ChesterNewMatterFall2017 - 25

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devised a perfect crime. Cotter had few friends, was estranged
from his family, and unlikely to be missed by anyone. No
one would care if he were alive or dead. Harrington recalled
reading somewhere that a victim struck on the skull with
a hammer would not leave much blood. So the two coldly
and methodically carried out the plan by placing an extra
thick sheet on the couch where Cotter often fell asleep while
watching television. They waited several days for the right
night when Cotter seemed to fall into a deep sleep. Harrington
smashed Cotter's forehead with a claw hammer, battering,
again and again, and told Johnson to hold down Cotter's
reflexive, defensively raised hands. After many savage blows,
Cotter moaned and went limp as his life force slipped away.
Harrington handed the hammer to Johnson to strike one final
blow, the coup de grace for Cotter. Several pieces of Cotter's
skull tumbled to the floor. Johnson put the flesh
and bony fragments in a garbage bag and
threw the bag into a trash can. They
then emptied his pockets and
wrapped the body in the sheet,
dropped him down on a rug
by the couch, and rolled
the rug around him, like
a tight shroud around
a corpse. Some blood
oozed onto the wooden
floor which Johnson
wiped off.
Disposing of the body was
the linchpin to their perfect crime. Jacob Pierce,
a close friend, owed them a favor. They had provided weed
to him in the past and loaned him some money. Johnson
telephoned Pierce and asked him to bring his Toyota pickup to
the apartment to transport something late that night. When
Pierce arrived, they calmly told Pierce they killed Cotter
whom Pierce also disliked. Pierce seemed to care less and
agreed to help. Friendship knew no bounds. The three of them
lifted the wrapped body into the bed of the pickup, threw in
a shovel, and drove four miles to an isolated, unlit area of the
Carquinez Strait Drive, where the roadside was covered with
thick bushes and trees. The only thing interfering with the
heavily concealed area was a low lying pipeline running from
the Martinez Refinery, along the river, through the town of
Crockett. Harrington had hiked along the remote road during
high school.
They walked a long distance away from the road, with
flashlights, crossed over the pipeline, dug a shallow grave and
covered the body where no one would ever find it. Johnson
heaved the hammer into the black hole of darkness, never
to be found. The three then went back to the apartment to
wash up and celebrate with a six pack of beer and some weed.
Harrington told Jacob Pierce he could have anything from

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Cotter's room, but there was nothing worthwhile to take.
Harrington and Johnson had already taken the only thing
Cotter had - his life.
On the next morning, Johnson scrubbed up small blood
traces that had trickled onto the hardwood paneled floor, and
straightened up the room. If anyone asked about Cotter, they
agreed to say he left early the night before with a duffel bag of
clothes and never came back. But who was likely to care or
inquire? Cotter would be quickly forgotten like a discarded
photograph that no one wants to keep or remember.
Harrington and Johnson went about their business that
morning, confident in their deception. It was a warm July 1 in
Martinez.
Dikē seemingly intervened as only she could. Once
a year, only on July 1 and at no other time, a refinery
engineer on foot inspected the couplings of the
Carquinez pipeline to ensure public safety. By late
afternoon, a weary Charles McCollum had
inspected and photographed three miles of
connections and was about to leave
for the day, when something
seemed to turn his gaze
through the underbrush
to a disturbed area of
piled
up dirt, about fifty
yards
down from
where he
was. He felt
compelled
to walk over
to the fresh
mound and
kicked a protruding
corner of
a rug. McCollum
kicked some
more with his steel-toed
work boot and
exposed a recently dug hole,
with dirt and leaves
covering a six foot carpet. A red tennis shoe extended out of
one end. The carefully concealed body was discovered less than
twenty-four hours after the slaying. The perfect crime had not
survived a day.
The Sheriff 's investigating detectives arrived, sealed off the
crime scene, and looked for identification on the body. But
there was no wallet, nothing to identify the battered, young
male victim except part of a tiny, wadded up receipt from a
Martinez pool hall, stuffed deep in the bottom of a pocket.
A sheriff 's aide felt an impulse to reach into the pocket a
second time, pushed her small fingers down to the bottom
and fortuitously found the thin, crumpled piece of paper. The
coroner's office took charge of the body.

Continued on page 26
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