Dear Matthew Alice: In Rex Reed's People Are Crazy Here, in the chapter on Alfred Hitchcock, he writes, “His favorite people in history are Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, and a man who murdered his wife and buried her under the San Diego Freeway.” I never drive over that freeway without thinking about that woman, lying underneath. She’s still there, you know. I'm dying of curiosity. — Sky la Bleu, San Diego
Well, we can’t have that, Skyla, so in response to your 911 letter, I’m here to apply a little informational CPR. The woman rumored to be part of the asphalt landscape is Evelyn Throsby Scott, LA. socialite and bad judge of character. She hopped into her Mercedes one night in 1955 to go buy some toothpaste and never came back. At any rate, that’s the story police heard from her husband of five years, Robert Leonard Ewing Scott, who then proceeded to distract himself from his grief by forging lots of Evelyn’s checks. Before her relatives and the grand jury put a stop to it a few months later, he’d cheered himself up to the tune of a million dollars or so.
Scott eventually went to trial for her murder, bragging that the prosecution couldn’t touch him because they’d never found her body. No corpse? No crime, the defense argued. At that time, no one in the U.S. had ever been convicted of murder without physical evidence of a victim. But in this precedent-setting case, the prosecution successfully documented the “suddenly interrupted life pattern of Evelyn Scott”; the jury found her husband guilty and sentenced him to life. Scott served 21 years and died an ailing and penniless octogenarian in a Los Angeles rest home in 1987.
Naturally, at the time of Scott’s trial, there was rampant speculation on Evelyn’s whereabouts. Among the rumors was the story that Scott had stashed her remains in a freeway construction site near their home, leaving the State of California itself to pave over the evidence. It was just a theory, like the more contemporary story that Jimmy Hoffa was installed along with the new turf when they built New Jersey’s Meadowlands stadium.
The persistence of the Scott and Hoffa rumors substantiate one of my pet theories. When nature creates an information vacuum in our brains, we’ll fill it with whatever seems most fun, most sensational, the story most likely to appear on page one of the National Enquirer. Like Hitchcock, we’d all rather believe Evelyn’s part of a freeway than the more likely story that Scott burned her remains in the family’s incinerator. Her glasses and false teeth were found beside it, and Scott’s neighbors complained one day of his burning something that produced considerable smoke and foul odors.
Shortly before his death, Scott confessed his guilt to a reporter writing a book about the crime (Corpus Delicti, by Diane Wagner). He claimed he bopped her on the head with a hard rubber mallet and buried her in the Nevada desert, six miles east of the Sands Hotel. Police suspected these details of Evelyn’s murder to be as phony as Scott’s decades of denial that he had committed the crime at all. In the end, I suppose the most we can do for poor Evelyn is to imagine a stretch of the San Diego Freeway in LA. as a memorial to her legacy. Since the verdict in The People v. Scott in 1957, nearly two dozen defendants have been convicted of corpseless killings.