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# Thursday, 11 December 2008
This Brick Wall is Murder
Posted by Diane

Q. I have a great aunt who was murdered in San Francisco, July 18, 1918, at age 30. Her husband had died four months before and she had a 3-year-old son. I was able to find the date of death, but I really want to know the facts behind the case. How did it happen? Was the killer caught?

A. You don’t mention whether you’ve already found a death certificate. If not, look for one. The certificate will confirm details such as the date and cause of death. Contact San Francisco’s Office of Vital Records or the California Department of Public Health for information.

A microfilmed index of California deaths covering 1905 to 1988 is at the Family History Library. You can rent film for viewing through your local FamilySearch Family History Center.

As a Forum member suggested, coroner’s records (also called medical examiner records) may help. Coroners would investigate suspicious deaths. The San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library has coroner’s reports from 1906 to 1950. Contact the library (415-557-4567) to request a search .

You’re right to search newspapers. You can use a service such as Proquest Historical Newspapers or Newsbank at many libraries; or you could use a site such as the subscription site GenealogyBank at home.

If searching doesn’t produce results, try browsing through newspapers for the days and weeks after your great-aunt’s death. San Francisco being a major city, your local library may have its newspapers on microfilm. Search for titles of San Francisco papers using the directory on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site.

The above records should help you determine whether anyone was caught and tried for the crime. The State Archives of California has San Francisco criminal case files from 1850 to 1965. Learn more about researching California court records using the archives' online finding aid.

birth/death records | court records | printed sources
Thursday, 11 December 2008 21:59:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
Thursday, 18 December 2008 17:59:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You should contact the Medical Examiner's office and request a copy of the autopsy and the statements by witnesses. You have the correct date so it shouldn't be a problem for the office to get those copies for you.
Elizabeth Hanson
Thursday, 18 December 2008 18:29:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I,too, have been working on a murder case that took place in 1917 up the coast from Santa Barbara. I acquired the coroner's report which was both very helpful and interesting to read. I copied 35 plus pages from the Santa Barbara newspaper on the case and trial, and then I drove up to Lompoc and spent a few hours at their local library to take digital photos of pages from the local papers that also covered the story as the victim and the accused parties were all living in the Lompoc area. The young man convicted of the crime was given a life sentence at San Quentin Prison, however I found his death record in 1968 in Paso Robles and that he had been married for several years, so now I was curious when he got out of prison, but where to look for prison records? I decided to go straight to the California State Archives with this question and received a most welcomed response - they had prison records going way back. The bottom line, I was told there was a file on this man to the tune of 399 pages with the trial transcript and a mug shot and letters from family and friends working to have him pardoned, which he was in the early 1930's. What a gold mine!
I also went down to the S.B. courthouse and Superior Court to look up in the Criminial Case Index and found the accuser's name, and what I then found were 198 pages of the preliminary court hearing and some of the evidence such as letters, again a real gold mine. So please excuse this long response, but I wanted to share what I found.
Mary Mamalakis
Santa Barbara
Mary Mamalakis
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