Friday, March 26, 2010

Stories From the Clippings

When Goldie Got Sacked
One of the Most Puzzling Murders in the "Recent" History of Portland

When I started blogging about the news clipping folios, I promised there would be more stories involving the State Crime Lab on the UOMS campus; and I promised that I would warn you when I raise them from their acidic tomb. It's funny that I would have this irresistible urge to recount these stories, since I have never been a fan of mysteries and grisly tales. But for those who find them irresistible, another tale emerges from the crypt.

Fifty-seven year old George F. Sack lived in Chicago, where two of his three wives had died. Each of these women came to an untimely and violent end. George had been tried in the death of his second wife, who unfortunately died of gunshot wounds. Lucky George was committed to an insane asylum but was released and later came to live in Seattle. In 1939, he was questioned in the disappearance of two people from the Seattle area who were never found. Was it suspicion based on his previous scrape with the law or could he have been guilty in this case? The newspaper doesn't say.

A year later, George moved to Portland where he bought The Gordon Court Apartments on Montgomery Street. He tried to stay out of the public eye, that is until Goldie, his third wife, died mysteriously February 16, 1954. Goldie's body was found lying crumpled under some bushes in a sparsely wooded park in Southeast Portland. It was a sad end for a teacher from Great Falls, Montana. An informant called the sheriff's office saying he had spotted a man acting suspiciously, carrying a bundle into the woods at the exact spot where Goldie's body was found. He was so curious, in fact, that he took down the car's license plate number. This was enough to bring Sack in for questioning. Sack claimed that Goldie had simply left the house in the morning and had not returned. Curiously, George was soon released. During the investigation, Goldie's safety deposit box was opened in the presence of the press, deputies and relatives; $10,000 lay there untouched. When George was released after questioning, he quietly withdrew the money that was bequeathed to Goldie's brothers.

Stumped, the Oregon State sheriff hoped that the autopsy report from the State Crime Lab would give them a clue as to the cause of death. Assisting the State Police in solving the mystery were Drs. Warren Hunter (in photo), Terrence Cochran and Homer Harris. Phillip Leveque, UOMS pathologist, prepared liver extracts from Goldie's body to be used for toxicological analysis on white rats. But they were stumped too and found nothing conclusive. Reportedly, nothing untoward was found or, the journalists asked, were the authorities and pathologists keeping certain facts hidden?

It was eventually reported in the newspapers that Sack was convicted of her murder. He had suffocated Goldie, stuffed her in the trunk of his car and stashed her body in the park. (One report stated that she had been drugged and was asphyxiated in the trunk). George was sentenced and scheduled to be executed for the crime.

Almost cheating death, Sack was given a short-lived stay of execution. While being driven to the death house at the state prison, the car was turned around at Woodburn and the police returned Sack to the Multnomah County jail. His attorney had appealed to the Supreme Court for a new trial stating that George believed he had been given an unfair trial due to the publicity surrounding the case and the public revelation that this was not his first wife to die suspiciously. The appeal was denied.

We are left with so many questions: Why did Sack kill his wives and why wasn't he ever incarcerated for the first two murders? Why didn't the crime lab have any answers to how Goldie died? Was Sack ever returned to the death house? From the articles, we know only that George was convicted but not that he was executed. I suppose the unanswered questions are what make true crime stories so captivating. Hopefully, George F. Sack did not live to kill again.

Articles referenced - f1 p30 a5-9, a16, a24

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