By Brad Dison
At about 2:30 a.m. on December 11, 1964, the Los Angeles Police Department received a call from a hysterical 22-year-old Elisa Boyer. She told the police dispatcher that she had been at a party and had decided to leave. A man she had conversed with during the night generously offered to give her a ride home and she accepted. Rather than taking her home, however, he drove her to the Hacienda Motel. Elisa told the dispatcher that the man held her against her will. Once in the hotel room, the man removed his clothing and began “to rip my clothes off.” At one point, the naked man went into the bathroom. Elisa saw this as her opportunity to escape. She grabbed her clothing and, in the process, inadvertently grabbed his pants, underwear, shirt, and socks. She ran from the hotel room to the manager’s office-apartment. She banged on the door but the manager failed to open it. Fearing that the man would chase after her, she fled to a nearby telephone booth and called the police.
When the naked man exited the bathroom, he realized the woman had left. He flew into a rage. He put on the only clothing that Elisa had not taken with her, his shoes and a sport coat. He ran from the motel room to the manager’s office-apartment and banged on the door. Inside the apartment, 55-year-old Bertha Franklin armed herself with a .22 caliber pistol. When Mrs. Franklin failed to open the door, he kicked it in. The man yelled “You got my girl in there!” A confused Mrs. Franklin tried to explain that his “girl,” whoever she was, was not in her apartment. The man attacked Mrs. Franklin and punched her twice. Mrs. Franklin raised her pistol and fired three shots, one of which struck the man in the chest. Mrs. Franklin and the man scuffled over the gun, which fell from Mrs. Franklin’s hand. The man grew weaker as a result of the gunshot wound. Mrs. Franklin broke free and picked up the nearest object she could find. The man charged toward Mrs. Franklin, and she struck him several times in the face and head with her broom handle. The man collapsed from loss of blood. Policemen located Elisa hiding in a telephone booth near the hotel, and located the man’s lifeless body in Mrs. Franklin’s apartment. Officers questioned both women at length and released them.
Five days later, the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office held an inquest to determine whether or not the shooting was justified. Elisa and Mrs. Franklin took and passed lie detector tests. Seven jurors heard from both witnesses. Elisa described the events to the jurors and testified that she feared the man intended to rape her. Mrs. Franklin described the events just as she had to the police on the night of the shooting. After just fifteen minutes of deliberation, the jury concluded that the homicide was justifiable. Mrs. Franklin, they agreed, had acted in self-defense. The man she shot was famous for hit songs including “You Send Me,” “A Change Is Gonna Come,” “Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” and “Bring It On Home To Me.” His name was Sam Cooke.
The Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1964, p.4.
New York Daily News, December 12, 1964, p.4.
The San Francisco Examiner, December 12, 1964, p.5.
Santa Maria Times, December 16, 1964, p.24.
New York Daily News, December 17, 1964, p.779.
The San Francisco Examiner, December 17, 1964, p.17.