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People v. Kroeger

March 31, 1964

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
IVA KROEGER AND RALPH KROEGER, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS



APPEALS [one automatically taken under Pen. Code, ยง 1239, subd. (b)] from judgments of the Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco. Harry J. Neubarth, Judge.

In Bank. Gibson, C. J. Traynor, J., Peters, J., Tobriner, J., and Peek, J., concurred. Schauer, J. McComb, J., concurred.

Gibson

Iva Kroeger and her husband, Ralph, were indicted for the murders of Mildred and Jay Arneson. Defendants pleaded not guilty, and Iva entered a further plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury found defendants guilty of first degree murder on each of the counts, determined that Iva was sane when the offenses were committed, and fixed the punishment of both defendants at death. Their motions for a new trial and Iva's motion for modification of the penalty were denied, but the court reduced Ralph's punishment to life imprisonment. Iva's appeal comes before us automatically under subdivision (b) of

section 1239 of the Penal Code, and it has been consolidated with an appeal taken by Ralph.

In the autumn of 1961 the victims were living in Santa Rosa, where Mildred Arneson, then 58 years of age, owned and operated the Rose City Motor Court. Jay Arneson, who was about 10 years older and from whom she had been divorced in 1958, suffered from Parkinson's disease in an advanced stage and resided at the motor court. Early in November Iva and Ralph Kroeger, finding themselves in financial difficulties, left their home in San Francisco and came to Santa Rosa, telling friends that they wanted to avoid creditors. They registered at the Blue Bonnet Motel under the assumed names of Eva and Ralph Long, which they continued to use during the months that followed. The Blue Bonnet Motel was located across the street from the Rose City Motor Court, and, sometime before the middle of December, Iva became acquainted with Mrs. Arneson. The Kroegers, like Mr. Arneson, were Rosicrucians.

On or about December 10, 1961, Iva talked to the owner of the Blue Bonnet about purchasing the Rose City Motor Court, stating she had received $144,000 in settlement of an accident claim. On December 14 Mrs. Arneson wrote to her mother that she was going on a trip to Brazil with a Rosicrucian woman, that they would start in a few days, drive to San Diego, and leave the car there, and that the woman, who had received an accident settlement of $100,000, would pay Mrs. Arneson's round-trip air fare to Brazil, and would lend her $10,000 and "take the Rose City Court as security." Mrs. Arneson purchased $1,550 in traveler's checks and made preparations to leave the country.

On December 15 Mrs. Arneson had a deed notarized which transferred her motor court to "Mrs. Eva Long," and on the same day Mrs. Arneson and Iva left Santa Rosa in the former's automobile. Iva told the man who helped them load the car that Mrs. Arneson was going to San Francisco to make arrangements for her trip. That evening two of Mrs. Arneson's traveler's checks totaling $120 were cashed at a San Francisco department store, and $100 was paid on an account the Kroegers had there. The next day Iva and Mrs. Arneson's automobile were back in Santa Rosa, but Mrs. Arneson did not return with her.

Immediately on her return to Santa Rosa, Iva told several persons that she had bought the Rose City Motor Court as well as Mrs. Arneson's car. The Kroegers began to operate

the motor court, Iva collected the rents, and Ralph did a considerable amount of painting and decorating. On December 17, Iva ordered Mrs. Arneson's belongings removed from her bedroom, and Ralph burned them. Within a week the remaining traveler's checks Mrs. Arneson had purchased were used for various purposes, including a payment on a loan to the Kroegers. Although all the checks so used were signed with Mrs. Arneson's name, none of the signatures was hers. Iva was seen signing Mrs. Arneson's name to some of the checks, and she identified herself as Mrs. Arneson in using others. On January 3, 1962, Iva recorded the deed which Mrs. Arneson had executed in her favor. Iva, holding herself out as the owner, borrowed substantial sums of money from two banks, and a promissory note given to one of the banks was signed by Ralph and Iva under their assumed names.

Early in January, Mrs. Arneson's sister, Beatrice Brunn, who was told that the telephone at the Rose City Motor Court had been disconnected when she tried to call that number, asked the Santa Rosa Police Department to investigate. An officer gave Iva the sister's name to call, and on that day the sister received a telephone call from a "Mrs. Long." The caller said, among other things, that Mrs. Arneson had gone on a trip to South America on December 16 and had left her in charge of Mr. Arneson and the motor court, which had been sold, that she did not know who the buyer was, and that there was no need to worry because she had received a card from Mrs. Arneson mailed in Mexico.

In the latter part of January Iva told Walter Hughes, who was living at the Rose City Motor Court, that she was having some plumbing work done in her home in San Francisco and asked him to dig a hole there for her 4 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. He agreed and drove to San Francisco with Iva, a woman named Penny Mills, and Mr. Arneson. When they arrived at the Kroeger home after dark, Iva asked Hughes to move some boxes of dirt out of the garage, located in the basement. The floor of the garage was made of smooth concrete except for a rough area which Miss Mills noticed near a post in the center of the garage. At the direction of Iva, Hughes dug a hole in a corner of the garage, working about two hours. He and Miss Mills then drove with Iva and Mr. Arneson to a hospital, where he and Iva helped Mr. Arneson to the hospital door. Iva took Mr. Arneson inside and returned to say that Mr. Arneson would be detained a

little longer than she had anticipated and that she would wait for the doctor. She told Hughes and Miss Mills to take the car and go back to Santa Rosa. Hughes saw Iva in Santa Rosa the next day, but never saw Mr. Arneson again. Mr. Arneson's doctor testified that he did not treat him after September 1961, and records of the hospital showed that Mr. Arneson had not been a patient there after that time.

On February 12 a Red Cross worker made inquiries about Mr. Arneson at the Rose City Motor Court. Iva said, in the presence of Ralph, that about three weeks earlier at 1 a.m., Mrs. Arneson had come in a white Cadillac with a Mr. Dillon (Mrs. Arneson had previously been married to a man named Bill Dillon) and that they had taken Mr. Arneson away either to a hospital in San Francisco or to Brazil.

The following day, Mrs. Arneson's mother, who lived in Yakima, Washington, received a telephone call from a woman who identified herself as Erma Long. Among the things the woman said were that she did not know where Mrs. Arneson was, that she might be in Mexico or Brazil, and that she had come to get Mr. Arneson in a white Cadillac about 2 a.m. on January 19 with a tall, fair man named Bill Dillon. The mother said that Bill Dillon was dark, and the woman replied that Mr. Arneson identified the man as Bill Dillon and that he ought to know. The woman asked the mother if she thought some man had "got ahold of" Mrs. Arneson and "did her in." The mother said she thought the new owner of the motor court had harmed Mrs. Arneson, and the caller retorted that she was the new owner and was a respectable woman. The owner of the Blue Bonnet Motel testified that Iva had told him that she had spent $9.00 in telephoning Mrs. Arneson's mother.

Within a few weeks after the telephone call Mrs. Arneson's mother and sister respectively received a letter and a telegram purporting to be from Mrs. Arneson and bearing the signature "Mildred." Ordinarily, in writing to her family Mrs. Arneson signed her name as "Mil." The letter received by the mother was written on a typewriter Iva had borrowed from a tenant at the Rose City Motor Court. The telegram was addressed to the sister as "Beatrice Brown" rather than "Brunn." (When the police officer gave Iva the sister's name to call in January, he wrote the surname as "Brown.") The sender of the telegram used a pay telephone in the vicinity of Salinas, and Iva was in that area at the

time the telegram was sent and made a call from a telephone booth.

In the last week of February, Iva and a woman named Inez Willets went to the Kroeger home in San Francisco and entered the garage, in a corner of which Miss Willets saw a square pile of dirt about a foot higher than the floor. They made another visit to San Francisco early in March, at which time Iva had Miss Willets buy some sacks of cement for her, waiting in the car while the purchase was made. Iva moved the sacks, each weighing about 90 pounds, from the car into the garage at the Kroeger home and said that "Mr. Long" would come down in a few days and help "the old man" fix the basement. About a week later Iva was with Miss Willets in Santa Rosa and asked her to wait until Ralph got back from "the City." Ralph finally came in, and Iva asked him, "Well, did you get the old man fixed up?" He answered, "Yes."

In April Iva and Ralph employed a contractor, Francis Kennison, to cut a door through a partition in their basement in San Francisco, and he noticed that the floor of the garage was made of greenish cement except for two rough, white patches, one in a corner and the other near a post. The Kroegers told him that the patches were there because those parts of the floor had been "dug out" when "the plumbing had plugged up." After he started his work the Kroegers asked him to make a new cement floor over the existing one. He suggested that it would be necessary to remove the old cement, and they insisted they did not want him to do so. When the time came to pour the new floor, Kennison picked up a sledgehammer and began to break some of the old cement. The Kroegers angrily stopped him and said they did not want the concrete broken. After the new floor had been poured, the Kroegers hired Kennison to install a wooden floor over it. Within a few days Ralph resumed working in San Francisco as a hod carrier, employment he had left in November of 1961.

In May, Iva advertised the Rose City Motor Court for sale at a price of $72,000. Later that month she had an altercation with a man in Santa Rosa during which she drew a gun, and a warrant for her arrest was issued but she could not be found during the several weeks that followed. The police, in the course of investigating the connection of the Kroegers with the disappearance of the Arnesons, went to the Kroeger home in San Francisco on August 20 and dug in the garage. They found Mr. Arneson's body buried in a corner where the

old cement floor had been roughly patched, and Mrs. Arneson's body in a grave near a post in the center of the garage. ...


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