“We figure that anybody who would do a thing like this must be insane,” Crescent City Police Sgt. Douglas Premo told the Associated Press, following the brutal slaying of a girl found Saturday, February 12th, 1966, between Pacific Avenue and A Street.
Myra Sue Gerling, described as a pretty long-haired brunette, was naked, throat slashed and body pierced 40 times with a knife. The 11-year-old had been sent to the nearby Kacy’s Pacific Market to get some ice cream for a party.
Failing to return home by 2:30 that afternoon, her mother telephoned the police. A search was initiated beginning in the parking lot of the store.
Three hours later her body was discovered by three boys. All about 12-years-old, they were returning from a horseback riding trip when they cut through the lot and found her.
Detectives combed the lot the next day, looking for the murder weapon and her missing clothes. Meanwhile, other officers, looking for leads, questioned nearly 100 people.
They soon zeroed in on a suspect: a shoeless, blond, shaggy-haired man, seen around the area shortly before Myra’s murder. Later that same day, detectives picked up a man fitting that description.
However, Chief Danny Nations refused to identify him or say where and how he was arrested. He read from a prepared statement, “At the present time a suspect is in custody and his activities are the subject of our intense investigation. Meanwhile, all city and county law enforcement agencies are following through on the many leads we have.”
The suspect turned out to be 16-year-old Fred Yeomans. Since the majority of the records remain sealed by the court, it is unknown how long Yeomans was imprisoned or if he was certified as ‘mentally ill.’
Other questions remain unanswered and were the subject of an editorial in the March 2nd issue of the Humboldt Standard, entitled “Murder in Crescent City”. The first thing Margaret Delaney asked is why wasn’t the Del Norte County Coroner, who also happens to be the Sheriff, notified until several hours after the body was found?
She also pointed out that the California Highway Patrol in Eureka had been asked to run a check on two automobile license numbers in connection with the case after the prime suspect was supposedly in custody. Delaney added, that no roadblocks, all-points bulletins, or assistance were requested by Crescent City authorities either.
Also, when the Highway Patrol asked Del Norte authorities about the slaying, they were refused any information. Along with that, a Humboldt County sheriff’s detective, himself a former member of the Crescent City police, was refused any background about the crime.
The Eureka police were asked by Crescent City police to check out a parolee in connection with the murder, leading Delaney to wonder if there was one suspect or more. She also asks why the hearing the youth was moved ahead one week secretly?
And finally, without naming names, she claims a “deliberate falsehood by one Del Norte official was involved,” adding, “if there was one falsehood, were there more?” Delaney’s wasn’t the only criticism of the handling of the case.
In a March 5th, editorial titled ‘Murder Case Secrecy is Unjust and Absurd,’ the Fresno Bee complained about authorities “raising a cloak of anonymity around the boy,” claiming “a terrible sense of incompletion, if not of justice gone deaf, mute and arrogant, surrounds the brutal stabbing murder…last month.” It goes on to name Yeomans.
An unidentified obituary states Myra lived at 217 W. Indra, was born September 2nd, 1954 in Fort Bragg, California, and attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Her family included her parents, Zita and Herman, and sisters Karen and Sherill, and brothers, Carl and Mark.
She is resting in the ‘Whispering Pine Green’ section of St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Crescent City. She was joined by her father in 1997 and her mother in 2010.
Following Myra’s death, the city leveled the two-block-long, overgrown lot. Several homes have been built on the land since her young body was discovered.