August 16, 2007 -- La Cañada Valley Sun

Around Town: The Abduction of Gettle

It was an overcast August morning. Zeli’s had just opened.

It was just the two of us.I was taking coffee with the Anonymous Source, an attractive lady in her 40s who keeps me supplied with long-hidden true accounts of local history.

This morning was no different.

I took a sip of my coffee, medium, dark roast, with a touch of milk.

She pushed an unmarked manila envelope across the table.

I opened it. More news clippings. Dozens of them. Yellowed with age.

It happened on a Wednesday at midnight.

On May 9, 1934, William F. Gettle, a 500-pound Beverly Hills millionaire, put on a party for his invalid wife.The party was at his his weekend estate. The location: Arcadia.

“Where’s the Crescenta-Cañada connection?” I asked.

“Wait,” said the Source.

I continued reading. After the guests had left, Gettle and a friend decided to have a nightcap. They had just clinked glasses when two masked men walked in.

“Put ’em up.”

Both victims were trussed up. Then the suspects picked up Gettle, carried him up a ladder and pushed him over the wall.

The news coverage was immediate and nationwide.

By Saturday, May 12, Gettle’s lawyer, Ernest E. Noon, Esq., had received multiple ransom demands. Most of demands appeared to be false.

“From this multitude of calls, I feel there is only one which is authentic and I will know the voice when I hear the call again.’

Noon asked law enforcement, both the County Sheriffs and the FBI, to stand down.

“At my earnest solicitation as the representative of the family, heads of law enforcement agencies definitely agreed with me last night that they would cease active operations, at least until Monday noon, to allow me to proceed unhampered, for after all it is the life of Mr. Gettle in which we all are first interested,” Noon said.

The next day he received another ransom demand.

“About 8:30 o’clock this morning,” reported Noon, “I had a telephone call from the same man.”

According to Noon, the conversation went like this:

Mr. Noon!


Will you pay seventy-five grand?

Why yes, why yes.

Well, make up your mind.

All right.

Now you follow the instructions and everything, and you will be all right.

But beforeNoon could follow through, the Sheriff called a press conference. They had cracked the case.

The phone call was traced to a man named Kirk. Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz blocked every road leading out of Los Angeles county.

‘Heavily aimed deputies guarded key intersections with instructions to halt and search all outgoing cars. Police and sheriff deputies began searching the canyons of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Then, the Sheriff’s raided a rental house on Rosemont in La Crescenta. There they found Mr. Gettle, unharmed.

‘Great story!’ I said. ‘But where’s the La Canada connection?’

The Anonymous Source merely smiled and said, “How do you think they got Gettle from Arcadia to La Crescenta?”

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a La Cañada resident and attorney with Law Offices of Torres & Brenner in Pasadena.

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