The Chicken Coop Murders: The Mother Should Have Also Hanged

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

This entry was posted in child molestation, child sexual abuse, Denial, dissociative amnesia, evil, false memory syndrome, female sexual offenders, rape and abuse, repressed memory and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Chicken Coop Murders: The Mother Should Have Also Hanged

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad i came upon this today. I read the book “the road to hell” the last week and then searched the internet for further details and what made me sick too was everything you commented on exactly. The fact that this demonic mother who was the root of it all and participated as well as apparently condoned it all got away with only 12 years in prison i believe!? Unbelievable. It sickens me too how women are continuously let off the hook in our “justice” system. They are the backbone of the family and I strongly believe their influence or lack of it is the cause of our society’s deterioration. They breed and dump their abused, uneducated, neglected spawn into society and they suffer no guilt or blame or legal consequences for all the crime committed by them. An innocent child in the wrong hands of a female parent turns into a dangerous weapon that brings havoc to our society, yet they are not legally responsible for being a fucked up parent. I love Eastwood and his movies and it shocks me that he did what you said. That’s strange coming from someone i’d trust as far as stuff like this. why leave that out?

    • Alethea says:

      The only thing I can think of, is that Eastwood might have an affection for women that blinds him to the dark side of the female gender. Out of sight, out of mind. ‘Oh, let’s not talk about THAT.”

  2. mathilda you know says:

    I agreed that the mother whould being hangd to becaus if he was my son i would never want to look into the mirror again i whould hate my life an i whould take suicide i whould never forgive myself

    Bye (sorry for my bad english i am a swedish so im not that good on english!!)

  3. Trish says:

    I understand Gordon’s mother played a big role in the abuse/murders, but I think the reason Eastwood decided not to delve into that was for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think the movie really wanted to expose the corruption in the LAPD and the crazy allegations that Walter’s mother did not recognize Walter. That seemed to me to be a HUGE part of the movie. Secondly, I think that the movie would have had to go on forever if they wanted to work Gordon’s mother into it, so they decided to cut her out altogether. She may be a separate movie, completely.

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      Hi Trish, thanks for posting. I disagree.

      The human mind tries to put simplistic explanations on what has been -in my experience- people’s desire to not want to freak out society with the truth about women and their role in child rape and child torture.

      • Pat says:

        Rather than thinking the mother was cut out of the movie as a result of storyline considerations, you want to believe that there is some sort of conspiracy among filmmakers to keep the truth about women child abusers/murders from the public. That makes you a nutter.

        • Alethea says:

          Pat, maybe it is YOU who is the “nut” because you go along with the mainstream ideas of society that keep everything to appear “normal” and anyone who dares to think outside the expected norms is considered a conspiracy nut.

          But I never mentioned a “conspiracy” among filmmakers, I referred to an ‘apple-pie’ people-pleasing version of hard truths, and deeply disgusting truths, that many people don’t want to deal with, so they sugar-coat it.

  4. Megan McCracken says:

    wow…i thought my family was disfunctional

  5. anonymous says:

    the reeason Gordon northcotts mother could not defend him was because his mother ws also his sister louisa northcott was not his mother she was his grandma and gordon was born as a result of rape and incest between his grandpa (louisa his grandma not mother husband) and louisa and his grandpas daughter which mean not only did his grandpa/father rape his own son/grandson but he also raped his other daughter whick was the cause of gordon existance disgusting isnt it !???

    • aletheamarinanova says:

      I read this somewhere before but left it out of my article because I already had too much information in the post. I did not want to put my readers on “information overload.” It’s interesting to see how incest can create monsters in more than one way. Nature dictates to us that inbred children are often mentally defective, and when you couple that with incestuous sex, between most all of the members of the family, you get a monster-child like Gordon Northcott.

      • Dan Dassow says:

        Sarah Louise Northcott initially confessed to killing 9-year-old Walter Collins. She later retracted her statement, as did Gordon Northcott, who had confessed to killing more than five boys. Upon her return from Canada, Sarah Louise pled guilty to killing Walter Collins. Superior Court Judge Morton sentenced her to life imprisonment on December 31, 1928, sparing her from execution because she was a woman. Sarah Louise Northcott served her sentence at Tehachapi State Prison, and was paroled after fewer than 12 years. During her sentencing, Sarah Louise claimed her son was innocent and made a variety of bizarre claims about his parentage, including that he was an illegitimate son by an English nobleman, that she was Gordon’s grandmother, and that he was the result of incest between her husband, George Cyrus Northcott, and their daughter, Winifred Northcott Clark. She also stated that as a child, Gordon was sexually abused by the entire family. None of Sarah Louise statements regarding Gordon Stewart Northcott’s parentage and being sexually abused could be substantiated. The charge of incest was refuted by Winifred Clark during Gordon Stewart’s murder trial. Sarah Louise had an unnatural fondness for her son and would have said anything to save him from hanging.

        The best sources for information on this case are

        * Flacco, Anthony; Jerry Clark (November 2009). The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders. Union Square Press. ISBN 978-1-4027-68699.

        * Paul, James Jeffrey (September 2008). Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott. Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4363-6627-4.

        This is a series of daily blogs from Larry Harnisch published from October 24, 2008 through February 18, 2009. The blog includes reprints of original Los Angeles Times articles and historical documents. Larry Harnisch is the leading Black Dahlia expert and a member of the Los Angles Times staff.

        • aletheamarinanova says:

          “Sarah Louise had an unnatural fondness for her son and would have said anything to save him from hanging.”

          Exactly. She had an unnatural fondness for her son. Given his crimes, and the dysfunction in that family, and given her unnatural fondness for her son, the incest claims are more likely true than not. Most claims of incest cannot be substantiated –this does not mean it didn’t happen.

  6. aletheamarinanova says:

    Thank you for correcting me on the title of the film.

    As you stated, Sarah was spared execution because she was a woman.

    I strongly disagree that Gordon Stewart Northcott played a minor role in Changeling. If not for his crimes, there would be no film. He and his mother were the ROOT cause of why Christine’s son disappeared. Mr. Eastwood left out historical facts by excluding the mother from the crimes against Christine’s son and the other boys.

    “Straczynski said she was the only person in the story without a hidden agenda,”

    This is incorrect. The children had no agenda either and they were victims of a crime. If they had a chance to tell their story, I am certain that they would want it told with truth and let the public know that women often participate in violent crimes against children. Those boys deserve the whole truth to be told, not a watered down version that excludes a woman.

    It matters not if Sarah Louisa Northcott confessed to the killings ‘only in an effort to try and save her son’ –even more of a crime. She lied to save a degenerate man who committed the worst atrocities on children. She mentally and emotionally took place in those crimes. Even if she never laid a hand on the boys, she did EVERYTHING that Gordon did to those boys.

    Those victims deserve the truth to be told in all forms of media and entertainment.

  7. Dan Dassow says:

    Sarah Louise Northcott confessed to killing Walter Collins. Because she confessed, her case did not go to trial. Superior Court Judge Morton sentenced her to life imprisonment on December 31, 1928, sparing her from execution because she was a woman.

    The title of the film is Changeling (2008) not The Changeling.

    Changeling was told from the perspective of Christine Collins. Gordon Stewart Northcott played a minor role in Changeling. The film was not about Gordon Stewart Northcott or his mother, Sarah Louise Northcott. That story would best be told through a documentary film or television program.

    I will not argue the merits of excluding Sarah Louise Northcott from Changeling. However, this was not Clint Eastwood decision but the decision of the screenwriter, J. Michael Straczynski. He chose to avoid focusing on the atrocities of the Wineville murders in favor of telling the story from Collins’ perspective; Straczynski said she was the only person in the story without a hidden agenda, and it was her tenacity—as well as the legacy the case left throughout California’s legal system—that had attracted him to the project. He said, “My intention was very simple: to honor what Christine Collins did.”

    According to the screenwriter of Changeling, J. Michael Straczynski:

    “Yes, Louisa Northcott confessed to the killings but ONLY in an effort to try and save her son (with whom she was much closer than need be) from execution. After Northcott was executed, she recanted and the courts released her because other than her word, given to save Gordon, there was zero evidence that she had done anything. Another dead end that didn’t deserve screen time.

    “You cannot — CANNOT — put every single detail of a case into a two-hour-plus movie without it turning into a twelve hour miniseries. I opted to leave out those threads which dead-ended, leaving out things that DIDN’T happen so that there was time to focus on what DID happen, precise in order to respect and show what happened to those kids. “

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