Chapter 14


Crime Scene

Various Internet websites contain the following encyclopedic reference:
"Victor Licata (ca. 1912-December 4, 1950) was an axe murderer who killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa, Florida on October 16, 1933, allegedly while under the influence of marijuana.     Declared unfit to stand trial for reasons of insanity, subsequent psychiatric examination at the Florida State Hospital for the Insane determined that the 21-year-old Licata suffered from "dementia praecox with homicidal tendencies", but marijuana was not mentioned in psychiatric reports as having any bearing on his actions.     Licata had already been identified as mentally ill and there had been steps to incarcerate him before his crime. "
Which is probably the way that most of the world remembers him today.     Example: [], under famous people who died in the year 1950, lists him simply as “MURDERER”.     That’s it, nothing more.     Everyone else gets, “Ballet dancer”, “Scientist” etc., or something like that, but not Victor.     But worse still, if you click on his name, you will be directed to the above description of him.     Now you will find – a murderer who suffered from Dementia-Praecox” WITH HOMICIDAL TENDENCIES.”.

Now here it should be stated that the author makes no pretense about having any psychological training, he has none.     Additionally, (try as one may), he has not been able to figure out exactly what “Dementia Praecox” really is.     The best he has been able to figure it out is as follows:
  • DEMENTIA obviously means illusions/delusions or dreams

  • PRAECOX is a form of schizophrenia or split personality.
Thus Dementia-Praecox is -- “Well, let me put it to you this way, we all talk to ourselves a bit (which is normal), but in Victor’s case, someone (or something) started talking back.     Dementia-Praecox with Homicidal Tendencies, thus means that this other (he, she, they, it) was telling him to kill.

Granted a true psychologist would greatly disagree with the technicalities of this definition, but it makes it easy for a psychological simpleton (aka, this author) to understand.     It also makes it easy for the layperson to separate the term “Dementia-Praecox” which Victor probably had, from the term “With Homicidal Tendencies,” which he probably DIDN’T have.     AND if Victor Licata DID NOT have “Homicidal Tendencies” then half the case against him drops.     BUT WAIT, doesn’t this counteract the evidence?     Wasn’t Victor:
  • Diagnosed with dementia-praecox (with homicidal tendencies) at the time of this arrest?

  • Wasn’t he continuously diagnosed with the same aliment (dementia-praecox with homicidal tendencies) over and over again at the state asylum; ---By various medical personal and psychiatrists?

  • Didn’t he admit that he killed his family?

  • Didn’t he sign a written confession that he committed the murders?

  • Didn’t he kill another inmate during the time that he was at the state asylum?
The answer to most of the above is NO.     To demonstrate this, let’s do what we did with the physical evidence and examine it one by one, piece by piece.

First, let’s look at the following allegation -- which if true would imply that Victor did indeed have homicidal tendencies and ws thus (in all probability) guilty of killing his family.

Several Internet sites have made the claim that while at the state asylum Victor Licata killed yet again; this time the victim being another asylum patient.     Most of these web-sites make this statement while reproducing Earle Rowell’s classic booklet; “ON THE TRAIL OF MARIHUANA, THE WEED OF MADNESS.”   Within its pages, one can find an obvious semi-editorial insert which reads as follows:
“Victor Licata is a real person, and he did butcher his family on 17 October, 1933.     However, as you might suspect, Victor had problems that went way beyond his alleged marijuana use.     Licata was committed to a mental hospital, where he (presumably in the absence of marijuana) killed another patient and later committed suicide.”
However, after contacting the individuals who run these various web-sites, it becomes clear that none of them know exactly where the quotation (nor its source of information) originally came from.     All of them stated that they had just borrowed it from some other website for use on their own.     Something that this museum does a lot, no shame there.   [14A]

This of and by itself should raise a few eyebrows.     Also note that there is no, Who, What, Where.   No date in which this happened, no victims name, nothing that can be tracked down.     Which is exactly what we tried to do.     But neither the State Asylum (which is still in operation today), nor the county coroner, nor the county clerk, nor the local police, nor the Sheriff's office . . . etc., know anything about the matter.

In addition, there is also circumstantial evidence that clearly points to this being ---yet one more Internet fabrication.     Let us look at how Victor escaped captivity in 1945.     Alone, given his stature (remember he only weighed 113 pounds), he probably could never have escaped, --- But he was not working alone.

  Essentially, he, along with a group of other patients (most of them sleeping in the same communal dorm area), decided it was time to leave and as a team they began working together toward that end.     They got together and after numerous nights, somehow managed to cut the bars on one of their second story windows.     Then, using their bed sheets as a rope, simply climbed down one night and made a run for it.   ----- QUESTION:   Assume Victor had killed that other inmate and given his historical past, would he have been allowed to sleep in a communal area with numerous other inmates?     The answer is obvious.

Thus, the reasons why we do NOT BELIEVE that Victor Licata killed anyone while at the state asylum and the above often quoted Internet quotation (written by an unknown person) is false.


      QUESTION:   Didn’t Victor Licata sign a written confession (in effect) admitting to the murders?
      ANSWER:     As Victor Licata was never given an actual trial, never given access to a lawyer, we will probably never know.     If he did, no known copies of such a confession (and believe me we’ve looked for it) are still in existence.

The only evidence that such a confession even existed comes from the Inside Detective (July 1938) article by W. D. Bush, who as we have already shown was a good spinner of tall tales, but not very big on actual accuracy.     It reads as follows:
“I walked across the cell towards the door and his haunted eyes followed me.     “I’ll prove all these things, Victor.     Every-one of them,” I told him.

His reply brought me to his side again.     “I did it,” he shouted.     “They were going to send me to an institution.     I was smoking reefers.     I smoked a lot that night.     I knew they were going to shut me up.     I felt it and it drove me crazy.     I knew something awful was bound to happen.     I got the axe and---and I---I killed Providence first.     I killed her first and then I went mad.”

HIS SIGNED confession was on my desk the next day.   But we never took him to trial.     The family’s lawyer petitioned the court that in his opinion Victor Licata was dangerously insane.     They placed him under close guard at the state hospital in Chattahoochee, Florida, where he was committed by the judge and where he will remain the rest of his days.”
Unfortunately (once more), while the given statements (above) were made by the chief detective in the case (first person account or not), his record for truthfulness just wasn’t all that great.     Thus, our belief that no such written confession was ever made.

However, for the sake of argument, let us pretend that he had.     Would such a written confession have any meaning in a court of justice?     Or for that matter would it have any meaning to any twelve semi-intelligent individuals out on the street?

  Let us never forget that Victor Licata, in addition to having been in a state of ‘Shell Shock’ at the time, was also mentally autistic and as such could easily have been tricked (or conned) into signing just about anything the police would have put in front of him.

And for those of you who feel OUR POLICE force is there to serve and protect, that they would never do such a thing.     Just remember the very subject nature of this book – chapter 2 pretty much says it all about the nature of things.     In fact, it now turns out that the police have extorted so many false confessions [14B] (especially from mentally autistic people) that it’s a wonder that such confessions are still admissible as evidence in a court of law.     Let’s just say that it seems the police have a knack for intimidating frightened people into doing just about anything.     And most likely Victor fared no better at their hands.     But in any case, there simply is NO PROOF that any such confession ever existed.

QUESTION: Didn’t Victor Licata orally admit to the press and others that he DID INDEED had committed the murders?
ANSWER: NO. And here let us go over the evidence.     According to the two main Tampa newspapers at the time:
Tampa Morning Tribune Oct 18, 1933 p1
Talks to Prisoners
“At the jail Licata talked to prisoners, however, and told a vague story of how he had “killed five of them.”   It was a rambling sort of a story, as repeated by some of the prisoners with whom he was placed in a cell.     He was evidently insane or acting the part.     But he refused to talk with a reporter.     He just didn’t want to talk to anybody, after he is said to have made all sorts of wild statements about himself to the men in the lock-up with him.

Somebody told him what he had done-that he had killed his whole family with an ax.     He showed no surprise, little interest.     One of his cellmates said he seemed to understand for a time what he had done, but for the crime he expressed no regret. “

TAMPA DAILY TIMES - Oct 18, 1933 p1
“. . Surrounded by the bloody bodies of his victims, the young “dream slayer” talks freely.     From his babbling auditors have been able to piece together jumbled pictures of what happened in the Licata home sometime between midnight and daylight yesterday.

To his comrades in his cell block, third floor left Victor talks calmly and rationally—as long as they are alone, But the moment a stranger or interviewer appears in the corridor, he becomes a raving maniac, his lower jaw hanging limply his pin-pointed eyes staring and his words incoherent.     He crawls on the floor, claws and paws at his companion, and shakes the bars.     Even now with the effects of his marijuana jag worn off, Victor does not realize, or will not admit, that he killed his family.   One moment he talks freely of a killing of some kind, the next he is silent.     ---
“Me, kill my sister, my mother?     Man, you’re crazy!”
While the author makes no pretense to having any psychological training (he has none), even I can see that Victor was in a state of Shell Shock at the time.     Note however that even in that state --- there are NO confessions or admissions of guilt spoken about here, nor do any show up on the official Police Report, nor for that matter (other than in the Inside Detective article), really anywhere.

Even the following Times-Picayune article (written some 17 years later and claimed by some as an admission of guilt):
TIMES-PICAYUNE – Aug 14, 1950 p16
“. . . Police said Licata denied the robbery but admitted that he murdered his mother, father, two brothers and a sister in their home near Tampa, Fla., in Hillsboro County 18 years ago. . . . Declaring that he was identified as the “marihuana maniac” after the murders, Licata said he was judged criminally insane after his arrest and confined in the institution. . . Licata said he remembers the hatchet slaying but he does not know why he did it.     He denied that he ever smoked marihuana. . . “
And granted, the above CAN BE INTERPRETED to mean that he is admitting to the crime, just as easily as it can be interpreted as meaning that he (only) admits being the one charged with the crime.     So thus the real issue is – what exactly did he say?

Now here before going any further, it should be noted that this museum made more than a GOOD FAITH effort to obtain any OFFICIAL documents relating to his New Orleans arrest:
  • New Orleans District Attorney's Office – Claims no records, index cards, nothing on the matter.
  • New Orleans Police Department – Claims NO ‘Police Report’ on file anywhere.     They did suggest that we try the New Orleans Public Library (archival division)
  • New Orleans Public Library (archival division) – Claims that they could NOT locate any such ‘Police Report’ nor any other material dealing with the Victor Licata arrest.
  • County Jail – No records of a Victor Licata exist.
  • Sheriff Office – Nothing.
Thus, all that we have are the second-hand accounts of what the police supposedly told the reporters etc., so who knows what Victor had actually said, or whether he even said anything that made any sense.     Did he actually state that he was confessing to the murders, or simply that he was the one accused of having committed them?     And here granted, the museum's viewpoint might be a bit clouded by our political beliefs.     But still, if there is one thing that this museum DOES KNOW ALL TOO WELL, and that is the way our police operate.     Thus, our belief that in all likelihood the police (believing he was guilty simply because everyone else was saying it), just interpreted any small talk on his part as anything that they wanted to hear.   OR – for that matter, DID HE ACTUALLY make any such statements at all, or are we dealing with yet more lies on the part of the narcotics police?     [Chapter 2, has excellent examples of such statements made regarding Victor Licata]

THUS, we leave it up to the reader to determine whether Victor ever freely made such oral statements.     In terms of this museum, we have found NO SUCH evidence that he ever did.

Here the author must choose his words well.     As an active individual within the Medical Cannabis movement, he has run into numerous patients with numerous ailments (and they are just that, physical ailments) that manifest themselves in different ways.     If you are so afflicted, you should not be ashamed, nor allow others to prevent you from getting proper medical attention.     Also, in case any of you are offended, please remember that this author – simply doesn’t have any medical or psychological training of any kind.     So please, if I put my foot in my mouth, just ignore it and know that he means well.

OK, DID VICTOR LICATA have a mental illness?     In all likelihood the answer is yes.     And in all likelihood his mental illness was organic in nature and probably genetically inherited.     As proof we present the following:

According to local newspaper reports (see Chapter 5); ---- Relatives had stated that . . . . Victor had been acting strangely for months AND was already under the care of a private psychiatrist.     In addition (again according to local newspaper accounts) Victor was almost placed in an insane asylum a year previously, but that the family had been able to convince the Judge that they could better take care of him at home.     Perhaps the following article from the Tampa Times (Nov. 2, 1933 p5) is most telling.

Alienist Report

Tampa Times Nov 2, 1933 p5
Family History of Insanity Described in Report by Tampa Psychiatrist

Victor Licata’s plea of insanity as a defense for the murder of five members of his family here on Oct 17 has been strengthened in a report filed with County Judge Cornelius, in which it is shown that the ax-slayer not only was subject to mental disorders prior to the tragedy, but probably inherited that condition as well.

A commission has reported the 21-year-old slayer as hopelessly insane, but judge Cornelius has deferred signing a formal declaration of insanity until after the new Grand Jury meets next Tuesday.

Dr. H. Mason Smith, prominent psychiatrist and former superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane, has repeatedly examined Licata in his cell at County Jail, and has reached the conclusion the youth is a victim of dementia praecox which probably began a year ago and became obvious to his family six or seven months ago.     This disease, Dr. Smith said, carries homicidal impulses and causes irresponsibility.

History of Insanity
Delving into the youth’s family history, Dr. Smith found a strong foundation for inherited insanity, according to his report.

The sister’s father and mother, whom he killed with two younger brothers and a sister, were first cousins, the report stated.     Relatives informed the commission that a paternal grand-uncle, Joe Licata, died in an asylum; that two paternal first cousins, Rosa Spoto and Phillip Vaccaro, are now in asylums, and that a brother, Philip Licata, one of the axe murder victims, was pronounced a victim of dementia praecox a year ago.

“As a child, Victor was always frail, sensitive and somewhat reclusive in his makeup,” the report continued.     “About six or seven months ago he began to develop queer manners, as an attitude of indifference and a desire to be alone.     His mind has slowed down and there has been a loss of spontaneity; he could not do anything consecutively.

“He is very negative and at times entirely mute.     He declines to respond to questions, and when responses are obtained they are delayed and in monosyllables or in as few words as possible.     He is awkward, indifferent to his surroundings, untidy in appearance and at times displays fear and asks if he is going to be murdered.

Shows No Emotion
“He has admitted several times to slaying his family, but says he does not know why.     States he is sorry he killed his family, but registers no grief and shows no sorrow in his emotions.     He has never shed a tear.     He sometimes answers questions with the most bizarre statements not connected with the questions and when left alone jabbers to himself and sometimes gets excited and uses profanity, which is directed toward his cell mates.

“He inquires about Count D’Orsey and Christopher Columbus in a loud tone of voice.     He calls for food often, but when it is brought will not eat.     Once or twice he ate a small amount when the attendant ate some.     He requested a shave but has refused to be shaved.     When first put in jail he was in a state of excitement and battered his head so much on the wall he had to be put in a padded cell.

“Victor does not appreciate his status in jail: has no idea of what is going to happen, and is not interested in the future.     He demonstrates no emotions about his status or deed, and is not interested in anything except that he occasionally calls out that they are going to come and get him.”

Dr. Smith’s report covered several typewritten sheets, detailing his examination which resulted in his report that the slayer has been insane for more than a year.

Note that the above article brings out that there was a family history of mental health issues, with four direct biological relatives mentioned by name who also had inherited the illness.     One of which had died in an asylum.

But (before going any further) maybe it would be best to know a bit about Dr. H. Mason Smith, the psychiatrist who is mentioned so prominently in this case.

As has already been noted, prior to the murder of his family, Victor Licata had already been undergoing treatment for mental health issues via a local (and we assume private) psychiatrist.     QUESTION:   Who was that psychiatrist?     ANSWER:   While his name is never mentioned as such, without a doubt it is none other than Dr. H. Madison Smith.

How can we be so certain?   --- Simple.   He was the only psychiatrist in the whole of the Tampa Bay area at the time.     Thus, logic and reason dictate that he had to be the “local psychiatrist” in question.     [14D] Additionally, it was on his word (primarily) that the lunacy commission [14E] determined Victor Licata’s state of sanity at the time.

Dr. H. Madison Smith

Thus, it will behoove anyone doing any kind of study on the Victor Licata case to know a bit about this man, and even more importantly – to know if (professionally) was he any-good or not?

In answer --- from what we (at this museum) have been able to determine, as a psychiatrist, he seemed to be a pretty good one, having an almost spotless record and quite impressive medical credentials.     Putting it otherwise, he is mentioned in numerous medical/psychiatric journals in a very favorable light.     In fact, even those who wrote unfavorable things about him had nothing but good things to say about him.     Example; As per the Tampa Tribune Dec 14, 2000:
CORRECTION: A quotation in a Nov. 30, 2000 article . . . gave the impression that Dr. H. Mason Smith Sr. had no formal training in psychiatry.     A biography of Smith, a medical doctor who was Tampa's first male psychiatrist, shows him training at the Neurological Institute of New York in 1918-19 and becoming a diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatrists and Neurologists in 1937.    Correction made Dec. 14, 2000.
But his name had been associated with psychiatry long before that.     According to the:
American journal of psychiatry, (Aka The American Journal of Insanity)
Vol. 75 p309 [1918-1919]
“Florida --- Florida Hospital for the Insane, Chattahoochee—-A number of changes have occurred in the staff at this hospital.     Until July 1, 1917, the Honorable Worth W. Trammell, a layman, was superintendent.     He was succeeded by Dr. H. Mason Smith, a former assistant physician, who entered military service July 22, 1918. . . “
Thus, it should be noted that Dr. Smith was in fact (at one time) in charge of the Chattahoochee State asylum.     The very one where Victor Licata was now to be sent to in 1933.

It seems that Dr. H. Mason Smith, went into private practice in the early 1920’s.     And according to the Southern Medical Journal (Vol. 14 No. 7 July 1921 p585):
“Dr. H. Mason Smith, formerly with the Florida Hospital for the Insane at Chattahoochee, has opened offices in Tampa.    His work will be limited to neurology and psychiatry.”
However, he still continued to work part time at a local Tampa area hospital and from the numerous photographs we have been able to locate of him (courtesy of the Tampa Historical Society) he continued to work closely within government circles on medical issues of various types right up until his death in the 1950’s.     Point being made here --- At the time (1933) he was highly experienced, with many years of experience as a psychiatrist.     In addition to that he was also highly well connected within governmental circles --- All of which meant that his professional views on any matter carried quite a bit of weight at the time.

However, this is not to say that he was totally perfect by all means --- in fact by today’s standard he might seem a bit of a throwback.     For example, in a discussion published in the Southern Medicine and Surgery (Vol. 94 1932), Dr. Smith makes it clear that he feels that ALL psychiatric patients should be institutionalized
May 1932 - Dr. H. Mason Smith, Tampa. Florida:
“It was not my purpose to enter into the discussion of this topic, but since the request has come direct, I shall discuss it, probably in an adverse way.     I am laboring under a condition where it is imperative that my psychopathic cases enter a general hospital.     However, I am using that only as a clearing house.     I think it is fortunate for any patient to go into a hospital for diagnosis, but when that is accomplished, I believe that patient's general welfare is better served by his being sent to a psychopathic sanatorium or even being placed in a nursing home. “
Of course, Dr. Smith does not detail how institutionalizing so many patients was going to be paid for.   But here it is just important that we note his own viewpoint on the subject.     Of course (in his viewpoint) he would be doing Victor Licata a favor (innocent or not), if he were institutionalized.     Now please, the author is not suggesting that Dr. Smith had any inside information to the effect that Victor was innocent.    ---If such evidence exists, we do not know of it.     But solely to bring out the fact that Dr. Smith favored institutionalizing patients, come what may.

According to the book, “First But Not Last: The Beginnings of Psychiatry in Tampa,” written by a co-worker (Dr. R.E. Murray) of Dr. Smith.     Dr. Smith believed in the exact opposite; on page 17 it states:
“Mason noted that the Harrison Narcotics Act, recently adopted by Congress, had the desired effect of curtailing illicit traffic and regulating ethical use of morphine.    Consequently, the number of persons seeking treatment for addiction had increased sharply and had become far greater than the State Hospital could possibly accommodate.    The combination of legal and medical remedies for an abhorrent disorder had a fair chance of success, provided that doctors could dry out addicts as fast as Federal agents dried up the supply of narcotics to dope peddlers.    Appropriate methods of treatment were readily adaptable to settings other than a general hospital.    Accordingly, Mason recommended treatment by local doctors in as many cases as practicable. “
It is not our place to contradict those individuals, who also were psychiatrists, and who knew and worked with Dr. Smith. --- It is possible however that Dr. Smith only meant the above when it was (for financial reasons) impossible to institutionalize the patients.

Also, it should be noted that Dr. Smith might himself have been under emotional pressure of his own during this time.     One can almost see him pacing about a room thinking to himself:   "I was treating Victor ---Why didn’t I see it coming?     Why didn’t I read the signs?, etc.     In addition, just five months earlier, one of his patients (Leonard Skeggs of Youngstown Ohio) shot and killed himself in his office, again this was just five months prior to the Licata incident (this was on April 30, 1933). [13F]   Thus it might be stated that (emotionally speaking), he didn’t want to lose another one.

And thus (in this authors opinion) it would not be far-fetched for one to (at least) suggest that Dr. Smith’s own emotions were clouded at the time, and possibly (out of duty to his patient) could have been looking for a way to have saved Victor's life.     Even to the point of declaring/branding him with a diagnosis of Dementia-Praecox with “Homicidal Tendencies", when other factors might have shown otherwise.

WARNING: Once more, the author makes no pretense to have either medical or psychological training of any kind, ---he has none.     Nor is it his place to second-guess the work of such a highly reputable psychiatrist as Dr. H. Madison Smith.     What he is suggesting is that there were other factors at the time that would have affected Dr. Smith's thinking.     And let’s face it, psychiatrist or not, having someone blow his brains out in your office is a traumatic event etc.

In addition, in all likelihood he too was probably forced to come to his diagnosis via the information that he had at hand.
  • Hadn’t he (as one of his patients) already diagnosed victor as having Dementia-Praecox?
  • Weren’t the local police flat out stating that Victor Licata committed the murders?
  • Weren’t the newspapers also saying the same thing?
  • Weren’t there claims that his fingerprints were all over the axe?
  • Didn’t he have blood all over his underwear?
  • . . etc. .
In Dr. Smith’s mind, (given the available evidence) Victor had to have done it.     Thus, in addition to Dementia-Praecox, he also had to have Homicidal Tendencies.     The fact that much of the evidence against Victor was fake, probably did not even occur to him.

But, the argument can be made.     Wasn’t Victor Licata ALSO diagnosed as having Dementia-Praecox (with homicidal tendencies) by various other trained psychiatrists while at the state asylum?     Answer: Sort of, but not really.

Here we ask the reader to use logic and reason.     While we would all like to think of mental health institutions as places where there are lots of nice young men in their clean white coats, etc.   --- who are there to help --- and lots and lots of nurses who also wear clean . . . etc.     However, the reality is that most modern-day mental health institutions are overcrowded, underfunded and under staffed to the point . . . someone once described them as simply nothing more than warehouses for people.     In the words of one patient, “you were lucky if you got 10 minutes a week with an actual psychiatrist.     And given human nature, (as well as the perpetual state of governmental finances), I don’t believe that things were any better back in the 1930’s.     [Humm, as an aside did anyone out there ever see the movie, The Snake Pit?]

Move Poster - The Snake Pit

Thus, one must ask the question; --- Was Victor Licata really given numerous medical evaluations while at the asylum?     Before going any further, allow the author to give one of his personal experiences he has had – One that cost him a few days in jail.

A few years ago, the author (courtesy of the San Jose Police Department) spent a few nights in jail.     At my trial, a S.J.P.D. officer (Andrew Layne by name) lied his teeth off (aka perjury) and unfortunately the judge sided with him.     Now leaving all the details aside (but do note that I do have physical evidence that he lied), let's look at how our local justice system works. [13G]
[step 1] - SJPD: - Tried to log a complaint against the officer, but was told by the desk Sgt., that because it involved a police officer, I had to go through their Internal Affairs unit.

[step 2] - Internal Affairs: - We are so sorry, but you see our Chief of Police has instated an official police policy that due to the large number of unconformable complaints, we no longer accept certain types of complaints.     And because your original incident involved a traffic situation, we are not authorized to investigate the matter.     And no, we can’t even log the accusation down.     To which I replied, "But I can prove that the Officer lied."   We are sorry sir, but our policy is firm.   -- Why don’t you go through the Independent Police Arbiters Office.

[step 3] - San Jose PD Independent Police Arbiters Office: - "We are sorry, but you see we are not authorized to investigate any situation.     We're only empowered to look over the SJPD Internal Affairs files and make our comments on them.     To which I replied that my problem was that they weren't going to keep any such files and that there was no way of even filing a complaint.     Ugh!

[step 4] - County Office of the District Attorney: - As the crime of perjury was committed in a court house, why don’t you go to the Sheriff's office.     That’s their department.

[step 5] - Sheriff's office: - Try contacting the local Sheriff's Sergeant at the Courthouse.

[step 6] - Court House Sergeant: - "HELL NO, I don’t feel like filling out a crime complaint form." [hangs up phone very angrily]

[step 7] - Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs: - No, it’s a San Jose Police matter, go through them.     We won’t do anything.

[step 8] - San Jose City Council meeting: - Dead silence.

[step 9] - FBI Crime Statistics Unit: - They at least politely accepted my written complaint.     Some probability factor (maybe 10%) that it won’t end up in the trash can.
Humm! With no way for a citizen to even log any kind of formal complaint against a San Jose Police Officer, it looks like Mr. Layne is going to have a long and happy life there.     However, the above (while unjust) must be taken into its proper perspective.     As a curator of this kind of museum, I have heard of numerous horror stories; ---cops planting drugs on people, making up crime stories, shaking down medical Cannabis patients etc., etc.     I guess I am lucky to have gotten out with only a small fine and a short time in jail.     Others have been treated like kings -- Rodney King that is.

NOW, ignoring my own personal problems, -- I brought out the above subject simply to prove one point.     And that is that (given the state of human nature), there is a point (somewhere along the chain of complaint), where almost anybody automatically thinks that; --somewhere, someone else must have already looked into the matter.     And I am busy, so why should I waste any of my own time.     It is at that point where the whole thing then becomes nothing more than rubber stamping what (someone thinks) has already been done.     On paper, it is a step in the chain of checks and balances, but in reality, just a piece of paper that needs an official looking stamp.  

So going back to the above question:   “Was Victor Licata really given various medical evaluations while at the asylum?”   The answer again becomes --- Sort of, but I don’t believe that he really was.     And while the author has no inside information proving otherwise, still almost anyone can use the most basic of deductive reasoning.     Assume that you are the psychiatrist in charge of Victor's ward and begin reading his dossier saying.
  • Victor Licata was said (by the police, newspaper, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, by everyone) to have murdered five members of his family.

  • That the eminent psychiatrist Dr. H. Madison Smith (who used to be in charge of the State asylum) has diagnosed Victor as having Dementia-Praecox (with homicidal tendencies).

  • That his condition was inherited, with various immediate family members having shown signs of mental illness.

  • That he had been examined (or rubber stamped) as having Dementia-Praecox (with homicidal tendencies) by every other medical officer up to this point.
And worst of all, as you examined Victor during the 10 minutes that you have to spend with him every week, he does indeed show signs of Dementia-Praecox.     Wouldn’t you too just rubber stamp the fact that he also had “Homicidal Tendencies.”

And while no one is disputing the fact that Victor Licata did suffer from some form of mental illness, the question here is DID HE ALSO HAVE homicidal tendencies? History and the evidence seems to indicate that he DID NOT.

According to just about everyone Victor Licata did indeed try to obtain a handgun just before the murders.
QUESTION: Isn’t this proof that he had Homicidal Tendencies?
ANSWER: NO, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.     The real question here should be; What did Victor want the gun for?
After looking over ALL the facts, we feel that Victor wanted the gun for self-defense and nothing more.     The following (taken straight from the previous chapter) we feel details this fact.

The reports of Victor Licata wanting to borrow or somehow obtain a handgun are numerous.     The newspaper accounts are full of mentions:
Tampa Times (Oct. 17, 1933 p1)
Tried To Borrow Gun.
“Last night, it was said, Victor attempted unsuccessfully to borrow a pistol from a neighbor.
. . . That the family feared for their lives was declared by relatives.     The father, they said, habitually slept with a pistol between his mattress.     Yesterday Mrs. Licata reported it missing.     Her Husband searched for it and finally discovered it in the possession of Victor.     He relieved him of its possession.     Fears that the son would take his own life had frequently been expressed by both Mr. and Mrs. Licata relatives declared.     They kept all sharp instruments hidden or under lock and key and poisons were not allowed about the house.”

Tampa Tribune (Oct 18, 1933 p1)
Tried To Get Pistol
“Between 8 and 9 o’clock yesterday morning Licata left the home officers were told.     He went to the [ ] Monte barber shop, 1709 Seventh avenue, and asked to borrow a pistol, which was refused.     The proprietor said the youth offered no explanation.     Whether he sought the pistol to end his life or to barricade himself in the home, was a point the officers could not wring from him.     He apparently returned to the home from the Monte barber shop, but his departure and return were not observed by neighbors. “
The facts, as they were stated at the time, are as follows:
  • That the family lived in fear for their lives --

  • So much so that the father; “habitually slept with a pistol between his mattress”.

  • That Victor was determined to obtain a handgun for whatever reasons.

  • That just a few days before the murders, Victor’s father had to take a handgun away from him and hide it.     Example: The day before, Mrs. Licata reported their pistol missing.     Husband searched for it and finally discovered it and relieved Victor of its possession.

  • That the day before the murders, Victor attempted unsuccessfully to borrow a pistol from a shop owner that he knew.
Note here that the way the newspapers are phrasing their words, ---it would appear as if Victor wanted a handgun for evil intentions, AND additionally that his very own family was living in fear of him.

Museum Opinion:
Here we are actually dealing with two totally different issues (a) was the Licata Family living in Fear of Victor and (b) was Victor trying to obtain a handgun and even a third issue (c) WHY was Victor trying to obtain a handgun.

Let’s begin with what appears obvious; that Victor wanted a handgun.     This appears to be true, although it is possible that (a) the newspapers got it wrong, or (b) that the family relatives (the source of the information) simply got it wrong.     But be that as it may, it is the opinion of this museum that Victor Licata did indeed wanted to get his hands on a handgun.

Next, it is also our belief the Licata family was indeed living in fear at the time.     Proof of that can be found in the fact that Mike Licata (Victor’s father) was said to be sleeping with a handgun under his mattress.     BUT, here the issue is ---- Were they living in fear of Victor or in fear of something else?     And for that matter, -- Was this something else the reason why Victor wanted the handgun in the first place?

Or for that matter, what was this SOMETHING ELSE that the Licata family was in fear of?     According to the Tampa Times (Nov 2, 1933 p5):
“Victor does not appreciate his status in jail: has no idea of what is going to happen, and is not interested in the future.     He demonstrates no emotions about his status or deed, and is not interested in anything except that he occasionally calls out that they are going to come and get him.
Granted Victor was mentally autistic; granted these words might have been illusions of his mind, BUT it is of interest to note that no one was taking him seriously at the time.     It seems that everyone simply wanted to establish that it was either the Marihuana or his mental illness that was the cause of the murders.   ---- In effect, there was never an investigation into who or what this “something else” that was going to come and get him” actually was.

Now granted, the author of this book is beginning to speculate a bit, however, let’s just look at one more aspect of this case.     Again, why was Victor’s father said to be keeping a handgun underneath his bed mattress?     According to the news reports, Victor’s parents were “Very protective of him.”    So, are we expected to believe that the handgun was supposed to be meant as a form of protection against Victor (who only weighed 113 lbs. at the time)?     What was supposed to happen?   Was Mike Licata supposed to use the gun to kill his own son with it?     Logic and reason would dictate that the gun was being kept as a form of defense against the “Something Else” that Victor had been talking about in his jail cell.   --- See Chapter 17 which deals with various scenarios of what really happened that night.

Additionally, it should be pointed out that Victor was a moonshine runner, it is also quite possible that he wanted the gun to protect his cargo from attack by others (ah) involved in the trade.

Throughout, we have been hampered by the shear lack of documentation.

From the State Hospital in Chattahoochee, we have been able to obtain copies of the (above shown) catalog Index Cards, which document that he was a patient.     But his actual medical files have now (allegedly) gone missing or were lost.

We do however (thanks for John Kaplan’s research back in the 1960’s), have a couple of letters (both written in 1968) from the State Hospital that read as follows:
Florida State Hospital
J. B. O’Connor, M.D., Superintendent
Chattahoochee 32324

December 13, 1968
Re: Victor Fiorito Licata, A-870
Mr. John Kaplan
Professor of Law, Stanford School of Law
Stanford, California 94305

Dear Mr. Kaplan:
I am in receipt of your letter of December 4, 1968, which reached this Hospital this date, in which you inquire as to whether or not this Hospital has “a report filed in the Court which recommended that Licata be committed to a mental institution” and in that connection you request that you be sent a copy of that report.

I have carefully searched the file at this Hospital in this case and also the commitment papers that were forwarded to this Hospital from the Hillsborough County court at the time of his admission here on November 5, 1933.     I am unable to find in our file anything resembling what you have described, the nearest thing to it being a copy of the Tampa Tribune dated October 18, 1933, describing the alleged murders committed by Victor Licata, and I am certain that you have access to that already.     It is my assumption that the “report” of the examining committee to the committing Judge may have been made orally in the Court, and possibly such testimony may still be on file in the Hillsborough County Court at Tampa. Certainly I have been unable to find any copy of such report in this patient’s file at this Hospital.

I regret that I am unable to be of as much service to you in the matter as I would wish to be.
Sincerely yours,

(signed) J.B. O’Connor, M.D.
Meaning that there probably was NO ACTUAL written report as such, but simply the oral statements of the lunacy commission set up to look into the matter.     We are however blessed with the above-mentioned Tampa Times (Nov 2, 1933 p5) article, “ALIENIST SAYS LICATA INSANE” (see above) which details what was said during the oral hearings.

In terms of Victor's actual medical records, again they (allegedly) have now gone missing, and with them much of the evidence that could have cleared Victor’s name.     However, thanks to John Kaplan’s research we are blessed with the following letter written by one of the asylum doctors WHO DID have access to his files:
Florida State Hospital
J. S. O’Connor, M.D., superintendent
Chattahoochee 32324
December 30, 1968
Re: Mr. Victor Fiorito Licata, A-870

Mr. John Kaplan
Professor of Law
Stanford School of Law
Stanford, California 94305

Dear Professor Kaplan:
Your letter of December 19, 1968 addressed to Doctor J. B. O’Connor, Superintendent of the Florida State hospital has been referred to this office for reply.

Our records show that Mr. Victor Fiorito Licata was admitted to the Florida State Hospital on November 5, 1933.     He was given a diagnosis of Dementia Praecox with Homocidal(sic) Tendencies.     His diagnostic report makes no reference to his use of marijuana.     On October 14, 1945 he escaped from the Florida State Hospital and remained free until he was returned from Escape on August 17, 1950.     Again his case was diagnosed as Dementia Praecox with Homocidal(sic) Tendencies and again no mention was made of his use of marijuana.

On September 14, 1950 he was transferred to the Florida State Prison for temporary safe keeping while a new maximum security building was being completed at our Hospital.     On December 4, 1950, while still in the Florida State Prison, he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Throughout his stay in the Florida State Hospital his records indicate that he was behaving in a psychotic manner.
Yours very truly,
(signed) C.A. Rich, M.D.
Clinical Director -- CAR/sar
Note (for historical reasons): that Marihuana was NEVER even mentioned in his medical report.     Nor it seems in the Alienist report, nor for that matter anywhere other than in second hand police reports.     But the point being made here is that the lack of still existing documentation limit’s our research and forces us to come to the only logical conclusions regarding the matter.

That Victor Licata WAS MENTALLY AUTISTIC, but that he DID NOT HAVE HOMICIDAL TENDENCIES.    And that his medical diagnosis as such came solely as a result of false police reports.

[14A]-- We believe the original source of the quotation comes from this website which is no longer in service.
[14B]— The book, “Police Interrogations and False Confessions” Lassiter, G. D., & Meissner, C. A. (2010), contains lots of good information on this kind of subject. [14C]-- Alienist [old language wording] a doctor specializing in the treatment of mental illness or an expert witness in a sanity trial.
[13D] – All this according to the book by “First But Not Last:: The Beginnings of Psychiatry in Tampa” by Dr. Rosalind Murray & Margaret Fisher
[13E]— The lunacy commission appointed by County Judge Cornelius consisted of Dr. G.C. Bottari ; Dr. W.J. LANCASTER and Mr. Edward D. Vestel (the county jailer) However, in all likelihood they relied solely on Dr. Smith's (the only trained psychiatrist in the area) evaluation in making their determination regarding Victor Licata’s sanity.
[13F]-- As per the Charleston Gazette April 30, 1933 p21, Charleston, West Virginia
[13G]— Incidents not necessarily in chronological order -- Officer Andrew Layne Badge #2507 -- [Step 1]- San Jose Police Officer K. McMillin Badge #3409 [Step 2]- San Jose Internal Affairs Officer Compana [last one talked to, but I’ve talked to just about everyone in the Internal Affairs Office] [Step 5]- Santa Clara County Sheriff's Officer Sutherland Badge 1591 [Step 6]- Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Porrea, badge 1592 [Step 7]- Santa Clara county Sheriff's (Internal Affairs Officer) Leonardini Badge 1613



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