Teen Girls Who Murdered Their Parents (1970s)-Marlene Olive/The Barbecue Pit Murders

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About a year before the Columbo murders, on June 28, 1975, the Barbecue Murders took place in the toney Terra Linda neighborhood in San Rafael, Marin County, California. Sixteen year old Marlene Olive didn’t actually kill her parents, but she convinced her submissive boyfriend, Chuck Riley, to off her abusive, alcoholic mother, Naomi. Chuck was an overweight, small-time drug dealer who never had a real girlfriend before  – so he’d do anything for sexy, dangerous Marlene.

This case has some similarities to the Manson murders in that a manipulative individual (Marlene), used sex and charisma to get a naive misfit (Chuck) to do her bidding. Charlie used the same method with his “lost” girls.

Marlene Olive was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1959 and given up for adoption by her single mother. A middle aged couple, Jim and Naomi Olive, adopted her. The family lived in Ecuador when she was a child. Jim Olive had a high-paying job at an oil company. The family had servants and Jim treated little Marlene like a princess.

Naomi, however, became paranoid living in the lap of luxury. She began drinking heavily and had seizures. When Marlene was ten years old, she found adoption papers in her father’s office. Hurt and confused, she wondered why her biological mother didn’t want her.

Bad Girl

Lots of teen girls were fascinated with the occult, LSD, wild sex, and related subjects in the early ‘70s. A whole genre of TV movies catered to the “teenage girl as deviant seductress or victim of perverts/the devil/drugs” crowd. It’s interesting to note that many of these movies were released before “The Exorcist”.

Marlene acted on the messages in the sleazy pop culture of the time, instead of merely being fascinated by them. When her family moved to northern California, Marlene, now in junior high, fell in with a slutty crowd. She did drugs, slept around, and dressed up as a glam rocker. She dabbled in sex work and witchcraft. Her platform shoes and tight skirts infuriated her mother. Naomi verbally abused Marlene, berated her, and called her a whore.

At one point, Naomi, in a totally psychotic state, walked around naked in front of Marlene, and taunted her. “You real mother was a whore,” she said.

Jim didn’t spend much time with Marlene. He did try to protect and comfort Naomi, which made Marlene angry.

I wonder if Jim ever tried to get Naomi treatment for her alcoholism or mental illness. It doesn’t appear so, from everything I’ve read. Even if he had, the treatments for paranoid schizophrenia in the 1970s were pretty ineffective, and at best would have turned her into a zombie.

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Master and Slave

Marlene met 19 year old high school dropout Chuck Riley when she was 15. He was instantly smitten with her and she knew she had an easy mark.  She relented to his advances after initially rebuffing him when he brought her free drugs and expensive presents he had shoplifted.

Riley and Marlene became a couple, with Marlene as the master and Riley as the slave. Riley did as she commanded, and she rewarded him with sex.

Marlene started shoplifting and used her parents’ credit cards. Chuck committed burglaries and gave Marlene the bounty. This strained Jim and Naomi’s relationship and exacerbated Naomi’s alcoholism and mental illness.

Marlene and Riley once stole $6,000 in merchandise (mostly women’s clothing). Jim bailed the couple out of jail. He threatened to send Marlene to a juvenile facility after this incident. And, as in the Columbo case, the father warned the no-good boyfriend to stay away from his daughter. (Jim didn’t knock out Riley’s teeth, however, like Frank Columbo did to Frank DeLuca.)

Back at home, Marlene got into a bitter fight with Naomi. Afterward, Marlene called Chuck and said, “We’ve got to kill that bitch today.” Of course, obedient lap dog Chuck followed Marlene’s orders. He went to the Olives’ house to kill Naomi while Marlene went out shopping with her father.

(Marlene had once tried to kill Naomi by crushing up prescription medicine and putting it in her food, but Naomi refused to eat the food because it was too bitter.)

LSD-addled Chuck hit Naomi in the head with a hammer and strangled her. She still moved around in bed and he panicked. He ran to the kitchen and returned with a steak knife and stabbed her. He had a gun, but didn’t want to use it because the noise might alert the neighbors.

Marlene had only wanted Naomi dead, but things didn’t go according to plan. She returned home with Jim to find a blood-drenched Chuck still struggling to kill Naomi.

Jim tried to kill him with the steak knife, but Chuck shot him four times, killing him. Some people believe that Marlene killed Naomi instead. The savagery of the murder seemed more in line with a personal vendetta. However, the facts and timeline of the case make this unlikely. (Naomi actually liked Chuck and thought he was a nice, quiet  young man – at least before Marlene got to him.)

The couple drove to China Camp State Park, and burned the bodies in a barbecue pit. The next day, firefighters extinguished the blaze and mistook the charred remains in the pit for animals.

Marlene and Chuck went back home, and a friend helped clean up the blood. They bragged about the murders to friends. Marlene and Chuck then spent four days living in the house partying, going to concerts, and ordering meals on her deceased parents’ credit cards.

Worried associates called the police when Jim Olive hadn’t shown up for business meetings for a week.

The cops couldn’t find the couple or their teenage daughter, but Marlene came to the police station with a bunch of conflicting stories. She told the officers her parents had gone on a vacation and not returned, and then said the Hells’ Angels had kidnapped and killed them.

Finally, she lead the detectives to the firepit where she and Riley burned her parents’ bodies.

Since Marlene was a minor (16) at the time of the murders, she was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention facility, and then spent a few months in another center before her release (minus the time she escaped to become a prostitute in New York).

Riley wasn’t so lucky. He was charged with two counts of murder and found guilty. He was originally sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty in December 1976. Riley earned his high school and college degrees while incarcerated. He was paroled in December 2015.

Marlene visited Riley in prison in 1980 or 1981. It was the last time they saw each other.

Maybe I wouldn’t be writing about this bizarre tale today if Naomi had been properly treated for her mental illness, or if screening procedures for adoptive parents were more thorough. (An alcoholic, mentally ill woman isn’t the best choice to raise an adopted infant.)

Maybe Marlene would have turned into a murderous teen even if the family had stayed in Ecuador, or if she’d been adopted by younger, more stable, parents. She may have been just a “bad seed.”

The out-of-print book Bad Blood, written in 1983, is the only published, longform account of the murders. The book consists of research based on interviews with Marlene, Riley, friends, relatives, lawyers and teachers. I compiled information about this case from researching blogs, news reports, Wikipedia, and the book Bad Blood.

The Barbecue Murders were also featured in Killer Kids, a Canadian documentary series originally broadcast on The Biography Channel/FYI.

After Marlene was set free, she continued with a life of crime in the Los Angeles area. She now specialized in check forgery, and has been in and out of prison ever since. Her last known conviction was in 2003. There are no current reports on her whereabouts as of September 2019.

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Teen Girls Who Murdered Their Parents (1970s) – Patty Columbo

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Before the Gacy Murders and after the Speck Murders, the murders of Frank, Mary and Michael Columbo shocked the Chicago area. The Elk Grove Village, Il. police entered the family’s home on May 7, 1976 to find auto parts salesman Frank Columbo, his wife Mary, and their 13-year old son Michael brutally murdered.

Frank had been shot and his skull was crushed with a lamp. Mary had been shot and had her throat slit. Michael had almost a hundred stab wounds.

After ruling out robbery or a Mafia hit, the police arrested Patty Columbo, Frank and Mary’s 19 year old daughter and Michael’s sister. The cops arrested her lover, Frank DeLuca, a few months later.

She met Frank DeLuca, a married man with five kids, when she was in high school and he was in his late 30s. She soon began working at the cosmetics counter in the same Walgreens where he worked as a pharmacist. They carried on a seedy affair for a few years. (DeLuca was a swinger and even subscribed to a swinger’s lifestyle magazine.) At one point, Patty lived with the Delucas and had sex with him while his wife and kids were frolicking in the backyard.

She showed her classmates photos of her having sex with DeLuca’s dog. What the hell was the deal with girls and dogs in the ‘70s? Linda Lovelace did a “loop” (short film) with a dog, and half the sleazy paperbacks in the back section of downtown Chicago  bookstores were about Nazi girls and German Shepards.

Patty had amassed a few non-sexual offenses as well. She racked up thousands of dollars in charges on stolen credit cards, and her father paid them off for her. Eventually, Frank Columbo paid for an apartment for Patty. When he found out DeLuca had moved in with her, he confronted the couple in a parking lot. Frank knocked out a few of DeLuca’s teeth with the butt end of a rifle.

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Photo of Columbo home via Murderpedia.com

Shortly after this incident, Patty and DeLuca decided to off her family for her inheritance money. ( Her parents had written her out of their wills by this time, unbeknownst to Patty.) She hired some “hit men” at a bar, but they backed out of the deal, after they had sex with her and absconded with $2,000.

Patty and DeLuca snuck into the home and shot Frank and Mary. Patty stabbed her brother so many times with a scissors the first police on the scene thought he has the measles. Patty and DeLuca turned the thermostat to almost 100 degrees to make the bodies decompose faster.

The cops first entered the house to question Frank Columbo when they found his car in a bad neighborhood on the West Side. Patty and DeLuca had taken Frank’s car and deposited it in a bad neighborhood to make it look like a street gang had committed the crime.

The police were suspicious of Patty from the start, as she came to the police station with theories about who killed her family, instead of crying or asking questions about what happened. The cops sent a good-looking officer to the services to possibly ensnare the oversexed Patty and get the truth out of her. As expected, she flirted with the cop and feigned grief while throwing herself at the coffins.

A friend told police about the hit men Patty had contacted, and a few of DeLuca’s employees told investigators that they’d seen him burning bloody clothes the day after the murder. He threatened their families to keep them quiet.

Eight days after the murders, Patty was charged with three courts of first degree murder. (DeLuca wasn’t charged until a few months later.)

By the summer of 1977, they were convicted and sentenced to several life sentences. Patty and DeLuca went to separate prisons, and have had no contact since the trial.

DeLuca and Columbo weren’t finished with criminal activities even after going to jail.
DeLuca threatened to have certain witnesses killed by fellow prisoners while he was in jail awaiting trial. Columbo ran a prostitution ring in the Dwight Correctional Center in the ‘80s, and pimped out prisoners to guards. Since then, she’s been a model prisoner, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree.

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Frank DeLuca – Photo via Daily Herald.com

DeLuca and Columbo are still incarcerated as of 2019.

When Murder in the Suburbs Was a New Thing

The Columbos lived in a middle-class bedroom community, and the neighbors weren’t forthcoming with any information about the family or the murders. Petty crime was unheard of in the ‘burbs in 1976, much less parricide. Maybe today, people are willing to go viral and bask in the infamy of a local crime, but back then, most people didn’t want anything to do with such heinous acts.

My girlfriends and I were a few years younger than Patty, and we lived in the same sort of Chicago-area bedroom community, with Old-World Italian, Irish, or Polish parents. Our neighborhoods were bereft of predatory married men. We played our Led Zeppelin albums too loud and smoked pot behind the bleachers, but that was the extent of our sleazy rebellion against Mom and Dad. I don’t think most of us lost our virginity until the summer after high school. Yep, we were raised Catholic and stuck to it, at least until we graduated.

The story of Patty Columbo may just as well have occurred in Beverly Hills or Timbuktu, not in a nearby cookie-cutter suburb. We all worked at stores or restaurants, and couldn’t believe someone who worked at a Walgreens (just like some of us did) could commit murder. It all seemed so unreal.

While the investigation and trial were covered extensively by local media, we weren’t very interested in the salacious details, and concentrated instead on our albums and teen magazines. You can’t find much about the killings online today, and the only documentary I could find was on an episode of Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women.  I found a few podcasts with mentions of the case, but they weren’t very in-depth.

Two books about the murders were published in the 1990s. (Both books are long out-of-print.)

Love’s Blood by Clark Howard (1994) traces the story from Patty’s point of view. She tells the author that she was allegedly abused by a friend of the family in his candy truck as a child. The well-written book draws you in from the first paragraph about the Columbos’ poodle guarding Mary Columbo’s body before the police uncover the murders. As the book progress, Clark interviews Columbo, and it becomes apparent that the author is somewhat infatuated with his subject.

Bonnie Remsberg’s Mom, Dad, Mike and Pattie (1992) has none of the sensationalism of Clark’s book. The book focuses more on the victims, the dynamics between family members during their lives, and the police investigation.

A few years after the Columbo murders, the police arrested John Gacy, with the excavation of his victims’ bodies covered on live TV. We couldn’t ignore the horror hidden away in the suburbs anymore, even if we changed the TV station. It was there, right in front of  us, a precursor to 24/7 true crime on the internet and cable TV.

P.S. – A drawing of Columbo (and Marlene Olive, a teen murderer turned hooker from CA) was featured in this art exhibit.

More photos from the Columbo case are posted at DailyHerald.com