Carole Tregoff puts her head on her manacled wrist and breaks into tears after her arraignment.
The Fascinating Finch Affair
Rampant greed, sex, and a considerable dose of comedy ensured that this trial of a wealthy doctor and his mistress as joint defendants on charges of murder dominated newspaper headlines for months.
Here’s one that takes you back to, when automobile tailfins were at their height, Ike was still in the White House, and newspapers were full of stories about the doctor, his girl friend, and his murdered wife.
Dr. Bernard Finch was a middle-aged Los Angles–area surgeon who was having a torrid romance with his shapely young receptionist, Carole Tregoff. The only problem was that Finch was already married, and his wealthy and socially prominent wife would clean him out financially in the event of a divorce.
What to do? Murder seemed like the most profitable solution, but a hired assassin failed to get the job done. So the determined lovers were left to do it themselves.
On February 26, 1961, Carole Tregoff received a letter from Dr. Bernard Finch. In it, he told her of his undying love, of his thoughts about their future together, of how, from the beginning, he had considered her the most wonderful girl he had ever known. It was an anniversary letter, he said, for it celebrated the very first time they had lunched téte-a-téte four years before. Under ordinary circumstances the letter would have been no more remarkable than any of the billions of exchanges between men and their women since the first cave man chiseled a valentine to his chick. But the circumstances weren’t ordinary. Both Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff were serving life sentences in California penitentiaries: he for obtaining an “instant divorce: with the help of a .38-caliber bullet; she for conspiring with him to commit the crime.
Carole had been introduced to Finch three weeks after she was hired as a receptionist at the West Covina Medical Center in Los Angeles. Finch and his brother-in-law were partners in the Center and had borrowed a quarter of a million dollars to set it up. When the doctor and the ravishing redhead met he said, “Hello, and that was that for about seven months. Carole soon heard gossip at the Center about the doctor’s marriage — not good — and that he was, in fact, dating a couple of the Center’s pretty employees. Since she was having marital problems of her own at the time, the gossip made little impression on her. But, from a distance, the handsome doctor did.
Carole, eighteen when the employment agency sent her to be interviewed at the Center, was tall, red-headed, extremely pretty, with an outstanding figure — if you know what I mean. She was married to a chap named Jimmy Pappa, whom she had first dated during high school. The marriage wasn’t working. Not at all. They shared an apartment and little else.
Dr. Finch at forty had a lucrative surgical practice, was a ranking tennis amateur, and had a winning way with the ladies. He was, in short, notably successful both as surgeon and operator. The home in which he and his wife lived, with their small son and her young daughter by a previous marriage, was quite elegant. They each had a car, he a Cadillac, she a Chrysler. They had a dog. And they had a lovely young Swedish girl, a part-time college student, to take care of the two children and help around the house. In the end, it was this girl more than anyone who cooked the doctor’s goose.
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