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How the Orange County Crime Lab Started

In one of the most sensational murder trials in Orange County history, George “Bud” Gollum and Beulah Louise Overell were accused of the March 15, 1947 murder of Beulah’s parents, and then acquitted despite overwhelming evidence.

On March 15, 1947, Walter Overell and his wife Beulah were aboard their yacht; an explosion occurred onboard and sent the yacht to the bottom of the Newport Harbor. Although the initial theory was that a gasoline leak caused the explosion, more than 30 sticks of dynamite were discovered in the boat’s engine room wired to an alarm clock detonator and attached to the boats battery. Additionally, the autopsies determined that the Overells were bludgeoned to death prior to the explosion.

Every step of the way, evidence was presented by the prosecution only to be disallowed by the court. Testimony by forensic experts was critical to the case. However, distance, delays and mishandling resulted in faulty analyses. And although law enforcement officials found what they believed to be murder weapons, the location where the dynamite was purchased, and incriminating letters that the couple had written to each other while in jail, Beulah and Bud were acquitted.

As a result of the trial, a crime laboratory was established in Orange County in 1948. The first crime laboratory was located in a converted women’s restroom on the second floor of the old Sycamore Street County Jail and had one criminalist on staff, Jack Cadman. Forensic analysis of important evidence would now be analyzed by and within Orange County.

Learn more about the Crime Lab here: