The quiet, winding streets of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon are home to many of Hollywood’s elite. But the swanky enclave has many ghosts. Most notably, 8763 Wonderland Ave., a modest little split-level home with iron framework balconies, was the scene of the Wonderland murders. On July 1, 1981, this home was the site of four murders so bloody and gory that police have gone on record to say it was more gruesome than the Manson Family killings in nearby Benedict Canyon at the home of director Roman Polanski and his wife, the late Sharon Tate. Here are 15 must-know facts about the unsolved Wonderland murders.
On July 1, 1981, the bodies of four known drug dealers were found at 8763 Wonderland Ave. in Los Angeles. The Wonderland Gang had trafficked in drugs, mainly cocaine, during the late 1970s.
The murder scene was so gory that the coroner had to scrape the remains of Ron Launius, Billy DeVerell, Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson off the floor, furniture, walls, and ceiling. A fifth person, Launius’ wife, Susan Launius, survived the massacre.
The crime shocked Hollywood and was quickly named the “Four on the Floor Murders,” then, more literally, the “Laurel Canyon Murders,” and most famously, the “Wonderland Murders.”
People have been tried, convicted, and acquitted for the murders, but, to this day, police have not been able to pin the crime on anyone.
It’s still an open case, although police are pretty certain they know who was behind the slaughter.
John Holmes, the famous porn star, has been linked to the crime. He’s one reason why the mystique surrounding the murders persists.
You might think you know most of the details about the Wonderland murders, but there are a lot of interesting facts that have been overlooked or forgotten.
Here then, are 15 must-know facts about the sordid tale of drugs, porn, theft, and unsolved murder.
#1 – A Gang of Heroin-Addicted Cocaine Dealers
The Wonderland Gang was an influential group of drug dealers in Los Angeles. They thrived during the heady cocaine-fueled days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The group consisted of Ron Launius, David Lind, Joy Miller, Billy DeVerell, and Tracy McCourt.
Susan Launius (Ron’s wife) and Barbara “Butterfly” Richardson (David Lind’s girlfriend) also frequented the gang’s house, but were not official members.
The group’s base was a split two-level, two-bedroom house in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles. The house was leased in Miller’s name. Miller and her boyfriend, DeVerell, were the main tenants of the home; Ron and Susan Launius were house guests.
Lind and his girlfriend, Richardson, would drive to the Wonderland house and sometimes sleep on the living room sofa and floor.
The Wonderland Gang was well known for dealing cocaine, but would sometimes expand their reach and sell heroin. While cocaine flowed out of the doors of the gang’s house on a regular basis, those who lived in the house developed a taste for heroin and were, for the most part, addicts.
In addition to drugs, the Wonderland Gang generated cash by carrying out burglaries and armed robberies of rival drug dealers.
#2 – 8763 Wonderland Ave. Had a Storied History
Laurel Canyon was once a much-lauded bohemian artist refuge. It is where Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young first got together, and where Frank Zappa entertained Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger at his dilapidated log cabin. The Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds, The Doors, and Joni Mitchell also lived in the neighborhood.
Laurel Canyon was the inspiration behind the Doors’ song “Love Street,” The Mamas and the Papas’ “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon),” and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Our House.”
Before 8763 Wonderland Ave. became the home of the Wonderland Gang, it was home to the legendary rock band Paul Revere and The Raiders. After that, the house was rented to a wild group of women in the 1960s and early 1970s. Neighbors recall naked women being tossed from the first-floor balcony.
The house was then rented to the Wonderland Gang for $750 a month.
There is a garage on the first floor. On the second floor is a living room with a balcony facing the street, a kitchen, a dining room, and a bedroom. The third floor contains a main bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, as well as a balcony overlooking the street.
When the Wonderland Gang occupied the space, they made some adjustments to ensure it was a secure facility. A stairway that led from the garage to the front door was caged in iron. There was a telephone at the entrance, an electronic deadbolt on the gate, and two pit bulls guarding the steps.
It was a fortress that not just anyone could access.
“There was a lot of traffic, all day, all night,” recalled on neighbor. “Everything from Volkswagens to a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. They threw brown bags of dope off the balcony. There was shouting, laughing, rock and roll, 24 hours a day.”
#3 – Porn Star John Holmes Ran with the Wonderland Gang
The one common thread throughout the Wonderland murders is porn star John Holmes, aka Johnny Wadd.
Known for his 13” appendage, Holmes was one of the most prolific porn stars of his time. He started in the porn business around 1968 and performed in more than 2,270 hardcore films. At the height of his popularity, Holmes earned $3,000 a day.Holmes claimed to have slept with more than 14,000 women, but that number has been disputed. It may only have been in the low thousands.
By the early 1980s, Holmes’ career was limp…and he had become addicted to freebasing cocaine.
He was also deep in debt. So he resorted to breaking into cars and stealing luggage from LAX airport to feed his $1,500-a-day cocaine habit. Holmes was also stealing money from his dealers, including the Wonderland Gang.
Still, the fact that Holmes was stealing from the Wonderland Gang overshadowed the work he did for the gang as a seller. When the gang found out what he had been doing, they pummeled him and told him to fix the situation or else.
Holmes, understandably, was afraid. He knew how dangerous the Wonderland Gang was. So he devised a plan to keep himself in their good graces by suggesting that they rob one of his wealthy friends, known drug dealer Eddie Nash (no relation to Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young).
Nash, born Adel Gharib Nasrallah, was a drug dealer who owned several nightclubs in L.A., including the Starwood and the Kit Kat Strip Club. All told, Nash held 36 liquor licenses, owned real estate, and owned other assets worth over $30.0 million.
Holmes drew a map of the floor plan of Nash’s house and pointed out where Nash kept his cash and valuables.
#4 – June 29, 1981: Wonderland Gang Robbed Eddie Nash
The Wonderland Gang decided it would be a good idea to rob Nash’s Studio City mansion.