Napa Police Detective Todd Shulman not only carries a gun and a badge, but he also is pretty handy with the “mighty” pen.
Shulman, a Napa peace officer for 12 years, has written his third book — “Murder and Mayhem in the Napa Valley,” which will hit the bookshelves next month. This is Shulman’s third non-fiction book. His first book, “Napa County Police” published in 2006 and “Napa Valley,” a history book using vintage postcards, was released in 2009.
Shulman also founded the Napa Police Historical Society in 2006.
Shulman, an avid history buff, has brought some of the most infamous murders and mayhem that swept through Napa Valley in the mid to late 1800s to print.
“I picked the most interesting murders and high-profile crimes that happened in Napa Valley pre-1890,” he said.
The book also includes the Zodiac killer in the late 1960s, the murder of Anita Andrews in downtown Fagiani’s bar in 1974 and five-year-old Doreen Haskett in 1963, all in Napa County.
“All the murders in the book have been solved except for the Zodiac and Doreen Haskett,” Shulman said.
“Murder and Mayhem in Napa County” details the 1935 murder at a market on Trancas Street and Highway 29, which is the now home to Napa Crossing retail center across the street from Bel-Aire Plaza.
“At that time there was a market and train depot at that location. The suspect was on the run for a long time. It was a massive manhunt. The suspect was finally caught,” Shulman said.
Those wanting to know the complete details of the murder can solve their curiosity when the book is released. Many of the murders involve lover’s triangles, debts not paid and jealousy,” Shulman said.
He recalls the 1874 murder of Harry Larykns. Defendant Eadward Muybridge was accused of killing Larykns who claimed Larykns had an affair with his wife and was the possible father of his (Muybridge) son.
Muybridge, a famous photographer who worked with Leland Sanford, was found not guilty by a jury who agreed the murder was a crime of passion, Shulman said.
A chapter in “Murder and Mayhem in Napa Valley” covers all the dirty little secrets involving prostitution in the valley.
“There were several places in the valley that used to be brothels. The mid-1850s Chinese laundry at the corner of Main and Clinton streets was a brothel. There was also a Victorian house in St. Helena that was a brothel. Rumor has it the ghost of a former madame still haunts the place,” Shulman said.
It took Shulman about a year and a ton of research to write his new book.
“I did all on my own. I talked to some local historians to get facts and advice. But I did all the writing, research and legwork,” he said.
He spent more time than he can recall pouring through old newspapers, archives, old photos and other resources. At the state archives in Sacramento, Shulman plowed and shuffled through century-old prison records and mug shots.
“I was even able to track down a great-great-grand daughter of a person I was writing about. I found so much about Napa County’s history while writing the book,” he added.
One little-known historical site is near the tree tunnel on Highway 29 just north of St. Helena.
“Although hundreds and hundreds of people pass the site everyday, few know it is the place of the last Napa County lynching in 1888,” Shulman said.
John Wright was taken by a group of vigilantes from the jail and hung. He was accused of the murder of Bud Vann.
Shulman admits there were times of frustration while writing his book.
“It can tedious and some times disappointing when dealing with old cases. Everyone directly involved and those who know anything about the case are dead. The stories have been reported in the newspapers, but not the whole story,” he said.
However, Shulman’s passion for history kept him going.
“I got so involved with stories, I never felt I wanted to quit. It’s truly a labor of love.”
As of now, the Napa police detective, has no plans to take on a fourth book.
“I need a break,” he said.
“Murder and Mayhem in Napa Valley” is due to be on the stands in mid-August and retails for $19.95. Shulman is in the midst of setting up book signings in Napa.