(by Student #20 AMH 2010 1115)
I received the prison record of a young woman who resided in the San Quentin State Prison. Her name was Bernice L Rutherford. The San Quentin prison is located in Los Angeles California and is the oldest prison in the state. This case file really stuck out to me unlike many others because her mug shot gave off some sort of feeling; not vindictive evilness, but more of sadness. I also chose to research her because she was a woman. It’s not all the time when you hear about women in history murdering anyone. I personally feel that mostly we are made aware of the crimes men have committed. With my eagerness to find out about her I decided to begin researching her name on ancestry.com.
I began typing in all the information I already had on Ms. Rutherford from her case file. I already knew she was arrested for committing manslaughter and was going to serve 0-10 years in jail. This really made me eager to find out why! Her occupation was being a housewife, she was 31 years old and was 5’5 ¼. The case file also states that she was transferred from the San Quentin prison to Tehachapi prison one year after being imprisoned. This information made me more intrigued to find out what Bernice was up too and if she really was evil. Once I finally began getting results from ancestry after what felt like a billion attempts I clicked on one of the links that contained 1940 United States Census records. I have never seen any document like what popped up so at first, it was a little difficult to figure out how to read it… eventually, I got lucky and figured it out.
Bernice Rutherford was born in 1902 in Minnesota, she attended school at Oroville High school till she was about 16 years old. This was normal to only attend school for a short amount of time so I wasn’t surprised by this finding. Through ancestry, I found old pictures of her yearbook and came across a young women’s picture with the name of Charlotte Rutherford. This interested me to see if the two women had any relation to each other so I began researching.
There was nothing that related them that I found. Although I did get some more interesting findings. Bernice’s maiden name was Bernice Leona Ring she had four brothers and one sister and was the daughter of H. Charles Ring and Kate Ring. The children including Bernice where all born in Minnesota. Unfortunately, no documents gave me any information as to when they moved to California.
Jumping a few years ahead around the 1930’s Bernice was now a resident in Bakersfield, Kern County in California. She was married to a man named Albert Lloyd Rutherford. I couldn’t dig up anything interesting on Albert; only that he was a Democrat registered to vote and his occupation was a plumber. The two got married when Bernice was only 18. This shocked me just because she was so young, but then I realized this was a normal thing back in the day. They had two girls Betty and Ora and one son named Richard. Richard was Albert’s stepson which leads me to believe Bernice may have been married to someone else before him and the records state that she was a divorced woman but not from Albert. She was married to another man named David C Tice which leads me back to Richard being his son. This information confused me a bit so I decided to leave the family tree alone and continue my research on Bernice and her prison record.
In the year 1932 Bernice was arrested on a count for Manslaughter and taken to San Quentin State Prison. She shot and murdered her own uncle Frank Ring age 83 in Los Angeles on October 15, 1932. Bernice wanted the mortgage on his house worth $300 which was a lot of money back then. She threatened him with a revolver in an effort of hoping he would hand over his property to her, but this mortgage was actually a deed to her father's home. Bernice denied shooting him but the state declares the shooting must have occurred after Frank Rings refusal to give her the deed. While Mrs. rutherford still claims the shooting of her uncle was accidental she pleaded guilty in front of the court and was sentenced to 0-10 years in prison. She was then transferred to an all women's prison called Tehachapi. On December 5, Bernice got into a prison fight with another woman which then revoked any privileges she had during her time. No further documents popped up about this fight or why it occurred.
After being in jail for about 8 years she was paroled on February 1’st 1940. Bernice’s parole was not the end of her time in jail. Her parol specifically stated that “she was under strict instructions to keep away from firearms as a condition of her release.” Unfortunately, Bernice violated that term.
Bernice was arrested again and held on suspicion of Burglary, robbery, and forgery in a desperate act to protect her son. She was arrested at 238 West 17’th Street by the deputy sheriff for suspicion on violating her parole. The police report states the Bernice went to her father’s house Charles RIng to “enlist his aid on defending her son while she was imprisoned” She
apparently stole her father’s gun, a 32 Caliber revolver from his home and threaten both her father and brother George Ring. While there Mrs. Rutherford was said to have said this “I won’t lie to you. If my boy is sent to San Quentin I’ll kill my father and my brother. They wouldn’t help my boy while I was in prison and made him live in an old garage. My other son died while I was in prison and they didn’t even notify me” After finding this information I tried my absolute hardest and wanted to find more information on this event. Unfortunately after hours on end of researching Bernice and her son and her being arrested again nothing new was popping up on any of the search engines I used. It’s as if these documents don’t exist after this event. Sadly Bernice died on August 24, 1951, in Los Angeles California
Bernice’s case file was very intriguing to research and learn about. After all my research on Bernice, I felt strange. I feel like she never intended to end anyone’s life. It seemed as if she just wanted to protect her children. I’m glad I decided to stick with her case instead of finding another although I did find a lot of interesting people through prison records while digging for hers. Bernice came to be a very surprising woman in my opinion; from my findings from Ancestry and Newspapers.com and I feel like I was right. When I first got hand of her file I didn’t think she was crazy vindictive from her prison photo I felt she was sad and through her statements and research I still strongly feel that way.