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Indian Valley Record
Greenville, California
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July 15, 2009     Indian Valley Record
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Indian Valley Record Wednesday, July 15, 2009 5A Hero reunites with child victim after 57 years M. Kate West Chester Editor chesternews@plumasnews.com "I'm glad you turned out so good after all the crying I did. I went home and picked up my little boy and just held him," retired California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Cooley said July 4. He was speaking to Sondra Gay (Young) Jones, and he was talking about the emo- tional toll it took on him to pull her out of a car trunk filled with the pipe-blud- geoned bodies of her father, sisters and a neighbor boy. That very Independence Day moment was the flu'st time pa- trolman Cooley and Sondra Gay had laid eyes on one an- other since she was a 3-year- old child and the lone survivor of what is commonly referred to as the "Chester massacre." Recounting the Oct. 10, 1952 murders, Cooley said, "It was a hell of a thing to happen to a small community." Cooley credits many others for their part in the rescue of Sondra. He spoke about resident Jer- ry Bridges, who was out in the woods with another couple for the first weekend of deer sea- son. He believes Bridges saw the car the night before he ap- proached the vehicle. He also spoke about Alan Shields who ran the utility of- rice. "He told me Guard Young and the kids were missing. I told him to get some lanterns from his office," said Cooley. He said he and Shields took turns walking and driving the car to Westwood and back from Chester. He said they didn't locate the vehicle dur- ing that search. Sick, Cooley returned home to bed. He said the next thing he knew Bridges walked right in his front door and told him he thought he knew where the car was. "We located the car, and when I saw the keys on the ground and no one in the car, I knew it wasn't good," said Cooley. 'I: opened the trunk and there she was reaching for me," he said. He said Sondra Gay had been in the trunk approxi- mately 17 hours and was floating in and out of con- sciousness. He said he had a choice of transporting her to Westwood or Chester and chose to take her to the office of Dr. Green- man in Chester because "I thought he was a good guy." "I didn't do anything excep- tional--I just took a 3-year- old to the hospital," he said. Jones disagreed and said, "I think you symbolize the CHP--you just keep on doing your job even after all the years on the road when you're tired and worn out. You de- serve recognition for what you did for me and all your years and years on the road." Jones also said Cooley was very protective of her family and often ran inter- ference to shelter them from the media during the two- week investigation. A child's memory "My last real memory be- fore waking up on Mrs. Greenman's lap in CHP Coo- ley's car was of a guy reach- ing for me in the back seat. It's a child's memory and maybe it's scrubbed; I don't remember it in a frightened way," she said. After being treated in the hospital she said she an- swered a lot of the questions posed by state and local law enforcement officials. She said they used "car mod- el sheets" like flashcards to help her with the identification process. She was able to identi- fy the car and the gun used to force the car offthe road. "I was able to identify the make of the car, the color and the faces of the men in- volved," she said. Missing six weeks "After about two weeks I was spirited out of Chester; people were afraid for my life," she said. She was under full guard while she was in the hos- pital. She also said many dis- claimers about her "inability" to identify anyone or anything those days) said they knew they (Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins) had committed 13-17 mass murders and pos- sibly as many as 100 people." Jones was in Ft. Seward during those missing weeks. "I went under the assumed name of Sally Lerwill; it was like being in protective cus- tody," she said. She was in the home of her mother's best friend, Gay Lerwill. "Gay, just like my middle name," she said. During that time only her mother knew where she was. A child grows up Sondra Gay was reunited with her mother and traveled to Provo, Utah, in January 1953. Upon their arrival, her mother pursued her dream of going to school by first going after a business degree, then one for education. "My mother's children in- herited her love of education; I turned down a proposal of marriage so that I could go to college," she said. The gentleman who pro- posed asked her, "Why would you want to go to college when someone wants to mar- ry you?" She asked a question in re- turn, "Why would anyone want to marry anyone who didn't understand the impor- tance of education?" Following in her mother's footsteps she first pursued a bachelor's degree in English literature. "Eight children later, I went back to school for my master's degree," she said. "I had my 10th child about the same time I got my M.A. in history." Jones is currently working on her Ph.D. in history and said being a Native American- ist was her area of expertise. "I have published books and articles in Indian history; I actually do have another life beyond Chester," she said. Paying it forward Of Cooley she said, "In sav- were published in the papers ing me, he saved those I have : ,, as a means to safeguard her. : since Influenced. Cooley concurred with the She became a gymnast and threat assessment, "This was influenced her brother Wayne a big gang, The guys from CII Young, who went on to be- (the investigative branch of come a two-time NCAA all- the state of California in around champion and captain Sondra Jones (center) traveled from Provo, Utah, to present her "hero," Jeff Cooley, with a matching quilt set. Also present for the occasion was Euphemia Cooley, Jeff's bride of 63 years. It was a heartfelt moment when retired California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Cooley (left) reunited with Sondra Gay after 57 years. Patrol Commander Erik Leband was present for the auspicious occasion. Photos by M. Kate West of the U.S.A. Olympic Team in Montreal. In turn, Wayne inspired his son Guard Young to become a member of a U.S.A. silver medal Olympic team. She said the love of educa- tion continued forward in her family and briefly men- tioned having a daughter who is a surgeon in Oakland, a son who is a marine ecolo- gist and three other daugh- ters who are nurses. Chester highways Raised in Old Town West- wood, Cooley began his career with the California Highway Patrol in Susanville in 1948. He transferred to Chester in June 1950, and after mak- ing the rank of sergeant he went on to work the Del Norte area. Later he transferred to the Chico beat where he re- tired and resides today. "I served a total of 29 years and one month with the Cali- fornia Highway Patrol," he said. He said he has many mem- ories of the local community and its residents from the time he patrolled Chester, in- cluding stopping and ticket- ing a mill boss on his first day on patrol in Chester. "Having the word spread about the new, eager guy in town was the best advertisement Manual & Aquatic Therapy Orthopedic & Sports Injuries Post-surgical Rehabilitation Sciatica Program PLUMAS PHYSICAL THERAPY Kory Fclkcr, MPT 78 Central Ave., Quincy 283-2202 w I could have had," he said with a laugh. "I played pinochle with them on Friday night and pinched them on Saturday; it was a heck of a town!" he added. Trial truths Jones said people frequent- ly mix up the facts of the murder of her father, two sis- ters and a neighbor boy with the movie "I Want to Live," starring Susan Hayward in the role of convicted murder- ess Barbara Graham. "The only similarity be- tween the cases is that John Santo and Emmett Perkins were principals in both crunes. They were convicted of four counts of murder on our case and one count of murder in the death of Mabel Monahan." The local crimes were com- mitted Oct. 10, 1952, four miles east of Chester, in a lo- cation described by Cooley as "between the creek bridge and the 'S' turn going east, about 200 yards off Highway 36, on the Malvich Logging road." Monahan, an 80-year-old widow, was murdered during a home invasion robbery in her Burbank residence March 9, 1953. The theory is Graham learned about plans for the Monahan robbery while hav- ing an affair with Emmett Perkins. On the night of the murder-robbery, court testi.- mony reveals she joined Perkins and Santo, as well as John True and Baxter Short- er in Monahan's home. Barbara Graham was con- victed of murder and executed June 3, 1955, the same day Santo and Perkins met their court-ordered date with death. Executed at San Quentin, Graham was the third woman in California history to go to the gas chamber. GREAT NEWS! 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