Museum at LA's Hall of Justice to feature jail cell occupied by famous felons

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Fragments of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's history have been stored in books and boxes throughout the years. A catalog of 165 years of photos and relics will now be moved into a new museum in the basement of the renovated Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles, where it will offer visitors a look into the building's past.

The jail was a state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1925, but deputies soon learned it had significant security flaws.

"The first year, we had nearly 20 escapes," said LASD historian Michael Fratantoni. "The first escape was a 16-year-old kid [who] attempted to climb down the building -- the classic, tying sheets together. He actually fell to his death."

PHOTOS: L.A.'s Hall of Justice once home to notorious criminals


The jail housed notorious serial killer Charles Manson, Robert Mitchum and Sirhan Sirhan, who killed Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. It also housed many common folks too, especially in the late 1800s when people were just plain-hungry.

"People were getting arrested, basically, just to come to the county jail for a meal," Fratantoni said.

On his first day in his new office in the Hall of Justice, Sheriff Jim McDonnell says that history is what both the public and the department learns from.

"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us," McDonnell said. "It's our duty to be able to build on that foundation and leave things better for the future generations than they were for us."

There's no estimate on when the museum will open. Fratantoni says there's a mountain of work still ahead to archive a century-and-a-half of true crime and true crime-solving.
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