Book excerpt –
The morning was silent; even the roosters had not sounded their wake-up call in the early morning hours of Monday, October 5, 1970, in the small community of Byron, California, with a population of about 600, located in the east San Francisco Bay Area region, some sixty miles from San Francisco. There was only one bar in the town, the Wild Idol Inn, and it was to be the scene of a bizarre, unheard-of tale of kidnap and murder that hit the area like a bolt of lightning.
Many of the residents were already out in the fields working before three bodies were removed from the Wild Idol; three bodies were found face down on the floor, bullet holes through the backs of their skulls.
The series of coincidences and circumstances surrounding the murders led a prosecuting attorney in the case to comment, “This is one of the most grisly and horrible tales of crime and violence ever. The murders of three people in cold blood were a part of a week of crime and violence that these men were involved in before their apprehension brought an end to their violent acts. It is a sad commentary on our times when five men, committing such serious and separate crimes as kidnapping and murder, should meet by coincidence at the only bar in a small town and leave behind them three people murdered in cold blood.”
Willis knew what to do; he’d leave the house. No reason for me to sit around here in the heat and listen to that old bag, he thought to himself. He’d go over to Virgil’s. There would be peace and quiet there, anyway. As he drove, he thought, Shit, I need that hundred and twenty dollars by tomorrow, or those fines will catchup to me, and then there’s the car payments. And one thing I’ d really like is to get away from this dump and that nag. Then he remembered a conversation he and Virgil had earlier in the week with Todd Clair, a friend of theirs from Antioch.
“Hey,” Todd had said, “I know this guy who’ll buy cases of booze from us for fifty dollars a case, and I know some places where it’s stored just waiting for someone to come in and pick it up. We can sell it, no questions asked, and make us a few bucks. Think about it you guys, and let me know.”
Willis had looked for work all week, despite what his wife and mother-in-law thought. “There just ain’t nothing available that pays anything, except hauling garbage, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to do that. What the hell, you struggle all your life to get somewhere and then someone’s always on your back because you never made it.”
“Hi Butch,” Virgil grinned as he let Willis in. “How you doing?” “Pretty good, I guess, now that I’m here. Just had to get away from the house for a while, know what I mean?”
‘‘Yeah, I know. I’d like to get out for a while myself. Things ain’t going too good here either.”
Virgil grabbed each of them a beer and they sat down at the kitchen table. “You know, Buck,” Willis started, “I’ve been thinking about what Todd said about us being able to sell booze for fifty dollars a case. It sounds good to me, and we both can use the money.” “Yeah, but I’m a little worried about where we could get that much booze to make it worthwhile without getting caught.”
“Hell, Virgil, Todd said he knew some places where we could go in and help ourselves, and shit, we could probably even rip off some bars. They store cases in the back. You know that.”
“We’d have to be careful about hitting a bar with people in there,” Virgil cautioned.
“Let’s go see Todd. If we can’t get to those places he knows, there are enough bars around here that don’t do much business on Sundays. We could check them out any way.”
Willis and Virgil left in Willis’s 1965 Ford from Knightsen where they lived and drove the fifteen miles through Brentwood and Oakley to Antioch. They stopped by Todd’s house to find he had gone to a party and wasn’t expected back until later in the evening.
As they left Antioch, Willis said, “I know, let’s go out to Byron. There’s only one bar in town and they must stock up pretty good on the booze. The later it gets, the fewer people will be there, and Christ, there ain’t even a cop in the town.”
Lucky Ludwig is a former police reporter for the Antioch, CA Daily Ledger and worked for the Lewiston, ID Morning Tribune. “Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Antioch police station on Monday morning, October 5, 1970. There, an investigative police officer took me by the arm and said I was accompanying him to the Wild Idol Inn, Byron, to investigate a triple murder that happened overnight. I had never been to Byron. This triple murder was completely different from anything I had ever experienced in my life. Five perpetrators were involved, a man kidnapped and three innocent people shot in the back of the head. It was extremely stressful and difficult.