It’s a blisteringly sunny day in Los Angeles on July 1st, 1981. LAPD detectives Tom Lange and Robert Souza are enjoying a day off, horseback riding and getting in their fill of the Southern California sun. A call from the homicide unit quickly ended their peace, though. Four people were slain in Laurel Canyon on Wonderland Avenue. They knew that if this were any old homicide case, the local police department would handle it, so they went in expecting a bloody scene, but just how bloody, they never could have predicted.
The Wonderland Murders, also known as the Four on the Floor Murders, was the most gruesome murder scene either detective had ever scene. It was extremely violent, all of the victims killed by extreme blunt force trauma. The detectives knew immediately that this was an act of rage and it was intended to send a message. But that just begged the question: a message to who? A bloody handprint on the wall is one of their few clues.
“The Wonderland Murder by Hollywood & Crime” is a Wondery podcast about the famous murders of Barbara Richardson, Ron Launius, Joy Miller, and Billy DeVerell. The attack was directed at the members of the Wonderland Gang, a group of drug dealers during the Los Angeles cocaine trade in the ’70s and ’80s. Over the course of six episodes, with a special seventh episode with the detectives who walked into the house that day, hosts Tracy Pattin and writer/director Larry Brand take us through a sprawling and spiraling story about a gang of criminals, a crazed kingpin, and a porn star.
Suggested on this week’s episode of Podsauce, Dax and Alesha think that if you were a fan of “To Live and Die in LA,” then “The Wonderland Murders” will easily fill that gap in your podcast queue. For true crime fans who are particularly keen to shocking murders in Tinseltown, and even more specifically, Manson-esque crimes, then “The Wonderland Murders” goes above and beyond.
The detectives on the case described the scene of the Wonderland Murders as more grisly than the Manson slayings that had just occurred a dozen years earlier. What sets “The Wonderland Murders” apart from other true crime podcasts is its ability to tell two stories simultaneously: that of the detectives working through the murder, finding out who their victims are from birth till death, and the story of John Holmes, the porn star. Both of those stories actually parallel both of the industries in which the two groups lived in: drugs and porn. And eventually, these stories will all collide in a brutal, bloody manner.
But none of this would have occurred without mobster, money launderer, drug dealer, and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. Nash, his henchman Gregory Diles, and Holmes were all arrested and tried for the vicious murders, and all three were acquitted. That handprint above the bed was actually the handprint of Holmes, but Holmes defense team argued that he was also a victim of Nash, who forced him to let his henchmen into the Wonderland home.
No one really knows the true story. The sole survivor of the attack, Susan Launius, somehow survived, but suffered severe brain damage in the assault. She recovered nearly fully, but was left with amnesia regarding that fateful night. “The Wonderland Murders” is a masterfully told podcast. The duo of Pattin and Brand tell an immaculate story about yet another murder that shook Hollywood. Be sure to check out this true crime podcast if there’s a “To Live and Die in LA” sized hole in your life.