Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Randolph's Hearse

The Investigation

The rumors of foul play, being too strong to ignore, finally prompted San Diego District Attorney Chester Kemply to launch an investigation. However, that "investigation" was a sham.

Despite the presence of 15 to 20 guests aboard the Oneida that night, Kemply chose to call only a single witness — Dr. Goodman, who had treated Ince and helped get him off the boat after he was either shot or stricken with indigestion. Part of the transcript of Goodman's testimony is as follows:

Thomas Ince
Thomas Ince

" ...When he (Ince) arrived on board he complained of nothing but being tired. Ince discussed during the day details of his agreement just made with (Hearst's) International Film Corporation to produce pictures in combination. Ince seemed well. He ate a hearty dinner, retired early. Next morning he and I arose early before any of the other guests to return to Los Angeles. Ince complained that during the night he had had an attack of indigestion, and still felt bad. On the way to the station he complained of a pain in the heart. We boarded the train, but at Del Mar a heart attack came upon him. I thought it best to take him off the train, insist upon his resting in a hotel. I telephoned Mrs. Ince that her husband was not feeling well. I called in a physician and remained myself until the afternoon, when I continued on to Los Angeles.

"Mr. Ince told me that he had had similar attacks before, but that they had not amounted to anything. Mr. Ince gave no evidence of having had any liquor of any kind. My knowledge as a physician enabled me to diagnose the case as one of acute indigestion."

Incredibly, D.A. Kemply ended his investigation without questioning any other potential witnesses. He dismissed the case with these words:

"I began this investigation because of many rumors brought to my office regarding the case, and have considered them until today in order to definitely dispose of them. There will be no further investigation of stories of drinking on board the yacht. If there are to be, then they will have to be in Los Angeles County where presumably the liquor was secured. People interested in Ince's sudden death have continued to come to me with persistent reports and in order to satisfy them I did conduct an investigation. But after questioning the doctor and nurse who attended Mr. Ince at Del Mar I am satisfied his death was from ordinary causes."

Case closed.

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