This is an article about the sad, but true story of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders that took place in the 1920s. Warning: The following material may be extremely disturbing to some viewers. We highly recommend that you do not allow your children to read any of this appalling story.
The following content contains information about child abductions, rape, torture and murder. The suspects in this story were sick, twisted and without a conscience. These events you are so sad, we were reluctant to even write about them. One might be surprised to hear that these kind of people existed in the 1920s. Of course, there have always been sick and evil people living in this world.
Gordon Stewart Northcott
Gordon Stewart Northcott was a serial killer responsible for the abduction and murder of several young boys between 1926 and 1928. Although there were a total of 4 murder victims confirmed, there may have been as many as twenty. Northcott used an axe and shotgun to kill his victims.
In 1924, 17-year-old Northcott moved with his parents from Canada to Los Angeles. He asked his father to purchase some land in Wineville, California to build a home and a ranch. Perhaps, the only reason he wanted a ranch was to use it to conceal all of his sick and twisted desires without ever having to worry about getting caught. In order to get all the help needed to build it, Gordon Northcott requested his nephew Sanford Wesley Clark to come from Canada to the United States.
Northcott began his twisted adventure by abducting young children and bringing them to the chicken ranch. He would take a drive, and as soon as he spotted a boy he was attracted to, he would find a way to lure them into his vehicle. Northcott would even hang out places until the parents of the children were out of sight. Of course, back in those days, you can be a creepy man and no one would bother to call you out for it. After molesting his victims in Wineville, he would then take them home. This was only the beginning of his road to becoming a very sick serial killer.
Sarah Louise Northcott
Sarah Louise Northcott was the mother of Gordon Northcott (and the Grandmother of Sanford Wesley Clark). Northcott was responsible for participating in 1 of her son’s horrific murders. According to some sources, virtually anything her spoiled son ever wanted, she would give him.
As a teenager, Gordon was suspected of molesting a young boy. Of course, Sarah believed her son did not participate in the terrible act. She told authorities he was completely innocent and would never do such a thing. Fortunately for Gordon Stewart, he was never charged with the molestation.
Sanford Wesley Clark
Sanford Wesley Clark was Gordon Northcott’s nephew. At the age of just 13-years-old, he was given permission by his parents to move from Canada to California. Although he thought the main reason for his request was to help his uncle build a ranch in Wineville, Gordon had another plan.
Unfortunately for Clark, he had no idea what he was about to endure. Besides being physically and sexually abused by his uncle, he was also forced to participate in the murders. He assisted in 3 out of the 4 murders committed by his uncle (including the murder which involved his grandmother).
The Murder Victims
Victim #1: Alvin Gothea (the “Headless Mexican”)
There were three boys believed to be held and murdered in the chicken coop. However, away from the chicken coup, Gordon Northcott’s first murder victim was a Mexican teenager named Alvin Gothea. Sadly, the young boy was not only murdered, but also decapitated. Due to the beheading, he was referred to as the “headless Mexican.” In order to destroy the evidence, Northcott ordered Clark to burn the boy’s head using a fire pit. To pulverize the skull, he used a fence post. As for the boy’s body, according to Clark, it was left by the side of the road near the location of the murder.
Victim #2: Walter C. Collins
The second victim to be kidnapped and killed by Gordon Stewart Northcott was Walter C. Collins. At the age of 9, Collins suddenly vanished from his home. His mother immediately reported his disappearance, and it didn’t take very long for the case to receive nationwide attention. However, at the time, there was absolutely no evidence to directly link the disappearance to the Northcott’s.
The Last Moment For Walter Collins
After holding Walter Collins in the chicken coops for a few long days (against his will), Sarah Louise Northcott called Gordon to inform him that she was going over to the ranch located in Wineville. This only allowed Gordon an hour to come up with a good plan that would help keep her away from the chicken coops. Mrs. Northcott decided to stay at the ranch for at least a few days.
Due to prior accusations against Gordon, his mother was already aware of her son’s sick desires for young boys. She was even suspicious of the chicken coops. During Mrs. Northcott’s short stay at the ranch, it didn’t take very long for her to discover Collins sleeping in the chicken coop.
One might automatically assume that Mrs. Northcott would have chose to save Collins from his unimaginable situation. However, with this crazy family, nothing should be too surprising. Gordon Northcott once worked at the same supermarket where Walter’s mother did her shopping. Since Collins already knew Gordon and could easily identify him, Sarah decided the best plan would be to kill Collins. Yes. She would even murder a little boy just to keep her spoiled son out of trouble.
Mrs. Northcott decided that the most optimal plan would be for all three of them (her, Gordon, and Clark) to participate in the murder. Therefore, none of them could go to the police to report the crimes without putting themselves at risk of getting into serious trouble. The weapon of choice was the blunt end of an axe. As Collins was in the middle of a deep sleep, sadly, he was killed. Gordon, Sarah, and even Sanford (against his will) participated in the murder of Walter Collins.
Collins was buried in a hole that was near the chicken coup.
The Boy Who Pretended To Be Walter Collins
Approximately five months following the disappearance of Walter Collins, 12-year-old runaway Arthur J. Hutchins, Jr. claimed he was the missing boy. Of course, Walter’s mother later declared Hutchins was not her son. Although Hutchins later admitted to lying about being Walter Collins, he said he impersonated the murder victim solely for the purpose of getting a free trip to Hollywood.
So why would a child go this far just to go to Hollywood? Hutchins claimed it was so he can meet Tom Mix (an actor who starred in many early Western movies), which was his favorite actor at the time. However, in 1933, Hutchins gave the real reason why he impersonated Collins. At the age of 9, his biological mother died. He pretended to be Walter Collins to get away from his stepmother.
Victims #3 & #4: Lewis and Nelson Winslow
The last two confirmed murder victims of Gordon Northcott were brothers Lewis (age 12) and Nelson Winslow (age 10). Similar to Walter Collins, the boys were sexually tortured, and then murdered with the blunt end of an axe. Like with Collins, Northcott forced Clark to deliver fatal blows to put an end to the brothers. This particular case is what eventually got Northcott hanged.
The Farmhouse Where Northcott Killed His Victims
The Steps That Lead To The Arrest Of The Suspects
Jessie Clark was Sanford’s older sister. In August of 1928, she was concerned for the welfare of her little brother and decided it was best to take a trip over to Wineville just to check on him. While Gordon was asleep, Sanford told his sister everything about what was really going on at the ranch.
Luckily, his sister made a smart decision that likely not only saved Sanford’s life, but also her own life. She decided it was best to not say a word to Gordon about any of the disturbing information from Sandford. Instead, after a visiting for just a week, she returned back to Canada to report the information to authorities. If she would have confronted Gordon about his evil acts, he would have likely murdered her too. He knew she would have contacted the police and he would be caught.
When Jessie Clark finally arrived back to Canada, she told the American Consul in Canada everything Sandford Clark told had her about the many abductions and murders that took place in Wineville. The Los Angeles Police Department was also informed of what was going on. What made authorities decide to pay a visit to Wineville was not the abductions and murders, but the concern over an immigration issue. At the end of August (1928), the United States Immigration Service came to the ranch. As Gordon saw the agents pull up to the ranch, he told Sandford to stall them to give him time to escape. This gave Gordon plenty of time to call his mother and take off to Canada.
The Immigration Service took Sandford into custody. While the Northcott’s were on their way to Canada, Sandford told the police everything about what went on at the ranch. At first they didn’t believe him. However, once they found some human remains, they knew he was telling the truth. Although there were no complete bodies found, they found shallow graves that had partial body parts (with remains of blood, hair, and bones). There was enough evidence to arrest Gordon and his mother in Canada. They were sent back to the United States to face a trial. Although Gordon Northcott was confident that he would win the trial, he would soon find out he was dead wrong.
Justice For The Victims
On October 2, 1930, at just 23-years-old, Gordon Stewart Northcott was finally put to death by hanging. Some sources say that just before he was executed, his last to words were “No. Don’t!” Those two words were probably the same words his victims used before they were murdered.
What Happened To Sarah Louise Northcott and Sanford Wesley Clark?
Fortunately, Sanford Wesley Clark was not charged for any of the murders he was involved in. Instead of being a murder suspect, he was considered to be a victim who was held against his will.
Despite his terrifying experience, Clark went on to live a decent life. He not only served in World War II, but also worked for nearly 30 years for the Canadian postal service. He adopted two sons and managed to have a successful marriage of 55 years. In 1991, Clark passed away at age 78.
Sarah Louise Northcott was charged with assisting Gordon Northcott in the murder of Walter C. Collins. She was sentenced to life in prison. Although Mrs. Northcott stood by her little spoiled child until the very end, her loyalty only got her into serious trouble. Instead of living in Canada as a free woman, she was forced to live in a small prison cell for the remainder of her natural life.
After reading this truly horrific story, you may not even want to go to sleep tonight (in fear of having some scary nightmares). Even though the events took place nearly 100 years ago, one can’t help but to read this story and want to shed tears of sadness. The good thing that came out of this sad situation is a very important lesson that may have saved many lives following the murders.
It is has been said that all because of the murders, parents began teaching their children to “never talk to strangers.” Following the tragic events, it passed down from generation to generation (and obviously hasn’t stopped). The days of trusting everyone are long gone. If the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders never happened, there may have been a lot more child abductions and murders.