Burton W. Abbott

5/24/2009


On April 28, 1955, 14-year-old Stephanie Bryan left Willard Junior High school in Berkley, CA at 3:30 pm on her way home. As she reached the Claremont Hotel she and her friend parted ways and she took her usual shortcut across the grounds of the hotel. She never arrived home.

The police launched a massive search but failed to come up with any leads as to her whereabouts. With few clues to follow the case remained in limbo for the next two months.

On the night of July 15, 1955, in Alameda, California, Georgia Abbott was entertaining guests, Otto and Leona Dezman, in her home. She lived with her husband, Burton W. Abbott, an accounting student at the University of California, and his mother. During the course of the evening Georgia talked about an amateur play she was writing and decided to go down in her basement and look for material to make a costume. In one of the boxes she found an unfamiliar red leather handbag. When she opened the purse she found a wallet which contained photographs of teenage girls, a half-written letter, and a student identification card with the name Stephanie Bryan on it. She took the purse along with its contents upstairs and showed them to her husband and guests. Otto Dezman took one look at the wallet and called the police.

When the police arrived and took possession of the evidence they questioned the occupants of the house who stated they had no idea how the handbag ended up in the basement. Burton Abbott went on to suggest that their garage had been used as a polling place during the May election and anyone could have hidden the bag at that time. The police indicated that they would like to return the next morning in order to search the basement and garage. Burton Abbott readily agreed and resumed playing his game of chess with Otto Dezman.

The next day as Abbott calmly worked on a crossword puzzle upstairs the police were busy digging in his basement. There they discovered more possessions belonging to Stephanie, including her glasses, bra, and some school books. Again they questioned Abbott and again he professed no knowledge of how they came to be found in his basement. He even offered to take a lie detector test which results were inconclusive. The police pressed Abbott for details as to his whereabouts on the day that Stephanie went missing. Abbott stated that he left his house that morning at 11 am and drove up to his family's cabin in Trinity County over 300 miles away.

While the police contemplated their next move, two newspaper reporters drove up to the cabin and enlisted the aid of local hunter, Harold Jackson. Jackson's two bloodhounds led the men to a mound on a hill about 300 yards behind the cabin. It turned out to be a shallow grave which held the body of a half-naked young girl. A pair of panties were tied around her neck. Her skull had nearly been caved in by several severe blows from a heavy object. Because of the state of decomposition the girl had to be identified by her remaining clothes. It was the body of Stephanie Bryan. Evidence of sexual assault could not be determined but was presumed to have happened. Burton Abbott was soon arrested and charged with her kidnapping and murder.

As the authorities investigated Abbott they were unable to uncover any evidence directly linking him to the death of Stephanie Bryan. Even though all of the evidence was circumstantial it did not stop the prosecution from going forward with the trial on November 7, 1955.

During the trial noted criminologist, Dr. Paul L. Kirk testified that he found fibers in Abbott's car that matched the sweater Stephanie Bryan had been wearing the day she disappeared. He also found head hair that matched Stephanie's and blood evidence, which could not be matched to Stephanie, in the fabric of the seats. Through the trial Abbott sat in the defendant's chair with an air of indifference giving little hint to whether or not he was concerned about the proceedings.

When he took the stand to proclaim his innocence he appeared arrogant and condescending towards the prosecution going so far as to claim that he had been framed by the police.

Abbott was found guilty of murder and kidnapping and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. He showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

At 11:15 am on March 15, 1957 Burton Abbott walked into the gas chamber at San Quentin. In a last ditch effort to get a stay of execution, Abbott's lawyers attempted to reach California's Governor Goodwin J. Knight who was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hancock. When the lawyers finally reached him on the ship-to-shore radio he agreed to grant only a one hour stay. He placed a call to his clemency secretary, Joseph G. Babich.

Babich placed a call to San Quentin and spoke with the warden. He asked if the execution had already started and the warden applied in the affirmative. When asked if it could be stopped he was informed that it was too late. The gas had already been released. Burton W. Abbott was pronounced dead at 11:25.


16 comments:

mandysmom1946@yahoo.com said...

I so remember this as was headline news day after day in the Oakland Tribune from start to finish. I was 8 going on 30 at the time and followed it closely. My mother didn't think I should have been reading it but didn't banish the newspaper from me when it came every day and any words that I didn't understand, I would ask or look up.
The case still haunts me and every year about this time, it comes back.I am in OR now but can't seem to shake this particular case. And I am still in the belief that he was innocent from several items that were in the Tribune at the time that his son said.I have read both books that were written by two columnists that followed the case in two diff newspapers. I know most of the involved parties have passed but can't help but wonder what happened to Burton's son. I had read that he changed his name and went into the military.I also understand that Stephanie' siblings, at least one,was in the bay area and owned a nursery.I hope all is well with all the remaining members of both families.My heart went out to them then and it still does to this day.
s
sd top

Anonymous said...

This story is incorrect in several instances. For one, the death was 3/15/57 not March 5th. Also, they did not have lethal injection back then. I remember it well as I lived in Oakland when all this happened. He was innocent and convicted on circumstantial evidence.

Anonymous said...

It is mentioned in error above that Bud Abbott was sentenced to death by lethal injection. As you state later it is that he was to die in the gas chamber.

FNE said...

Thank you for pointing out my errors. These old eyes aren't what they used to be

Anonymous said...

He had a history of sexual misconduct, including a complaint by a 13 yr old girl. Fibers and hair found in his car matched the victims sweater and hair. Many of her personal items were found at his home and her body is found at his cottage. Not sure how that points to his innocence?

realist2010 said...

Well, here is is, the end of April 2013 and still wondering about this case...Still wondering about any remaining relatives of those involved.Yes,he was framed on circumstantial evidence.wonder if there is any evifence left, physical, in a physical evidence box somewhere that could be tested now...

mandysmom1946

Anonymous said...

would the fact that it was indeed his wife which supposedly found the items in the basement and contrary to this story's saying...didn't call police until some time later...AAANNNNDDD...after Abort was executed the lead detective MARRIED Abbott's widow, perhaps change your uninformed opinion and question??? Hmmmmm...!!

mandysmom1946@yahoo.com said...

Georgia did not marry the lead detective as so many believe but married a wealthy cattleman They divorced and she retd to CA but with a different name...She also changed her sons name, he had a career in the military and served in publice service not in the bay area.

Anonymous said...

Conspiracy. Abbott's wife was having an affair with the chief detective. Wife and detective are murderers.

Anonymous said...

The lead detective did not marry Georgia Abbott. And Abbott had been trying to get little girls into his car for quite a while before the murder. Of course he was guilty. Circumstantial evidence was overwhelming in this case, and the possibility that anyone else committed the crime was nil.

Anonymous said...

My name is ric I lived right underneath Mr and Mrs Abbott I play and rode my red bike with Chris almost everyday. I have something I saw at that age in Mr. Abbotts apt. Chris had. Brought me up to meet his dad. Reach me at zenith 4949@yahoo.com. my name is Rick

Anonymous said...

I rode my bike everyday with. Burton's son Chris. I could write you what i saw when. Chris brought me up to meet his. Dad. Rick zenith4949@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Georgia Abbott did NOT marry the "lead detective" in her husband's murder case. That is pure fiction. She did marry a cattleman and moved out of State. She returned and settled in Petaluma, CA under the name of Georgia Ruby. Ironically she did not live far from Stephanie Bryan's younger sister, Cheryl who lives in Sebastopol, CA. Burton Abbott was a man who lived a miserable life. He suffered from TB and lived with both a domineering wife and mother. He did not work for a living and had a lot of time on his hands. An idle mind is the devil's workshop. I sincerely believe he was the perpetrator due to all of the collateral evidence in this case. In any event, it's all water under the bridge. He and his victim died close to 60 years ago.

Sahrahn Fuller said...

I agree, I am not sure why some of you believe he was innocent. He placed himself where the body was found as well as where some of her items were dumped.

Anonymous said...

the thing that interests me is the wallet; the one found with several pictures of teenage girls.....was this the present victims wallet? or was it a trophy case of some kind, and if it wasn't the victims, did they follow up on those photographs?

dameon swindle said...

Amen! !! This guy was super guilty . I live close to Wildwood , and had no idea about this case until today. I wonder if I can find where that cabin was ?

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