It was the midcentury murder that fascinated a nation and kept it glued for two years to radio, television and newspapers through three trials.
Did the handsome, wealthy doctor and his beautiful young paramour plan to kill his glamorous socialite wife?
Or did the gun accidentally discharge as he claimed?
Early in the evening on July 18, 1959, Dr. Bernard Finch and his girlfriend, Carole Ann Tregoff, drove from their Las Vegas love-nest to the Finch home in the Los Angeles suburb of West Covina to speak to his wife Barbara about obtaining a speedy divorce in Nevada. But the plan went awry and the conversation turned deadly with Barbara’s lifeless body ending up in her in-laws’ backyard next door.
After a high-speed chase with police, Finch was arrested the next morning in Las Vegas and charged with Barbara’s murder. Then, during his court hearing in West Covina, Carole was arrested on the witness stand and charged as his accomplice.
Soon others were named as part of a larger conspiracy. But who were they and what parts did they play in these deadly events?
Set against the midcentury CinemaScope glamour of Hollywood, Las Vegas and Palm Springs, “Satin Pumps: The Moonlit Murder That Mesmerized The Nation” is a true crime memoir written by former Finch patient, screenwriter and author Steve Kosareff.
From The Book:
After Finch was rousted from bed and taken to the sheriff’s department, he told officers that he was in Las Vegas at the time of his wife’s death. In another interrogation room, Carole told police that Bernie flew up the previous Friday to see her, contradicting him. She told sheriffs she and Bernie decided to speak with Barbara and convince her to go through with the divorce proceedings, which had been tabled pending a conciliation hearing, scheduled to take place in a few days. Carole and Bernie drove her 1955 white and bronze DeSoto convertible to West Covina and parked it in the South Hills Country Club parking lot down the hill from the Finch home. Once they walked up the hill to the Finch home, they noticed that Barbara’s car was not in the garage so they waited for her on the front lawn. After she drove into the garage and as Barbara was getting out of the car, she spotted them approaching. She screamed and pulled a gun out of her purse. Carole, scared, ran out of the garage and hid in a bougainvillea bush, where she remained for hours. Carole did not see nor hear what happened after that. Early that morning, she returned to her car and drove back to Las Vegas. Bernie beat her to the apartment by several hours and she found him asleep at 9 a.m. She got ready for work and left.
West Covina detectives escorted Finch back to a Covina jail cell that afternoon. The West Covina Police Department did not have holding facilities at the time so Finch spent time behind bars in Covina while awaiting his upcoming hearing at Citrus Court. Carole assured police that upon her return to West Covina she would make a statement and appear as a witness at Finch’s hearing.
That day, police had already started an intensive search of the grounds surrounding both Finch homes, looking for the gun responsible for Barbara’s death. Raymond told reporters gathered on the properties that he heard what he thought was a car backfiring but later realized were two gunshots when he saw police in the area that morning. He added that Bernard had been going to a psychiatrist twice a week for the past three months and had been “off the beam for three or four months and should have been put away.” Dr. Franklin Gordon told him that Finch had been “’pulling strange deals around the office.’ Dr. Gordon told me that if Bernard kept up with his strange actions that he would have him committed himself.”
Dr. Alan Cheesebro, Finch’s tennis doubles partner and assistant pastor, summed up Finch succinctly a few days later at, of all places, Barbara’s funeral service. “The doctor was very aggressive, strong-minded, and intense in everything he did. He had a wonderful nature that would erupt now and then in jagged bluntness, warm reproach, or hot hatred.”