The Road Out of Hell
Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders
“And you wonder: How the hell did this guy go on to be a loving father and grandfather? How did he bury all that crap? That’s a story in itself.” —Clint Eastwood, director of THE CHANGELING
The film story of young Sanford Clark and his forced participation in the Wineville Murders was covered in Clint Eastwood’s movie, THE CHANGELING, but for answers to the questions Eastwood posed after completing the project, turn to the true story of the Wineville murders: Anthony Flacco’s THE ROAD OUT OF HELL. The hell part isn’t what makes the story important; it’s the road out that does.
From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least 20 murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. His nephew, Sanford Clark, was held captive there from the age of 13 to 15, and was the sole surviving victim of the killing spree. Here, acclaimed crime writer Anthony Flacco—using never-before-heard information from Sanford’s son, Jerry Clark—tells the real story behind the case that riveted the nation.
Forced by Northcott to take part in the murders, Sanford carried tremendous guilt all his life. Yet despite his youth and the trauma, he helped gain some justice for the dead and their families by testifying at Northcott’s trial—which led to his conviction and execution. It was a shocking story, but perhaps the most shocking part of all is the extraordinarily ordinary life Clark went on to live as a decorated WWII vet, a devoted husband of 55 years, a loving father, and a productive citizen.
In dramatizing one of the darkest cases in American crime, Flacco constructs a riveting psychological drama about how Sanford was able to detoxify himself from the evil he’d encountered, offering the ultimately redemptive story of one man’s remarkable ability to survive a nightmare and emerge intact.