Treasures of the Valley » Mike Lawler

1917 Murder:
Robbery or Ill-fated Love Triangle? – Part 2


Last week we read about the murder of Albert De Marcus, a 25-year-old driver of a “jitney” (an unlicensed taxi, equivalent to today’s Uber or Lyft). He had picked up a fare after dark in Glendale and was found dead the next morning behind the wheel of his car on Foothill Boulevard between La Crescenta and La Cañada. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. His pockets had been turned out, so it appeared robbery was the motive. That is until detectives discovered a trove of complicated love letters in Albert’s room, some of them from married women. Suddenly a new motive was looked at: murder by a jealous husband or jilted lover.

Once the newspapers got wind of a story involving murder and sex, it was front page news. Headlines read: “Letters Show Jitney Driver Had Thousand Loves,” “Love Code May Cloak Slayer,” “Seek ‘Madame X’ To Find Slayer of Lothario De Marcus,” “Impassioned Notes Received by Glendale Beau Brummel” and “Shot Fired By Angry Husband or Slighted Woman?”

The detectives investigating the murder had gone to the room that Albert rented in Glendale to look for clues. There they discovered a box of love letters – according to the paper, “hundreds of scented letters” – all written in the last year, and all professing their love for Albert. There was one from a young girl in Los Angeles who said she loved him and would marry him “as soon as her education was completed.” There was the letter from a wealthy Glendale woman who had given Albert money, two diamond rings and her heart. Another letter was from a waitress who claimed she loved Albert and didn’t believe the stories about him and other women. Yet another sent Albert a key to her house, despite knowing about the affair with the wealthy woman. One was from a married woman in Glendale, another from a married woman in Hollywood. Letters from three other women described how happy they would be once they were married to Albert.

Mike Lawler is the former
president of the Historical
Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
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Besides the trove of passionate notes, the detectives discovered that they weren’t the first to enter Albert’s room after the murder. Witnesses told them that one woman, maybe two, had let herself into Albert’s room the morning after the murder using her own keys. One of the women was located and said that she had merely gone into Albert’s room to try and find addresses of next-of-kin. That story was complicated further by the discovery in a nearby vacant lot of a torn-up letter. When pieced back together the letter was an apology to Albert. The woman writing the letter had doubted Albert’s word; Albert had gotten angry and now she was sorry. The letter signed off “I remain always yours.”

Rumors surfaced as well. An acquaintance of Albert’s had shown him another letter from a lover who urged more discreet meetings as her husband was capable of murder. Another person said that he had overheard a conversation between Albert and a woman. The woman said her husband suspected Albert and might shoot him. In both cases the tale-bearers couldn’t provide any identities.

The newspapers of that era were flagrant in their disregard for the privacy of those being investigated. Besides seeming to have access to and printing the contents of the love letters, they printed the names and addresses of two married women, Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Burlingame, who had been called in for questioning. That must have been awkward.

Despite all the leads and possible motives the detectives had come across none of them ever panned out. There was never a leading suspect to zero in on, and no one ever confessed. The case was put aside as fresh cases took its place. There were a couple of murders of jitney drivers north of Los Angeles in the next year and, for both of those murders, Albert De Marcus’s name was brought up. Perhaps this was Albert’s murderer? But no, the murder of Albert De Marcus was never solved, a Crescenta Valley cold case for over 100 years now.