This is Part 2 of a Phantom Murderer in San Francisco.
The media interest in the case forced the police to investigate the 15-year-old’s disappearance. They went to the Popular Restaurant, which they found was a favorite haunt of the man who placed the ad. The restaurant owner, a Mr. Krone, remembered the man well because he was a frequent customer. He had been dining there for years. Krone didn’t know his name, but the staff nicknamed him Tenderloin. He apparently had a love of porterhouse steaks but he only ate the tenderloin.
Krone remembered seeing Tenderloin on January 11 because the man had spoken to him. He said he was expecting a girl to meet him there that evening. “If she comes in and asks for John Bennett, please bring her to my table,” he told Krone.
Krone said the man calling himself Bennett waited for about half an hour, then he left. He described the man for the police: he was approximately 40 years old, 5’9”, 170 lbs. He was well-dressed and had a brown mustache. Krone ventured a word of caution to the police. The man “meant no good” to the missing girl, he told the investigators. He had been coming there for 15 years, never with a wife or a child, and sometimes he was known to have imitated a minister.
Nothing more could be learned until early February. By then, Nora had been gone nearly a month. On February 8, H.E. Dean, a collector for the real estate agency, mounted the steps to 2211 Sutter Street and rapped on the door. After Hawkins’ visit to the agency exactly a month earlier, they had heard nothing from him. More importantly, they had received no more rent from him. He heard no movement inside that would suggest someone was home.
Dean knocked again and waited, but still there was no answer. He pulled out the rental agency’s copy of the key and let himself in. Immediately, he felt uneasy. The place was vacant–and judging from the large quantity of dust, it had not been inhabited for some time. He passed through the empty rooms slowly but he saw nothing to indicate anyone had been living there.
He walked upstairs. There were three rooms on the second floor, and two of the doors were open. He glanced in each and found they were empty. He turned the door knob of the third room and it opened without resistance. Unlike the other rooms, the shades were pulled down and the room was dark.
Squinting, Dean could see some clothing on the floor. Suddenly fearful, he ran downstairs and summoned a police officer who was patrolling the area. Officer Gill accompanied Dean back to the home and they went upstairs together. The officer strode in and pulled the window shade. The February sunlight flooded the room, illuminating the dead body of a young girl lying on the bed, under a blanket and a quilt. Nora Fuller had been found.
The girl had met a terrifying end. Medical examiners noted she had been raped, strangled, and her body was mutilated. No poison was found in her stomach, just a partly digested apple. Her mother remembered she had eaten an apple just before leaving home. If not for this information, it would be hard to ascertain just when Nora was murdered because the papers only said vaguely that she had been dead for “some time.” Some alcohol was found in her stomach and it had caused some irritation, indicating the girl wasn’t used to drinking.
The coroner’s jury eventually ruled Nora had been murdered within 24 hours of leaving home. The girl’s clothing and purse were on the floor. The purse contained no money, but they did find a calling card in it that read: Mr. M. A. Severbrinik, of Port Arthur. Strangely, newspapers ran a photo of an anonymous model wearing Nora’s clothes that had been found in the room with her body.
Nora’s mother and little brother were brought in to identify her body. Lewis was certain. “It is Nora,” he told authorities. “That little ribbon is the one she wore around her neck. I fastened it for her myself the last time I saw her.”
Nora’s mother was devastated but she could identify her daughter by a vaccination mark on her leg. She also confirmed the clothing and purse belonged to Nora. The effect on Mrs. Fuller was dreadful, as these pictures show.