Monday, October 22, 2007

Mary Louise Ward

There is an interesting posting (and possible thread to come) at the message board on the locked-room murder of Mary Louise Ward in San Francisco in 1969.  She died in a house in a room with a door locked from the inside.  There had been a fire in the room, but she died, of an undetermined cause, before the fire started.  It was guessed that the fire had somehow been caused by a long-smoldering cigarette that had burst into flames after Ward’s death, despite the fact that there was no evidence of cigarettes or cigarette packaging in the room, and the victim abhorred smoking.  This is like something out of Agatha Christie.

Mary Louise Ward had been the secretary of Pat Montandon, and in fact died in Montandon’s house while Montandon was living elsewhere.  Pat Montandon was, amongst other things, a broadcaster, and cohosted a radio show with Marco Spinelli.  She was also briefly married to Melvin Belli.  Marco Spinelli was the ‘Count Marco’ who was the subject of a famous letter (the ‘Red Phantom’ letter), possibly by the Zodiac (or possibly by someone who had guessed who Zodiac was and wanted to direct the police in a particular direction), and Belli was himself the recipient of a famous – and undoubtedly genuine due to the included piece of victim Paul Stine’s bloody shirt – Zodiac letter.  The investigator of the Ward murder was Dave Toschi, who was the most prominent, and notorious, of the San Francisco Zodiac police investigators (Toschi has been accused, and officially cleared, of forging the disputed April 24th 1978 letter, which refers to yet another prominent local, Herb Caen).

All of these people were San Francisco ‘characters’, and conceivably moved in the same circles.  One has to wonder if Zodiac was in the same circles, and whether the many jokes and quips in the Zodiac letters were references to the wit and wisdom of the company he kept.  In fact, the letters might constitute a kind of confession that only somebody who moved in the same crowd might recognize (and the inauthentic letters may be hints from someone familiar with that crowd who has guessed who the Zodiac might be).  Could Mary Louise Ward have been one of his victims?  Is there still somebody out there from that same milieu who might be able to put the pieces together?