THE LADY NEXT DOOR - Carole Tregoff Pappa

Slightly obsessed with this case? I would say so, my interest in this case grew in my later years, but comes from the stories my parents shared with me when I was younger, about our neighbors... the Pappa's. Carol Tregoff Pappa and her husband James Pappa. You need to realize I stepped foot into kindergarten in 1962, when all the hype, drama and verdicts were over...  When I was younger, the only picture of Carole Tregoff that I ever saw was in the Encyclopedia Brittannica, now in today's world the internet has exposed all the press photo's. Jim and Carole lived behind our home in La Puente, California in the mid to late 1950's. My parents lived at 13824 Barrydale Street, Carole and James lived behind our house at 1263 Big Dalton Avenue, La Puente from 1955 - 1959. Dr. Bernard Finch and his wife Barbara Finch lived at 2750 Larkhill Drive in West Covina where the murder scene later took place in July, 1959. The La Puente homes were new, fences weren't built yet and my parents remember seeing Dr. Bernard Finch sometimes sneak over to the house when Carol's husband James Pappa would go to work. Carol worked at Doctors Hospital in West Covina.

This event became bigger than life, a scandalous affair, a murder, the young beautiful secretary Carole, her body builder husband James, the rich doctor Bernard Finch, the socialite wife Barbara Finch hob nobbing with her Hollywood actor friends, money, greed and an obvious display of narcissistic personalities  - this story had the perfect ingredients for captivating a world audience back in 1959 through the early 60's, and it certainly did that. Even the producers and writers for Perry Mason would attend the trial to inspire ideas for Perry Mason episodes. America gave the trial the Hollywood treatment.

 Celebrities would attend to keep that circle of intrigue going.  The trial took on a life of it's own, a tabloid drenched media circus... Carole certainly worked the media as much as she could - you will notice that quite a few press photo's were definitely staged. As a young aspiring model - this was her time to work it in front of the cameras with her variety of fashion and hair styles during the pre-liminary hearings. However, once the trials started - all you saw her in were those 2 plaid dresses. After combing through press - photographs of Carole Tregoff - I would bet that she was more than likely photographed more times than Jackie Kennedy, my guess.

This is a compilation only, I take no credit for any of the editorial or photography, aside from the YOUTUBE pieces I did that are somewhat of a parody, I just wanted to consolidate all that I could here. This blog contains photography from LIFE Magazine (photographed by Ralph Crane), L.A. Times, UPI and AP with editorial from LIFE, TIME and local newspapers, mostly the Los Angeles Times and Mirror.  There are 4 pages with over 130 post's -  be sure to view them all. 
Comments? Please send them...

James & Carole Pappa - the early years

Carole Tregoff born in 1937 to Carole and Jimmy Tregoff of South Pasadena, California. Carole graduated from Mark Keppal High School in Alhambra in 1955. Carole grew up at 1230 Oak Hill Avenue in South Pasadena. The home owned by Carole's mother, Gladys Tregoff was sold in June, 2000.

James Pappa was born in 1934 in Louisiana and moved to southern California and grew up in Los Angeles. James Pappa graduated from Wilson High School in El Serreno (Los Angeles) California in 1952. The Picture below was provided by Jimmy Pappa (2012), a memory from their high school days, at a friends wedding reception in 1955, Carole Tregoff pictured in middle with blonde hair holding a drink and NOT smiling with her high school sweetheart Jimmy Pappa on the right wearing a white jacket with tie holding a bottle. Click on picture to view larger.

James and Carole married in 1955 and for a short period of time lived in Alhambra. They bought a new home in La Puente at 1263 Big Dalton Avenue in 1955 and lived there until 1959. Carole started working at Doctors Hospital in West Covina where she became acquainted with Dr. Bernard Finch and a friendship ensued….

James shared with me via e-mail and several phone conversations that one night in their new home in La Puente, James was very ill and Carole called Dr. Finch to come over and do something for James. James chuckled afterwards… saying the doctor must have given him a good sedative because he was out all night – chuckling again, James said he’s sure that Dr. Finch could have stayed for hours as he was asleep…

Once everything was out in the open… there was a time or two where James Pappa wanted to kill Dr. Finch. One time he and his friend waited for Dr. Finch to come out of the office – since he wanted to kill him, but Finch never appeared.

Speaking with James on the phone recently (June, 2012), he shared that his sister who lives in Covina saw Carole at the grocery store there in town about 2 or 3 years ago. They both spoke with each other briefly, Carole reiterated that "she earned every gray hair on her head".  James' sister did not get her address.  On a funny note, James shared that he had absolutely NO idea that there was an affair going on, he was blind-sided on this one. He found out when everyone else found out -- the reason James was so surprised was that he thought that he was so hot looking that she wouldn't look elsewhere, as he chuckled.

After the trial and divorce. James later opened up a bar with a friend in Pasadena. It was called The Gigolo on Colorado Blvd.

In all fairness, 98% of what you see on this site has been a one way direction, "us looking into Carole's life", however, the LOS ANGELES MIRROR did a wonderful insightful interview with Carole that published on April, 12, 1961 - that post is on this site, however the link is here as well: 
It provides us with a chance to see what was going on in her head through all this as well as how this all transpired according to Carole Tregoff.

In a recent interview with Los Angeles Magazine writer, Steve Mikulan at the South Hills Country Club in West Covina (2012), our waitress found out who we were talking about - she shared with us that Carole still gets her hair done over at some small beauty shop on Rowland Avenue in Covina. Time does march on... 

The article was published in the April 2013 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.
Photo supplied by Carole Tregoff's ex-husband 
Jimmy Pappa (2013) - one of several modeling shots of Carole Tregoff in her late teens around 1955. See other poses of Carol in picture frames on the wall to the right in photo. 
1960 Press Photo of Jimmy Pappa being interviewed
at a construction job site in Long Beach, Jimmy Pappa,
saying, "Everybody makes a mistake at least once."

An Interview with Miss Taylor by Spencer Michels

It was 1960, and I was learning how to be a journalist in New York, at Columbia University. At the age of 21, I had a lot to learn, as you will see.

For our "practice" newspaper, the editor assigned me to go down to Fifth Avenue and check out a movie that was in production. It was called "Butterfield 8" and I didn't know anything about it. "Do a feature on the process," he told me. So I hopped on the subway and made my way to a large apartment building opposite Central Park, where there were movie trucks and lights. I figured I could write a little something about how movies are made.

I asked someone how I could find out what was going on, and a bit later a public relations person appeared and told me to have a seat in the lobby and he'd see what he could do. After about 10 minutes, as I was wondering how I could make a story out of nothing, a gorgeous woman in a very expensive fur coat appeared and sat down next to me and asked if I wanted to talk. Even I knew she was Elizabeth Taylor.

I had no idea what to do.

So I started asking about the first thing (or maybe the second) that popped into my mind: a celebrated murder trial that was captivating the nation. Everybody was talking about it. Bernard Finch, a wealthy, middle aged Los Angeles surgeon, and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Carole Tregoff, were accused of murdering Finch's 35-year-old wife so they could carry on their torrid affair and keep the doctor's fortune. Both were eventually convicted.

Taylor was glad to talk about the trial, but she didn't know any more about it than I did. Still, I diligently took notes and failed to ask anything about the movie star who was graciously giving a young student a rare private interview. And 51 years later, I'm still kicking myself for this: I forgot to ask her about her role in "Butterfield 8" or the scene she had just finished shooting.


I encourage you to get a copy of James L. Jones' book A MURDER IN WEST COVINA. It's out of print but still available on various on-line sites... EBay, Amazon, etc. Click on image to read sleeve summary.

The book has 395 pages of incredible insight to this story.

Dr. Finch being brought in for questioning

Dr. Finch being finger printed by Officer William Handrahan of the West Covina P.D.
Going in for questioning and afterwards being formally charged with murder.


Carole Tregoff, 22 was formally charged with murder July 29th after she finished testimony at Dr. Bernard Finch's preliminary hearing on charges that he shot and killed his wife, Barbara last week on July 18th. Pictured above, Miss Tregoff is fingerprinted By. West Covina Police Sgt. William Handrahan (note ink stains on fingers). She is being held without bail for preliminary hearing on August 4, 1959

Dr. Finch arriving at Ontario Airport from Las Vegas after being arrested.

(Left) Dr. Bernard Finch with his head on table during preliminary hearing / Carole Tregoff and her step-mother are in background wearing sunglasses. (Right) Finch patting himself on the head in front of photographer.


At 10:00 P.M. on July 18, 1959, Carole Tregoff and Bernard Finch arrived at his opulent house on Lark Hill Drive in suburban West Covina. Barbara Finch was not at home. Just over an hour later, she drove up in her red Chrysler. Finch went across to talk to her. A struggle broke out. At some point in the dispute, Barbara Finch was shot dead by a. 38-caliber bullet. For reasons never fully explained, Finch and Tregoff somehow became separated. Finch, after stealing two cars, made his way back to Las Vegas, where he was joined early the next morning by Tregoff. That same day, Finch was arrested and charged with murder. Eleven days later Tregoff was similarly charged. After reading Dr. Jone's book A MURDER IN WEST COVINA - in it he states that Marie the Finch's maid ran outside after hearing commotion and yelling and then gun shots. Her recollection was that the car was in parked in the garage - empty with the door open and the radio was playing Connie Francis' song "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" - while Barbara Jean Finch laid a short distance away dying from gun shot wounds from her husband Dr. Bernard Finch. Carole Tregoff hid in the nearby bushes until near dawn. It's amazing how the words of Connie Francis hauntingly take you back to the affair and murder and that night... there is a graphic police photo in this video.


Carole cries as judge refuses to release her on bail.


With a “Do It Yourself Murder Kit,” they stalked out the house until Barbara returned from an evening at the local tennis club. The kit contained sedatives, a hypodermic needle, clothesline, a knife, and a .38-caliber pistol.
Finch accosted his wife in the garage and she screamed. While Carole watched nearby, Finch knocked out his wife. Above, court clerk shows items from the so called Murder Kit. Below is an enlargement of photo of Barbara Jean Finch - the crime scene shot certainly show's Barbara's last look of horror as she died.


I don't know what happened to the gun after it went off ... I went over to the edge of the hill [to look for Carole]. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Barbara . . . running down the steps.
"I'm Sorry . . ." Then, testified Finch, he saw her fall. "I went over and knelt down by her and said, 'What happened, Barb . . .?' She said: 'Shot in chest.' I was amazed." Finch started off to call an ambulance, but Barbara called, "Wait."
"I came back and knelt down by her head. She moved her arm ... I took her hand and she sort of opened her mouth, and then she spoke, and her voice was very, very soft. She said: 'I'm sorry . . . I should have listened . .. Don't leave me . . . Take—care—of—the—kids.' She was dead. I said, 'Barb! Barb!' She couldn't answer me." In his distress, says Finch, he stole a car, abandoned it, stole another and drove through the night to Las Vegas.


LIKE A GOTHIC MOVIE POSTER---   July 1959, Barbara Finch turned up dead on Larkhill Drive. Someone found her body stuffed between shrubs lining the long driveway leading up to her split-level home above the South Hills Country Club. Finch had been shot to death. Photo above shows Dr. Finch running down dirt steps to his father's house, with deputy and Tregoff in background on recent Jury tour to Finch home. It is near here where Barbara ran and fell before she died.

Dr. Raymond Bernard Finch

Was it really worth it Bernie?

Downtown Covina, California 1950's

Downtown Covina, looking north on Citrus. Dr Finch's father owned Finch's Jeweler's on the left side of photo next to JC Penney.

West Covina, California 1958

Both newly opened I-10 (San Bernardino Freeway) and Eastland Center in West Covina in 1958. Dr. Finch lived off of Citrus Avenue in South Hills Country Club just south of here.

Aerial view of the Finch's home - Jury tour - 1960

Shared by Mark Dearth - my parents purchased the Finch house sometime before the beginning of the third trial in 1961. My brother and I must have been around 6 at that time. The large windows you see are the living room windows and theyoverlook the valley and face North to the mountains. The house is sort of T shaped like a hospital with bedrooms off a long hallway. (no wonder, Finch, a prominent doctor was reported to have designed it himself) The house itself was very plain with a flat roof. You can see the large Christmas star lying down on the roof of the garage. I believe Finch made it and we put it up for many years. No. 2 in the picture is the five car garage where Finch banged the Nanny's head against the wall. There was a large hole in the plaster wall and I remember my Uncle telling me the reporters had chipped away and made the hole larger so it would show up better in photographs. Barbara Finch tried to get away by running out of the garage down the driveway towards where you see the jury standing. There was a dirt pathway leading from there down to the house just below which is where Finch's father lived. That driveway was one badass driveway and very steep. For years people would drive up the driveway to see the Finch house and have to back all the way down it. Finch’s father was a wonderful man and his grandson, who I knew as Raymie, was a good kid and was about my age so we played together quite frequently when he visied his Grandfather. I remember my father telling me my mom called him at work frantic because no one had told us the jury would be visiting that day. My Dad said he talked to the judge and they worked it out. Knowing my mom the house was in good order and she probably had lemonade and cookies waiting for them.