Story of ’52 murders at Crater Lake near finish
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
January 30, 2000
By JOE CARAHER
It’s been a long story and it isn’t finished yet. This is the unsolved mystery. The one where two men were murdered in Crater Lake National Park, July 13, 1952.
The pair, Charles Culhane and Albert Jones, were waiting at Annie Creek to meet Frank Eberlein and his associate, Jack Vaughn. They had a fishing trip planned. The campground in the park was their pre-planned meeting place. Then they would go on to Union Creek, location of an Eberlein family cabin.
Checking the Annie Creek area, Eberlein and Vaughn found the bodies.
Young Eberlein told me that just before the discovery of their murdered friends, he had returned to Klamath Falls. “I was a high school kid at the time.”
The men found the two bodies where they expected to meet. Their friends had been shot dead.
At one time pressure was put on the writers of TV’s “Unsolved Mysteries” but the producers finally stayed clear of it.
Over the years, Jones’ granddaughter, Alice Simms of Santa Maria, Calif., has conducted a long, arduous search to find who did the murdering.
Alice has spent untiring years trying to find out who killed her grandfather.
The case has been one of the major unsolved mysteries in the Pacific Northwest.
I have come to know Alice through mail and telephone conversations. She brings me up to date about new angles.
Our first column appeared after we read George Bell’s story in the Seattle P-I, published in the Sunday, Aug. 25, 1963, edition.
At the time of the murders, Bell was working as a reporter for the Herald and News, a local boy who went on to work for Southern Oregon University.
Frank Eberlein and Jack Vaughn died just a year or so ago. Frank had told me he hoped the Alice would continue her search and also urged me to stay with the story.
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Just the other day, I called Alice in Santa Maria to see if there had been any new developments regarding her search for her grandfather’s murderer. Her determination to find the whole, true story of the happening brought me up to date in the letter received this week (Jan. 22, 2000).
It reads as follows:
“Thank you so much for taking the time once again to assist me with this ‘mystery.’ I find it hard to believe but it’s almost six years since I began my search for the individuals who killed my grandfather, Albert J. Jones, and his business associate, Charles P. Culhane. As you know they were murdered execution-style on July 19, 1952, at Crater Lake National Park and to date these murders remain unsolved.
“Most families spend as much time accumulating information for their family genealogy. I, on the other hand, have spent countless time and energy researching these unsolved murders. I am now 99.9 percent certain that I know who killed my grandfather and Mr. Culhane. Now the most difficult task remains in trying to convince the FBI that my evidence, albeit circumstantial, is sufficient to at least review the case once again. I remain hesitant to publish the names of the individuals who I suspect murdered my grandfather as I have recently found one of their family members and they reside in Oregon. However, the name of the gang is ‘The Mountain Mob.’
“I know that I also shared with you that your two previous articles did generate some interest from a couple of your readers. They both called with information regarding The Mountain Mob. The possibility that this gang could have anything to do with the murders of my grandfather and Mr. Culhane gave me the impetus to continue my research. I am certain in your years as a journalist you have heard some rather amazing stories. The information I received from these individuals was indeed amazing, and sad. This gang was vicious.
“They murdered a man in northern California in his own home. The man was part of their gang and they had suspected that he was ‘holding out on them.’ They went to his house, confronted him, didn’t like his answers, and shot him.
“A few months later, as I ‘theorize,’ they were in Medford and from there went to Crater Lake. Once there they saw two well-dressed businessmen, and later robbed and murdered them. Of course the men were my grandfather and Mr. Culhane. Three months later they robbed and murdered a man and three of the four children who were with him.
“Five months later they murdered a woman in Long Beach, Calif. They believed she was hiding money for one of her relatives who was a gangster.
“A movie was made of their last ‘escapade.’ It is titled ‘I Want to Live,’ and starred Susan Hayworth. In this movie a reporter sympathizes with the girlfriend of one of the gang members. The girlfriend was involved in two of the murders but always claimed her innocence, even to her death in the electric chair in June of 1955. In fact, the two men who I suspect had something to do with the murders of my grandfather and Mr. Culhane were also executed at that time.
“Over the years many people have asked me if the individuals who murdered my grandfather are dead then why would I even want to continue searching for more answers? I think you probably could have answered them better than I. There is just something inside of me that pushes me to continue until I am positive I have all of the answers. It’s like reading a good mystery and not being able to finish it for several days.
“You’re more than curious to know who killed whom. This is where I am at right now. I’m almost to the last page of that novel but I want to see the final exclamation point!
“Late last year I finally received the FBI file on my grandfather from Washington, DC. It’s seven volumes, and 1,400 pages long. Your next question: if I can anticipate just a little here. …
“Does the FBI file confirm or reject my theory? Actually, in my mind the file does neither. So where does this leave me? Certainly further ahead than square one … I am very satisfied with my progress and have been extremely fortunate to have met so many wonderful people, such as you.
“Thank you again and I will continue to keep in touch …”
Sincerely, Alice Simms
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The late Frank Eberlein sent us a copy of his story about the Crater Lake Mystery which he wrote for the Shaw Library. It’s a great accounting of his memory in connection with a chapter in our Klamath history.
Maybe, after all these years, justice will be served.