This story has Drug Dealers, Heist, Porn Stars, Crime King-Pins, and lots of grizzly murders. Just your average Los Angeles storyline.
***THIS STORY CONTAINS CRIME SCENE PHOTOS
Photo by izayah ramos on Unsplash
8763 Wonderland Avenue, Los Angeles, California
At the time, this was a well-known drug house in the area. On July 1, 1981, around 3 am, the occupants would come under attack. Inside was Ronald Launius, considered the leader of the group, his wife Susan, William Raymond ?Billy? Deverell, his girlfriend Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson.
Armed men broke in and systematically started beating the sleeping occupants.
Barbara had been sleeping on the couch in the living room. Her body would be found on the floor next to the sofa.
Barbara Richardson crime scene photo via Morgue Murder Files
Billy and his girlfriend were found in one of the bedrooms, both beaten to death. Billy?s body looked to have been propped up against a TV stand after the beating.
Billy Deverell crime scene photo via Morgue Murder FilesJoy Miller crime scene photo via Morgue Murder Files
Ronald and his wife Susan, were staying in the other bedroom. Ronald, like the other occupants, was found dead by medics. But Susan was still hanging onto life, even though it was clear she had been left for dead. She suffered intense brain damage and lost part of her skull, but eventually survived.
Ronald Launius crime scene photo via Morgue Murder FilesLocation where Susan Launius was found via Morgue Murder Files
The police found the house ransacked, and blood trampled through every room.
After autopsies, it was determined that the killers had used hammers and metal pipes to beat the victims.
?Oh, God, don?t kill me.?
The neighbors heard screams and someone begging not to be killed, but they said they just fell back to sleep. Another neighbor told the police, ?How can you tell if someone is really shouting or just being silly??
Around 4 pm the next day, a mover by the townhouse heard Susan moaning and called the police.
The Porn Star
John Holmes was a pretty famous porn star in the ?70s, having starred in over 500 films. But by the time 1981 rolled around, his drug habit had left him in severe debt with the Wonderland Gang.
John had been dealing drugs for the Gang, but using some of the money to purchase drugs for himself. When the Gang found out, they cut off his access to the house on Wonderland and threatened his life if he didn?t pay back the money.
Instead of coming up with the money, he came up with a plan. John told the Gang that he had a wealthy friend who always had a ton of drugs, cash, and valuables lying around his house. John said he could get the Gang inside.
John drew a map of the layout of his friend Eddie Nash?s house, including where all the valuables were located.
John Holmes mugshot (left) in court (right) via WikiMedia and LA County
The First Home Invasion
On the night of June 29, 1981, the Gang fronted John $400 to buy drugs from Eddie Nash. While there John unlocked the back door, so the Gang could get in later without making any noise.
The Gang, including Billy, Ronald, and two others, carried guns and flashed fake police badges as they stormed the house.
One of the gang members shot a bodyguard of Nash?s while he was trying to handcuff him. After this, they headed to the master bedroom and forced Nash to give them the combination to the safe.
The Gang made off with over $100,000 in cash, heroin, eight pounds of cocaine, 5000 Quaaludes, guns, and jewelry.
Eddie Nash via WikiMediaCommons
The Suspect List Was Small
Within 48 hours of the robbery, Nash was pretty sure he knew who was behind the heist. He had his bodyguard, who had been shot and injured that night, bring John Holmes over to his house to talk.
John was held at gunpoint while Nash went through an address book John had on him. Nash said he would hunt down and kill all of John?s friends and family if he didn?t tell him who robbed his house.
Nash was a well off guy, so the theft wasn?t going to break him, it was more a matter of principle. Besides being a drug kingpin who had political and police connections, Nash also owned some of the most famous clubs in Hollywood at the time.
Nash would later only admit to sending guys over to the Wonderland townhouse to retrieve the items stolen from him. But we already know what happened that night.
8763 Wonderland Avenue (current) via Google Maps
Investigation Into Wonderland Crime Scene
In March 1982, the police made an arrest, John Holmes. They charged him with four counts of murder. Their sole piece of evidence was a palm print on the headboard of Ronald?s bed. John?s lawyer explained it away, saying that his client spent a lot of time at the house and would often crash in whatever bed was available.
John refused to cooperate in the investigation and spent four months in jail before he was eventually acquitted of all charges.
By 1988 the police were no closer to solving the case, but they heard John was on death?s bed. He had been diagnosed with AIDS and was in the hospital. Police tried to get one last confession, but John still refused to name names. John Holmes died on March 13, 1988.
After he died, John?s ex-wife told the Los Angeles Times that he had confessed to her his part in the Four on the Floor Murders. He said that he led three men inside the Wonderland townhouse and watched as they beat the five occupants. His wife asked him he didn?t do or say anything, and John said: ?they were dirt.? A girlfriend of Holmes from 1981 verified his ex-wife?s story, saying John had told her the same thing.
Nash?s Day(s) in Court
In 1991 Eddie Nash was tried for the Four on the Floor Wonderland Murders, but the trial ended in a hung jury. It turns out Nash had bribed one of the jury members with $50,000.
Then in 2000, Nash was arrested by federal authorities for running a criminal enterprise, conspiring to commit the Wonderland murders, and for bribing the jury in the first trial.
By this time, Nash was 71 and had emphysema and tuberculosis. Things drug out for 11 years before Nash finally agreed to a plea bargain. He pled guilty to running a criminal enterprise, money laundering, and even jury tampering. But Nash refused to admit any involvement in the Wonderland killings. He claimed he only sent people to go and retrieve his stolen property, nothing more.
In the end, he spent one year in federal prison and was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.
In the LA County Jail, there is a special wing for ?celebrities? and high profile subjects, the jail calls it the ?Keepaways.?
During the time John Holmes was waiting for his trial, he was housed next to Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, the Hillside Stranglers. The strangest part was that Angelo Buono only lived a couple of blocks away from John Holmes in Glendale when the duo was killing women.
Police on the scene said this was the grizzliest scene since the Tate Murders by the Manson Family.
No one has ever been officially charged and convicted of the Four on the Floor Murders on Wonderland Avenue. And at this time, it doesn?t look like anyone ever will.
Boogie Nights Poster via IMDB
There was a 1997 film ?Boogie Nights? that is based on a documentary about John Holmes, and in it, there is a scene about the Wonderland Murders.
In 2003 a movie called ?Wonderland? was released based on the crime. E! True Hollywood Story: John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders also did a segment that was released in 2000 around the time of Nash?s trial.