Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lee D. Croft -- One Wild Ride

Croft, a brother of the treasurer of West Coast Theatre, Inc., was assistant manager of the Criterion Theatre in Los Angeles when he became infatuated with Frances Turney, a pretty cashier who worked there.  Though married, the 30-year-old Croft continued to ply Turney even after he was transferred to the Long Beach Theatre as a manager in September 1925.

Learning that the comely cashier was keeping company with another married man, wealthy Fullerton businessman T. K. Doyer, a drunken Croft confronted Turney at the Criterion on November 18, 1925.  The woman refused to accompany Croft in his inebriated condition and had theatre employees send him away.  Croft waited in his car as Doyer arrived at the theatre to drive Turney home.  The jealous manager followed the couple to Turney's residence at 1221 West Fifty-ninth Street and confronted the lovers as they sat in Doyer's car.  Croft forced Doyer out of the vehicle, fired two errant pistol shots at the man, then drove off in his rival's car with Turney on the front seat beside him sobbing hysterically.  As Croft drove recklessly through the streets of L.A. threatening to kill Turney, the young woman prayed and begged for mercy.

The wild auto ride ended at Seventy-ninth Street and Western Avenue when Croft punctured the front tires against a curb.  Croft ordered Turney out of the car and into a nearby vacant lot where a passing motorist tried to intervene, but was warned off by the crazed theatre manager.  According to Turney, Croft screamed, "Get down on your knees and make your peace with God!  I'm going to kill you!"  As the terrified woman knelt before him, Croft fired a shot that struck him in the foot.  Moments later, Croft turned away from Turney and shot himself in the head.  He died several hours later in the Receiving Hospital.

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