In 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott, kidnapped, raped, and murdered as many as twenty young boys at his family’s poultry ranch outside Wineville, California (now called Mira Loma), which is southeast of Los Angeles. Northcott had the help of his mother, Sarah Louise Northcott.
Northcott brutally raped his victims and when he grew bored with the boys, he axed them to death and buried their bodies near the chicken coop. Northcott eventually confessed to at least five of the murders. Gordon’ s mother not only allowed the rapes and murders to take place at the ranch, but at her trial, she admitted to helping her son to murder one boy, hitting the boy in the head and then burying the child in a hole next to the chicken coop. The same hole where they discarded sick and dead chickens.
During the 1929 trial, Northcott’s mother, Sarah Louise Northcott, told the jury that she was not the mother of Gordon, but his grandmother. She explained that her husband had raped their daughter, Winnefred, and that Gordon was the child resulting from that rape. Gordon Northcott even implied that he and his mother (grandmother) Sarah were incestuous and that his father had also molested him (this would explain the root cause of Gordon’s crimes against children). Sarah admitted at the trial that she would do anything for Gordon. Yet, Gordon says he was sexually abused by his father and Sarah did not help her son. Obviously, “doing anything” for her son (or grandson) did not include protecting him from being raped as a boy.
Gordon Northcott was convicted of rape and murder, and hanged in 1930. His mother was also found guilty of murdering the one boy and was sentenced to life in prison. Clint Eastwood made a film about the murders called Changeling. The thing that angered me about the film was that Eastwood completely omitted the fact that Gordon’s mother had facilitated the rapes and murders, and that she committed murder on one of the boys. The only way I found out about the mother’s participation in the crimes was by researching the case after watching Changeling.
Why did Clint Eastwood choose to leave out the fact that a woman was part of the crimes? Why did he change the story by deleting the mother’s participation in brutal rape and child murder? I was very angry after I learned that the mother played a huge part in the crimes. Clint Eastwood chose to discharge her of any role by not including this vital information in his film. Why does society continue to give a free pass to women who commit crimes against children? Why was Gordon hanged and his mother was not? In all probability, she was the one who allowed him to be sexually abused as a child, subsequently leading to his brutality towards children as an adult. If Gordon was raped as a child, then it was his mother who allowed it, and thus, she also should have been hanged.
For clarity, let me say that, for many reasons, I don’t condone the death penalty but this case took place decades ago and the sentences have already been given –and the perpetrators are long dead. So if I am to comment on this case, it is to say that this woman should have suffered the same consequences as her son. Yet, as in today’s society, she was given a lighter sentence. I have no more sympathy for women than I do for men who commit heinous crimes against children. Why are women often excused, given lighter sentences -or none at all- just because they happen to be of the female sex? If it were up to me, I would give women even harsher sentences for their crimes because, according to nature, women are supposed to be the protectors, the nurturers, the givers of life. When a woman, especially a mother, violates that natural order of things, she is even guiltier than a man. If Sarah had stopped the sexual abuse of her son years earlier, the little boys killed in the chicken coop crimes would never have been victimized by Gordon Northcott.
Notes: The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, Kristal Hawkins, Tru TV Crime Library