Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Randolph's Hearse

The Guests Who Weren't There

Immediately after the Ince tragedy, others onboard the Oneida that night began denying that they were there, including Chaplin and Parsons, despite witnesses who vouched to the contrary. Parsons insisted that she was in New York at the time. However, her assertion didn't stand up to the word of several passengers who reported seeing her on the yacht, and another credible witness who said she saw Parsons with Davies and Chaplin at the studio, prior to departure. Parsons, it is widely believed, may have witnessed the actual shooting and was rewarded for her silence. Many believe that it was no coincidence "Lolly" was awarded a lifetime contract for her syndicated column from Hearst immediately after Ince's death. Access to 600 publications and 20 million readers has the potential to buy a lifetime's worth of silence.

Chaplin's version of the story is as laughable as some of his early movies. Not only does he deny being on the Oneida that weekend, he also insisted that he, Hearst, and Davies visited the ailing Ince later that week. He further stated that Ince died two weeks after their visit. In reality, Ince was taken off the boat early on a Sunday morning and was dead within 48 hours. Chaplin, himself, attended the memorial services for Ince that Friday. Convenient memory lapse? Perhaps.

Casting further doubt on Chaplin's alibi is the observation reportedly made by his own secretary and driver, a Japanese man named Toraichi Kono. Kono reported seeing Ince being taken off the boat in San Diego with a bullet wound in his head. Hearst was known to carry a diamond-studded revolver on the boat, with which he allegedly delighted in shooting down seagulls. Apologists who insist that Hearst's gentle personality would have rendered him incapable of shooting another human being might have a difficult time reconciling that assertion with his flagrant disregard for peaceful avian creatures flying over their natural habitats.

Kono's story went nowhere, leaving unanswered the question, why was he there if Chaplin wasn't?

Davies was also in the denial mode. She never acknowledged that Chaplin, Goodman, or Parsons were on board the yacht that weekend. She also reportedly insisted that Nell Ince called her late Monday afternoon at United Studios to inform her of Ince's death. Highly unlikely since he didn't die until Tuesday.

And how does one explain the early Los Angeles Times story reporting that a producer had been shot on Hearst's yacht? Nasaw makes no mention of this at all. Nor does he mention that the first disclosure spun by Hearst was that Ince was stricken while visiting San Simeon, more than 300 miles away.

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