By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Leonard Karl Humphrey, 35, wanted to be more of an Indian than he was. According to Larry Wickham a policeman who was once his business partner, "He was maybe 1/8 Apache, but he often tried to pass himself off as full-blooded. He was very proud of his Indian blood." However with Humphrey, his pride turned into an obsession especially with an Apache sun-good named Santos which in Spanish translates to saint.
September 29, 1969
Humphrey was a Korean War veteran and a former Lorain County sewer plant operator. He along with his wife Laurel 30, and their 3 children were found shot to death on a single bed in their trailer in what police believed was a murder suicide.
A well-written, elaborate note was found in the trailer describing that the family was going to the "land of Santos" the Apache sun god "because they was so much sin in the world."
By the positioning of the bodies, police determined that Laurel Humphrey shot each of her children with a .22 caliber rifle, shot her husband at the base of the skull, and then herself in the mouth. Leonard, 8, Dawn, 7, and Shane 6 were wearing their pajamas. The children knew what was going to happen and "were looking forward to seeing Santos," police said based on the information found at the crime scene. Humphrey was dressed only in jeans.
The note also gave instructions for the funeral, and their burial clothes were laid out. They wanted a certain note to be buried in their wolf-tooth necklaces.
The crime was committed after a party in the trailer park where they lived broke up early on Monday morning. According to a Tucson police detective, four persons who attended the party witnessed the note in which Humphrey tried to explain the deaths.
One detective said that, "One girl said she signed it believing that Humphrey was serious and she thought it was beautiful." The couple also left a will. When interviewed by the police, the witnesses said they didn’t believe the couple would carry out the plan. One of them Robert Shelton, 26, was the one who found the dead family the next day.
The one page letter, handwritten by Leonard Humphrey, was signed by both parents. They blamed the war in Vietnam and turmoil in the world for the deaths. It read:
The clothes we wish to be buried in are in the back bedroom. Also we wish to wear our wolf-tooth necklaces. We do what we wish to. Do not wipe the dust off my boots, as it is the dust of the land I love. To many we may be fools for what we do, but remember it is you who will be wet in the rain, made cold by the winter's wind and be baked when the sun is full in the summer. For us, it is not but the silence of the grave. For you there is more in the struggle to survive. For us there is but peace. I wonder who is really the fool?
Humphrey ended the letter by claiming that everyone was "doing their own thing" and this was "their thing".
Prior to the murder-suicide the last 4 years of Leonard Humphrey's life was full of hard drinking, love of animals and immersion in Indian lore. According to Wickham, he said that his wife was more tolerant than really interested in his passion for Indian ritual.
In 1965, Humphrey and Wickham who was also 1/8 Indian, became partners in the Diamond W Wildlife Reservation on Wickham's Rt 511 farm Elyria, Ohio. They taught each other the Cherokee and Apache languages, studied animals and collected Indian artifacts for showing. But Humphrey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and he fell into depression and drank heavily.
In 1966, he was debt ridden and he left Elyria, Ohio. He told Wickham he was heading west to trap animals for the wildlife preserve. With a rented, 50 foot trailer he hit the road. Besides his wife and children he took with him 2 Siberian wolves, an albino raccoon, a rare ferret, a monkey, a Great Dane and several reptiles.
Wickham never heard from his partner again.
The police said the children had attended at least 4 different schools since arriving in Arizona in 1966. This was due to the family moving often.
The last school they attended was Nash Elementary School, which said all 3 children were excited and happy about their forthcoming trip. The school was about a 1/3 of a mile from where they lived on W. Laguna St.
The neighbors said the living room of the Humphreys' trailer was decorated with stuffed lizards and snake. There were also Indian masks with snakes and serpents coming out of its mouth. Several of the neighbors, who called Humphrey "Apache Karl" thought he practiced a form of "voodoo", and that he at times he made wishes then kissed an Indian mask.
The week before the murders, the Humphreys were charged with 3 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Several neighbors said the couple with trying to engage their children in a prostitution ring.
What was the real motive for why these parents decided to end their lives and those of their children? Was it truly a belief in an Apache deity, or some type of religious belief that went wrong? Was it a combination of alcoholism and Humphrey’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis; yet how does one explain that his wife agreed to killing their children, and was the one to actually shoot all of them? Was there any truth to what the neighbors claimed that the parents were involved in prostituting their children? What dark shadow fell across this family?
Sources - The San Bernardino County, Elyria Chronicle Telegram
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer