Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Wonderland Murders

"Thumping and Groaning"

A little after 4 a.m. on July 1, 1981, three or more intruders — one of whom may or may not have been John Holmes — crept into 8763 Wonderland carrying lead pipes.

They went from one room to the next, bashing in the brains of the sleeping occupants until four were dead and one was critically wounded. The bloodbath was so profuse that the walls, floors and ceilings were dripping red and the victim's faces were caved in.

A next-door neighbor told police he heard "thumping and groaning," but assumed it was just another wild night at the notorious party house and went back to bed. Another neighbor later testified in court that she heard screams and looked out the window to see lights on in the house. Annoyed by having her sleep disrupted yet again by the crowd at 8763, she turned on her television to drown out their death throes.

Two female guests had the misfortune of visiting the Wonderland residence on that fatal night — a friend of Lind's, Barbara Richardson, 22, and Launius' estranged wife Susan, 25, who'd arrived from Northern California the day before.

It wasn't until that afternoon — nearly 12 hours after the attack — that a professional mover who was working next door heard moans coming from 8763 and noticed the unrelenting barking of the pit bulls. He found the door ajar, and walked into the living room, where he stumbled across Richardson's body on the sofa.

In an upstairs bedroom, investigators found the body of Miller sprawled on a bed and Deverell lying in a corner of the same room.

In the rear bedroom of the first floor, they found Ronald Launius dead on a bed, and beside him, horribly mutilated but still breathing, his wife Susan.

The police were so overwhelmed by the amount of blood — which literally trailed from room to room — that they videotaped it. The grainy tape was used at the trial, marking the first time in American history that a video record of a murder scene was admitted as evidence in criminal trial.

All four victims had drug records, detectives told the media.

David Lind, the thug from Sacramento, narrowly missed being killed. He'd spent the night with a prostitute at a motel in the San Fernando Valley, where he'd transacted several drug deals earlier that evening, he told the cops. During the same interview, he told them about the Nash break-in.

The detectives investigating the case had one pressing question: Where was John Holmes during the killings?

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