Mabel Mayer (February 7, 1912 – July 2, 1927) was a 15-year-old resident of Oakland, and a victim of what was once called "California's worst crime." Her brutal murder was never solved.
Warning: Some of the details of Mabel's death are gruesome. They are not included in this article, but use caution before following any of the links provided.
Mabel was due home at 2008 - 86th Avenue the evening of Saturday, July 2nd. Her older brother, William Mayer, went to meet the train she was supposed to be on, but she didn't arrive. Her father, John Mayer, then went to meet the later trains, but she didn't arrive on those, either. The next morning, her bloodied body was found in the backyard of a vacant house at 1738 - 85th Avenue, by two workmen who had arrived to build a garage. Clues were gathered (including one clear bloody fingerprint on Mabel's purse), neighbors interviewed, stories checked, but a month later, a coroner's jury was unable to determine who killed her and announced it as "a party or parties unknown." 4
One tantalizing clue was her wristwatch. It had been smashed, presumably at the time of her attack, and thereby showed the time of her death—it was stopped at 10:06.
Over the next months and years, various people were questioned about Mabel's murder while they were investigated for other crimes. In 1929, David Barnett was convicted of child stealing and sentenced to 20 years at Folsom, and a neighbor of the Mayer's, Mrs C.O. Smith, IDed Barnett as the man she had seen arguing with Mabel near her house on 85th Avenue. But Barnett denied it, and Barnett's wife said he had an alibi for the time period. 5 The identification was made by moonlight and several years after the murder, so it is of questionable accuracy, but he was also IDed by Gordon Pierce, a policeman. The Tribune article helpfully describes him as being IDed as the "mystery friend" of Mabel. 6
Mabel was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, where she shares a grave with her parents. Over the years, her murder has inspired magazine articles, chapters in books, an episode of a podcast, and even a small website, mabelmayer.com.
Links and References
- Who Killed "Sunshine Mabel"? True Detective Mysteries December 1929
- Girl's Footsteps Traced to 10 Minutes of Death Oakland Tribune July 5, 1927
- ad for True Detective Mysteries Oakland Tribune November 19, 1929
- Probe Fails to Solve Girl Murder Oakland Tribune August 3, 1927
- Barnett Is Sentenced to 20 Years Oakland Tribune March 21, 1929
- Kidnaper Involves Boy Friend of Girl in Mabel Mayer Murder Mystery Oakland Tribune March 20, 1929 (p2)
- Mabel Mayer on FindAGrave.com
- Trunk Is New Clue in Girl Murder Case Oakland Tribune July 4, 1927 (p2)
- Police Run Into Blank Wall in Hunt for Killer Oakland Tribune July 7, 1927 (p2)
- Mabel Mayer’s Murder The Malefactor's Register blog
- Episode 28 - The Murder of Mabel Mayer Forgotten Darkness podcast
- 45 Murderers: A Collection of True Crime Stories Craig Rice