The Strange Case Of Dr. Floyd Leach

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

There was a point in Floyd Leach’s life when he must have felt that he led a charmed life.  He really had it all.  His wife was smart, beautiful and her family was financially well to do.  Her family came from Austria where they were considered nobility.  Floyd had met Alice at Northwestern University where he was studying to be a doctor.  He was charmed in that too.  That degree led him from a distinguished time as a Doctor the Medical Corps during World War I where he earned many medals to a prestigious dental practice. 

The time during the war was difficult for his family, of course.  Alice’s family fought for the Central Powers alongside Germany and Bulgaria while Floyd’s family was loyal to the Allied Powers.  Looking back these were the first cracks in the life Floyd was creating.

Floyd and Alice settled in Chicago and had two children.  Their son Campbell, was born in 1913 and their daughter Betty was born in 1916.  By 1926, the family lived in Hollywood California and Floyd was living the dream of a life he always wanted.  His career as a “dentist to the stars” made it possible for him to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in the Hollywood Motion Picture Colony as the newspapers later called it.  But the cracks that had started in his marriage during the war kept deepening.

Alice became an invalid during 1915, shortly before the birth of her daughter.  Facts are vague now but during the trials that took place in the late 1920’s alluded to an attack by Floyd that caused Alice to become paralyzed.  She would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

It later struck some as ironic that Floyd, who moved in the circles of famous actors and actresses seemed to be playing a part himself.  But the cracks in his perfect world became chasms in 1927 and Floyd fled.  He left behind his flourishing dental practice, his beautiful home, his wife and his children.

Floyd’s family lived in this area and it was here that he came.  He settled in Rockford and opened a new dental practice in the Blackhawk Building at the corner of West State and Wyman Streets.  His life here was definitely a step down for Floyd.  He went from a beautiful home in California to a three room shack located on North Second Street.  Floyd was trying to rebuild his life and he made friends with the local veterans.  He decorated his little cottage with his war medals and pictures of his new found friends. 

Those same friends were shocked when news started to spread about Floyd’s odd behaviors.  He was seen at all hours of the night downtown by his new office.  Floyd would wander the downtown area and spend the early hours of the mornings in several all-night diners.  He often fought with neighbors and caused scenes with his anger.

Those same friends grew very concerned when they woke on the morning of December 9, 1929 to headlines speaking of their friends arrest in the murder of a popular high school teacher.  Cordelia Gummersheimer was found dead in her bed by friends on December 8, 1929. 

Floyd was arrested when police went to question him about his whereabouts during Sunday night.  Authorities knew that the Floyd had been seen often in the vicinity of Cordelia’s apartment.  His office was located not far from the place and he was seen sitting in his car facing the back of the building the day of the murder.

The police had reports of Floyd’s strange behavior and were shocked when they finally caught up with him the day after the murder.  Floyd’s car contained the bodies of several dead cats and dogs.  When they searched his cottage, they found even more dead animals.  He even had a dead mouse in the pocket of the suit he wore to work that day.

The authorities questioned the dentist about this bizarre find.  He stated that he was interested in taxidermy and was making a fur rug from the pelts of the dead animals.  When they mentioned the mouse that they found in his pocket, Floyd said he carried because it felt nice.

Floyd was arrested and held for a few days and the local veterans grew afraid for him.  They were afraid that Floyd who was obviously not in his right mind would stand no chance if the police decided to pin the horrible murder on himd.  Emotions ran high in the town and Cordelia’s friends, colleagues, students and their parents all were demanding that the police find the killer of the young teacher.

Floyd’s friends banded together and got him released based on the fact that there was no evidence that tied Floyd to the murder.  The police couldn’t even prove that the two knew each other.  The courts agreed and freed Floyd.

Floyd’s friends saved him from the police but they couldn’t protect him from himself.  The scandal of his arrest and the stories of his strange behavior caused his dental practice to suffer and Floyd’s drinking increased.  Authorities from California finally were able to get Floyd extradited back to California to face trial for the abandonment of his family.   Floyd reacted badly during the trial and the court was astonished when Floyd stated that he shouldn’t have to support his family.   Alice’s family tried to have Floyd declared insane but the courts didn’t agree with that diagnosis.  The judge felt sorry for Floyd but had no choice but to put him in jail.  The judge stated that maybe some time in San Quentin would change his mind about his family.  Floyd Leach arrived there in 1932. 

Captain Floyd Dewitt Leach was buried in 1941 in Los Angeles National Cemetery.  The murder of Cordelia Gummersheimer was never solved.

 

Copyright © 2018 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The Mysterious Deaths Of Ann Bergman And Chico Martinez

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

Ann Bergman and her roommate Rachel had decided to stay at their little apartment on School Street for the evening on August 7, 1962.  At least that was the plan before someone knocked on the door.  As soon as Rachel saw who it was, she knew their quiet night at home was over.  Ann’s boyfriend, 32-year-old Octavio (Chico) Martinez stood at the door, flashing his great smile.  That smile had won 18-year-old Ann over as soon as she saw it a few months ago.  

It was obvious to Rachel that Ann was smitten with Chico but she wasn’t sure that he return the affection.  Rachel knew he liked Ann, but she also realized that he saw other girls.  Ann believed that Chico would marry her and take her to Mexico for their honeymoon.  That was what Chico had promised Ann.  But for that hot August night, it was dancing that Chico wanted.  He and Ann were so good that they won several local dance contests.  Chico mentioned the Town Hall Tavern on West State Street was having a dance contest that August evening.  It wasn’t long before Ann had changed for a night on the town.  Rachel just shook her head as she watched her beautiful friend dance out the door.  She had no way of knowing that it would be the last time she would ever see Ann alive.

Ann and Chico were a big hit at the tavern.  They won the first place prize of a pink bottle of champagne.  Witnesses would testify later that the happy couple left at 12:50 a.m. on what was now Wednesday, August 8.  Chico’s car was parked about a block away from the tavern.  

The phone call came in to the Police Department at 1:20a.m.  It was a from a truck driver, John Stannard who spotted a man’s body on a part of Belt Line Road close to the Kishwaukee intersection.  Police arrived within a few minutes to find a bullet ridden body of a man on the side of the road.  He had been shot once in the shoulder and twice in the left chest.  The bullets pierced his heart.  He had other damage to his body and one of his shoes was scuffed up.  

Police quickly identified Chico Martinez and realized that he had been accompanied by a young lady that evening.  The frantic search for Ann Bergman began.  The police followed the trail left by both Chico and Ann until they could account for their whereabouts except for a seven minute window.  It was during this seven minutes that the couple was forced into a vehicle and driven toward the outskirts of town.  Police believed that Chico had panicked and a struggle took place during which he was shot.  They thought that Chico’s foot might have gotten caught when he attempted to jump from the vehicle.  The driver stopped the car and the shooter put two more rounds into his body before jumping back into the vehicle to make his getaway.  

Police believed that young Ann had been a witness to Chico’s killing.  They also guessed that she would not be found alive.  It took seven agonizing days for the theory to be proven correct.  Ann’s family and friends searched everywhere for her.  They hoped that she had gotten away from the men who had so brutally killed Chico and was hiding somewhere, too afraid to come forward. 

The weather on the evening of August 14 was pleasant and Richard Boehm of Byron was taking his five children for a walk down the road by his home.  It was 8:15 when Richard walked along Highway 72 on the east side of the river and spotted something in the long grass.  As he walked closer, he was horrified to see a foot sticking up in the long grass.  Unfortunately for the police, the story broke before they had the chance to notify Ann’s family.  Her parents and four younger brothers discovered the horrible truth when news anchor Bruce Richardson interrupted the show they were watching on the television with an announcement of the police finding Ann’s body.  It was a moment that would haunt both the police and the family for a long time.

The coroner conducted the autopsy under a tent placed over the spot where they found Ann’s body.  She had suffered damage to her body including a shattered shoulder.  She had been shot once through the heart.  Police thought that Ann had died the same night as Chico.  They believed that they had been killed at the same time and for some reason, they loaded Ann back into the car and drove on Kiskwaukee Road until they dropped her body in those bushes.  The authorities presented this theory to the family in hopes that it gave them some relief that Ann was not terrorized before she was killed.  The thought of her riding in that car after witnessing Chico shot and knowing that she was next was too much for the family to bear.  

The newspapers ran this story many times over the years.  They even offered a $5,000 reward.  But the money was never claimed.  Police searched for years for a motive to these killings.  The only thing they came up with is that perhaps Chico’s play boy ways caused someone to want him dead.  Unfortunately, Ann was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

These murders have been cold for a long time.  The mystery of their deaths haunted the entire community.  Chico left behind two young children who grew up without their father.  Ann’s parents died without ever knowing who killed their beautiful daughter.  Her four brothers spoke often of their family motto, “You aren’t dead unless you are forgotten.” 

 

 

Copyright © 2018 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events