The Wonderland Murders have been unsolved for decades, though two people have been brought to trial — both of whom were acquitted.
When Alice fell down the rabbit hole and landed in Wonderland, she found smoking caterpillars, Cheshire cats, and a trove of body-altering drugs. Of course, that was just a children’s tale, but the real-life Wonderland wasn’t far off. A high-security drug house on Wonderland Avenue, high above the Sunset Strip, that played host to LA’s most elite, housed troves of drugs, and was the scene of a bloody quadruple homicide.
Today, 8763 Wonderland Avenue in laurel canyon is home to a neat little-split level, with a carport, an iron-framework balcony, and a family with a minivan. Nothing on the outside suggests that on July 1, 1981, four bodies were discovered there, so beaten and bloody that the LAPD compared them to the Tate-Labianca murders. But that, indeed, was the case.
The house on Wonderland Avenue was home to many things, though most notably the members of the Wonderland Gang. The gang trafficked drugs, mainly cocaine, throughout the late 70s. They had rented 8763 Wonderland in member Joy Miller’s name to house their exploits.
Miller’s boyfriend, Billy DeVerell, as well as gang members Ron Launius and his wife Susan, were the home’s usual residents, though over the years other gang members passed through the doors. John Holmes, the most successful pornographer of his time, was a frequent guest of the home, purchasing or scrounging cocaine from the gang.
The gang made most of their money on drug deals, mainly cocaine, but occasionally heroin or other street drugs. Occasionally, the group would turn to burglary and armed robbery to make ends meet — a decision that would ultimately result in the gangs’ bloody end.
On June 29, several days before the Wonderland murders, four members of the Wonderland gang robbed the home of notorious club owner and gang leader Eddie Nash. Launius and Deverell were the perpetrators, as well as gang members David Lind and Tracy McCourt. During the burglary, Nash’s bodyguard Gregory Diles was shot, though he survived, while the house was cased and trashed. The Wonderland gang members got out without being recognized.
Though police didn’t identify a suspect initially, Nash pointed fingers at several people he knew had been in his home the day of the crime. People like John Holmes, who had been there just that morning, and several other drug users who had been in to buy drugs — like Scott Thorson, former lover of Liberace. Thorson claimed later that Nash had been so convinced that Holmes was involved, he had had his injured bodyguard track him down and beat the assailants’ names out of him.
Though Thorson’s claims were never corroborated, in all likelihood they were true. That’s because just two days after Nash allegedly beat him for information about the assailants, the perpetrators were found brutally bludgeoned in their home.
At 4 p.m. on July 1, police received a panicked phone call from a pair of furniture movers. As they’d been working at the house next door to 8763 Wonderland, they’d heard moans coming from the drug house. Upon investigating, they’d come across a brutal scene.
The body of Barbara “Butterfly” Richardson, David Lind’s girlfriend, was lying on the ground near the couch she had been sleeping on, covered in blood. Miller was found dead in her bed, while DeVerell’s body was slumped at the foot, leaning against the TV stand. A hammer was found in Miller’s bed, believed to be the murder weapon along with several metal pipes. In the neighboring bedroom, Ron Launius was lying dead, bloodied and beaten.
Perhaps the most horrifying sight was Launius’s wife, Susan. She was found covered in blood, on the floor next to the bed that held her dead husband’s body, her skull bashed in, but miraculously, still alive. The moans that the moving company had heard had been from her, either an attempt to cry for help or an expression of the horror that surrounded her. Though she’d survive the attack, and make a full recovery, the brain damage she sustained left her with permanent amnesia, unable to recall the events of the Wonderland murders.
The police searched the home and interviewed neighbors, who later admitted that they had heard screams around the time of the murder. Given that the house had a reputation for round-the-clock mayhem, screams and loud noises were commonplace in the neighborhood. While the gang was being murdered, and so brutally beaten that the blood had spattered almost every wall of the room, the neighbors had just assumed they were having a party.
The police search turned up items that had been stolen during the burglary of Eddie Nash’s home, leading police to question and later arrest him. Though he was initially charged with planning the murders, he was later acquitted, after the trial ended with a hung jury voting 11-1 for conviction.
John Holmes was also arrested after a handprint of his was found in the Wonderland house. He was charged with four counts of murder, but acquitted after a highly publicized, three-week trial. He ended up serving 110 days in jail for contempt of court after refusing to testify, but never for anything having to do with the murders.
After both trials, the case eventually ran cold. Nash was indicted in 2000 on racketeering charges and Holmes died in 1988 from complications from AIDS. After his death, his wife alleged that he confessed knowing of the murders, and having some involvement, though she didn’t specify to what extent.
Today, the case of the Wonderland murders remains a mystery, leading investigators down a spiraling, never-ending rabbit hole of information.