In 1913 the “world’s largest sun dial” was built on Entrata Court, in the middle of what had been the Ingleside race track, off Ocean Avenue. It was perhaps not the ideal location for a device that depends on sunshine to be built in one of the foggiest parts of San Francisco. It does have one unusual feature. If you climb to the top of this sundial you will be able to see the houses of the victim and of the perpetrator of the most famous murder in Ingleside history.
On the night of April 29, 1932. as Warren and Verna Louw walked On the night of April 29, 1932. as Warren and Verna Louw walked home from the El Rey Theater on Ocean Avenue they noticed a suspicious-looking automobile slowly circling the area. After the car drove off, the couple discovered the crumpled body of a woman lying on the pavement near the curb in front of 150 Kenwood Street .
She was soon identified by a neighbor as Jessie Scott Hughes, a 59-year-old widow who lived alone at 41 Lakewood Street . Public Defender Frank Egan could tell them more, the man said, for he was a close friend of Mrs. Hughes and managed her financial affairs.
The 50-year-old Egan was a well-respected figure in San Francisco's political and criminal justice circles. A former city police officer who had passed the bar and established a private law practice in 1914, he had been appointed the city's first Public Defender in 1918 and had been reelected continuously thereafter.
Egan said that his client had been in the habit of going on night hikes without a hat or coat, a practice he had warned her about repeatedly. Egan volunteered that he had attended the fights that night at Dreamland Auditorium at the time of Mrs. Hughes’ death.
When the car was located, the police learned that it had been borrowed by Verne Doran, a convicted burglar who worked as a chauffeur for Public Defender Frank Egan. Also under suspicion was Albert Tinnin, another ex-con who had been paroled through the intercession of the kindly public defender. Neither Doran nor Tinnin could be located.
As reporters and detectives investigated, a different picture of Frank Egan began to emerge. A bank had started foreclosure proceedings on the Egan home at 225 Urbano Drive to recover a $9000 mortgage that had gone unpaid. Dr. Alexander Keenan, who had treated Mrs Hughes, said that Egan refused to pay him, claiming that her funds had been exhausted.. At least three other women had their estates dwindle dramatically under Egan’s care.
In the midst of the investigation the police received a call from Egan, claiming that he had been kidnapped. A few days later Egan turned up in a private sanatorium on Steiner Street where, according to his spokesman and attorney, the legendary Vincent Hallinan, he was recovering from a nervous breakdown. Egan, said Hallinan, couldn't remember anything that had occurred since the preceding Saturday.
As the web of evidence drew around Egan and his two suspected accomplices, Egan's defenders rallied to his cause. It was all a frame-up. Attorney Hallinan and others charged, engineered to abolish the office of Public Defender. The police soon captured Tinnin and, as the authorities were closing in on him, Doran turned himself in to the police, confessed and implicated Egan.
Doran was the star witness for the prosecution, repeating in detail the story of how he and Tinnin had killed Mrs. Hughes at Egan's request. Despite the overwhelming evidence Attorney Hallinan mounted his customary spirited defense throughout. He finished off by going to jail on a charge of contempt for interrupting Prosecutor Golden during his closing arguments. On September 3, 1932 the case went to the jury and three days later they returned a verdict of guilty of first degree murder against both Egan and Tinnin. Their sentence was to be life in prison.
Egan never did admit to the crime and claimed that Tinnin had confessed only to expedite his own release. Over the years, Egan had made several futile attempts to seek an executive pardon and was finally paroled in October 1957. His object, he said in a post-release interview, was to clear his name. He died four years later still protesting his innocence.
"I had occasion to interview Vincent Hallinan in the early 1990s, more than half a century after the most famous San Francisco murder of the early 1930s and I asked him about Egan's claim of innocence, which some still claimed to support. Hallinan just smiled and rolled his eyes.”
Kevin Mullen, Ret Deputy Police Chief , San Francisco