On a festive but bloody episode of After Hours AM/The Criminal Code — True Crime Wednesdays with hosts Joel Sturgis, Eric Olsen, and secret weapon forensic psychologist Dr. Clarissa Cole — we examine four recent Christmas murders with particular insight and analysis from Dr. Cole, who also leads us through this week’s True Crime headlines.

Just hear those slay bells jingling… The holidays are a time for unbridled joy and deep rumination as we ponder the meaning of the season and the passage of another year. But while Christmastime brings out the best in most of us with family and friends gathered near, it brings out the worst in some of us, the dark in the season of light. Here are four tales of holiday murder and mayhem to chill the warmest soul.

Los Feliz Murder House Perelson Family - Christmas Murders

In the 1950s, Dr. Harold Perelson, his wife Lillian, and their children Judye, Debbie, and Joel moved into a three-story, Spanish Revival home in Los Feliz. 2475 Glendower Place sounds like a dream home for the seemingly perfect family. By the end of the decade, the facade would crumble.

On December 6, 1959, at around 4:30am, Harold bludgeoned his wife to death with a ball peen hammer. Next he went to his eldest daughter’s room and hit her with the hammer. Lillian died before she could even scream, but not Judye. Her screams woke up her two younger siblings, and half the neighborhood. Though she had a likely skull fracture, Judye managed to escape her father and ran to the neighbors for help. Harold told Debbie to “Go back to sleep. This is a nightmare.”

The younger children were waiting on the first floor when neighbor Marshall Ross arrived. Ross went upstairs and found Harold, covered in blood, who told him to leave him alone. The doctor then went to the bedroom, swallowed handfuls of pills, and laid down until the pills did their job. LAPD arrived about fifteen minutes later, at 5:15am. Harold was alive, but just barely, and wouldn’t last until the paramedics arrived. Judye was treated for her injuries, while Joel and Debbie were unharmed. Lillian’s family took custody of the children, and a year later, the house was sold at a probate auction. Then the story gets quite odd…

Chicago Teen Kills Aunt’s Boyfriend, Puts His Head in Bed as Festive GiftAleix Valdez - Christmas Murders

A Chicago teen murdered and mutilated his aunt’s live-in boyfriend on Christmas Day, 2013 — and then left his head and other parts in her bed because “he wanted to leave his aunt a present.”

The decapitation was the grisly culmination of a feud between 18-year-old Alexis Valdez and his aunt’s boyfriend, Sylvestre Diaz-Hernandez, 41, authorities said.

Police went to the home that the three shared early Christmas Day after Valdez called 911 to report a dead body in the house, prosecutors said. When the operator asked him if he had tried performing CPR on the victim, Valdez laughed and said the body had been decapitated, prosecutors said.

When police arrived they found Valdez covered in blood on the home’s front porch, authorities said.

When police asked him what was going on, he responded: “Shouldn’t you arrest me before you ask me questions? Because I just killed a man, and he’s in the basement,” according to a police report.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kingsley Sawyers said Valdez lived in his aunt’s house with her and her boyfriend, Diaz-Hernandez. Valdez was supposed to work and help pay household expenses, but didn’t, leading to tension in the home…

Father Dressed as Santa Gunned Down Entire Family on Christmas Day Yazdanpanah Family - Christmas Murders

Family friends say a Texas father accused of killing six relatives in a 2011 Christmas Day murder-suicide was struggling financially and hated the fact that his estranged wife was doing well. 56-year-old Aziz Yazdanpanahwas dressed as Santa when he fatally shot his estranged wife, their two teenage children and three other relatives Sunday inside an apartment in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine.

The wife’s brother, Ali Rahmaty, says he’d been financially supporting the family. He says Yazdanpanah had been unemployed for more than a decade, but says he never thought Yazdanpanah would become violent. They were at an apartment in Grapevine, where his wife and children had been staying.

Yazdanpanah’s niece, 22-year-old Sara Fatemeh Zarei, sent a text to a friend just before 11am saying they had arrived at the apartment and that Yazdanpanah was there. ‘Soo we’re here. We just got here and my uncle is here too. Dressed as Santa. Awesome,’ she said in one text. At 11:15 am she texted: ‘Now he wants to be all fatherly and win father of the year.’

Grapevine police Sgt. Robert Eberling said police believe that after Yazdanpanah shot his six family members, he called 911 at 11:34 am and then shot himself. Police arrived about three minutes later and found everyone dead. It appeared they had been opening presents around their Christmas tree just before the attack.

A recording of the 911 call released yesterday revealed someone saying: ‘Help, help’ and then ‘I am shooting people.’ Police said those words, muffled by the caller’s labored breathing, couldn’t be heard by the dispatcher on Christmas Day but were audible when investigators used a different software system. They believe the call was made by Yazdanpanah….

Slain Woman Found Hidden Under Christmas Gifts Michele O'Dowd - Christmas Murders

After a 67-year-old Florida woman was found beaten, strangled and hidden beneath the Christmas presents in her home in 2011, authorities charged a younger woman who had been befriended by the victim.

Patty Michelle White, 40, of York, S.C., was being held in the York County jail on fugitive charges, and was expected to be extradited Tuesday to Florida to face murder charges, authorities said.

The body of Michele O’Dowd of Jacksonville, Fla., was discovered Friday by her twin brother, Phil Axt, who had gone to check on her at her home in a gated community after O’Dowd failed to show up for work.

The door was open and O’Dowd’s house had been ransacked, Axt said. Chairs and tables were turned upside down. Her car and dog were still at home.

“I knew this wasn’t going to pretty,” he said.

A foot was sticking out of a big pile of Christmas gifts, Axt said. Buried under the gifts was his sister’s cold body, her bloody face covered with a towel. He told The Flordia Times-Union that he saw an empty vodka bottle was nearby, which he thinks was a prop to divert attention from the real killer.

Police said White was an ex-girlfriend of the victim’s nephew, and was considered a family friend. They said White had returned to Florida to rob O’Dowd after staying with relatives in South Carolina.

“Whatever took place in that apartment went horribly wrong and she ended up beating and killing her,” according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. White then returned to South Carolina, where she confessed to authorities after she was pulled over and arrested…

The Christmas murders

by Jonathan Goodman [Guild Publishing.]
Rank/Rating: 19870519/-
Price: $12.25

 

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