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    Murder by suicide: Serial killer and a book lead to more questions in Linda Cummings’ case
    • July 5, 2024

    In June 2018, the FBI and several California law enforcement agencies asked for the public’s help in identifying the “Golden State Killer,” a mysterious nocturnal serial murderer they linked by common DNA to 13 homicides, more than 50 rapes and hundreds of burglaries between the early 1970s through 1986.

    Editor’s note

    Former Orange County Register reporter Larry Welborn covered Linda Cummings’ story from 1974 until his retirement in 2014 and still pursued the truth in the following years. He wrote about it in the new book “Murder by Suicide: A reporter unravels a true case of rape, betrayal and lies,” which is available on Amazon. This is part five of a seven-part series.

    Part one: 50 years ago, Linda Cummings died and the pursuit of the truth started

    Part two: Search for evidence leads to more heartbreak

    Part three: After 31 years, an arrest is made

    Part four: Judge’s ruling a ‘gut-punch’

    Part six: Coming Saturday

    A reader contacted me and asked if it could be Louis Wiechecki?

    For a moment there, I thought, yeah, maybe that’s him.

    But in checking records, Wiechecki was cleared, and another man was later identified as the serial monster.

    Before I could report back, the reader pinged me again on Instant Messenger. She had an update: Louie Wiechecki was dead.

    The life-long smoker died of congestive heart failure in April 2018 after suffering for years from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The obituary posted on dignitymemorial.com said simply: “Lou, beloved husband and friend.”

    I called one of Lou ‘s neighbors in Henderson to verify that the information was accurate. Mary MacGregor said there had been a nice turnout at his memorial.

    She also said she remembered me as the reporter who was there the day Louie was arrested by SWAT, and she wondered if I’d read Louie’s book.

    I couldn’t hide my surprise. “What book?”

    •••

    “Through the Eyes of a Criminal,” a self-published novel by Lou Stanley – the name Wiechecki changed his to – was a revenge tale about a juvenile delinquent-turned-master criminal who commits kidnappings and murders to finance his vendetta against “the cops, prosecutors, and others who’d tried to ruin my life.” Chief among the others, it turned out, was a “Los Angeles area journalist” who had written about his link to a cold case rape-murder that originally went down as a suicide.

    According to Wiechecki’s protagonist, the journalist needed to be “sliced and diced. Nothing too messy, just enough to make sure he dies.”

    My literary close encounter with Louie’s black heart reminded me there were still questions I’d not yet answered. The one that bothered me most after all these years was who Deputy Coroner Joe Stevens called that night in 1974 after Linda died? Who was the voice on the other end of the line who convinced him to rule it a suicide?

    Goaded by Louie’s vengeance fantasy, I made finding out a priority.

    •••

    A year later, I sat across a table at Wood Ranch in Irvine from a retired Santa Ana policeman who had been first on scene at the Aladdin Apartments in 1974 in response to an emergency call about a suicide in Apartment 8.

    Larry DeSantis agreed to talk about the case he never forgot. “It still haunts me,” he said. “That guy got away with murder.”

    He remembered that day like it was 48 hours ago. Wiechecki was his first contact at the Aladdin Apartments. He recalled the first words out of Louie’s mouth: “She committed suicide. She’s in there.”

    Register reporter Larry Welborn interviews neighbors of Louis Wiechecki in Henderson, Nevada in 2005. (Photo by Jebb Harris, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    “Through the Eyes of a Criminal,” is written by by Lou Stanley, also known as Louis Wiechecki. (Courtesy of Amazon)

    This apartment building at 1060 W. 17th in Santa Ana, photographed in 2205, was known as Aladdin Apartments when Linda Cummings died there in 1974. (Photo by Jeff Harris, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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    And Louie’s continuing obsession with suicide – what DeSantis called “his shtick the whole time. He was adamant about the suicide part. It was really weird.” He said Wiechecki kept telling detectives that Linda had been a mental patient.

    Deputy Coroner Stevens wasn’t someone easily fooled, DeSantis said. In fact, Stevens’ first impression of the death scene was that it appeared staged, plus he was disturbed by the rare event of a female killing herself in the nude.

    But alone in the coroner’s office a few hours later, Stevens put aside all those doubts and suspicions based on a single late-evening phone call he made to a local telephone number for Dr. Vincent Mark, supposedly Linda’s personal physician treating her for depression.

    The voice on the other end of that line convinced Stevens that Linda had been hospitalized recently for depression, was taking the powerful anti-psychotic drug Thorazine and was “very suicidal.”

    More than 30 years later, the real Dr. Mark told Orange County investigators he didn’t know Linda Cummings; he didn’t treat psychiatric patients, and he never prescribed Thorazine.

    “I did not talk with any coroner … in ’74,” the real Dr. Mark told investigators. He paused for emphasis. “No, I did not.”

    So, who was it? Who told Stevens the big lie that persuaded him despite all the conflicting evidence at the scene that Linda’s death was self-inflicted? How did Stevens get the local doctor’s name and a phone number in the first place?

    “Because Louie wrote it down on a piece of paper,” DeSantis told me, his memory still scanning the Aladdin courtyard from 45 years away.

    “Did he give it to you?” I asked.

    “No – “ He started, but stopped in mid-response. “Wait a minute. He did give it to me. I passed it on. It had the name of the doctor on it. He gave it to me and I passed it on to Sgt. Enos.”

    Yes, Louie no doubt used his own phone number – or that of a nearby pay phone – a phone he could easily monitor over the next several hours. When Stevens reached for his phone that night to call Linda’s doctor, it was Wiechecki waiting to take the call. And the voice that answered, “Doctor Mark,” was the voice of Linda’s killer.

    And when the deputy coroner completed his report with a big red SUICIDE stamp, he pretty much doomed any future prosecutions.

    When Judge Fasel dismissed murder charges against Louie – in the face of faded memories, dead witnesses and lost evidence – it was the end of Linda’s shot at redemption through the justice system. But good journalism, operating in the court of public opinion, can sometimes do what is beyond the power of justice and the courts.

    The official record still had her story wrong. It had to be fixed.

    Coming Saturday, part six: Linda Cummings’ brother seeks an important change.

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    ​ Orange County Register 

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