The Small-Town Murder of Marjorie Winn
A 17-year-old homecoming queen from Redlands, California, shot to death by an unknown bandit turned murderer
Lucky. That’s how James Sloan Jr of Redlands, California must have felt when the object of his affections agreed to go with him to a Palm Springs Rodeo as his date on February 7, 1948. Her name was Marjorie Lee Winn. Margie was a 17-year-old high school senior. She was stunning, with raven hair and piercing dark eyes. Margie was a notable contender for Redlands High School homecoming queen. James, a young veteran and budding photographer, thought he might use the opportunity to photograph the beautiful girl.
Like James, Margie came from a well-to-do San Bernardino County family. Her father was a successful pharmacist, and his family found their fortune in southern tobacco and the California citrus industries. A union between them would have almost certainly been a fairy tale. Unfortunately, Margie’s joie de vivre wouldn’t carry into a marriage. Instead, her minister would recall it during her eulogy in a few short days, as a stranger’s gunshot ended her life before the lovers made it home.
A Shot in the Dark
After a full night of dancing, drinking, and people-watching, James drove west on California State Highway 99 towards home. Around 230 AM, February 8, 1948, the couple pulled off the road about four miles east of Beaumont, California, to synchronize their wristwatches with the clock on James’ dashboard. James was 25 years old and had all the time in the world to spend with his girl. Margie didn’t worry about a curfew that night since she didn’t live with her mother, and her father was out on a fishing trip.
The spot, known as “The Badlands,” was dark and lonely, surrounded by heavy shrubland typical to Southern California’s wild-grown areas. James had no time to put the car in park before a stranger appeared from the thicket, yanked open Margie’s door, and pressed a gun to her side.
“Give me all your money!” The man demanded.
Margie wasn’t having it. “Step on it!” she yelled. When James stepped on the accelerator, the stranger pulled his trigger, sending a bullet through Margie’s side. “I’ve been shot,” Margie…