As Close to Crime: “A Hollywood Horror Story”


Not all autobiographies are created equal; some are more revelatory than others. 

Much of what Cassandra Peterson shared in her 2021 book “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of The Mistress of The Dark” came as a surprise to me and, I dare say, to many others.

With everything that Cassandra wrote about in her book, there are two things which received the most attention from the media. 

In no particular order, other than perhaps bad news first,  Cassandra claims that when she was in her 20s (the 1970s), basketball superstar Wilt Chamberlain sexually assaulted her during a party at his house. 

Secondly, Cassandra revealed that she has been in a loving relationship with another woman since 2002.

While sexual assault is certainly a crime and worthy of a blog entry, I am instead going to delve deeper into a murder Cassandra witnessed in 1979. 

The murder of her neighbor Mary Patricia Winn.

You will find information about the murder in the first 3 1/2 pages of chapter 19 of Cassandra’s memoir. 

Cassandra chose to call that particular chapter “A Hollywood Horror Story.” This title comes directly from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner’s front page coverage of the murder. I’m following suit by borrowing that description as well.

While researching this crime, I found several articles from various newspapers which reported on the murder but I have not seen that particular Herald Examiner front page story for myself. I learned of it’s existence from Cassandra, who was being interviewed following the publication of her memoir.

The Los Angeles Herald Examiner stopped publishing in 1989 and the archives are not available online. 

I thought I’d try my luck with the Library of Congress.

One of the LOC librarians, Elving Felix, found several Herald Examiner articles related to the murder for me but, unfortunately, he was unable to locate the specific front page Cassandra mentioned. 

It wasn’t a wasted effort though. The Herald Examiner had a few bits of information the other newspapers didn’t.

The LOC only has the Morning, Home & Stock editions of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner at their disposal. Maybe this is why the edition Cassandra referenced remains elusive. I will, no doubt, continue looking for the edition Cassandra says exists because that’s what I’m like.

In both her memoir and a subsequent podcast interview, Cassandra discussed the murder but she didn’t name the victim, the killer or even the year this happened. However, she did reveal enough information for me to be able to track it down for myself.

Here are the clues to be found in “Yours Cruelly”:

– At the time of the murder, Cassandra was working behind the scenes at the TV series Don Kirshner’s “Rock Concert” and living on Beachwood Drive in Los Angeles. (She wouldn’t become “Elvira” until 1981. “Rock Concert” ran from 1973 to 1980.)

– The victim, who was white, had been stabbed multiple times during a robbery. She was the daughter of a powerful politician and Texas Instruments executive; and she was the ex-wife of a prominent Hollywood producer.

– The perpetrator was an African American advertising executive with no prior record. While in custody, he committed suicide. According to Cassandra, “the killer was found dead, hanging from his belt in the cell.”

Cassandra doesn’t shy away from expressing her belief that something “very fishy” was going on during the investigation because her recollections of that day don’t exactly match the police reports or the various newspaper accounts. She’s never specific about the differences, which just makes me all the more interested. 

Does Cassandra question the burglary angle or does she doubt the suicide?

Spoiler alert – I do not conclude this blog entry by cracking the case wide open and I don’t specialize in supposition.

The reliability of eyewitness
testimony is often called into question but so is the ability of
newspapers to get the facts 100% correct. 

Incorrect reporting by newspapers could be attributed to the police being a chief source for misinformation, a desire on the part of the newspapers to sensationalize events or simply multiple newspapers reprinting erroneous facts from a single report. 

There’s no way to tell if any of those things played a part in the crime Cassandra Peterson witnessed, the way she remembers it or the way it was reported.

Rather than provide two consecutive and similar descriptions of the murder, I’ll provide an amalgamation. 

Afterwards, I’ll provide some biographical information about the victim and her alleged killer.

That’s right – “alleged killer.” Because the suspect died before trial, he is technically innocent.

And finally, I’ll reprint some award-winning recipes from June 1979.

Here are the facts as reported by several newspapers, with some additional information that I found on the victim’s death certificate. 

I’ll also throw in Cassandra Peterson’s own recollections if I feel the information helps to flesh out the narrative. Whenever I don’t directly indicate the information came from Cassandra Peterson’s book, I’ll use an asterisk to indicate which are her details.

Mary Pat – Southern Methodist University, 1967

On Monday, November 26, 1979, Mary Patricia Winn came home at 4:30 PM and surprised a man who was ransacking her second-floor apartment (2254 N. Beachwood Drive #C). 

Mary Pat Winn, 32-years-old, was stabbed several times with a butcher knife that had been taken from her own kitchen. Her death certificate lists immediate cause of death as “Multiple stab wounds of chest, neck and arms.”

Neighbors responded to Mary Pat’s screams. One woman phoned the police. That woman was Cassandra Peterson (*).

While attempting to flee her attacker, Mary Pat tumbled or was pushed down the stairs; neighbors found her where she landed. Cassandra described Mary Pat as “spilling halfway in and halfway out of the open glass door.”

Los Angeles Homicide Detective Steve Hodel (yes, the same Steve Hodel who in 2003 accused his deceased father, Dr. George Hodel, of having killed Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia) was listed as a source by the Austin American Statesman newspaper when they reported on December 6, 1979 that the killer found “his car blocked by hers,” then he took off on foot. 

No other newspaper mentioned the suspect’s car was parked outside of the apartment building. 

All accounts agree that two male neighbors gave chase but they soon lost sight of him.

A Robbery-Homicide detective assigned to the case, Lt. Jim Troutman, was quoted as saying “The neighbors really got involved.”

Police were quick to respond when called but there was no trace of their suspect. Det. Troutman told a Herald-Examiner reporter, “He managed to stay one step ahead of us all night.”

The suspect was described as a black male, mid-thirties, between 5′ 8″ and 5′ 10.”

Shortly after fleeing the scene, the suspect abducted a man who was out walking his dog, 49-year-old Charlie Jones, by pretending to have a gun in his pocket.

Mr. Jones was forced to return to his apartment in the 2600 block of Hollyridge Dr. 

According to Google Maps, it’s a 10 minute walk from Beachwood to Hollyridge, through a residential neighborhood.

Suspect kills Mary Pat; takes off on foot; abducts Charlie Jones and forces him to a residence in the 2600 block of Hollyridge Dr. (Google Maps)

Once inside the home, the suspect bound and gagged Charlie Jones. He grabbed a butcher knife from the man’s kitchen and threatened to kill Jones and his two dogs if he tried anything. (*)

The suspect showered (*), changed into some of Jones’s clothing then caught a taxi cab to the Hollywood-Highland area.

Suspect takes a cab from Charlie Jones’s neighborhood to the Hollywood & Highland area        (Google Maps)


Meanwhile, a number of witnesses to events on Beachwood Drive were taken to the police precinct to be interviewed. This included Cassandra (*).

Based on those statements, police began looking for 33-year-old Earl Stanley Franklin. 

Several tenants and the landlord confirmed that Mr. Franklin and his wife (no name given) had been the previous occupants of Mary Pat Winn’s apartment. 

Mary Pat, recently separated from her husband Houston Winn, had only been in residence for about month. It is the Herald-Examiner that provides Mary Pat’s length of stay in the apartment. 

The death certificate lists Mary Pat’s “usual residence” as 118 No. Orange Drive in Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, November 28, 1979, Earl Stanley Franklin turned himself into police after learning they wanted to talk to him.

Franklin was booked into the Parker Center Jail on suspicion of murder and later charged with committing that offense.

On Thursday, November 29, 1979, Franklin attempted to kill himself after several witnesses picked him out of a line-up. The method employed is not specified. Franklin was transferred to the hospital wing of the Los Angeles County Jail for observation. 

Men’s Central Jail – 411 W. Bauchett St. Los Angeles, CA


On Monday, December 3, 1979, Franklin was found hanging from a transom in his hospital room. He had fashioned a noose using the drawstring of his jail-issued pajamas. 

Franklin’s body was found at 10:07 PM, during a routine check of the prisoners. A nurse said she had last checked on him at 10 PM.

So, the official word on the crime is Mary Patricia Winn surprised a burglar in her apartment and he killed her. That man later committed suicide. 

Although, you do have to wonder why someone on suicide watch would be given a pair of pajamas with a drawstring.

According to an article in the October 23, 1986 edition of  Los Angeles Times: “Since 1975, 31 inmates have killed themselves in the Men’s Central Jail.”

In Cassandra Peterson’s memoir, she states that raised voices coming from Mary Pat’s apartment was nothing new:

“I heard the neighbors in the building next door arguing again. I was used to it by now, but this time it was odd because their fights usually took place at night. I’d called the police and reported them on two previous occasions because their yelling was so loud I couldn’t sleep. Now they were at it again.”

The ruckus Cassandra could hear on November 26th escalated and mutated. 

“The yelling turned to a woman’s screams – short and sharp at first, then longer and more guttural, like something out of a horror movie,” she writes.

She called 911.

Cassandra was on the phone with the police and describing the murder in detail. She saw Mary Pat falling down the stairs and Franklin continuing to strike at her with the knife. 

After seeing Franklin walking away from Mary Pat, Cassandra put the phone down and went to where the woman lay. 

“I approached her slowly and knelt beside her. I could smell a sweet, metallic odor that made the knot in my stomach tighten. She was lying on her back, covered head to toe in blood, her eyes wide open, staring past me into the distance. The only sound coming from her was gurgling that emanated from deep inside her throat. One stylish brown pump stood upright next to her on the stoop. I hesitated, then reached out to feel her wrist for a pulse. She was still warm. I kept thinking this couldn’t be real, it had to be a movie.”

As Cassandra knelt beside Mary Pat, a low voice coming from behind her asked, “Do you think she’s okay?”

Cassandra turned to offer an assessment. Squinting into the bright sunlit, she told the silhouette hovering above her “I …. I don’t think so.” 

Continuing the narrative in her book, Cassandra wrote “He tossed something into the azalea bushes behind him, removed the bloody glove he was wearing, and dropped it at his feet, then casually strolled off down Beachwood Drive.

One by one, neighbors arrived on the gruesome scene. The police showed up soon after, and then the coroner.”

Cassandra’s recollection is genuine, it differs from the
newspaper reports of the attacker beating feet out of the area with two
neighbors in hot pursuit.


In an episode of  “Behind The Velvet Rope – Podcast,” Cassandra Peterson talks to host David Yontef about witnessing the crime. Here is the YouTube link to see the video clip –

Cassandra Peterson discusses the murder 



My own research enabled me to learn a little more about Mary Patricia Winn than the newspapers printed but, unfortunately, not enough about Earl Stanley Franklin. 

I’ll tell you what I can.

Perhaps if this case had gone to trial, newspapers would have printed more details about the suspect, his family and his life before November 26, 1979.

This frustration resulted in me purchasing death certificates for both Mary Patricia Winn and Earl Stanley Franklin. 

I intend to make the most of the expenditure and I’ll be
including details from both death certificates that I wouldn’t otherwise

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find sufficient crucial clues in Franklin’s death certificate to lead me in the direction of additional background information on the suspect. 

In fact, after seeing Franklin’s death certificate, I felt it necessary to track down additional documents. Specifically, marriage license applications. More on that later.

Let’s start with the victim:

Born in California on September 3, 1947, Mary Patricia Winn was the second of Edward and Mary Vetter’s four daughters. 

The Vetter family moved from California to Texas after Ed left his job with Standard Oil to accept a new position with Texas Instruments. 

Mary Pat attended Ursuline Academy (Class of 1965), then Southern Methodist University, both located in in Dallas.

Ursuline Academy, Dallas, Texas – 1963 yearbook


Ursuline Academy, Dallas, Texas – 1964 yearbook


Mary Pat’s husband, Houston Winn, also hails from Texas.

In articles related to her murder, the Los Angeles Times wrote that Mary Pat had moved from Dallas to Los Angeles in 1971. They do not say whether Mary Pat was married or single when she made the move.

In 1975, when he was 55-years-old, Ed Vetter retired from Texas Instruments and began a career in government. 

served as U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce in the Ford Administration.
At the time of his daughter’s murder, Ed was the Energy Adviser to the
Governor of Texas,
Bill Clements.

June 1979, the Los Angeles Times reported on
the second celebrity cook-off held at Le Dome Restaurant. Amongst the competitors were Patricia and her husband Houston Winn, identified in print as “a television commercial producer.

Le Dome Retaurant


The now shuttered Le Dome, located at 8720 Sunset Blvd., opened in 1977 thanks to the financial backing of Elton John and Rod Stewart. 

During it’s 30 year run, Le Dome certainly had a serious celebrity clientele but the word “celebrity” might not legitimately apply to all the 1979 cook-off competitors; many of the participants had connections to the business side of entertainment.

Although, actress Britt Ekland entered into the contest with her recipe of authentic Swedish

The twenty dishes were sampled and evaluated by Jacques Pepin (a still recognized and respected name in the world of cookery), Carole Lalli (a restaurant critic) and Sylvan Leinwand (an accepted food expert).

Los Angeles Times  (June 21, 1979)


year, the Winn’s recipe for Chiles Rellenos Casserole shared the third
place prize with Lee Srednicks’ Chocolate Damnation (chocolate mousse in
a brownie shell). The first place prize, a weekend tour of the Napa
Valley, was awarded to Bette Casarini for her Trifle and placing second
was Martine Hecht, who prepared Enchiladas Suiza.

Cher & Eric Serena, circa 1978

At the time of her November 1979 murder, Mary Pat was estranged from her husband and working as the receptionist/office manager at Eric Serena Hair Design in Los Angeles. According to her death certificate, Mary Pat had been employed there for 6 months. 

Eric Serena and his wife Michelle, have gained a certain degree of celebrity themselves over the years as being the hairdressers to Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Joan Hackett, John Travolta, soap opera actress Deborah Adair and others.


Mary Pat’s body was cremated at the Rosedale Crematory in Los Angeles and laid to rest in the Union Cemetery in Bakersfield, California. She was 32-years-old.

The plot also contains the body of James Vetter, born and died on February 10, 1945. This is the first born child of Ed and Mary Vetter.

Findagrave photo by Barbara Wineinger

A friend of Mary Pat’s left this tribute to her on her Find a Grave memorial page:



 An Ursuline Academy Endowed Scholarship was established in Mary Pat’s name.


I’m not going to delve into the personal history of Mary Pat’s family but I do want to share a line from Edward O. Vetter’s lengthy March 11, 2009 obituary because it amused me:

“Ed loved animals of every shape and size and reasonable slacks.”

Mary Pat’s mother Mary died on November 7, 1991.


December 6, 1981, the New York Times announced Houston’s marriage to Catherine Bley, an art director with
the New York advertising agency Young & Rubicam. 

The article states that Houston’s previous marriage
ended in divorce. 

I believe this may be a reference to Houston’s first wife, Gloria, rather than Mary Pat. 

Houston and Gloria Elphingstone were married on October 4, 1967 and divorced in Dallas, Texas on September 2, 1971. 

I have not been able to find a date for Houston and Mary Pat’s nuptials but I’m thinking they married sometime between late 1971 (his divorce) and June 1979 (The Le Dome cook-off).

After Mary Pat’s death, Houston Winn was the executive producer on television commercials for Wrangler Jeans (1984 – their Indiana Jones-inspired “Live It To The Limit” ad campaign) and Kool-Aid (1985 – basketball-themed “More Hot Kids”). 

Below are YouTube links to some of the TV ads that list Houston Winn as the E.P.

Watching these commercials isn’t essential but it might be a nice trip down memory lane.



Another client was the US Army. 

Houston Winn is credited with being the E.P. on the 1984  “Olympic Excellence” ad featuring Specialist Dale Brynestad);

I cannot find this particular US Army commercial but it is in the Paley Center’s permanent collection. 

The 1984 commercial shows Brynestad as a hopeful Olympic pentathlete, training for the upcoming Olympics. 

to the January 1996 edition of “Soldiers” (the official US Army
magazine), Brynestad trained for both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics but he
never actually made it to the games.


Winn later developed and produced the media campaign for Universal
Studios’ “Islands of Adventure” (which opened to the public on May 8,

Islands of Adventure commercial 

Now, I’ll switch gears and let you know what I learned about the alleged killer.

Earl Stanley Franklin’s suicide came one week after Mary Pat Winn’s murder; he was 33-years-old. 

Detective Steve Hodel told reporters that there was no indication Franklin knew Mary Pat.

Earl Stanley Franklin’s death certificate, which I had hoped would provide answers, only gave me more to ponder. 

Some facts are indisputable and match other official records: 

Franklin’s date of birth – July 16, 1946; his place of birth – New York; wife’s name Linda; date of death December 3, 1979; place of death – the Los Angeles Central Jail at 411 W. Bauchett Street; cause of death – suicide by hanging.

Then there are a few facts which are inconsistent with what the newspapers reported.

Following Franklin’s suicide, the Austin American Statesman described him as “an unemployed resident in Hollywood” but Franklin’s death certificate lists his and his wife Linda’s “usual residence” as 9613 Sixtieth Ave. South Seattle, Washington. 

According to his death certificate, Franklin’s profession at the time of his death, and for the previous six years, was “Advertising Consultant” for “Bernard Hudes Advertising.” This is actually a typo. It should read “Bernard Hodes Advertising.”

Bernard Hodes had offices in both Seattle and Los Angeles.

For lack of something else to share pertaining specifically to Earl Stanley Franklin, here is a YouTube link to a Bernard Hodes Advertising in-house promotional film. 

According to SGC Vintage, who uploaded the video, this is from 1980.

Bernard Hodes Advertising promotional film

It would be nice, but unrealistic, to think Earl Stanley Fanklin is among those who particpated and is visible in the film. Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to find a photo of the man so there’s no way for me to spot him in the film.

I was hoping Earl Stanley Franklin’s death certificate would at least provide me with the names of both his parents. Unfortunately, only his mother’s first name is given (Beatrice), no maiden name. Line 9 –  “Name and Birthplace of Father” indicates only that the man’s last name was Franklin.  

Earl Stanley Franklin spent two years in the US Army (August 22,1966 to August 21,1968);
his rank when he was discharged was Sergeant. 

put in a request for
Franklin’s military records but without written permission from his
family, I would only be told what I already knew. Actually less than I
learned on my own. 

The National Archives only repeated back to me the
dates of his service. This was information the form asked I provide when
I submitted the request.

If the information on Earl Stanley’s death certificate is accurate, Franklin began working for Bernard Hodes Advertising in 1973.

Earl Stanley Franklin married Linda Joyce Leonard on October 23, 1975 in Reno, Nevada. At the time of the ceremony, they were both Oakland, California residents.

Earl Stanley Franklin was pronounced dead on December 3, 1979; he was 33-years-old.

Franklin’s military service guaranteed him a burial plot in a Veterans Cemetery. His body was shipped from the Douglass Mortuary in El Segundo, CA to Long Island, NY for burial in the Calverton National Cemetery.

There was no photo of Franklin’s headstone on the Find a Grave website until Peter Graphic was kind enough to drive to Calverton Cemetery and take a few photos for me. 

From this photo I learned that Franklin did indeed serve in Vietnam.

Calverton Cemetery – photo by Peter Graphic


On July 14, 2022, someone named “Becky,” who I assume was acquainted with Earl Stanley Franklin, left this tribute to him:


Unfortunately, Franklin isn’t buried in a family plot so there are no additional clues to be found at his grave.

Franklin’s suicide while in custody made it impossible for him to be found guilty of murder but is it possible we can prove him guilty of bigamy?

My desire to know more about the man resulted in me ordering his death certificate and after I had seen that, I knew I needed to order copies of two separate marriage license applications for Earl Stanley Franklin.

I had found two recorded marriages for Franklin in the state of Nevada. Linda Joyce Leonard in October 1975 and Gail Pamela Tomlinson in July 1979.

Even without the documents, I could see that the birthdate for both men matched my subject – July 16, 1946. Both men were born in New York.

The name I expected to see listed as Earl Stanley Franklin’s surviving spouse on his death certificate was Gail, whom he married 6 months before his death, not Linda.


Perhaps, despite the similarities, these were two different men? 

I hadn’t found a divorce record for Earl and Linda Franklin. 

It could have just been coincidence.

Well, the small amount of money I shelled out for the two marriage license applications was worth it. 

I could confirm the signatures matched. This is clearly the same groom.




I looked at Earl and Gail’s 1979 license
application to see what number marriage this was for him. Perhaps here I
would see an indication that he was divorced from Linda. But no. Franklin asserts this is his first marriage. 

Both Earl and Gail identify themselves as residents of Los Angeles.


I now had the name of Earl’s father – Woodrow Franklin. Both of Earl’s parents were born in Alabama. How, when and why they were in New York for their son’s July 16, 1946 birth, I don’t know.

Frustratingly, despite having a few more clues, I cannot positively trace Earl’s lineage. I cannot find the family in the 1950 census.

The 1975 marriage license does not list the first name of Earl’s mother and a last name of “Smith” doesn’t narrow things down too much. 

The 1979 marriage license records Earl’s mother’s first name as “Mertie.” This is different from the death certificate, which lists her first name as “Beatrice,” but it’s similar enough for me to not doubt myself.

I’m never going to find all the answers to my questions and at the end of the day these facts, while interesting, don’t factor in to why Mary Pat Winn was killed on November 26, 1979.

FYI: Although she doesn’t mention it in her memoir, on November 6, 1979, twenty days before Mary Pat was murdered, Cassandra Peterson’s appearance on a season 7 episode “Happy Days” aired. The episode was titled “Burlesque.”

S7.8 episode of “Happy Days” with Cassandra and Al Molinaro


As promised, here are those award-winning recipes from 1979. 

Initially, I’d only planned to reprint the Winn’s recipe but I’m anticipating people wanting all four of the winners.

Los Angeles Times (June 21, 1979)




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