Reel Reviews

John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders

8763 Wonderland AvenueThe Not So Wonderland Murders

If only walls could talk, they'd tell the truth about what went down during the early morning hours of July 1, 1981 at the modest house located at 8763 Wonderland Avenue. It was a very seedy place inhabited by a seedy bunch of people certainly doing a lot of seedy stuff - illegal drugs, burglaries, robberies, pornography and who knows what else. While some of those involved have chosen to take the truth with them to the grave, enough about that night has gotten out to put together a fairly good picture of what actually happened. We're not here to judge, but from the evidence gathered, no one should be surprised at what happened to those involved. Not saying they deserved to die, but...

A Gruesome Discovery
Police would arrive at the Wonderland house in mid-afternoon on July 1 answering a call from a professional mover who reported hearing moans and groans emanating from an adjacent house. Inside the apartment, police would find the mangled bodies of four murder victims, their skulls caved in and faces so badly beaten some were not initially identifiable. In fact, one police officer would later describe a scene so gruesome it appeared as if someone had splashed buckets of blood all over the house. The voice the mover heard was that of the so-called fifth victim who survived the tragedy despite a crushed skull and having been left for dead for more than 12 hours.

The Laurel Canyon house was leased by 46 year-old Joy Audrey Miller, and living with her was her 42 year-old boyfriend Billy DeVerell (who had been arrested 13 times), freelance bounty hunter David Lind and a friend Ronald Launius who'd done federal time for drug smuggling. The group made their way by posing as police officers, ripping off other drug dealers and confiscating their stash. They would then sell the drugs to their own customers. A dangerous way to make a living for sure. A frequent visitor and pad-crasher, was John Holmes, the falling porn star who'd made millions hawking his notoriously lengthy penis to pornographic movie producers during the sexual revolution of the '70s. It was this connection to Holmes that more than likely brought about the demise of the den of iniquity, even though police had already pegged it as a drug house.

The Holmes Connection
John C. HolmesAt the end of his "lengthy" career, Holmes would find himself down and out, reduced to an emaciated cocaine addict who resorted to breaking into cars and stealing luggage from LAX airport to support his gigantic coke habit. Holmes would eventually meet up with Palestinian Adel Nasrallah, a flamboyant nightclub owner also known as Eddie Nash. Some may remember the shockingly accurate portrayal of Nash by Alfed Molina in the 1997 porn industry satire, Boogie Nights. He was the drug dealer who would prance around his house in robe and speedo to the music of Night Ranger's Sister Christian. Anyway, Nash was a huge drug dealer by the late '70s and would often sell to the patrons of his clubs, Kit Kat and Starwood, the latter of which once featured such bands as Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and Van Halen. One of his most reliable clients however, was John Holmes, who would spend nearly $750,000 on cocaine in one particular year in the late '70s. But with his porn career now just limping along, Holmes would see his habit grow, and his fortune dwindle - a dangerous and apparently deadly combination of circumstances.

The Set-up
In the Spring of 1981 Holmes was hanging out with the Wonderland gang sleeping in the house for nights at a time. But despite his prior notoriety and fame, he was really just a hanger-on who the gang viewed as nothing more than an errand boy and house monkey. He was a joke to them. But his value was in his connection to Nash. And Holmes was willing to help them set up a hit on the drug lord's Studio City mansion. Holmes informed the Wonderland Gang that on a previous visit to Nash's house, he had left the sliding glass door unlocked and that Nash kept loads of drugs, jewelry, and cash on hand. Holmes even drew up a map of the house for the crew.

Eddie Nash
Eddie Nash

Accounts vary widely as to who and how many actually did the job, but on the morning of June 29, 1981, three or four men, DeVerell, Lanius, Lind, and an accomplice named Tracy McCourt would let themselves in through the unlocked door, identify themselves as policemen and handcuff Nash's 300-pound bodyguard, Gregory Diles. Diles was also loosely depicted in Boogie Nights. But while handcuffing him, one of the perpetrators' guns would go off, waking Nash in his bedroom. Thinking he was about to be killed, Nash would drop to his knees, open the safe and beg for mercy. The crew fled with drugs (heroin, cocaine, Quaaludes), jewelry, and cash totaling about $185,000. The U.S. Department of Justice would later estimate the take at approximately $1 million. They had hit Nash, and hit him hard. But an even bigger sting was that they had humiliated him.

A Vow of Revenge
Once back at the Wonderland house, the crew would divide the take amongst themselves, in the process shortchanging Holmes and McCourt. Furious at not only having been robbed, but humiliated as well, Nash would vow revenge. And his chief suspect was the porn star. It seems that Holmes was spotted by some of Nash's associates walking around in Hollywood wearing a piece of jewelry stolen from his home.

What happened over the next few days would be disputed by most involved, but regardless, it would lead to one of the most gruesome murders in Los Angeles history, The Black Dahlia case and the Manson murders included.

Just another Night of Partying

Inside the Wonderland Home
Inside 8763 Wonderland

It is believed that under the orders of Nash, Diles and a couple of others (one of whom may or may not have been Holmes), would break into the house at 8763 Wonderland with striated steel pipes in hand, and systematically proceed from room to room bashing in the skulls of the occupants. When it was all said and done, four people would be killed and another gravely injured. Neighbors reported hearing the commotion but rather than call the police, they just figured it was another raucous night of partying, so one neighbor just turned up the TV to drown out the noise.

The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
As the prowlers entered the house, they would first kill Barbara Richardson, Lind's 22 year-old girlfriend sleeping in the downstairs living room. Her body would be discovered in front of a sofa, half covered with a pink and white bedspread. She was just visiting the Wonderland house and unfortunately was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. So sad. In the rear downstairs bedroom the killers would happen upon Ronald Launius and his wife Susan, whose moans would later grab the attention of the mover. She was beaten and terribly mutilated but still alive and breathing. The killers then crept upstairs where they beat Miller to death on her bed, her boyfriend Deverell would be found lying in a corner of the same room, dead from a massive skull injury.

Police were so overwhelmed by the amount of blood at the crime scene that they decided to videotape it (remember that video cameras were relatively new at the time.) The video would eventually be used during the trial, marking the first time in American history that video was used as evidence in a criminal trial. The actual police footage with narration can be seen as an extra feature on the DVD release of Wonderland starring Val Kilmer.

The Right Place at the Right Time

8763 Wonderland Avenue
Crime Scene investigators "dust" the front doorbell

One of the Wonderland residents just happened to be in the right place at the right time. David Lind was apparently spending the night with a hooker in a sleazy motel in the San Fernando Valley where he'd dealt some drugs earlier that night. Who says prostitution doesn't pay? During a police interrogation, Lind would eventually spill the beans about the Nash break-in and its possible connection to the horrible murders. The police now had something to work with. One question that went unanswered however, was where Holmes was during all the commotion.

Murder and Contempt of Court
In later years, Holmes would reveal to his wife Sharon, that the revenge seekers forced him to accompany them and watch the murders. Though he claims to not having participated in the actual killings, a handprint was found on the headboard of a bed in one of the bedrooms. Soon after the murders however, Holmes would flee to Florida with his girlfriend (not his wife) and refuse to talk to police about that night. But working with the evidence of the handprint, the police would eventually charge Holmes with the murders and ask him to squeal on Nash. But Holmes didn't want to play that game. A jury acquitted Holmes of the murder charges on June 16, 1982. He refused to cooperate with authorities on the ongoing investigation however and would even spend a little time in the pokey for contempt of court.

AIDS
On March 13, 1988 at a VA medical center, (specifically the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care and Nursing Home Care Unit), Holmes would succumb to the ravages of AIDS. He was but 43 years of age. In the few short weeks before his death, police were by his deathbed hoping to elicit a confession about the Wonderland case. Holmes would say nothing however.

A "Well" Hung Jury
Shortly after the murders, police would search Nash's home and uncover more than a million dollars in cocaine for which he would spend 2 years in prison. But they still had nothing on him for the murders. In 1990, Nash would be charged in state court with having planned the murders. His bodyguard, Diles was charged with committing them. The trial would end with a hung jury, a single 18-year-old female juror holding out. A second trial was held in 1991 and it ended in an acquittal. Nash could not be tied to the Wonderland murders. Diles would die in 1995.

A Plea Deal
In 2000, Eddie Nash would be arrested again, this time with Superior Court charges of drug dealing, racketeering, tax evasion, and conspiring to commit the Wonderland murders. He was also accused of bribing the lone holdout juror in his previous case. Already suffering from poor health (jail doctors had diagnosed him with emphysema and tuberculosis), Nash would work out a plea deal in which he admitted to having bribed the juror in his previous case with $50,000, and would also plead guilty to the money laundering charges. But with regards to admitting to killing the inhabitants of the Wonderland house... he wouldn't confess. He would admit however, to having ordered his associates to retrieve his stolen property from the Wonderland house, which he said could have lead to violence, including murder. He would receive a 6-month prison sentence and fine of $250,000.

A Final Request
John Holmes had one final request of his wife, Laurie Holmes, before he died. He was afraid that someone would want to detach and jar his famous penis for display, so he requested that she ensure his body was intact before being cremated. In his book, Porn King, Laurie wrote that everything was where it was supposed to be. Ironically, his famous appendage does live on for posterity in the form of a 12 and-a-half inch rubber dildo that can be bought in many sex shops and even on the Internet.

Go here to see Wonderland Avenue murder scene photos and pictures of John Holmes's Penis. But be forewarned, they are very gruesome and should only be viewed by those who can handle such things... and by the way, NSFW. If you don't want to see them, don't look!


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More Wonderland Murders Stuff

Wonderland Avenue
The Laurel Canyon enclave of Wonderland Avenue.

 

8673 Wonderland Avenue
The house at 8763 Wonderland Avenue. The entrance was via the steps near the lower-right corner of the photo. At the top of the stairs was an entry cage that required a buzzer to gain entrance. Pit Bulls were kept on the other side of the cage.

 

Boogie Nights
Eddie Nash, as loosely depicted in 1997's Boogie Nights

 

Wonderland DVD Cover
Poster art for Wonderland starring Val Kilmer as John Holmes. When the film played the Toronto Film Festival, one of the promotional items handed out was a ruler that was 13 1/2 inches long

 

John Wadd Holmes
Johnny "Wadd" Holmes.

 

Holmes arrest Holmes in court
John Holmes under arrest (L) and in court (R).

 

Wonderland Avenue Map
Map of Hollywood Hills showing location of Wonderland house (A) off of Laurel Canyon Blvd, south of Mulholland Drive. Click for interactive map.

 

Porn King Book
Cover of the Holmes autobiography, Porn King.

 

Cool video as Scott Michaels of findadeath.com gives a current tour of the Wonderland murder house.

 

Wonderland Murders External Links:

The Wonderland Murders - Wikipedia - Check out the Wonderland Murders page over at Wikipedia.

TruTV.com - An in-depth article by Julia Scheeres over oat TruTV Crime Library website.

Findadeath.com - Another account of the murders as well as more great photos.

Eddie Nash and the Wonderland Murders - Article over at FlipsideFanzine.com.

Defamer.com- Rent The Wonderland Murders House For Just Three Grand A Month!

The Wonderland Murders Discussion Forum- See more photos and details about the murders and discuss the case with others.

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