Henry Ford McCracken, Photo courtesy: OCSD
1951: Henry Ford McCracken was convicted of luring 12-year-old Patricia Jean Hull from a neighborhood movie theater into his auto-court cottage in Buena Park on May 19, 1951.
Once he had her under his control, he sexually assaulted the girl before he bludgeoned her to death. Her body was found several days later near what is now O’Neill Park.
McCracken’s trial and subsequent three-year battle to escape the gas chamber drew media coverage across the United States. First-year lawyer George Chula, who later became one of Orange County’s most prominent criminal attorneys, used hypnosis to help his client recall the events as part of a defense that McCracken was mentally deficient.
It didn’t work. McCracken, 36, was put to death Feb. 19, 1954. Chula traveled to San Quentin and watched as his client was executed.