In the summer of 1946 the bodies of two dead children, 7 months and about two-years-old, were discovered partly buried beneath a blanket of leaves in remote Wagner Canyon in Montara. The children’s mother, 21-year-old Lorraine Newton, was found a few feet away, shoeless and stumbling about in a daze, her skull fractured from a blunt instrument, perhaps a hammer or tire iron.
The lone survivor of this vicious crime, police brought Lorraine to the Community Hospital in Half Moon Bay where, under the care of Colonel Harold Roycroft, she sank into and out of consciousness, sometimes calling for her daughters, Barbara and Carolina Lee. Few questions were permitted (and she was not told the little girls were dead) but investigators learned that she was an Alameda resident and that a day earlier she, her husband, Vorhas, and the kids, sat in their car and watched the waves at scenic Rockaway Beach in Pacifica. She recalled little else–or the authorities weren’t making anything else public.
Colonel Roycroft said Lorraine had a 50-50 chance of making it. He said the wound that caved in her skull appeared to have resulted from the same weapon used to kill the children.
But John Kyne, the Coastsider who found Lorraine Newton, saw what he believed was the suspect’s car and that gave investigators good information on go on. That car, authorities learned, had been borrowed from Vorhas’s sister and returned.
“So far, we have found nothing to establish a motive for the murder,” Sheriff Walter Moore told the media which dubbed the heinous crime “The Babes in the Woods” case. “It appears that [Vorhas] Newton may have suddenly gone berserk during the family ride.”
In the East Bay, where the Newtons resided in Alameda, Frank Marlowe, the County D.A.’s investigator was talking to neighbors about Lorraine and Vorhas. They were unanimous in their impression of the Newtons as a nice couple. Vorhas was “modest and mild-mannered”, an amateur wrestler.
Newton’s brother, Ben, who lived in San Francisco, described his brother and sister-in-law as happily married, with Vorhas the “perfect husband” He worked as a glazier for the W.P. Fuller Company in South San Francisco and had worked for the Coast Guard until six months earlier.
But where was Vorhas Newton? Nobody seemed to know.
He didn’t have a car and police were looking for him at railroad and bus stations. There were sightings of him from Redwood City to Marysville but nothing panned out.
In the Esst Bay Investigator Frank Marlowe learned that Vorhas had returned to the couple’s Alameda apartment where the Newtons had lived for three or four months. In the neat and clean apartment, Vorhas changed his clothes, and before leaving again, placed one of his wife’s dress on the bed and put baby bottles on the ktichen table.
More details dribbled out. The killer had removed all identification from the scene of the crime, including labels from the clothing of the children such as the red checked gingham dress the two-year-old had been wearing. Lorraine didn’t know what had happened to her wedding ring, it was not on her finger.
Meanwhile Lorraine’s parents, the Tuttles of North Hollywood, flew into Mills Field to be by the bedside of their beloved daughter.
….To Be Continued