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'Changeling' film has I.E. connections

October 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Angelina Jolie's new film "Changeling," centers around her son who goes missing. But, the true story behind the mystery has connections in the Inland Empire, where the town of Mira Loma is now buzzing over the 80-year-old case.In "Changeling," Angelina Jolie plays a Los Angeles woman whose son goes missing in 1928. The boy police find and return to her turns out not to be her son at all.

While the movie focuses on corruption and mistakes made by police, the story's core has roots in the Inland Empire. The thought is her son was actually murdered at a ranch in Wineville, at the home of serial killer and pedophile Gordon Northcott.

Northcott's house still stands in present-day Mira Loma. That thought sends chills up resident Glenda Leyva's spine because she lives in that very house.

"It was kind of scary at first to find out that an evil person like that lived in this house -- in my own house like that. I'm stepping, walking in the same halls and places that he walked and did all those terrible things," said Leyva.

No one knows how many boys Northcott abused and murdered in the house Leyva now calls home.

Investigators say Northcott killed his victims with an ax in the chicken coops in back of the house. The coops are all gone. Today, it is the place where Noemi Alvarado's home stands.

"I have a boy, and those were boys too. It's unsettling," said Alvarado.

Historian Steve Lech had a hard time finding the Northcott home since the neighborhood has filled in. Despite how infamous the "Chicken Coop Murders" were back in the 1920s, hardly anyone remembers the story today. Some say that may be intentional.

"This broke nationwide, and this brought a lot of negative attention to the area. And so the citizens changed the name of Wineville to Mira Loma," said Lech.

Residents in Mira Loma did such a good job forgetting about Wineville that they didn't know about the specifics to the murders until the movie came out. In fact, driving around, the only sign that there ever was a Wineville is a street sign.

While the story is a big part of Mira Loma's history, it's not a topic many want to revisit.

When asked if she was going to watch "Changeling" Glenda Leyva said, "My husband wants to, but I don't think so, it's just, I'm trying to forget."

Forgetting may be easier said than done. The Chicken Coop Murders are the talk of the town all over again.


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