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Long ago there was a young lady I had the hots for in a big way (Yes, I know that hots is not a word). She was pretty, incredibly bright, and had some real elegance about her. She had a love for children and basic kindness that you don’t often see in someone her age. I met her parents and could understand she came from a much more stable home than mine. I was raised by a single, welfare mom and suddenly found myself way out-classed. For whatever reasons things did not workout they way I had hoped. Sadly for me, we went on our separate ways. From time to time I’d run into this lady in various places where our job had taken us. Whenever this happened my heart would skip a beat or two.
I left my hometown Chicago, and moved to Arizona where I founded my detective agency. As a private eye and soon a TV news producer too, my career took me to the highest profile criminal events in Arizona and throughout the country. There’s no question that I’m an adrenalin junkie and must always be where the action is happening.
After investigating on behalf of the criminal defense (successfully I might add) for two well-known Hollywood stars facing bogus allegations, I began yearning to work in the happening entertainment industry. These days, I’ve been spending a lot of time in L.A.
Along with attending Tom Todoroff ’s acting classes, I took a “speed” filmmaker’s course from Dov S.S. Simmons at his Hollywood Film Institute in Santa Monica. This was to get a real understanding of the business, from acquiring a script to counting your money long after the last showing in theatres. In the class, Dov covered an area where I had already had some experience. That was about buying and selling film option rights involving people inside fascinating, real events. A film company had made such a deal with me in the preceding post. Essentially, I got some money for doing absolutely nothing!
Writing or obtaining a good script is the beginning to all filmmaking. You must start with a terrific story. I’ve never been a fan of novels but I enjoy non-fiction. I wrote some other scripts that I now call training exercises.
I belatedly heard some really heartbreaking news from Chicago that I could not just shake off. It caused me to go on a quest that began as the film treatment you will now see. This has since evolved into a feature film script.
Having a film script in L.A is like having a snowflake in a blizzard. Unsold scripts are everywhere. If you don’t have a top-notch Hollywood literary agent committed to getting your script made into a film you better have investors standing by. Right now I have neither. Producers I have, like Ex-New York, “French Connection” cop, turned film producer, Sonny Grosso who loves this story.
Today is the 33rd anniversary of the most newsworthy event that’s part of this chronicle. Maybe 2006 will bring about the film production of this story, that’s my wish for the New Year. The really worthwhile part of the story is, Ann Leybourne Erwin Biebel.
(A side note here. I could not think of a proper title for this film. The wife of former Chicago police sergeant, Andy Murcia gave me this title. Andy’s wife is the beautiful stage, film, Golden Globe and Emmy Award wining star, Ann Jillian.)
Sometimes justice just happens...
Treatment by Paul Huebl © 2003 WGA Registration Number # 929072
The year, 1972 gave us a lot of history. President Richard Nixon was embroiled in a major scandal that began when a security guard discovered a burglary at the Watergate Hotel complex, FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover died, the new video game craze was "Pong," Arab terrorists attacked at the Munich Olympics and murdered 11 Israeli athletes, an assassination attempt left former Alabama Governor and Presidential candidate, George Wallace confined to a wheel chair, and police everywhere were still reeling from a series of very liberal criminal law decisions that came down from the US Supreme Court. African Americans were still being called Negroes or colored by politically correct Americans.
There was an uneasy truce between the mostly White Chicago police officers and the Black Panther Party after a deadly four-year period that resulted in the deaths of nearly 40 officers and scores of Black militants. The fallout of the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots was still being litigated in various courts. DNA profiles were not yet an available tool for solving crimes.
Early that year, on the Near North Side of Chicago, police were desperately searching for a single criminal responsible for a series of rapes. In 1972, this was called a crime pattern. The term "serial" had not yet been coined in connection with crime. This is a story about what we would call today, a serial rapist.
This is also an incredible story of two strangers, truly opposite, who were about to collide like speeding freight trains in the night, in an unlikely chain of events not seen before, or since in the history of the Chicago Police Department.
The rapist was Robert Ellis, a 34-year-old, African American who had an unremarkable appearance aside from his receding hairline. This ex-convict and career criminal’s rapes were always brutal and at the point of a knife or gun. Ellis would often don a surgical mask to hide his identity. Ellis's victims came from the pages of Vogue and Playboy magazines. Only the most beautiful and fashionable young women were his targets. He would take them on the streets or in their apartments. His crimes occurred nearly always on Friday nights. Perhaps because of superstitions that brought him to a Haitian psychic. In any event, the Chicago media dubbed him, The Friday Night Rapist.
One of Ellis's intended victims was Diana Craig, a gorgeous, shapely young brunette woman who caused heads to turn wherever she went. She was a professional fashion model who drove a BMW. Diana lived in an apartment above an artist's studio and garden on North LaSalle Street in Chicago. This was only an attempted crime, because Diana was able to wage a heroic fight against Ellis despite his having a gun and because she got help from her downstairs neighbor. Theodore DiVaquelin, an openly gay Frenchman, responded to Diana's screams and also fought with Ellis as he fled from Diana's apartment. Ellis narrowly escaped capture by responding police officers.
Hugh Heffner's Playboy mansion was only a couple of blocks away at 1340 North State Parkway (that was before he moved his entire Playboy Empire to L.A.). Another of Ellis's victims was one of Playboy magazine's more beautiful centerfolds that year.
Finally one Friday night, Paul Ropple, who was the youngest homicide detective in the history of the Chicago Police Department, observed Ellis sneaking around some bushes in the 1200 block of North State Parkway. Ropple noticed that Ellis resembled the composite drawing he had of the rapist and was the same height and weight reported by the victims. Ropple arrested Ellis and immediately began the process for a police identification line-up. Some of the victims were able to point Ellis out with certainty. Ellis denied the accusations, but probable cause of guilt existed and Ellis was to face the charges in court. The North Side Friday night rape pattern finally ended.
Months went by as the Court system prepared to try Ellis for his crimes. In all, Chicago police had brought forward nine victims that could identify Ellis as their attacker. A young public defender, Ron Himel, was appointed by the court to represent Ellis. As in all criminal cases the defense attorney has to accept his client's claims of innocence and file whatever pretrial motions to get the charges dismissed or at least reduced.
One day Ron Himel looked at the police line up photographs and discovered that the only person in the line up with a receding hairline was his client, Robert Ellis. A new Supreme Court ruling handed down at the time seemed clear, that police line-ups were to have people in them that resembled their suspect. The detectives putting this line up together never thought this case would hinge only on the identifications. This line up was now going to face a test in court.
In this case the police had no fingerprints or other conclusive evidence. Hair was collected in this investigation, but scientists had recently debunked hair as not being any more unique than being human and it's particular racial origin. Today a DNA profile made from a single hair would be conclusive and damning evidence. The identification of Ellis by his victims was the only evidence to tie him to the crimes.
Himel filed his motion to suppress the identification on the grounds that the police line-ups were unfair and denied his client due process. If somehow the court suppressed the identifications, Robert Ellis would be freed. Himel's motion was the talk of the courthouse and prosecutors and cops scrambled to figure out another way to keep Ellis behind bars. It all exploded one morning as Judge Louis B. Garippo granted Himel's motion. Since there was no additional evidence, Ellis was to be freed.
The Cook County State's Attorney, Edward V. Hanrahan got wind of the development and raced up to Judge Garippo's court chambers. The screaming could be heard down the long marble halls. Hanrahan's threats, demands and begging fell on deaf ears. Garippo was so incensed that he then recused from hearing any more of the case and sent it to the presiding Judge, Joe Power. The case was transferred to Judge Earl Strayhorn, who then ordered Ellis released.
An angry young prosecutor, Tony Corsentino waited for Ellis as he left the Cook County Jail. Ellis found himself repeatedly slapped in a most humiliating manner by this prosecutor on his way to freedom in the jail parking lot.
There was an attractive and delightful young woman that lived in the heart of the neighborhood of Ellis's crimes, 25 year-old, Ann Leybourne. Ann was just informed she was to be hired as a Chicago policewoman after taking a civil service examination with 7,000 other women, placing number six on the hiring list with a near-perfect score. Ann had burned out on her job as caseworker for the Cook County Department of Public Aid after a string of tragic events. Abused by the very people she was sent to help while trying to cope in an organization where no one seemed to care. Ann resigned from her position and moved forward to her new job at the police department.
In 1972, Policewomen in Chicago did not patrol the streets. They baby sat for the tender aged children that belonged to crime victims or that was under that care of someone arrested. They would search female suspects and assist the department with juvenile offenders. All policewomen were assigned to the Youth Division.
The 1972 the regulation uniform for a Chicago policewoman was a light blue blouse, a dark blue straight (and tight) skirt with a matching jacket, a beret with a small round shield. She would wear hose with high heels, and a large black leather purse that contained a regulation .38 special revolver, handcuffs and at least six extra rounds of ammunition. One her left breast area, was the Chicago police star, and on the right, a brass name tag that contained her last name. Her left shoulder sported a Chicago police cloth patch and her right shoulder contained the Chicago flag. But for the police star and patches you would think this was the uniform of an airline stewardess of that era.
As of 1972 no policewoman had ever been shot, let alone killed in the line of duty. Outside of one policewoman's isolated domestic dispute, shootings were unknown. This was a safe and well-paying job for any woman to have.
Ann began her training at the Chicago Police Academy on O'Brien Street. She excelled in every class subject but one, firearms training. Ann could not qualify with the revolver. Bullets would fly but the safest place downrange was Ann's target. Ann's heart was not in this aspect of her new job. The supervising range master, Sergeant Roy Swanson pulled recruit Leybourne aside. Unlike like the men Swanny (as his friends would call him) trained, he treated these young women with much more patience and understanding. Ann told Swanny that she hated guns and never expected to ever use one outside of the range. Swanny explained to Ann that she had to qualify or she may lose her new job. Swanny's suggestion was that Ann practice at a gun range during her off duty time in order to graduate from the academy and stay employed. Ann's did what she was told and passed her qualification by one point. Ann survived her 9th week to be sworn and receive her police star. This was not graduation but a turning point, Ann would have many weeks to complete in order to graduate and receive her first regular duty assignment as a policewoman.
View policewomen in Swanny's class here: http://crimefilenews.blogspot.com/2005/12/in-another-time-in-another-world.html
When any Chicago police recruit received his or her police star they are reminded that they are required to carry that and the service revolver at all times whether on or off duty. Ann considered this a bother. The gun did not seem to work with cocktail dresses should she have a night out. The kinds of purses she owned would make this rule a challenge. Ann did not want to create a problem for herself and followed the program.
Ann and a long time friend, Patrick Burke got invited to a New Year's party. After the party, around 2:00 A.M., Ann brought Patrick to his North side apartment, and then drove herself home. As she got out of her car, at her apartment building, after locking it and turning around she found a strange Black man with a gun pointed at her. Ann would soon learn she just met Robert Ellis, who was recently freed by a broken criminal justice system.
Ellis forced Ann to kneel on the passenger floor of her own car while he drove her car to the Cabrini Green public housing project. Ellis ordered Ann to perform oral sex on him as he drove. Ann stalled, not complying with the demand as she nearly forgot she was a policewoman or that she had a gun. Ann was able to convince Ellis to take his gun away from her head, this while she fumbled with her left had for her own gun. She pointed her gun at Ellis's stomach and was unable to pull the trigger with her left hand. Her left trigger finger was just not strong enough. Ann then remembered that if she could pull the hammer back, cocking the gun, it would be very easy to pull the trigger. Afraid that Ellis would hear her gun being cocked Ann waited until the Ellis drove up a slight bump to the Cabrni Green driveway. The bump muffled the sound of the gun. Ann repositioned her gun at Ellis and pulled the trigger. The gun fired striking Ellis in the mid-section, but the fight with him was far from over. Ellis was able to knock Ann's gun from her hand to the floor and Ann struggled with him until she was able to get Ellis's gun from under his leg. Ann shot Ellis 3 more times, with his own gun. Robert Ellis died behind the steering wheel of Ann's car.
Ann was convinced her new career was finished since she shot someone even before she had graduated from the academy. Nothing could be further from the truth as she found herself showered with awards from the department, the mayor (Richard J. Daley), and various civic organizations. One award she received was a curious looking trophy that was presented by Sergeant Roy Swanson. It was a police marksmanship trophy with a gold sculpture of a policeman pointing his gun. The policeman was wrapped in a little skirt made from blue construction paper. The award was engraved, "To Annie Leybourne, our number one gal, from the Chicago police range masters." In 1972, there were no shooting trophies made for policewomen.
The North side rape crime pattern ended, this time for good with the death of Robert Ellis. The young public defender, Ronald Himel went on to become a full Circuit Court Of Cook County Judge, retiring last year. The young prosecutor, Tony Corsentino went into semi-retirement as a public, juvenile lawyer. Tony was killed in 2004 during a swimming accident at a private lake in Pekin, Illinois. Ann went on to finish her career, retiring as a sergeant, and moved to Florida with her second husband, Detective Sergeant Jim Biebel. Her daughter, Sarah Erwin went on to college. Within a year Ann contracted pancreatic cancer. Ann would put up another valiant fight for her life. This time Ann lost at age 53.
A note: Annie is remembered not for her extraordinary survival of an encounter with Robert Ellis, but rather for whom she was, and the people who are much richer for knowing her, people like me, Paul Huebl.