Sunday, October 24, 2010

Did Sal Mineo's real killer get away? One gal knows the truth!

Sal was a cute, young man with a large fan following. He appeared in and starred in many films. But his career was in a slump when he was murdered. The person who confessed to his murder, may have been covering for the real killer.

It was a Thursday evening, just another boring Thursday night. I was anticipating a call from Tab Hunter (for reasons I cannot now remember), when suddenly my phone rang. It was my former roommate, Joel Reed, who informed me of the murder of Sal Mineo. I was stunned. I knew Sal was one of the nicest guys in films. He was a very sensitive and emotional person who preferred living a quiet life.

I phoned actor Corey Allen to see if he had heard the news, (Corey played Buzz in "Rebel Without A Cause"). This was the film that had made Sal a star. But, I had forgotten that Corey was directing "Lightning and Thunder," in Florida, a film that starred David Carradine. Then I phoned Dennis Hopper in Taos, to see if he had heard the news, but his phone was "out of order." Dennis had also been in Rebel Without A Cause. Sal's death, at that time, made three members of the cast who were no longer living. James Dean, and Nick Adams had been the other two. Since this story, we also lost Natalie Wood, Bill Hopper (Natalie's father in the film, who was also gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper's son), Jim Backus, Dean's father in the film, and the Director, Nick Ray.

Then I phoned Eddie Gould, in Flint, Michigan, who had headed Sal's fan club. I told Eddie of what I just heard and asked him to contact Sal's family in New Jersey to see if they had been notified by the police.

I decided to take a walk and get some fresh air. It was now Friday the 13th. It was a foggy, lonely night. I walked up Highland Avenue to Hughes Market, that was open all night. I ran into actor, Aldo Ray, who looked like he had been in a fight, (another bout with alcohol). I asked him if he had heard about Sal? He said he hadn't and was quite stunned.

When I got back to my apartment, I phoned KABC radio to get the latest news on Sal's death. The program director, who answered the phone, said he had produced a couple of things Sal had appeared in. The director, needless to say, was in a very down mood.

The newspapers said a blond haired guy had been seen running away from the area where Sal was murdered. (Sure, like those sniper killings when witnesses saw a white van or truck. They may have seen white vans pass but they never had anything to do with the murders, even though the police announced to the world, that the sniper was in a white van). Eye witnesses to crimes, are shit witnesses, in most cases. Five persons can witness a crime and all have different descriptions of the guilty person. And at that time, Gary Sandy had also lived in the same apartment complex as Sal. Like I said in another chapter, I felt Gary was homophobic. And he had blond hair, so who knows? Gary had a mean streak, as I also mentioned earlier with his former girlfriend, Joy Garrett, blackening her eye. Sal was murdered in the carport behind the complex.

I had talked with Gary on the phone, a few days prior to the murder. He was going to meet with me and return the James Dean book by Bill Bast that he had borrowed when he was in Flint visiting his girl friend, Joy. After the news of the murder, I left a message on his answering machine telling him about Sal's murder. He never returned my call, and even changed his phone number a couple of days later. Then, I felt he was really guilty of something, either knowing who did it, or that he may have committed the crime himself.

Twenty-one year old Lionel Ray Williams, was eventually charged with the crime after he bragged about it while he was incarcerated in a Michigan jail.

A few years later, I met the sister of Lionel. I had started the James Dean Memorial Foundation in Hollywood, to raise funds to build a James Dean statue. Lionel's sister worked in the Taft building (in telemarketing) where my office was and she came down to see the photographs of Dean, that I had displayed on the walls. She was talking to me in the doorway when she exclaimed, "Oh my God!" I asked her what was wrong? She saw the small poster from "Rebel Without A Cause," on the wall and her brother was in prison for murdering Sal Mineo! She said he didn't do it, although he was a mean enough guy to have done it, but he was "covering for a friend." She said Sal was murdered over a drug deal. Sal allegedly owed a few thousand dollars for drugs. Lionel told her the real killer was a friend named Rock, who was in the military and who had been stationed overseas, and he returned there after the murder.

When the newspapers printed the story about Lionel's arrest it was buried in the back pages. For a long time I was the sole person to know the real story as told to me by Lionel's sister. I guess I am still the sole person to write this information she told to me. Many writers, yet today, say Sal's killer was never found. There is a book on Sal, ("Sal Mineo" by H. Paul Jeffers), that tells the whole story, with the exception of the drug thing I mentioned here. Through this author I learned Sal's brother Mike, whom I knew in 1957, had also died of a heart attack. My newspaper headline SAL MINEO'S KILLER IS NOW KNOWN, wasn't factual. The police, as well as myself, further investigated the facts that were given to us by a so called insider, and we learned he was a liar. And we fell for it, hook line and sinker. Many stories or tips we got, seemed plausible. "We had dealt with this person in the past and the stories were all true," an officer told me. If and when we erred, we admitted it in the newspaper.

California Justice. In March of 1979, Williams was sentenced to 51 years to life for Second Degree Murder, and ten robberies. He was paroled eleven years later in 1990. He was arrested again for robbery and other crimes and sentenced back to prison. By the end of the 90's he was paroled again. "Only in California!" Or is it Cullyfoonyah? Arnold.

Then a so-called informer, said that I was going to be a target of a robbery at my restaurant. He said he overheard a couple guys talking about it. I informed the police. They said he had told them other things that were true. Suddenly there were detectives all around the Taft building, where my restaurant was located. A detective cruiser was across the street next to a Taco stand, two detectives were in and out, like they were customers. And when Preston (an employee) and I closed and walked to the parking lot, there were two more plain clothes detectives in unmarked cars. Of course they stood out, like all detective cars do. I approached one of the cars and said, "Well, nothing happened." He flipped out because I had blown their cover! I learned later there had been over a dozen cops around the store.

Then I remembered that the store I was in, had been robbed and the owner shot, a year before when it was a small jewelry store. I guess this is why the police were so concerned.

Many of my investigations put heat on me and I was often afraid of retaliations.


At gossip columnist