2007 Winners Writing
First Place Writing - Features

Nicole M. Smith - California State University, Fullerton
The Quiet Custodian
Cal State Fullerton’s most violent day occurred July 12, 1976, when custodian Edward Charles Allaway shot nine co-workers in and around the library. He killed seven.

Originally published in Tusk Magazine, May 15, 2006

Police received a call about 9 a.m. that Monday: “I went berserk at Cal State Fullerton, and I committed some terrible act—I’d appreciate it if you people would come down and pick me up—I’m unarmed, and I’m giving myself up to you.”

The victims “were just dropped in their tracks with Pepsi cans and papers in their hands,” one paramedic reported. “I looked down a long hallway and saw bullet shells and bodies from hell to breakfast. It looked like Vietnam.”

At his trial, Allaway was judged to be criminally insane and sentenced to a state mental institution. The following reconstruction of events is based on newspaper reports and court records containing psychiatric evaluations and witness testimony presented at his August 1977 trial.

* * *

ALLAWAY HOPED his demons were in remission when he moved to Southern California in early 1973. The move offered the Michigan-born former Marine a chance to begin again. He especially liked the abundance of flowers along the coast, he wrote to his mother.

In California Allaway could forget about his attempted suicide. He could forget about his wife leaving him for another man. He could forget about his rocky relationship with his father, an alcoholic factory worker.

The youngest of four children and the only son, Allaway moved in with his sister and brother-in-law and took a job as a custodian at a hardware store in Fullerton. Within eight months he began working nights as a custodian at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park.

The hectic two-shift schedule lasted a couple of months. During that time he fell for a waitress with strawberry-blonde, shoulder-length hair and a farm-girl demeanor. Her nametag read “Bonnie.”

In the following months, Allaway bounced from job to job, sometimes after being fired for fighting with other employees. Allaway lasted a month at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nev. On May 28, 1974, Allaway quit his job and married Bonnie the same day.

He and Bonnie moved into the modest, 450-unit Lincoln Arms Apartments in Anaheim. Neighbors hardly noticed the couple’s 15-year age difference. Allaway’s collar-length brown hair and handsome face made him appear several years younger.

The two behaved like a couple of kids, teasing each other and goofing around. Allaway made Bonnie laugh and was fun to be around, she later said. The couple enjoyed camping trips and rock-hunting expeditions. They scouted local beaches for coins and jewelry. Sometimes they lounged around the apartment pool.

Bonnie called her husband a dreamer. For about a year, his fantasies were like a game. Then the fun stopped.

Neighbors noticed Allaway often trailed a few steps behind his young bride. He had returned to work at Knott’s Berry Farm, but accepted a custodial position at Cal State Fullerton in May 1975, about the same time the couple had their first blow-up. Neighbors called the police after hearing  “a lot of screaming and yelling.”

Allaway had accused Bonnie of being unfaithful. He said she was going out with other men. Allaway seemed transformed by fits of jealousy. His explosive temper led to their separation.

Bonnie confided to co-workers at the Hilton Inn in Anaheim about her failing marriage. She encouraged her husband to seek counseling. He refused. She tried to make the marriage work, but Allaway convinced her their breakup was for the best.

The couple seperated over the 1976 Memorial Day weekend. Allaway moved across town to the Casa Valencia Motel in Anaheim and took a room by the pool. The motel manager often saw Allaway, lounging in solitude for hours. On the rare occasions when he would speak, he spoke of Bonnie.

* * *

THE HALLUCINATIONS returned when Allaway sensed Bonnie was in danger. He believed co-workers – certain ones in his mind – forced Bonnie to participate in perverse pornographic films. They tortured her, Allaway imagined.

The 37-year-old custodian felt his persecutors were near, as he mopped the hallway floors outside the offices in the basement of what is now the Pollak Library. He heard whispers. He saw shadows from the corner of his eye.

Allaway grew increasingly paranoid. Certain ones, he believed, urinated on Bonnie and sodomized her. They used her as their whore. He thought he would be next.

“My definite impression is that for a number of months … as a result of a mental illness, Mr. Allaway was in a psychotic state,” David Sheffner, a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Allaway after his arrest,  wrote.

His inability to distinguish between external and internal realities caused him to believe he was a target for homicidal assaults, according to Sheffner’s report.

 “Allaway was hospitalized in 1971, again while in the process of a divorce. It was quite obvious that he was then experiencing paranoid delusions, and similarly, these delusions involved sexual themes.”

At home Allaway dwelled in fear. One night he claimed he saw a woman standing in the doorway outside his apartment. She cupped her hands to her mouth and blew, instructing Allaway to breathe in. When he did, Allaway became disoriented and stumbled back inside.

Then a man crashed through the apartment window. Allaway thought he heard Bonnie screaming for help. The mysterious assailant lunged toward Allaway, forcing him to say he wanted Bonnie to suffer. Allaway heard voices outside the door ask if Bonnie’s nipples should be cut off. Allaway, under pressure, agreed to let them “just cut one.”

The next day at work, more voices told Allaway that Bonnie had been hospitalized and could not be contacted for the next few days. When he made contact with Bonnie at her apartment, he thought she spoke through her teeth as if her jaw had been wired shut. Looking around Allaway noticed that Bonnie’s apartment appeared different.

“There were pillows and robes, and it looked like the Arabian Nights,” Allaway later said. “There was incense and one doll or something, which I broke.”

Allaway was just as deluded at work. He felt persecuted as “the only white man on the custodial crew.” He found offensive graffiti, which he believed was intended for him, on the walls and stalls of the men’s third-floor lavatory.

* * *

AT CSUF, Allaway kept mostly to himself. Co-workers described him as a loner who refused invitations to socialize outside the library.

Employees commented on Allaway’s extreme mood swings, from friendly to withdrawn. They noticed a drastic change in Allaway’s behavior shortly after the 1976 Memorial Day weekend. He tried to pick a fight with another co-worker.

Some of them felt afraid. Allaway, too, felt afraid.

He seemed “to have been almost out of contact with reality and reacting to his hallucinations, delusions and some ideas of exterior control,” psychiatrist Daniel Castile wrote after interviewing Allaway in custody. “It seems improbable that he would have been able to meaningfully deliberate and contemplate the nature, quality and wrongness of his actions.”

On Thursday night, July 8, a delusional Allaway drove to Bonnie’s apartment and caught up with her on the walkway. He offered to take her to dinner. She declined.

Allaway asked Bonnie why she wore such heavy makeup. He heard her say it was what certain ones wanted. He claimed that if she didn’t play the part, they would torture her. That evening, she would play a secretary and sit behind a desk. She would be their whore, and Allaway was powerless to stop it.

The following day, Allaway saw shadows. He thought he heard whispers at times, conspiring against him. Certain ones, Allaway believed, had monitored his conversation with Bonnie from the night before because he heard them use some of the same words and phrases.

Allaway left work on Friday, July 9, but was unable to sleep that night. He heard voices telling him that Bonnie was being tortured and subjected to sexual assaults.

On Saturday, July 10, Allaway visited his only friend, now his former brother-in-law, whom he had lived with when he first moved to California. He gave Allaway $200. That same afternoon, Allaway drove to a nearby Buena Park store and paid $50 for a rifle and a box of bullets.

* * *

IN HIS MIND, a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle with room in its magazine for 18 rounds was not “as a rifle really is.” The hollow-point, long-rifle cartridges – designed to have a greater impact than regular ammunition – would serve as a mediator to protect Allaway and Bonnie; the weapon would allow Allaway a chance to talk with his persecutors.

Allaway spent the rest of his weekend isolated and paranoid in his apartment. He locked the windows and doors. He ate little and slept less. Allaway kept the rifle loaded during the nighttime, but his concern for the safety of children playing in the area prompted him to unload the weapon during the day, he later said.

Allaway could not endure his tormentors any longer. He decided to move back to Michigan. He would ask Bonnie to come along.

At 6 a.m. Monday, July 12, Allaway was scheduled for work. He phoned the university to quit his job. The phone rang. No answer.

He called Bonnie to verify the telephone number and asked if he could take her out to breakfast. He told about his plan to move back to Michigan. He wanted her to come.

She declined both offers. She would be working.

When he left his apartment later that morning, Allaway said he saw a shiny new car parked by his apartment. He felt certain he would be shot that day, he later said, so he grabbed his rifle for protection.

He reached the university around 8:30 a.m., driving his 1969 beige-colored Dodge around the parking lot a couple of times before pulling in next to a white truck he had never seen before. His rifle rested on the front passenger’s seat.

Allaway walked toward the library’s rarely used west entrance, wearing jeans and a dark brown shirt. He carried the rifle at his right hip. In his left hand, he clutched a small plastic box stocked with bullets, caps pointed upward.

Allaway’s next recollection would be a sharp pain in the back of his skull that would turn his vision red.

* * *

ALLAWAY WALKED down the final three steps of the library stairwell. As he opened the door that led to the maze of offices and workrooms in the basement, he heard the voices of three co-workers coming from a small office slightly to the left of the stairwell, just across the hall.

Karen Dwinell, a secretary who worked in the school’s media center, sat at her desk chatting with campus photographer Paul Herzberg and Bruce Jacobsen, a media center assistant. Allaway spotted Jacobsen as he leaned against the wall to Dwinell’s left. Across the room, Herzberg sat on a table and spoke about a recent European vacation.

Crack!

Allaway shot once before entering the office. He studied Dwinell, his gun ready to take aim. Herzberg rose from his table and stood between the two.

Crack! Crack! Herzberg dropped.

He lay slightly on one side with his legs pointed toward the back of the office, bleeding from the head and chest. At that point, Allaway thought something must be wrong. He saw this man lying on the floor, Allaway later said, and wondered if he shared similar torture as his own.

Allaway turned again to Jacobsen, who attempted to stop Allaway by hitting him over the head with a heavy, metal statue.

Crack! Jacobsen was struck in the chest at point- blank range. He stepped away slowly to take cover in a conference room behind Dwinell’s desk.

Dwinell didn’t know Jacobsen had been shot when she followed him to the back room. But crouching behind a table, Jacobsen wilted into Dwinell’s arms. Two tiny, red circles seeped through his shirt.

Dwinell waited for the firing to stop. She looked to Jacobsen and called to him, but he did not answer. She propped him against the wall and watched him bleed helplessly until the basement fell quiet.

She unlocked the door to make her escape and saw Herzberg’s legs, his body crumpled on the floor. Her platform shoes slipped in the a puddle of blood pooling around him.

But Allaway had already stepped back into the outer hallway and pointed his rifle toward the graphics department where graphic artist Frank Teplansky and CSUF professor emeritus Seth Fessenden were working.

Crack! Crack!

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Allaway surged through the rear of the graphics department and burst into the long hallway that ran along the south side of the basement, leading to the lobby.

Hearing the commotion, several other employees poked their heads into the desolate hallway. Allaway blew past them as if he were running through a tunnel. His sights were set on two other custodians, Debbie Paulsen and Donald Karges.

Allaway lifted his rifle. Crack!

Paulsen and Karges ran as Allaway pursued them.

The sound of screams and running footsteps carried throughout the maze of corridors.

Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack!

The screaming stopped.

Paulsen struggled to breathe as she lay dying against a media display case with blood on her blouse. Karges died face down in the hallway, shot from behind in the chest and skull.

Allaway stormed back the way he came. He walked up the hallway again, through the graphics department and back into the stairwell, where he reloaded his rifle. He climbed the stairs to the first floor and entered the main area of the library from the turnstiles at the lobby’s west end.

Allaway’s skin looked gray and ashen. His face appeared drawn and determined. He headed for the west-side elevators where he encountered Maynard Hoffman, supervisor of the morning-shift custodians.

“How would you like a shot, Maynard?” Allaway asked.

Crack!

“Did that feel good?”

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Hoffman doubled over inside the bullet-riddled elevator where he tried to flee (though hospitalized in critical condition, he survived).

Allaway thought he heard someone shout, then he felt a sharp pain at the back of his head as fragments of crockery from a heavy plate shattered around him. Library technician Steven Becker threw the large object, attempting to stop Allaway’s attack. The two brawled vehemently, fighting for the rifle.

It exploded. Crack! Crack! Crack!

“They had control of my being,” Allaway later said. “They were giving commands, and I was being punished.”

Library supervisor Don Keran heard the commotion and seized Allaway from behind in a bear hug. He tried to help Becker wrestle Allaway to the ground.

Keran and Allaway crashed over tables and chairs as they fought across the library lobby. Allaway shoved Keran against a wall. Keran shoved back. As he struggled to break away from Allaway’s grasp, Keran fell backward.

“That’s where I lost the struggle,” Keran later testified.

He tried using his elbows to regain his footing as Allaway stood over him, dangling the rifle inches over Keran’s chest. Keran squirmed, attempting to escape.

Crack!

Allaway turned to run away, leaving a dazed Keran with a gunshot wound to his right shoulder. Keran managed to get to his feet, though he was bleeding profusely. He stumbled into a nearby office to call for paramedics, but the operator said she couldn’t help him. All the ambulances had been called; there was no more help.

Keran collapsed.

Allaway had run down another hallway, through an emergency exit to an outside courtyard. An unarmed Becker chased him. He would be the last to die.

Allaway saw his pursuer and raised his rifle.

Crack!

Becker was hit in the chest. He left a trail of blood some 20 feet long as he staggered from the library, keeling over by a fire hydrant near the southeast edge of the library.

Allaway retraced his steps again, entering from the library’s east side.

“I’m going to kill all these SOBs for messing around with my wife,” another custodian heard Allaway mutter as he ran back through the library toward the west doors, making his way back to his car. He sat in his vehicle, bleeding from a head wound. He heard someone tell him to go to Bonnie.

* * *

Allaway saw a female campus parking officer pull up near the west doors of the library in a three-wheeled  scooter. To her, he looked surprised and terribly frightened.

His tires screeched as he sped away on the sidewalk toward the music and science buildings only couple hundred feet to the south of the library. He didn’t get far, though, because the path between the two buildings was obstructed. The unarmed officer called for backup and closed in on Allaway, blocking his escape from the other direction.

He was trapped.

Allaway ducked out of his Dodge and ran toward some nearby bushes. He hunkered down for a moment until he heard the beep of the scooter backing up. He saw his chance. He rose from his hiding place and leaped back into the car, nearly hitting the officer as he maneuvered his car around in a narrow walkway between the two buildings.

He sped off.

Bonnie, Allaway assured himself, would make everything OK. She would soothe him. She would comfort him as a mother might comfort her child after a bad dream. He drove a few miles from the university to the Hilton Inn and found Bonnie training a new employee in the banquet room. He looked frightened and spoke incoherently.

“It was over when he came here,” Rita St. Marie, the banquet manager at the Hilton Inn, later said. “He was a little boy again. He was coming here to see his mother, who was Bonnie.”

Bonnie asked Allaway to leave because he was covered in blood, and she thought he’d been in a fight. Allaway asked her for a glass of water. They argued and again Bonnie asked him to leave. But first Allaway said he needed to make a phone call.

The time was just before 9 a.m. Allaway nervously paced back and forth in the banquet room, every now and again glancing out the large windows toward the parking lot. Waiting. He walked to a table where Bonnie sat, unaware of her ex-husband’s rampage. He drank from the glass of water.

He paced back and forth. He peered from the windows. He leaned against a door near the front of the room. Waiting.

Anaheim police surrounded the hotel and burst into the room from the kitchen, tackling Allaway to the floor. An officer forcefully spread Allaway’s legs and patted down his unarmed body.

In the back of his car, police would find a rifle wrapped neatly in a blanket.

* * *

In the following days Allaway would be charged with six counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

During interviews after his shooting rampage, Allaway acted coherently, expressing sorrow and sympathy but offering no explanation for his actions. He told psychiatrists the post-arrest interviews were helpful, but he could no longer trust anyone. He did not feel he was mentally ill.

Some have speculated about Allaway’s motives, claiming certain library employees taunted Allaway about his wife and did in fact use university film equipment to create pornographic films, though it has never been proven.

“If the law sincerely tried to find out [the truth] and even use a lie detector—if I’m wrong, then they can hang me,” Allaway later said. “I’m totally scared and alone. I feel like I’ve professionally and profoundly been brainwashed.”

In Allaway’s mind, the 23 rounds he fired in a five-minute shooting spree had been completely justified, simply a reaction to the persecutions caused by certain ones.

Today, almost 30 years after Allaway’s heinous acts, his story remains one of bitterness and grief among the family and friends of his victims. Despite his legal right to petition for release each year and evidence that supports his contention that he has fully recovered from his illness, few believe he can ever be cured, insisting that he should remain in custody at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.

Prosecutors and psychologists have debated Allaway’s periodic pleas to rejoin society because there is no way to tell whether he might still experience the same delusions that led him gun down nine people.

“That’s the $64,000 question,” psychiatrist David Sheffner concluded. “The answer to that question, firmly is, ‘We don’t know.’”


90 New Montgomery Street, Suite 1212, San Francisco, CA 94105-4504 • Phone: (415) 908-4565 or (800) 841-7048 ext. 4565
© 2014 The Hearst Journalism Award Program. All rights reserved. Credits.