It was shortly after 12 p.m. on a pleasant Wednesday in April 1934, and the man calling the office of Sheriff E. F. Cooper of San Diego County, California, gave his name as Martinez. He said he had gone with friends to the Black Mountain picnic area, and their outing had been ruined by a shocking discovery. They had found a young woman’s corpse hanging from a tree.

The rope around the girl’s throat was tied in two half-hitches, thrown up over a stout branch of the tree, the other end firmly secured to some bushes. The officers lowered the body to the ground, where Coroner Schuyler Kelly examined it.

“She was knocked unconscious before she was hanged,” he said, pointing to a bruise above her right ear. Two strips of adhesive tape had been drawn up from beneath her chin across her lips and over her nose. “Looks like the killer was afraid she’d revive and scream before he got the noose ready,” said the sheriff.

On the ground near the tree lay the girl’s pretty print dress. The parcels scattered nearby were found to contain other articles of clothing, all new and apparently the victim’s size. An army blanket lay among the parcels. A thick carpet of leaves made it useless to search for footprints…