The case of

Lewis Winslow, Nelson Winslow

Victim

Lewis Winslow, Nelson Winslow

Victim Race
Victim Date of Birth

1908

Victim Age
Date Reported
Date of Death

1928

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Riverside, California, USA

Body Location

Riverside, California, USA

Date of Conviction

October 2, 1930

Body Discovered Date
Murderer

Who was Gordon Northcott?

Gordon Stewert Northcott was born on November 9th, 1906, in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, a Canadian providence, and was raised in British Columbia. In 1924, when Northcott was 18, he moved with his parents to Los Angeles. Along with him, Northcott brought his nephew, Sanford Clark. Northcott, with the help of his father, purchased a plot of land in Wineville, California, in Riverside County, to build his home. With the help of his young nephew and father, who was in the construction business, Northcott built a house and a small chicken ranch.

Northcott’s father would later be committed to a mental institution, where he would apparently commit suicide. There is little detail surrounding these events. However, Northcott’s mother, Sarah Louise Northcott, moved into the ranch farm with him and his nephew, 11-year-old Sanford Clark. It was later revealed that Gordon often beat and raped his young nephew.

Abductions, Rapes, and Murders

It’s unclear when the abductions, rapes, and murders began and to what extent Gordon Northcott’s mother and nephew were involved.

It’s believed that Northcott’s first victim was an unidentified Mexican national boy who was shot and then beheaded. Northcott forced Sanford Clark to dispose of the head by burning it and then later crushing it to pieces. The headless body of the young boy was left on the side of the road to be found but never identified by police.

On March 10th, 1928, Northcott abducted a young boy named Walter Collins, Jr, from his home. Back at the farm, Northcott beat, tortured, and raped the boy. It’s unclear the role Sarah Northcott played in torturing the boy, but it’s believed that she killed the boy with an ax at Gordon Northcott’s behest.

Northcott’s next victims were abducted on May 16th. Lewis and Nelson Winslow were brothers, and both were raped and bludgeoned with an axe.

It’s unclear how many more young boys Northcott went after. Some were abducted and raped/tortured and then released, while others were murdered afterward and buried. Both Sarah Northcott and Sanford Clark aided him in these assaults and murders, though it remained unclear how much was under duress.

In the Summer of 1928, Northcott complained to police about his neighbor’s “profane and violent” behavior, which he claimed was upsetting his young nephew, Sanford, who Northcott claimed was “training for the priesthood.” This neighbor, in turn, pointed the finger back at Northcott, claiming to have witnessed Northcott beating the young Sanford, and told police to find out what happened at the Northcott ranch.

Sanford’s Relative Arrives

It’s unclear which relative of Sanford visited the ranch to check on the boy, though it’s often stated that it was his older sister, Jessie Clark. Either way, Sanford told the relative of all the atrocities that Northcott had committed, as well as his own sexual abuse and death threats by Gordon. The relative immediately took this information to the American Consulate and the Canadian police station.

Immigration officers arrived shortly after and took Sanford into their custody while Gordon and Sarah Northcott fled to Canada. Sanford told police everything that had happened, who then pursued Gordon and his mother, who were both arrested on September 19, 1928.

Murderous Mother and Son Captured

Once in custody, Northcott confessed to over five murders. He went through periods of professing innocence and righteousness and periods of giving detailed descriptions of rapes and murders of boys and boasting of “19 or 20” victims. He was a conniving man who enjoyed toying with investigators and often send them on wild goose chases for the bodies of the boys that were never found.

Meanwhile, investigators searched the farm and, guided by Sanford, exhumed several freshly-dug graves. They found fresh ankle and finger bones and several areas of blood-soaked earth. With Sanford’s testimony against both his uncle and grandmother, along with the physical evidence, Gordon Northcott was quickly convicted of three first-degree murders, including those of the Winslow brothers and the unidentified Mexican boy.

Sarah Northcott pleaded guilty to the axe murder of Walter Collins. Still, due to her sex, the Canadian woman was spared a trial and death penalty by Superior Court Judge Morton, who felt life in prison was more fitting.

Gordon Northcott received the death penalty.

On October 2, 1930, Gordon Northcott was brought to the gallows. Eyewitnesses described that Gordon Northcott was so frightened by the sight that they had to put a bag over his head so he would walk. His last words before he was hanged were, “A prayer! Please, say a prayer for me!” He was 23 years old at the time of his death.

Sarah Northcott served just 12 years of her life imprisonment sentence before being paroled in 1940. She died in 1944.

Sanford Clark did not receive any jail time but spent 23 months in a boys’ correctional facility. After his release, he returned to Canada with his family. By all accounts, Sandford grew up to be a good member of society, participating in charity organizations and adopting two sons. He died at the age of 78 in 1991.

Christine Collins and ‘The Changeling’ Movie

Christine Collins was the mother of Walter Collins, and her story became particularly famous after it was featured in the movie, The Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood, where she was portrayed by Angelina Jolie. She and her son’s story is a particularly heartbreaking one.

After Walter was kidnapped, Christine spent all of her time searching for her only son. There was intense pressure on the investigators of Los Angeles Police Station, and particularly on Captain J.J. Jones, who was the lead officer at the time.

A runaway boy from Illinois named Arthur Hutchens, Jr., pretended to be Walter Collins and was publically reunited with Christine Collins. When she immediately told Captain J.J. Jones that the boy wasn’t her son, he insisted that she take the boy home and “try him out.” Christine Collins returned to the police station three weeks later and insisted that the boy was not Walter, and had dental records and testimonies from friends to back up her claim.

Captain J.J. Jones had Christine Collins forcibly committed to a psychiatric ward under “Code 12,” which was used frequently by police to retain someone who is being difficult or inconvenient forcibly.

Even after Captain J.J. Jones interviewed the boy, who admitted that he was not Walter, he left Christine in the mental asylum for a week and a half.

When she got out, she successfully sued Jones for $10,800, of which he never paid a dime. He spent four months on suspension and that was the extent of his punishment for his inhumane mistreatment of Christine Collins.

Christine Collins believed her son was alive and never stopped searching for him, though nine-year-old Walter Collins was never found. She passed away in 1964.

The Aftermath

In order to separate itself from the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders and the child abductor and child rapist Gordon Northcott, Wineville changes its name to Mira Loma in 1930.

Sarah Louise Northcott would claim that she was not the mother of Gordon Northcott. Instead, she said that he was the result of the incestuous union of her husband, Cyrus George Northcott, and their daughter, Winifred. This claim was never substantiated in any way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Did Walter Collins ever get found?

A: 9-year-old Walter Collins was never found.

Q: Who Abducted Walter Collins?

A: Gordon Northcott and his mother, Sarah Northcott, admitted to abducting and killing Walter Collins.

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