“If you don’t kill her, the doctor will; if he doesn’t, I will.”
Raymond Bernard Finch, 42, was a successful Californian doctor who was having an affair with 23-year-old ex-model Carole Tregoff. Rather than just carrying on their illicit passion, they decided that life would be simpler without the presence of his wife, Barbara. Finch was part owner of West Covina Medical Center and had married Barbara, his second wife, in 1951. Barbara turned a blind eye to Finch’s indiscretions and agreed to separate but not to divorce. Unbeknown to his wife, Finch rented an apartment under a false name and installed his mistress, Tregoff, who was going through a divorce. In 1959 her divorce became legal and Finch wanted to marry her.
Under Californian law, Barbara was entitled to half Finch’s $750,000 fortune and, if adultery could be proved, the court could award Barbara Finch all his estate plus alimony, which would have ruined Finch financially as well as socially. Finch and Tregoff decided to arrange for Barbara to be caught in a compromising position so that they could blackmail her. They hired ex-con John Cody to seduce her and then changed the deal to murder for the payment of $1,400. He did not go through with his part of the bargain so Finch and Tregoff decided to kill Barbara themselves.
At 10pm on 18 July they visited Barbara’s home. Not long after they arrived Mrs Finch was found on the driveway of her home, a .38-calibre bullet in her back and her husband standing over with a gun in his hand. Finch and Tregoff were arrested. He claimed that his wife had produced the gun, they had struggled and he took the gun off her but as he threw it on to the ground it discharged the fatal shot.
Lark Hill Drive, West Covina, California, USA
Saturday 18 July 1959
Finch and Tregoff went on trial at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on 4 January 1960. John Cody testified that he had told Finch, “Killing your wife for money alone isn’t worth it… Let her have every penny… Take Carole… up on a mountaintop and live off the wild.
If the girl loves you, she’s going to stick with you.” He alleged that Tregoff had told him, “Jack, you can back out. But if you don’t kill her, the doctor will; and if he doesn’t, I will.” Despite this apparently damning testimony the jury failed to reach a verdict and the trial collapsed on 12 March. A second trial between 27 June and 7 November 1960 also did not reach a verdict.
On 3 January 1961 a third trial began and on 27 March resulted in guilty verdicts — he of first-degree murder, she of second-degree. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment. Tregoff was paroled in 1969 and changed her name to work in Pasadena. She still lives in the area. Her former lover was released in 1971 and he returned to medical practice. He died in 1995.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
During their incarceration, Finch wrote often to Tregoff. She never replied.