November 7, 1963 – Mendocino resident Jim O’Donnell, 74, thwarted a trio of scam artists who tried to take advantage of him.

About 2pm that afternoon, a station wagon pulled up at Jim’s home on the northwest corner of Williams and Covelo Streets. A man approached Jim’s door with a story – he claimed to be a stove repairman from Sacramento who regularly made trips to the coast carrying parts for wood-burning stoves. He asked to inspect the stove in Jim’s kitchen, which Jim cautiously allowed.

The man examined the stove and offered to seal any cracks in the metal, assuring Jim that it would be as good as new. Jim told him that he did not want any work done without knowing the cost.

Six people outside a house. 3 men stand behind 2 women and a man who are seated.

Honorary Kelley House Members, 1974. Six honorary members of the Kelley House sitting for a group portrait outside the Kelley House. This was the first time the six “old-timers” had been photographed together. Their accumulated ages added up to almost 500 years. Front L – R: Nannie Escola, Aldine Gorman, Walter Jackson. Standing: Miles Paoli, Jim O’Donnell, Herman Fayal

While Jim and the first man were engaged in conversation, a second man entered the kitchen, carrying a small can of wet fire clay. The two men then began smearing the clay around the fire box without Jim’s permission. The situation escalated quickly when a third man arrived at the scene. The trio demanded $148.50 from Jim. Jim told them that he had no money in the house and that he would not pay them for unauthorized work.

Undeterred, the men demanded that Jim write them a check for $120, but Jim told them the bank was closed. Next, they insisted he cash a check at Mendosa’s store and give them the money.

The men drove Jim down Little Lake Street and watched from outside as Jim approached cashier Isabel Sandbothe. As he was leaving the store, Jim spotted local realtor George Thompson in the grocery department. George agreed to contact Deputy Sheriff Sam Costa and meet up with Jim at George’s real estate office on Main Street.

When Jim got back in the car, he told the con men that he was unable to cash the check. They became very angry and asked what he was going to do about it. Jim assured them he would get the money elsewhere. He directed them to East Main street where he told them to stop when he saw the man he was looking for at Schlafer’s Garage.

It was Sam Costa’s day off, and he was in civilian clothes, but he readily got in the car with Jim. They drove to George Thompson’s office where Sam revealed that he was a Deputy Sheriff. Taking charge of the situation, he demanded their identification and ordered the scammers to leave the area, under threat of arrest should they return.

“Murder, She Wrote” Walking Tour of Mendocino (Cabot Cove) – Join us on this delightful walking tour of landmarks that appeared in the hit TV show “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Angela Lansbury. Locations you will visit include the 1888 Victorian residence of Lansbury’s mystery-solving character, Jessica Fletcher, and the hotel that was home to many suspects (and the crew and actors while filming). November 11, at 2pm. $20.