Home » » Three bloody clues nailed the killer in CALIFORNIA'S GRISLY MUSIC-MAN MURDER

Three bloody clues nailed the killer in CALIFORNIA'S GRISLY MUSIC-MAN MURDER

AT THE TIME Larry Proctor's battered and bloody body was found on the morning of October 14, 1982. "The Ninth Creation" band was in a slump. The murdered musician was discovered in the back bedroom of the house on the 2400 block of East Market Street in Stockton, California.

There had been better days for the band, which specialized in rhythmn and blues music, and certainly there was every reason to believe they would return. But that October the group was hurting financially, as were many other business organizations in the United States at the time.

Recession was the word voiced as often as any other in the nation's newspapers and the band was feeling the money crunch. Normally the nine-piece group worked a six-day week and took home about a thousand dollars a night, which was split equally among its members.

But in the fall of '82 that six-day week had shrunk to one day for The Ninth Creation and the $650 weekly stipend to which they had all become accustomed had dwindled to a miserly $111. Some of the musicians were suffering.

Larry Proctor, the saxophonist lead singer, was not among them. He managed to maintain his style of living, perhaps because he had saved his money from the good old days when the group was in demand and cutting platters, or maybe because he had something going on the side. There were two theories about that. A man could pay his money and take his choice.

Under any circumstances, Larry Proctor was living, if not high on the hog, reasonally well. He was also living, although he did not know it, on the ragged edge of eternity. Perhaps 13 was his unlucky number. Sometime either shortly before midnight on the 13th or shortly after 12 a.m. on the 14th, the saxophonist died, not quietly and at peace, but violently and while he was desperately afraid.

Mute evidence of his fear was graved in blood on the inside of his droom door.

A dispatcher's notation at the Stockton Police Department reveals the discovery that Proctor's music and songs had been permanently silenced was reported at exactly 11:46 a.m. Patrol Officers Richard Joy and Edward Neeley were sent to the house on Market Street where they were greeted by three young men. One of them guided the policemen through the gate of the low, chain-link fence which surrounded the property and along the walk to the door, telling them that it was open and they would easily find the body inside.

As they approached the dwelling, both officers noticed one peculiar quality about the house. All of the windows were heavily and expensively barred with decorative wrought iron. The decoration, if that is what it was, was not standard for a typical, middle-class California residence.

Even before they entered the house, the officers saw signs of the violence which had erupted inside. A window beside the door had been broken from the inside, so that there was splintered glass lying on the small porch. Behind the broken window, the curtain was torn.

Inside the house, the patrolmen found immediate evidence that a violent and deadly struggle had erupted there some time earlier. There was blood on the front door and there were large spatters of blood throughout the living room. Blood trails led through the house to a hall and from there to a rear bedroom, where the body of Larry Proctor was lying on the threshold.

The musician was sprawled on his stomach with his head and torso in the hall and legs and lower body in the bedroom. A bloodstained sheet covered his head. Beyond him, in the bedroom, the officers could see large quantities of blood spattered on the walls. At first glance it appeared to the patrolmen that the patterns of blood indicated the dead man had been shot at close range by either a large-bore rifle or a shotgun.

Satisfied in their own minds that the musician had been murdered, or at least killed during a violent struggle, the officers called for help from the Stockton Fire Department, paramedics and detectives from the Stockton Police Department's Investigation section.
Paramedics who arrived on the scene routinely examined the body. Although the man's condition was obvious, it was their duty to officially pronounce him dead. They knelt beside him and felt for some sign of heartbeat in his carotid artery, in his neck, and in his wrist, where a person's pulse is normally taken. To complete their examination, the medics had to remove the sheet from the dead man's head. When they did they discovered the top of his head was, or appeared to be, missing.

The patrol officers standing by decided the musician's head must have been blown away by the blast from the same heavy weapon which had been responsible for the stains on the bedroom walls.

Finding no sign of life, the paramedics officially declared the man on the floor dead. They then reported to the patrolmen what they believed to be one more significant fact. Although the corpse was literally drenched with blood almost everywhere, neither of the medics stained their hands while examining him. All of the blood on the body was absolutely dry.

The patrolmen secured the property so that whatever evidence was available would be preserved for investigators. Detective Sergeants Edward Williams and Henry Tovar, both veteran homicide probers, followed the paramedics to the crime scene by a few moments and were filled in by the patrolmen on what had happened.

The detectives examined the house carefully, noting the bars on the windows and that the back door was also barred and barricaded. The only entrance to the house was the front door, and there was no sign of forced entry.

Looking over the living room, the detectives agreed the struggle must have started near the front door, where there was a high concentration of blood, then continued on into the bedroom. The high concentration of blood about head-high on the wall of the bedroom made the investigators believe initially, as the patrolmen had, that the murdered man had been shot with a high-powered firearm at close range. The blood spatters and patterns were similar to those which would have been found after such an attack.

It was obvious to the sleuths that the struggle which had started in the living room had continued on into the bedroom and the final, savage, lethal attack had occurred there. Drag marks made by blood on the floor indicated the musician had been dragged across it to the point where he was found on the threshold.

Another item gave the detectives a more detailed picture of what had happened. The bedroom door had been broken open. The jam was splintered and ripped apart and the striker plate, the little piece of metal on the jam into which the lock fits, was broken off and missing. Another item on the door, which had been pushed back against the wall on the interior of the bedroom, also fascinated the detectives. Three clear palmprints, etched in blood, were easily distinguishable on the outer surface of the door.

Criminalist Richard Collins and Evidence Technician Maxim Cox, sent to the residence by the Stockton Police Department Crime Laboratory at the detective's request, arrived and began processing the scene. They also asked that Dr. Robert Lawrence, well-known San Joaquin County pathologist, come to the residence to perform a preliminary examination of the body on the scene. The pathologist told the officers that Larry Proctor had evidently not been shot but that his head had been beaten in, and the top of it totally destroyed, by a heavy club or blunt instrument of some kind. He also said the musician had been dead for about 12 hours.

Criminalist Collins, looking over the blood patterns, agreed with the pathologist. He told the officers that the spatters had been caused by blows from a blunt instrument, used with exceptional force, and that while they were similar, they were not consistent with those which would have been made by a firearm.

After the musician's body had been photographed from every angle and removed by coroner's deputies, Criminalist Collins was able to look at the inside of the door. There he found another set of palmprints which he and Technician Cox agreed appeared to be different from those on the outer surface. The missing striker plate was found after Proctorwas moved, on the floor where it had been lying under his body.

Recreating the crime, Sergeants Williams and Tovar decided the attack must have started just inside the front door. At some point the weapon which had killed Proctor had come in contact with the front window, breaking it and tearing the curtain.

From that point it appeared that Proctor had retreated to the bedroom and locked the door. His attacker had followed and, from the appearance of the bloody handprints, banged on it three times, then tried to break it open while Proctor, who had lost a lot of blood by that time, tried to hold it closed from the inside. Eventually the killer had won the pushing match, broken in and finished his gory task.

One of the most significant items the investigators noticed was that all of the blood in the house was dry at the time the crime was discovered. Yet the handprints on the door of the bedroom had to have been made when the blood was fresh and fluid.

"It seems like almost a sure thing that if we find the person who made those fingerprints we'll find the one who killed Proctor," Sergeant Williams remarked.

Before the musician's body was removed, the detectives found one other significant item. His left trouser pocket had been pulled inside out indicating, overtly at least, the motive for the crime was robbery.

Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox removed the door from its hinges in the bedroom and collected the glass fragments from the porch and took them to the laboratory for further examination.

The man who had discovered the body identified himself as a musician and member of The Ninth Creation, and identified the dead man, at least tentatively, as Larry Proctor as soon as he reported the crime.

While the technicians were still processing the crime scene. Sergeants Williams and Tovar began looking into the background of the murdered man as they canvassed the community in search of people who might have heard or seen something the night of the murder. They also interviewed all the members of The Ninth Creation and their associates.

From them, they learned that the house in which Larry Proctor had been living was owned by members of his family and that he had been living there for several years when the band was in town. They also learned that while The Ninth Creation had done exceptionally well as a musical group in the past, having toured Japan, played in some outstanding night clubs and hotels in the United States and made several albums, they were currently enduring a recession of their own. The group, for the past month or so, had been playing only one date a week, at a major hotel for its top price. But one night's work a week only provided the musicians one-sixth of their normal pay and some of them were suffering financially.

Larry Proctor, they said, was not hit as badly as the rest of them. His neighbors and some of the band members said he was known to operate a small-time marijuana sales operation. That, they added, explained the reason for the bars on the windows and the back door of the house. He had been burglarized for his marijuana several times and did not intend to have it happen again.

Band members also told the detectives that Proctor habitually carried with him three diamond rings ranging in size from a quarter karat to a full karat. They explained that he only wore them when he was playing, but kept them with him because of their value and the danger of their loss in a burglary.

As a defensive measure, they said, he kept a baseball bat leaning against the wall of the living room near the door. The investigators searched for both the missing jewelry and the baseball bat and found neither in the house on Market Street.

Richard Kevin Kemp, a drummer with the band, who had discovered the body, told the officers that he had been visiting his sister in the neighborhood on the morning of the 14th. While he was there, he said, two young men came by and told him they had been looking for some marijuana, had just dropped by Proctor's house and had not been able to get anyone to answer the door.

They had noticed the window beside the door was broken. The door itself, they had said, was open slightly, the television set was playing and Proctor's new Dodge van was parked in front of the house. When they looked in through the window, they said, they could see blood inside the house. They did not go in, they just looked and left. Their next move, they said, was to go to Kemp, whom they knew as a friend of Proctor's, and ask him to check the house out.

Kemp told the investigators he had gone inside the house, seen the blood, then returned immediately outside and informed the two prospective drug buyers that the place was covered with blood. The next move, he said, was to go next door and call the police. Alter he had done that, Kemp said, he returned to the house, went inside and followed the blood trail back to the body.

During their canvass of the neighborhood the detectives contacted a man who lived at the end of an alley which dead ended into Proctor's property. He told them that at about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of the 14th he had been aroused by the sound of dogs barking. Irritated by all the noise, he had eventually looked outside. When he did he said he saw a man who was carrying something leave Proctor's house and get into a blue Cadillac Eldorado which was parked in front of the residence.

The witness said he could not be sure of the person's description or of what he was carrying, but he was positive about the blue Eldorado. He was, he stated, familiar with most body types because he operated an automobile body detailing business.

While the detectives were interviewing members of the band and searching for friends and acquaintances or people who might have been purchasing marijuana from Proctor, Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox examined the evidence they had collected. They informed the detectives that all of the palmprints, if not the fingerprints, found on the outside of Proctor's bedroom were excellent and could easily identify the man who made them if he was found. They also said they had discovered an excellent fragment of a latent palmprint on the bottom of the shattered glass they had taken from the front window which would identify its owner, but added that they doubted seriously that it had been made by the killer.

Because the detectives believed that the bloody palmprints on the bedroom door were their key clue, they began taking complete handprints of all of the musicians in The Ninth Creation, Proctor's friends, acquaintances and anyone who might have had been involved in his marijuana dealings.
Among these they discovered one young man, Theodore Vega, who freely admitted having drug dealings with Proctor in the past. His interest, he said, was in cocaine, not marijuana. The detectives had been directed to him by members of the band who had said he was a fairly close friend of Proctor.

When the investigators found Vega they discovered he drove a blue Cadillac Eldorado. But when they asked him where he had been on the night of the 13th, and early morning of the 14th, Vega could not account for his time.

Asked to accompany the detectives to Stockton Police Headquarters so that his fingerprints could be taken and compared with those on the bedroom door, Vega consented immediately. While in the identification room he was asked to leave his property with the clerk there, and while his money was being counted a bloodstained five-dollar bill was discovered. Vega told Sergeant Williams he had no idea how the bill became bloodstained.

"Do you mind if we take this to the laboratory for examination?" the detective asked.

Vega said he did not. The bill was taken to the crime laboratory and tested for type. It was the same as that which was taken from Larry Proctor during an autopsy by Dr. Lawrence. The young man's handprint was forwarded to Criminalist Collins and Technician Cox for comparison with those taken from the door to Proctor's bedroom and the broken window in front of the house.

The technicians came up with a startling discovery. "The partial palmprint taken from the window matched Vega's perfectly," they reported. "But they did not match the prints taken from the bedroom door. The prints on the inside of the door belonged to Proctor, those on the outside to someone else."

From the beginning, the detectives had assumed there was only one man involved in the murder of the musician. With the news from the laboratory it appeared two might be involved. The detectives contacted Vega, took him to police headquarters and told him what they had discovered.

"How do you explain this?" he was asked.

Vega told the detectives he had helped Proctor install a new front window next to his front door shortly before the murder.

"I carried it in and put it on the sill.

Naturally my palmprint would be on it," he said.

"How about the five-dollar bill?" he was asked. "It's the same blood type as Larry Proctor's."

Vega explained that money changed hands all the time. In the case of the five dollar bill, he remembered where he got it. The bill had come from an acquaintance of Proctor's who was a cocaine dealer. He gave the detectives the dealer's name. They checked him out and discovered he also owned a blue Cadillac Eldorado.

Detective Williams, remembering he had been told by Criminalist Collins that the man whose fingerprint was found on the shard of glass was probably not the killer, conferred with the specialist.

Criminalist Collins convinced him that the person who made the print was almost certainly not the killer. When Sergeant Williams told him about Vega's explanation of the palmprint, the criminalist said he believed he was telling the truth.

Next, the criminalist showed the detective the shard of glass. The palmprint was on the bottom of the pane where it had been well stained with putty. He explained that the print had to have been made when the glass was being carried to the window, then covered with putty and the wooden sill.

" You carry a large piece of glass from the bottom," the criminalist explained. "That is what happened here. The palmprint was left on the glass and not exposed again until it was broken and knocked out of the sill. The person who made this print was probably nowhere near when the murder took place, at least as far as this evidence is concerned. The print was made long before Larry Proctor was murdered."

The detectives were not completely convinced that Vega was not still their prime suspect. They remembered the bloody five-dollar bill and the blue Eldorado. But they also knew that five-dollar bills change hands rapidly and that even if a breakdown of blood types proved the odds were 5,000 to one that the stain on the bill came from the murder victim, there was no way to show the bill had not passed through several hands before reaching Vega.

They were also aware that already two blue Cadillacs had been introduced to the case and knew there were a lot more than that on the street. They returned to the witness who had seen the man leaving Proctor's house at I: a.m. on the morning of the 14th and asked him to examine an automobile mug book. The auto de-tailer looked through the volume carefully until he reached the photograph of a battered 1971 Cadillac Eldorado with a primer mark on the left rear fender.

"That's the car," the witness said. "It looked almost exactly like that."

Detectives Williams and Tovar procured a copy of the photograph and began showing it to members of The Ninth Creation and other friends and acquaintances of Proctor. The band members remembered the Cadillac immediately.

"Kevin Kemp has one almost exactly like that," the investigators were told.

The investigation was 11 days old by that time and the detectives had arranged to have every available friend and acquaintance of Proctor's fingerprinted. They had been compared with those found on the outer surface of the murder victim's bedroom door and none had matched. The exception was Richard Kevin Kemp. The drummer had not been available to the police, mostly through coincidence, it seemed, since he had reported the murder.

Kempt had never been eliminated as a suspect. In the early days of the investigation, everyone who knew the murder victim was a suspect as far as the officers were concerned. But he had told them he had spent the night with his godfather watching a cable TV sex movie when Proctor was murdered. The alibi had been confirmed by the godfather.

Sergeants Williams and Tovar began examining Kemp's background. They discovered the drummer had a cocaine habit that was costing him at least $200 a week during The Ninth Creation's good times. He had been suffering during the slump.

Next, (he detectives began checking on Kemp's alibi. They checked with cable network officials in Stockton, San Francisco and eventually New York and discovered the motion picture the drummer said he had watched with his godfather on the night Proctor was murdered had been shown three days earlier.

The detectives launched an all-out effort to find Kemp who, unable to make ends meet on one night's work a week, had given up his permanent living quarters and had been staying with friends around town. They found him in a friend's apartment and when they asked him to come to headquarters for a fingerprint comparison, he consented immediately.

Kevin Kemp appeared to be at ease when the prints were taken and chatted pleasantly with the detectives. Sergeant Williams took the impressions to Criminalist Collins and a comparison was made. The bloody palmprints on the bedroom door matched those of the drummer's perfectly. With a solid case building rapidly against the drummer, the detective confronted him with the facts:

1. His palm prints matched those etched in blood on Proctor's bedroom door at the death scene perfectly.

2. A neighbor had seen a blue 1971 Cadillac Eldorado with a primer mark on the left rear fender parked in front of Proctor's house at about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of the 14th. Kemp drove a 1971 Eldorado which matched that description.

3. Kemp's alibi, that he had spent the time when Proctor was murdered watching a motion picture on television with his godfather, was phony. The movie the two men claimed to have been watching had been shown on the 11th, three days before Proctor was killed.

During a two-hour interview which followed, Kemp flatly denied he had ever touched Proctor's body. He also said he had not touched the door and added that he never got blood on his hands when he went in the house and found the dead man.

Sergeant Williams then showed the drummer a photograph of the bloody palmprint taken from Proctor's door and a reproduction of his own inked palmprint. Kemp studied them but flatly refused to admit either print was his. "It's a trick," he insisted. "You're just trying to trick me."

Despite his protests, Kemp was arrested and charged with the murder of Larry Proctor.

A weird series of legal maneuvers followed. Kemp was tried once and a jury failed to reach a verdict, declaring itself hopelessly deadlocked after a ten-to-two verdict. Kemp had taken the stand during the trial and changed his story completely. He told the jury he had reentered Proctor's house after calling the police.

The drummer said he had gone there for the purpose of removing any marijuana that might be in the house, explaining simply he did not want the police to know his friend had been mixed up in narcotics traffic.

When he returned, he said, he had stumbled over the saxophonist's body after touching it and touched the door while there was blood on his hands. He had done all this, he said, between the time he called the police and before the firemen arrived.

Sergeant Williams checked with the computer which records all such calls and discovered the fire house which responded to Kemp's call was just six-tenths of a mile from his house. He also learned that the firemen had arrived on the scene between one minute and 54 seconds and two minutes and 18 seconds after receiving the call.

The computer also revealed Kemp had been on the telephone 54 seconds after the firemen were dispatched. In rebuttal, the prosecution presented all of this, pointing out that it was almost impossible for Kemp to have done everything he said he had before the firemen arrived. It was also pointed out that the blood was dry at the time Kemp claimed to have stumbled against the door and also that it was almost impossible for anyone to have made the palmprints after Proctor was lying in the doorway. Regardless, two jurors chose to believe Kemp and the trial ended that way.

During a second trial, while the jury was being chosen, one of Kemp's friends approached a juror and apparently threatened him. A mistrial was called and Kemp was tried a third time. Another deadlock resulted, this time 11 to 1 for conviction. One female juror explained later she just didn't want to send that "nice-looking young man" to prison.

Between all the trials. Sergeants Williams and Tovar continued to search for more evidence. While working on another murder case, Williams questioned a woman who told him she lived next door to the relative with whom Kemp claimed to have watched a television motion picture at the time Proctor was murdered.

The woman told Sergeant Williams that she and her husband had been awakened some time after 1:00 a.m. by Kemp. She said that at the time he was perspiring and out of breath and said he had been in a fight. She also said Kemp told them his car was out of gas and asked for a ride to a service station so he could buy some. They had taken Kemp to a station, she said, and then to his car. It was parked less than one block from Proctor's house.

When this new evidence was presented during the fourth trial the jury was out only 30 minutes before convicting Kevin Kemp of second-degree murder on May 4, 1984. He was sentenced to from 16 years to life in prison.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Theodore Vega is not the real name of the person so named in the foregoing story. A fictitious name has been used because there is no reason for public interest in the identity of this person.
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