June Mack was dead. And no one was on the hook for her murder.
Somehow being shot by Russ Meyer made her almost-famous, but being shot by a mystery killer made her almost-forgotten.
She’d come to Tinseltown to escape. To start a new life – and she’d been a movie star, bared her charms in magazines, and shared her body in nightly schemes. She made money, bought cars, and lived in clover.
But then June Mack crossed paths with Greg Cavalli.
The normal story of boy meets girl. If boy meets girl when he buys phone sex. Then boy falls in love with girl over the phone. Before boy goes to girl’s house and finds there’s more to her than he expected. Much more. And then girl is shot dead.
But Greg was officially not guilty. He’d been fingered by the cops for June’s murder, and put on trial. He got off. And it wasn’t even close.
So if Greg didn’t kill June, who did?
Sometimes to get to the heart of a story, you have to look at the outsides, the characters around the edges.
People like Arthur Michael Pascal, who ran a shady L.A. security company, a collection of hitmen for hire.
Or William Rider, Larry Flynt’s head of security, who used Pascal’s guys to protect the porn king, and eliminate anyone who got in their way.
People like Bill Mentzer, the hitman who worked for Pascal, who was hired to protect Greg Cavalli and his family from supposed threats like June Mack.
And there was Laney, Bill Mentzer’s girlfriend who dealt cocaine to the stars – who also needed protection.
They were all connected to June in different ways. Someone must know the truth. The truth about who killed June Mack.
Who really killed June Mack.
This podcast is 45 minutes long.
Whether Greg Cavalli was guilty or not didn’t amount to a hill of beans. He couldn’t be tried for the same crime twice.
“Never,” said LAPD brass. “He’s been tried once. That’s it. He’s a free man. Forever.”
So the Cavalli family retreated. Big money is big power, and big power gets used wrong. That’s the system. They’d won the game. There was no need to stay on the stage.
Other players had less luck in the aftermath of the trial. Christian Pierce, June’s devoted follower who’d been with her when she was shot, died of AIDS. June’s transexual friend, Robin Taylor, disappeared, swallowed up by the lonely streets.
Arthur Michael Pascal, owner of the security company that had hired William Mentzer and Robert Lowe to tackle June Mack, retired his business. His health was poor. Dirty schemes earn more than straight job income streams, but they lower your life expectancy too. Pascal had had enough.
Then there was William Rider, Larry Flynt’s head of security, who’d hired Pascal and Bill Mentzer to protect Flynt. Rider had got into a scrap with the porn king himself. Their beef was over John DeLorean, the car magnate. Maker of the ‘Back to the Future’ sportscar. DeLorean had been charged with cocaine trafficking. 55 pounds of it. That’s $24 million of profit. Or big trouble if you get caught. And DeLorean had just got caught.
But it was government entrapment. DeLorean had been framed. The coke scheme was a sting put together by Feds anxious to take down the auto king. DeLorean had only one person who could help him. Larry Flynt had the proof that would clear him. It consisted of hours of video tapes shot by federal agents. The tapes showed Feds blackmailing DeLorean in interrogation rooms. The tapes showed Feds threatening to kill DeLorean’s daughter. The tapes showed Feds telling DeLorean he had to proceed with their drug deal or else they’d nail him. Trouble was Flynt had acquired these tapes illegally, stealing them from government offices. Which meant Flynt was in trouble too now.
Flynt refused to reveal how he got his hands on them. It was a freedom of speech thing, he said. He was locked up for contempt of court. So Flynt hatched a plan. He told his loyal lieutenant Bill Rider to lie for him under oath. Just tell the judge the tapes were leaked by an FBI mole. Then they’d all be out of the soup.
Turned out Rider wasn’t that loyal. Rider refused to go along.
Flynt was mad. Flynt fired Rider. Flynt went further. Did everything he could to ruin Rider. Publicly said Rider raped his daughter. Privately said he’d kill Rider. Rider had balls. Rider responded. He filed a harassment suit against the sex magazine peddler. And the jury found Flynt guilty of malice and oppression. The jury awarded Rider $8.6 million. The prosecution attorneys agreed: “It’s unheard of for an employee to be harassed in this way after he’s been terminated.” Rider had lifted big money from Flynt’s bank account. Now he could afford to pick and choose his gigs. Now he could afford to go straight.
So who else is left in the June Mack quagmire? Just Bill Mentzer. His contract as Flynt’s bodyguard had ended. His contract as the Cavalli family’s muscle had ended, now that June was dead. He took a part-time gig driving limos but his hands were still full. The reason was his girlfriend, Laney: coke-dealing, star-fucking, wheeler-dealing, Karen DeLayne Jacobs.
And there was more to Laney than met the eye.
Every noir needs a femme fatale. A mysterious, beautiful, seductive woman. Charms that ensnare lovers into deadly traps. A blonde that makes a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. And Laney had it all in spades. She was a smooth, shiny girl. Hardboiled, with cold eyes like strange sins.
She first turned up in L.A. in October 1982. Said she was originally from Florida. Not true, like much of what she said. She actually was a southern belle from Alabama. But Sweet Home, it wasn’t. In the late ‘70s, she packed a case in the Southern state, stuck her thumb in the air, and hitched a high tail ride to Miami. Never looked back.
By day, she worked at a massage parlor. After dark, she hung out at South Beach night clubs. She liked snow-pure cocaine, vintage Dom Perignon, and cozying up to the fast crowd. An expensive lifestyle, sure, but she had generous boyfriends to spoil her whims. Husbands followed too. Almost too many to count. Fact is Karen DeLayne Jacobs-Gonzales-Goodman-Suquet-Ferreira-Amer did well. And she hadn’t even hit 35.
A pretty party girl gets noticed pretty quickly. She turned the head of Cuban-born, Milan Bellechasses. Silk-shirted, gold-chained, smooth-talking Milan Bellechasses. Said he was a building contractor. He was, but that was a front. Milan was the biggest coke dealer in town. And because that town was Miami, he could print his own Benny Franklins. Before long, Laney began selling Milan’s drugs out of her pink boudoir.
Laney recognized an opportunity. She offered to expand Milan’s business. Open a West Coast branch for him. He’d ship the white rock cross-country, and she’d find rich movie people to buy it. She’d keep half the take, and Milan could trouser the rest without lifting a finger. Everyone’s a winner, baby. That’s the truth.
So Laney moved to California. Bought a Sherman Oaks pad, and rented a Hollywood condo. The former to live in with her newborn son. The latter for sex. A new girl in town needs to build meaningful relationships, you know?
Laney ingratiated herself with the L.A. city gentry. Hypocritical politicians. Self-destructive actors. Jaded studio heads. They all bought her high-grade silk-smooth powder. Service with a southern smile. Laney raked in the green. Some nights she took out the stacks of bills from her home safe. Sat cross-legged on the floor and just stared at them, a beaming smile across her face. It gave her a warm feeling.
Laney’s success bought better quality clients. Guys with real names. Names like ex-film producer Robert Evans. Evans was a has-been. Once he’d been a will-be, but that was long ago. Bob had headed production at Paramount. Bob had engineered hits like Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Godfather. Bob had married Ali McGraw. Seductive man, seductive life. Then it imploded. All good things come to an end, and by the early ‘80s, Bob was an industry joke who hadn’t had a hit in years. His life consisted of coke and fucking. But hey, Laney liked coke and fucking, so they were a good match.
In truth, Laney and Evans shared more than a bed and blow. Evans shared comeback dreams and rebound schemes. Laney listened. Evans told Laney he had a movie ticket back to the top. A script called The Cotton Club. A musical set in the famous Harlem speakeasy of the Prohibition era. Francis Ford Coppola, his old Godfather brother in arms, was onboard to direct. Evans just needed to make the damn thing. For that he needed funding. $50 million of it. But who backs a has-been jonesing for nose-candy?
Bottom-feeder Laney sparked into life. She knew a mess of wealthy men in town. Their unlimited fortunes needed investing, just like their inexhaustible egos needed adoration. She could make the connections. She could be legit. She could be a big shot. She could be a movie producer.
Laney told Bob she already had a money man in mind. Evans said Attagirl.
Roy Radin was the ugly kid who never got invited to the prom. He just watched from the sidelines. But he knew you don’t get mad, you get even, and Roy Radin made sure he got both.
He was an abrasive, balding Jewish New Yorker with dreams of Hollywood fame. His numbers were a mixed bag: A millionaire family background. 33-years-old. 275 pounds. Blood pressure approaching 180/110. A personal fortune in the bank. $3,000 a week cocaine habit.
Laney liked big numbers, so they became tight.
Radin had started making money early. At 17, he produced ‘The Roy Radin Variety Show’. Old-fashioned vaudeville revue that toured midwestern cities. A typical night offered Joey Bishop or Frank Gorshin as MC. A magician, two acrobats, a unicyclist, the Roy Radin Orchestra, and a trained dog were on offer. And most nights, the dog got the most love.
The official story: the shows were fundraisers. Police benevolent societies. Local firefighter groups. Big crowds turned up to support their underpaid, uniformed heroes. At midnight, Radin cut the do-gooders a check from the proceeds. Job done, he moved to the next town and the next show.
The unofficial story: the check Radin cut was minimal. A pitiful proportion of the evening’s profits. Roy banked the rest, and built a personal fortune. Job done, he moved to the next town and the next show. By 20, Radin was rich.
How much money did Radin make? He lived in a 72-room waterfront mansion on Long Island, NY. The biggest in the Hamptons, people said. A private jet. Fleet of cars and 26 people on staff. The prom king and queen could suck his dick.
In 1980, he mis-stepped. A party at his place. He invited Melonie Haller. 23 years old. A promising career ahead of her as an actress and model. She’d starred in Welcome Back, Kotter, extra’d in The French Connection, and undressed in Playboy. At dawn next day, she was found wandering the local LIRR station. Dazed, confused, and half-nude. When she woke up, said she’d been drugged and gang-raped at gunpoint during an S&M orgy. Said Radin had videotaped it.
Radin denied it. Pled guilty to illegal possession of a gun. Fined $1,000 and put on probation. The case was in the rear view mirror, and The Roy Radin Show was back on the road. As for Melonie Haller, she hasn’t been heard from since.
When Radin traveled to L.A. he was one of Laney’s best coke clients. He had more money than most studio heads in town. So Laney called Radin about Bob Evans. If Radin was serious about producing movies, she had the guy for him. In April ’83, Radin met with Evans. They hit it off. Radin was a high-speed, fast-talker with connections. Evans was interested. Radin had a Puerto Rican banker with ties to the territorial governor. The Boricuas were willing to put up $35 million as long as the film was shot in Puerto Rico. Good enough, said Evans. Let’s do it.
Radin, Laney and Bob Evans met at Evans’ townhouse in New York to ink the deal. Radin and Evans would each take 45% of the new production company. The banker got the remaining 10%. Everyone was happy. Except for Laney. What the fuck? She’d introduced Radin to Evans. Nothing would’ve happened without her. So where was her share? She demanded half of Radin’s piece. Evans sided with Laney. They’d knocked boots, and that equated to a degree of loyalty.
Radin disagreed. He laughed Laney out of the negotiation. Made her a final offer. A finder’s fee. A flat $50,000. Take it or leave it.
The femme fatale was spurned. And when she was spurned, she turned to someone who could do something about it. Her boyfriend, protector, enforcer.
It was mid 1983. Bill Mentzer had stopped protecting Larry Flynt. Mentzer had started protecting the Cavalli family from June Mack. But Bill could walk and chew gum at the same time. He agreed to help Laney as well as keep an eye on Junkyard Sal.
Laney had another reason to be mad. Someone had stolen 10 kilos of cocaine from her fuck pad. Plus $270,000 in cash. There were no signs of a break-in. The thief was someone who had access to her apartment. Someone she knew. She suspected the low-life driver who shipped her stash across country every six weeks. He’d gone missing since her merch had been lifted.
She screamed at Mentzer. Find the truth, toot sweet. Laney had good reason to be worried. She was on the hook for the drugs to Milan Bellechasses in Miami. Milan was on the hook to the Columbians. And the Columbians didn’t trifle around, so Milan was holding her personally responsible. Without the coke to convert into dollars, Laney was at the dead end of a one-way street. Some mad Mexi-mullets were looking for her to come good.
Mentzer went to work. He looked for the drug courier-driver. When he checked the driver’s phone records, he made a breakthrough. Told Laney he traced the driver’s calls back a hotel suite in Beverly Hills. The owner of the suite: Roy Radin. Mentzer said it proved Radin was in on the theft. Laney was unsurprised. Radin was a rat.
So Mentzer did what he did best. He threatened Radin, this time via anonymous phone calls. Warned Radin to given the coke and cash back. Warned Radin to back out of ‘The Cotton Club’ deal. Radin claimed ignorance, and tried to ignore the calls.
Mentzer told Laney they had to confront Radin directly if they wanted the coke back. Radin had avoided Laney for weeks because of the Evans movie. So Laney called Radin in New York. She demanded a share of the movie. Became more belligerent. She told Radin she knew he’d stolen the missing drugs and money too. Radin became angry and hung up.
The fights unnerved Bob Evans. He’d soured on Radin, and had cold feet on the Puerto Rico money. He withdrew from the $35 million deal. He was used to Hollyweird. But this perturbed him.
A plan was hatched to deal with Radin. Who was the architect? Laney, Mentzer, or Bob Evans? No one was saying, but this is how it played out on May 13th, 1983.
Radin traveled to L.A. to see his friend, the actor Red Buttons. Laney called Radin. Suggested a dinner date to discuss the movie deal, and clear the air. La Scala, a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills. Radin accepted.
But Radin was spooked by the anonymous telephone calls and threats. He called a coke buddy, Demond Wilson. One time Son in Sanford and Son. Radin had a weird feeling, he said. He asked Wilson to follow him to the restaurant. Bring a gun. Don’t be afraid to use it if needed. Radin gave Wilson $150 for dinner.
Laney picked up Radin at his hotel in her black Cadillac limousine. She was as sleek as always. Dressed to kill, you could say. A long, tight silver gown. Radin wore an ill-fitting three-piece suit from his local large man’s store.
Laney’s limousine pulled away from the hotel. A black Cadillac carrying Bill Mentzer and his sidekick Robert Lowe pulled in behind it. Demond Wilson followed in his Mercedes. A motorcade of mistrust.
Demond Wilson was nervous. He took a hit of coke, made things worse, and lost the convoy on Sunset. Fuck it, he thought. He took a short cut. Arrived at La Scala first. Waited for Radin to arrive. Gun sat in his lap.
Before the restaurant, Laney’s limo turned onto a side street. Mentzer’s Cadillac followed. Laney got out of the limo. Mentzer and Robert Lowe got in. They sat in the back seat. Radin was flanked. Mentzer jammed the barrel of his pistol into Radin’s mouth. The limo driver took them to Caswell Canyon, a remote desert area, 65 miles north of Los Angeles. At La Scala, Demond Wilson kept eating and waiting.
In the desert darkness, Mentzer ordered Radin out of the car. He shot Radin in the head thirteen times. Was going to be twenty-six, but Mentzer took pity. He figured that at least he shared one Testament with this Semite. Mentzer put a stick of dynamite in Radin’s lifeless mouth. Blew up his face so his corpse couldn’t be identified.
Next day, Radin was reported missing. Laney was interviewed. She gave nothing away.
Radin’s decapitated corpse lay undiscovered for a month. It was eventually found by a beekeeper. It had shrunken to 69 pounds.
Bill Mentzer was emboldened by the Radin hit.
He went after June Mack with a vengeance. An experiment in intimidation. After beating her up, Mentzer wired a bomb under her car but it failed to detonate. Made frequent calls to her home number. Posed as a phone sex client. Took pleasure in abusing her. For these earnest efforts, he drew a regular paycheck from the Cavalli bank account.
And then June was killed. She was shot a year after Roy Radin’s murder. Both cases stumped the cops.
Bob Evans was a suspect in the Radin homicide. He holed up in his mansion and refused to come out. He’d found new financing for ‘The Cotton Club’ flick. Two brothers who ran a Vegas casino. It proved to be a lavish production, starring Richard Gere and directed by Coppola. The irony was Coppola and Evans had a bitter falling out before production started, and so Evans was off the film. Evans’ return to the Hollywood summit was canceled. ‘The Cotton Club’ hit cinemas in 1984. It was ignored, a dismal flop.
After the Radin hit, Laney drifted apart from Bill Mentzer. They’d served each other’s purposes. Laney sold her house in Sherman Oaks, moved back to Florida with her son. She met a new guy. A tall, handsome businessman named Larry Greenberger. They married in Vegas. Laney wrote on the marriage license that it was the second time she’d gotten hitched. Laney was still playing games. It was her sixth, at least.
Both Laney and Larry had pasts selling drugs. Both said they wanted a quieter life. They settled in quaint Okeechobee, FL. They invested in real estate, worked on the house, and spent winters skiing in Colorado. Like a normal married couple.
Laney opened the Center for Plastic Surgery. She attracted vain Floridians wanting lifts, tucks, and implants. She made money by referring them to a sketchy clinic in Mexico.
She still got into the occasional mess. When she did, a call to ex-boyfriend Bill Mentzer did the trick. Bill could fix most scrapes. On one occasion, Mentzer shook down one of Laney’s enemies. He exacted compensation by pulling a gold Rolex from the victim’s wrist and the keys to his $100,000 Ferrari from his pocket.
Laney was doing well, but her new husband Larry had changed. Friends said it started when he hooked up with Laney. Became less trusting and more paranoid. He darkened his Mercedes windows. Carried a loaded gun. His new house had an electronic gate, automatic floodlights, and a tall fence topped with barbed wire. He seemed to live in fear.
Meanwhile Laney met a 21-year-old kid from Pennsylvania at real-estate school. Terry Squillante. She invited him to live with Larry and her. Friends thought it strange. After securing your house like a bank in the Bronx, why did Larry let a complete stranger move in?
One night, Laney went to bed early. She said she was awakened by a single gunshot. She found Larry on the front porch. Slumped in his favorite chair. A .44-caliber Magnum in his hand. A bullet hole in his head. His bathrobe was soaked in blood, his eyes were still wide open. Horrified by what he had seen in his last moment of life. No one could understand why a man as fortunate as Larry Greenberger would want to kill himself.
In the autopsy, the medical examiner said the powder burn around the bullet wound was too wide for a point-blank shooting. Further, there were no grains of gunpowder on Larry, indicating the gun had been fired from a distance greater than the length of his own arm. Plus he’d been shot from the left side. The pistol was found in his right hand.
“It turns out,” said the medical examiner, “we have a homicide rigged to look like a suicide.”
The state attorney went further. “The possibilities are that someone inside the house killed Larry Greenberger – or someone came in from the outside. We found no evidence that anyone came from outside. That leaves only the two adults who were inside the house.” Neither Laney nor Terry Squillante were talking. The murder investigation sputtered, stalled, and went nowhere.
A few weeks later, grieving widow Laney found a seventh husband. The kid. Terry Squillante.
June Mack’s murder investigation had flatlined too.
The lack of leads was exceeded only by the lack of interest. Witnesses and acquaintances had evaporated. Forensics had uncovered nada. The case was consigned to the trashcan of history.
At least Radin’s murder was sexier. He was a well-known victim. Robert Evans was an even better-known suspect. Throw in a movie deal, drugs, rumors of a mob hit. Now you had a story. But that investigation was moribund too. It languished in cold case purgatory. Nothing changed from one year to the next.
Radin’s killer, William Mentzer, was drifting sideways. Without a pornographer, coke-dealing girlfriend, or rich family to protect, he turned to running drugs. He shared an apartment in the Valley with Robert Lowe. The same Robert Lowe who helped him with the Radin snuff. The same Robert Lowe who bullied June Mack with him.
Mentzer and Lowe shipped dope into LAX from Laney’s new base in Florida. Laney said they were reckless. It was safer to drive it cross country, she said. Mentzer and Lowe ignored her to their cost. Sure enough, impatience beat caution, and there was a price to pay. In 1987, Mentzer and Lowe got busted. Feds intercepted two kilos of white on the airport carousel. Feds got a warrant and searched Mentzer and Lowe’s joint.
They made two discoveries.
Car registration papers. For a black Cadillac limousine. The significant detail was in the small print. The contract date. The same date Roy Radin disappeared. The same date Laney picked Radin up at his hotel in a black Cadillac limousine.
Also, a photograph. It showed Mentzer and an unknown man standing in the desert. Looked like the exact location where Radin’s body was found.
The two discoveries didn’t add up to a smoking gun, but it was clear to the Feds that Mentzer and Radin had their fingerprints all over the Radin case. Homicide detectives took notice. But who was the unidentified man in the picture? One of the Feds recognized the mystery person.
Rider’s life had been a long trip down a one-way street. From being Larry Flynt’s friend, to Larry Flynt’s brother-in-law, to Larry Flynt’s head of security, to Larry Flynt’s enemy number one. When Rider refused to lie under oath for Flynt in the DeLorean case, no one expected him to survive. But Rider shocked them. He walked away with millions from Larry Flynt’s savings, and left town.
Money enables a new perspective on life. Rider had started living high on the hog in Ohio. Sheriff’s deputies called him about the photograph in the desert. And sure enough, Rider had a new perspective on life.
Did Rider know Bill Mentzer and Robert Lowe, they asked? Sure, he said. He’d hired them as protection for Flynt.
Did Rider learn anything interesting from Mentzer and Lowe, they asked? Sure, he said. He’d had many interesting conversations with them.
Did Rider want to cough up details? Not so fast, he said. He had money, but he had enemies too. He was afraid of Flynt. Afraid of Mentzer. He had a family. So Feds offered him protection, and dough as a sweetener. Rider relented.
Rider unloaded. He told them that the picture was taken near Magic Mountain. The same place where Radin’s bones were discovered. It became such a common spot to dump bodies that L.A. hitmen had to find a new location. Magic Mountain was full.
Then Rider told them that years earlier he’d had a conversation with Robert Lowe. They’d been doing a security job in Texas. Lowe was drinking heavily and let his guard down. Told Rider about the Radin murder. Laney ordered it, he said. So Mentzer and him had kidnapped Radin in a black Cadillac limousine. Took him to Caswell Canyon. Mentzer embroidered his body with bullets. Pushed a stick of dynamite down his throat. Lit the fuse. Lowe had to walk away because he couldn’t watch. Job done. End of story.
Except that Lowe kept talking to Rider.
There was another murder. A black transvestite. Or drag queen. Or tranny. Who the fuck cared? Size of an Orca whale. Mentzer and him called her ‘The Thing.’ They harassed and abused her. For weeks. For fun. Then they got the sign to ice her. They fumbled a bomb attempt. Put a home-made explosive device under her car. It fizzled without a bang. Decided to do it the old-fashioned way instead.
The hit took place on Sepulveda Blvd in the Valley. Lowe said he drove the getaway vehicle. It was Mentzer who shot ‘The Thing’ several times. Mentzer also shot the victim’s companion. A faggy guy who never left her side, but the queer survived.
Job done. End of story.
The answers had fallen into the cop’s laps. They’d solved two unsolvable murders overnight. Mentzer and Lowe had killed June Mack and Roy Radin.
Rider’s stories rang true but the cops needed substance. They needed evidence that would be credible in court. More than just drunken bullshitting hearsay from years ago.
Rider remembered he’d lent a gun to Mentzer. A .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol with a silencer. Rider said Mentzer had given it back to him. Rider gave it to the investigators. They matched the gun to the slugs that killed June Mack. Rider had unwittingly supplied the murder weapon to the killers. Now Rider was involved too.
Rider made a deal. He agreed to go undercover and meet with Mentzer and Lowe. He’d wear a wire and secretly tape the conversations.
In May 1988, Rider met with Lowe at a bar in Frederick, MD. Lowe repeated the story of his role in both killings.
Two months later, Rider met Mentzer in Los Angeles. Mentzer blabbed. Called Radin ‘The Fat Scumbag.’ Admitted the whole Radin shanghai. Took credit for filling Radin with lead. Said he was paid a “lot of money” by Laney for the job.
Mentzer yakked about the June Mack affair too. He’d broken into June’s apartment and pistol whipped her. He’d used hollow-point bullets to kill her thinking – wrongly – they’d be impossible to trace to the weapon. He’d returned to June’s murder scene later the same night so he could see what the police were doing.
It was the proof that the cops had waited years for.
October 2nd, 1988. SWAT teams moved in. Bill Mentzer and Robert Lowe were arrested and charged with Roy Radin’s 1983 slaying, and June Mack’s killing in 1984. The same moment, Okeechobee cops arrested Laney Jacobs for the Radin job. She waived extradition, and was transported to the Sybil Brand Institute for Women in Los Angeles.
June’s murder case showed up in court first. It should’ve been her vindication, her shining revenge, but truth is, her moment of truth was already lost in the scramble for attention, overshadowed by the headline-grabbing detail of ‘The Cotton Club’ murder. Overshadowed by every other two-bit misdeed in the big city. It barely warranted a mention in the newspapers or TV. On the rare occasion June was referenced, she was just billed as a 250-pound prostitute. Or a black harasser. Even at the culmination of her own personal movie, June Mack couldn’t get a decent credit.
Mentzer was found guilty of murdering June. Sentenced to life. Mentzer testified against Lowe, the driver of the getaway car. Lowe was acquitted. The public gaze moved on.
The Radin case started. The wheels of justice turned, but they were rusty. The whole spectacle took three years to adjudicate. Prelims, motion hearings, and jury selection ate up months.
September 4, 1990. The Radin jury trial finally kicked off. All the defendants were tried together, so mud flew in all directions. The tabloids ate it up.
Prosecutors had a simple version: Laney ordered the Radin hit because he threatened to cut her out of ‘The Cotton Club’ deal, and had stolen cocaine and money from her house.
William Rider was the star witness. Said the Radin murder was a plot cooked up by Robert Evans and Laney. Testified that Mentzer told him that Robert Evans paid for the murder. Rider passed a polygraph test.
Arthur Michael Pascal, owner of the security business that had hired Mentzer and Lowe to tackle June Mack, fought back. Pascal said Rider was full of shit and a murderer himself. Rider had told him that he and Larry Flynt had poisoned soldier of fortune Mitchell WerBell III in 1983. Poured a powerful heart relaxant into WerBell’s cocktail shortly before he died of a heart attack. Pascal visited Mitchell WerBell on his deathbed. WerBell said, “The bastards got me… they put something in the drink.” Pascal asked, “Who got you?” Werbell said it was Rider and Flynt.
Laney’s turn. Testified she was a drug dealer, but blamed the killing of Radin on others. She was an unwitting pawn in a game played out by three of her lovers: Milan Bellechasses, Robert Evans, and Mentzer. Milan wanted revenge for his stolen drugs and money. Evans wanted revenge for the failed ‘Cotton Club’ deal. Mentzer… was just fucking crazy. She’d done everything she could to diffuse tensions, she said. She’d tried to settle her differences with Radin by taking him to dinner. Said she was ordered by Mentzer to get out of the limousine which she shared with Radin the night of the murder.
Laney said she didn’t learn Radin’s fate until Mentzer told her the next day. She thought it was only a kidnap to find out who was behind the theft of the cocaine. Learning Radin was dead, Laney said she became upset but didn’t call the police: ″I was involved in drug dealing and I was afraid to.″
Mentzer refused to testify. He requested that his case be severed from the others. His request was denied.
Robert Lowe took the stand. Since confessing to Rider, he’d come up with an alibi. Family members and friends testified that he was in Maryland on the night of the murder. His former wife testified that he liked his booze, and was inclined to invent shit when he was drunk. He was a loud-mouth she said, but not a killer.
The trial drew to a close, but this was Hollywood, so other entertainment punctuated the proceedings. A bailiff in a neighboring courtroom accidentally fired his gun. People dove for cover. The rumor was that Laney was shooting her way out of the courthouse. Actor Demond Wilson, a prodigious cokehead, turned up to say he’d found God. Roy Radin’s former assistant was led out of court when he showed up drunk on the day he was to testify.
What about Robert Evans? He repeatedly invoked the Fifth. He feared his testimony could incriminate himself, he said. At the same time, he also claimed he knew nothing of Radin’s murder. A strange contradiction to some.
July 7th, 1991. The jury returned. Mentzer was convicted of first-degree murder. Laney and Lowe were convicted of second-degree murder and kidnapping. They all received automatic life sentences without possibility of parole. In Mentzer’s case, the jury also found that he killed Radin for financial gain. That opened the possibility of death in the gas chamber. That threat was eventually dropped.
Two years later, there was a postscript to June’s case. In October 1993, Arthur Michael Pascal was back in court. He was accused of setting June’s slaying into motion. After all, he’d been hired by the Cavalli family to protect them from her. And he’d hired Mentzer and Lowe who’d killed her. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office described Pascal as the middleman responsible for June’s killing.
Pascal was 56 but didn’t look a day under 80. He turned up in court handcuffed to a wheelchair, nearly blind from diabetes, and pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter charges. He faced a maximum term of 11 years in prison.
The legal wheels slowed to a halt. Justice is messy and dishonest. Questions remained about both murders. But one question remained above the others.
If Mentzer and Lowe murdered June Mack, who ordered her death? In other words, who really killed June Mack?
LAPD investigators didn’t discuss whom they considered suspects. In fact, they didn’t appear remotely interested.
Was it Mentzer and Lowe acting by themselves? Was it Pascal who made the decision? Or was it the Cavalli family who ordered the hit?
A possible clue appeared in a summary of the investigation filed with L.A. Superior Court. An informant was quoted as saying one of the suspects told him that when June Mack started bothering a wealthy Italian family, “the grandmother contracted the hit.”
The Cavalli family attorney identified the grandmother as Mary Bowles, Greg Cavalli’s grandmother. The Beverly Hills investment executive and matriarch of the Cavalli family. The attorney claimed he was shocked. “There’s no other grandmother with a part in this case,” he said.
When asked if she had anything to do with the June’s killing, he said: “It’s absurd, it’s crazy, it’s absolutely impossible. It’s beyond my conception that anyone in the Cavalli family would have anything to do with anything illegal, let alone a murder. They are gentle, refined people with an excellent reputation. I’ve never seen a finer or more decent family. They went through an ordeal that no family should have to face. They are, in every way, the real victims in this case.”
Privately detectives admitted they’d fucked up. Greg Cavalli had not been the getaway driver. He wasn’t even present the night of the killing. They’d been wrong to put him on trial. The D.A. said, “I don’t even want to speculate on Gregory Cavalli’s role. He’s been acquitted now.” He reiterated that Greg could never be re-tried for the same crime.
So Greg moved back to Southern California, and has never spoken out about the case. His grandmother, Mary Bowles, died in 2006 at 93 years of age, taking any secrets with her.
And since then, nothing. A TV episode of L.A. Forensics told the story of June Mack’s murder in a tabloid fashion in 2007. It was cheap, tacky, and featured no new information. The names of all involved were changed. Except for June. Somehow she was still the unprotected one.
The final resolution of her case seems abandoned to the mists of time.
Today William Mentzer and Robert Lowe serve their life terms in top security jails. Arthur Michael Pascal died years ago. Larry Flynt beat expectations, and died in 2021. The Cavalli family kept their silence.
Laney is 73 and still held in the California Institution for Women. Last year, her supporters started a campaign for her release. They described her as elderly and disabled. A devout Christian, who deserves freedom after 32 years in prison. They started an online petition. Last time I checked it had 350 signatures. No one was ever arrested for the murder of her husband, Larry.
And then there’s June Mack.
Junkyard Sal lives on in Russ Meyer’s flickering images. She’s a caricature, sure. But an empowered, strong, black woman too. And there weren’t many of those on the screen in 1979. Still aren’t. Which makes June’s death even more tragic.
Politicians, ugly buildings, and hookers all get respectable if they last long enough. But not June Mack. Her childhood was neglected. Her murder was swallowed up by a higher profile killing. Her court case was ignored. And throughout it all, her character, appearance, and lifestyle were trashed to serve someone else’s story.
And somehow, we still don’t know who killed June Mack. Who really killed June Mack.
Forget it, June. It’s Chinatown.