If These Walls Could Talk, Part II: Horrific Murder-Suicide Shocks Campbell

Ever get curious about the history of your house? Imagine our surprise to discover ours was built by a prominent Campbellite who met with a tragic end.

In we traced the history of our property from Santa Clara Mission grazing land to Benjamin Campbell to J.C. Ainsley to 1947 when our house was built. Here in Part II we share the story of the prominent Campbellite who built our house.

In 1943 James Benjamin Arends and his sons J.B., Jr. and Emerson ("Doc") purchased the Campbell Lumber Company, located on the corner of E. Campbell Ave and Foote next to the railroad tracks. Established in 1895 as the Campbell branch of the Santa Clara Valley Mill and Lumber Company, the Campbell Lumber Company supplied much of the building materials for this growing town. At the time of its closing in 1983 the Campbell Lumber Company was Campbell's oldest business.

Shortly afterwards 19-year-old J.B., Jr. joined the Navy, met and married Evelyn Roop in 1944 in Cincinnati, was discharged in 1947 and returned to Campbell with his wife. He purchased a lot in a new subdivision from the Ainsley Corporation just two blocks from his family's lumber business and buildt our house. That same year he and Evelyn had twin girls.

In 1948 J.B., Jr. became the founding President of the Campbell Rotary Club and in 1952 he was elected to Campbell's very first City Council (see photo).

In 1955 J.B., Jr. had an affair. He divorced Evelyn and gave her our house, married Wanda (a divorcee with four kids) in a quickie Nevada wedding in September 1956 and moved to Saratoga, resigning from his second term on the Campbell City Council as he was no longer a resident.

Just four months later in January 1957 Evelyn died of a stroke at age 38 and JB's twin girls moved in with him and Wanda (and her four girls).

Double Murder-Suicide Shocks Campbell Residents

J.B., Jr. and Wanda fought. A lot. And after five months of marriage Wanda kicked him out of the house and told him she wanted a divorce. A week later, on February 8, 1957 a raging J.B., Jr. bought a gun from the Campbell Liquors and Sporting Goods store at 350 E. Campbell Ave. and talked the owner into waiving the 72-hour waiting period saying he needed it to kill gophers in his yard (for which the owner was eventually fined $10.00). He then promptly drove to his house in Saratoga, barged in, entered the bedroom, argued with Wanda and shot her to death with one bullet, turning the gun on his sister-in-law Mary Lou Alfrey who had rushed into the room upon hearing them argue, shooting her four times, then turned the gun on himself. He was just 33 years old. Doc's wife Helen, J.B., Jr.'s other sister-in-law, who was also visiting at the time, called the police.

First police officer on the scene was rookie Donald Burr, whom you might recognize as former Campbell Police Chief, City Council member, and Mayor. Though the house was in Saratoga, he and his partner were the closest officers in the area when the call came in and were sent to the scene at 12460 Brook Glen Dr., just a mile from W. Campbell and Saratoga avenues. We were able to interview Don about this incident and he recalled it vividly as he was just five months into his new job as a police officer and this was his first "shots fired" call. Thinking somone's life might be in danger, he burst into the bedroom not knowing whether or not he would be met with a hail of bullets, to find a horrific scene.

Stay tuned for Part III where we'll share our tips for how to research the history of YOUR house.

Got a house with an interesting history?

Please share in the Comments area below!

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David and Darlene Steele February 26, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Makes you think, huh? Relationships are our biggest source of joy and pain...
Sandy Richards March 07, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Wow! What a story! What happened to all those kids?
David and Darlene Steele September 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
One of the twin girls surprised us and came by to visit her old house and we had a great time talking with her about the house, her parents, and her childhood memories in the house. She rounded out the story a bit by sharing her perspective that Wanda was a gold-digger who married her Dad for his money and divorced him so quickly to cash in. According to her, just before "the incident" he told her "someday you'll understand...."


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