“My Mother Must Die!”
That winter also saw Marlene fantasizing obsessively about murdering Naomi. Friends dismissed it as normal teenage talk.
In early 1975, Marlene and Chuck commenced a shoplifting spree that netted roughly $6,000 worth of goods. Both were arrested for grand larceny on March 26, 1975 but were soon bailed out by their parents.
In June, Marlene’s mother threatened to have Marlene locked in juvenile hall for the summer.
Marlene told Chuck, “My mother must die!”
Chuck said he did not want to kill.
Marlene insisted that if he loved her he would rescue her from her horrible mother. Marlene also said that if he refused, she would stop seeing him.
He agreed to murder Naomi.
Marlene set the date.
She did not want Jim killed.
Marlene made certain she and her father were shopping on June 21, 1975 while her mother stayed home.
Armed with a hammer and .22 caliber pistol, Chuck crept into the house. Naomi was in bed. He struck her repeatedly with the claw hammer until it lodged in her skull. She flailed around so Chuck raced to the kitchen where he fetched a steak knife. Then he repeatedly stabbed Naomi in the chest. Still not wanting to cause the noise that a gun would, he tried to finish her off by pressing a pillow against her face.
The murder that Marlene wanted to be over before she and her father returned from the store was still in progress when they came home.
Seeing his wife attacked, Jim grabbed the bloody steak knife from the nightstand and rushed toward Chuck. Chuck pumped four bullets into Jim’s chest.
Although Marlene had not intended for Jim to die, she did not mourn him.
Chuck cleaned himself up. They wrapped the corpses in rugs, piled them into Chuck’s car, drove to a rural area, placed the bodies into an open fire pit, soaked them with gasoline, and set them ablaze.
After a few days, Jim’s business partner went to the Olive home.
When he looked through a window, he saw what he later reported as a mess inside the house. Believing Jim was the victim of a robbery, the partner called police. According to an article on History.com, he told cops, “The couple has not been seen in a week.”
Cops found the house in a mess but no blood so they left a note asking residents to inform authorities if there was a problem.
Upon reading the note, Marlene went to the station house. She told detectives that her parents had gone to Lake Tahoe for a brief vacation and were late in returning. Police detected something amiss in her story and closely questioned her.
Her story changed. She said her mother had murdered her father and fled. Then she said her father had murdered her mother and fled.
Finally, she confessed the truth and led police to the fire pit where the charred remains were.
Chuck quickly confessed, saying he committed the murders because Marlene told him to.
On July 10, 1975 both Marlene and Chuck were formally charged with two counts each of first-degree murder.
The court ordered a psychiatric evaluation for Marlene. Although examiners described her as very troubled, they deemed her competent to stand trial.
If tried as an adult, Marlene could have been executed.
A fitness hearing was held in September 1975 in which the judge ruled she be tried as a juvenile. That meant that a conviction would lead to her being confined to the California Youth Authority but released no later than her 21st birthday so that the most she could serve would be a little under four years.
Her tender age at the time of her very untender acts meant she would serve her brief sentence at a juvenile facility called the Ventura School.
At Ventura, she set out to find facts about her biological mother. A call to the law office of the attorney who had drawn up the adoption papers yielded the name of Marlene’s biological mother. She had not been a prostitute impregnated by a client but a 19-year-old impregnated by a sailor on leave.
Writing in Marin Magazine, Jim Wood states, “With only weeks to go [on her sentence], she escaped from a holding cell” and made her way to New York where she fulfilled Naomi’s prophecy by becoming a prostitute.
Her few months of unauthorized freedom meant that a few more months were added to her sentence after she was arrested and returned to California. She was released from the Ventura School in early 1980.
Chuck was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, his sentence commuted to life imprisonment in 1977.
Marlene became a classic revolving door criminal, regularly arrested for offenses such as credit card fraud. A Los Angeles Times article reported that in the early 1990s, she was a leader of a loose-knit band that culled voided checks and bank statements from trash to use in forgeries. Police called her “Queen of the Trashers.”
Chuck and Marlene had one awkward reunion when she visited him in prison in 1980.
Chuck predicted afterward, “I’ll never hear from her again.”
He never has.
Sources on following page.