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Leonard Ewing SCOTT





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - The body was never found - To collect bank accounts and safe deposit boxes
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 16, 1955
Date of arrest: March 9, 1956
Date of birth: 1897
Victim profile: His wife, Evelyn Throsby Scott, 63
Method of murder: Striking on the head with a rubber mallet?
Location: Bel Air, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on December 27, 1957. Released in 1978. Died on August 17, 1987
photo gallery

Robert Leonard Ewing Scott was convicted in 1959, in California, of having murdered his wife. This is notable because it is one of the first cases to establish a "bodyless" murder, that is, a murder in which no body had been discovered to bear out that there had been a crime.

The Marriage

L. Ewing Scott, and his wife Evelyn Throsby Scott (né Mumper), having met at a society party and married in Mexico, shared a considerable wealth that Evelyn possessed prior to their marriage. After five years of marriage, on May 16, 1955, Evelyn went missing. Concerned friends were given various explanations by Scott- that Evelyn had been hospitalized, or had run off.

In July, 1955, Leonard Scott began a relationship with a divorcée named Harriet Livermore.

On March 5, 1956, Evelyn's brother Raymond Throsby, suspicious of Leonard, reported Evelyn's disappearance to the police, beginning the investigation.

The Investigation and Trial

Los Angeles police arrested Scott and charged him with forgery and fraud for the looting of his wife’s bank accounts after they visited Evelyn's safe deposit boxes and found only envelopes filled with sand, as Leonard had withdrawn large sums from Evelyn's safe deposit boxes and deposited those funds in his own accounts.

Having been indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury on 13 counts of forgery and theft, but released on $25,000 bail, Scott fled to Canada. He was arrested a year later, on April 9, 1957, when Canadian customs authorities stopped him as he was re-entering Canada after a visit to Detroit to buy a car. During his absence, the grand jury had produced an additional indictment against Scott for murder.

Although Evelyn's body was never found, her dentures, eyeglasses, and some of her personal items were found among buried ashes near the incinerator on the couple's estate located at 217 North Bentley Ave., in the affluent Bel Air community of Los Angeles.

Scott's case was groundbreaking, as it was the first case in U.S. history of someone being convicted of murder purely on circumstantial evidence, without the victim's body having been located.

After being convicted of the murder, Scott was given a life sentence. In December of 1959, the appeals court upheld his conviction, despite his complaint that the original trial court had failed to establish corpus delicti.

Ewing was released in 1978. Parole was offered in 1974, but Ewing refused, claiming that it did not apply, as he was being wrongfully held. After his release, he admitted that he had committed the murder. He died in 1987 at age 91.


Murder in Bel Air

Evelyn Kiernan Lewis Pettit Mumper Scott was unlucky at love, but could take solace in the fact that she had prospered nicely as a result. By the time she was 63, Evelyn had been twice divorced and twice widowed and was married to her fifth husband, Leonard Ewing Scott. She was also quite wealthy.

On May 16, 1955, Evelyn Scott dropped out of sight and was never heard from again. An investigation into her disappearance showed no signs of murderous violence in the Scott household or any other place she was known to frequent.

Other evidence suggested, however, that Ewing Scott murdered his wife for her money.

Just when Scott decided to kill Evelyn was never revealed, but after she vanished, it appeared that he had long had designs on her money and was taking steps to make it his own.

Soon after Ewing and Evelyn married in Las Vegas, he took control over her finances. In 1951, after a disagreement with an E.F. Hutton broker, Scott forced his wife to close her account there and liquidate her holdings. He told the broker and various acquaintances that he was a skilled investor and would handle things for his wife.

Scott claimed a horrible fear of atomic war as the reason that he wanted Evelyn to convert her holdings into more liquid investments, and on more than one occasion he told friends that the Scotts had cash deposited in safe deposit boxes around the country.

It turns out that his reason for preferring cash had a more criminal basis.

There is evidence that Scott physically intimidated his wife into acquiesing to his demands.

Shortly after the Scotts returned from their honeymoon, their cook heard the crash of some object in their bedroom. The next morning, she saw that Evelyn had a bruise on her cheek. Evelyn claimed she had tripped and fallen, but Scott told the cook, “Well, I just slapped the wind out of her.”

As is typical of abusers, Scott spied on his wife and asked that the cook help him. He insisted that the cook listen in on his wife’s phone calls, and when she refused, he terminated her.

In the months leading up to her disappearance, Scott hinted that Evelyn was quite ill.

“Mrs. Scott is in terrible shape,” one witness testified that Scott repeatedly said. “I had an awful time with her last night.”

However, on multiple occasions when friends questioned Evelyn about her health, she responded that she was fine. Evidence presented at Scott’s trial by her physicians bore this out.

Scott alleged that Evelyn was a heavy drinker and that her alcohol abuse was becoming more problematic. He told friends that eventually she would have to be hospitalized.

Once, when a friend called and asked to speak to her, Scott refused, saying Evelyn was “standing in the bedroom holding a bottle of whisky and cursing.”

On the afternoon of May 16, 1955, the Scotts test drove a new car and Scott told the salesman that the couple was considering living abroad, either in Spain or Portugal. Aside from Scott, Quast, the salesman was the last person to see Evelyn Scott alive.

Very likely, sometime that evening Evelyn Scott was killed by her husband, who proceeded to dispose of her body to the extent that it was never found.

Evelyn was fastidious about her appearance and had a standing appointment at a local beauty parlor. On May 17, Scott called the salon and cancelled his wife’s appointment for that date and for all subsequent appointments.

Two days after that, he forged his wife’s signature on a card giving him access to her safe deposit boxes. At that time, the bank was reluctant to give him access, but he claimed she was ill and unable to appear at the bank. That same day, he opened several bank accounts around town, depositing large sums of cash — presumably from the safe deposit box he had just looted.

A week later, he called an insurance agent and cancelled the policies she kept on her jewelry.

Shortly after Evelyn’s disappearance, a housekeeper arrived to perform cleaning chores. She questioned where Evelyn was and Scott told her she had “become ill during the week and had gone away.” The housekeeper pointed out that Evelyn had left behind a favorite dressing gown. She also noted that none of Evelyn’s makeup or toiletries were missing.

During the summer of 1955, Scott gave the housekeeper several purses and handkerchiefs belonging to his wife. Once, as she was cleaning, the housekeeper came across a dress that was smaller than anything Evelyn could wear. She swore that it was not there in May.

On May 30, Scott terminated the employment of a part-time driver and handyman his wife used. He told the man that Evelyn had “gone east” because she was ill and that he was planning to close up the house and follow her.

“I’m discouraged with the way the doctors are making no headway with her diagnosis,” he told the handyman. “The only thing they have decided on is that she doesn’t have cancer. I’m afraid there is something wrong with her mentally.”

In mid-June on at least two separate occasions, Scott told close friends of Evelyn’s that she had been taken ill and that he was moving her to a sanitarium in Baltimore or New York City.

That summer other friends stopped by the Bel Air home but were unsuccessful in getting any information. Despite positive indications that someone was home, no one would answer the bell.

In July 1955, he started taking up with Harriet Livermore, whom he told a tale that Evelyn had abandoned him while he was out running an errand. He claimed that his wife was an alcoholic lesbian. When Harriet asked why he did not divorce his wife, he said he was waiting for seven years to pass so he could have her declared legally dead.

Scott’s relationship with Harriet Livermore stalled after he invited her to travel to Guatemala with him and she declined.

A month later, Scott met Marianne Beaman, who was a frequent overnight guest in the Bel Air home (according to court testimony). Marianne and Scott traveled around the Western United States. In November 1955, they went to Las Vegas, where they stayed as Mr. and Mrs. Scott. He gave Marianne several of Evelyn’s pieces of jewelry as well as luggage and furniture.

For the better part of a year, Scott continued to live in the Bel Air home, brushing off all attempts by Evelyn’s friends to gather more details about her fate. He refused to provide anyone with contact information and simply said that she was “not doing well” in the sanitarium.

Evelyn’s personal attorney and her brother, Raymond Throsby, both tried unsuccessfully to find where she had gone. In November 1955, Throsby, who had been living in the South Pacific, went to the Bel Air home and apparently surprised his brother-in-law.

“Scott turned white and told me ‘You’re the last person in the world I expected to see here,’” Throsby said later. He asked Scott where his sister was and Scott told him, “She is out. She is on a drunk.”

Responding to Throsby’s allegations that Scott had killed her, Scott denied the claim and said that Evelyn had disappeared and that they communicated with each other by leaving notes beneath a vase outside the house.

On March 5, 1956, Throsby reported his sister’s disappearance to police, who began investigating.

Three days later, detectives searched the Bel Air residence and discovered evidence that Evelyn was very likely dead. In the heavy brush behind the house, buried in several inches of dirt, they found Evelyn’s dentures and two pairs of eyeglasses. The eyeglasses and dentures were found in a pile of ashes.

In the incinerator, investigators found nearly two dozen hose fasteners “usually present on women’s garments,” some belt buckles and fabric. In the brush behind the house, police also found Evelyn’s black porcelin cigarette holder.

Her dentist and her opthamologist both told police that it was unlikely that Evelyn would have gone anywhere without her dentures or her glasses. The dentures were necessary to hold her natural teeth in place and she was apparently quite blind without the glasses.

In an interview with police, Scott said his wife had abandoned him while he went out to run an errand and that he had found her car abandoned on a nearby street. There was no evidence in the car of foul play, but Scott admitted to having spent considerable time cleaning it up after he found it. He said birds had soiled the car.

Scott was arrested for forgery and fraud for looting his wife’s bank accounts after police visited her safe deposit boxes and found only envelopes filled with sand.

A little more than a year after Evelyn disappeared, Scott was indicted for forgery and theft. He posted bail and immediately fled to Canada, where he remained on the lam until April 9, 1957. Scott was arrested in Detroit as he attempted to cross back into the United States.

He was put on trial and the jury convicted him of murder, citing a mountain of circumstantial evidence. Using the argument that the State of California had failed to establish the corpus delicti, Scott appealed his conviction. In December 1959 the appeals court upheld his conviction and life sentence.


The Lady Vanishes

Jan. 06, 1958

On the afternoon of May 16, 1955, according to L. (for Leonard) Ewing Scott, his wife Evelyn sent him to a drugstore to buy her some tooth powder. When he got back to their $75,000 house in west Los Angeles' expensive Bel Air section, she had vanished, leaving behind no note, no indication of where she had gone or why.

Scott never reported the disappearance to the police. He was used to eccentric behavior in his hard-drinking wife, he later explained. When friends asked about Evelyn, Scott said that she was under treatment in a distant sanitarium. Ten months passed, and then at last the cops came around. Searching the house and its landscaped grounds, the police found some interesting objects: in the incinerator were metal snaps from a woman's underclothing, and carelessly buried under a heap of leaves on an adjoining lot were false teeth and eyeglasses later identified as Evelyn Scott's.

On the evidence of these and other circumstantial items, L. Ewing Scott was convicted of the murder of his wife, sentenced last week to life imprisonment in an unusual case in which neither a murder weapon nor a body ever was found.

Money & Looks. Evelyn and L. Ewing Scott were married in 1949, when both were in their 50s. She had plenty of money, inherited from one of her four earlier husbands. Silver-haired, dark-eyed Ewing Scott had man-of-distinction looks. He had wooed and won another woman with inherited money back in the 1930s, but that marriage ended in divorce. In the interval between two wealthy wives, Scott clerked in a paint store, but he carried a business card billing himself as an "investment broker."

The only noticeable work he did during his second marriage was writing How to Fascinate Men, a brief handbook for women. It made him no money at all: he never paid the printer's $6,818.64 bill, and a court awarded the printer all the copies.

During the six years between her wedding to Scott and her disappearance, Evelyn Throsby Scott cashed some $223,000 worth of securities, in addition to drawing about $180,000 in income from her estate. When she disappeared, there was a lot of money lying around in a dozen-odd bank accounts and safe-deposit boxes. According to subsequent testimony, Scott, using forged signatures, helped himself liberally to the money, spent a bundle of $100 bills on travel, Las Vegas gambling and gifts for a shapely divorcee.

Circumstantial Corpus.

Shortly after the police started looking into Evelyn's disappearance, a Los Angeles grand jury indicted Scott on 13 counts of forgery and theft. Jumping $25,000 bail, he fled to Canada. A year later Canadian customs officers arrested him as he was trying to re-enter Canada after buying a new 1957 Ford in Detroit. Meanwhile, the grand jury had reconsidered the case and returned a new indictment against Scott. The charge: murder.

Any devotee of fictional whodunits could plainly see that Scott did not murder his wife. Circumstantial evidence pointed to him, and in whodunits the suspect with the most evidence against him is never the murderer. Furthermore, there seemed to be no corpus delicti: in whodunits, corpus delicti means a corpse.

But in law, corpus delicti means not the body of a victim but the "body of the offense," i.e., evidence that the crime in question has been committed. Even in murder cases that evidence can be circumstantial. In California over the years, at least five defendants had been convicted of murdering victims whose bodies were never found.

Unconvincing Witnesses.

During Scott's eleven-week trial, the defense produced witnesses who testified that they had seen Evelyn Scott after May 16, 1955. Apparently none of this testimony convinced the jurors: after deliberating for 29 hours they found L. Ewing Scott guilty of first-degree murder. Two days later the jury sat again to fix the sentence of life imprisonment.*

Scott kept right on protesting that his wife must be alive somewhere. "If there is anyone who has any idea where she is or knows anything about her," he said to newsmen, "I would like them to communicate with my attorney."

* Under a new California law, a jury that convicts a defendant of a capital crime must then decide, in a separate proceeding, between tha death penalty and life imprisionment



In the teeth of the evidence

The Daily Mirror

Oct. 16-18, 1957 - Los Angeles

In its opening days, the Leonard Ewing Scott murder trial has focused Evelyn Scott's eyeglasses and dentures, which were found behind the couple's Bel-Air home by police investigating her May 16, 1955, disappearance.

The presentation by Deputy Dist. Atty. J. Miller Leavy (at right with Capt. Arthur G. Hertel, Times photo by Jack Gaunt) was part of a mountain of evidence he planned to present exhausting all possibilities that the 63-year-old woman was still alive. This would include establishing a detailed pattern of her behavior that came to an abrupt halt when she vanished.

Not that Ewing Scott was terribly upset that his wife was gone. He never filed a missing persons report and, in fact, rebuffed questions from friends and relatives about where she might be, saying that she had run off or he had put her in a sanitarium to cure her alleged alcoholism. The matter only became public in March 1956, when her brother E. Raymond Throsby filed a petition asking to be appointed guardian of her estate.

On March 10, 1956, The Times photographed detectives using 6-foot steel rods to probe the grounds around the home at 217 S. Bentley in search of a body. Although they didn't find anything, Capt. Arthur G. Hertel was more successful in exploring an area on an adjoining lot behind the incinerator, which was built into a retaining wall along the property line.

"For a while I walked along the top of the wall," Hertel testified. "Then I got down on the ground and removed some leaves and scratched--with my hands."

The first item he found was a set of dentures under 4 or 5 inches of leaves, partially buried and encrusted with dirt and mud. Hertel cleared the leaves from an area about 2 feet by 18 inches, discovering partially dissolved gelatin capsules and white pills, an empty Eff-Remin can, a hairbrush, a tube of oily material (presumably hair dressing), a short piece of dog chain, a cigarette holder, a large number of cigarette filters and "wampum jewelry."

About 10 feet down the hill west of the incinerator, Hertel found a pair of glasses. "They were on the surface of a thin layer of leaves above the ground, exposed to view at a casual glance directly under a heavily leaved bush," he said. Another 10 feet away, Hertel found another pair of glasses.

"They were partially embedded in a heap of ashes," he said. "The lower portion of the lens was covered by ashes but the bow was exposed," The Times said. "They were encrusted with dirt, mud and ashes."

Hertel testified that the items had apparently been on the adjoining property for some time because the leaves that covered them were loose on top but matted and partially disintegrated underneath. His impression was that the glasses had been washed downhill by rain rather than thrown.

" 'Tossed' is not a good word," he said. " 'Thrown' is not a good word. 'Placed' is not a good word. They were just there."

Defense attorney P. Basil Lambros objected vigorously, but was overruled when Leavy moved to introduce the items into evidence.

"They have not been tied in any manner to the problem that faces us with corpus delicti. They are immaterial, incompetent and irrelevant. There is no proof of how they got there, if they were there... It would be just as easy to introduce Mrs. Scott's hat and say it was found in the yard. The prosecution is saying that because they were found there Scott killed his wife."

On cross-examination by Lambros, Hertel testified that the items had not been checked for fingerprints, blood or hair because their weathered condition convinced him that nothing would be found. He also said that none of the items had been photographed before they were recovered.

Hertel testified that Ewing Scott watched from a balcony as he explored the area where the items were found. He testified that he heard Scott ask: "What are they doing down there?"

What followed was exhaustive testimony from Evelyn Scott's dentist, Dr. R.L. Coldwell,  who identified the dentures, Dr. Harold R. Mulligan, who wrote the prescription for her glasses, and Dr. Albert Chatton who made them.

Coldwell said Evelyn Scott had worn the dentures since he made them for her in 1943 to replace an earlier set. He noted that police had failed to find a device she wore when sleeping to hold her teeth in place. The Times said that the clear implication was that whatever happened to her had occurred while she was asleep. Under defense questioning, Coldwell said that she would have been able to use her previous set of dentures if she still had them.

Chatton and Mulligan testified that Evelyn Scott would have been unable to read without her glasses. Chatton noted that the frames of one pair of glasses had faded to yellow, caused by aging and weather, rebutting the defense implication that they had been placed there more recently, The Times said.

In 1986, bedridden, frail and slowly dying in a Silver Lake convalescent home, 89-year-old Leonard Ewing Scott agreed to see a visitor, Times reporter David Johnston. Scott had been freed from San Quentin in 1978 after serving 20 years, released without supervision because the prisoner--one of the oldest in the state's penal system--refused to agree to parole as it would imply that he had truly killed his wife, Evelyn, in 1955.

Johnston was running down details for a story about new book. It seemed that where all the investigators had failed, a young writer named Diane Wagner had gotten a tape-recorded confession in 1984 for a manuscript she was writing, "Corpus Delecti." Scott told her that he killed his wife by striking on the head with a rubber mallet, wrapped the body in a tarp and buried it near Las Vegas.

The reporter asked Scott if he knew Wagner. Of course, said Scott, who was sometimes disoriented and edging toward senility, she was his third wife. In fact, he told another reporter, they went on a honeymoon to South America.

Had he seen the book, Johnston asked. No.

Johnston read the transcript of the confession as the convicted killer lay in bed, eyes fixed on his guest. Scott started to say something, then stopped.

"What do you want?" Scott asked.

What made him acknowledge the killing after all these years?

"Acknowledge it? I'd be a damn fool to acknowledge it--they never found the body."

As far as the California Department of Corrections was concerned, Scott was freed in 1978, but he remained in a prison of his own--a prison of denial--for the rest of his life.

Officials had tried to release him in 1974, but he wouldn't leave. Not that he didn't want to get out, for he spent most of his days in his 4 1/2-foot by 9-foot cell typing letters and legal appeals. They never found the body, he insisted, as he had since first fell under suspicion in his wife's disappearance.

More important, during the trial, prosecutor J. Miller Leavy hammered away at Scott for failing to testify. It was proof, Leavy insisted again and again, that Scott was guilty and afraid to take the stand. In a 1965 ruling in the case of Griffin vs. California, the U.S. Supreme Court found that such remarks violated the 5th Amendment. But the court did not make the ruling apply retroactively to cases such as Scott's. As far as the state was concerned, he had no grounds for an appeal. He continued his legal fight, but without success.

Then, in the fall of 1974, when he was 78, the state attempted to parole him for the first time.

"They pulled out a piece of paper and said, 'Here, sign this,' " he said. "I read it over and said, 'From just what in  the hell do you propose to parole me? You know I'm being held here illegally, without a valid conviction.' Well, they were flabbergasted. They're all used to guys saying, 'Yes sir, no sir, whatever you say, sir.' But I won't do that."

The state made a second attempt to parole him in early 1978. Again, he turned it down.

A few weeks later, he sent a letter to Times reporter Gene Blake, who covered the trial in 1957.

"I told you some time ago that you would be the first to be given information when I leave this hellhole. I always try to abide by my promises," Scott wrote.

After refusing to be "suckered into accepting a parole," Scott said, prison officials told him he was being released. He slowly cleaned out his cell, which was filled with 500 pounds of legal files.

On March 17, 1978, 81-year-old Leonard Ewing Scott limped out of San Quentin, leaning on a cane after breaking his hip in a fall, and still wearing his prison denims with $200 from the state in his pocket. As he was released to some friends who ran a mobile ministry for truck drivers, Scott said his first act of freedom would be to sue his wife for divorce. She was still alive, he insisted, and had been arrested twice in Mexico for drunk driving. His first meal after being freed was a Big Mac, The Times said.

Two years later, Blake found him living on Social Security at a downtown Los Angeles hotel, having moved from Santa Monica because the rent "got too stiff."

"That's what I'm getting by on," he said of his Social Security payments. "It's not a hell of a lot. That's the reason I moved down here." And at 83, he was continuing to fight his conviction. "There was no legal reason for it," he said.

When Wagner began working on her book in 1983, she found Scott living in a seedy mid-Wilshire apartment, The Times said. She interviewed him repeatedly and he always told her the same story--he didn't kill his wife.

On Aug. 5, 1984, he called and asked to see her one more time, Johnston said. She went there the next day and he told her:

"Well," he said suddenly, "I arrived in Las Vegas about dusk.... I hit her in the head with a mallet, a hard rubber mallet. Just once. On the head, right on top."

According to Johnston's story, Scott said he wrapped his wife's body in a tarp, put it in the trunk of a 1940 Ford and drove to the desert six miles east of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He dug a grave, dumped the body, drove around to cover his tracks, then "went to sleep the car for a while. Then I drove back to Los Angeles."

As his health declined, Scott moved into the Skyline Convalescent Home in Silver Lake.* Reporters dropped in now and then, hoping that he would finally admit the killing. Tom Towers, who covered the trial for the Examiner, was a regular.

"I always felt that he did it, but I was just unable to bring all the pieces together to finalize my own conviction because there was no body," Towers said. "I visited him repeatedly because, like a lot of newspapermen, I felt if he is going to cop out he'd cop out to me."

Not that anyone believed his confession. Leavy, Towers and Arthur Alarcon, a federal judge who had been assistant prosecutor in the case, dismissed the idea that Scott could have killed anyone with a single blow from a rubber mallet, Johnston wrote in 1986.

"The important thing is he acknowledged he killed her," Leavy said.

Scott died Aug. 15, 1987, and his body lay unclaimed at the Los Angeles County morgue for more than a week, The Times said. He was 91 and left no survivors. Except for his single conversation with Wagner, Scott adamantly denied killing his wife. Why did he confess to Wagner? He told her it would make a good epilogue to her book.


First U.S. Murderer Convicted Without Body of Victim Dies

 The New York Times

August 27, 1987

Leonard Ewing Scott, whose conviction 30 years ago paved the way for successful prosecutions of murder cases in which no body could be found, died Aug. 17 at the Skyline Convalescent Hospital. He was 91 years old.

Mr. Scott's body remains unclaimed at the Los Angeles County morgue, a spokeswoman for the county, Kathy Dickinson, said Tuesday. He had no known survivors.

Mr. Scott was convicted of killing his wife, Evelyn Throsby Scott, who was last seen alive at the couple's home here on May 16, 1955. Her dentures, glasses and other personal items were found near an incinerator in the back yard of the couple's home.

Fugitive in Canada

After his wife's disappearance, Mr. Scott fled to Canada. He was indicted for murder and was listed as a fugitive for a year before being arrested in Canada and returned to Los Angeles.

Mr. Scott denied killing his wife, and the bulk of the evidence against the former investment consultant at his 1957 trial was circumstantial. Prosecutors said Mr. Scott killed his wife because of her alcoholism and medical problems and because he had learned she had been married five times previously.

Prosecutors recommended a death sentence but jurors sentenced him to life in prison. He was released in 1978, after serving 21 years.

Since Mr. Scott's trial, several convictions have been obtained at murder trails without the victims having been found.

Diane Wagner, the author of ''Corpus Delecti,'' an account of the case published last year, said Mr. Scott eventually confessed. She said Mr. Scott told her he killed his wife with one blow to the head with a rubber mallet, then buried her in the Nevada desert.

''I can't tell you why he confessed,'' Ms. Wagner said Tuesday. ''He called up and said he had a story to tell me and that's what it was.''



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