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  • Rod Kackley

Stop! Stop! You're Killing Me! (Not) A Shocking True Crime Story

The night of December 7, 1929, four guys in Room 922 of the Hayward Hotel in downtown Los Angeles decide they are going to put the news of the crash on Wall Street, that everyone’s been talking about since the end of October, out of their minds, at least for a few hours.

J. Meyers, L.R. Detterman, Gregory Woodford and J.A. Pursley, a salesman for Runkle Brother’s Chocolate Company of San Francisco, are having a grand old time, telling one funny story after another.

Meyers and Detterman —also candy salesmen — are sitting in comfortable chairs at a table in the ninth-floor hotel room, but for some reason, Woodford and Pursley chose to open a window and sit on a ledge over looking a courtyard below.

Jokes fly like bullets at the Somme in France a dozen years ago. Side slappers, real rib ticklers, Meyers and Detterman are laughing so hard they can barely catch their breath.

They raise hands in surrender. Please no more jokes!

But Woodford, a native of Inglewood, California, and president of the Resner Chocolate Company, has to tell just one more. His favorite joke of all time. Guaranteed to get a laugh.

He tells it, all four men convulse in laughter, and Woodford, to make a point, wipes tears of mirth from his eyes and gives Pursley a playful slap on the shoulder.

Unfortunately that sends the Portland, Oregon, resident tumbling off the window ledge.

Laughter quickly turns to screams.

Woodford, without thinking twice, grabs Pursley’s arm. Anything to save his buddy. Pursley makes a failed attempt to grab a window curtain, as he rolls backwards off the ledge.

It’s not enough.

On his way off the ledge, Pursley’s leg flies up and catches one of Woodford’s legs below the knee. That sends both men off the ledge, looking at a seven-story drop.

Meyers and Detterman are flabbergasted as Pursley and Woodford vanish. One moment the two are sitting on the ledge, the next instant — they are gone.

Laughter. Screams. Silence.

The two men in the hotel room hold their breath for what seems an eternity.

In less than ten seconds, both Meyers and Detterman will jump out of their skin as the quiet of a December night is broken by the sound of a crashing thud.

Woodford and Pursley smash into a skylight and a steel roof, that serves as floor of a courtyard, seven floors below the window of Room 922.

Both bodies slam into a large potted plant that is crushed and broken in to several pieces.

Hotel staff and guests rush to offer assistance, but they are too late. Coming to a screeching halt, those who ran to the accident scene are left standing in shocked silence, hands over mouths, choking back their dinner.

No one can believe what they are seeing.

Woodford’s body is badly mangled. His head is crushed and every bone in the poor man’s body is broken. There’s no doubt that he’s dead. Probably killed on impact.

Pursley is alive. But just barely. He too is in terrible shape. Pursley’s skull is fractured. His left leg twisted, torn, and mangled. His chest is crushed and surgeons at the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital will find he also suffered internal injuries.

Doctors perform emergency surgery. It isn’t enough. They’re physicians, not miracle workers. A day later, Pursley is dead. Adding to the tragedy — his wife of just a couple months, they got hitched October 23 — is waiting for him in a room at the Plaza Hotel in San Francisco.

“It was terrible — it was awful,” Detterman says the next day. “It stunned us — crushed us. I could hardly breathe.”

Meyers agrees with his friend, that “it was the most awful moment of my life.”

An LA County coroners inquest will be held, December 9, after the deaths of Woodford and Pursley are investigated.

While a pint of liquor was found in the room, the LAPD will testify that there is no evidence any of the four men in Room 922 at the Hayward had touched even one drop of the alcohol.

Nor is there a single sign of a fight or even a struggle. Nothing to explain what happened. Just four guys having a good time. And the joke.

LA County officials promise their inquest will begin with the question, “what was so damn funny?” They want to hear the joke.

A day later, December 10, 1929, the verdicts are released.

“Accidental Death,” in both cases.

The cause of death: Nothing but a good joke told very well.

As hard as I tried, I have not been able to find the joke! Maybe that’s for the best. Perhaps it’s like the video tape in the movie The Ring with Naomi Watts. Watch it, or in this case, listen to it…and you are just another stiff on a cold slab in the mortuary.

Just like the LA candy men, Woodford and Pursley.


In this gripping novel, “The Murder of Bella Black," a young woman finds herself trusting the wrong person with her life. Despite her fear of needles, she lets him inject her, unaware that he intends to plunge her into an eternal slumber.

Unbeknownst to her, a close friend who harbored unrequited love had the means to send her into a deep sleep. Blinded by trust, she succumbs to his deception, never suspecting the depth of his hatred towards her.

When her lifeless body is discovered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the police are baffled. There are no signs of forced entry, and the autopsy reveals no obvious cause of death.

It appears that sometimes young women simply die.

However, a meticulous medical examiner uncovers a minuscule puncture wound, barely visible on her arm, leading to a sudden shift in the investigation.

“The Murder of Bella Black" is a heart-wrenching and harrowing account of a young woman's murder, and the unwavering determination of the police department to ensure her killer does not evade justice.


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