Abused father's story told in son's book
The son of a boy from Saskatoon who was an unwilling accomplice and victim in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders in California in the 1920s is telling his father's story in a book.
TheRoad Out of Hell, written by Anthony Flacco with Jerry Clark, tells the story of Jerry's father Sanford Clark, who was sent from his home in Saskatoon at the age of 13 to live and work on his uncle's chicken ranch in Wineville, Calif.
However, the plan to have the boy help raise chickens was a cruel ruse. The book recounts the long months of his imprisonment, torture and enslavement as his uncle, Gordon Stewart Northcott, went on a murderous rampage.
"All before his 15th birthday," Jerry Clark told CBC News. "My father was abused, sexually and physically, almost from the time he was there. He was also put into a pit and chained up."
In 1928, Northcott abducted, raped, tortured and killed some 20 boys, forcing Sanford to help him.
It all came to an end when Sanford's sister came to check on him and the authorities moved in.
Northcott was arrested, convicted of murder and executed. Sarah Louise Northcott, Gordon's mother, pleaded guilty to the murder of a nine-year-old boy and spent 12 years behind bars.
Sanford Clark spent two years in a progressive-style reformatory in California.
What followed was a story of evil replaced by love and devotion and a life reclaimed. Sanford went on to be a model citizen back home in Saskatoon right up until his death in 1991.
The astonishing story, which formed the basis of the Clint Eastwood movie Changeling was one Jerry Clark said he had been meaning to write for decades.
"I thought, "Well, you know, I've got to get his side out there in case there's some people that say, 'Oh yeah, why did he do it, or this and that? Why didn't he get more time, or something?' And I wanted them to see the kind of guy he was," Jerry Clark said.
Clark was a teenager, on his way to a hockey game with his father, when Sanford Clark told him about his terrible past.
Although he led a productive life, served during the Second World War and returned to work as a postal worker for many years, his depression and sense of guilt never completely left him, Jerry Clark said.
"He kept saying to me, 'I should have done something,'" he said.