The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart
Holmes and Thurmond
John "Jack" Holmes was born in Los Angeles on March 20, 1904. When he was 11, his family moved to San Jose where John's father opened a tailor shop in downtown San Jose. He worked hard and soon became a proud member of the city's business community. San Jose, resting in the southern peninsula of Santa Clara valley, was considered a smaller version of the larger and more exciting San Francisco to the north. Roads that went through or passed near San Jose were, at that time, the only land access routes to the San Francisco area. The famous Golden Gate Bridge was not yet built, though by the winter of 1933, construction was well under way. San Jose was the kind of place where most people knew everybody else in the city.
As a teenager, Jack attended San Jose High School where he excelled as a football star. He was a big boy, over six feet tall and knew how to take care of himself. After an argument with a teacher, Jack was kicked out of school. However, he was somewhat ambitious and immediately got a job in an electronics store. By the time he was twenty, Jack had married a local girl and settled down to married life. Jack Holmes had an outgoing personality and made friends easily. By 1928, he had two children and moved to a place called Half Moon Bay, a deserted village on the Pacific side of San Mateo County. He worked in a local gas station where local toughs and petty criminals frequently stopped by and chatted with the gregarious attendant.
Holmes became fascinated with outlaws and, what he saw as, their exciting lives. He frequently mused over dreams of committing the perfect crime. In Henry Farrell's book, Swift Justice, the author said, "He would pore over the newspapers, analyzing the crimes reported and the errors that led to the perpetrator's detection." In his mind, Holmes must have thought he could commit crimes that would make him lots of money and not get caught. But during this time, Holmes kept these thoughts to himself. He was never arrested or charged for any crime.
In 1932, while Holmes worked as a salesman for an oil company, he made a scheduled stop at a San Jose gas station. The attendant at that time was a man named Thomas Harold Thurmond. The two men quickly became friends. Though they were different in personality and temperament, they shared a common bond. They liked money. Harold was born on a farm in 1906 and moved to San Jose with his family when he was eleven years old. He later dropped out of high school and worked in a series of low-paying jobs in and around San Jose. The Thurmond family was well known and all of Harold's five sisters either married well or obtained good jobs. Harold was the exception in the family and considered somewhat of a disappointment. Though he frequently hung around with San Jose's criminal element, like Holmes, he had never been arrested.
But together Thurmond and Holmes decided to try to make some fast money. Using Holmes' inside information on the oil company, they planned the abduction of a courier who worked for the Union Oil Company. On September 25, 1933, they kidnapped and robbed the employee. The victim was released unharmed and the two men split $716, which was a large sum of money during the Depression era. Barely one month later, on October 23, Thurmond and Holmes robbed a Shell Oil company messenger and made off with $700. Again the victim was not hurt. But Holmes had temporarily fulfilled one of his fantasies.
He had gotten away with the perfect crime. Twice. It was time to move on to bigger and better things.