Clues Found in Warehouse
Hint Murder of S.F. Woman
San Francisco Chronicle - January 19, 1981, p. 5

By Bill Wallace

    Detectives trying to locate a San Francisco woman missing since November found what could be ominous clues to her whereabouts while searching a warehouse in Hunters Point yesterday.

    They turned up several partially emptied cement bags with bits of dried seaweed stuck to their bottoms – and a piece of adhesive tape which appears to have been used as a gag.

    Sandra Sutherland, whose private investigation agency has been trying to trace the missing woman, artist Valerie McDonald, 26, told The Chronicle yesterday that the opened cement bags had apparently been overlooked when police searched the building last week.

    She said the new bits of evidence could mean that McDonald has been killed and her body disposed of in the ocean or the Bay.

    "Of course, they might not mean anything at all," she shrugged, "but at this point we're suspecting the worst."

    McDonald vanished after Michael John Hennessey, a 23-year-old ex-convict who acted as assistant manager of the North Beach apartment house she lived in, offered her $200 cash to play a bit part in a suspense movie November 9. The movie offer – and the movie – were later found to be fakes, and McDonald has not been seen since.

    Hennessey was killed in Trail, British Columbia, November 26, allegedly after attempting to shoot a Mountie with a stolen gun.

    At the time of the shooting, he and another ex-convict, John Gordon Abbott, 26, were being watched by Canadian police who suspected the pair of possessing narcotics and stolen property.

    Abbott is awaiting trial in Oacalla prison on charges stemming from the shooting incident.

    The warehouse where the cement bags and the tape gag were found had been rented under Hennessey's name last fall. It was raided by police Wednesday after a stakeout team saw Phillip Arthur Thompson, 35, another ex-convict and a close associate of Abbott and Hennessey, take an allegedly stolen automatic pistol into it.

    The Chronicle has learned that the pistol belongs to Jerri Calebaugh, a Sacramento bailbondswoman who had posted bond for Thompson in the past.

    Investigators said that she transferred ownership of a light green 1973 Chevrolet to Thompson late last year. Hennessey and Abbott were driving that vehicle at the time of the gunbattle with the Mounties November 26.

    When contacted by The Chronicle last night, Calebaugh refused to discuss the pistol, the car or her relationship with Thompson.

    Thompson was arrested on several charges in the warehouse raid last Wednesday, but was released on his own recognizance Thursday morning. He was re-arrested at a Berkeley motel Friday night after the judge who ordered his release revoked the release order.

    An earlier search of the warehouse at 1570 Wallace Drive yielded poetry which appears to have been written to McDonald by Hennessey, Sutherland said.

    Hennessey's surprisingly tender poem, addressed to an unnamed woman, contains the lines, "Someday when you direct the perfect film perhaps we'll toast a glass of wine."

    According to McDonald's mother and stepfather, Doris and Bob Koun, Valerie frequently talked of directing a perfect film, and she referred to her dream of becoming a film director in a letter to her family obtained by The Chronicle.

    Hennessey's poem continues, "I'll play the hard way as long as I can/Making money and having a little fun/But I'd trade it all for you to say I do/And we'd steal away into the sun."

    The poem, which Sutherland estimated was written sometime between October 31 and Hennessey's death in November, contains the lines, "I play the role that some would never play/Trusted you with things no one had heard," a cryptic reference which could refer to Hennessey's alleged involvement in a variety of criminal activities.

    Investigators speculate that McDonald might have stumbled on plans for a criminal enterprise and been murdered to silence her.