A Look Back - 1953: Former deputy district attorney shot friend’s wife

Unemployed attorney had sentence of five years to life, but died a month into it from brain hemorrhage.

January 04, 2010|By Brianna Bailey

David H. “Debonair Dave” Clark was tired of his friend’s wife nagging him to find a job, so he shot her in the back yard of the couple’s Costa Mesa home on Nov. 11, 1953, while his friend slept.

An unemployed, former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, Clark had been sleeping on George and Rose Blair’s couch at their home in the 200 block of Palmer Street for six months at the time of the shooting, according to historical news accounts.

Clark had been acquitted of two other murders, and had gone through two divorces, a string of jobs, and a whole lot of liquor since he left the district attorney’s office in 1931 for an unsuccessful run for municipal judge.


His last job was running a small store in Silverado Canyon before winding up on the Blair’s sofa.

George Blair had dozed off on a davenport in the living room after drinking about half a pint of hard liquor the night of Nov. 11. He woke up to the sound of gunshots, the Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 20, 1953.

“I didn’t get up, not right at first. I lay there some little time,” George Blair testified at a preliminary hearing after Clark was charged with Rose Blair’s murder.

When George Blair looked around the room, he saw Clark quietly sitting on a chair.

“I said to him: ‘where’s toots?’” George Blair testified. “He looked over at me then. He said, ‘I killed her.’”

George Blair found his wife lying beside the steps outside the back door of the home.

“I said ‘was she bawling you out,’” Blair testified. “He nodded his head up and down.”

Clark never seemed to bounce back after he was acquitted in the 1931 shooting deaths of Los Angeles political boss Charles H. Crawford and magazine executive Herbert Spencer. He shot both men at Crawford’s office with a .38-caliber Colt revolver on May 20, 1931. The attorney fled the scene, but later turned himself in to police and claimed he shot both men in self defense.

Clark was campaigning to become a municipal judge at the time of the shooting, and managed to garner 60,000 votes from his jail cell, The Times reported.

In court testimony, Clark claimed the two men had tried to enlist him in a scheme to frame the Los Angeles police chief, before Crawford pulled a gun on him.

Clark’s first highly publicized trial for Crawford and Spencer’s deaths ended in a hung jury. He was later acquitted.

In January 1954, Clark pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shooting Rose Blair and was sentenced to five years to life in state prison.

Clark served less than a month of his sentence — he died at the California Institute for Men in Chino in February, 1954, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 55.

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