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Bud and Louise

This semester, some Peek in the Stacks blog posts will be authored by CSUN students who work in Special Collections and Archives in the Oviatt Library. This week's post was written by Jonathan Nosala, a student assistant in the Urban Archives. Jon is a junior majoring in Literature with plans to go into literary publishing, and the ultimate goal of becoming a university professor in postmodernist literature.

The William Randolph Fowler Collection highlights the literary works of Will and his father Gene Fowler. Fowler, a newspaperman, compiled files on current events throughout his career. A portion of his collection includes documents from a controversial murder trial, which drifted into obscurity shortly after the jury made its final decision.

On March 14, 1947, a yacht in Newport Harbor exploded with two people aboard, Walter Overell, a wealthy businessman, and his wife, Beulah. Both were seemingly killed by the blast, and the yacht sank to the ocean floor. While the initial report suggested the explosion might have been caused by an engine malfunction and leaking gasoline, it was soon discovered that the blast was actually caused by dynamite.

Minutes before the explosion the couple's teenaged daughter, Louise Overell, and her fiancé, George "Bud" Gollum, had rowed a skiff to shore to buy hamburgers. After eating, they rowed back out to find the smoldering remains of the yacht. When it became known that Louise stood to inherit between $400,000 and $600,000 upon her father's death, Bud and Louise quickly became the prime suspects. Evidence against them continued to mount, including the coroner's report findings that the Overells may have died up to an hour before the blast as a result of bludgeoning, and that some of the wounds on Mrs. Overell's corpse were likely caused by a ball peen hammer.

The young couple went on trial on May 26, 1948, as evidence against them continued to grow. Bud had recently purchased a significant amount of dynamite and had signed a false name to the receipt. The remnants of a common one-dollar alarm clock pointed to the use of a crude time bomb, a device that Gollum, a former member of the US Navy, would have been capable of constructing.

Some of the strongest evidence against the couple was amassed during trials, as they flirted and giggled at one another, and seemed to lack the requisite grief over the death of Louise's parents.  The strongest hit came when the prosecution was given permission to read aloud the letters which Bud and Louise had been passing to one another's cells with the help of a prison security guard. The amorous and sometimes sexually explicit letters strengthened the prosecution's argument, "We had lust, we had greed, we had frustration. Ladies and gentlemen, these are the raw materials out of which murders are made."          

The passion between Bud and Louise seemed to cool following the reading of their private letters, and the couple appeared to grow apart as the trial wore on. Ultimately, the nineteen-week trial resulted in acquittals for Bud and Louise, based on the possibility that Walter Overell had ordered Bud to buy the dynamite for him, and then had then committed a murder-suicide due to the declining worth of his business. Jurors concluded that there was reasonable doubt in the case, and Bud and Louise were found not guilty. After the trial, reporters asked Gollum if he and Louise were going to get married. "We'll see," he replied. But Louise's answer was more direct: "No."

Seventeen-year-old Beulah Louise Overell is booked on suspicion of murder following a mysterious explosion aboard a yacht owned by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Overell, who met death in the blast (Herald-Express Photo), March 20, 1947.
During the early stages of the trial, Louise Overell came dressed in elegant fur coats, looking content and confident. The defense used this strategy to demonstrate that she had no need for the inheritance resulting from her parents’ death, while the prosecution used it as an indication of Louise's greed.
One of the many letters passed from Gollum to Overell during their stay in jail. The erotic and passionate nature of the letters gave fuel to the prosecution’s claim that the young couple was driven to madness by lust.
"This is a photo receipt which Deputy Sheriff Ben A. Smith of San Bernardino County says was issued for dynamite and detonator caps purchased by a young couple he identified as Gollum and Beulah Louise Overell. Authorities are working on the theory that it was used for an experimental explosion."
George Gollum admits to purchasing the dynamite from a powder magazine, but goes on to claim that he purchased the dynamite at the behest of Walter Overell in order to assist in removing stumps from a yard. He claimed that he signed a false signature at the behest of Mr. Overell.
A receipt for the dynamite used to destroy the Overell yacht. The slip shows the falsified signature used by Gollum upon the purchase.
"If the Overell-Gollum marriage is solemnized as planned by the young couple it would have to be performed in the Orange County jail, above, where Gollum is held without bail in the yacht explosion deaths of Miss Overell’s parents. Lawyers say that if Miss Overell and Gollum marry the state could not force either to testify against the other."
"Gollum sure of acquittal. Steadfastly reaffirming his love for Beulah Louise Overell, his fiancée and co-defendant in the Santa Ana murder trial, George Gollum, 21, today expressed confidence that they would be acquitted and surprise that 'the investigation of this case has not cleared us long ago.'"
A photograph of three screws from the $1 alarm clock that detonated dynamite, blowing up Overell yacht.
"Death attended the Overell murder trial yesterday and claimed the life of Captain Tom Murphine, right, Tom Gollum’s guard, who died from a heart attack suffered during excitement of the trial. Murphine is seen on his last trip to the courtroom. He died four hours after this picture was taken. Others in the picture are: Beulah Louise Overell, center: Deputy Sheriff Reba Crank, and Gollum, in rear."
"Gollum and Overell fought murder charges from the witness stand here today. Their main line of resistance was a story that Louise’s wealthy father, Walter Overell, asked Bud to buy dynamite secretly the day before the yacht exploded. They admitted buying the explosive. Bud said he delivered it to Overell. Neither he nor Louise knew what it was wanted for, he said."
Bertha Wagner, a juror, is thanked by Gollum after his and Overell's acquittal. She had no doubt of his innocence.

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