A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER

Stan Ziemelis and I were hired by the Long Beach Police Department in 1982. 

We started the academy together on June 1st.  Stanley lived in Torrance and I lived in Harbor City. Stanley would drive to my house and pick me up for the ride to class. Every other week he would drive to my house, park his car and I’d drive us to class.  During that time, we became good friends and then began working as patrol partners soon after completing probation.

It was December 23rd but I don’t remember the year.  Stan and I were working the 3rd shift (10:30 pm to 08:30 am) in Beat 6.  We were in Memorial Hospital around midnight when a young woman rushed into the emergency room stating she had an injured girl in her car.  The hospital personnel with Stan and I following ran out of the hospital and into the parking lot to help the girl.

The hospital personnel rushed the girl, a white female about 25 years old, into the nearest operating room with me following close behind. We could see that this girl was dead, but that didn’t stop the doctors from doing all they could to help her.  Stanley stayed with the young woman, also white female about 25 years old, that brought the girl to the hospital.  She told him that she was driving on Atlantic Ave near the Ralph’s market when she saw this girl staggering on the sidewalk. She told Stanley that the girl told her she had been stabbed. Stan thought this was odd as he noticed right away that there was no blood on this girl or in the car where the girl had been sitting before being rushed into the hospital.

In the emergency room there was nothing they could do to revive the girl.  The emergency room doctor had a new intern working with him that night. He decided to teach the intern how to perform open heart massage.  They cracked her chest and the  doctor, using his hand, began massaging her heart as he conversed with the intern about what he was doing. He then let the intern do it.  I think we all noticed it at the same time, there was very little blood in the chest cavity.  She didn’t bleed when her chest was opened either.  As you can imagine, there was no hope to save the girl.

I left the operating room and joined Stan in the waiting room where he was still interviewing the young woman.  Stan asked the woman to tell me how she had found the girl once more. She repeated what she had told Stan, that she was driving south on Atlantic Ave when she saw this girl staggering while walking on the sidewalk in front of the Ralph’s Market.  She stopped to help the girl who told her that she had been stabbed.  She put the girl in her car and brought her to the hospital.

We decided to have the woman show us exactly where she had found the girl on the sidewalk.  On our way to our police car for the short ride to Ralph’s, Stanley showed me the woman’s car and pointed out that there was no blood to be found anywhere in it.  We all drove to where the woman said she had found the girl.  We got out of the car and began looking around. Again, we could find no blood anywhere on the sidewalk.

We pointed out to the woman that there was no blood on the sidewalk nor in her car even though she told us the girl had been stabbed.  We asked the woman if she had an explanation. We asked her if she knew the girl. She told us that she didn’t know her.  We drove the woman back to Memorial hospital where we planned to call homicide detectives and continue to interview the woman.

I don’t remember why, but homicide did not want to get involved.  It may have been because it was so close to Christmas. While we were having the woman repeat for the fourth or fifth time how she had found the girl and explain the discrepancies in her story. At about that time three or four young women came running into the emergency room and asking about the dead girl. They saw Stan and I talking to the woman who had found her and asked her how the dead girl was doing.  We told them she had died and began to ask them questions about who they were, who the dead girl was and who the woman was who brought her to the hospital.  

It took some time, because everyone was so excited, but we eventually discovered that everyone knew each other and that they lived in the same motel on Santa Fe Ave. It took hours of interviewing and Interrogation to discover this.  Fortunately, the hospital wasn’t busy and we were able to conducted this investigation there. 

We were able to find out that our victim had been in a fight with her ex-husband’s new wife. During the fight the new wife stabbed the old wife one time in the chest.  That ended the fight.  The old wife went to her motel room, which was only a few doors from the ex-husband and new wife’s room to lay down.  All of the victim’s friends tried to convince her to go to the hospital, but she refused.  They told us that she was bleeding very badly and they couldn’t stop it. After she passed out, they decided to take her to the hospital.  They came up with the story about finding her staggering on the sidewalk because they didn’t want to get the new wife in trouble.

Stanley and I had the dead girl’s friends go to the motel with us and identify the new wife.  It was just getting light when we pulled into the motel parking lot.  As we did so the new wife came out of her room to meet her friends who were in their car.  We asked to see the husband but were told that he took off after the fight.

We interviewed the new wife who told us that she had married her husband and moved into the same motel complex where the old wife lived.  A fight started when the new wife accused the old wife of having an affair with her ex-husband.  They fought for some time only stopping when they got too tired to continue.  After some time, they met back in the parking lot and began to fight again. Once again, they stopped fighting when they got tired.

A few hours later they began to fight a third time.  This time the new wife brought a knife and stabbed the old wife one time in the chest which caused her death.  We searched the new wife’s room and found the knife. We searched the old wife’s room, which she shared with the woman who said she found her staggering on the sidewalk.  Her room had all of the bed sheets and towels hung up all over the room to dry. They had been used in an attempt to stem the flow of blood from the old wife’s stab wound.  They were all stained with blood and colored pink.

By the time we finished interrogating the new wife, interviewing all of the witnesses and residents of the motel, collecting evidence and waiting for the ID Tech to arrive and take pictures of the victim’s room and blood-stained sheets it was getting very late in the day. It was now December 24th, Christmas eve and we were supposed to have gotten off work at 8:30 am.

We took the new wife to jail and booked her for 187 PC, murder. We wrote the arrest report, the crime report, the dead body report and all of the evidence reports. We started work on December 23rd at 10:30 pm and completed all the reports after 11:00 pm on December 24th, more than 24 hours later.  I didn’t get home until after midnight on Christmas eve just in time to play Santa Clause and get all of the kid’s presents under the tree.

As remembered by Ski Ingram   December 22, 2020