."
Seven days on the stand did little to undermine Finch. His
story sounded implausible, but he stuck to it and yielded nothing
to the prosecution.
They made more headway against Tregoff, whose own account of
events bordered on the fantastic. She told of watching the scene
unfold, then cowering for five or six hours behind some
bougainvillea plants, paralyzed with fear, while police turned the
house upside down. Later, she had driven back to Las Vegas, alone.
Allegedly, her first knowledge of Barbara Finch's death came via
the car radio, information which she passed on to Finch himself.
He reportedly shrugged the news off and Tregoff went to work.
Prosecutor Clifford Crail succeeded in making Tregoff look very
bad, intent only on saving herself at the expense of Finch. (Since
their arrest, Tregoff had spurned all of Finch's letters and
advances.) Crail highlighted her leading role in the solicitation
of Cody, also her conflicting stories of why the couple had gone
to Lark Hill Drive that night. Originally, Tregoff told police
that the intention was to talk Barbara Finch out of divorce
proceedings. On the stand that evolved into an attempt to convince
her to obtain a "quickie" Nevada divorce.
Courtroom observers thought that, at a minimum, Tregoff's
performance had guaranteed a berth for Finch in the gas chamber.
But after eight days of wrangling, the jury members announced that
they were unable to agree on a verdict and a mistrial was
declared. It later transpired that racial tension — one
jury member was black, another Hispanic — had
led to ugly scenes in the jury room, when neither minority juror
would yield to pressure exerted by the white Jurors.
A second trial began June 27, 1960, and again ended in deadlock
November 7, 1960, despite an extraordinary admonition to the jury
by Judge LeRoy Dawson, who told them, in no uncertain terms, that
they ought not to believe the evidence of either defendant.
The State of California tried for a third time, opening its
case January 3, 1961 before Superior Judge David Coleman. By now
much of the earlier sensational coverage had dissipated, leaving a
noticeably calmer courtroom atmosphere. It showed in the jury
deliberations. On March 27 they convicted Finch of first-degree
murder, while Tregoff was found guilty in the second degree. Both
were sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1969 Tregoff was paroled. She changed her name and found
work at a hospital in the Pasadena area.
Finch, released two years later, practiced medicine in Missouri
for a decade before returning to West Covina in 1984.
Given the lurid ingredients, it was hardly surprising that the
trials of Finch and Tregoff assumed national prominence. And yet
two juries deadlocked over what was almost surely premeditated
murder. How much their indecision was prompted by the defendants'
attractive appearance and social standing will remain a matter of
Suggestions for Further Reading
Ambler, Eric. The Ability To Kill. New York: The
Mysterious Press, 1987.
Gaute, J.H.H. and Robin Odell. The Murderers' Who's Who.
London: W.H. Allen, 1989.
Kilgallen, Dorothy. Murder One. New York: Random
Wolf, Marvin J. and Katherine Mader. Fallen Angels.
New York: Ballantine, 1986
Evans, Colin. "Raymond Bernard Finch and
Carole Tregoff Trials: 1960 & 1961." Great American Trials. 2002.
Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2013).
A Slight Case of Frigidity
Dr. Bernard Finch
For the Defense:
From Jerry Giesler’s office
Robert A. Neeb, Jr.
For the Prosecution:
District Attorney William H. McKesson
Assistant District Attorney Clifford C. Crail
Assistant District Attorney Fred N. Whichello
Superior Court Judge Walter R. Evans
On February 26, 1961, Carole Tregoff received a letter from Dr.
Bernard Finch. In it, he told her of his undying love, of his
thoughts about their future together, of how, from the beginning,
he had considered her the most wonderful girl he had ever known.
It was an anniversary letter, he said, for it celebrated the very
first time they had lunched téte-a-téte four years before. Under
ordinary circumstances the letter would have been no more
remarkable than any of the billions of exchanges between men and
their women since the first cave man chiseled a valentine to his
chick. But the circumstances weren’t ordinary. Both Dr. Finch
and Carole Tregoff were serving life sentences in California
penitentiaries: he for obtaining an “instant divorce: with the
help of a .38-caliber bullet; she for conspiring with him to
commit the crime.
Carole had been introduced to Finch three weeks after she was
hired as a receptionist at the West Covina Medical Center in Los
Angeles. Finch and his brother-in-law were partners in the Center
and had borrowed a quarter of a million dollars to set it up.
When the doctor and the ravishing redhead met he said, “Hello, and
that was that for about seven months. Carole soon heard gossip at
the Center about the doctor’s marriage — not good — and that he
was, in fact, dating a couple of the Center’s pretty employees.
Since she was having marital problems of her own at the time, the
gossip made little impression on her. But, from a distance, the
handsome doctor did.
Carole, eighteen when the employment agency sent her to be
interviewed at the Center, was tall, red-headed, extremely pretty,
with an outstanding figure — if you know what I mean. She was
married to a chap named Jimmy Pappa, whom she had first dated
during high school. The marriage wasn’t working. Not at all.
They shared an apartment and little else.
Dr. Finch at forty had a lucrative surgical practice, was a
ranking tennis amateur, and had a winning way with the ladies. He
was, in short, notably successful both as surgeon and operator.
The home in which he and his wife lived, with their small son and
her young daughter by a previous marriage, was quite elegant.
They each had a car, he a Cadillac, she a Chrysler. They had a
dog. And they had a lovely young Swedish girl, a part-time
college student, to take care of the two children and help around
the house. In the end, it was this girl more than anyone who
cooked the doctor’s goose.
After seven months as a receptionist, Carole became secretary
to Dr. Finch. The third member of th Finch team was his nurse.
According to Center gossip, the businesslike relationship between
doctor and nurse that obtained during the day was subject to
change after hours. But Carole thought little of that and a great
deal of the doctor.
From time to time members of the staff at the Center, including
Dr. Finch, would lunch together, but it wasn’t until another seven
months passed that Finch asked Carole to lunch alone with him. By
then Carole could more than sense the mutual attraction between
them. She was in love with the doctor.
The luncheon, on February 26, 1957, led to dinner later in the
week. The dinner led to six hours of agreeable conversation,
which led to Carole’s arrival at home at 4:15 A.M., which led to a
battle with her husband. At that point, Carole said later, she
stopped all sexual relations with Jimmy Pappa, which was no more
than any right-thinking virtuous wife would do.
During the next few weeks Carole and the doctor found the blips
on their personal radar screen clearly on a collision course.
Neither wanted to avoid it. For a while they lunched and dined
most decorously. Finch was an old had at this game, and besides,
he was as deeply smitten as a man of his restless, mercurial
temperament could be. So there were no cramped clutches in the
back of an automobile, no furtive slinking in and out of motels.
I suppose they both, in that tingling preliminary to the main
bout, were tenderly teasing each other: she with a show of
shyness, he with a semblance of manly gentleness and patience.
In due time Dr. Finch suggested, quite reasonably, that if they
found a little apartment they could be together more frequently
and in greater comfort. Even then, after an apartment had been
rented in the name of Mr. and Mrs. George Evans, a month went by,
if you can believe Carole, before they surrendered to the
inevitable. Aprés that, le déluge!
During their trial Dr. Finch testified that for a year and a
half, in that apartment and in another to which they later moved,
he and Carole met at lunchtime daily, and very often early in the
morning and at cocktail time as well! My ears may have deceived
me, but it seemed to me that a faint sigh of wonderment — or could
it have been envy? — stirred the somnolent air of the courtroom
when the magnitude of the doctor’s achievement struck the
spectators. One had only to look at luscious Carole, though, to
realize that the doctor’s spectacular performance owed something
to her inspiration.
All this time, or at least whenever they had a chance to catch
their breaths, they talked over plans for the future. It was
decided that each would seek a divorce. Carole first, since she
was weary of living with Mr. Papa and could untie the knot without
much difficulty. Finch would have to wait because he felt a
divorce at that time would create problems in connection with the
financing of the Medical Center, might affect his practice, and
above all, would require him at a most awkward moment to share his
fortune with Barbara under California’s community property laws.
He had long since explained to Carole his version of the
arrangement (“armistice” he called it) under which he and Barbara
maintained a front to their broken marriage. They continued to
live under one roof, sharing everything except the well-known
conjugal rights. Barbara, he said, had been sexually frigid since
the birth of their son a few years before. They went out together
to parties, the tennis club, and here and there among their
friends. Outwardly they agreed that their private lives could be
lived as each saw fit, as long as one did nothing to embarrass the
other. That was the reason he had taken the love nest under an
assumed name, he assured Carole. It was the decent thing to do.
In their talks he returned continually to the theme that until
the Medical Center was firmly established and paying him a
substantial income, he could not afford a divorce. But the day
would not be too far distant when Carole and he could be wed.
Not long after Finch had rented the first love nest in Monterey
Park, his wife, driving by, had seen him emerge with a bag of
groceries cradled in one arm and Carole draped on the other. They
waved at each other. When Finch got home he said he’d only been
performing a neighborly good deed, helping Carole with her
Apparently Barbara had been considering a
unilateral termination of the armistice. Perhaps she brooded
about all the fun Finch was having. At any rate, on September 9,
1958, she telephoned Jimmy Pappa at the place in which he was
employed and blew the whistle on Carole. Jimmy was stunned. The
idea that Carole might be unfaithful to him never entered his
mind. Her coldness, he believed (unwittingly echoing Dr. Finch),
was the result of sexual frigidity. But here she was, if Mrs.
Finch wasn’t lying, responding normally to another man. All he
could say to Barbara Finch, he later testified, was to ask why she
didn’t divorce the doctor. Her answer was brief and to the
point. This way “she had it made.” When she was ready she could,
under the law, get a better than fifty-percent property settlement
if she could prove adultery.
When Carole got home that day Jimmy broke the news to her with
a slap in the mouth. This destroyed Carole’s faith in the
sanctity of marriage and she moved out the next day, never to
return. Her father and his wife made room for her, at least for
the time she wasn’t with Dr. Finch.
A few days went by and then Jimmy Pappa showed up at the
Medical Center to see Dr. Finch. He had visite the doctor once
before, when Finch operated on Jimmy’s knee. This time he didn’t
want any medical advice. He wanted his wife back, especially
after Finch denied that there was any substance to Barbara’s
accusations. But Carole, frightened though she was, refused to
think about returning. She had filed for divorced the day she
fled her home. She was going through with it.
Dr. Finch explained to Carole that he had denied the affair
because he was afraid Jimmy would try to beat her again. Also, he
told her, he didn’t want to hand Barbara any more evidence than
she already had, which wasn’t a great deal.
Finch feathered another little nest for his love not far from
the first, and they moved there soon after the confrontation with
In January, 1959, without mentioning it to her husband, Barbara
Finch began talking to an attorney, Joseph Forno, about a
divorce. She also employed private detectives to follow the
doctor and Carole to collect evidence of adultery. Finch became
aware of this in April, when one of the shamuses took pictures of
the couple at a beach. Matters got even stickier when on several
occasions, under one pretext or another, Carole just happened to
be in the vicinity when the Finches were together at the tennis
club or at other gay places. This further inflamed barbara and
shocked friends who knew what was going on.
On May 16, Barbara called the lawyer and told him that the
doctor had stuck her with a pistol the night before, opening a
wound over her eye that required several stitches (the stitching
was done by Finch at the hospital. He took her there after the
incident, which he claimed resulted from an accidental fall
against a table). Barbara went to Forno’s office, where the wound
was photographed. She urged the lawyer to speed up the divorce
proceedings because Finch had threatened her life.
The Finches separated on May 18. Barbara went to the home of a
friend, since it was customary to give the husband a few days to
clear out. During her stay with the friend, Barbara frequently
said that she was in mortal fear of Bernie Finch. But after Finch
moved out of their home, Barbara returned.
On May 20 divorce papers were filed against Finch, including a
petition for division of community property, alimony, and support
for six-year-old Raymond Bernard Finch, Jr. Apparently Barbara’s
private eyes hadn’t gotten enough evidence of adultery against the
doctor: the divorce action merely cited “extreme cruelty.”
The next day, May 21, Barbara also sought a restraining order
that would forbid the doctor to molest her in any way, directly or
indirectly. It also prevented him from withdrawing or disposing
of any funds or property. She included in the request a statement
that on May 15 the doctor had done her bodily harm and had
threatened her life. Finch agreed, through his own attorney, to a
hearing on June 11, and on that day the restraining order, by
agreement of both parties, was signed into the record. To Finch,
who was reputed to be worth about three quarters of a million
dollars, it meant that all his income passed into a joint account
and he couldn’t draw a penny without Barbara’s consent. At the
same time Finch was ordered to pay, beginning July 1, $2000 in
counsel fees, $500 in court costs, and $200 a month alimony.
On July 7, Barbara filed an affidavit that her husband was in
contempt of the court’s order. A hearing on the contempt was set
for July 23. But July 23 never came for Barbara Finch. On July
18, at about 11:30 O.M., she was shot dead.
But before the tragedy, back at the love nest, there had been a
change in plans. After Dr. Finch had been served with the papers,
Carole decided that perhaps it might be wiser if she removed
herself from the scene until the dust of battle had settled. On
May 26, she moved to Las Vegas, staying first with some old
friends and then moving to an apartment that she and finch Located
and for which he paid the rent. To occupy her time she got a job
as a cocktail waitress. When he wasn’t busy with his practice, or
with the Legal Sturm und Drang surrounding his relations
with his wife, he visited Carole at her apartment.
It was in Las Vegas that the most bizarre and controversial
episode of what was soon to be called the Finch-Tregoff case took
place. According to Carole and Finch, they had hired a flashy
small-time hood to try to get evidence of adultery against Barbara
to counter the evidence they assumed she had on them. But the
hood, Jack Cody, testified that they had hired him purely and
simply to kill Barbara.
Whatever the truth, one thing was perfectly clear: Cody,
although he managed to extract about $1300 from the lovers, never
at any time came within a mile of Barbara or had any intention of
On the evening of July 18, Finch and Carole drove Carole’s car
to the country club near the Finch home and parked. They walked
to the house, which was on a rise just above the home of Finch’s
father, and noted that the garage was empty. Barbara was still
out. They waited. About 11:15 Barbara drove up and into the
garage. Finch went in after her. Barbara began screaming for
help. The young Swedish maid ran out of the home and into the
garage. here was a shot. Then Barbara came dashing out of the
garage and down the incline toward her father-in-law’s house.
Finch ran after her. There was another shot. Barbara started
down some wooden steps, then fell into a heap at the bottom. The
maid by that time had run to the house and called the police.
When the police arrived they found Barbara dead, shot in the
back. Neither Finch nor Carole was anywhere to be seen, although
Carole swore she was actually hiding in the shrubbery during the
time the police, detectives, and doctor’s were all over the
place. Finch had taken off immediately after the shooting, stolen
one car and then another, and made his way to Las Vegas, where he
went to bed in Carole’s apartment. Carole drove herself back
after everyone had left the Finch home. When she got to Las Vegas
she told Bernie that Barbara was dead. He was too worn out to
talk about it, so Carole got dressed and went to work.
Finch was arrested next day in the Las Vegas apartment. He
coolly explained that he could not have murdered his wife because
he was in Las Vegas at he time of the killing. To prove it, he
showed the police his car, which he said had been parked in the
Los Angeles airport lot since Friday — the day before the murder.
Employees there said the car had not been moved.
But Carole guilelessly placed Finch at the scene. She and the
doctor, she said, drove to West Covina that night in her car. “We
left it in the parking lot at the country club, because we thought
if Barbara saw the car she wold not come out and talk to us.”
They wanted to talk to Barbara about the divorce, Carole said,
although precisely what they hoped to gain was never made clear.
She had no explanation for Dr. Finch’s brown leather
attache case found on the lawn by the police, which
contained two pairs of rubber gloves, some rope, a butcher knife,
sedatives, a hypodermic, some .38-caliber ammunition and a
flashlight — a collection the police later dubbed “the
do-it-yourself murder kit.”
She told the police that when she and the doctor arrived at the
house, Barbara was out. Awaiting her return, Carole amused
herself by blowing up the rubber gloves and playing with the
family dog. She explained the presence of fragments of rubber
near the house and in Barbara’s car by saying the dog ripped the
When Barbara drove into the garage, as Carole told it, the
irate wife refused to talk to Finch and threatened them with a
gun. Carole fled to a clump of bushes and hid. From the bushes
she heard a commotion and some shots.
She remained cowering behind the bushes for five or six hours,
then picked up her car and returned to Las Vegas.
Experts on the prosecution side admitted that Carole would
never have had to face a trial if she had kept as quiet as her
lover. In the beginning they figured her as a witness for the
state, at most, but she was arrested on July 29 as she left the
witness stand following Dr. Finch;s “preliminary hearing” (a legal
requirement in California so familiar to every “Perry Mason”
fan). Assistant District Attorney Fred N. Whichello charged that
in her testimony she changed the story she had given the police on
several major points and that she had, in fact, conspired with the
doctor in the murder.
The young woman admitted that she and Dr. Finch had “more or
less” exchanged protestations of love and had spoken indirectly of
marriage after both were free. Mr. Whichello then asked: “Prior
to this shooting did you have sexual intercourse with Dr. Finch?”
Miss Tregoff broke down in sobs. Finally she answered: “Yes.”
Whichello said Miss Tregoff ”tripped herself up” when she
testified that she took the doctor’s leather attaché case from her
car at the Finch home when the doctor asked her to get a
flashlight. She identified the kitchen knife and the flashlight
as household goods the doctor bought for her. She said finch
carried weapons whenever he had narcotics in the car.
Whichello contended that “she read in the newspapers about the
murder kit and decided she had to account for it. In the previous
questioning, the bag was never mentioned. These changes in
testimony show a concert of action between Miss Tregoff and Dr.
Finch. I am satisfied they conspired together, and that she aided
him in committing the crime.
“I believe their plan was to tie Mrs. Finch with rope, give her
an injection of sedative, put her in the car and push the car off
the cliff in front of the Finch house.”
The motive, Whichello said, was clear. He pointed out that
Mrs. Finch had filed for suit for divorce two months earlier. She
was entitled to at least half the doctor’s wealth — estimated at
$750,000 — as community property and also wanted $2500 a month
alimony. Finch didn’t want to share his wealth. In addition,
“one of the motives for killing her was to get rid of the wife in
order that he might marry this younger woman.”
So began the case of the Delinquent Doctor and the Sexy
Redhead, illustrating once more that an amateur bent on committing
the perfect crime seldom achieves anything except disaster. And
Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff were undoubtedly the most awkward
pair of amateurs ever to make this effort.
The trial made headlines not merely because of the looks of one
of the defendants and the social status of the other. It was
noteworthy because it contained so many elements that were
incredible. If half of what the prosecution outlined was true,
the Finch-Tregoff case must have been the most preposteriously
prepared and elaborately bungled murder in the annals of modern
Dr. Finch, by all accounts, was an intelligent man — not the
type to commit a murder inspired by spur-of-the-moment passion.
One of his fellow physicians said of the state;s allegations: “It
seems downright silly to me. Why, a trained medical man could
think of a thousand ways to kill someone without resorting to
violence — ways police and autopsy surgeons would never discover.
Who needs a gun?”
Then take the victim. On the very day she was killed the
fearful wife talked about going to Palm Springs because she was
terrified and “wanted to get away from Bernie.: But she didn’t
go. She stayed in West Covina, played tennis at the club, dined
with friends, and drove home alone to meet the fatal bullet.
She had told he fears to her maid, a movie star, her lawyer, to
the young woman friend with hom she stayed while Finch was moving
out of their house. And although all of them listened to her
sympathetically and gave her advice, she went back to the house
where she was so easy to find and where, eventually, she died on
the lawn under a bright moon.
Why didn’t she simply give Finch what he wanted in order to get
rid of him for good? She certainly had it in her power to remove
the source of her fear. If she really was afraid!
Dr. Finch was unbelievably stupid if he actually took Carole to
his home for a conference with Mrs. Finch, who knew all about
And Carole was stupid to go with him on such a
ludicrously doomed mission. She was stupid, too, to weave a
welter of contradictions into her statements to the authorities.
The Finch-Tregoff trial began with Whichello’s opening
statement for the prosecution pointing to Marie Anne Lindholm, the
Finch Maid, as the state’s key witness.
A slight, slender girl, she sat quietly in the packed courtroom
as Whichello gave the prosecution’s version of the slaying and her
part in it as a witness.
She had been Mrs. Finch’s confidante, had heard her fears of
the doctor, had seen the signs of the beating he had given his
wife, had witnessed his breaking into the house after he had moved
out and the locks had been changed. Mrs. Finch had told her of a
hired killer from Las Vegas. Then came the night of July 18. She
had been home with the two children and heard her employer drive
into the garage and, a few minutes later, her cry: “Help!” The
maid, who was putting her hair up in curlers, ran dot the garage
and found Mrs. Finch lying on the floor and Dr. Finch standing
over her, holding a gun.
The doctor, in a fury, had seized Marie Anne and banged her
head against the garage wall, stunning her and breaking a hole in
the plaster. THen he fired a shot at nothing in particular,
ordered both the maid and Mrs. Finch into the car, and got in
himself under the wheel. Marie Anne docilely got into the back
seat, but Mrs. Finch, although showing evidence of a brutal
beating, got out and began to run down the driveway. The doctor
followed and there was another shot. The girl rushed into the
house and called the police.
Finch’s house dominated a ledge at the top of a sharply
inclined private road. His father’s house was on a ledge slightly
below. The roadway eased straight down from the doctor’s house to
his father’s house, then made a hairpin turn. To one side of the
road, where it swung abruptly around, the cliff dropped off a
hundred and fifty feet.
Whichello charged that Finch, with the help of the “murder
kit,” planned to put his wife in the car and drive it down the
hillside to the curve and over the cliff, making the death appear
an accident. The plan went awry, Whichello says, when Marie Anne
burst into the garage. Finch then tried to put both women in the
car and carry out his scheme. But the entire plot collapsed when
Barbara broke and ran.
When it came time for her turn to testify, Marie Anne was an
effective witness, repeating what she had told Whichello and
yielding very little to the defense on cross-examination. Then,
in re-direct examination, came the prosecution’s blockbuster.
Q. Have you any reason to recall a conversation you had with
Mrs. Finch about a beating to which you testified?
A. Yes. I have it written down.
Q. In what form?
A. I wrote it in a letter to my mother.
Q. When was it that you wrote the letter?
A. I wrote it about a week after Mrs. Finch told me.
Q. And in this letter you mentioned this subject?
Mr. Whichello produced the letter, and Marie Anne identified
it. It was written in Swedish, but defense counsel had been
provided with an English translation. It was quite a long letter,
the translation running almost a page and a half of single-space
typing. Mr. Whichello asked the witness: “Can you show me in this
letter where the reference to Las Vegas appears?”
“Yes,” said the girl. At this point the defense jumped up to
protest the admission of the letter, and a conference in chambers
followed. The defense quite naturally wanted to keep the letter
from the jury — it was a body blow — but the judge ruled to admit
a portion of the letter to show “no previous fabrication” on the
part of the young witness. It was a big inning for Whichello.
The doctor’s twelve-year-old stepdaughter backed up the
eyewitness story of the Finch maid that she ran to the help of
Mrs. Finch and then saw Dr. Finch chase her into the night and
heard a shot.
Other hight spots of the prosecution’s case came with the
testimony of a movie star and a moocher – one to elaborate on the
“pattern of fear: that haunted Barbara Jean Finch before her
death, the other to testify that Dr. Bernard Finch, with
assistance from Carole Tregoff, hired him to kill his wife.
The movie star Mark Stevens testified that he had urged Barbara
to defend herself with a jack-handle if Finch ever attacked her.
He gave her this advice after Barbara told him of Finch’s threats.
(The police found the jack-handle next to Barbara’s bed.)
Cody was there because of an incredible coincidence. A
prostitute had been picked up in Las Vegas on a forgery charge
shortly after Mrs. Finch’s murder. During questioning, she
mentioned that she and another girl had been brought to Las Vegas
by a man named Richard A. Keachie, who was mixed up in some kind
of plot to kill a doctor’s wife in Los Angeles.
The Las Vegas police didn’t connect her tory with the Finch
murder until they looked into Keachie’s record. They found that
he had been arrested in June for a traffic violation. He had been
driving Carole Tregoff’s car.
Keachie led the police to Don Williams, twenty-one, a
University of Nevada honor student and a childhood friend of
Carole’s , who said at first that she had asked him to find “a
couple of tough guys” to kill Mrs. Finch. Later he claimed she
only wanted someone to “rough up” the doctor’s wife.
Keachie recommended as a prospective killer John Patrick Cody, age
twenty-nine. Police traced Cody to Minneapolis, where he was in
jail for forgery. Cody was a small-time crook — a very
small-time, misdemeanor-type mug. They brought him back from
Minneapolis to retell a story he had told the police and later a
grand jury. It was a tale that belonged in the
now-I’ve-heard-everything category. When he first recited it
veteran cops thought they were tuned to the wrong channel, maybe
Mars, maybe Disneyland.
Cody fingered Carole Tregoff as a talent scout for murder. He
credited her with going to quite a bit of trouble to “discover:
him in Las Vegas, lining him up as Mrs. Finch’s assassin, then
introducing him to her lover, Dr. Finch who was paying for the job
and who made a few suggestions about the manner in which it might
best be carried out.
Of course, Cody maintained from the beginning, he never had any
idea of doing the job. He just saw an irresistible chance to play
a couple of suckers (ultimately he cost the lovers $1300,
excluding the price of plane tickets, which he turned back for
cash), so he kidded them along.
Carole gave him a map of the Finch place, warned him that the
garage door might stick, and told him not to worry about the Finch
dog, which looked ferocious but actually was harmless. She also
gave him a picture of his intended victim.
“She told me she wanted this job done over the July Fourth
weekend because the doctor would be playing in a tennis tournament
at La Jolla and would have a good alibi in case he might be
suspected,” Cody said. (Whichello claimed Cody could not know
Finch was playing in the tournament unless Carole had indeed told
According to Cody, Carole gave him a $350 down payment and a
plane ticket to Los Angeles, but he went to a Las Vegas gambling
joint and blew the money in a crap game. After lying low for a
few days, he said, he went to Carole, told her Mrs. Finch had been
murdered, and received the remaining $850.
When Finch returned to Las Vegas, Carole and Cody told him his
wife had been eliminated. “You must be nuts,” the doctor was
quoted as saying. “I called my home this morning and talked to my
Cody said: “Well, I killed some woman. I put the body in the
trunk of an old automobile standing on the street near the
Hollywood Hills Motel.”
“My God,” Cody reported the doctor as saying, “that is a
terrible tragedy. Some poor innocent woman got killed.”
The doctor’s remorse, however, did not prevent him from
insisting that Cody go through with his end of the bargain.
“The doctor told me I could use the shotgun he always carried
in the trunk of his Cadillac,: Cody continued. “But I told him I
didn’t like to use a shotgun because it was too messy, so he
guessed I was right.”
(Police later did find a shotgun in Finch;s car and claimed that
Cody could not have known about it unless Finch told him.) “I told
him I hoped he knew what he was doing because, in my opinion, this
Carole wasn’t worth it,” the phony gunman claimed.
But he couldn’t convince the doctor. Finch and Carole put him
on a plane for Los Angeles. Once again he reneged, took a bus
back to Las Vegas, and blew the rest of the money at a gambling
This time Finch became enraged and, according to Cody,
declared: “Okay, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”
Cody had sworn to all of this, in a signed statement to the
police and at a preliminary hearing. It was unlikely that the
State of California would trouble to negotiate with the State of
Minnesota for his appearance there, under guard, unless the
prosecution was pretty sure he would sing the same chorus and
maybe another sixteen bars at this trial for murder. So there he
was, facing us from the witness chair.
Cody was slight, shifty-eyed, inclined to pale satin neckties.
He was the first witness to attribute to Carole words and actions
that would tie her to what the state called “the conspiracy.” If
the jury believed him, and subsequently decided Dr. Finch meant to
shoot his wife on the night of July 18, Carole was in as much
trouble as if she had pulled the trigger herself.
Testifying the following day, the dapper little sharpie jumped
around in his narrative from hotel to motel to casino to airport,
and from date to date, implicating the redhead and her lover every
chance he got.
He furthered the state’s conspiracy charge by relating a
conversation he had with Carole in Las Vegas on July 1, 1959, at a
restaurant caller Pierre’s, in which the dialogue ended with a
warning that if anything went wrong and they got caught, silence
was to be the agreement.
In another significant meeting, the witness told of talking
with Carole in her apartment.
“Carole was a little angry, so she called the doctor. He came
out of another room and was very upset. He was hot at me. He
asked what I was doing there, and I said I wanted to establish an
alibi because I had hired someone in Los Angeles to do it and I
was going to go somewhere where I’d be sure to be seen at all
The doctor said something like, ‘Well, that makes sense if you
can count on the person in L.A.,’ and I said, ‘Oh, sure, he’s a
very good friend of mine.’”
Cody said that he had made this fictitious friend more colorful
by describing him as Spanish. “I told the doctor to be sure he
would have an alibi and he said, ‘Don’t worry.’ They were going to
a club where they knew they would be seen. The doctor inquired
when we would know if it had been done, and I said my friend was
going to telephone me from L.A. and I would let him — the doctor —
According to Cody, there was another meeting on July 12, at th
Desert Motel, during which Dr. Finch assured him that Mrs. Finch
would be eliminated no matter by whom. The witness, with a
sidelong glance at Dr. Finch, at the defense table added: “He said
he’d do it.”
Cody testified that he promised the doctor he would not back
out; he would go back to Los Angeles and make another try. And
the doctor said: “Forget about your Spanish friend and everyone
else and go back and do it right.”
Cody responded that he needed a little more money, so the
doctor gave him a hundred dollars.
Cody said that he had asked Dr. Finch if he knew what he was
doing, if he really loved Carole and if she really loved him. Dr.
Finch said indeed they adored each other. Reflecting on this,
Cody told the other man: “I’m only twenty-nine years of age, but I
have been around, and to start out killing your wife just for
money doesn’t add up. Let her have every cent if that’s the way
she’s got you boxed in. Go up on top of a mountain and live off
the wild, and if this girl loves you she is going to stay with
you. This is from my own experience.:
Regretfully, Cody told the court, Dr. Finch did not agree with
him. The doctor said his wife had him bottled up and was “no
Then Cody, who had already taken $1200 or more to do the job
attempted to reason with Carol in Mad-Hatter-tea-party fashion.
Although, he said, she had commissioned him to do the foul deed
(which he never had any intention of doing, and after he had not
done it — twice he had not done it), he begged her to not ask him
to do what he told the court he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing
But she ignored his friendly advice. Mrs. Finch had already
been causing her trouble, was giving her a bad time, much grief.
She had to go. “I was pretty disgusted with Carole,” Cody told the
The story had one merit that might have weighed with the jury:
it was so improbable and crammed with such shocking dialogue
casually related, that it was hard to imagine anyone inventing it,
even as a joke.
Under cross-examination, there were contradictions in Cody’s
cockeyed story, plenty of inconsistencies, and suspiciously
convenient lapses of memory attributed to whiskey. But when all
was said and done the picture remained about the same.
Cody still said the defendant, to whom he referred familiarly
as “Carole,” hired him to kill her lover’s wife, Barbara
Jean Finch. He stuck to his story that she bargained with him
over the price, briefed him with addresses of places where Mrs.
Finch might be found, checked him on Mrs. Finch’s description,
drew maps of the terrain around the Finch home and the Hollywood
apartment where the wife might be staying with a friend, gave him
money as a down payment, paid for his airplane ticket, chauffeured
him to the airport, and eventually paid him the balance due — a
little brown envelope stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills.
And Cody still insisted Dr. Finch was in on the plot, and he
swore that both Carole and Dr. Finch expressed their determination
to kill the troublesome wife themselves if all else failed.
Admittedly amoral, larcenous, given to living off ladies whose
sources of income were not precisely defined, Cody still presented
a gigantic problem to the defense.
Grant Cooper, for the defense, in cross-examination indicated
that Dr. Finch, supported by the girl he wanted to marry, would
testify that they hired Cody only to catch Mrs. Finch in a
compromising situation – or possibly, to get her into one himself.
Their explanation of how they expected this dreary-looking
semiliterate to penetrate Mrs. Finch’s social circle — or Mrs.
Finch herself — had to be a beaut. If this man was not hired to
murder Mrs. Finch, what was he hired to do? And even more
pertinent, how was he supposed to do it? Was he going to ring her
doorbell and pretend he was lost, then turn on the charm with such
rapidity that she would beg him to come in and stay for a cocktail
or something? Had he planned to get a friend to break into her
bedroom and tear off her clothes while he snapped pictures with
He couldn’t possibly have contemplated an introduction to her
at the swank Los Angeles Tennis Club; he was no member, an d not
likely to be mistaken for one. A glance at the cheap, sharpie
clothes of this obvious hood who would inspire any attendant in
the place to give him the instant heave-ho.
The jurors didn’t know Barbara Jean Finch when she was alive,
but they knew she moved in a world of comfortably fixed, well-bred
suburbanites. It would be interesting to hear Dr. Finch explain
how Cody was supposed to manage a social — let alone amorous —
relationship with Mrs. Finch. The thought of him with his padded
shoulders, his white satin ties, and his scrambled tenses picking
her up anywhere was laughable.
During an intermission i the trial, I had an exclusive
interview with Dr. Finch. He told me that on the Fourth of July
weekend, during which he was supposed to have been establishing an
alibi while a hired killer rubbed out Mrs. Finch, he had his
little boy with him at La Jolla and devoted os much time to Junior
that he “didn’t do very well” in the tennis tournament.
This man accused of murder radiated the most convincing kind of
charm as he described Raymond Bernard, Jr., whom he had not seen
since his arrest last July.
“You know how it is — he wants to be just like Daddy,” he said.
“He’s just crazy to play tennis, but they say it’s better if kids
wait until they’re around eight before they start, so I’ve played
a little with him — I didn’t want to stifle his enthusiasm — but
I’ve tried to interest him ni other things, like swimming, until
he’s a couple of years older.”
The doctor was completely relaxed, sometimes even boyishly
enthusiastic, as we talked. If he had not been sitting in the
defendant’s chair in a murder courtroom, while photographers and
lawyers and gun-toting deputies milled around, he could have
passed for any well-tailored suburban father about to spring the
latest photographs of the pride and joy.
When the conversation switched to another subject — the trial,
the tactics of the prosecution, the widespread interest in the
case, and the press coverage — he was an easy talker, as if we’d
known each other for a long time.
He was curious to know why I’d come three thousand miles to
cover the story. When I explained the newspaper world’s
distinction between a “good” murder trial and a “cheap” murder
trial (try that social gambit sometime when your vis-a-vis
is a candidate for the gas chamber), he reflected and nodded: “I
see. It’s partly because I’m an educated man, and people wonder.
He felt the press had been kind to him and to Miss Tregoff up
to now, “especially considering that this is not our inning.”
And when I told him I felt the state had scattered a lot of
shots and lost impact with the jury by calling witnesses in the
wrong order, he thought it over and grinned again. “I never
thought of that. I hope you’re right.”
When the trial resumed, the prosecution called witnesses to
show that within minutes after the shooting Dr. Finch stole two
cars — first a Ford station wagon, then a red Cadillac.
It also drew attention to the disappearance of Barbara’s white
purse, which, like the gun, was never found. What the jury
thought on this point was vital. Cody had testified that when
Carole engaged him to kill Mrs. Finch, she told him to be sure to
remove rings and wristwatch from the body, and to take the purse,
to make the whole thing look like a robbery. The prosecution
implied that when Cody failed to carry out orders, the lovers did
the job to fake the “robbery.”
Mr. Cooper, in his opening remarks, said the doctor would give
a full account of his marriage and its travails. “He will tell you
he did not at any time murder his wife.:
Cooper promised that Dr. Finch would admit on the witness stand
that he was in love with Carole and hoped to marry her. He would
confess to the jury that he lied to his wife when she first
confronted him with her knowledge of the affair. But he would
deny that he ever struck her or beat her, as witnesses for the
prosecution testified Mrs. Finch said he did.
Speaking quietly but with a crescendo of emphasis as he warmed
up, Cooper declared: “It will be testified that on My 14, 1959,
Mrs. Finch was stricken with influenza. Sometime during the night
of May 15, Dr. Finch will tell you he awakened, and on awakening
found that Mrs. Finch had fallen and cut her eye on a little table
near the bedside.
“He picked her up, put her on the bed, applied the necessary
first aid, got her dressed and took her to his clinic. While he
was there, he took some stitches in her eye, and there he will be
witness to say what happened at that time.
“He did not strike her with a gun. He did not strike her with
anything. He did not beat her. He did not shove her or push her
across the room. He did not cause this wound above her eye.”
Mr. Cooper promised the jury that Dr. Finch would make no bones
about his liaison with Carole, or their trysts at various
apartments in the Los Angeles area.
“At this time Dr. Finch and Miss Tregoff had expressed their
love to each other and discussed marriage in the future when she
was divorced and when the doctor would obtain a divorce from his
wife without financial embarrassment to him or to his wife,” Mr.
Cooper went on.
“It wasn’t until approximately May 13, 1959, that Mrs. Finch
told the doctor that she had been to see her lawyer and intended
to file for divorce. Dr. Finch will tell you that he asked her
not to file at this time because he and his associates had
borrowed approximately $250,000 in medical enterprise, and a
divorce would affect their credit and their investors.
“The doctor told his wife that it generally took a hospital
about a year to get into the black, and if she would wait for a
year to elapse before getting a divorce they would both be better
off. At that time she told him she did see the wisdom of his
explanation and she agreed to wait.”
Finch and Barbara had a joint bank account from which they paid
household bills. Mrs. Finch, the lawyer said, had withdrawn most
of the money when she decided to file for divorce. The doctor
persuaded her to give him a check for $3000 to handle outstanding
debts, and she agreed, Mr. Cooper said. That was the simple
explanation offered for a check which a handwriting expert for the
prosecution claimed was forged by the doctor.
Cooper also offered an explanation for the injuries Mrs. Finch
said she suffered in squabbles with Dr. Finch: “She was creating
false incidents and making false accusations in an attempt to
further her divorce action.”
As for the dangerous testimony of Jack Cody, Cooper said that
Dr. Finch first hired a private detective for $50 a day, plus
mileage and expenses, to tail Mrs. Finch. But, Cooper said, the
man twice lost Mrs. Finch in traffic. Dr. Finch then tried to
hire a Los Angeles police officer to do the job but was unable to
make satisfactory arrangements.
“Dr. Finch said that if someone did tail his wife, they’d find
out, because of abstinence between them for some period of time,
that she was seeing some man — although he didn’t have any
particular man in mind.” So he decided to look around Las Vegas
for someone to try to get evidence of adultery that he was pretty
sure must exist.
Barbara Jean, who hadn’t much to do but sit around the tennis
courts or sip cocktails in the country-club bar or go to the
beauty parlor, harassed him in every way known to the female sex,
Cooper told the court. She plotted a divorce action behind his
back; she withdrew all of the money from their joint account and
notified him of the fact with a taunting “By the way, Charlie,
don’t even try to cash any checks”\; she lied about him to her
lawyer and her servant and her friends; she made uncalled-for
scenes and even tried to get him into trouble with the police.
When Dr. Finch took the stand he reinforced the tale of
persecution at Barbara’s hands. He described the day he drove
back to return the Cadillac he had borrowed, and his wife was not
home but Marie Anne was. She showed him how Mrs. Finch had
changed the locks on all the doors of the house and had bolts and
chains inside. The doctor had obviously hated that memory. “She
had no reason to be afraid of me,” he cried. “She knew that!”
As to Cody’s testimony that he knew about the shotgun in
Finch’s car because Finch had offered to lend it to him, the
doctor had another explanation. He said that on one occasion when
he was with Cody he opened the trunk of his Cadillac, where he had
among other things a dismantled shotgun in a leather case. He
told the jury: “Jack noticed that immediately. He said, ‘That’s a
shotgun, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I use it for duck hunting and
things like that, although I haven’t had a chance to use it for
quite some time.’”
The doctor described how he and Cody spent an afternoon sitting
in the cocktail lounge of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, discussing
how Cody could get a date with Barbara Jean Finch. He testified
that Cody told him he would give him a full report in thirty days
but not to keep bothering him for details.
” ‘I wouldn’t tell you how to perform an appendicitis
operation,’ ” the doctor quoted the hoodlum. ” ‘Women are my
The testimony about Cody and Las Vegas was a prelude to the
drama that was to come when the doctor told, for the first time in
public, how his wife happened to get shot in the back on July 18.
The handsome surgeon had dozens of details to explain, and he
was not speaking only for himself; as he testified, he had to talk
the way a tightrope walker walks, for the fate of his
co-defendant, his mistress, and his love was also involved. He
had to proceed with caution to keep from contradicting anything
she had said on the record.
Rumors circulated among the reporters that the defense had a
big surprise in store. Barbara had talked before she die. Cooper
refused to reveal the wife’s last words, saying he prefered to
have the jurors and the public hear for the first time from the
only living witness to the scene, Dr. Finch.
The public was so eager to hear that part of the testimony that
people started lining up outside the courtroom at 2:30 A.M. Long
before the doors opened, there were 250 persons – mostly women –
swarming in the marble corridor. There was room inside for only
about half of them.
Dr. Finch wept when he told how he shot his wife. But many of
his statements were at best puzzling, at worst damaging. One that
particularly stuck out concerned the struggle in the garage when
he was trying to wrest the gun from his wife so nobody would get
“I was behind her, trying to pull the gun up and away from
her. Then I heard someone running toward the garage. I stepped
around in front, yanked the gun from her – and I hit her with it.”
Cooper asked him, “Why did you do that?” and Dr. Finch replied,
“Help was coming for her – not me.”
Think that one over. “Help was coming for her – not me.” So
he slugged her with the .38.
He said he assumed it was the housemaid – he had no vision of a
burly boy friend who might slug it out with him – and he was
right. It was Marie Anne Lindholm.
Dr. Finch told the jury that he thought Marie Anne might have a
shotgun with her – one of his shotguns that he had once taught her
how to use. Marie Anne was unarmed, but he charged at her and
banged her head against the garage wall to stun her. Then, so he
said, he managed to wrest the gun from Barbara and drop it on the
convertible top of the car. What happened next is confused, save
that Barbara, although wounded from the blow Finch had struck,
suddenly, according to the doctor, picked herself up, grabbed the
gun from the car top, and ran outside. Finch ran after her
because, he said, Carole was out there somewhere and he was afraid
Barbara might try to shoot her.
Finch did not see Carole, but at length he saw his wife in her
white supper dress at the top of a flight of earthen steps leading
to his father’s house on a lower level of the hillside.
In his own words: “I kept charging right straight into her . .
. I grabbed her left wrist and at the same time pounded the gun
out of her hand.” The gun fell to the ground. Dr. Finch did not
leave it on the ground. He picked it up. “I was going to throw
the gun so nobody would get shot and we’d have no struggle,” he
said. As he raised it to throw it away a terrible thing
happened. It went off – “flashed right in my eyes” he said – and
drilled a fatal little hole in Barbara’s back.
Some time elapsed before it crossed the doctor’s mind that the
accidental bullet had hit his wife. Out of the corner of his eye
he saw her continue to run down the steps. He went to the edge of
the little cliff and as he watched her she “sort of crumpled
Naturally, he dashed to assist her.
What was in his mind as he went down the steps? He had heard
the shot, he had seen the white fire of the bullet right in front
of his eyes, but he thought Barbara had broken her leg as she
stumbled. It never occurred to him that she had been shot.
As he knelt beside her, he said: “What happened, Barb? Where
are you hurt?”
“Shot. . .in. . .chest.”
“Don’t try to talk, Barb. You stay here real quiet. Don’t
move a thing. I’ve got to get you to an ambulance and get you to
“Wait . . .” She moved her hand. He took it in his.
“I’m sorry. . . I should have listened,” she said softly.
“Barb, don’t talk about it now. I’ve got to get you to a
“Don’t leave me . . . Take . . . care . . .of . . . the kids,”
Finch felt for her pulse, could find none. She was dead.
“I stayed there [by her body, in the yard of the home next door
to their own] for a few minutes,” Finch, tears drenching his face,
continued. “I sobbed. I was all upset. I don’t remember things
too clearly. It was like a nightmare. I remember walking into
the garage and sitting down on the floor. I was just sitting
there crying . . . I saw Barbara’s purse on the floor right at my
feet. . . the contents strewn on the floor. I was sitting there
picking things up and putting them in the purse and I heard a
“The first thing that occurred to me was – maybe Barbara was
alive. I went running down there again. She hadn’t changed
positions. . . she was dead.”
“What did you do next?” asked Mr. Cooper.
“I panicked,” said Dr. Finch. “The next thing I knew I was
running as fast as I could across the golf course. I remember
falling down . . . I dropped everything I had. I think that maybe
I had her purse . . . I may have had the gun. I’m not sure. I
fell down twice more.”
Dr. Finch said he fell once in a rough plowed field, got up,
and continued to run. He said he fell another time in an orange
“All I can remember is I was exhausted. The ground felt good.
I just stayed there.”
He said he had no recollection of taking a Ford station wagon
from a neighbor, nor did he recall exchanging the station wagon
for a shiny new Cadillac. But, he said, he had no doubt that he
did take them.
“I remember sort of becoming aware that he was somewhere on his
way to Las Vegas, so he continued in that direction. He arrived
there, he said, shortly after he regained his senses and realized
where he was. He parked the car at a distance from Carole’s
Mr. Cooper asked why he did not take the car right at the
“I was afraid I’d probably stolen the car,” he replied.
Asked if he recalled getting a key from the landlady in
Carole’s absence, Dr. Finch said: “I can remember somebody getting
mad at me because it was only six-thirty in the morning.” He said
he went to bed. The next thing he remembered was that Carole had
her arms around him and was saying: “I’m so glad you’re here. I’m
so glad you’re safe.” She was crying.
Later, he said, “All of a sudden I was aware there were a lot
of lights in my face and people were standing there pointing guns
He said the police told him he was under arrest and not to say
anything because it could be used against him.
“So I didn’t say anything,” he said.
Mr. Cooper wound up his direct examination with these
“Did you conspire to kill your wife?”
“Did you attempt to murder your wife?”
“No, nothing like that at all.”
It took Dr. Finch less than thirty minutes to finish his
version of his wife’s death.
Then in mild tones and with a pleasant manner, Assistant
District Attorney Whichello opened the cross-examination. He went
first into Dr. Finch’s financial status and California’s property
Dr. Finch acknowledged that he was aware that all assets gained
after a marriage were considered community property. He said,
too, that his fortune had increased considerably after his
marriage to Barbara in 1952.
“You realized this was community property?”
“I never thought about it. I never thought that this is mine,
this is hers – it just wasn’t that way. Our divorce never reached
the stage where we discussed the community property. I realized
that we finally would come to that stage but we never reached it.”
The surgeon was asked to estimate roughly his total wealth. He
said he could not place any accurate value on it but he considered
it far below the $750,000 figure set by his wife.
Under cross-examination Dr. Finch told the jury of seven women
and five men that he felt his wife had given him permission to
commit adultery with Carole Tregoff. He had no feeling of guilt
about his relationship with the sultry young redhead.
Whichello asked the doctor: “When you were sharing an apartment
with Carole, did you ever give any thought to adultery and the
fact that it might be wrong and that you should exercise
self-control until both of you were divorced and free to marry?”
“No, sir,” Dr. Finch answered.
“Would you say you were so much in love that it didn’t matter?”
pursued the prosecutor.
“I’d say we didn’t think about it,” replied the doctor.
“Barbara had agreed that I was free to do as I pleased, and so it
was all right.”
With an air of astonishment Mr. Whichello peered at the
defendant on the stand. “Is it your opinion, Doctor, that a wife
is free to give her husband permission to commit adultery, and
that makes it all right?”
“Yes, sir,” the doctor replied promptly.
Dr Finch testified that his trysts with Carole took place at a
rented apartment not far from his clinic almost every day at noon;
sometimes early in the morning and frequently around the cocktail
Q. You sometimes went there at noon?
A. Yes. We had lunch there almost every day.
Q. Oh, you had lunch there too?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. I take it one of you fixed the lunch?
A. Yes, there was a kitchen in the apartment.
Q. And you sometimes went there in the morning?
A. Yes, sir, sometimes.
Q. Now, Doctor, you had told Mrs. Pappa about your marital
A. Yes, I had.
Q. And she told you about hers?
Q. Did you tell her Barbara was frigid?
A. Yes, I suppose I did.
Q. Did Carole ever tell you her husband, Jimmy Pappa, was frigid?
A. I don’t believe so, sir.
Q. Was there any discussion of her sexual problems with Jimmy
A. I don’t believe so, sir.
Q. Well, do you know if she was having sexual relations with Jimmy
Pappa at this time?
A. She definitely was not.
Q. Did she tell you she was frigid?
A. No, sir.
Q. I take it you knew she wasn’t.
A. Indeed, sir.
Q. Did she say she was not having sexual relations with her
A. I gathered she didn’t feel that way about him.
Q. That was her choice?
A. Yes, sir.
Dr. Finch told the court that he and Carole discussed marriage
at some future date but agreed that “simultaneous divorces would
not be a good idea, as they might result in bad publicity.”
He said they had a “target date” of 1960, when he felt the new
hospital would be on a paying basis. However, Carole did file for
divorce in January, 1959.
Dr. Finch did a remarkable job of controlling his temper, but
the topics on which he was cross-examined were more intimate than
dangerous, and he chose to regard the intimate questions with
clinical detachment, sometimes even with an air of enjoyment.
The tragic death of his wife was pushed into the background as
the saga of his once-secret philandering was unveiled by the
You couldn’t say he was boasting, but you couldn’t say he was
bashful either. He was unfaithful to his wife with a Mrs. X, he
said, and a Mrs. Y before he became enamored of Carole and began
to concentrate on her. He rented an apartment for her — even let
her look it over before he paid the first month’s rent, to make
sure she approved.
The other ladies never had it so good. For them it was the
parked car in some lovers’ lane, or Mrs. X followed him to San
Fransisco and made her charms available to him in his hotel on a
strictly transient basis, oor he took her to a motel, or he took
Mrs. Y to a motel, or Mrs. Y welcomed his embraces in the
apartment for which she was paying the tab.
Of course, a declaration of love was standard procedure with
Bernie. The same immortal words fell from his lips as he
whispered them to Mrs. X and Mrs. Y. Dr. Finch seemed almost
astonished at Mr. Whichello’s naiveté when the assistant district
attorney asked him: “Did you tell these women you loved them?”
Sitting erect in the witness box, the defendant answered: “I
think under the circumstances that would be routine.”
Dr. Finch said he never tried to persuade Carole into the
parked car or the motel bit. He as the perfect gentleman, asking
for nothing but kisses, between February, when he first took her
to lunch, and April, when he rented their first love nest.
“Did you and Carole have sexual relations before you rented the
apartment?” asked Mr. Whichello.
“No, sir,” the doctor said with emphasis, as if the very idea
“Did you at some time, though, discuss the apartment and having
sexual relations there?”
“Yes, I must have.”
“Did you propose it?”
“Undoubtedly I did,” replied the doctor.
“Did you think it wise?” inquired the prosecutor?
“Undoubtedly I did.”
“Did you think of your credit rating, Barbara’s pride, feelings
and so forth?”
“Well, it was part of my agreement with Barbara that I could do
that any time I wanted and it would be all right.”
“But it wouldn’t be all right with the rest of the world, would
it?” asked Mr. Whichello.
“I think it’s fair to say I didn’t expect the rest of the world
to find out the way they’re doing now,” the doctor said.
When the questioning turned to flashy “Jack” Cody, Dr. Finch
thought there was a “ten-percent chance” that the phony would be
able to seduce her.
“I knew Barbara had been frigid to me, but I didn’t think that
meant she would be frigid to every other man in the world,” said
“When you met Cody, did you get an impression of his
cultural level?” Whichello asked.
“Yes, I did.”
“You got an impression of his grammar and the level of his
“Yes. At that time I had a higher opinion of him than I now
“I don’t blame you,” snapped the prosecutor. “Cody was a head
shorter than she, wasn’t he?”
“No, I don’t think so. I would say he was five feet eight.”
“Barbara was tall for a girl, wasn’t she?” pursued Whichello.
The doctor pondered. “Well, I guess five feet eight is taller
for a girl than it is for a boy,” he answered.
Stepping closer to the witness box, Mr. Whichello asked:
“Whatever you thought of Barbara, she was a lady, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, she was.”
“And did you really think this two-bit crook was going to be
able to seduce her?”
Dr. Finch remained unruffled. “I told him exactly tha, Mr.
Whichello. I told Jack he was going to have one heck of a mess
trying to pick up Barbara. I told him it wasn’t going to be easy,
but he said women were his business, women were his living, to
just leave it to him.”
Q. Now, you expected Cody to appear as a witness in some future
divorce action, did you not, Doctor?
Q. Did you feel he would make a qualified witness?
A. I was chiefly interested in the report he would make, in the
evidence he would gather. I wanted to have the facts, as they say
on television shows.
Dr. Flinch admitted the word “murder” was used in a
conversation he had with Don Williams, of Las Vegas, when they
were discussing Cody, but the ugly word was mentioned only because
he was concerned with the safety of Carole.
Q. Did you ask Williams if Cody was capable of murder?
A. I don’t believe that it was phrased quite that way, but the
word “murder” did come up. I was concerned with Carole. She had
been seeing him quite often around Las Vegas – had made several
contacts with him – and I was concerned with her sake. I knew he
wa a person of questionable character. What I said, and this is
not a direct quote, was something like this: “What kind of a man
is he – a murderer or what? What kind of morals does he have?”
Don assured me he didn’t think that was so – he thought Cody was
capable of being a gigolo, that was about all.
Q. When you met Cody for the first time, how did he impress you?
A. As capable of doing exactly what I had hired him to do – get
evidence against Barbara.
Under Mr. Whichello’s courteous cross-examination the doctor
revealed he suspected Mrs. Finch was carrying on an extra-marital
affair, but he was never able to prove it.
He based his theory on his knowledge of psychology. He assumed
that his wife was only human, and that since three years had
elapsed since she had allowed him his conjugal privileges, she
must be finding sex somewhere with someone else.
“I don’t mean this to be crude,” the doctor told the court
frankly, although he went on to couch his assertation in terms so
earthy they had to be cleaned up by reporters working for family
newspapers, “but Barbara wasnt getting any sex at home and I
thought that regardless of the fact that she was cold to me, she
might not be cold to someone else.”
Dr. Finch admitted he had nothing specific to go on, no idea of
what male friend might be supplying Barbara with her “only human”
quota of passion. “I felt there was strong possibility that she
was having sexual relations with someone else,” he said.
THe assistant district attorney now took Finch to the scene of
Barbara’s death. “Was there any reason for leaving her body there
like a wounded animal on the lawn?”
In the hushed courtroom Finch mumbled, “I don’t know.”
On the witness stand, Dr. Finch remained courteous and
unrattled through seven days of testimony. Most of the time he
maintained an air of confident assertiveness; when the going was
not too rough he leaned back relaxed, and smiled as if a smile
came naturally. Except for a few well-timed tears as he first
described his wife’s death – and that was the moment to weep if he
ever had a tear in him – he maintained a facade of innocence.
He was telling a straightforward story under direct
questioning, and when the cross-examination came he patiently went
back over the ground, sometimes a trifle nettled, sometimes
telling a little more than was asked. But in general he did not
give much ground to the prosecution.
He readily admitted the proveable - his affair with Carole and
other ladies in his life, his use of a false name in an ancient
situation, his lies to his wife, his annoyance with his wife, his
meetings with Jack Cody in Las Vegas, his presence at the scene of
But he produced his own version of the unprovable – what he
wanted with Cody, how the gun went off, what his wife said in
gentle implication of forgiveness as she lay dying. In the
emotional narrative of Mrs. Finch’s last words, the doctor
undoubtedly achieved a first in murder trials; he had the victim
apologizing for being shot.
Nothing could make him back down on that chapter of the saga,
not even Prosecutor Whichello’s unusually sharp challenge: “I
suggest you made up the whole touching death scene you have told
“That is false,” the doctor retorted, immediately and
forcefully. “That is absolutely false, every word of it.”
He amplified his earnest wish to tell nothing but the truth as
he remembered it, saying: “I am fighting for my life and liberty
and perhaps also for Carole, Mr. Whichello. The only armament I
have is to tell the whole truth.”
Before Carole Tregoff took the stand, Mr. Neeb, her attorney,
charged that she had been ”compelled to testify” at the
preliminary hearing for the state in a serious criminal case in
which she was deeply involved, that the prosecutor cross-examined
her, although she was his own witness, and that he elicited from
her testimony so damaging that by the time she had finished
answering his questions the district attorney had ordered a
warrant for her arrest as co-defendant in the murder case.
Whichello had been quoted as saying that the state’s case
against Carole “would collapse” if her testimony at the
preliminary hearing – the questions and answers labeled “Exhibit
60″ at the trial – was not admitted.
Her lawyers contended that if Carole had known she was a
possible defendant in the first-degree murder case, she would not
have volunteered as much as she did at the hearing. They claimed
that, in effect, Carole, when she appeared as a witness for the
state at the hearing, was given the same immunity granted to John
Patrick Cody and others in the alleged conspiracy to murder Mrs.
Finch, and that once immunity truly attached, the witness can
never be charged with the offense at any future date. They made a
great deal of the fact that she was never warned of her rights
before she testified. They called her a “trapped witness.”
Judge Evans agreed with Neeb, and Exhibit 60 never became part
of the state’s case. It was the one bright spot in Carole’s
She took the stand for an eight-question examination by her
attorney, and after denying any complicity to harm Mrs. Finch in
any way, she faced the cross-examination of Assistant District
Scornfully, Mr. Crail asked Carole to go back over the scene in
the Finch garage, when she and the doctor waited for Mrs. Finch to
get out of her red Chrysler so they could ask her for more
favorable divorce agreements.
He asked: “Did she say anything to that?”
“She said she didn’t want to, or no, she wouldn’t or something
like that – I don’t recall her exact words.”
“What is the next thing that happened?”
“The next thing that happened, she had a gun.”
How long after she said – whatever it was she said – before you
saw the gun?”
“Just the time it took her to turn around, take the gun out of
the car, and turn around again,” she said.
Mr. Crail used every trick in the legal bag to make Carole
“Admit that she had an ulterior reason for forgetting” to mention
Dr. Finch’s peculiarly stocked attaché case, although she carried
it up the hill to the Finch house the night of the tragedy. She
never mentioned it in her first statement to the police, but later
it came back to her that she had toted it up to the fatal scene.
“Has there ever been any doubt in your mind as to whether you
took that bag out of the car that night?”"
“Since I have remembered it, no,” Carole said. “However, there
was a time when it wasn’t important. I just never thought about
the bag. It didn’t seem to have any significance.”
“You didn’t think it had any criminal significance?”
“It didn’t,” the girl said.
There was so much — too much — she could not remember. There
were so many important points that she only explained as “not
seeming important” to her at the time. She didn’t even think of
Dr. Finch and what might have happened to him on the night of the
slaying when she sought refuge in darkness.
She loved him at that time, she said, but the “nightmare” of
the struggle in the garage — during which “Mrs. Finch pulled out
the gun,” according to both defendants — chased love out of her
mind, and she retreated from reality; she didn’t worry about Dr.
Finch because she wasn’t even thinking of him.
Under the relentless cross-examination of Mr. Crail, Carole was
forced to admit to strange contradictions between what she had
told the police in July, when the events surrounding the death of
Mrs. Finch were fresh in her mind, and what she wanted the present
jury to accept.
“I didn’t notice” was a frequent alibi. “I don’t recall,
Mr. Crail, the tough man of the state’s team, treated her
And he scored.
He got Carole to admit the strange fact that although she was
in a state of panic when Mrs. Finch pulled a gun on her and the
doctor in the West Covina garage, she not only caught a bag of
cartridges Dr. Finch tossed at her but she carefully stopped in
her flight to put them in the leather case — although when she was
first questioned by the police she did not mention the toss, the
catch, or the disposal of the cartridges.
And Carole could not reconcile her early version of why she and
the doctor had called on Mrs. Finch that night with her present
In her original statement she said she and Bernie hoped to
arrange a reconciliation with his wife, because he was not
financially ready for the divorce. On the witness stand she said
they wanted to persuade Barbara to go to Nevada for a quick
divorce so they could marry without the year-long wait required by
Carole stuck to the story — or was stuck with it — that she ran
out of the garage in terror and hid like a scared child in the
bushes for five or six hours. She maintains she was cowering
under the bouganvillaeas while the police arrived, while the
ambulance came, while a search was made of the grounds, while Mrs.
Finch’s body was carted off to the morgue.
It was her habit, Carole explained, to run and hide when things
became unpleasant. She had always done that, ever since she was a
little girl. The hours passed like minutes in a dream because she
was so frightened.
Carole’s greatest problem was to counter Cody’s testimony. She
had denied, under direct examination, that she hired him to kill
the doctor’s wife. But Crail took her over all of the hoodlum’s
testimony and required her to refute each damaging statement
attributed to her.
Carole had far more contact with Cody than Dr. Finch had; she
hired him, she paid him. The burden of erasing the conspiracy
charge fell on her shoulders.
If she and Dr. Finch had hired Jack Cody merely to obtain
divorce evidence, as they claimed, why did they pay him $1300 even
though he did not produce a shred of evidence compromising Mrs.
Finch? For what? Crail made her look bad, and she must have
realized it every step of the way. He moved in as if he were
running Judgement Day, sparing her nothing: her youth and her red
hair and her soft brown eyes were wasted on his cold determination
to convict her.
When he had finished with her, her lawyers said emphatically:
“She will not go on again” — regardless of what the state produced
on rebuttal in the final hours of evidence.
It seemed odd to me that in his eight-question
direct examination of his client, the defense mastermind, Robert
A. Neeb, Jr., did not have Carole specifically deny that she ever
said, “Jack, you can back out. But if you don’t kill her the
doctor will, and if he doesn’t, I will,” as Cody had testified,
That sentence rattled off so glibly by Cody must have stuck in
the juror’s minds. But Mr. Neeb did not invite Carole to refute
it. He covered all of the conspiracy evidence by asking her if
she ever at any time hired Cody to in any way harm Mrs. Finch, and
Carole replied that she had not.
Mr. Neeb considered the blanket denial was sufficient.
Equally puzzling to some onlookers was Mr. Crail’s failure to
pinpoint that same statement attributed to her by Cody.
The prosecutor smiled faintly when asked about that omission.
It was deliberate, he said. “I didn’t want to give her a chance
to deny it,” he explained. “I’ll cover it in the final
Carole Tregoff’s few dark hours in the witness box changed the
betting n the outcome of her trial. Many observers felt she had
nudged her lover quite a bit closer to the gas chamber.
She proved one thing: If she did not set out, as the state
charged, to help the doctor kill Barbara Jean Finch, she
overestimated her talent for homicide. She was a haunted, hunted,
quivering witness – a tremendous contrast to Dr. Finch, who coolly
and calmly withstood his cross-examination.
Attorney Neeb now told the court: “I would like to stipulate
that on the fifteenth of September, 1959, Carole Tregoff was
released on bond after a request bond was granted. She was
released from jail and she remained out of jail until October
seventh, when she voluntarily surrendered herself. During the
time that she was at home, occupying herself with ordinary things
about the house, newspapers were full of headlines about John
Patrick Cody and the so-called Las Vegas conspiracy.
“With that stipulation, the defense for Miss Tregoff rests.”
Neeb explained that he made the stipulation about her period of
freedom during September and October because the prosecution had
asked judge Evans to give the jury an instruction on “Flight.”
Mr. Neeb said it had become material and important to point out
that after she learned about Cody’s charges, Carole did not go
I had learned earlier that Carole would take the big gamble —
all or nothing at all — when her attorneys summed up. All three
expensive lawyers would plead her innocent, and one of them would
tell the jury: “If you find this girl guilty, send her to the gas
chamber. If not, set her free. There’s nothing in between.”
The attorneys’ summations were late in getting under way
because of a lengthy conference in Judge Evans’ chambers.
Carole’s chief attorney moved for dismissal of the charges against
her on the grounds that her constitutional rights had been
violated and also for insufficient evidence. Judge Evans denied
But he did permit Dr. Finch’s attorney to go into court when
the jury was finally seated, and announce that Finch would testify
by stipulation to a conversation with John Patrick Cody on July 8
in Las Vegas.
Mr. Cooper told the court that Dr. Finch would testify that he
telephoned Cody and told him: “I talked to my wife on the
telephone this morning and she is now at the house. Have you got
the address? Are you sure of the location?”
Presumably, the insertion of this conversation was designed to
support Dr. Finch’s contention that he was engaging Cody to follow
his wife to get divorce evidence, not to kill her.
One important decision that came out of the legal maneuvering
was Judge Evans’ refusal to accept a manslaughter verdict from the
Then Mr. Relentless took center stage. Representing justice
and disinclined to show mercy, Assistant District Attorney
Clifford C. Crail rose to sum up the case for the State of
California against Dr. Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff for the
murder of Dr. Finch’s wife. He did it with the efficiency of an
IBM computing machine and the cold passion of an avenging angel.
He believed Barbara Jean Finch was killed by her husband with
the motivated connivance of his voluptuous sweetheart, and he
exhorted the five-man, seven-woman jury: “Make them pay for it.”
He referred to Carole scornfully as “the defendant Pappa.”
(Carole had received the final divorce decree from muscle man
James Pappa only a week earlier, but she hadn’t used the name in
Crail seemed to derive a dry and cynical satisfaction from
reminding his quarry of a wifehood that she would rather forget.
To the prosecutor she was a calculating Jezebel, wise beyond her
years, cruel beyond the experience of most human beings.
As he went over the testimony of the “fear” witnesses who told
the court that Mrs. Finch predicted her own death at her husband’s
hands, Carole began to look slightly nervous. He traced the
pattern of fear by going back to May 16, when Barbara confided to
Marie Anne that her husband had hit her and told her: “He has a
man in Las Vegas whom he will pay thousands of dollars to have me
“By a stroke of good fortune,” Mr. Crail told the jury, “Marie
Anne wrote to her mother on May 23 and put this into the letter,
and her mother saved the letter, so that when Mr. Cooper suggested
to Marie Anne that perhaps she had made up the story of the man in
Las Vegas after she had read the newspapers about John Patrick
Cody, we were able to produce the letter to confirm that she had
mentioned Las Vegas months before.”
Holding a gray-covered transcript in his left hand, the
prosecutor referred the jurors to the testimony of Mrs. Finch’s
divorce attorney, Joseph Forno. “She called him on May 16 and
told him something had to be done because she knew her husband was
going to kill her She told him the doctor had threatened to take
her into the desert or mountains and make her death look like an
“She said she was not about to get into any car with the doctor
and that if he attempted to force her into a car, she was going to
get out and run to her father-in-law’s house,” which was, of
course, exactly what happened. She died at the foot of the
earthen steps leading from one house to another.
Mr. Crail asked how Carole’s defense could explain great gaps
and glaring contradictions in her story. Her recollection of the
night of the tragedy differed so sharply from her lover’s version,
and on such important points, that to the jurors, who heard both
of them testify, they must have seemed like two different people
improvising on the same theme — but in different rooms, unable to
hear each other.
Addressing the jury in an ultimate effort to send the
defendants to their death, the assistant district attorney served
up a harsh version of the killing and the roles played in the
tragedy by the accused.
He spoke with a quiet mixture of fury, conviction, and contempt
as he outlined the state’s theory of the crime. A quite tangible
chill passed over the audience as Mr. Crail, without raising his
knifelike voice, portrayed a scene of suspense and terror.
“Little Marie Anne goes into the house and calls the police.
She said they arrived in six or seven minutes. She has Mrs. Finch
to thank for being here to testify. If Mrs. Finch hadn’t gotten
out of the car and run in the direction of her father-in-law’s
house, what do you suppose would have happened to Marie Anne?” He
looked at the jurors solemnly, then looked back briefly and
scornfully at the surgeon, balancing in his brown leather swivel
Crail happened at the time that Carole and Bernie went to the
Finch garage on that fateful night bent on nothing but the murder
of Mrs. Finch. They both said on the witness stand that Mrs.
Finch pulled the gun out of her car and turned it on them. But
Mr. Crail did not give that theory a moment’s house-room.
“It’s a strange story,” he told the jurors. “As many times as
the defendant says Mrs. Finch had that gun in her hands, she never
fired it. She pointed it many times but she never fired it.
“We say to this — Mrs. Finch was afraid of a gun.
“We say to this — Mrs. Finch didn’t have a gun.”
His contention was that Dr. Finch waited in the shadows of the
garage for Mrs. Finch to drive her car in, and that as she opened
the car on the driver’s side and bent to get out, he whacked her
with the butt of the gun to knock her unconscious.
That was how the blood got on the steering wheel, on the seat,
and on the floor of the car. He pointed out scornfully that
although Dr. Finch testified he examined Marie Anne for head
wounds and mentioned something about taking Mrs. Finch to the
hospital, he did nothing about following through n that plan, if
indeed he ever entertained it.
“Wasn’t that the time for him to say, ‘Marie Anne, help Mrs.
Finch while I call an ambulance,” or ‘Marie Anne, I’ll take care
of her, you call an ambulance’?”
The prosecutor wheeled toward the defense table and gazed
contemptuously at Dr. Finch. “Since when,” he demanded, “has it
become proper treatment to make a woman with a fractured skull get
up off the floor and into an automobile?”
Crail again affirmed the state’s contention that the attaché
case carried to the scene on the night of the tragedy was a
“murder kit” brought up the hill to eliminate Mrs. Finch. “Take
that kit into the jury room with you when deliberating,” he said.
“Examine it. Outside of the large syringe, is there anything in
there that could be used in an emergency poison case? Go over the
other items in the case and see if you can find any reason to
believe that they were designed for any emergency surgery.
“This man has an interest in a hospital. He is a partner in a
big business. He could sit down and in fifteen minutes dictate to
a secretary a list of items and say, ‘Get these together and put
them in the surgery room for the doctors to use in an emergency,’
and it would be done.
“But that didn’t occur to him. He can’t tell you it did,
because if it had he would have no reason for carrying the kit in
“Do any of you people believe that bag and its contents were
ever meant to cure anybody?”
Mr. Crail paused significantly, and the jurors looked at him,
“Yet it is very easy to believe the contents of thaT bag were
intended not to preserve life, but to destroy it. And that’s why
they brought it to the hill that night.”
He declared that one fact destroyed Dr. Finch’s entire
elaborate explanation fo the kit’s contents: the finger of
a rubber surgical glove was found in the car Mrs. Finch drove into
her garage on the night of her death. Also, he noted, little
packages of powder used by surgeons to make th gloves slip easily
onto the fingers had been torn open and the powder apparently
“These little packages were not torn open so that Dr. Finch
could play with the dog,” the prosecutor said bitterly. He made a
half-circle so that he faced the defense counsel. “Let these
gentlemen explain to you why the finger of one of the gloves was
found in the automobile,” he challenged. “Was he playing with the
dog i the car?”
Throughout his painstaking analysis of the evidence, Mr.
Crail made it clear that he considered Carole just as guilty as
her co-defendant, even if she had nothing to do with firing the
fatal shot, because they conspired to commit murder and she aided
and abetted him.
“I give you the testimony of Mr. Keachie,” said Mr. Crail in
deadly tones. “He pulled no punches. He did not think he was
involved. But here is what he said: ‘Don asked me if either I or
Jack knew of anybody like that but maybe he should ask Jack.’
“Now that’s how Williams talked when he was not on the witness
stand, when he was talking to his friend Keachie. He is not
looking for a seducer or a detective for his friend Carole. He’s
looking for a murderer.
“That’s what the defendant Pappa was shopping for in Las
Vegas. She was shopping for a killer and that’s what she thought
Mr. Crail pointed out that Don Williams was Carole’s childhood
friend, that when she finally went to Las Vegas in May she stayed
with his family at his home, and when he appeared to testify at
her trial he was torn between his devotion to her and “some desire
to tell the truth — I don’t know how much.”
Crail flipped pages of gray-covered transcript as he went over
the evidence line by line.]
“I draw your attention to John Patrick Cody. A substantial sum
of money was paid this fellow, and he wasn’t getting fifty dollars
a day plus expenses, which apparently was the going rate for Los
Angeles private detectives.
“The Los Angeles detectives hired by Dr. Finch to follow Mrs.
Finch for a couple of days were paid by the day. But then the
defendants go over to Las Vegas and give this fellow over a
thousand dollars in a lump sum to do a job.
“What was that job?”
He put it as a question but his tone and his expression as his
eyes swept the defense line-up at the counsel table made the
answer clear without words.
He charged Carole and her lover with “a compelling motive” to
kill Mrs. Finch — a motive powered as much by greed as by
passion. He told the jury, quietly but mercilessly, that he
believed they should die for it. “I say to you, ladies and
gentlemen, by overwhelming evidence in this case, we have
established beyond even a possible doubt the guilt of these
defendants on both counts contained in the indictment.
“Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with
malice aforethought. If it is willed and planned as it was by
these two, it is murder in the first degree. If they conspired
together the murder of Barbara Jean Finch, they are guilty of
murder in the first degree.”
When it was his turn, Carole Tregoff’s defense counsel pictured
the redhead as a guileless, guiltless girl — as innocent as a
child in a fairy tale.
On the night of July 18, when she climbed the suburban hill to
the scene where Barbara Jean Finch was shot and killed, she had no
idea that she would encounter “violence and deadly weapons pointed
Carole was carrying a case belonging to Dr. Finch, her lover,
but she did not know what was in it.
“The evidence shows not only that Miss Tregoff had no knowledge
of the contents of the bag, but she had never seen it,” Mr. Neeb
declared. “There is no evidence here that she saw any of the
contents, touched any of the contents, handled any of the
contents, put anything into this bag, or knew what the doctor
anybody else had put into it.”
As he protested Carole’s complete innocence of murder or
conspiracy to murder, Mr. Neeb said: “The prosecution in this case
is trying to make something evil out of the fact that this young
lady didn’t remember every single little detail when she was
questioned in Las Vegas and West Covina. They tried to impeach
her with the dog. Mr. Crail, the prosecutor here, said to her on
cross-examination, ‘You didn’t tell the police officers you
played with the dog.’
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, nobody ever asked her about the
dog or about what she and the doctor did while they were waiting
for Mrs. Finch to arrive.
“When the prosecution has to rely on little things like that
they certainly don’t have very much faith in their case.”
Here, Mr. Neeb made a point more valiant than valid. In
referring to the incident with the dog as “a little thing” he
differed sharply with the prosecution’s view, which was that
Carole and Dr. Finch concocted the story about playing with the
dog after they realized the gloves had been discovered.
Mr. Neeb accused the prosecution of unfairly criticizing Carole
for failing to remember many things about the night of the
shooting when she was first questioned, although by trial time she
was able to recall the crucial events with greater clarity.
“How often has it happened to one of us, ladies and gentlemen,
that we forget something and all of a sudden, a word, a sight — a
sound — a gesture — will bring it back.
“Forgive me for being personal about this, but I would like to
tell you how this happened recently to me. I was in an auto
accident — quite a bad accident. I was hit by a truck in a
head-on highway collision and my head was injured. I don’t
remember that accident. I could take that witness stand and
testify under oath that I recall very little of it.
“But, I promise you, that while I was sitting at this trial,
listening to the evidence, trying to concentrate on that testimony
and the interest of my client, little flicks of that occurrence
would come back to me, and I remember more about it now than I did
the day after it happened.”
Moving closer to the jury box, Mr. Neeb looked from one to the
other, and after a dramatic pause, said: “nd you know the mind is
more affected by emotion than by a physical accident. Certainly
it was an emotional shock when Miss Tregoff entered that garage on
that night and suddenly there was violence and a deadly weapon
pointed at her. Miss Tregoff explained her emotions to Mr.
Crail. She said, and I quote, ‘I didn’t know what was going on,
“That is very important. Remember that. She said she didn’t
know what was going on. Unless there is a knowledgeable
participation in a crime, there is no crime.
“Miss Tregoff told the prosecutor, ‘Mr. Crail, I don’t remember
— it was just such a nightmare,’ and that certainly is good
description of what happened.”
Mr. Neeb accused the state of distorting Carole’s testimony and
u sing the phrase “sitting on the lawn” to describe what she did
after she fled the garage.
“She was not sitting on the lawn,” Mr. Neeb said. “She
said she had dirt on her face. You don’t get dirt sitting on te
lawn. This is the act of a person in a situation where things are
not as she thinks they should be, and therefore she hid.
“Remember she used the word ‘horrified.’ She said, ‘I
completely panicked’ – which I certainly think is a description of
He implored the jurors to regard her terrified state with
sympathy and understanding a human reaction to a frightening
“Remember, ladies and gentlemen, she mentioned that she had a
childhood experience or experiences which she did not want to talk
about. I do not know what they were but I imagine she has
experienced violence or witnessed violence of some kind and when
she was a child she said she had frozen and run and hid.
(Carole said after the trial that when she was five she had
seen her mother attack her stepfather with a knife and had hid in
“This again is important to show the mental state of this
girl. How many times, ladies and gentlemen, has it happened to
all of u s that when we are in trouble and when there is stress we
run back to our childhood.”
Dr. Finch, he said, may have killed his wife, accidentally or
on purpose, but Carole had nothing to do with it. In a nutshell,
the alibi of the doctor’s young mistress was the ancient cop-out:
“Who, me? I was just an innocent bystander.”
“There is not a single, solitary particle of evidence that
Carole Tregoff on the night of July 18 caused injury to anyone,
used any weapon, pushed anybody, or touched any human being — and
especially not Mrs. Finch,” Neeb continued. “Unless you believe
in your heat, and your mind, and deeply in your soul, that on July
18, when the car was moving from Las Vegas to West Covina, Carole
Tregoff had in he remind an intent to kill, she is entitled to an
Laying the foundation for an appeal on the “aiding and
abetting” charge against his client, Mr. Neeb offered the jury a
parallel that did nothing to assist Dr. Finch but added weight to
his contention that Carole, although present, in no way was
involved in Mrs. Finch’s death.
“Suppose a friend of mine was having trouble with a tenant and
he asked me to go with him and see this tenant. Suppose I
furnished the car and drove it and carried a paper bag. Suppose
the paper bag had a gun in it and that I handed it to the friend
who got into an argument with the tenant and the tenant was shot
“Am I guilty of murder?
“No, because I had no knowledgable participation in the act.”
When Neeb had concluded, Grant Cooper came to bat for Dr.
Cooper was the most impressive member of an extremely
effective array of attorneys lined up for both the prosecution and
the defense. They were all good, but throughout the long
trial Cooper seemed, consistently, a shade better than the rest of
them. His style was quiet; he underplayed. Still, he had the
skilled actor’s trick of making the audience — in this case the
jury — focus on him even when another member of the cast was
speaking. It was Cooper’s task to persuade them, in his final
argument, that Dr. Finch never intended to kill Barbara Jean Finch
on the night of July 18 or any other night, that he never plotted
with John Patrick Cody to have her killed.
He pointed out that when man and wife are incompatible and on
the verge of divorce, it is perfectly normal for one or the other,
or both, to do a little name-calling, and to tell her friends that
her husband was a beast.
But he maintained that Mrs. Finch’s revelations of her “fear”
of her husband, as reported by her friends after the fact, were
just window-dressing to the divorce action: obviously Barbara was
not as terrified as she pretended to be, or she would have done
something positive — fled, instead of just talking about it.
Cooper did everything within his eloquent power to destroy the
evidence given by John Patrick Cody. He scoffed at the
prosecution’s theory that Carole assigned the hapless hood to
eliminate Mrs. Finch; he begged the jurors to laugh at the picture
of Carole and the doctor casually, frankly, elaborately
instructing Cody on the subject of homicide.
As Grant Cooper went into action, even the defendants in the
celebrated trial became secondary characters; the lawyer was the
star. The courtroom couldn’t hold all the judges, lawyers, and
ordinary citizens who wanted to hear him make his ultimate plea.
(Demand for seats was so gret he was not even sure he could find a
place in the courtroom for his wife to listen to his final
His magnetism is difficult to describe, but it was always
apparent in the courtroom. He was handsome, with a thick shock of
gray hair rising from a widow’s peak and expressive hands that
moved almost as in a ballet when he examined a witness or
addressed the court. His voice was low and mellifluous; when he
smiled his eyes crinkled at the corners and he seemed to say, “Oh,
He told the jury that Marie Anne Lindholm’s testimony — the
most damaging of any witness — actually confirmed Dr. Finch’s own
account of the shooting. Marie Anne said under oath that she did
not see a gun in the doctor’s hand as he got out of his wife’s car
and followed her from the garage moments before she died. In an
impassioned plea, Cooper asked the jury to be fair to the accused
surgeon and to note that the maid’s version on two points helped
“Dr. Finch told you when he was on the witness stand that he
did not have possession of the gun when Mrs. Finch ran out of the
garage. At that time, he said, the gun was in Mrs. Finch’s
possession. In all fairness, if you believe some of her
testimony, please believe what helps Dr. Finch as well as what
If anyone could make the jurors forget the impact of the
state’s case against Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff, Grant Cooper
was that person. Under his spell, it was not always easy to
remember whether Dr. Finch wa son trial for the murder of his wife
or running for President of the United States.
The Cooper charm, combined with the Cooper logic, already had
made the Los Angeles police seem inordinately stupid — because
they took a look at the body of Barbara Jean Finch on the night of
July 18, observed that she had been shot in the back, and deduced
instantly that she had been murdered.
A woman doesn’t shoot herself in the back and then make the gun
disappear, so it couldn’t have been suicide; therefore the
gendarmes leaped to the conclusion that it had to be murder.
They never thought of the possibility of accidental homicide. And
that, according to Dr. Finch and his handsome counsel, was exactly
what it was. But the cops decided it was murder and proceeded
with that in mind. In their pursuit of error they had brashly
arrested Dr. Finch.
“The wheels of the law started turning and they are turning to
this day,” Mr. Cooper told the jury with an air of resignation and
Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff broke the Ten Commandments in a
“reprehensible” manner, the doctor’s lawyer admitted. But he
begged the jury not to send the pair to the gas chamber for those
particular sins. “There is no question about it. Dr. Finch
cheated on his wife, violated a couple of the Commandments,
committed adultery, lied to his wife and deceived her. But he did
not murder her. Ladies and gentlemen, for every man who commits
adultery, there must be a woman. [A brilliant observation, I
“But I say to you and every person in the courtroom, ‘Let him
who is without sin cast the first stone.’ I don’t condone the
reprehensible conduct of my client and his co-defendant. But they
were not the first and they won’t be the last.
“But remember, ladies and gentlemen, you promised when you were
chosen as jurors in this case to disregard the life that they had
led, of which you might disapprove. It has no bearing on the
indictment in this case.
“The cast of characters in the alleged conspiracy wasn’t chosen
by the prosecution, of course. They are stuck with it John
Patrick Cody unfortunately was chosen by Carole Tregoff. He wa
hired by her and by my client, to tail Mrs. Finch and, if
necessary, compromise her to get evidence against her in the
divorce case which was coming up, and they are paying dearly for
“I have nothing but scorn and derision for my client for doing
that. But sometimes people do very silly and foolish things. I
believe in England and New York, where adultery is the only
grounds for divorce, there are people you can hire to do that very
thing and it is a common practice.”
Cody, Cooper charged, told his weird story of the plot to
murder Mrs Finch because he was in jail in Minneapolis, serving
time for two offenses, and hoped, by playing ball with the
authorities, to get a reduction of his sentence.
“John Patrick Cody saw an opportunity for freedom — whether or
not it was promised to him I can’t tell you. But he thought it
would benefit by cooperating with the police and the district
“Freedom is a powerful, powerful motive. Cody’s motive when he
told his story which you heard at this trial was freedom on one
hand, money on the other. And I will illustrate that for you
Mr. Cooper picked up one of the many gray-covered volumes of
trial testimony and referred to Cody’s explanation of why he did
not talk to the Los Angeles authorities immediately after they
arrived in Minneapolis in September to question him in the jail.
“Here is what Cody said,” Mr. Cooper declared. “He said, ‘I
waited for Dr. Finch to send somebody to help me.’ He knew it had
been i the papers that Don Williams and Richard Keachie had talked
in Las Vegas, and this man who lived by his wits — who never
worked at an honest job for more than two or three days in his
life, who admitted he would cheat and lie and steal — saw an
“He couldn’t lose anyway. If a lawyer or an investigator for
Dr. Finch had made the trip to Minneapolis to talk to Cody, you
know what he would have said. He would have said, ‘Let me have
some mony or I’ll tell a story and I’ll tell it to the district
“Now, Cody was in jail for passing a bad check — that was a
one-year sentence — and for breaking out of jail, another one-year
sentence. He saw a chance for parole.
“And I’ll tell you this. I think nit is significant. No one
from Dr. Finch’s side came running to Cody in Minneapolis. No
lawyer, no investigator. So after he had waited long enough, he
told his story to the prosecution, and made it a good one.
“Some philosopher — not Cody or Keachie — once said, ‘A lie
needs a truth for a handle.’ Cody knew just enough of the truth
for a handle to attach to his lie.”
Mr. Cooper cited the information Cody had about Mrs. Finch: he
knew the make and license number of her car, the addresses of her
best girl friend and her hairdresser, the location of the West
Covina house and the tennis club she belonged to. He noted that
this was exactly the ame information Dr. Finch had at one time
furnished a legitimate Los Angeles Private detective.
The dramatic difference of opinion between Carole’s defense
counsel and Dr. Finch’s attorney was revealed in the final hours
of Mr. Cooper’s climactic address to the jury. He dropped a
bombshell by contesting the Tregoff side’s interpretation of the
Standing before the wooden box housing the all-important five
men and seven women, he confided: “I don’t know any way to
soft-pedal this. So I guess I might as well face up to it. I
don’t like to disagree with my brethren on the same side of the
table, and I hate to agree with the prosecution. But I think Mr.
Neeb is wrong.”
He took the position that no conspiracy to murder the doctor’s
wife ever existed between the lovers privately or between them and
the Las Vegas triumvirate — John Patrick Coy, Richard Keachie, an
Don S. Williams.
But, he argued, if the jury found Dr. Finch guilty of
conspiracy to murder, and Carole was his colleague and accomplice
in the design to commit the murder, she must pay the same penalty
as he, even if she was nowhere n ear the gun that killed the
troublesome wife, even if she didn’t witness the shooting.
It was a curious end to his summation, and it seemed to lead to
Assistant District Attorney Whichello’s charge, in his summing up,
that although Carole did not pull the trigger of the gun that
killed Barbara Jean Finch, she might have well because she
“propelled” the murder.
In his final attempt to send both defendants to the gas
chamber, Prosecutor Whichello did not spare the woman in the
case. He warned the jury that he was thinking of the dead Barbara
— “battered, broken and butchered” by the two accused — and trying
to obtain justice for her by asking for a verdict of murder in the
He ridiculed the contention that Carole was capable of falling
into a catatonic trance, as when she hid i the bushes, saying she
was in no trance except the trance of guilt. He compared her with
Shakespeare’s lethal Lady Macbeth, who looked at her murderous
right hand in horror and cried, “Out, damned spot.”
In the state’s opinion nothing could wash away the blood of
Barbara Finch except the ultimate expiation — the death penalty.
Speaking with astonishing vigor and vindictiveness, the usually
fatherly Whichello made it clear he was not concentrating on the
sins of the surgeon and forgetting his mistress. “If he is
guilty, she is guilty,” he said. “I think actually she was the
aggressor,” he added. “She instigated the plot and he carried it
“The defense of Grant Cooper was beautifully executed and
beautifully delivered,” Mr. Whichello conceded. “But notice that
it was an example of grasping for straws — a hanging-on to such
little things because that was all Mr. Cooper had to clutch at.
“The case comes down to one simple proposition. The basic
question is, did that bullet that coursed through the body of
Barbara Jean Finch on the night of the tragedy result from a
deliberate action of Dr. Finch or was it an unfortunate accident?
“There is o question that the gun was in the hand of Dr. Finch
when it was fired at this lady. Now I ask you to consider the
significant things that were not found — Mrs. Finch’s purse, her
wristwatch, the gun that killed her. How do you explain their
“There is no question as to whether the defendant Finch wanted
the divorce. He didn’t. He told you that. His testimony is
replete with it — he tried to talk his wife out of it, he
‘stalled,’ to use his own word. He found it financially
inconvenient for her to seek the divorce. But he was not averse
to the nice clean demise of his spouse. That was much pleasanter
than a divorce action.”
The jurors appeared enthralled as the usually bland
Whichello suddenly turned tiger. He spoke so rapidly it was hard
for the court stenotypists to keep up with him.
The prosecutor maintained that Dr. Finch and Carole went to the
Finch garage in West Covina “at a most unusual hour, in the middle
of the night” to ambush Mrs. Finch, not o talk with her,
because they knew if they sought to make an appointment for a
conference she would flee from them.
“They didn’t make the trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to
tell Mrs. Finch about this wonderful new plan the doctor had — the
plan for her to get a ‘quickie’ divorce in Nevada, a plan which
would destroy all the advantages she had for obtaining a favorable
financial settlement — they made the trip to hide and lie in wait
for her, because they knew if she saw them, or if she saw Carole’s
car, she would turn and run away.”
Accusing the defense of presenting a ridiculous, unbelievable
story, the prosecutor outlined his version of what happened at the
Finch home on the night of July 18.
“He knew he would have to ambush her. He couldn’t drag her out
of the house and kill her with the housemaid there, and the
children. So he arrived at a ridiculous hour to discuss an absurd
plan for divorce — but a fine time for an ambush murder.
“He actually ‘scouted’ the scene of the murder. He went ahead
of the defendant Pappa, went by way of his father’s house, which
was the long way, because he didn’t want to be seen by this lady
who was afraid of him and would have fled if she saw him
“He saw the coast was clear — the garage door was always open,
we know that, so he could see Mrs. Finch hadn’t returned — and he
went down and reported to Mrs. Pappa that the coast was clear. So
she came up the path, bringing the murder kit.
“Sometimes when I think of her bringing that kit up the hill, I
think of the terrible analogy to surgery,” the prosecutor said.
“I think of the doctor saying, ‘Suture,’ to his assistant. It’s a
grim analogy. But here comes the surgical team up the hill to
take care of Mrs. Finch. The attaché case contained a splendid
selection of lethal items. Perhaps not all of them were
necessary, but they were consistent with a reasonably flexible
plan to kill somebody. This was a murder committed by lying in
wait — by lurking.
“Certain things have to be met by the defense. The waiting,
the time consumed as the defendants waited for Mrs. Finch to
arrive. They tried to account for the time. THey looked at the
view from the hill. They played with the dog. Then they blew up
the surgical gloves to amuse the dog. Here is an absurdity piled
upon an absurdity. The doctor admitted on the stand he had never
done such a thing before, he had never heard of any of his
colleagues doing such a thing to play with a dog.
“It seems exceedingly odd to take sterile surgical gloves and
blow them up and then carefully put the package they came in back
into the case — but that was done. They had to account for the
fragments of the gloves that were found at the scene, and for the
time consumed before Mrs. Finch returned home, and that is how
they accounted for it. If they had been honest people on an
honest errand, do you think they would have been blowing up gloves
to play with the dog? Or would they have announced themselves at
the house and gone in and waited?”
Mr. Whichello reminded the jurors that two pairs of gloves were
used at the scene of the alleged murder — one by the doctor and
the other by Carole, his alleged “assistant” in the crime.
“I submit this grim analogy to surgery is reasonable here,” Mr.
Whichello said. “We have the wo of them putting on rubber gloves
to operate on Mrs. Finch.”
Opening the leather case — Exhibit 40 — ad extracting a tiny
paper envelope, the prosecutor waved it in front of the men and
women who would decide the fate of the defendants.
“This could answer your whole case — this little piece of
paper,” he said. “Here you have a deliberate tearing open of this
envelope to get at the powder it contains. This is not to help
blow up the gloves to play with the dog, but to put on gloves.
The powder is a dry lubricant. They put on the gloves so they
would have no fingerprints at the scene of the crime. They were
lying in wait to ambush Mrs. Finch.”
The assistant district attorney scored an effective point when
he asked the jurors to conjecture why Mrs. Finch cried for help
during the death struggle in the garage.
“Marie Anne Lindholm heard her cries and dashed out to the
garage,” he said. “Why was Mrs. Finch yelling for help if she had
the gun, as the defendants have testified? Was she calling for
someone to help her shoot someone?
“Another absurdity, ladies and gentlemen. She didn’t have the
gun. Dr. Finch had it. He had it and he struck her with it,
fracturing her skull, and when she broke and ran, heading for his
father’s house to seek refuge, he shot her with it.”
After the prosecution finished its summation the jurors waited
for final instructions from Judge Evans.
The courtroom doors were locked according to tradition and the
judge began, in his deep rumbling voice, to explain the rules
under which their verdict must be returned.
Carole and Dr. Finch could receive identical or different
verdicts. A door could open for more of them and close on the
other. THey were tried jointly, but the law did not link them
Judge Evans permitted the jury to bring in any one — or two —
of six possible verdicts:
Guilty of murder in the first degree.
Guilty of murder in the second degree.
Guilty of the conspiracy to murder.
Not guilty of murder.
Not guilty of conspiracy to murder.
But the curtain was to drop abruptly on the sensational trial
when after days of deliberation, the jury announced that it was
Grant Cooper commented that he was “terribly disappointed.”
District Attorney McKesson declared: “I would say we are obligated
now to retry the case. We are convinced that these person s
should be put on trial under charges as returned by the grand jury
which returned the original indictments. The fact this jury has
not agreed does not change our opinion.”
This is how the jury that couldn’t agree stood after they were
Ten wanted Dr. Finch convicted of murder; two insisted on
Four voted guilty for Carole in both the murder and the
conspiracy; eight voted not guilty.
The same four believed Dr. Finch guilty of conspiracy to murder
his wife; the same eight jurors found him not guilty of the
The most astonishing revelation came when it was learned that
Dr. Finch could thank the vagaries of human nature fo the fact
that he was as yet convicted of nothing. The jury turned out to
be a miniature hotbed of racial prejudice. Hatred had flared.
There was a Negro on the jury and a citizen of Mexican
extraction. They said the other ten jurors belittled them and
called them “names that could not be repeated.”
“It would shock you,” one of them told me. “There were even
women on that jury that said thins you would not believe. They
looked down on me. They insulted us. I was in the war. I fought
for my country. Compared to this experience, war was heaven and
serving on this jury was hell.”
Those two felt that they were being treated with disrespect by
the other ten, and in a sense they joined forces. Nonetheless,
their reasons for refusing to go along with the majority were not
racial. They had honest doubts about some of the evidence.
When the mistrial was declared, the jurors stood ten to two for
convicting Dr. Finch. On the other hand, there was a great deal
of sympathy for Carole. The four persons who did not sympathize
with her, but voted her guilty on both counts of the indictment,
were members of her own sex.
The jurors all, apparently, felt like the “Las Vegas
conspiracy” existed — nobody bought Dr. Finch’s story that John
Patrick Cody had been hired as a detective to gather divorce
evidence against Mrs. Finch — but the dissenting jurors would not
find either Carole or the surgeon guilty of the conspiracy because
Cody was not a co-defendant.
THey reasoned that there was evidence to show that Carole had
conspired with Cody in Las Vegas, but there was no evidence
adduced at the trial to show that Dr. Finch and Carole had
conspired with each other to kill Mrs. Finch. They said that if
Cody had been a defendant at the trial, he and the doctor and the
doctor’s mistress would have been found guilty of murder in the
The jurors — even the bitter hold-outs – agreed they
would have found Dr. Finch guilty of manslaughter if that finding
had been permissible. But at the urgent request of the
prosecution, Judge Evans had not included the option of a
manslaughter verdict in his charge to the jury.
One of the alternate jurors said: “I think that’s where the
jury system is wrong — in the selection of the jury. I believe
the state should go into their personal lives, probe deeply and
select people of intellectual ability to serve and then pay them
decently for it. It would be less expensive in the long run.
Unless they make some pretty sharp revisions of the jury system, I
would feel that should I ever be charged with a crime, God forbid,
I would go in the judge and say ‘I’ll stand trial before a judge,
nor a jury.’”
The second trial began on November 20, 1960, and again ended in
a hung jury and a mistrial.
Why were these lovers still neither convicted nor acquitted?
Why had two juries failed to agree on their guilt or innocence?
The answers lay in the stormy, querulous deliberations of these
juries — thirty-seven and a half hours of argument in the first
trial; seventy-one hours of argument in the second.
The second trial had a most unusual judge. He told the jurors,
after they had been deliberating for sixty-three hours, that in
his opinion the evidence showed “a willful and deliberate taking
of human life” — which is the key element in first degree murder.
As the jurors filed back into the jury room to resume their
wrangling, one of the jurors said in a voice loud enough to be
heard in the courtroom: “Did you hear what he said? He’s got a
lot of nerve!”
The third trial, which began on January 3, 1961, produced no
headlines, no reporters, no pyrotechnics of any sort. Dr. Finch
and Carole Tregoff were convicted on March 27 of murder in the
second degree, and on April 5, 1961, they were sentenced to life
imprisonment, with parole possible after seven years.
In a “recap” after the third and last trial I said: “Dr. Bernie
and his redhead got what they deserved — a verdict of guilty.”
That was on April 2, 1961. I see no reason now to change that
opinion. All you need to do is go back over the evidence, as I
did, to see how the massive case for the prosecution far
outweighed that of the defense. Of course, it seems almost
unbelievable that a man of Finch’s background, education, and
training could have been so utterly stupid. But the evidence is
there: HE found himself confronted with ruin because his wife had
everything he owned tied up legally. In his raging mind only one
act would free him from that millstone around his neck. And he
thought he was smart enough to get away with it.
The strangest aspect of the whole affair was the failure of two
juries to come to a verdict. That continues to baffle me. What
leads twenty-four eligible citizens virtually to ignore fact and
dwell almost entirely on emotion during their deliberations? For
that is what happened in both trials. In only the third trial, in
an atmosphere of calm and detached observance of the merits of the
case, did reason prevail? This question of reality opposed by
fantasy in so solemn a ritual as a trial by jury for a capital
crime has always interested me. Only a few years before, I had
seen what seemed to me to be a miscarriage of justice when, in the
case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the jury reached a verdict for which, I
am convinced, there was no justification at all in the evidence.