Photo of the Day

Carole Tregoff puts her head on her manacled wrist and breaks into tears after her arraingment.

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.

After seven months as a receptionist, Carole became secretary to Dr. Finch.  The third member of the Finch team was his nurse.  According to Center gossip, the businesslike relationship between doctor and nurse that obtained during the day was subject to change after hours.  But Carole thought little of that and a great deal of the doctor.

From time to time members of the staff at the Center, including Dr. Finch, would lunch together, but it wasn’t until another seven months passed that Finch asked Carole to lunch alone with him.  By then Carole could more than sense the mutual attraction between them.  She was in love with the doctor.

The luncheon, on February 26, 1957, led to dinner later in the week.  The dinner led to six hours of agreeable conversation, which led to Carole’s arrival at home at 4:15 A.M., which led to a battle with her husband.  At that point, Carole said later, she stopped all sexual relations with Jimmy Pappa, which was no more than any right-thinking virtuous wife would do.

During the next few weeks Carole and the doctor found the blips on their personal radar screen clearly on a collision course.  Neither wanted to avoid it.  For a while they lunched and dined most decorously.  Finch was an old had at this game, and besides, he was as deeply smitten as a man of his restless, mercurial temperament could be.  So there were no cramped clutches in the back of an automobile, no furtive slinking in and out of motels.  I suppose they both, in that tingling preliminary to the main bout, were tenderly teasing each other: she with a show of shyness, he with a semblance of manly gentleness and patience.

In due time Dr. Finch suggested, quite reasonably, that if they found a little apartment they could be together more frequently and in greater comfort.  Even then, after an apartment had been rented in the name of Mr. and Mrs. George Evans, a month went by, if you can believe Carole, before they surrendered to the inevitable.  Aprés that, le déluge!

During their trial Dr. Finch testified that for a year and a half, in that apartment and in another to which they later moved, he and Carole met at lunchtime daily, and very often early in the morning and at cocktail time as well!  My ears may have deceived me, but it seemed to me that a faint sigh of wonderment — or could it have been envy? — stirred the somnolent air of the courtroom when the magnitude of the doctor’s achievement struck the spectators.  One had only to look at luscious Carole, though, to realize that the doctor’s spectacular performance owed something to her inspiration.

All this time, or at least whenever they had a chance to catch their breaths, they talked over plans for the future.  It was decided that each would seek a divorce.  Carole first, since she was weary of living with Mr. Papa and could untie the knot without much difficulty.  Finch would have to wait because he felt a divorce at that time would create problems in connection with the financing of the Medical Center, might affect his practice, and above all, would require him at a most awkward moment to share his fortune with Barbara under California’s community property laws.

He had long since explained to Carole his version of the arrangement (“armistice” he called it) under which he and Barbara maintained a front to their broken marriage.  They continued to live under one roof, sharing everything except the well-known conjugal rights.  Barbara, he said, had been sexually frigid since the birth of their son a few years before.  They went out together to parties, the tennis club, and here and there among their friends.  Outwardly they agreed that their private lives could be lived as each saw fit, as long as one did nothing to embarrass the other.  That was the reason he had taken the love nest under an assumed name, he assured Carole.  It was the decent thing to do.

In their talks he returned continually to the theme that until the Medical Center was firmly established and paying him a substantial income, he could not afford a divorce.  But the day would not be too far distant when Carole and he could be wed.

Not long after Finch had rented the first love nest in Monterey Park, his wife, driving by, had seen him emerge with a bag of groceries cradled in one arm and Carole draped on the other.  They waved at each other.  When Finch got home he said he’d only been performing a neighborly good deed, helping Carole with her shopping.

Apparently Barbara had been considering a unilateral termination of the armistice.  Perhaps she brooded about all the fun Finch was having.  At any rate, on September 9, 1958, she telephoned Jimmy Pappa at the place in which he was employed and blew the whistle on Carole.  Jimmy was stunned.  The idea that Carole might be unfaithful to him never entered his mind.  Her coldness, he believed (unwittingly echoing Dr. Finch), was the result of sexual frigidity.  But here she was, if Mrs. Finch wasn’t lying, responding normally to another man.  All he could say to Barbara Finch, he later testified, was to ask why she didn’t divorce the doctor.  Her answer was brief and to the point.  This way “she had it made.”  When she was ready she could, under the law, get a better than fifty-percent property settlement if she could prove adultery.

The many faces of Carole Tregoff Pappa.

The many faces of Carole Tregoff Pappa.

When Carole got home that day Jimmy broke the news to her with a slap in the mouth.  This destroyed Carole’s faith in the sanctity of marriage and she moved out the next day, never to return.  Her father and his wife made room for her, at least for the time she wasn’t with Dr. Finch.

A few days went by and then Jimmy Pappa showed up at the Medical Center to see Dr. Finch.  He had visite the doctor once before, when Finch operated on Jimmy’s knee.  This time he didn’t want any medical advice.  He wanted his wife back, especially after Finch denied that there was any substance to Barbara’s accusations.  But Carole, frightened though she was, refused to think about returning.  She had filed for divorced the day she fled her home.  She was going through with it.

Dr. Finch explained to Carole that he had denied the affair because he was afraid Jimmy would try to beat her again.  Also, he told her, he didn’t want to hand Barbara any more evidence than she already had, which wasn’t a great deal.

Finch feathered another little nest for his love not far from the first, and they moved there soon after the confrontation with Jimmy Pappa.

In January, 1959, without mentioning it to her husband, Barbara Finch began talking to an attorney, Joseph Forno, about a divorce.  She also employed private detectives to follow the doctor and Carole to collect evidence of adultery.  Finch became aware of this in April, when one of the shamuses took pictures of the couple at a beach.  Matters got even stickier when on several occasions, under one pretext or another, Carole just happened to be in the vicinity when the Finches were together at the tennis club or at other gay places.  This further inflamed barbara and shocked friends who knew what was going on.

On May 16, Barbara called the lawyer and told him that the doctor had stuck her with a pistol the night before, opening a wound over her eye that required several stitches (the stitching was done by Finch at the hospital.  He took her there after the incident, which he claimed resulted from an accidental fall against a table).  Barbara went to Forno’s office, where the wound was photographed.  She urged the lawyer to speed up the divorce proceedings because Finch had threatened her life.

The Finches separated on May 18.  Barbara went to the home of a friend, since it was customary to give the husband a few days to clear out.  During her stay with the friend, Barbara frequently said that she was in mortal fear of Bernie Finch.  But after Finch moved out of their home, Barbara returned.

On May 20 divorce papers were filed against Finch, including a petition for division of community property, alimony, and support for six-year-old Raymond Bernard Finch, Jr.  Apparently Barbara’s private eyes hadn’t gotten enough evidence of adultery against the doctor: the divorce action merely cited “extreme cruelty.”

Barbara Jean Finch, the victim.

Barbara Jean Finch, the victim.

The next day, May 21, Barbara also sought a restraining order that would forbid the doctor to molest her in any way, directly or indirectly.  It also prevented him from withdrawing or disposing of any funds or property.  She included in the request a statement that on May 15 the doctor had done her bodily harm and had threatened her life.  Finch agreed, through his own attorney, to a hearing on June 11, and on that day the restraining order, by agreement of both parties, was signed into the record.  To Finch, who was reputed to be worth about three-quarters of a million dollars, it meant that all his income passed into a joint account and he couldn’t draw a penny without Barbara’s consent.  At the same time Finch was ordered to pay, beginning July 1, $2000 in counsel fees, $500 in court costs, and $200 a month alimony.

On July 7, Barbara filed an affidavit that her husband was in contempt of the court’s order.  A hearing on the contempt was set for July 23.  But July 23 never came for Barbara Finch.  On July 18, at about 11:30 A.M., she was shot dead.

But before the tragedy, back at the love nest, there had been a change in plans.  After Dr. Finch had been served with the papers, Carole decided that perhaps it might be wiser if she removed herself from the scene until the dust of battle had settled.  On May 26, she moved to Las Vegas, staying first with some old friends and then moving to an apartment that she and finch Located and for which he paid the rent.  To occupy her time she got a job as a cocktail waitress.  When he wasn’t busy with his practice, or with the Legal Sturm and Drang surrounding his relations with his wife, he visited Carole at her apartment.

It was in Las Vegas that the most bizarre and controversial episode of what was soon to be called the Finch-Tregoff case took place.  According to Carole and Finch, they had hired a flashy small-time hood to try to get evidence of adultery against Barbara to counter the evidence they assumed she had on them.  But the hood, Jack Cody, testified that they had hired him purely and simply to kill Barbara.

Whatever the truth, one thing was perfectly clear: Cody, although he managed to extract about $1300 from the lovers, never at any time came within a mile of Barbara or had any intention of doing so.9197894824_c893c7f303_n

Carole Tregoff testifying in the Barbara Jean Finch murder trial, in which she and her lover Dr. R. Bernard Finch are accused of slaying his estranged wife. (Corbis)

Carole Tregoff testifying in the Barbara Jean Finch murder trial, in which she and her lover Dr. R. Bernard Finch are accused of slaying his estranged wife. (Corbis)


On the evening of July 18, Finch and Carole drove Carole’s car to the country club near the Finch home and parked.  They walked to the house, which was on a rise just above the home of Finch’s father, and noted that the garage was empty.  Barbara was still out.  They waited.  About 11:15 Barbara drove up and into the garage.  Finch went in after her.  Barbara began screaming for help.  The young Swedish maid ran out of the home and into the garage.  here was a shot.  Then Barbara came dashing out of the garage and down the incline toward her father-in-law’s house.  Finch ran after her.  There was another shot.  Barbara started down some wooden steps, then fell into a heap at the bottom.  The maid by that time had run to the house and called the police.

When the police arrived they found Barbara dead, shot in the back.  Neither Finch nor Carole was anywhere to be seen, although Carole swore she was actually hiding in the shrubbery during the time the police, detectives, and doctor’s were all over the place.  Finch had taken off immediately after the shooting, stolen one car and then another, and made his way to Las Vegas, where he went to bed in Carole’s apartment.  Carole drove herself back after everyone had left the Finch home.  When she got to Las Vegas she told Bernie that Barbara was dead.  He was too worn out to talk about it, so Carole got dressed and went to work.

Finch was arrested next day in the Las Vegas apartment.  He coolly explained that he could not have murdered his wife because he was in Las Vegas at he time of the killing.  To prove it, he showed the police his car, which he said had been parked in the Los Angeles airport lot since Friday — the day before the murder.  Employees there said the car had not been moved.

But Carole guilelessly placed Finch at the scene.  She and the doctor, she said, drove to West Covina that night in her car.  “We left it in the parking lot at the country club, because we thought if Barbara saw the car she would not come out and talk to us.”

They wanted to talk to Barbara about the divorce, Carole said, although precisely what they hoped to gain was never made clear.  She had no explanation for Dr. Finch’s brown leather attaché case found on the lawn by the police, which contained two pairs of rubber gloves, some rope, a butcher knife, sedatives, a hypodermic, some .38-caliber ammunition and a flashlight — a collection the police later dubbed “the do-it-yourself murder kit.”

She told the police that when she and the doctor arrived at the house, Barbara was out.  Awaiting her return, Carole amused herself by blowing up the rubber gloves and playing with the family dog.  She explained the presence of fragments of rubber near the house and in Barbara’s car by saying the dog ripped the gloves.

When Barbara drove into the garage, as Carole told it, the irate wife refused to talk to Finch and threatened them with a gun.  Carole fled to a clump of bushes and hid.  From the bushes she heard a commotion and some shots.

She remained cowering behind the bushes for five or six hours, then picked up her car and returned to Las Vegas.

Experts on the prosecution side admitted that Carole would never have had to face a trial if she had kept as quiet as her lover.  In the beginning they figured her as a witness for the state, at most, but she was arrested on July 29 as she left the witness stand following Dr. Finch;s “preliminary hearing” (a legal requirement in California so familiar to every “Perry Mason” fan).  Assistant District Attorney Fred N. Whichello charged that in her testimony she changed the story she had given the police on several major points and that she had, in fact, conspired with the doctor in the murder.

The young woman admitted that she and Dr. Finch had “more or less” exchanged protestations of love and had spoken indirectly of marriage after both were free.  Mr. Whichello then asked: “Prior to this shooting did you have sexual intercourse with Dr. Finch?”

Dr. Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff put on their game faces during the trial. (Photograph by Ralph Crane/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Dr. Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff put on their game faces during the trial. (Photograph by Ralph Crane/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Miss Tregoff broke down in sobs.  Finally she answered: “Yes.”

Whichello said Miss Tregoff ”tripped herself up” when she testified that she took the doctor’s leather attaché case from her car at the Finch home when the doctor asked her to get a flashlight.  She identified the kitchen knife and the flashlight as household goods the doctor bought for her.  She said finch carried weapons whenever he had narcotics in the car.

Whichello contended that “she read in the newspapers about the murder kit and decided she had to account for it.  In the previous questioning, the bag was never mentioned.  These changes in testimony show a concert of action between Miss Tregoff and Dr. Finch.  I am satisfied they conspired together, and that she aided him in committing the crime.

“I believe their plan was to tie Mrs. Finch with rope, give her an injection of sedative, put her in the car and push the car off the cliff in front of the Finch house.”

The motive, Whichello said, was clear.  He pointed out that Mrs. Finch had filed for suit for divorce two months earlier.  She was entitled to at least half the doctor’s wealth — estimated at $750,000 — as community property and also wanted $2500 a month alimony.  Finch didn’t want to share his wealth.  In addition, “one of the motives for killing her was to get rid of the wife in order that he might marry this younger woman.”

So began the case of the Delinquent Doctor and the Sexy Redhead, illustrating once more that an amateur bent on committing the perfect crime seldom achieves anything except disaster.  And Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff were undoubtedly the most awkward pair of amateurs ever to make this effort.

The trial made headlines not merely because of the looks of one of the defendants and the social status of the other.  It was noteworthy because it contained so many elements that were incredible.  If half of what the prosecution outlined was true, the Finch-Tregoff case must have been the most preposterously prepared and elaborately bungled murder in the annals of modern crime.

Dr. Finch, by all accounts, was an intelligent man — not the type to commit a murder inspired by spur-of-the-moment passion.  One of his fellow physicians said of the state;s allegations: “It seems downright silly to me. Why, a trained medical man could think of a thousand ways to kill someone without resorting to violence — ways police and autopsy surgeons would never discover.  Who needs a gun?”

Carole Tregoff has a slight smile on her face as she confers with her attorney, Don Bringgold, before the start of the Finch murder trial.

Carole Tregoff has a slight smile on her face as she confers with her attorney, Don Bringgold, before the start of the Finch murder trial.

Then take the victim.  On the very day she was killed the fearful wife talked about going to Palm Springs because she was terrified and “wanted to get away from Bernie.:  But she didn’t go.  She stayed in West Covina, played tennis at the club, dined with friends, and drove home alone to meet the fatal bullet.

She had told he fears to her maid, a movie star, her lawyer, to the young woman friend with hom she stayed while Finch was moving out of their house.  And although all of them listened to her sympathetically and gave her advice, she went back to the house where she was so easy to find and where, eventually, she died on the lawn under a bright moon.

Why didn’t she simply give Finch what he wanted in order to get rid of him for good? She certainly had it in her power to remove the source of her fear. If she really was afraid!

Dr. Finch was unbelievably stupid if he actually took Carole to his home for a conference with Mrs. Finch, who knew all about their affair.

And Carole was stupid to go with him on such a ludicrously doomed mission.  She was stupid, too, to weave a welter of contradictions into her statements to the authorities.

The Finch-Tregoff trial began with Whichello’s opening statement for the prosecution pointing to Marie Anne Lindholm, the Finch Maid, as the state’s key witness.

A slight, slender girl, she sat quietly in the packed courtroom as Whichello gave the prosecution’s version of the slaying and her part in it as a witness.

She had been Mrs. Finch’s confidante, had heard her fears of the doctor, had seen the signs of the beating he had given his wife, had witnessed his breaking into the house after he had moved out and the locks had been changed.  Mrs. Finch had told her of a hired killer from Las Vegas.  Then came the night of July 18.  She had been home with the two children and heard her employer drive into the garage and, a few minutes later, her cry: “Help!” The maid, who was putting her hair up in curlers, ran dot the garage and found Mrs. Finch lying on the floor and Dr. Finch standing over her, holding a gun.

The doctor, in a fury, had seized Marie Anne and banged her head against the garage wall, stunning her and breaking a hole in the plaster.  THen he fired a shot at nothing in particular, ordered both the maid and Mrs. Finch into the car, and got in himself under the wheel.  Marie Anne docily got into the back seat, but Mrs. Finch, although showing evidence of a brutal beating, got out and began to run down the driveway.  The doctor followed and there was another shot.  The girl rushed into the house and called the police.

Finch’s house dominated a ledge at the top of a sharply inclined private road.  His father’s house was on a ledge slightly below.  The roadway eased straight down from the doctor’s house to his father’s house, then made a hairpin turn.  To one side of the road, where it swung abruptly around, the cliff dropped off a hundred and fifty feet.

Carole Tregoff and her mother, talking to Robert Neeb, a partner of famed criminal lawyer Jerry Giesler, whose office decided to represent Finch's mistress.

Carole Tregoff and her mother, talking to Robert Neeb, a partner of famed criminal lawyer Jerry Giesler, whose office decided to represent Finch’s mistress.

Whichello charged that Finch, with the help of the “murder kit,” planned to put his wife in the car and drive it down the hillside to the curve and over the cliff, making the death appear an accident.  The plan went awry, Whichello says, when Marie Anne burst into the garage.  Finch then tried to put both women in the car and carry out his scheme.  But the entire plot collapsed when Barbara broke and ran.

When it came time for her turn to testify, Marie Anne was an effective witness, repeating what she had told Whichello and yielding very little to the defense on cross-examination.  Then, in re-direct examination, came the prosecution’s blockbuster.

Have you any reason to recall a conversation you had with Mrs. Finch about a beating to which you testified?
A. Yes.  I have it written down.
Q. In what form?
A. I wrote it in a letter to my mother.
Q. When was it that you wrote the letter?
A. I wrote it about a week after Mrs. Finch told me.
Q. And in this letter you mentioned this subject?
A. Yes.

Mr. Whichello produced the letter, and Marie Anne identified it.  It was written in Swedish, but defense counsel had been provided with an English translation.  It was quite a long letter, the translation running almost a page and a half of single-space typing.  Mr. Whichello asked the witness: “Can you show me in this letter where the reference to Las Vegas appears?”

“Yes,” said the girl.  At this point the defense jumped up to protest the admission of the letter, and a conference in chambers followed.  The defense quite naturally wanted to keep the letter from the jury — it was a body blow — but the judge ruled to admit a portion of the letter to show “no previous fabrication” on the part of the young witness.  It was a big inning for Whichello.

The doctor’s twelve-year-old stepdaughter backed up the eyewitness story of the Finch maid that she ran to the help of Mrs. Finch and then saw Dr. Finch chase her into the night and heard a shot.

Other hight spots of the prosecution’s case came with the testimony of a movie star and a moocher – one to elaborate on the “pattern of fear: that haunted Barbara Jean Finch before her death, the other to testify that Dr. Bernard Finch, with assistance from Carole Tregoff, hired him to kill his wife.

The movie star Mark Stevens testified that he had urged Barbara to defend herself with a jack-handle if Finch ever attacked her.  He gave her this advice after Barbara told him of Finch’s threats. (The police found the jack-handle next to Barbara’s bed.)

Cody was there because of an incredible coincidence.  A prostitute had been picked up in Las Vegas on a forgery charge shortly after Mrs. Finch’s murder.  During questioning, she mentioned that she and another girl had been brought to Las Vegas by a man named Richard A. Keachie, who was mixed up in some kind of plot to kill a doctor’s wife in Los Angeles.

The Las Vegas police didn’t connect her tory with the Finch murder until they looked into Keachie’s record.  They found that he had been arrested in June for a traffic violation.  He had been driving Carole Tregoff’s car.

Keachie led the police to Don Williams, twenty-one, a University of Nevada honor student and a childhood friend of Carole’s , who said at first that she had asked him to find “a couple of tough guys” to kill Mrs. Finch.  Later he claimed she only wanted someone to “rough up” the doctor’s wife.  Keachie recommended as a prospective killer John Patrick Cody, age twenty-nine.  Police traced Cody to Minneapolis, where he was in jail for forgery.  Cody was a small-time crook — a very small-time, misdemeanor-type mug.  They brought him back from Minneapolis to retell a story he had told the police and later a grand jury.  It was a tale that belonged in the now-I’ve-heard-everything category.  When he first recited it veteran cops thought they were tuned to the wrong channel, maybe Mars, maybe Disneyland.

Cody fingered Carole Tregoff as a talent scout for murder.  He credited her with going to quite a bit of trouble to “discover: him in Las Vegas, lining him up as Mrs. Finch’s assassin, then introducing him to her lover, Dr. Finch who was paying for the job and who made a few suggestions about the manner in which it might best be carried out.

Of course, Cody maintained from the beginning, he never had any idea of doing the job.  He just saw an irresistible chance to play a couple of suckers (ultimately he cost the lovers $1300, excluding the price of plane tickets, which he turned back for cash), so he kidded them along.

Carole Tregoff enters the police station for questioning.

Carole Tregoff enters the police station for questioning.

Carole gave him a map of the Finch place, warned him that the garage door might stick, and told him not to worry about the Finch dog, which looked ferocious but actually was harmless.  She also gave him a picture of his intended victim.

“She told me she wanted this job done over the July Fourth weekend because the doctor would be playing in a tennis tournament at La Jolla and would have a good alibi in case he might be suspected,” Cody said.  (Whichello claimed Cody could not know Finch was playing in the tournament unless Carole had indeed told him.)

According to Cody, Carole gave him a $350 down payment and a plane ticket to Los Angeles, but he went to a Las Vegas gambling joint and blew the money in a crap game.  After lying low for a few days, he said, he went to Carole, told her Mrs. Finch had been murdered, and received the remaining $850.

When Finch returned to Las Vegas, Carole and Cody told him his wife had been eliminated. “You must be nuts,” the doctor was quoted as saying. “I called my home this morning and talked to my wife.”

Cody said: “Well, I killed some woman.  I put the body in the trunk of an old automobile standing on the street near the Hollywood Hills Motel.”

“My God,” Cody reported the doctor as saying, “that is a terrible tragedy.  Some poor innocent woman got killed.”

The doctor’s remorse, however, did not prevent him from insisting that Cody go through with his end of the bargain.

“The doctor told me I could use the shotgun he always carried in the trunk of his Cadillac,: Cody continued. “But I told him I didn’t like to use a shotgun because it was too messy, so he guessed I was right.”

(Police later did find a shotgun in Finch;s car and claimed that Cody could not have known about it unless Finch told him.) “I told him I hoped he knew what he was doing because, in my opinion, this Carole wasn’t worth it,” the phony gunman claimed.

But he couldn’t convince the doctor.  Finch and Carole put him on a plane for Los Angeles.  Once again he reneged, took a bus back to Las Vegas, and blew the rest of the money at a gambling spot.

This time Finch became enraged and, according to Cody, declared: “Okay, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”

Cody had sworn to all of this, in a signed statement to the police and at a preliminary hearing.  It was unlikely that the State of California would trouble to negotiate with the State of Minnesota for his appearance there, under guard, unless the prosecution was pretty sure he would sing the same chorus and maybe another sixteen bars at this trial for murder.  So there he was, facing us from the witness chair.

Cody was slight, shifty-eyed, inclined to pale satin neckties.  He was the first witness to attribute to Carole words and actions that would tie her to what the state called “the conspiracy.”  If the jury believed him, and subsequently decided Dr. Finch meant to shoot his wife on the night of July 18, Carole was in as much trouble as if she had pulled the trigger herself.

Dr. Bernard Finch (Photograph by Grey Villet/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Dr. Bernard Finch
(Photograph by Grey Villet/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Testifying the following day, the dapper little sharpie jumped around in his narrative from hotel to motel to casino to airport, and from date to date, implicating the redhead and her lover every chance he got.

He furthered the state’s conspiracy charge by relating a conversation he had with Carole in Las Vegas on July 1, 1959, at a restaurant caller Pierre’s, in which the dialogue ended with a warning that if anything went wrong and they got caught, silence was to be the agreement.

In another significant meeting, the witness told of talking with Carole in her apartment.

“Carole was a little angry, so she called the doctor.  He came out of another room and was very upset.  He was hot at me.  He asked what I was doing there, and I said I wanted to establish an alibi because I had hired someone in Los Angeles to do it and I was going to go somewhere where I’d be sure to be seen at all times.

The doctor said something like, ‘Well, that makes sense if you can count on the person in L.A.,’ and I said, ‘Oh, sure, he’s a very good friend of mine.’”

Cody said that he had made this fictitious friend more colorful by describing him as Spanish.  “I told the doctor to be sure he would have an alibi and he said, ‘Don’t worry.’ They were going to a club where they knew they would be seen.  The doctor inquired when we would know if it had been done, and I said my friend was going to telephone me from L.A. and I would let him — the doctor — know.”

According to Cody, there was another meeting on July 12, at the Desert Motel, during which Dr. Finch assured him that Mrs. Finch would be eliminated no matter by whom.  The witness, with a sidelong glance at Dr. Finch, at the defense table added: “He said he’d do it.”

Cody testified that he promised the doctor he would not back out; he would go back to Los Angeles and make another try.  And the doctor said: “Forget about your Spanish friend and everyone else and go back and do it right.”

Cody responded that he needed a little more money, so the doctor gave him a hundred dollars.

Cody said that he had asked Dr. Finch if he knew what he was doing, if he really loved Carole and if she really loved him.  Dr. Finch said indeed they adored each other.  Reflecting on this, Cody told the other man: “I’m only twenty-nine years of age, but I have been around, and to start out killing your wife just for money doesn’t add up.  Let her have every cent if that’s the way she’s got you boxed in.  Go up on top of a mountain and live off the wild, and if this girl loves you she is going to stay with you.  This is from my own experience.:

Regretfully, Cody told the court, Dr. Finch did not agree with him.  The doctor said his wife had him bottled up and was “no good.”

Then Cody, who had already taken $1200 or more to do the job attempted to reason with Carol in Mad-Hatter-tea-party fashion.  Although, he said, she had commissioned him to do the foul deed (which he never had any intention of doing, and after he had not done it — twice he had not done it), he begged her to not ask him to do what he told the court he wouldn’t have dreamed of doing anyway.

But she ignored his friendly advice.  Mrs. Finch had already been causing her trouble, was giving her a bad time, much grief.  She had to go. “I was pretty disgusted with Carole,” Cody told the court.

The story had one merit that might have weighed with the jury: it was so improbable and crammed with such shocking dialogue casually related, that it was hard to imagine anyone inventing it, even as a joke.

Under cross-examination, there were contradictions in Cody’s cockeyed story, plenty of inconsistencies, and suspiciously convenient lapses of memory attributed to whiskey.  But when all was said and done the picture remained about the same.

Cody still said the defendant, to whom he referred familiarly as “Carole,” hired him to kill her lover’s wife, Barbara Jean Finch.  He stuck to his story that she bargained with him over the price, briefed him with addresses of places where Mrs. Finch might be found, checked him on Mrs. Finch’s description, drew maps of the terrain around the Finch home and the Hollywood apartment where the wife might be staying with a friend, gave him money as a down payment, paid for his airplane ticket, chauffeured him to the airport, and eventually paid him the balance due — a little brown envelope stuffed with crisp hundred-dollar bills.

And Cody still insisted Dr. Finch was in on the plot, and he swore that both Carole and Dr. Finch expressed their determination to kill the troublesome wife themselves if all else failed.

Admittedly amoral, larcenous, given to living off ladies whose sources of income were not precisely defined, Cody still presented a gigantic problem to the defense.

Grant Cooper, for the defense, in cross-examination indicated that Dr. Finch, supported by the girl he wanted to marry, would testify that they hired Cody only to catch Mrs. Finch in a compromising situation – or possibly, to get her into one himself.

Their explanation of how they expected this dreary-looking semi literate to penetrate Mrs. Finch’s social circle — or Mrs. Finch herself — had to be a beaut.  If this man was not hired to  murder Mrs. Finch, what was he hired to do?  And even more pertinent, how was he supposed to do it?  Was he going to ring her doorbell and pretend he was lost, then turn on the charm with such rapidity that she would beg him to come in and stay for a cocktail or something? Had he planned to get a friend to break into her bedroom and tear off her clothes while he snapped pictures with his camera?

He couldn’t possibly have contemplated an introduction to her at the swank Los Angeles Tennis Club; he was no member, an d not likely to be mistaken for one.  A glance at the cheap, sharpie clothes of this obvious hood who would inspire any attendant in the place to give him the instant heave-ho.

The jurors didn’t know Barbara Jean Finch when she was alive, but they knew she moved in a world of comfortably fixed, well-bred suburbanite.  It would be interesting to hear Dr. Finch explain how Cody was supposed to manage a social — let alone amorous — relationship with Mrs. Finch.  The thought of him with his padded shoulders, his white satin ties, and his scrambled tenses picking her up anywhere was laughable.

During an intermission i the trial, I had an exclusive interview with Dr. Finch.  He told me that on the Fourth of July weekend, during which he was supposed to have been establishing an alibi while a hired killer rubbed out Mrs. Finch, he had his little boy with him at La Jolla and devoted os much time to Junior that he “didn’t do very well” in the tennis tournament.

This man accused of murder radiated the most convincing kind of charm as he described Raymond Bernard, Jr., whom he had not seen since his arrest last July.

“You know how it is — he wants to be just like Daddy,” he said. “He’s just crazy to play tennis, but they say it’s better if kids wait until they’re around eight before they start, so I’ve played a little with him — I didn’t want to stifle his enthusiasm — but I’ve tried to interest him ni other things, like swimming, until he’s a couple of years older.”

The doctor was completely relaxed, sometimes even boyishly enthusiastic, as we talked.  If he had not been sitting in the defendant’s chair in a murder courtroom, while photographers and lawyers and gun-toting deputies milled around, he could have passed for any well-tailored suburban father about to spring the latest photographs of the pride and joy.

When the conversation switched to another subject — the trial, the tactics of the prosecution, the widespread interest in the case, and the press coverage — he was an easy talker, as if we’d known each other for a long time.

He was curious to know why I’d come three thousand miles to cover the story.  When I explained the newspaper world’s distinction between a “good” murder trial and a “cheap” murder trial (try that social gambit sometime when your vis-a-vis is a candidate for the gas chamber), he reflected and nodded: “I see.  It’s partly because I’m an educated man, and people wonder.  Very interesting.”

He felt the press had been kind to him and to Miss Tregoff up to now, “especially considering that this is not our inning.”

And when I told him I felt the state had scattered a lot of shots and lost impact with the jury by calling witnesses in the wrong order, he thought it over and grinned again. “I never thought of that.   I hope you’re right.”

When the trial resumed, the prosecution called witnesses to show that within minutes after the shooting Dr. Finch stole two cars — first a Ford station wagon, then a red Cadillac.

It also drew attention to the disappearance of Barbara’s white purse, which, like the gun, was never found.  What the jury thought on this point was vital.  Cody had testified that when Carole engaged him to kill Mrs. Finch, she told him to be sure to remove rings and wristwatch from the body, and to take the purse, to make the whole thing look like a robbery.  The prosecution implied that when Cody failed to carry out orders, the lovers did the job to fake the “robbery.”

Mr. Cooper, in his opening remarks, said the doctor would give a full account of his marriage and its travails. “He will tell you he did not at any time murder his wife.:

Cooper promised that Dr. Finch would admit on the witness stand that he was in love with Carole and hoped to marry her.  He would confess to the jury that he lied to his wife when she first confronted him with her knowledge of the affair.  But he would deny that he ever struck her or beat her, as witnesses for the prosecution testified Mrs. Finch said he did.

Speaking quietly but with a crescendo of emphasis as he warmed up, Cooper declared: “It will be testified that on My 14, 1959, Mrs. Finch was stricken with influenza.  Sometime during the night of May 15, Dr. Finch will tell you he awakened, and on awakening found that Mrs. Finch had fallen and cut her eye on a little table near the bedside.

“He picked her up, put her on the bed, applied the necessary first aid, got her dressed and took her to his clinic.  While he was there, he took some stitches in her eye, and there he will be witness to say what happened at that time.

“He did not strike her with a gun.  He did not strike her with anything.  He did not beat her.  He did not shove her or push her across the room.  He did not cause this wound above her eye.”

Mr. Cooper promised the jury that Dr. Finch would make no bones about his liaison with Carole, or their trysts at various apartments in the Los Angeles area.

“At this time Dr. Finch and Miss Tregoff had expressed their love to each other and discussed marriage in the future when she was divorced and when the doctor would obtain a divorce from his wife without financial embarrassment to him or to his wife,” Mr. Cooper went on.

“It wasn’t until approximately May 13, 1959, that Mrs. Finch told the doctor that she had been to see her lawyer and intended to file for divorce.  Dr. Finch will tell you that he asked her not to file at this time because he and his associates had borrowed approximately $250,000 in medical enterprise, and a divorce would affect their credit and their investors.

“The doctor told his wife that it generally took a hospital about a year to get into the black, and if she would wait for a year to elapse before getting a divorce they would both be better off.  At that time she told him she did see the wisdom of his explanation and she agreed to wait.”

Finch and Barbara had a joint bank account from which they paid household bills.  Mrs. Finch, the lawyer said, had withdrawn most of the money when she decided to file for divorce.  The doctor persuaded her to give him a check for $3000 to handle outstanding debts, and she agreed, Mr. Cooper said.  That was the simple explanation offered for a check which a handwriting expert for the prosecution claimed was forged by the doctor.

Cooper also offered an explanation for the injuries Mrs. Finch said she suffered in squabbles with Dr. Finch: “She was creating false incidents and making false accusations in an attempt to further her divorce action.”

As for the dangerous testimony of Jack Cody, Cooper said that Dr. Finch first hired a private detective for $50 a day, plus mileage and expenses, to tail Mrs. Finch.  But, Cooper said, the man twice lost Mrs. Finch in traffic.  Dr. Finch then tried to hire a Los Angeles police officer to do the job but was unable to make satisfactory arrangements.

“Dr. Finch said that if someone did tail his wife, they’d find out, because of abstinence between them for some period of time, that she was seeing some man — although he didn’t have any particular man in mind.”  So he decided to look around Las Vegas for someone to try to get evidence of adultery that he was pretty sure must exist.

Barbara Jean, who hadn’t much to do but sit around the tennis courts or sip cocktails in the country-club bar or go to the beauty parlor, harassed him in every way known to the female sex, Cooper told the court.  She plotted a divorce action behind his back; she withdrew all of the money from their joint account and notified him of the fact with a taunting “By the way, Charlie, don’t even try to cash any checks” ; she lied about him to her lawyer and her servant and her friends; she made uncalled-for scenes and even tried to get him into trouble with the police.

When Dr. Finch took the stand he reinforced the tale of persecution at Barbara’s hands.  He described the day he drove back to return the Cadillac he had borrowed, and his wife was not home but Marie Anne was.  She showed him how Mrs. Finch had changed the locks on all the doors of the house and had bolts and chains inside.  The doctor had obviously hated that memory.  “She had no reason to be afraid of me,” he cried.  “She knew that!”

As to Cody’s testimony that he knew about the shotgun in Finch’s car because Finch had offered to lend it to him, the doctor had another explanation.  He said that on one occasion when he was with Cody he opened the trunk of his Cadillac, where he had among other things a dismantled shotgun in a leather case.  He told the jury: “Jack noticed that immediately.  He said, ‘That’s a shotgun, isn’t it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I use it for duck hunting and things like that, although I haven’t had a chance to use it for quite some time.’”

The doctor described how he and Cody spent an afternoon sitting in the cocktail lounge of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, discussing how Cody could get a date with Barbara Jean Finch.  He testified that Cody told him he would give him a full report in thirty days but not to keep bothering him for details.

” ‘I wouldn’t tell you how to perform an appendicitis operation,’ ” the doctor quoted the hoodlum. ” ‘Women are my business.’ “

The testimony about Cody and Las Vegas was a prelude to the drama that was to come when the doctor told, for the first time in public, how his wife happened to get shot in the back on July 18.

The handsome surgeon had dozens of details to explain, and he was not speaking only for himself; as he testified, he had to talk the way a tightrope walker walks, for the fate of his co-defendant, his mistress, and his love was also involved.  He had to proceed with caution to keep from contradicting anything she had said on the record.

Rumors circulated among the reporters that the defense had a big surprise in store.  Barbara had talked before she die.  Cooper refused to reveal the wife’s last words, saying he prefered to have the jurors and the public hear for the first time from the only living witness to the scene, Dr. Finch.

The public was so eager to hear that part of the testimony that people started lining up outside the courtroom at 2:30 A.M.  Long before the doors opened, there were 250 persons – mostly women – swarming in the marble corridor.  There was room inside for only about half of them.

Dr. Finch wept when he told how he shot his wife.  But many of his statements were at best puzzling, at worst damaging.  One that particularly stuck out concerned the struggle in the garage when he was trying to wrest the gun from his wife so nobody would get hurt.

“I was behind her, trying to pull the gun up and away from her.  Then I heard someone running toward the garage.  I stepped around in front, yanked the gun from her – and I hit her with it.”

Cooper asked him, “Why did you do that?” and Dr. Finch replied, “Help was coming for her – not me.”

Think that one over.  “Help was coming for her – not me.”  So he slugged her with the .38.

He said he assumed it was the housemaid – he had no vision of a burly boy friend who might slug it out with him  – and he was right.  It was Marie Anne Lindholm.

Dr. Finch told the jury that he thought Marie Anne might have a shotgun with her – one of his shotguns that he had once taught her how to use.  Marie Anne was unarmed, but he charged at her and banged her head against the garage wall to stun her.  Then, so he said, he managed to wrestle the gun from Barbara and drop it on the convertible top of the car.  What happened next is confused, save that Barbara, although wounded from the blow Finch had struck, suddenly, according to the doctor, picked herself up, grabbed the gun from the car top, and ran outside.  Finch ran after her because, he said, Carole was out there somewhere and he was afraid Barbara might try to shoot her.

Finch did not see Carole, but at length he saw his wife in her white supper dress at the top of a flight of earthen steps leading to his father’s house on a lower level of the hillside.

In his own words: “I kept charging right straight into her . . . I grabbed her left wrist and at the same time pounded the gun out of her hand.”  The gun fell to the ground.  Dr. Finch did not leave it on the ground.  He picked it up. “I was going to throw the gun so nobody would get shot and we’d have no struggle,” he said.  As he raised it to throw it away a terrible thing happened.  It went off – “flashed right in my eyes” he said – and drilled a fatal little hole in Barbara’s back.

Some time elapsed before it crossed the doctor’s mind that the accidental bullet had hit his wife.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw her continue to run down the steps.  He went to the edge of the little cliff and as he watched her she “sort of crumpled down.”

Naturally, he dashed to assist her.

What was in his mind as he went down the steps?  He had heard the shot, he had seen the white fire of the bullet right in front of his eyes, but he thought Barbara had broken her leg as she stumbled.  It never occurred to him that she had been shot.

As he knelt beside her, he said: “What happened, Barb?  Where are you hurt?”

“Shot. . .in. . .chest.”

“Don’t try to talk, Barb.  You stay here real quiet.  Don’t move a thing.  I’ve got to get you to an ambulance and get you to the hospital.”

“Wait . . .”  She moved her hand.  He took it in his.

“I’m sorry. . . I should have listened,” she said softly.

“Barb, don’t talk about it now.  I’ve got to get you to a hospital.”

“Don’t leave me . . . Take . . . care . . .of . . . the kids,” she murmured.

Finch felt for her pulse, could find none.  She was dead.

“I stayed there [by her body, in the yard of the home next door to their own] for a few minutes,” Finch, tears drenching his face, continued. “I sobbed.  I was all upset.  I don’t remember things too clearly.  It was like a nightmare.  I remember walking into the garage and sitting down on the floor.  I was just sitting there crying . . . I saw Barbara’s purse on the floor right at my feet. . . the contents strewn on the floor.  I was sitting there picking things up and putting them in the purse and I heard a noise.

“The first thing that occurred to me was – maybe Barbara was alive.  I went running down there again.  She hadn’t changed positions. . . she was dead.”

“What did you do next?” asked Mr. Cooper.

“I panicked,” said Dr. Finch.  “The next thing I knew I was running as fast as I could across the golf course.  I remember falling down . . . I dropped everything I had.  I think that maybe I had her purse . . .  I may have had the gun.  I’m not sure.  I fell down twice more.”

Dr. Finch said he fell once in a rough plowed field, got up, and continued to run.  He said he fell another time in an orange grove.

“All I can remember is I was exhausted.  The ground felt good.  I just stayed there.”

He said he had no recollection of taking a Ford station wagon from a neighbor, nor did he recall exchanging the station wagon for a shiny new Cadillac.  But, he said, he had no doubt that he did take them.

“I remember sort of becoming aware that he was somewhere on his way to Las Vegas, so he continued in that direction.  He arrived there, he said, shortly after he regained his senses and realized where he was.  He parked the car at a distance from Carole’s apartment.

Mr. Cooper asked why he did not take the car right at the apartment.

“I was afraid I’d probably stolen the car,” he replied.

Asked if he recalled getting a key from the landlady in Carole’s absence, Dr. Finch said: “I can remember somebody getting mad at me because it was only six-thirty in the morning.”  He said he went to bed.  The next thing he remembered was that Carole had her arms around him and was saying: “I’m so glad you’re here.  I’m so glad you’re safe.”  She was crying.

Later, he said, “All of a sudden I was aware there were a lot of lights in my face and people were standing there pointing guns at me.”

He said the police told him he was under arrest and not to say anything because it could be used against him.

“So I didn’t say anything,” he said.

Mr. Cooper wound up his direct examination with these questions:

“Did you conspire to kill your wife?”


“Did you attempt to murder your wife?”

“No, nothing like that at all.”

It took Dr. Finch less than thirty minutes to finish his version of his wife’s death.

Then in mild tones and with a pleasant manner, Assistant District Attorney Whichello opened the cross-examination.  He went first into Dr. Finch’s financial status and California’s property law.

Dr. Finch acknowledged that he was aware that all assets gained after a marriage were considered community property.  He said, too, that his fortune had increased considerably after his marriage to Barbara in 1952.

“You realized this was community property?”

“I never thought about it.  I never thought that this is mine, this is hers – it just wasn’t that way.  Our divorce never reached the stage where we discussed the community property.  I realized that we finally would come to that stage but we never reached it.”

The surgeon was asked to estimate roughly his total wealth.  He said he could not place any accurate value on it but he considered it far below the $750,000 figure set by his wife.

Under cross-examination Dr. Finch told the jury of seven women and five men that he felt his wife had given him permission to commit adultery with Carole Tregoff.  He had no feeling of guilt about his relationship with the sultry young redhead.

Whichello asked the doctor: “When you were sharing an apartment with Carole, did you ever give any thought to adultery and the fact that it might be wrong and that you should exercise self-control until both of you were divorced and free to marry?”

“No, sir,” Dr. Finch answered.

“Would you say you were so much in love that it didn’t matter?” pursued the prosecutor.

“I’d say we didn’t think about it,” replied the doctor.  “Barbara had agreed that I was free to do as I pleased, and so it was all right.”

With an air of astonishment Mr. Whichello peered at the defendant on the stand.  “Is it your opinion, Doctor, that a wife is free to give her husband permission to commit adultery, and that makes it all right?”

“Yes, sir,” the doctor replied promptly.

Dr Finch testified that his trysts with Carole took place at a rented apartment not far from his clinic almost every day at noon; sometimes early in the morning and frequently around the cocktail hour.

You sometimes went there at noon?
A. Yes.  We had lunch there almost every day.
Q. Oh, you had lunch there too?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. I take it one of you fixed the lunch?
A. Yes, there was a kitchen in the apartment.
Q. And you sometimes went there in the morning?
A. Yes, sir, sometimes.
Q. Now, Doctor, you had told Mrs. Pappa about your marital problems?
A. Yes, I had.
Q. And she told you about hers?
A. Undoubtedly.
Q. Did you tell her Barbara was frigid?
A. Yes, I suppose I did.
Q. Did Carole ever tell you her husband, Jimmy Pappa, was frigid?
A. I don’t believe so, sir.
Q. Was there any discussion of her sexual problems with Jimmy Pappa?
A. I don’t believe so, sir.
Q. Well, do you know if she was having sexual relations with Jimmy Pappa at this time?
A. She definitely was not.
Q. Did she tell you she was frigid?
A. No, sir.
Q. I take it you knew she wasn’t.
A. Indeed, sir.
Q. Did she say she was not having sexual relations with her husband?
A. I gathered she didn’t feel that way about him.
Q. That was her choice?
A. Yes, sir.

Dr. Finch told the court that he and Carole discussed marriage at some future date but agreed that “simultaneous divorces would not be a good idea, as they might result in bad publicity.”

He said they had a “target date” of 1960, when he felt the new hospital would be on a paying basis.  However, Carole did file for divorce in January, 1959.

Dr. Finch did a remarkable job of controlling his temper, but the topics on which he was cross-examined were more intimate than dangerous, and he chose to regard the intimate questions with clinical detachment, sometimes even with an air of enjoyment.

The tragic death of his wife was pushed into the background as the saga of his once-secret philandering was unveiled by the prosecution.

You couldn’t say he was boasting, but you couldn’t say he was bashful either.  He was unfaithful to his wife with a Mrs. X, he said, and a Mrs. Y before he became enamored of Carole and began to concentrate on her.  He rented an apartment for her — even let her look it over before he paid the first month’s rent, to make sure she approved.

The other ladies never had it so good.  For them it was the parked car in some lovers’ lane, or Mrs. X followed him to San Francisco and made her charms available to him in his hotel on a strictly transient basis, oor he took her to a motel, or he took Mrs. Y to a motel, or Mrs. Y welcomed his embraces in the apartment for which she was paying the tab.

Of course, a declaration of love was standard procedure with Bernie.  The same immortal words fell from his lips as he whispered them to Mrs. X and Mrs. Y.  Dr. Finch seemed almost astonished at Mr. Whichello’s naiveté when the assistant district attorney asked him: “Did you tell these women you loved them?”

Sitting erect in the witness box, the defendant answered: “I think under the circumstances that would be routine.”

Dr. Finch said he never tried to persuade Carole into the parked car or the motel bit.  He as the perfect gentleman, asking for nothing but kisses, between February, when he first took her to lunch, and April, when he rented their first love nest.

“Did you and Carole have sexual relations before you rented the apartment?” asked Mr. Whichello.

“No, sir,” the doctor said with emphasis, as if the very idea offended him.

“Did you at some time, though, discuss the apartment and having sexual relations there?”

“Yes, I must have.”

“Did you propose it?”

“Undoubtedly I did,” replied the doctor.

“Did you think it wise?” inquired the prosecutor?

“Undoubtedly I did.”

“Did you think of your credit rating, Barbara’s pride, feelings and so forth?”

“Well, it was part of my agreement with Barbara that I could do that any time I wanted and it would be all right.”

“But it wouldn’t be all right with the rest of the world, would it?” asked Mr. Whichello.

“I think it’s fair to say I didn’t expect the rest of the world to find out the way they’re doing now,” the doctor said.

When the questioning turned to flashy “Jack” Cody, Dr. Finch thought there was a “ten-percent chance” that the phony would be able to seduce her.

“I knew Barbara had been frigid to me, but I didn’t think that meant she would be frigid to every other man in the world,” said the doctor.

“When you met Cody, did you get an impression of his cultural level?” Whichello asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“You got an impression of his grammar and the level of his conversation?”

“Yes.  At that time I had a higher opinion of him than I now have.”

“I don’t blame you,” snapped the prosecutor.  “Cody was a head shorter than she, wasn’t he?”

“No, I don’t think so.  I would say he was five feet eight.”

“Barbara was tall for a girl, wasn’t she?” pursued Whichello.

The doctor pondered. “Well, I guess five feet eight is taller for a girl than it is for a boy,” he answered.

Stepping closer to the witness box, Mr. Whichello asked: “Whatever you thought of Barbara, she was a lady, wasn’t she?”

“Yes, she was.”

“And did you really think this two-bit crook was going to be able to seduce her?”

Dr. Finch remained unruffled.  “I told him exactly tha, Mr. Whichello.  I told Jack he was going to have one heck of a mess trying to pick up Barbara.  I told him it wasn’t going to be easy, but he said women were his business, women were his living, to just leave it to him.”

  1. Now, you expected Cody to appear as a witness in some future divorce action, did you not, Doctor?
  2. Yes.
  3. Did you feel he would make a qualified witness?
  4. I was chiefly interested in the report he would make, in the evidence he would gather. I wanted to have the facts, as they say on television shows.

Dr. Flinch admitted the word “murder” was used in a conversation he had with Don Williams, of Las Vegas, when they were discussing Cody, but the ugly word was mentioned only because he was concerned with the safety of Carole.

  1. Did you ask Williams if Cody was capable of murder?
  2. I don’t believe that it was phrased quite that way, but the word “murder” did come up. I was concerned with Carole.  She had been seeing him quite often around Las Vegas – had made several contacts with him – and I was concerned with her sake.  I knew he wa a person of questionable character.  What I said, and this is not a direct quote, was something like this: “What kind of a man is he – a murderer or what?  What kind of morals does he have?”  Don assured me he didn’t think that was so – he thought Cody was capable of being a gigolo, that was about all.
  3. When you met Cody for the first time, how did he impress you?
  4. As capable of doing exactly what I had hired him to do – get evidence against Barbara.

Under Mr. Whichello’s courteous cross-examination the doctor revealed he suspected Mrs. Finch was carrying on an extra-marital affair, but he was never able to prove it.

He based his theory on his knowledge of psychology.  He assumed that his wife was only human, and that since three years had elapsed since she had allowed him his conjugal privileges, she must be finding sex somewhere with someone else.

“I don’t mean this to be crude,” the doctor told the court frankly, although he went on to couch his assertion in terms so earthy they had to be cleaned up by reporters working for family newspapers, “but Barbara wasn’t getting any sex at home and I thought that regardless of the fact that she was cold to me, she might not be cold to someone else.”

Dr. Finch admitted he had nothing specific to go on, no idea of what male friend might be supplying Barbara with her “only human” quota of passion.  “I felt there was strong possibility that she was having sexual relations with someone else,” he said.

THe assistant district attorney now took Finch to the scene of Barbara’s death.  “Was there any reason for leaving her body there like a wounded animal on the lawn?”

In the hushed courtroom Finch mumbled, “I don’t know.”

On the witness stand,  Dr. Finch remained courteous and unrattled through seven days of testimony.  Most of the time he maintained an air of confident assertiveness; when the going was not too rough he leaned back relaxed, and smiled as if a smile came naturally.  Except for a few well-timed tears as he first described his wife’s death – and that was the moment to weep if he ever had a tear in him – he maintained a facade of innocence.

He was telling a straightforward story under direct questioning, and when the cross-examination came he patiently went back over the ground, sometimes a trifle nettled, sometimes telling a little more than was asked.  But in general he did not give much ground to the prosecution.

He readily admitted the provable – his affair with Carole and other ladies in his life, his use of a false name in an ancient situation, his lies to his wife, his annoyance with his wife, his meetings with Jack Cody in Las Vegas, his presence at the scene of the slaying.

But he produced his own version of the unprovable – what he wanted with Cody, how the gun went off, what his wife said in gentle implication of forgiveness as she lay dying.  In the emotional narrative of Mrs. Finch’s last words, the doctor undoubtedly achieved a first in murder trials; he had the victim apologizing for being shot.

Nothing could make him back down on that chapter of the saga, not even Prosecutor Whichello’s unusually sharp challenge: “I suggest you made up the whole touching death scene you have told here.”

“That is false,” the doctor retorted, immediately and forcefully.  “That is absolutely false, every word of it.”

He amplified his earnest wish to tell nothing but the truth as he remembered it, saying: “I am fighting for my life and liberty and perhaps also for Carole, Mr. Whichello.  The only armament I have is to tell the whole truth.”

Before Carole Tregoff took the stand, Mr. Neeb, her attorney, charged that she had been ”compelled to testify” at the preliminary hearing for the state in a serious criminal case in which she was deeply involved, that the prosecutor cross-examined her, although she was his own witness, and that he elicited from her testimony so damaging that by the time she had finished answering his questions the district attorney had ordered a warrant for her arrest as co-defendant in the murder case.

Whichello had been quoted as saying that the state’s case against Carole “would collapse” if her testimony at the preliminary hearing – the questions and answers labeled “Exhibit 60″ at the trial – was not admitted.

Her lawyers contended that if Carole had known she was a possible defendant in the first-degree murder case, she would not have volunteered as much as she did at the hearing.  They claimed that, in effect, Carole, when she appeared as a witness for the state at the hearing, was given the same immunity granted to John Patrick Cody and others in the alleged conspiracy to murder Mrs. Finch, and that once immunity truly attached, the witness can  never be charged with the offense at any future date.  They made a great deal of the fact that she was never warned of her rights before she testified.  They called her a “trapped witness.”

Judge Evans agreed with Neeb, and Exhibit 60 never became part of the state’s case.  It was the one bright spot in Carole’s defense.

She took the stand for an eight-question examination by her attorney, and after denying any complicity to harm Mrs. Finch in any way, she faced the cross-examination of Assistant District Attorney Crail.

Scornfully, Mr. Crail asked Carole to go back over the scene in the Finch garage, when she and the doctor waited for Mrs. Finch to get out of her red Chrysler so they could ask her for more favorable divorce agreements.

He asked: “Did she say anything to that?”

“She said she didn’t want to, or no, she wouldn’t or something like that – I don’t recall her exact words.”

“What is the next thing that happened?”

“The next thing that happened, she had a gun.”

How long after she said – whatever it was she said – before you saw the gun?”

“Just the time it took her to turn around, take the gun out of the car, and turn around again,” she said.

Mr. Crail used every trick in the legal bag to make Carole “Admit that she had an ulterior reason for forgetting” to mention Dr. Finch’s peculiarly stocked attaché case, although she carried it up the hill to the Finch house the night of the tragedy.  She never mentioned it in her first statement to the police, but later it came back to her that she had toted it up to the fatal scene.

“Has there ever been any doubt in your mind as to whether you took that bag out of the car that night?””

“Since I have remembered it, no,” Carole said.  “However, there was a time when it wasn’t important.  I just never thought about the bag.  It didn’t seem to have any significance.”

“You didn’t think it had any criminal significance?”

“It didn’t,” the girl said.

There was so much — too much — she could not remember.  There were so many important points that she only explained as “not seeming important” to her at the time.  She didn’t even think of Dr. Finch and what might have happened to him on the night of the slaying when she sought refuge in darkness.

She loved him at that time, she said, but the “nightmare” of the struggle in the garage — during which “Mrs. Finch pulled out the gun,” according to both defendants — chased love out of her mind, and she retreated from reality; she didn’t worry about Dr. Finch because she wasn’t even thinking of him.

Under the relentless cross-examination of Mr. Crail, Carole was forced to admit to strange contradictions between what she had told the police in July, when the events surrounding the death of Mrs. Finch were fresh in her mind, and what she wanted the present jury to accept.

“I didn’t notice” was a frequent alibi.  “I don’t recall, really.”

Mr. Crail, the tough man of the state’s team, treated her roughly.

And he scored

He got Carole to admit the strange fact that although she was in a state of panic when Mrs. Finch pulled a gun on her and the doctor in the West Covina garage, she not only caught a bag of cartridges Dr. Finch tossed at her but she carefully stopped in her flight to put them in the leather case — although when she was first questioned by the police she did not mention the toss, the catch, or the disposal of the cartridges.

And Carole could not reconcile her early version of why she and the doctor had called on Mrs. Finch that night with her present explanation.

In her original statement she said she and Bernie hoped to arrange a reconciliation with his wife, because he was not financially ready for the divorce.  On the witness stand she said they wanted to persuade Barbara to go to Nevada for a quick divorce so they could marry without the year-long wait required by California law.

Carole stuck to the story — or was stuck with it — that she ran out of the garage in terror and hid like a scared child in the bushes for five or six hours.  She maintains she was cowering under the bouganvillaeas while the police arrived, while the ambulance came, while a search was made of the grounds, while Mrs. Finch’s body was carted off to the morgue.

It was her habit, Carole explained, to run and hide when things became unpleasant.  She had always done that, ever since she was a little girl.  The hours passed like minutes in a dream because she was so frightened.

Carole’s greatest problem was to counter Cody’s testimony.  She had denied, under direct examination, that she hired him to kill the doctor’s wife.  But Crail took her over all of the hoodlum’s testimony and required her to refute each damaging statement attributed to her.

Carole had far more contact with Cody than Dr. Finch had; she hired him, she paid him.  The burden of erasing the conspiracy charge fell on her shoulders.

If she and Dr. Finch had hired Jack Cody merely to obtain divorce evidence, as they claimed, why did they pay him $1300 even though he did not produce a shred of evidence compromising Mrs. Finch?  For what?  Crail made her look bad, and she must have realized it every step of the way.  He moved in as if he were running Judgement Day, sparing her nothing: her youth and her red hair and her soft brown eyes were wasted on his cold determination to convict her.

When he had finished with her, her lawyers said emphatically: “She will not go on again” — regardless of what the state produced on rebuttal in the final hours of evidence.

It seemed odd to me that in his eight-question direct examination of his client, the defense mastermind, Robert A. Neeb, Jr., did not have Carole specifically deny that she ever said, “Jack, you can back out.  But if you don’t kill her the doctor will, and if he doesn’t, I will,” as Cody had testified,

That sentence rattled off so glibly by Cody must have stuck in the juror’s minds.  But Mr. Neeb did not invite Carole to refute it.  He covered all of the conspiracy evidence by asking her if she ever at any time hired Cody to in any way harm Mrs. Finch, and Carole replied that she had not.

Mr. Neeb considered the blanket denial was sufficient.

Equally puzzling to some onlookers was Mr. Crail’s failure to pinpoint that same statement attributed to her by Cody.

The prosecutor smiled faintly when asked about that omission.  It was deliberate, he said.  “I didn’t want to give her a chance to deny it,” he explained.  “I’ll cover it in the final arguments.”

Carole Tregoff’s few dark hours in the witness box changed the betting n the outcome of her trial.  Many observers felt she had nudged her lover quite a bit closer to the gas chamber.

She proved one thing: If she did not set out, as the state charged, to help the doctor kill Barbara Jean Finch, she overestimated her talent for homicide.  She was a haunted, hunted, quivering witness – a tremendous contrast to Dr. Finch, who coolly and calmly withstood his cross-examination.

Attorney Neeb now told the court: “I would like to stipulate that on the fifteenth of September, 1959, Carole Tregoff was released on bond after a request bond was granted.  She was released from jail and she remained out of jail until October seventh, when she voluntarily surrendered herself.  During the time that she was at home, occupying herself with ordinary things about the house, newspapers were full of headlines about John Patrick Cody and the so-called Las Vegas conspiracy.

“With that stipulation, the defense for Miss Tregoff rests.”

Neeb explained that he made the stipulation about her period of freedom during September and October because the prosecution had asked judge Evans to give the jury an instruction on “Flight.”  Mr. Neeb said it had become material and important to point out that after she learned about Cody’s charges, Carole did not go anywhere.

I had learned earlier that Carole would take the big gamble — all or nothing at all — when her attorneys summed up.  All three expensive lawyers would plead her innocent, and one of them would tell the jury: “If you find this girl guilty, send her to the gas chamber.  If not, set her free.  There’s nothing in between.”

The attorneys’ summations were late in getting under way because of a lengthy conference in Judge Evans’ chambers.  Carole’s chief attorney moved for dismissal of the charges against her on the grounds that her constitutional rights had been violated and also for insufficient evidence.  Judge Evans denied the motion.

But he did permit Dr. Finch’s attorney to go into court when the jury was finally seated, and announce that Finch would testify by stipulation to a conversation with John Patrick Cody on July 8 in Las Vegas.

Mr. Cooper told the court that Dr. Finch would testify that he telephoned Cody and told him: “I talked to my wife on the telephone this morning and she is now at the house.  Have you got the address?  Are you sure of the location?”

Presumably, the insertion of this conversation was designed to support Dr. Finch’s contention that he was engaging Cody to follow his wife to get divorce evidence, not to kill her.

One important decision that came out of the legal maneuvering was Judge Evans’ refusal to accept a manslaughter verdict from the jury.

Then Mr. Relentless took center stage.  Representing justice and disinclined to show mercy, Assistant District Attorney Clifford C. Crail rose to sum up the case for the State of California against Dr. Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff for the murder of Dr. Finch’s wife.  He did it with the efficiency of an IBM computing machine and the cold passion of an avenging angel.


He believed Barbara Jean Finch was killed by her husband with the motivated connivance of his voluptuous sweetheart, and he exhorted the five-man, seven-woman jury: “Make them pay for it.”

He referred to Carole scornfully as “the defendant Pappa.”  (Carole had received the final divorce decree from muscle man James Pappa only a week earlier, but she hadn’t used the name in years.)

Crail seemed to derive a dry and cynical satisfaction from reminding his quarry of a wifehood that she would rather forget.  To the prosecutor she was a calculating Jezebel, wise beyond her years, cruel beyond the experience of most human beings.

As he went over the testimony of the “fear” witnesses who told the court that Mrs. Finch predicted her own death at her husband’s hands, Carole began to look slightly nervous.  He traced the pattern of fear by going back to May 16, when Barbara confided to Marie Anne that her husband had hit her and told her: “He has a man in Las Vegas whom he will pay thousands of dollars to have me killed.”

“By a stroke of good fortune,” Mr. Crail told the jury, “Marie Anne wrote to her mother on May 23 and put this into the letter, and her mother saved the letter, so that when Mr. Cooper suggested to Marie Anne that perhaps she had made up the story of the man in Las Vegas after she had read the newspapers about John Patrick Cody, we were able to produce the letter to confirm that she had mentioned Las Vegas months before.”

Holding a gray-covered transcript in his left hand, the prosecutor referred the jurors to the testimony of Mrs. Finch’s divorce attorney, Joseph Forno.  “She called him on May 16 and told him something had to be done because she knew her husband was going to kill her  She told him the doctor had threatened to take her into the desert or mountains and make her death look like an accident.

“She said she was not about to get into any car with the doctor and that if he attempted to force her into a car, she was going to get out and run to her father-in-law’s house,” which was, of course, exactly what happened.  She died at the foot of the earthen steps leading from one house to another.

Mr. Crail asked how Carole’s defense could explain great gaps and glaring contradictions in her story.  Her recollection of the night of the tragedy differed so sharply from her lover’s version, and on such important points, that to the jurors, who heard both of them testify, they must have seemed like two different people improvising on the same theme — but in different rooms, unable to hear each other.

Addressing the jury in an ultimate effort to send the defendants to their death, the assistant district attorney served up a harsh version of the killing and the roles played in the tragedy by the accused.

He spoke with a quiet mixture of fury, conviction, and contempt as he outlined the state’s theory of the crime.  A quite tangible chill passed over the audience as Mr. Crail, without raising his knifelike voice, portrayed a scene of suspense and terror.

“Little Marie Anne goes into the house and calls the police.  She said they arrived in six or seven minutes.  She has Mrs. Finch to thank for being here to testify.  If Mrs. Finch hadn’t gotten out of the car and run in the direction of her father-in-law’s house, what do you suppose would have happened to Marie Anne?”  He looked at the jurors solemnly, then looked back briefly and scornfully at the surgeon, balancing in his brown leather swivel chair.

Crail happened at the time that Carole and Bernie went to the Finch garage on that fateful night bent on nothing but the murder of Mrs. Finch.  They both said on the witness stand that Mrs. Finch pulled the gun out of her car and turned it on them.  But Mr. Crail did not give that theory a moment’s house-room.

“It’s a strange story,” he told the jurors.  “As many times as the defendant says Mrs. Finch had that gun in her hands, she never fired it.  She pointed it many times but she never fired it.

“We say to this — Mrs. Finch was afraid of a gun.

“We say to this — Mrs. Finch didn’t have a gun.”

His contention was that Dr. Finch waited in the shadows of the garage for Mrs. Finch to drive her car in, and that as she opened the car on the driver’s side and bent to get out, he whacked her with the butt of the gun to knock her unconscious.

That was how the blood got on the steering wheel, on the seat, and on the floor of the car.  He pointed out scornfully that although Dr. Finch testified he examined Marie Anne for head wounds and mentioned something about taking Mrs. Finch to the hospital, he did nothing about following through n that plan, if indeed he ever entertained it.

“Wasn’t that the time for him to say, ‘Marie Anne, help Mrs. Finch while I call an ambulance,” or ‘Marie Anne, I’ll take care of her, you call an ambulance’?”

The prosecutor wheeled toward the defense table and gazed contemptuously at Dr. Finch.  “Since when,” he demanded, “has it become proper treatment to make a woman with a fractured skull get up off the floor and into an automobile?”

Crail again affirmed the state’s contention that the attaché case carried to the scene on the night of the tragedy was a “murder kit” brought up the hill to eliminate Mrs. Finch.  “Take that kit into the jury room with you when deliberating,” he said.  “Examine it.  Outside of the large syringe, is there anything in there that could be used in an emergency poison case?  Go over the other items in the case and see if you can find any reason to believe that they were designed for any emergency surgery.

“This man has an interest in a hospital.  He is a partner in a big business.  He could sit down and in fifteen minutes dictate to a secretary a list of items and say, ‘Get these together and put them in the surgery room for the doctors to use in an emergency,’ and it would be done.

“But that didn’t occur to him.  He can’t tell you it did, because if it had he would have no reason for carrying the kit in his automobile.

“Do any of you people believe that bag and its contents were ever meant to cure anybody?”

Mr. Crail paused significantly, and the jurors looked at him, spellbound.

“Yet it is very easy to believe the contents of thaT bag were intended not to preserve life, but to destroy it.  And that’s why they brought it to the hill that night.”

He declared that one fact destroyed Dr. Finch’s entire elaborate explanation for the kit’s contents: the finger of a rubber surgical glove was found in the car Mrs. Finch drove into her garage on the night of her death.  Also, he noted, little packages of powder used by surgeons to make the gloves slip easily onto the fingers had been torn open and the powder apparently used.

“These little packages were not torn open so that Dr. Finch could play with the dog,” the prosecutor said bitterly.  He made a half-circle so that he faced the defense counsel.  “Let these gentlemen explain to you why the finger of one of the gloves was found in the automobile,” he challenged.  “Was he playing with the dog i the car?”

Throughout his painstaking analysis of the evidence, Mr. Crail made it clear that he considered Carole just as guilty as her co-defendant, even if she had nothing to do with firing the fatal shot, because they conspired to commit murder and she aided and abetted him.

“I give you the testimony of Mr. Keachie,” said Mr. Crail in deadly tones.  “He pulled no punches.  He did not think he was involved.  But here is what he said: ‘Don asked me if either I or Jack knew of anybody like that but maybe he should ask Jack.’

“Now that’s how Williams talked when he was not on the witness stand, when he was talking to his friend Keachie.  He is not looking for a seducer or a detective for his friend Carole.  He’s looking for a murderer.

“That’s what the defendant Pappa was shopping for in Las Vegas.  She was shopping for a killer and that’s what she thought she’d found.”

Mr. Crail pointed out that Don Williams was Carole’s childhood friend, that when she finally went to Las Vegas in May she stayed with his family at his home, and when he appeared to testify at her trial he was torn between his devotion to her and “some desire to tell the truth — I don’t know how much.”

Crail flipped pages of gray-covered transcript as he went over the evidence line by line.]

“I draw your attention to John Patrick Cody.  A substantial sum of money was paid this fellow, and he wasn’t getting fifty dollars a day plus expenses, which apparently was the going rate for Los Angeles private detectives.

“The Los Angeles detectives hired by Dr. Finch to follow Mrs. Finch for a couple of days were paid by the day.  But then the defendants go over to Las Vegas and give this fellow over a thousand dollars in a lump sum to do a job.

“What was that job?”

He put it as a question but his tone and his expression as his eyes swept the defense line-up at the counsel table made the answer clear without words.

He charged Carole and her lover with “a compelling motive” to kill Mrs. Finch — a motive powered as much by greed as by passion.  He told the jury, quietly but mercilessly, that he believed they should die for it.  “I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, by overwhelming evidence in this case, we have established beyond even a possible doubt the guilt of these defendants on both counts contained in the indictment.

“Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice forethought.  If it is willed and planned as it was by these two, it is murder in the first degree.  If they conspired together the murder of Barbara Jean Finch, they are guilty of murder in the first degree.”

When it was his turn, Carole Tregoff’s defense counsel pictured the redhead as a guileless, guiltless girl — as innocent as a child in a fairy tale.

On the night of July 18, when she climbed the suburban hill to the scene where Barbara Jean Finch was shot and killed, she had no idea that she would encounter “violence and deadly weapons pointed at her.”

Carole was carrying a case belonging to Dr. Finch, her lover, but she did not know what was in it.

“The evidence shows not only that Miss Tregoff had no knowledge of the contents of the bag, but she had never seen it,” Mr. Neeb declared.  “There is no evidence here that she saw any of the contents, touched any of the contents, handled any of the contents, put anything into this bag, or knew what the doctor anybody else had put into it.”

As he protested Carole’s complete innocence of murder or conspiracy to murder, Mr. Neeb said: “The prosecution in this case is trying to make something evil out of the fact that this young lady didn’t remember every single little detail when she was questioned in Las Vegas and West Covina.  They tried to impeach her with the dog.  Mr. Crail, the prosecutor here, said to her on cross-examination, ‘You didn’t tell the police officers you played with the dog.’

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, nobody ever asked her about the dog or about what she and the doctor did while they were waiting for Mrs. Finch to arrive.

“When the prosecution has to rely on little things like that they certainly don’t have very much faith in their case.”

Here, Mr. Neeb made a point more valiant than valid.  In referring to the incident with the dog as “a little thing” he differed sharply with the prosecution’s view, which was that Carole and Dr. Finch concocted the story about playing with the dog after they realized the gloves had been discovered.

Mr. Neeb accused the prosecution of unfairly criticizing Carole for failing to remember many things about the night of the shooting when she was first questioned, although by trial time she was able to recall the crucial events with greater clarity.

“How often has it happened to one of us, ladies and gentlemen, that we forget something and all of a sudden, a word, a sight — a sound — a gesture — will bring it back.

“Forgive me for being personal about this, but I would like to tell you how this happened recently to me.  I was in an auto accident — quite a bad accident.  I was hit by a truck in a head-on highway collision and my head was injured.  I don’t remember that accident.  I could take that witness stand and testify under oath that I recall very little of it.

“But, I promise you, that while I was sitting at this trial, listening to the evidence, trying to concentrate on that testimony and the interest of my client, little flicks of that occurrence would come back to me, and I remember more about it now than I did the day after it happened.”

Moving closer to the jury box, Mr. Neeb looked from one to the other, and after a dramatic pause, said: “nd you know the mind is more affected by emotion than by a physical accident.  Certainly it was an emotional shock when Miss Tregoff entered that garage on that night and suddenly there was violence and a deadly weapon pointed at her.  Miss Tregoff explained her emotions to Mr. Crail.  She said, and I quote, ‘I didn’t know what was going on, Mr. Crail.”

“That is very important.  Remember that.  She said she didn’t know what was going on.  Unless there is a knowledgeable participation in a crime, there is no crime.

“Miss Tregoff told the prosecutor, ‘Mr. Crail, I don’t remember — it was just such a nightmare,’ and that certainly is  good description of what happened.”

Mr. Neeb accused the state of distorting Carole’s testimony and u sing the phrase “sitting on the lawn” to describe what she did after she fled the garage.

“She was not sitting on the lawn,” Mr. Neeb said.  “She said she had dirt on her face.  You don’t get dirt sitting on te lawn.  This is the act of a person in a situation where things are not as she thinks they should be, and therefore she hid.

“Remember she used the word ‘horrified.’  She said, ‘I completely panicked’ – which I certainly think is a description of that night.”

He implored the jurors to regard her terrified state with sympathy and understanding a human reaction to a frightening situation.

“Remember, ladies and gentlemen, she mentioned that she had a childhood experience or experiences which she did not want to talk about.  I do not know what they were but I imagine she has experienced violence or witnessed violence of some kind and when she was a child she said she had frozen and run and hid.

(Carole said after the trial that when she was five she had seen her mother attack her stepfather with a knife and had hid in a closet.)

“This again is important to show the mental state of this girl.  How many times, ladies and gentlemen, has it happened to all of u s that when we are in trouble and when there is stress we run back to our childhood.”

Dr. Finch, he said, may have killed his wife, accidentally or on purpose, but Carole had nothing to do with it.  In a nutshell, the alibi of the doctor’s young mistress was the ancient cop-out: “Who, me?  I was just an innocent bystander.”

“There is not a single, solitary particle of evidence that Carole Tregoff on the night of July 18 caused injury to anyone, used any weapon, pushed anybody, or touched any human being — and especially not Mrs. Finch,” Neeb continued.  “Unless you believe in your heat, and your mind, and deeply in your soul, that on July 18, when the car was moving from Las Vegas to West Covina, Carole Tregoff had in he remind an intent to kill, she is entitled to an acquittal.”

Laying the foundation for an appeal on the “aiding and abetting” charge against his client, Mr. Neeb offered the jury a parallel that did nothing to assist Dr. Finch but added weight to his contention that Carole, although present, in no way was involved in Mrs. Finch’s death.

“Suppose a friend of mine was having trouble with a tenant and he asked me to go with him and see this tenant.  Suppose I furnished the car and drove it and carried a paper bag.  Suppose the paper bag had a gun in it and that I handed it to the friend who got into an argument with the tenant and the tenant was shot and killed.

“Am I guilty of murder?

“No, because I had no knowledgable participation in the act.”

When Neeb had concluded, Grant Cooper came to bat for Dr. Finch.

Cooper was the most impressive member of an extremely effective array of attorneys lined up for both the prosecution and the defense.  They were all good, but throughout the long trial Cooper seemed, consistently, a shade better than the rest of them.  His style was quiet; he underplayed.  Still, he had the skilled actor’s trick of making the audience — in this case the jury — focus on him even when another member of the cast was speaking.  It was Cooper’s task to persuade them, in his final argument, that Dr. Finch never intended to kill Barbara Jean Finch on the night of July 18 or any other night, that he never plotted with John Patrick Cody to have her killed.

He pointed out that when man and wife are incompatible and on the verge of divorce, it is perfectly normal for one or the other, or both, to do a little name-calling, and to tell her friends that her husband was a beast.

But he maintained that Mrs. Finch’s revelations of her “fear” of her husband, as reported by her friends after the fact, were just window-dressing to the divorce action: obviously Barbara was not as terrified as she pretended to be, or she would have done something positive — fled, instead of just talking about it.

Cooper did everything within his eloquent power to destroy the evidence given by John Patrick Cody.  He scoffed at the prosecution’s theory that Carole assigned the hapless hood to eliminate Mrs. Finch; he begged the jurors to laugh at the picture of Carole and the doctor casually, frankly, elaborately instructing Cody on the subject of homicide.

As Grant Cooper went into action, even the defendants in the celebrated trial became secondary characters; the lawyer was the star.  The courtroom couldn’t hold all the judges, lawyers, and ordinary citizens who wanted to hear him make his ultimate plea.  (Demand for seats was so great he was not even sure he could find a place in the courtroom for his wife to listen to his final oration.)

His magnetism is difficult to describe, but it was always apparent in the courtroom.  He was handsome, with a thick shock of gray hair rising from a widow’s peak and expressive hands that moved almost as in a ballet when he examined a witness or addressed the court.  His voice was low and mellifluous; when he smiled his eyes crinkled at the corners and he seemed to say, “Oh, come on!”

He told the jury that Marie Anne Lindholm’s testimony — the most damaging of any witness — actually confirmed Dr. Finch’s own account of the shooting. Marie Anne said under oath that she did not see a gun in the doctor’s hand as he got out of his wife’s car and followed her from the garage moments before she died.  In an impassioned plea, Cooper asked the jury to be fair to the accused surgeon and to note that the maid’s version on two points helped Dr. Finch.

“Dr. Finch told you when he was on the witness stand that he did not have possession of the gun when Mrs. Finch ran out of the garage.  At that time, he said, the gun was in Mrs. Finch’s possession.  In all fairness, if you believe some of her testimony, please believe what helps Dr. Finch as well as what harms him.:

If anyone could make the jurors forget the impact of the state’s case against Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff, Grant Cooper was that person.  Under his spell, it was not always easy to remember whether Dr. Finch wa son trial for the murder of his wife or running for President of the United States.

The Cooper charm, combined with the Cooper logic, already had made the Los Angeles police seem inordinately stupid — because they took a look at the body of Barbara Jean Finch on the night of July 18, observed that she had been shot in the back, and deduced instantly that she had been murdered.

A woman doesn’t shoot herself in the back and then make the gun disappear, so it couldn’t have been suicide; therefore the gendarmes leaped to the conclusion that it had to be  murder.  They never thought of the possibility of accidental homicide.  And that, according to Dr. Finch and his handsome counsel, was exactly what it was.  But the cops decided it was murder and proceeded with that in mind.  In their pursuit of error they had brashly arrested Dr. Finch.

“The wheels of the law started turning and they are turning to this day,” Mr. Cooper told the jury with an air of resignation and regret.

Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff broke the Ten Commandments in a “reprehensible” manner, the doctor’s lawyer admitted.  But he begged the jury not to send the pair to the gas chamber for those particular sins.  “There is no question about it.  Dr. Finch cheated on his wife, violated a couple of the Commandments, committed adultery, lied to his wife and deceived her.  But he did not murder her.  Ladies and gentlemen, for every man who commits adultery, there must be a woman.  [A brilliant observation, I reflected.]

“But I say to you and every person in the courtroom, ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.’  I don’t condone the reprehensible conduct of my client and his co-defendant.  But they were not the first and they won’t be the last.

“But remember, ladies and gentlemen, you promised when you were chosen as jurors in this case to disregard the life that they had led, of which you  might disapprove.  It has no bearing on the indictment in this case.

“The cast of characters in the alleged conspiracy wasn’t chosen by the prosecution, of course.  They are stuck with it  John Patrick Cody unfortunately was chosen by Carole Tregoff.  He wa hired by her and by my client, to tail Mrs. Finch and, if necessary, compromise her to get evidence against her in the divorce case which was coming up, and they are paying dearly for it now.

“I have nothing but scorn and derision for my client for doing that.  But sometimes people do very silly and foolish things.  I believe in England and New York, where adultery is the only grounds for divorce, there are people you can hire to do that very thing and it is a common practice.”

Cody, Cooper charged, told his weird story of the plot to murder Mrs Finch because he was in jail in Minneapolis, serving time for two offenses, and hoped, by playing ball with the authorities, to get a reduction of his sentence.

“John Patrick Cody saw an opportunity for freedom — whether or not it was promised to him I can’t tell you.  But he thought it would benefit by cooperating with the police and the district attorney.

“Freedom is a powerful, powerful motive.  Cody’s motive when he told his story which you heard at this trial was freedom on one hand, money on the other.  And I will illustrate that for you now.:

Mr. Cooper picked up one of the many gray-covered volumes of trial testimony and referred to Cody’s explanation of why he did not talk to the Los Angeles authorities immediately after they arrived in Minneapolis in September to question him in the jail.

“Here is what Cody said,” Mr. Cooper declared.  “He said, ‘I waited for Dr. Finch to send somebody to help me.’  He knew it had been i the papers that Don Williams and Richard Keachie had talked in Las Vegas, and this  man who lived by his wits — who never worked at an honest job for more than two or three days in his life, who admitted he would cheat and lie and steal — saw an opportunity.

“He couldn’t lose anyway.  If a lawyer or an investigator for Dr. Finch had made the trip to Minneapolis to talk to Cody, you know what he would have said.  He would have said, ‘Let me have some money or I’ll tell a story and I’ll tell it to the district attorney.’

“Now, Cody was in jail for passing a bad check — that was a one-year sentence — and for breaking out of jail, another one-year sentence.  He saw a chance for parole.

“And I’ll tell you this.  I think nit is significant.  No one from Dr. Finch’s side came running to Cody in Minneapolis.  No lawyer, no investigator.  So after he had waited long enough, he told his story to the prosecution, and made it a good one.

“Some philosopher — not Cody or Keachie — once said, ‘A lie needs a truth for a handle.’  Cody knew just enough of the truth for a handle to attach to his lie.”

Mr. Cooper cited the information Cody had about Mrs. Finch:  he knew the make and license number of her car, the addresses of her best girl friend and her hairdresser, the location of the West Covina house and the tennis club she belonged to.  He noted that this was exactly the same information Dr. Finch had at one time furnished a legitimate Los Angeles Private detective.

The dramatic difference of opinion between Carole’s defense counsel and Dr. Finch’s attorney was revealed in the final hours of Mr. Cooper’s climactic address to the jury.  He dropped a bombshell by contesting the Tregoff side’s interpretation of the law.

Standing before the wooden box housing the all-important five men and seven women, he confided: “I don’t know any way to soft-pedal this.  So I guess I might as well face up to it.  I don’t like to disagree with my brethren on the same side of the table, and I hate to agree with the prosecution.  But I think Mr. Neeb is wrong.”

He took the position that no conspiracy to murder the doctor’s wife ever existed between the lovers privately or between them and the Las Vegas triumvirate — John Patrick Coy, Richard Keachie, an Don S. Williams.

But, he argued, if the jury found Dr. Finch guilty of conspiracy to murder, and Carole was his colleague and accomplice in the design to commit the murder, she must pay the same penalty as he, even if she was nowhere n ear the gun that killed the troublesome wife, even if she didn’t witness the shooting.

It was a curious end to his summation, and it seemed to lead to Assistant District Attorney Whichello’s charge, in his summing up, that although Carole did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed Barbara Jean Finch, she might have well because she “propelled” the murder.

In his final attempt to send both defendants to the gas chamber, Prosecutor Whichello did not spare the woman in the case.  He warned the jury that he was thinking of the dead Barbara — “battered, broken and butchered” by the two accused — and trying to obtain justice for her by asking for a verdict of murder in the first degree.

He ridiculed the contention that Carole was capable of falling into a catatonic trance, as when she hid in the bushes, saying she was in no trance except the trance of guilt. He compared her with Shakespeare’s lethal Lady Macbeth, who looked at her murderous right hand in horror and cried, “Out, damned spot.”

In the state’s opinion nothing could wash away the blood of Barbara Finch except the ultimate expiation — the death penalty.

Speaking with astonishing vigor and vindictiveness, the usually fatherly Whichello made it clear he was not concentrating on the sins of the surgeon and forgetting his mistress.  “If he is guilty, she is guilty,” he said.  “I think actually she was the aggressor,” he added.  “She instigated the plot and he carried it out.

“The defense of Grant Cooper was beautifully executed and beautifully delivered,” Mr. Whichello conceded.  “But notice that it was an example of grasping for straws — a hanging-on to such little things because that was all Mr. Cooper had to clutch at.

“The case comes down to one simple proposition.  The basic question is, did that bullet that coursed through the body of Barbara Jean Finch on the night of the tragedy result from a deliberate action of Dr. Finch or was it an unfortunate accident?

“There is o question that the gun was in the hand of Dr. Finch when it was fired at this lady.  Now I ask you to consider the significant things that were not found — Mrs. Finch’s purse, her wristwatch, the gun that killed her.  How do you explain their absence?

“There is no question as to whether the defendant Finch wanted the divorce.  He didn’t.  He told you that.  His testimony is replete with it — he tried to talk his wife out of it, he ‘stalled,’ to use his own word.  He found it financially inconvenient for her to seek the divorce.  But he was not averse to the nice clean demise of his spouse.  That was much pleasanter than a divorce action.”

The jurors appeared enthralled as the usually bland Whichello suddenly turned tiger.  He spoke so rapidly it was hard for the court stenotypists to keep up with him.

The prosecutor maintained that Dr. Finch and Carole went to the Finch garage in West Covina “at a most unusual hour, in the middle of the night” to ambush Mrs. Finch, not o talk with her, because they knew if they sought to make an appointment for a conference she would flee from them.

“They didn’t make the trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to tell Mrs. Finch about this wonderful new plan the doctor had — the plan for her to get a ‘quickie’ divorce in Nevada, a plan which would destroy all the advantages she had for obtaining a favorable financial settlement — they made the trip to hide and lie in wait for her, because they knew if she saw them, or if she saw Carole’s car, she would turn and run away.”

Accusing the defense of presenting a ridiculous, unbelievable story, the prosecutor outlined his version of what happened at the Finch home on the night of July 18.

“He knew he would have to ambush her.  He couldn’t drag her out of the house and kill her with the housemaid there, and the children.  So he arrived at a ridiculous hour to discuss an absurd plan for divorce — but a fine time for an ambush  murder.

“He actually ‘scouted’ the scene of the murder.  He went ahead of the defendant Pappa, went by way of his father’s house, which was the long way, because he didn’t want to be seen by this lady who was afraid of him and would have fled if she saw him approaching.

“He saw the coast was clear — the garage door was always open, we know that, so he could see Mrs. Finch hadn’t returned — and he went down and reported to Mrs. Pappa that the coast was clear.  So she came up the path, bringing the murder kit.

“Sometimes when I think of her bringing that kit up the hill, I think of the terrible analogy to surgery,” the prosecutor said.  “I think of the doctor saying, ‘Suture,’ to his assistant.  It’s a grim analogy.  But here comes the surgical team up the hill to take care of Mrs. Finch.  The attaché case contained a splendid selection of lethal items.  Perhaps not all of them were necessary, but they were consistent with a reasonably flexible plan to kill somebody.  This was a murder committed by lying in wait — by lurking.

“Certain things have to be met by the defense.  The waiting, the time consumed as the defendants waited for Mrs. Finch to arrive.  They tried to account for the time.  THey looked at the view from the hill.  They played with the dog.  Then they blew up the surgical gloves to amuse the dog.  Here is an absurdity piled upon an absurdity.  The doctor admitted on the stand he had never done such a thing before, he had never heard of any of his colleagues doing such a thing to play with a dog.

“It seems exceedingly odd to take sterile surgical gloves and blow them up and then carefully put the package they came in back into the case — but that was done.  They had to account for the fragments of the gloves that were found at the scene, and for the time consumed before Mrs. Finch returned home, and that is how they accounted for it.  If they had been honest people on an honest errand, do you think they would have been blowing up gloves to play with the dog?  Or would they have announced themselves at the house and gone in and waited?”

Mr. Whichello reminded the jurors that two pairs of gloves were used at the scene of the alleged murder — one by the doctor and the other by Carole, his alleged “assistant” in the crime.

“I submit this grim analogy to surgery is reasonable here,” Mr. Whichello said.  “We have the wo of them putting on rubber gloves to operate on Mrs. Finch.”

Opening the leather case — Exhibit 40 — ad extracting a tiny paper envelope, the prosecutor waved it in front of the men and women who would decide the fate of the defendants.

“This could answer your whole case — this little piece of paper,” he said.  “Here you have a deliberate tearing open of this envelope to get at the powder it contains.  This is not to help blow up the gloves to play with the dog, but to put on gloves.  The powder is a dry lubricant.  They put on the gloves so they would have no fingerprints at the scene of the crime.  They were lying in wait to ambush Mrs. Finch.”

The assistant district attorney scored an effective point when he asked the jurors to conjecture why Mrs. Finch cried for help during the death struggle in the garage.

“Marie Anne Lindholm heard her cries and dashed out to the garage,” he said.  “Why was Mrs. Finch yelling for help if she had the gun, as the defendants have testified?  Was she calling for someone to help her shoot someone?

“Another absurdity, ladies and gentlemen.  She didn’t have the gun.  Dr. Finch had it.  He had it and he struck her with it, fracturing her skull, and when she broke and ran, heading for his father’s house to seek refuge, he shot her with it.”

After the prosecution finished its summation the jurors waited for final instructions from Judge Evans.

The courtroom doors were locked according to tradition and the judge  began, in his deep rumbling voice, to explain the rules under which their verdict must be returned.

Carole and Dr. Finch could receive identical or different verdicts.  A door could open for more of them and close on the other.  THey were tried jointly, but the law did not link them inextricably.

Judge Evans permitted the jury to bring in any one — or two — of six possible verdicts:

Guilty of murder in the first degree.

Guilty of murder in the second degree.

Guilty of the conspiracy to murder.

Not guilty of murder.

Not guilty of conspiracy to murder.

Accidental homicide.

But the curtain was to drop abruptly on the sensational trial when after days of deliberation, the jury announced that it was “hopelessly deadlocked.”

Grant Cooper commented that he was “terribly disappointed.”  District Attorney McKesson declared: “I would say we are obligated now to retry the case.  We are convinced that these person s should be put on trial under charges as returned by the grand jury which returned the original indictments.  The fact this jury has not agreed does not change our opinion.”

This is how the jury that couldn’t agree stood after they were discharged:

Ten wanted Dr. Finch convicted of murder; two insisted on acquittal.

Four voted guilty for Carole in both the murder and the conspiracy; eight voted not guilty.

The same four believed Dr. Finch guilty of conspiracy to murder his wife; the same eight jurors found him not guilty of the conspiracy.

The most astonishing revelation came when it was learned that Dr. Finch could thank the vagaries of human nature for the fact that he was as yet convicted of nothing.  The jury turned out to be a miniature hotbed of racial prejudice.  Hatred had flared.  There was a Negro on the jury and a citizen of Mexican extraction.  They said the other ten jurors belittled them and called them “names that could not be repeated.”

“It would shock you,” one of them told me.  “There were even women on that jury that said thins you would not believe.  They looked down on me.  They insulted us.  I was in the war.  I fought for my country.  Compared to this experience, war was heaven and serving on this jury was hell.”

Those two felt that they were being treated with disrespect by the other ten, and in a sense they joined forces.  Nonetheless, their reasons for refusing to go along with the majority were not racial.  They had honest doubts about some of the evidence.

When the mistrial was declared, the jurors stood ten to two for convicting Dr. Finch.  On the other hand, there was a great deal of sympathy for Carole.  The four persons who did not sympathize with her, but voted her guilty on both counts of the indictment, were members of her own sex.

The jurors all, apparently, felt like the “Las Vegas conspiracy” existed — nobody bought Dr. Finch’s story that John Patrick Cody had been hired as a detective to gather divorce evidence against Mrs. Finch — but the dissenting jurors would not find either Carole or the surgeon guilty of the conspiracy because Cody was not a co-defendant.

They reasoned that there was evidence to show that Carole had conspired with Cody in Las Vegas, but there was no evidence adduced at the trial to show that Dr. Finch and Carole had conspired with each other to kill Mrs. Finch.  They said that if Cody had been a defendant at the trial, he and the doctor and the doctor’s mistress would have been found guilty of murder in the first degree.

The jurors — even the bitter hold-outs – agreed they would have found Dr. Finch guilty of manslaughter if that finding had been permissible.  But at the urgent request of the prosecution, Judge Evans had not included the option of a manslaughter verdict in his charge to the jury.

One of the alternate jurors said: “I think that’s where the jury system is wrong — in the selection of the jury.  I believe the state should go into their personal lives, probe deeply and select people of intellectual ability to serve and then pay them decently for it.  It would be less expensive in the long run.  Unless they make some pretty sharp revisions of the jury system, I would feel that should I ever be charged with a crime, God forbid, I would go in the judge and say ‘I’ll stand trial before a judge, nor a jury.’”

The second trial began on November 20, 1960, and again ended in a hung jury and a mistrial.

Why were these lovers still neither convicted nor acquitted?

Why had two juries failed to agree on their guilt or innocence?

The answers lay in the stormy, querulous deliberations of these juries — thirty-seven and a half hours of argument in the first trial; seventy-one hours of argument in the second.

The second trial had a most unusual judge.  He told the jurors, after they had been deliberating for sixty-three hours, that in his opinion the evidence showed “a willful and deliberate taking of human life” — which is the key element in first degree murder.

As the jurors filed back into the jury room to resume their wrangling, one of the jurors said in a voice loud enough to be heard in the courtroom: “Did you hear what he said?  He’s got a lot of nerve!”

The third trial, which began on January 3, 1961, produced no headlines, no reporters, no pyrotechnics of any sort.  Dr. Finch and Carole Tregoff were convicted on March 27 of murder in the second degree, and on April 5, 1961, they were sentenced to life imprisonment, with parole possible after seven years.

In a “recap” after the third and last trial I said: “Dr. Bernie and his redhead got what they deserved — a verdict of guilty.”  That was on April 2, 1961.  I see no reason now to change that opinion.  All you need to do is go back over the evidence, as I did, to see how the massive case for the prosecution far outweighed that of the defense.  Of course, it seems almost unbelievable that a man of Finch’s background, education, and training could have been so utterly stupid.  But the evidence is there: HE found himself confronted with ruin because his wife had everything he owned tied up legally.  In his raging mind only one act would free him from that millstone around his neck.  And he thought he was smart enough to get away with it.

The strangest aspect of the whole affair was the failure of two juries to come to a verdict.  That continues to baffle me.  What leads twenty-four eligible citizens virtually to ignore fact and dwell almost entirely on emotion during their deliberations?  For that is what happened in both trials.  In only the third trial, in an atmosphere of calm and detached observance of the merits of the case, did reason prevail?  This question of reality opposed by fantasy in so solemn a ritual as a trial by jury for a capital crime has always interested me.  Only a few years before, I had seen what seemed to me to be a miscarriage of justice when, in the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the jury reached a verdict for which, I am convinced, there was no justification at all in the evidence.

Murder in Black and White – Los Angeles Magazine

That Murder in West Covina – Tregoff – Finch Story – the many faces of …


Where are they Now? Murderers Dr. Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff

Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff Trials: 1960 & 1961 …

Raymond Bernard Finch and Carole Tregoff Trials: 1960 1961 – Fatal …

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.